Black Swan Academy:
The Rule, Not the Exception


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Samantha Davis founded the Black Swan Academy in 2013 with a principal goal in mind: Making the exception the rule.

While Samantha was in graduate school researching social issues within the black community, her cousin Tyrell Swan graduated high school at the top of his class with a full ride to college. Tyrell had grown up the son of a teenage mother in a low-income household; his father was murdered when he was two months old.

“Tyrell came from a background where, statistically, he was more likely to be imprisoned than to graduate high school,” Samantha said, “and I thought if he could do it, why couldn’t others?”

 Davis’s goal in creating the organization was to target underserved African-American youth and instill in them a sense of pride, purpose and power. This desire was strengthened by the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial that occurred at around the same time period as Tyrell’s graduation.

Tyrell Swan; Photo by Black Swan Academy

Tyrell Swan; Photo by Black Swan Academy

“I was filled with such hurt and rage, and I kept thinking that what happened to Trayvon (Martin)  could have so easily happened to him. I was now wondering what my role was in helping to close the opportunity gap for black youth.”

The inspiration for the organization in place, Black Swan was founded soon thereafter in order to promote civic engagement of black youth in the DC area.

 The current mission of Black Swan Academy is “to empower black youth in under-served communities through civic learning and engagement, giving them a comprehensive set of tools needed to succeed in life and become active social catalysts in their communities.”

 Today, Black Swan Academy operates its school-based programs solely in the southeast area of DC, but Samantha has long-term plans to expand beyond the quadrant to other areas of the city and Prince George’s County in Maryland.

The non-profit has partnered with a number of other community-based organizations in the DC area, such as the Greater Washington Urban League and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. By continuing to reach and impact African-American youth about their own importance and value, the Black Swan Academy hopes to change the public’s mind to no longer see successful African-Americans as the exception, but rather as the rule.

About the Author: Marisa Weidner is a graduate of The College of William and Mary. She has volunteered as a teacher in Belize, and in homeless shelters in the United States. Marisa chronicles her explorations of DC on her blog, The Curated City