Greenwood Athletics is a social sports and wellness community geared towards Black young professionals in New York City. Named in homage to the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, an early 1900s freedom colony known as Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, Greenwood Athletics strives to foster a community that supports local nonprofits and businesses throughout NYC. The Laundromat Project is honored to have been a recipient of Greenwood’s support through BLK @ Facebook, the winning team in the league’s inaugural kickball season. LP Development Manager Amelia Brod sat down with Greenwood’s founders, Chike Ohayia, Jae Barchus, and Sam Floyd, to learn more about Greenwood’s origins, goals, and why they choose to support nonprofits.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Amelia Brod (AB): Why do you think it’s important to support nonprofits today?
Chike Ohayia (CO): Nonprofits have the ability to shape the moral framework of their communities. I was fortunate enough to be involved in a few nonprofits growing up—community centers, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club—and definitely was positively impacted through my experience. Notably, the way that they provide support to people in high-need neighborhoods is a massive necessity. Nonprofits amplify the public support and resources that are historically provided by the government, and I believe they have a great capacity to provide broader public goods to people that wouldn’t have access to them otherwise.
Sam Floyd (SF): Nonprofits are vital institutions, and I think in this time of rising social media activism we have a unique opportunity to connect the organizations that are working to meet the needs of local communities, with the people who care enough to act and advocate.
AB: Can you talk a little bit about Greenwood Athletics and how it came into being?
Jae Barchus (JB): Sure, I love to tell this story. In the summer of 2018, we came together with mutual friends—young professionals, lawyers, financiers, creatives, and others—to play in a co-ed summer kickball league for adults and we had a great time! We bonded, stayed active, and made new friends. But we also were the first all-Black team of players to win the league’s championship and noticed that there were few to no other Black players on other teams.
We saw an opportunity to create and share a similar experience with our network and set out to establish a league that centered around fellowship in the Black community, promoted wellness, and supported nonprofits and local businesses in historically under-resourced neighborhoods. We spent the winter and spring securing field permits in Brooklyn and Harlem, establishing the brand and building partnerships with organizations. In June 2019, we officially launched Greenwood Kickball with 10 co-ed teams and over 150 players supporting 10 local nonprofit partner organizations, including The Laundromat Project. In the process, we were able to raise $10,000 in total for our partner community organizations. We’re excited by the success of our first season and were pleasantly surprised to learn that “the ability to give back” ranked #1 in overall satisfaction with our inaugural group of players.
SF: On top of seeing the impact of so many people who looked like us coming together in general, we knew it was important to incorporate an element of giving back into our mission. Greenwood Athletics was born out of the idea that Black people could come together to create more opportunities for the communities that we inhabit. Greenwood was the name of a freedom colony in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early 1900s that was also known as Black Wall Street, up until 1921 when it was destroyed by a devastating race riot. 2021 will start to mark the hundredth anniversary of that tragedy.
CO: Building something in remembrance of the more than 300 people that were lost on those fateful days in June 1921, that’s the legacy that we want to carry forth. We want to use the spirit that built Greenwood to develop a community of well-resourced, active young professionals and a network of strong institutions in their respective communities.
AB: How did you first hear about The Laundromat Project?
CO: When I moved back to NYC, I had the great opportunity to develop a couple of workshops with Larry Ossei Mensah and Will Rodriguez. Both are well-respected in the artist community and were great partners in helping me bridge the gap between finance and the arts. When I told them about Greenwood Athletics’ goal of working with specific organizations and institutions that support under-resourced communities, the first organization that they told me about was The LP. They said, “Oh, you’re trying to do something in Brooklyn? The LP. Oh, you’re trying to do something in Harlem? Yeah, The LP.” And then when I learned more about the work that you’re doing serving as a platform for multicultural artists in New York City, helping them provide a meaningful and transformative energy to their communities, I thought this was definitely the type of organization that we wanted to work with.
AB: We’re so grateful to you guys for wanting to support us, and for being in our corner. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what your future goals for Greenwood are?
SF: In short, our primary goal is to become the best social sports and wellness league geared towards Black professionals in New York City, and eventually across the country. We also want to have a measurable impact in the under-resourced communities adjacent to where we live, work, and play by championing organizations that are helping to make our society more equitable. Specifically, we want to donate $100,000 by the end of summer 2021 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riots.
AB: What advice might you give to other young professionals who want to start supporting nonprofits, but don’t really know how?
CO: I’d say it all starts with building recognition. Understanding, acknowledging, gaining an awareness of your community is key—I feel like that’s the best entry-point for supporting nonprofits, and I think there are three layers to that. Part of building recognition is getting out of your comfort zone by really exploring your community, either alone or with family and friends; attending workshops, shows, events; trying the local cuisine. Number two, volunteer your time with a local organization. There are a lot of amazing organizations out there. Websites like Idealist, Taproot, and Robinhood made it easy to find organizations for Greenwood to support. I’d recommend that you find one whose mission and identity aligns with yours, and find a way to contribute. The last thing I would say is pick a campaign: do something that can have a measurable impact. For example, at Greenwood, our summer fundraising campaign focused on three themes of social justice. Those were opportunity, wealth, and privilege. We selected the organizations that we worked with based on their ability to drive local benefits and improve the distribution of wealth, access to opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges to the residents and natives in the historically under-resourced communities that they’re in. We put The LP in the opportunity partner group.
SF: My advice for young people working within corporate organizations or large firms is to be vocal about which nonprofits you support and get your company to match a donation! I think that’s a really easy way to support local nonprofits.
AB: Thank you so much.
JB: Thank you for giving us the platform and thank you for all of the work that The LP has done so far, and the work that you’re continuing to do. And if you want to meet friends, stay active and give back to the community, come kick it with us at Greenwood during our upcoming season! Visit our website to learn more at www.comekickit.nyc.
Chike Ohayia serves as an advocate for social impact through his volunteering; most notable efforts include providing mentorship through Bottom Line (NY) and American Needs You (NJ), as well as administering financial wellness education. Locally, Chike supports small and midsize businesses in Harlem, NY, and has experience consulting restaurants in the area on their digital strategy and operations. In his free time, Chike enjoys making comic strips, and hosting monthly art parties. Chike holds a B.A. in International Relations and Sustainable Development from Columbia University, and a Masters in Business Management from the Fuqua School of Business.
Sam Floyd is an investment professional from Atlanta, GA currently residing in Harlem. He has a passion for connecting people and making an impact through social events, financial literacy education and writing. Sam has volunteered with iMentor since 2016, serving as a Mentor Ambassador, and also sits on the board of The Manhood On The Go Foundation. In 2017, he co-founded Grits & Gospel, a communal publication on a mission to inspire, uplift, and spark infectious ideas. Sam graduated from Florida A&M University with a BS in Business Administration and a minor in Economics.
Jae Barchus has a passion for building and supporting communities both digitally and in reality. He is a creative brand strategist that specializes in digital and social media marketing. Jae supports charitable organizations that provide opportunities for youth enrichment through sports, including Beyond The Basics, Inc. and The First Tee of Metropolitan NY, serving as an executive board member focused on Marketing for both organizations. Originally from Brooklyn, NY and currently residing in Harlem, Jae received his B.A. from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as competed on the Penn Quakers Men’s Track & Field team as a sprinter.