“We saw the need to fill in for the younger generation.”
I’m from East Waco. Most of our families are from East Waco; one of us is from South Waco. We all went to high school together.
We met at fish camp ninth grade year, and we’ve been friends ever since. You have to have people around you to hold you accountable. We all studied together.
The dynamic of our friendship was different than a lot of kids. We were more serious because we knew that we had an end goal — we wanted to go to college. We were all together, in the same classes. We were the example for each other.
Once we finished college and started figuring out who we were, we would meet in my apartment, and we would talk about things we experienced growing up and what we felt like was needed in Waco.
Our mission is to provide a quality of life and community by promoting education and culture. We’ve done a back-to-school drive. We did a coat drive. We did a credit seminar, and we also helped Indian Spring Middle School with a black history program. It’s just about outlining these different areas where we feel we lacked and seeing how we can help in those areas.
We all have different talents. That’s why we call it a collective. I’m doing real estate, some of them are into stocks and things so we want to be able to teach things like that. They work for [Charles] Schwab and Fidelity [Investments]. One of my friends graduated with a finance degree. And then one of us works in fashion, which is the culture aspect.
We weren’t taught finances when we were growing up. I just learned how to write a check when I was like 20-something. The things that we lacked, we’re able to come up with these programs.
It’s always free. We haven’t charged for anything. It’s always a community initiative.
We never had a group that came into our schools, came into our neighborhoods, that looked like us, that were only maybe 10 years older than us, helping us. So we saw the need to fill in for the younger generation. We’re all 27 or 28.
Mindset is everything. There always has to be somebody that kind of makes it out. And I’m glad that even though we kind of made it out, air quotes, we didn’t forget where we came from.
Jasmine Bledsoe is the president and co-founder of The New Black Collective, an organization that strives to “implement community initiatives that improve access to education, investments, opportunity and sustainable services.” Bledsoe and the other four board members are all Waco natives who live across the state. Bledsoe is a graduate of University High School and the University of North Texas. She lives in Denton where she works in real estate.