Donation News

The Weeknd Donates $1 Million to Ethiopia

The world’s journalists haven’t been allowed into Tigray, a large region in the north of Ethiopia, in years. Most of the world wouldn’t recognize the name. But the area has been under siege by Ethiopia’s military. There have been reports that since a spat of fighting in November between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the military under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, no farming or imports of food have been allowed, stores have been destroyed, and access to water and medical supplies has been denied.

In March, a graphic video surfaced. While the contents are officially unverified, many have identified the area as Mahibere Dego, a town in the mountainous heart of Tigray. In the video, armed soldiers round up a large group of young unarmed men on a rocky ledge, execute them with gunfire, and then fling them off the hillside. The soldiers can be heard laughing at their grim duty and cheering each other on. It is just one of several reported massacres in the area, though verification is rare.

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, the Canadian songwriter, record producer, and son of Ethiopian parents–known most widely as The Weeknd– announced on Sunday, April 4, that he would be donating $1 million toward relief efforts for the Tigray region.

“My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia,” he posted on Instagram, “as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are displaced out of fear and destruction. I will be donating $1 million to provide 2 million meals through the United Nations World Food Programme and encourage those who can to please give as well.”

The Weeknd is no stranger to philanthropy. Since March 2020, he has also donated $1 million to COVID-19 relief, $500,000 to Black Lives Matter, and $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon after the explosion in Beirut.

Editorial credit: Phil Pasquini /

Donation News The Power of Giving

Xiao Zhen Xie: Don’t Submit to Racism

On March 17, while waiting for a traffic light on foot, Xiao Zhen Xie was punched in the face by Steven Jenkins in San Francisco. It was Jenkin’s second assault on an Asian senior citizen in a matter of minutes – first, he punched 83-year-old Ngoc Pham, then 75-year-old Xie. She was badly hurt, but she managed to grab a board and smack her attacker in the mouth, who was then restrained by security guards until the police arrived.

Xiao Zhen Xie, who is a grandmother, a diabetic, and a cancer survivor, was left with two black eyes that swelled shut and a facial wound that bled uncontrollably. Her grandson, John Chen, opened a fundraiser to cover her medical expenses. When news of the attack and Xie’s fighting back went viral, the GoFundMe surged past its $50k goal, raising nearly a million dollars in a matter of days. Tens of thousands of people donated. In a separate fundraiser, 9,400 people donated just over $280,000 to Pham, whose injuries may require surgery.

Xie, however, refuses to keep the money. Instead, she’ll be donating it to organizations that will help defuse racism against the Asian American community.

“She insists on making this decision saying this issue is bigger than her,” said Chen, adding that she insists people not “submit” to racism.

The attack on Xiao Zhen Xie and Ngoc Pham came less than a full day after six women of Asian descent were murdered in a spree killing in Atlanta, Georgia. Advocates attribute the increase in violence against Asians to the racist rhetoric surrounding COVID-19 that was a strong part of former President Trump’s response to the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition tracking violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said they’ve received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents since March 2020.

According to Xie’s daughter, Dong-Mei Li, her mother is “traditional and hardworking” and resistant to the idea that “a fuss” should be made about her.

Image: Shutterstock

Donation News

“Game Changer” Sold for Health Charities

In May 2020, a black and white painting of a young boy sitting on the floor swooping a toy around, the action figure of a nurse in a superhero cape, appeared on the wall of Southampton General Hospital. The only spot of color is the archetypal red cross on her shirt. Nearby, in a waste basket, Batman and Spider-Man toys have been obviously cast aside for a greater hero.

Unlike most Banksy art, or most of what we think of as Bansky art, this painting, titled “Game Changer,” isn’t graffiti and it wasn’t a guerrilla effort. The framed painting was instead hung with the collaboration of managers of the hospital. But the secretive artist did leave a note.

“Thanks for all you’re doing,” the note that accompanied “Game Changer” read, addressed to all hospital workers. “I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if its only in black and white.”

Nearly a year later, being called a hero has taken a bitter taste in the mouth of most health workers. It was only ever lip service, as was proved whenever these heroes asked for more staff, for danger pay, or for more support. But the painting stayed up, and it did brighten people’s days. And hopefully now it can do more.

On Tuesday March 23rd, “Game Changer” sold at auction in Christie’s of London for 16.8 million pounds ($23.2 million), a record for Banksy’s art. According to the auction house, proceeds from the sale and “a significant portion” of Christie’s cut will be donated to fund health charities across the United Kingdom.

The sale, which was planned from the first donation of the painting, came on the one-year-anniversary of Britain’s first national lockdown. It also doesn’t leave the staff at Southampton empty-handed – a reproduction of the painting continues to hang in the same spot, complete with the original note.

Image: Shutterstock

Donation News The Power of Giving

Ben Navarro Donates $1.25 Million to the College of Charleston

Ben Navarro turned a well-connected family and a bachelor’s degree in finance into a $3 billion nest egg in just over 30 years. Formerly a vice president of Citigroup, he left the investment bank to found his own, Sherman Financial Group, which currently owns Credit One Bank. Ben Navarro also owns two tennis clubs, and tried to purchase the Carolina Panthers, North Carolina’s NFL team, but lost it in auction. Today, he and his family live in Charleston, South Carolina.

As a philanthropist, Navarro’s priorities are plain – healthy, well-educated minds. In recent years, he has founded a small string of private schools, a scholarship fund for low-income Charleston County high school students, and a mental health wellness center targeting anxiety and depression.

On March 15, College of Charleston President Andrew Hsu announced that a large donation from Navarro was being given to the college’s teacher education program for the purpose of educating more teachers to work in underserved communities.

“The gift really recognizes our commitment to excellence in public education at all levels,” Hsu said. “It will help us create and support a national signature program.

“As a public institution, we have the responsibility of helping the state to narrow the educational gap,” he continued. “It is our duty to help the underserved communities, or help prepare teachers for the underserved communities.”

South Carolina is currently weathering a heavy teacher shortage, one exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. As of February, five months into the school year, the state was still short more than 500 teachers in all grades. The College of Charleston is working on a plan to attract more students passionate about education, and Ben Navarro’s generous donation will help them recruit those students.

“We already have a lot of strength in terms of faculty and programmatic offerings around teacher education for students coming from underrepresented populations,” said Suzanne Austin, provost and executive vice president of student affairs. “So we already do that work but we’re excited about doing more.”

Editorial credit: Katherine Welles /