Over the last five years, AT&T has been proud to join Hajj Flemings and his organization, Rebrand Cities, to introduce Detroit area high school students to new educational opportunities through technology and the internet. We did it again last year, and I wanted to introduce you to my friend Hajj and show you the great work he is doing. We sat down with Hajj to learn more about his background, the Rebrand Cities effort, and how AT&T has been able to support Hajj and Rebrand Cities’ efforts to make a meaningful impact.
David Lewis: First, who is Hajj Flemings and what is Rebrand Cities?
Hajj Flemings: “Who is Hajj Flemings?” is the more difficult question to answer. The short answer is, I am a lot of things. By way of training, I am an engineer. I started my career as a quality engineer at Ford, and that experience of striving to create systems that work, make sense, and are clear and viable—that has stuck with me and still informs everything I do.
But today, I am a serial entrepreneur, brand technologist, and CEO of Rebrand Cities. As a brand technologist, I use technology to help brands become more human and relatable in the digital economy.
In 2017, I founded Rebrand Cities, a global civic design initiative, with the goal of digitally transforming 10,000 small businesses and eradicating the digital divide. Today, we have activated over 1,000 small businesses in 10 cities and 3 countries.
Simply put, Rebrand Cities works to do exactly what’s in its name: rebrand our cities. We are working to drive growth and positive change in cities like Detroit and, as far as I am concerned, that effort starts with building up and investing in the unsung small businesses, community members, and young students that not only make this City great to begin with, but also represent its present and its future.
DL: Why is it important to engage with students in this way?
HF: Big ideas come from young dreamers who possess a unique combination of fresh perspective, willingness to think outside the box, unbridled enthusiasm, and optimism. These young individuals are not constrained by established norms and have the energy and drive to pursue their passions. They have the ability to see things differently and come up with innovative solutions to problems, making them the ones who will shape the future and lead the way in creating a better world.
It is essential to support and nurture these young dreamers as they hold the key to answering today’s problems. However, to unlock their potential, they must be given the platforms and tools to explore their ideas. This is particularly true for the students in Detroit, where the future of the City and solutions to its problems lie in the hands of the young people who call it home.
This is where organizations like Rebrand Cities step in, recognizing the potential of these students and working to engage with them and provide them with the resources and guidance they need to deliver on their promises. One of the ways they are doing this is by bridging the digital divide and providing students with access to technologies. This is critical as we now live in a digital world, and for these students to reach their potential, they need access to the digital tools and training that will enable them to innovate and effect positive change.
In this effort, Rebrand Cities is teaming up with AT&T to help bridge the digital divide and give students access to these technologies. This joint effort aims to provide students with the resources and support they need to innovate and bring about positive change in their community.
Over the past five years, AT&T has been a beacon of hope in the effort to help bridge the digital divide by investing thousands of dollars in funding and hundreds of employee volunteer hours with the work of Rebrand Cities alone. Not only is AT&T providing the necessary tools to help bridge the divide, but they are also providing real and exciting opportunities for students to innovate and make a positive change in their communities.
Through initiatives such as the Dream Big Challenge, AT&T is not only providing the resources but also the platforms for students to think big and come up with solutions to problems in their schools, neighborhoods, and cities. These are not just thought exercises, but actual opportunities to build and implement their ideas. By showing students that they can turn their ideas into something tangible and impactful, AT&T and Rebrand Cities are encouraging them to become successful leaders and changemakers.
This is a powerful example of how bridging the digital divide can be transformed into meaningful and impactful action. AT&T’s teamwork with Rebrand Cities is creating opportunities for students to not only access the digital tools they need but also to turn their ideas into reality and to make a positive difference in their communities, like a painter creating a masterpiece with the help of a paintbrush and canvas. Doing that, showing students that they can actually turn an idea into something more — something that actually makes a positive difference — is going to make an enormous difference to these students, their trajectory, and ultimately their ability to go on an become the successful leaders and changemakers AT&T and Rebrand Cities want to see them become.