AAPPRRIILL 22001133 Outstanding Nonprofits in the DC Metro Area Yâ€™ANNA CRAWLEY 2009 Season 2 Winner Of Sunday Best & Stellar Award Winner Advocates For Single Moms THE PROMISE FOUNDATION Her Music Career
CAPTAIN JAS BOOTHE Her incredible journey to house homeless women veterans
POET, LAWREN GREENE
Rising nonprofit founded by cancer survivor committed to cancer awareness
SISTER SOULJAH BEA & LITERARY BUZZ
A Literary, Lifestyle, Business & Entertainment Publication
Volume 1- April 2013
Outstanding Nonprofit Edition Credits Captain Jas Boothe Final Salute Inc.
Gene Gadd Gene Gadd Cancer Foundation with featured business owners
Yâ€™Anna Crawley 2009 Season II Winner of Sunday Best & Stellar Award Winner The Promise Foundation
Closing out Poetry Month with Lawren Greene Diary Of A Water Man
Inside the Alex Haley Musuem with Shelia E. Lipsey
Sister Souljah signs in Maryland The Coldest Winter Ever 2
What Is BEA? Book Expo America is coming soon
Editor-in-Chief Are you due for a negavity detox? I personally am looking forward to filling my mind with good news. Between technology overloading us, personal challenges, and tragic stories running wild on the evening news, I feel like I have had enough of hearing negative information. Last month proved to be extremely hectic and trying. Toward the close of the month, I didn’t check Twitter, sign in the Facebook, or touch the TV to hear one shred of developing mayhem. I needed nearly a week to clear my mind and declutter it. However, we’re still here. As we look around us, it is easy to observe so much chaos in the world. This edition is coming out toward the beginning of May. However, we’ll be shifting our schedule a bit moving forward. News about that will be forthcoming. Of course life is an imperfect journey, but what I can offer this month is a break from unhappy endings. Problem solving is a priceless skill. During this trip, I hope that you enjoy hearing about what three people decided to do, as a resut of challenges that they survived. Life got tough, but when the storm passed, three remarkable people stood up to help others to perservere. This month we are featuring inspiring stories that can renew your faith in the goodness of others, and the role that faithfulness plays in life. I take great pleasure in highlighting select individuals who have taken incedible steps to contribute to help find greatly needed solutions to societal problems. As we wind down, Lawren Greene will help reiterate the value of poerty. Shelia E. Lipsey will report about her visit to The Alex Haley Musuem. I will bring you additional literature news, before our visit ends. Without further delay, I want to thank you for visiting with us again. I hope that you enjoy your stay as much I enjoyed digging up stories that are truly worth smiling about.
HOMELESS WOMEN VETERANS WHAT’S GOING ON?
Photo Credit: Alimond Photography
Grove Street: Today we are interviewing Jas Boothe, in regards to her non-profit organization, Final Salute. Thank you so much for taking time out of our busy schedule to talk to us today. Jas Boothe: Oh, no problem. Grove Street: I was really fascinated about what I read about Final Salute, so I just want to ask some questions about why you started this non-profit in the DC and VA area. Can you please let us know what your current rank is, the branch that you do serve in, and how many years that you’ve been an active duty military member? Jas Boothe: I have been serving for 13 years. The past eight years of that has been active. I am an Army Captain. I serve actively right now for the Army National Guard. Grove Street: Excellent. What inspired you to found Final Salute? Jas Boothe: I founded Final Salute because of my own personal struggles with homelessness, while I was serving, after finding out when I needed support, that there was none available specifically to women veterans. Grove Street: Oh, wow. Jas Boothe. A little bit more of that background—a short summary—is back in 2005, I was a single mother serving in the Reserves out of New Orleans. I was activated to deploy to Iraq. I 5
got my son situated with my aunt in Missouri, and basically went off to serve. During that summer, two significant events happened that turned my world upside down. One was losing everything to Hurricane Katrina, and then being diagnosed with cancer the very next month. It was during that time that I was not able to go to Iraq. I was sent down to Montgomery Medical Center and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for six months of surgery and cancer radiation treatments. I waited for my medical evaluation to come back. I had the conversation with the Commander about resources that were available for women veterans with children. Between the military, Veteran’s Affairs, and Social Services, there was absolutely nothing available. Grove Street: What did you do? How did you sustain yourself, during your illness? Jas Boothe: Well, because I was active duty, I stayed in medical facilities. Also, during that time, I was receiving radiation treatments and had to basically travel and switch jobs with deployment. The only thing that was available, because I was a woman with a child, was welfare. Poverty was not an option for me and my son. That should never be an option for women who have honorably served their country, but unfortunately, today that still is what’s available for women veterans with children, on a grand scale. Grove Street: That’s quite a testament, there. You mentioned that you were a single mom, so there were absolutely no other resources in your situation? You had to navigate all by yourself through everything? Jas Boothe: Yeah—the only thing that was available was welfare. Uniquely to me as a woman veteran, there was nothing. That amounted to about three-hundred something dollars, between a cash benefit and food stamps. That’s nothing to live on. Grove Street: How long did you go through that? Jas Boothe: The thing is, I didn’t accept it. Since I’m a personnelist, I was able to stay in the military. From that, I found a job with the National Guard as a technician, which is a civilian who works for the Guard. I switched to National Guard and moved to Maryland where my son was. I stayed with my aunt for a while. At that time, I really didn’t think about how America had failed its women who had served. I thought my situation was isolated. You never heard about homeless female veterans. It was a myth at that time. Only after six months of living in Missouri, I was offered the opportunity to come back to full-time duty in the DC Metro Area, where I’ve been since 2006. That’s when I started to hear more about it. The numbers went up to 3,000 to 13,000 to twenty-something to 55,000. My mouth just fell open. We’ve been serving since the Revolutionary War/ WWII and even before that, we were serving. You would think that up until this point hundreds of years later that America would have seen the service and sacrifices of women, and would have thought that they need help, too. Grove Street: Absolutely.
Jas Boothe: But even today, it’s still centered around male veterans. With the Iraq War being over, with Afghanistan winding down, and the military downsizing, America is still not ready for its women that are going to come back. With the tens of thousands that are already homeless, it’s only going to get worse. Grove Street: Do you have any opinions as far as why you think that female veterans have less of a voice with the issue of homelessness? Like you said, the average person isn’t aware of how prevalent this issue may be. Jas Boothe: My opinion is that, when I have these conversations on panels and briefings, they always reflect to what the Department of Veteran’s Affairs is not doing. When I first started doing this, my ignorance led me to believe that this was a Department of Veteran’s Affair issue as well. But you know what? The more that I’ve been able to educate myself through research, it’s not. This is an American issue. The uniform that I wear every day says U.S. Army. I don’t go to war, I don’t serve the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. I serve the Department of the United States, and America has not equated the service and sacrifice of women veterans to our male counterparts. Grove Street: Do you feel that this may be a prevalent issue in a certain region of the country more than another, or it’s just spread all around and growing? Jas Boothe: I equate homeless female veterans to be America’s national disaster. Obviously, California, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, DC Metro Area, Florida, we have a higher population of homeless veterans, because those areas have more homelessness in those regions, but as far as homeless female veterans, this is a nationwide issue. We’ve had women within our programs that come from all over the States. Some as far as Arizona. We’ve had people from Texas, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, because there is nothing on a national scale for women veterans. We have failed us as a country. Welfare is not enough. That’s not good enough. This is no discredit to women who need welfare, but women who serve their country, we should not be in the same line as those women who have not served and sacrificed. I understand that everyone has issues to work out, but welfare is basically a hand out. We deserve entitlements. We put something into our country. We should not have to go through that. Grove Street: Agreed. Since you mentioned Final Salute, is it the only place that houses female veterans in the DC area? Jas Boothe: What do you all do, and who is eligible for help? Grove Street: Yes. We are the only non-profit that uniquely houses homeless female veterans and their children in the DC Metro Area. But with that being said, we realize that this is a nationwide issue, so if we have an opening and a woman wants to relocate with her child, and come to get service, we’ve helped many of them. In addition to that, we also have uniformed service members who stay on our property. They serve in The Air Reserve, The Air National Guard. So it’s just not veterans. We have women who are still serving who also are homeless. 7
Grove Street: That’s an eye opener. How much space do you all currently have available? Jas Boothe: Our home in Fairfax is 6,000 square feet. A woman with a small child or infant would share a room. If you have a school age child—7, 8, 9, or older, you would have your own separate room. We’re not the kind of organization who wants to pack a bunch of people on a property. We want to give you your space, your privacy. If you want to leave the common areas and go on post, you have the opportunity to do that. We’re not categorized as a shelter. This is their home, and for their service and sacrifice, they deserve to live in a place where they can be served with respect. That’s something that you don’t get in a regular shelter and group housing environments, because it’s structured so that your life is planned out for you. You have a curfew. You have to let everybody know what you’re doing every waking minute. Military women within themselves, we come from a disciplined background. We don’t need that extra guarantee. They just need a safe place for them and their children to reside, while they go off, find employment, and get themselves back living in a state of independence. That’s what we provide for them. Grove Street: That’s wonderful. About how many women have been able to use this as a springboard to move along and transition out of homelessness? Jas Boothe: Since we opened up our first home in 2011, between both of our programs, we have supported 71 women and children. Grove Street: How do you personally manage to run a non-profit, with all of your responsibilities? How did you even find the strength to found a non-profit, after everything that you went through? Jas Boothe: As a solider, we have within the Soldier Creed principles called Ethos. Part of that Ethos is helping fallen comrades. I think that we only think about ones who have fallen on the battlefield, those who have been wounded. We forget about those who have fallen on hard times. Grove Street: Right. Jas Boothe: Even though these women may be serving part-time, they’re still my sisters. We’re supposed to take care of each other. No one understands a veteran like a veteran, and even with being a mother, being a wife, being a soldier, being a cancer survivor, having those things going on, I believe God gave me a second chance of life for a reason, and that was to give them the second chance that He gave me. It’s definitely hard sometimes giving up my weekends. God gave me a mission. I know that He won’t let me fail. I go about it every day with His blessings. Grove Street: As far as your property you mentioned, is it one home in a residential area? Jas Boothe: We actually have three homes. The one we have in Fairfax is about 6,000 square feet. We have a 9,000 square feet property in Virginia with seven bedrooms. We have a smaller 1200 square foot home in Columbus, Ohio where just a female guardsman and her son reside. 8
We’re growing. We’re small, but we definitely make a difference in the years that we’ve been around. The hardest issue is not finding women, because resources are so scarce. The issue is being able to support as many as we would like to. Being a younger organization, and the fact that people are still not aware of homeless female veterans, they don’t hear about it, so they don’t think it’s really an issue. We first have to make the American people aware that this is an issue, so that we can assist the women, and then help them to aspire being out of homelessness. We’ve had a great track record of doing that, but funding is definitely an issue for a younger organization. Grove Street: How can the public support Final Salute, once they are aware of this? Jas Boothe: They can go to our site www.finalsaluteinc.org. They can always make a donation through our site. They can mail in donations. We have contact information on that page. We do have several fundraising events throughout the year. They can go over to our events tab to see our upcoming events. Our major fundraiser is Ms. Veteran America. Grove Street: What does that entail? Jas Boothe: Every organization has their one major grand event. We didn’t want to do another gala or another women’s conference. We wanted to do something unique that spoke to our service and sacrifices of our women veterans, but seeing us as women first. I think the biggest disconnect that America has with women veterans is that it’s not seen as women first. When you look at my uniform, you see Captain Boothe. You don’t see Jasmine as a mother, Jasmine as a wife, Jasmine as a daughter, Jasmine as a sister. So with Ms. Veteran America, we’re honoring the woman beyond the uniform. Even though we serve, we allow you to see the other roles that we play as women, and I think that’s allowing America to connect with us. They can see that we have the same struggles as any other women out there, although we’re serving. We’re able to better connect with other women when they see we have the same struggles. We’re not exempt. Grove Street: Is this something where women are nominated? Jas Boothe: They apply, try out, and become contestants. We do have some award categories where people are nominated. There’s an interview portion. There’s a talent portion, but it’s not like a pageant. There’s no ‘looks’ aspect to it. Our second runner up last year was a ninety-yearold World War II veteran. It’s any age, any era. It’s not about what you look like or the size of your waistline. It’s just about you serving as a woman in the military. That’s what we’re honoring. We had a great time. Last year was our first time. We sold out. We had celebrities attend. It was a great event. Most importantly, the women who have served really appreciated being seen as beautiful women first. Grove Street: That sounds so wonderful. I look forward to sharing all of this information with those who may not be aware. Thank you so much. Jas Boothe: Thank you. 9
Jas Boothe holds dual MAs in Human Resource Management and Management and Leadership from Webster University. She is the mother of two wonderful boys, and wife of a former Marine Combat Veteran, Jammel R. Boothe. Jas Boothe also reported that readers can find out more about Ms. Veteran America at Msveteranamerica.org, Twitter and Facebook. For Jas Bootheâ€™s upcoming speaking engagement schedule, please visit www.finalsalute.org. She also reported that the organization will have a busy summer and fall.
BLUSH In It To Win It CANCER AWARENESS AND MUSIC FESTIVAL On April 13th and 14th, the third Annual Blush Cancer Awareness and Music Festival was held in Annapolis, Maryland. A host of musicians, artists, vendors, and the community at large assembled to enjoy fun times in honor of a good cause. Proceeds of the event benefited the Shannon Greb Sponsorship Avon Foundation of Women & the Gene Gadd Cancer Foundation. I had the pleasure of speaking to Raoul Graves, Gene Gadd and a few vendors who attended the event.
Author and talk show personality Saundra Harris pictured with founder of The Gene Gadd Cancer Foundation, Gene Gadd
RAOUL GRAVES Step 1: Putting it all together.
Grove Street: Tell us your name, something about Blush Cancer Awareness Music and Arts Festival, why you put it together, and the history of it. Raoul: My name is Raoul Graves. The event is the third Annual Blush Cancer Awareness Music and Arts Festival. I had three parents—a father, one stepmother, and one stepfather who died of cancer. The primary host, Shannon Greb, approached me about three years ago to do a small fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. We did it for two years. She raised money to fight the cause. We invited several hundred people to support the cause. The slogan is “Blush in it to win it.” My company, Next Big Thing Productions, decided to involve all music, all genres of art/music demographics to make this thing special. This year, we have a guest charity, the Gene Gadd Cancer foundation. They are going to help us rock this out a little bit. They have been awesome, great supporters of the event and worked so hard. Grove Street: Can you tell us how you publicized it, and what kind of people are supporting it? Raoul: People are here supporting it from all over. We have a few people here from Philadelphia that heard about it, and the majority of Annapolis, Maryland. We also have people 13
from Baltimore, Severna Park, and all around the counties. We promoted and publicized this thing on all of the social networking and media pages, local newspapers, TV and radio stations. WRNR has been a big supporter as far as promotion goes. We also distributed tens of thousands of flyers to get the word out even more. Grove Street: Is it a fundraiser for a specific type of cancer? Raoul: Annually, we have done breast cancer. This year, by bringing on the Gene Gadd Foundation, we are supporting cancer research for all cancers. Proceeds will go to the Shannon Greb Avon Foundation of Women, and then another percentage of the proceeds will go to the Gene Gadd Cancer Foundation. Grove Street: Where can we find more information about the Gene Gadd Cancer Foundation? Raoul: You can go to www.ggcf.com. Grove Street: What is your role? Raoul: I am an event coordinator for this one. I do bookings at multiple venues in the Maryland area. When it comes to big projects, sometimes they call me. Grove Street: How can we get in touch with you? Raoul: You can contact me at 443-882-1417; firstname.lastname@example.org Grove Street: Excellent, you heard it from the pro.
GENE GADD WAS GIVEN ALMOST NO CHANCE OF SURVIVING CANCER. NOT ONLY DID HE BEAT THE ODDS, BUT NOW HE REACHES OUT TO HELP OTHERS.
A TRUE STORY OF HOPE, FAITH AND COURAGE.
Grove Street: What is your foundation called? Gene: The Gene Gadd Cancer Foundation. Grove Street: Can you tell us why you started it, and when it started? Gene: Well, I’m a cancer survivor. In 2001, I went through almost a year-long treatment. I had a massive tumor in the ribcage, roughly the size of an oblong tennis ball. I had a rare form of bone cancer. I was given almost no chance of survival. I lost three ribs, my right lung, had almost a year-long of chemo, and 44 treatments in all. Grove Street: What a story. After you endured that, of course you came out of it, which was wonderful. What made you say, ‘I actually want to start a foundation?’ Gene: I can’t explain it, but when you’re not sure how long you have, and you’re living with this over your head, your first goal is to get a year. Then, your goal next is to get five years. When you get to five years, you think, ‘Okay maybe I’ll try to get another five.’ I had some success creating businesses. Before I got sick, I was an entrepreneur. I thought I had the skillset that was necessary, and just decided I wanted to do that. Grove Street: What area are you from? Gene: I’m from Severna Park, Maryland. 16
Grove Street: You’re local. Gene: Oh yeah. Grove Street: Okay! Gene: I was born downtown. Grove Street: Is this something that you do every year? Gene: No, our foundation just got up and running at the end of last year. We’re still new, but it’s been in development for several years. I spent most of my professional life in Florida, and I went through my treatments in Florida. When I came back to Maryland, I said, ‘Okay, what could we do in Annapolis and DC? Ah, a cancer foundation. That will work!’ Grove Street: That’s wonderful. Can you tell me some of the successes that you have had so far with attracting cancer awareness? Gene: It affects so many people’s lives. There are very few people that aren’t affected by cancer in some way, shape, or form. If I can say one thing to people with cancer, it would be a positive attitude makes a difference. If you can bring people together in a positive energy and connectivity, it was a big deal for me. I didn’t know so many people cared about me and loved me. I was kind of oblivious to it. Grove Street: After what you all do for these two days, tell me what happens after. Gene: Well, with this Blush Festival, there are a few people involved. There’s our foundation, and then there’s the Avon Foundation with Shannon Greb. She’s in charge of that with the Blush Festival, and then there’s Next Big Thing Productions with Raoul Graves. He put on the Blush Festival, so he joined forces with this, but for us, we’ve got a show in Manhattan Beach on June 29. We’ll probably have 6-8 shows this calendar year. After that, we’ll start going to the colleges and expand form there. Grove Street: Is this something you want to run all year long with different types of events? Gene: Yes, it’s a full-time business. It’s actually two businesses. It’s the Gene Gadd Cancer Foundation and Rock It for the Cure Productions. We’ll feature bands and do shows, and rock it for the cure, which is what we do. We’ve had about fifty bands here over this weekend. We have about thirty playing tonight. There’s a big demand here. That’s kind of what I do. Grove Street: Is it a non-profit? Gene: Yes, the Gene Gadd Foundation is a non-profit. All the money goes in some way, shape, or form to fighting cancer. I think it’s important to say a lot of time with foundations, as they get bigger, they start forgetting about the individual family. Then, it’s just research. There’s a point for all of that. We’ll certainly be a part of that, but I wanted to make sure that we got some of the revenue and funds to go to families who actually need it. Most people, when they 17
get diagnosed with cancer are still working. They’re not retired. It’s like having a bomb thrown into your life. You have to stop everything. First, you have cancer. You have a new protocol. A lot of people think their health insurance is better than it is, until they get a catastrophic injury, and they start getting denied for things. Insurance may not want to approve it, even though the doctor says they need it, so I think there’s—particularly with the laws changed and the health care law—a place to put patients first in the needs of patients. Grove Street: I’m so impressed by this. I also see kids here. It’s wonderful to teach kids about giving and non-profit and all of that. I think that makes the event unique. What made you think to involve kids? Gene: I think going back to the family thing, it affects so many people, and the whole family. Besides that, you have a lot of young people. I don’t think many people know it but our area has the largest concentration of cancer in the entire country. (The Baltimore DC Metropolitan area and Chesapeake Bay Basin has the highest cancer rate overall.) Grove Street: What would you say on the topic of taking care of yourself? How were you able to sustain yourself to stay strong when you were going through treatment? Gene: One thing that I did was listen to what the doctors said. I followed their protocol. I kind of got in line with that and did everything they told me to do. I didn’t skip it. A lot of due diligence, and I think positive attitude and belief that you can beat it, because you can. Grove Street: Did you start this by yourself? Gene: No. There are other people on board that help. A lot of people I went to school with helped out. Saundra Harris is the secretary. There are many people who wanted to get involved and have in some way, shape, or form. The response has been wonderful. If anything, the hardest part has been trying to implement everybody. Grove Street: If people could not attend and want to donate to the cause, how can they reach out to you? Gene: You can reach us at the Gene Gadd Cancer Foundation online at www.ggcf.com. You can also find us at email@example.com. We’re on Facebook and Twitter. Grove Street: We want to support the cancer cause. Thanks so much for doing this. You are a testament of strength and a wealth of knowledge. We appreciate everything that you’re doing today. Gene: I can’t thank you enough. I’m honored. Grove Street: What a pleasure. Good bye. I had an opportunity to sit down with Gene Gadd, during the event. I was amazed to learn how he persevered through a difficult cancer diagnosis. I was especially happy to attend his event. 18
For the first time in nearly nine years of being without my mother, I felt happiness associated with the word, â€œcancer.â€? It was such a happy day. Really!
Grove Street: Could you tell me why you both started your operation? Survivor Entertainment: We’re both single moms. With the economy being so bad, and jobs being scarce, we always wanted to start a business. We thought with things being in place now—wonderful President Obama has put health care in place, he has helped with financing for housing and safety nets to help out single moms. We thought now is the best time, with some of our children being grown, to get out there and go head first into our business and passion. Grove Street: Can you tell me all of the services you all offer? Survivor Entertainment: We offer bartending services, a mobile coffee bar, and a mobile candy buffet. We try to tailor them according to what customers need to accomplish. Grove Street: Tell us how your business works. What radius you do cover, and what area? Survivor Entertainment: Well, actually we are a new business. We are willing to travel as far as Florida. Last week we went to Dover, Delaware for a play for an event with Unity Gospel, which is a new gospel group. We just want to offer people our good service. We have great customer service—that’s one of the standards of our business—being on time, being efficient, clean, and offering great prices. Grove Street: What is your contact information? Survivor Entertainment: You can reach us at www.survivorentertainment.webs.com or 301221-5435. Grove Street: Is there significance behind the business name? Survivor Entertainment: The name is based on perseverance. As single moms, we have to raise our kids, go to PTA meetings, and sometimes deal with difficult ex-spouses, but we do it, and continue to do it. We love bringing entertainment to people, having fun and networking. Partners Cynthia Gay and Keesha Gardner are from Capitol Heights and District Heights, Maryland. They are native Washingtonians.
Mahogany Glow Mobile Spa
Takia Tucker and Patrice Johnson pictured with high-quality, handmade products that are used in their business. Glowing skin is their specialty.
Grove Street: What do you do? Mahogany Glow Mobile Spa: We are a mobile service focusing on facials, massages, and making our own products. Our products are handmade from one-hundred percent natural ingredients. The products are formulated from real fruit, flowers, and oils. Grove Street: Where are you based? Mahogany Glow Mobile Spa: Weâ€™re based in Glen Burnie, Maryland. 23
Grove Street: How can you be reached? Mahogany Glow Mobile Spa: You can give us a call at 443-772-2123 for esthetician services, facials, body wraps and waxes, and massages.
Takia provides chair and full body massages. Her four self-help tips for females are: 1. Always take 5 minutes out of your day to get to know yourself. Make sure you bring yourself back to what we call homeostasis, which is the state of relaxation and self. 2. Drink lots of water. The water will calm you and flush everything out. Even if itâ€™s just one cup, drink some water. 3.
Always love and take care of yourself.
4. A lot of women carry stress on their shoulders. It starts to build up. Thatâ€™s what causes a lot of headaches, back and neck problems. Take a nice, hot shower and get into yourself.
Email: MahoganyGlow@consultant.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
God’s timing is impeccable. Even if you think that He has forgotten about your heart’s desire, He hasn’t. Y’Anna Crawley’s musical journey proves it. Y'Anna is the 2009 Season II Winner of the NAACP Award winning television series Sunday Best (BET/Viacom Network). She also won New Artist of the Year at the 2012 Stellar Awards (Gospel Music’s equivalent to the Grammy). Ms. Crawley has sung background vocals for a variety of artists including Genobia Jeter-Jones, Glenn Jones, Raheem DeVaughn, Angie Stone, Chrisette Michelle, Jennifer Lopez, & Ledisi.
Photo Credit: Sadrea Muhammad c/o Cre8ivejunkie
Y’ANNA CRAWLEY Grove Street: This morning we are talking to the lovely Y’Anna Crawley. We just want to say thank you for taking some time out to talk to Grove Street. How did you get started in your career?
Y’Anna: It started as early as 12 for me, when I first started cultivating my talent. I knew I had a thing for music. I grew up in a musical family. Everybody in my family sings. I knew I had a talent but I didn’t realize my gift, until later on. My aunt and my Uncle Genobia Jeter, as well as Glenn Jones—he’s a well-known artist— threw me in the studio when I was 12. I guess they knew I had a talent, so they were like, ‘We’re going to start you out now.’ I’ve been on this path for a long time. Grove Street: That’s awesome. You have been in the studio since 12. Y’Anna: Yes, just laying background tracks and learning the knack and technical part of being in the studio, laying down vocals and things of that nature. Yeah—I started out pretty young. Grove Street: Was it always a gospel background, as far as your start? Y’Anna: I was fortunate to grow up in a family that, like I said, sings gospel music. I was reared up in the church, and gospel was the first thing that I heard around the house, sitting on the porch with my grandmother, my aunts, my uncles. But fortunately enough, my Uncle Glenn started off singing gospel, then went to R&B, so I started doing R&B. After that I just started doing background vocals for a lot of people, whether they were R&B or gospel artists, so I kind of had the best of both worlds. It wasn’t until Sunday Best came along that I made the choice to sing gospel music. Grove Street: That’s great. I did read up a little bit on your journey toward Sunday Best. Is it accurate that you tried out for another type of show, and questioned if you should take that journey again, and almost didn’t do it? Y’Anna: Yeah. Sure enough I did American Idol, I think two years prior, before Sunday Best came along. It was in DC at the Washington Convention Center. It was for two days. I had my sleeping bag. My best friend was with me. I got to the preliminary judging. Those things kind of go quick. They were giving us about ten seconds, so I did a Whitney Houston piece. They looked at me and said, ‘You’re very beautiful, you can sing, but you’re not what we’re looking for.’ That dampened my spirits a little bit. I’d been singing for a long time. I knew that it was something that I really, really, really wanted to do. Singing is just something that I absolutely give 150 percent to. Music is everything to me. Then, when Sunday Best came around, I was like, ‘Not another competition. No, I don’t want to do it.’ Grove Street: Right. Y’Anna: I was getting floods of emails saying, ‘I think this is it. Y’Anna, I think you should do it. I think you can go all the way.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not doing it. I waited all the way up until the day. I always tell this story, when I’m telling my testimony. I had a little angel who came and got me. He sat outside. I didn’t even wake up on time. I just wasn’t excited or enthused about going, because of the disappointment that I had before. He waited for me outside. I didn’t even dress for the weather. It seemed like it was one of the coldest days of the year. I was telling God, ‘If you don’t move this line, then I’m going home.’ The auditions were right around the corner 26
from my house—like ten minutes from my house, so I said, ‘Okay, I’m going home.’ Then a guy came and said, ‘Okay, it’s cold, so I’m going to bring you all in.’ It was all just God preparing me for this moment, that moment, and then these moments to come. Grove Street: Wow. That’s an awesome story about God’s favor. Y’Anna: Yes. Grove Street: One of my other questions is what has helped you persevere through the ups and downs, and still remain faithful to keep going anyway? Y’Anna: Now that I look back at it, I always had big faith. I’m always the one that’s pushing everybody. I’m always the one who’s trying to encourage, even if I’m going through something. It seems like when I help somebody, telling them that they can make it, it helps me to see that I too can make it. I always believed in God. I had visions. God showed me things. Now that I look back at, it was just Him speaking to me, just telling me that this is what He’s preparing me for. Sometimes we can sabotage ourselves by doing something like going right when we need to be going left. I took a lot of wrong turns and beatings, but I’m a fighter. I don’t let nothing beat me. I may be down for a moment, but I’m coming back up, and I’m swinging, because I know that God has something greater for me. Even with having my first child at 17, then having another child at the age of 30—but I didn’t get the ring nor the man. I was really disappointed with that and disappointed in myself—even though my children are a blessing, but just disappointed that I made those choices, and the end result was me having two babies and being a single mom. But it didn’t stop me. Now I see that God is using my life to be a testimony to others. The emails that I get remind me of that. Young girls come up to me and say that they are inspired by me, and they are looking at me and aren’t going to give up. I even had somebody say they wanted to commit suicide, but after hearing my story and song and the way I deliver it, it made her rethink her decision. Today that young lady is about to graduate from college. She’s a single mom who was raped, got pregnant, decided to keep the baby from her rape, but she’s about to graduate in May. I am so elated. Grove Street: That’s awesome. Y’Anna: When I hear stories like that, I say, ‘God, this is my purpose, this is my mission. No matter how much I go through the valley, or no matter how much I get beat up, I know that you’re with me. That alone makes me stand, because God’s promises are true. Grove Street: You’ve even been an inspiration to me. There is something special about you. I saw you at the BET Honors, on the red carpet. Now I feel incredibly blessed to learn even more about you one-on-one. When I read about what you’re doing as a single mom, it inspired me. Thank you for inspiring so many people. Your voice is awesome. Your songs are tearjerkers. You have an awesome gift. I love that about you! Y’Anna: Thank you, thank you, thank you. 27
Grove Street: Since we’re also talking about strides that you’ve made, for the record, could you please share the awards that you’ve won, and what you’ve been able to do since 2009? Y’Anna: I’ve gotten TV time. I sang on the BET Awards. I also sang on The Stellar Awards this past February. Last year, I won New Artist of the Year for the Stellar Awards. I was overly excited about that because I dealt with trials, hills, and valleys. I thought that people had forgotten about me. My record had been out for two years. It didn’t get much play. I was dropped from a label. People don’t know the inside stuff. They just see me smile because I’m a fighter. The industry is real fickle. If you’re not the new hotness, people don’t really mess with you. It’s sad to say that it’s in the gospel industry, too. I just continue to sing and do what God has planned out for me. When they awarded me the New Artist of the Year I was shocked. That’s just God’s favor. That’s just him telling me, ‘You’re still in the running game. Just keep staying focused, and doing my work and my will, and I will reward you.’” Grove Street: Do you feel that you had to prove yourself as an artist more since you have family in the music industry? Did that present any assumptions about you at any point in time? Y’Anna: Well, yes, in a way, just like if you’re going in for a job, you have to prove yourself. Your resume’ stands and says that you can do this, and your objective is to do this, and you are qualified. I think that it works the same with me just me loving and being who I am, when I get up on the stage. Not to toot my own horn, but God says that you are supposed to brag and boast with the things that He has done. I am glad that He has used me as a vessel, and that He has given me this gift, and that it is undeniable, when I open my mouth. When I do it, I don’t do it for me. I do it for the people. I do it for the love that He has placed inside of my heart. I just give it all every time. I just think people see it without me saying anything that I can do. It’s just my walk. What I do is a true testament of the God that’s in me. Grove Street: Could you share with us about The Promise Foundation that you started? What do you do, and who is it for? Y’Anna: It’s not yet solidified, but you know what, I have been acting as if it is a solidified nonprofit, because like I said, I am so drawn to young women, and they are so drawn to me. I want to help advocate self-esteem building. When you’re a young girl, you look to older people to kind of give you wisdom. I was one of the ones that was rebellious. I didn’t believe stuff until I put my foot in it. I want to give these girls precautions, because it is so needed, even at the early age of thirteen, maybe twelve, just give them self-esteem building. I have this thing where I say you don’t have to be naked to be noticed. I went to hair school. I’m a cosmetologist. I do make up. I went to Dudley (Beauty College) right on Rhode Island Avenue in DC. I think all of that was just God preparing me for this time to give back to my young ladies to teach them etiquette, to be a young lady, how to go on a job interview, how to dress, how to fix their hair right for it not to be all over the place, how to walk, how to speak, how to put on makeup without putting on a lot. All you want to do is enhance your beauty. You don’t want to cover it. So, I want to help them to understand just how to be an overall lady. I also want to give out 28
scholarships. I’ve done it. I’ve helped young ladies with their rent. I’ve helped young ladies get to places. I’ve even gained godchildren from young ladies that were pregnant and asked me to be a godmother. I just can’t say no. I have a big heart. I just want to help my young girls. Grove Street: Is there any way that we could keep up with you about the status of it, or if you need support along the way, how can people reach out? You can email me at email@example.com, or you can check me out on my Twitter. It’s YannaC_Soulsing and you can look me up on my Facebook, Y’Anna Crawley. I have a fan page, and I have a regular page. I’m normally tweeting, when I have charity drives. I do an open mic every third Friday in DC. Most of the time, the proceeds go to The Promise Foundation. Like I said, I do a lot of things under that name, although it’s not solidified yet. It’s in the works, and it’s going to be done. Grove Street: That’s wonderful. I’m glad to know about it, so I can help spread the word about that. Since we talked about the single mom journey that you had, do you have any advice for people in that situation who feel like they have to put everything on hold and forget their aspirations? What would you tell the person who may be discouraged or frustrated right now? Y’Anna: I would tell that person—that single mom—that you can look at me. I’m a single mom of two. It gets rough, but you have to have a made up mind that despite your hills and valleys, you have to keep pushing. You need to find that thing that affirms you every day. I write on my mirror every morning, or either I’ll have writings on my mirror. Right now I have, ‘God loves me. He cares about me. His promise is given to me. His purpose lives in me.’ I also have, ‘I’m holding onto every promise because my life depends on it, and my children will benefit from it. That lets me know that everything that I’m doing I’m setting up for their future. I’m making a way for them. I’m also showing them when life gets hard no matter what, you keep pushing, you keep fighting. Like I said, I’m a fighter, so I’m telling all of y'all out there, even if you have kids, and you’re a single mom—or you don’t have kids—we all get in a rut sometimes. We just have to lean on every word of God. If you apply it to your life, if you make it practical like getting up brushing your teeth and washing your face, I promise you that it will change your life and make you go forward even further. Grove Street: I think that you have a book inside of you. Y’Anna: Everybody is saying that. Yes, I believe I that I do, too. Grove Street: What you do you want your fans to take away from your music? What’s your goal with your gift? Y’Anna: My goal is, I want, when my fans—I really don’t call them my fans—when my friends, my family, my brothers, my sisters hear me sing, I want them to take the whole Y’Anna. Experience her life, her journey, her life experience, when they hear me. When I get up there, I give my heart, so I want them to hear the life of Y’Anna, and the heart of Y’Anna. I also want 29
them to take God from my music. I want them to know that God is in me, and He can also live in them. Grove Street: Wow, that’s awesome. Do you have any projects that you are working on that we should be aware of, so we know when to look for it? Y’Anna: Yes, yes. I’m working on my sophomore album. I’ll be in LA in two weeks to get stuff going and started. You can expect it in the fall or maybe the beginning of next year. I don’t want to rush it. I really want to take my time and make the best album. I want to create and give everybody every side of me, even with inspirational. I don’t believe that all music—or secular as they would put it— is the devil’s music. Every life experience, if God is the presenter of it, then I believe that we should be able to sing about it or talk about it or write about it. Music is the most universal language ever. Music is very powerful, so I want to make sure whatever I speak, it uplifts, but I also want people to know my pain, and I want them to know my triumphs through my pain. I want people to know even though I didn’t feel like it, I moved past it. People feel like I feel. I’m just singing that song. Grove Street: Thank you so much for sharing with us. Your testimony is such a light. We’ll definitely be looking out for your next project. Continued success, and may you continue to be blessed through God’s favor. Y’Anna: Thank you. Bless you, too. May God’s favor be upon you. Y’Anna’s Upcoming Events 3rd Friday Open Mic (Every 3rd Friday of the Month) The B. Spot DC 1123 Pennsylvania Ave SE Washington, DC 20003 $5.00 Cover Mother's Day Matinee Brunch Sunday May 12th 2012 2PM Baltimore Sound Stage 124 Market Place Baltimore, MD July 8th 2012 Blues Alley 1073 Wisconsin Ave NW Washington, DC Performance Times 8pm & 10pm
Poet Lawren Greene
http://www.lawrengreene.com Grove Street: Why and when did you start writing poetry? Lawren: I needed a way to express myself. I never knew that I was going to write as much as I have. I started writing so that one day I could reflect on my thoughts of the past. Someone read my material and said I had a very unique style. As I started to journal more I realized that this style is mine and that I had so much to express. I have had the opportunity to see and contemplate so much in my short period of time on this Earth. Grove Street: Do you feel that more men are getting involved in spoken word again? Lawren: I do feel more men are getting involved with spoken word, but I never really thought of poetry as having a gender associated with it. To me, itâ€™s an expressive science of thought and communication pronounced by literary art. Grove Street: Has poetry provided you with a platform to develop your work and people skills? Lawren: Yes, absolutely. It serves as a great platform for me to meet people that I normally would never come across. By writing these master volumes, I was able to do a lot of heavy reflection, just as it appears the readers do when they read the book. As a poet, I feel more approachable. It is awesome when you can get the respect from other people in your craft and they acknowledge that your work is inspiring to them. I also love helping aspiring authors/ poets watch their work reach a point of fruition; that makes me feel good inside. Turning my writing into actual spoken word through the three albums I created was such a great feeling. 31
People tell me that they really appreciate me putting the writing onto a musical background. They say that it gives them an extra sense of the literature when they read verse then hear it. Grove Street: What is your favorite poem and why? Lawren: This is a hard one. I think War and Dinner is the one that sticks in my mind the most. The poem is about people and relationships and the dynamics associated with it. I think I like it the most because itâ€™s such an ironically true concept. People do not start off fighting. Most of the times they have a commonality, which is the suggestion of dinner. War and Dinner describes the many phases a relationship between a man and woman can go through in the course of a conversation or day. I have so many poems but I just think that one stands out in my mind at this particular moment.
Lawren Greene is a poet and author who is located in New Jersey. The official release of Diary of a Waterman was January 31, 2013. His is also a Technology Project Manager/Internet Pioneer. To learn more about his poetry, or to purchase his anthology, you may find the relevant information below. Kindle:http://www.tinyurl.com/diaryofawaterman .99 cents! Nook: http://tinyurl.com/bn-diaryofawaterman .99 cents! and on ITunes .99 cents! Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&fieldkeywords=lawren%20greene&sprefix=lawre%2Cdigital-text&rh=i%3Adigitaltext%2Ck%3Alawren%20greene
“Inside the Alex Haley Museum” with Shelia E. Lipsey
Alex Haley’s Boyhood Home (Henning, Tennessee)
“In my writing, as much as I could, I tried to find the good, and praise it.” - Alex Haley
Saturday, April 27, I had the opportunity to participate in the second annual Writers/Authors Day at the Alex Haley Museum and Interpretive Center located in Henning, Tennessee. My visit to the Alex Haley Museum was exhilarating, informative, educational, and truly inspiring. Close to 200 people came out to attend the event. There was a reception, question and answer session, genealogy, book signing, and the opportunity to tour the Museum/Interpretive Center, Alex Haley’s boyhood home and burial site. The facility is rich with history and I was pleased to be in attendance. There was spoken word, a short story reading by a young man from the local middle school Beta Club, a reception, guided tours, and authors such as myself who had the 33
opportunity to talk about our books and sign copies of our work. There was a tremendous opportunity to network, meet new people, and enjoy the overall positive atmosphere presented by the host and Director of the museum, Ms. Beverly Johnson.
Beta Club Youth with authors
Shelia E. Lipsey
Writers/Authors Day Alex Haley Museum Authors (l to r) Lucas Johnson, Calvin Barlow, Dorothy Davis, Nancy Foshee, Aisha Pearson, Shelia Lipsey, Nyl Reitcheck
Sister Souljah Comes to Maryland By Andrea Blackstone
Sister Souljah held a book discussion and signed her latest work, A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story, at The Oxon Hill Library, on April 17. She is widely known as the New York Times bestselling author of The Coldest Winter Ever, although her other works include No Disrespect, Midnight: A Gangster Love Story, Midnight, and the Meaning of Love. “Peace. How y'all doing?” the author and activist casually began. “I feel like I’m talking to people who are alive and full of thoughts. I’m going from city to city, trying to give a face-toface experience. It’s important for the community to gather and talk about meaningful things— tell the truth about some things. I am one soul, the same as you. There is no hierarchy here.” Dressed in all black, Sister Souljah stood comfortably at the lectern at the front of the library meeting room. Appearing relaxed and at peace, the ‘problem solver’ detailed her journey that was sparked by activism, then ended with a full-time writing career. The graduate of Rutgers University was once voted to be the President of 100 Black Men, while attending college. “I don’t think you’re looking at the ramifications of it,” she said, when recalling her experience. Sister Souljah’s visit helped to provide a backdrop for her books, and add depth to commentaries that fill them. She also remarked that more people would get her empowering message if she had a product, when they couldn’t get it one-on-one. She began her career running Daddy’s House for Sean Combs and had worked in various community after school programs. “Move away from rejoicing in negative projections of yourself. Change the conversation,” the author suggested.
After providing a snapshot of her life before picking up the pen, Sister Soujah explained that she began writing her latest novel right after completing The Coldest Winter Ever. She said, “I accumulated about a hundred pages. It took one year to finish after then. Portia was taken to group home but wasn’t a baby. She had memories of moving to an elaborate mansion.” As the evening progressed, Sister Souljah explained that as a writer, if someone tells the same story, it’s not worth the money. She remarked that each of her books has to be different from the last, and that she tries to put jewels on every page. Even the titles of her books and character names are significant. “Winter is cold. Her name describes a season. We were in an era of that.” The author shared that one of her Midnight stories is the most powerful book that she’s ever written. To facilitate her research, Sister Souljah explained, “My family moved with me to Tokyo, Japan. The sequel is a global story. The focus is on a man.” Questions poured in from the audience about what ever happened to movie plans regarding the infamous Coldest Winter Ever, and the film’s production with Jada Pinkett-Smith. “I’m currently writing Midnight 3. The story is finished, when the theme is achieved. I’ve always seen The Coldest Winter Ever as a film. At night, I read the chapters to my husband. I had fun writing it. I feel familiar with writing about women. I floated a movie treatment in Hollywood, before I finished. With the deal at HBO, the regime there changed. Someone new came in. I had to buy my rights back. People after that didn’t have their business right, so I hadn’t found a team. Something is on the table now. Production will start before the end of the year, if paperwork goes through. ” Attendees also learned that the activist has plans for a follow up to her memoir, No Disrespect. Sister Souljah explained that she will present wisdom that she’s accumulated— expanding her non-fiction journey, while putting things in context. Her tip for writers, and others seeking understanding of self was, “The key to writing excellent books is that you have to be able to maintain the voice and mind of the character. Maintain the attitude. If you want to be an excellent writer, be authentic with the voice of the character. Discover the gift that you were given. Get moving on it. The Maker gives a gift and an assignment. Feel good about it, if you obeyed and are doing what the Maker created your soul to be.”
What is BEA? By Andrea Blackstone
In a nutshell, BEA (Book Expo America) is an annual trade show. It’s the largest held in the United States. Most major publishers utilize it as an opportunity to showcase upcoming titles, sell and buy rights, and interact with colleagues. However, buyers, book lovers, librarians and authors also attend the event. If you’re the star struck type, you may even catch a celebrity signing or promoting a new book. In case you’re wondering, it’s not an ideal time to pitch book ideas in hopes of landing a publishing contract. Attending probably won’t lead to an acquisitions editor pulling a manuscript out of a slush pile. In fact, engaging in an amateur mistake of trying to get a manuscript picked up is rumored to have incredibly horrible consequences, like a target remembering who was careless enough to try to use a tradeshow as a forum to present an idea. Most publishers attend BEA to promote and sell titles that they’ve already acquired. Surely, some hopeful authors try to make appointments with a decision maker, but a more practical approach may be simply trying to grow contacts to follow up with later, and learn a thing or two. Attendees can gain perspectives about what’s upcoming in the publishing industry, get a better handle on the market, gather information, attend sessions, and gain additional understanding of the business side. The first time that I attended BEA, I left feeling that publishing is a real business. Books are entertainment to some, but a business to many. BEA’s structure is a reminder that every author can benefit from an advocate. For those who are most fortunate, publishers will push their titles on their behalf. For newbies or self-publishers, Book Expo America is a reminder that much effort goes into making a book a potential best seller. It’s not really as simple as luck, although some would try to lead others to believe that’s the case. If a newbie author is a oneperson show, attending BEA can allow a savvy information gatherer to get ahead of the curve by doing a bit of early homework that can lead to practical planning, and/or better book marketing. So, if you’re planning to go for the first time, map out a tangible plan. Establish the key reasons that you are going so you don’t aimlessly wander the showroom floor. Visit www.bookexpoamerica.com for more information. This year it takes place from May 29 June 1 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. The fun part is the oodles of free books that publishers typically give away.
I would like to extend special thanks to each guest this month for their great interviews. Please remember to pass along the word about the nonprofits that were founded by Jas, Boothe, Gene Gadd, and Yâ€™Anna Crawley. A big thank you goes to author Shelia E. Lipsey for her continued participation. Her teen novel, House of Cars, is now available for pre-order. Remember to pick up a copy of House of Cars for teen readers. Another big thank you goes out to author Judi Emm who joins us from Canada.
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