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Trailblazers & Social Change


Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s 25th Awards Gala A Literary, Lifestyle, Business, & Entertainment Publication

CELEBRATING MS. Executives across x the country will sleep outside during Homeless Youth Awareness Month

Book cover design tips & artist spotlight on Roger James

Who did we spot on the Red Carpet? Lil Mama & other celebrities show support for students attending HBCUs

Sunni’s inspiring story: In-depth interview with the WPGC 95.5 host

A Literary, Lifestyle, Business, & Entertainment Publication


While compiling this month’s stories, the theme that kept running through my mind was the importance of being a trailblazer, and the idea of helping someone else to help themselves. It may be a small or large effort, but when others with resources reach back to assist another person with a legitamate need, lives can be eternally transformed. In today’s society, many claim that someone else’s problem isn’t their own concern. However, when doors open for a hard worker who is committed to doing his or her part to move forward, the individual who was once in need may be in a better position to help the next person in need, if reaching back is desired. And maybe societial problems—which affect the general population—would improve faster if more people felt like their future contributions to society mattered. While positive words are certainly helpful, opportunities can’t be seized if no one is willing to pitch in and offer them. After the governent shutdown, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Phillipines, many were reminded that hard times can hit anyone, anytime. Those in need aren’t neccesarily lazy hand out seekers. Sometimes opportunity is about timing, not aptitude or just attitude. As you read stories about Ms. Veteran America, Final Salute, Inc., Covenant House’s Sleep Out, Sunni, Roger James, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s 25th Awards Gala, please keep these resources and trailblazers in mind. If no one stepped up to create and support these causes, present someone with an opportunity, or unleash personal potential, many needs would go unmet. As the holiday season approaches, perhaps we may once again remember that any need could easily become our own. If you regard social change to be important, I hope that you enjoy learning about newsworthy stories that may have slipped by your radar. Plus, there’s a lot of glamour and exclusive pictures that we’re sharing with you, too! At the end of the day, it’s nice to share the good stuff, although controversy seems to appeal to more people. I often include less publicized celebrity stories when I can, because there are already endless opportunities to read about scandals and gaffes. I truly hope that some of the resources or tips offered here may help someone seeking a bit of information, and I hope that our community will grow. Thank you for being here. Grove Street would also like to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Best wishes,


The Legacy of Ms. Veteran America

2013 CNN Hero/Founder of Final Salute Jaspen Boothe with Allaina Guitron, Ms. Veteran America 2013

The National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia buzzed with excitement on Oct. 13. The first ever Ms. Veteran America—Master Sgt. Denyse Gordon—was slated to pass her title on to another veteran. The competiton wasn’t about vanity. It was about honor, service, sisterhood and bringing attention to an unsettling issue: homeless women veterans. It’s happening all over this country. There are more than 55,000 homeless women veterans on the streets on any given day. It has been reported that female veterans are now the fastest growing homeless population in the United States. “I am the reigning Ms. Veteran America. I have a few more hours before I relinquish my title and crown Ms. Veteran America 2013,” Master Sgt. Denyse Gordon stated. “Can you remind us what branch you served in?” I asked.

“I am in the United States Air Force.” Supporters buzzed in the lobby. Excitement built as the doors closed. A handmade sign that read ‘ALLAINA YOU ROCK’ was propped to stand. When the contestants walked down the makeshift runway, the energy in the room inspired claps, cheers, and at times, standing ovations. The sight of an eclectic group of glammed up military women, representing various branches, in gowns and high heels was enough to stir emotions of attendees, but the talent competition added another layer of excitement. Comedy, interpretive dance routines, singing, poetry and a host of talents helped to show another side of women behind the uniform. Although there was an evening gown segment, contestants were also tested on United States history and also raised money on social media for Final Salute, Inc. The history of the competition runs deeper than offering an unique glimpse of women who protect and serve. Jaspen Boothe founded Final Salute, Inc. in 2010 to help house homeless women veterans and their children. Once a homeless, single mother, after losing her home to Hurricaine Katrina, and being diagnosed with cancer, her mission continued to help provide safe and suitable housing to veterans in need, through the competion. It was reported that $90,000 was raised for the non-profit. Currently, approximately 20 women and chidren are housed in Final Salute’s Virginia location. During the evening, fallen women were honored. It was difficult to choke back tears as two single fathers—Gary Noling and Carlton Kent—spoke about losing their daughters who served in the military. A special guest included Barbie Ritzco, who was photographed for the Scar Project. The special guest ran the Marine Corps Marathon after surviving stage 3 breast cancer. The competition offered a range of emotion, and a dose of reality. It left a real reminder how much these women gave and give to defend our freedom. Staff Sgt. Allaina Guitron became the newly crowned Ms. Veteran America. She will continue the legacy that Master Sgt. Denyse Gordon began to promote awareness and change.

Master Sgt. Denyse Gordon pictured with Gale Paige, Executive Director of Final Salute, Inc.

WWII Coast Guard veteran Gladys Hughes, Ms. Veteran America 2012 second runner up, and 2013 judge. She is also the author of several books.

BELOW: Judges Jessica Myers USN, Chief Operations Specialist; CSM (Ret) Michele Jones was the first woman in the United States Army Reserve to reach the position of Command Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army Reserve; Vernice “FlyGirl� Armour was the first African-American female combat pilot USMC; and Gladys Hughes.

Keisha Jackson, veteran of the Army Reserves, prepared to impress the judges before passing them.

Vernice “FlyGirl� Armour questioned Elizabeth Luras. She won the Ms. Resilience award and was first runner-up in the contest.

Jaspen Boothe with wounded warrior, Marissa Strock (rt). Strock lost both of her legs while serving in Iraq. She won the ‘You Wear It Well’ award for best evening gown.

County artist Ricky Lee sang to Staff Sgt. Allaina Guitron. She took home $15,000.

Miss United States, Candice Dillard, was one of several pageant winners who attended Ms. Veteran America 2013.

Please consider visiting or You may also read our interview with Jaspen Booth in our seventh edition, ‘Outstanding Nonprofits in the DC Metro Area.’

Executives Sleep Outside to Raise Money for Homeless Youth Amidst troubled homes, mental health issues, abandonment, human trafficking and other challenges, youth in crisis are tucked in the crevices around the nation. As temperatures drop in various regions, we should not forget homeless youth. Reunion with family may not always be within their immediate reach. However, a movement to save and protect an extremely vulnerable population is worthy of mentioning during Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Beyond November, a long-term effort to assist youth between 18 and 24 is evident through a place of refuge called Covenant House. Some youth find assistance through use of a 44-bed emergency shelter. Others may utilize free housing in transitional living apartments in a program called ‘Rights of Passage.’ While there, they can save money to help them strive to implement a permanent plan. Workforce Readiness Education and Training programming, case management, employment specialists, along with partner and organizational support, is in place to help at-risk young people find their way. A ‘sleep out’, an interesting fundraiser of note, will soon be underway that acknowledges nearly two million American youth who will face homelessness this year. The sleep out will allow donors to experience homelessness for a night. Twenty-one Covenant House locations across the country will host sleep outs November 21, in their parking lots or on their grounds. Senior business leaders can raise money to benefit homeless youth and greatly needed programs like some of those mentioned above. The current goal in each participating city is to mobilize 50 executives to register and participate. Participants are expected to tap into their professional networks to encourage financial support of $5,000 and/or physical participation of others in their circles. As executives agree to lend support, social media is buzzing with news of scheduled sleepers who will get a crash course in experiencing vulnerability and questionable weather conditions. Additionally, on November 21, youth will be encouraged to tell their stories during the Covenant House Washington Candle Light Vigil 2013. It will take place before the sleep out that will be located at 2001 Mississippi Avenue in SE, Washington, DC. The public can also support homeless youth by attending. Mayor Vincent C. Gray is scheduled to attend the vigil in DC with various community leaders, in addition to performances by local artists. For more information about the Covenant House sleep out, visit Inquiries in the DC area may be directed to sleepout@chdc.or or 202-610-9602. You may also help support the cause by simply sharing the website with your friends or making a valued donation.

The Reader’s and Author’s Nook Spotlight Teen Book addresses serious issue of Homeless Youth in America

Fourteen-year-old high school freshman Nyl Person is the boy every freshman girl at Fairley High would like to call boyfriend. He is popular, cute and one of the leading players on the high school varsity basketball team. Sierra James with her thick locks of natural hair and the captain of the Fairley High cheerleading squad, is pretty, smart and the most popular girl in ninth grade, and she has a mission to make Nyl her boyfriend. Nyl likes her too and would jump at the chance to have Sierra as his girlfriend. But it isn't so easy for Nyl because he has a secret that no one at Fairley knows about which is Nyl, his little sister and his father have practically been living in the family Yukon since the death of his mom. What will happen if his secret comes out? What will he do? What about the girl he wants to make his girlfriend, Sierra James. Can she fall for a homeless boy when she practically lives in the lap of luxury?

Amazon link:

About the Author Shelia E. Lipsey, also known as, 'God's Amazing Girl' is a nationally acclaimed, multi-award winning novelist from Memphis, Tennessee who writes what she calls Perfect Stories About Imperfect People. She was bestowed the 2013 OOSA Book club Author of the Year, 2013 AAMBC Nate Holmes Honorary Award,2012 Disilgold Magazine Editor's Choice Book Award for four of her 13 titles, nominated for a 2012 Christian Literary Award by Joy and Company, recipient of 2011 Book Clubs Unite Literary Award; 2011 Kindle Awards for Literary Contribution; 2010 Pink Diamond Literary Award; 2009 SORMAG Readers' Choice Awards for My Son's Wife, 2009 Black Pearls Magazine Top Book Shelf Award, 2009 Urban Reviews Top Shelf Award and 2008 Author of the Year by Conversations Book Club. She is a sought after inspirational speaker who shares messages of empowerment and overcoming obstacles with audiences all over the USA. House of Cars is her first teen book.

Photo usage, compliments of Sunni.

The Inspiring Story Behind Sunni’s Success Sunni is a popular midday radio host at WPGC 95.5 in the DC area. Although you may spot her at a hot party, the host of Sunni and the City’s journey began in Bosnia, reminding us to dream bigger than our circumstances. Grove Street: Is it true that you are a Bosnian refugee who taught yourself English in six months? How did you accomplish that? Sunni: Yes, I came to the United States in 1997 and was placed in 7th grade (without knowing any English). By the time I started 8th grade that August, I was basically already fluent in English. I watched a lot of TV during that summer and had a dictionary close by. Plus, English isn't that hard to learn, when you HAVE to. Being around other kids that spoke English helped. Grove Street: Can you briefly explain how you transitioned from being in a new country to becoming a radio personality in Detroit at 21 years old? Did you ever have to deal with rejection, because people didn't immediately take you or your talents seriously? Sunni: I started in the radio business when I was 18 years old, and worked my way up the ladder. I worked hard and remained focused on the bigger picture and people (who didn't believe in me) never really got to me. I was too focused. Rejection comes in every profession. It's all about how you handle it. Grove Street: Why is charity work important to you, and do you feel that the majority of the hip-hop generation values volunteerism and news beyond celebrity gossip and pop culture?

Sunni: Charity work has ALWAYS been important to me, I think because of the way I grew up and the struggle that I've been through. I can relate to "not having" and I've made it my priority to give back as much as possible. I always say, "If you're not poor enough to receive charity, then you're rich enough to give it.� Grove Street: I think that our generation in general gives back in a huge way. We're way more connected now, thanks to social media, that we're able to spread the word about "the need" and take care of it quicker. Our generation definitely cares, and I'm happy about that. Grove Street: True or false: Unpaid internships are effective in entertainment related industries. Sunni: Absolutely! Unpaid internships are everything! It's how many of us got our foot in the door and got our careers started. That's when you prove to that company that you're worth keeping around. It's worth the hard work. Trust me! Grove Street: Who was your model growing up and why? Sunni: Growing up I didn't really have a role model, but once I got into radio I started looking up to the veteran radio hosts that I was around. I studied them closely and wanted to be like them. I've never had a "celebrity" role model. I've just been surrounded by a lot of great people around me who've inspired me to be a better person. Grove Street: You've had access to celebrity circles, and you're also a known figure yourself. It has been reported that you're the first woman from Bosnia to have your own radio show. How do you stay grounded?

Sunni: I think of myself as a lucky, blessed girl with an amazing job. I've been so blessed and appreciative of all of the opportunities that have come my way. But I never let those accomplishments make me feel like I'm better than, or in some way, superior to others just because of "who I am". I treat everyone with respect & kindness and I hope people do the same to me. Again, I'm just a very lucky girl that's living out her dream every day, very thankful. Grove Street: Is a career in DC radio what you thought it would be? Did it teach you anything about yourself?

Sunni: I love DC radio. DC is so diverse and cultural, and that's what my station (WPGC) is trying to represent. It's everything I thought that it would be! Grove Street: Were you a reporter for Necole Bitchie? If so, what would you say to bloggers who want to build their platform to work toward a fulltime career? Sunni: I worked with Necole Bitchie for a few months, but I handled mostly behind the scenes thing, planning and organizing, sometimes reporting. I'm not too familiar with the blogging business. All I can say is that it's VERY tough. If you're going to make it your full time job, make sure you do your research and dedicate your all to it. Grove Street: I want to remind readers when and where your show airs. How would you describe it? Sunni: My show airs Monday- Friday 10am-2pm on WPGC 95.5. It's a lot of great music, prizes, and entertainment news. Make sure you tune in! Grove Street: What is currently in your CD player at home or in your car? Sunni: Rihanna, Trey Songz, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, and Wale. I'm all over the place with my music! :) Grove Street: What is the best way to keep up with you online? Sunni: My Twitter is always the best way to connect @SunniAndTheCity and my Instagram/SunniOnAir

Book cover design tips and artist spotlight on Roger James Roger James is a professionally trained Maryland-based artist. He has been designing book covers for almost ten years, painting for almost twenty, and illustrating children's books for almost eight. He also specializes in designing book covers and has worked with a variety of traditionally and self-published authors. The painting of Chuck Brown is one of his latest pieces of work.

Grove Street: Many self-published authors try to design their own book covers. What are the main benefits of hiring a freelancer? Roger: The author can spend more time focusing on the writing while the artist can take care of illustrating. It’s good to have different eyes in that the artist will be able to depict what the author's words convey. The author will know if what the artist illustrates is what the author wants. Grove Street: Please share how an author can make your job easier so he or she can help you achieve your desired results. Roger: Decide whether you want the illustrations to be detailed or child-like. If you have visual aids, such as characters that the illustrations should resemble, or objects that need to be in the story, please include them. Tell the artist how much creative control the artist can have and actually mean it. Allow the artist to be the artist. Nothing is worse than an author constantly telling an artist how to do what he/she has been doing all their life. Be willing to work with the artist and listen. The artist may have some suggestions to help the book to become much better. Be on time with the financial deposit, and when the final illustrations are complete, be on time with the final balance. Nothing is worse than someone who is late paying for services rendered, considering they were rushing the artist to complete the project. Grove Street: What is the general process? How many changes are you willing to make?

Roger: First, decide if you want an illustration on the cover, or a more graphic design (photograph). Decide if you want the artist to create the cover design and/or illustrations in the book. Look at an artist’s style and decide if that style would fit your book. Convey what your vision for the cover is to be to the artist. If you have a rough sketch, an artist should be able to try to fit or bring out what the author wants. Establish in the contract how many revisions are required, and how much would be charged, should you go over those amount of revisions. Grove Street: What are two characteristics of good illustrations, and two for poor ones? Roger: Good: 1.) A person is able to understand what is being depicted without words. The cover design is exactly what the title reads. 2.) One that makes the reader to pick up the book solely by what’s on the cover.

Bad: 1) A reader is unable to understand what the cover is saying. 2) It is too busy, meaning too much is going on with the cover to fully understand what the cover is really depicting. Grove Street: Is artistic skill underrated? Roger: Yes, the process an artist goes through is a lot of doodling (random drawing) to see how to position the objects and characters for a cover and in a story. Some stories at times deals with surrealism, which is real looking, but in reality it can't happen nor occur. More of Roger’s worked can be viewed at You may contact him via email at

Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s 25th Awards Gala: Red Carpet Sightings

Celebrity arrivals the walked the red carpet at the Washington Hilton, upon arrival at Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s 25th Awards Gala that was presented by Gallup. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) was established in 1987 and supports almost 300,000 students who attend public HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), law schools, and medical schools through scholarships and programs. The theme of this year’s black-tie fundraiser on October 11 was ‘Developing Minds, Delivering Dreams.’ Executives, HBCU presidents, Congressional members, other distinguished guests, and students attended the star-studded event. Recognized honorees included Janice Bryant Howroyd; Larry Waters; Johnson & Johnson; Wayne D. Watson, Ph.D. Comedian and Educator Bill Cosby was the host. A $1,000,000 donation was reportedly made by Jim Clifton—Chairman and CEO of Gallup. $3.8 million was reportedly raised. Proceeds of the event will allow TMCF to continue its charitable work.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. is President/CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri, was the first Indian-American winner of the pageant.

Gina de Franco greeted Lil Mama, who wore a show stopping dress.

Hip-hop star, Lil Mama, was recently applauded for portraying Left Eye in VH1’s biopic, Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story. “She has been going around the world helping Thurgood, but you don’t know that. She’s Lil Mama. Does anything else have to be said?” Gina de Franco explained to the press, before Lil Mama proceeded down the red carpet.

Saxophonist, Ski Johnson

Actor (from ‘The Wire’) and singer, Jermaine Crawford

Singer, Jennifer Holiday

Rapper, MC Lyte

Stephanie Duncan & Dwight Eubanks (Real Housewives of Atlanta)

Rapper and You Tube sensation, Steven Jo

Washington Redskins running back, Alfred Morris

Bob Butler, President of the National Association of Black Journalists

Note: All celebritiy photos that are taken by Grove Street are copyrighted and cannot be used without our written permission.


Regina B. (right) is a TMCF scholar. She is studying Business Management at Coppin State University.

“I feel like it’s a privilege that I’m here. TMCF has done a lot as you can see. A student like myself doesn’t really have opportunities to attend events like this. This is my first gala. I’m very excited. All of these beautiful people who look just like me inspire me to see that all of this can really happen.”

I want to extend special thanks to Sarah Doheny, Jaspen Boothe, Final Salute, Inc. and Sunni for being so wonderful to a blogger like me. As always, I want to thank Shelia Lipsey for helping to finalize the issue. Please remember to share news about her books with readers that you may know. House of Cars is a perfect gift during Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Please email feedback to I want to know how we are doing with the content we are offering. We now have a Facebook page, so please join Grove Street there or through our fan page. Would you like to subscribe to our book blog? Please do @ The Reader's and Author's Nook. That landing page will offer snippets and tidbit that link to the e-zine. It would be much appreciated if you share our information with friends or fellow readers. The majority of our back issues are currently available via You may like us through Issuu, too. Each issue of Grove Street is brought to you, compliments of Surge Marketing Group, LLC, where you can find an array of publishing and marketing professionals. We also provide manuscript critiques, online promotion, blog maintenance, press releases, and promotional services at affordable rates. If you need to hire an independent contractor, contact me for further details. Best wishes,

Andrea Add Authoress Andrea Blackstone on Facebook.

Nympho Confessions of an Anonymous Stripper

Celebrating Trailblazers & Social Change November 2013 Issue  

A Literary, Lifestyle, Business, & Entertainment Publication