CODE M Magazine 2024 June Issue

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US Airman, Roger Fortson, was killed by police while answering the door at his own home. His death sparks the debate on why this keeps happening and what Black America needs to do to protect its sons.



Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19th, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. Its significance lies not only in the historical event it marks but also in its resonance with ongoing struggles for civil rights, justice, and the affirmation of Black lives.


US Airman, Roger Fortson, was killed by police while answering the door at his own home. His ON THE COVER death sparks the debate on why this keeps happening and what Black America needs to do to protect its sons.


Get to know people who are making a difference in their careers and changing

the world!

16 MAN CODES Character.


Tony Franklin wanted to help people better understand the struggles of being Black, so he created the podcast, A Black Executive. Franklin turned up the conversation on race and turned himself into a spokesman for clarity.


Divorced fathers must quickly learn the skills of raising a daughter after they become the only parent in the household.


When Glenn Germany prepared his Sunday sermon, he thought it might save someone’s life. He did not know that it would end up saving him.


In today’s dynamic financial landscape, understanding the pivotal role of credit can be the key to unlocking opportunities that cash alone cannot buy.


In today’s world, especially on social media and in the courtroom, fathers are often judged primarily by their financial contributions. However, the significance of

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Each of us has a unique purpose. There’s a job that God has put you here to do and if you don’t do it, it won’t get done in the universe.

a father extends far beyond monetary support.



One of the great gifts of life is the knowledge of one’s history. To seek out answers to who we are, where we come from, and how that informs where we might be going is not unlike a treasure hunt.


It takes a shared vision and a team effort to make impactful change, and the Cleveland Guardians’ project has produced a winning playbook.



AI programming might be biased against Blacks and other minorities when it comes to how code is written and used to interact the technologies around the world.


The summer season is upon us and Black people glow this time of year. Let’s celebrate the different levels of melanin in our bodies by showcasing us with some great summer looks.



Bilal S. Akram


Brad J. Bowling


Alexandria Johnson Boone


David Christel


Anita G. Butler


LaRese Purnell-Chief Financial Editor

Laron Harlem-Fashion Editor

Paris Lampkins-Movers & Shakers Editor

Randall Sylvertooth-Tech Editor

Juan Toney-Health Editor


Stiff Arm Media


Carole Anthony



Ladonna “Lala” Dicks


Imari Hill


Rachel Woods


Anthony Jones

Digital Jetstream, LLC


David Christel

Leslie Logan

Brad J. Bowling

Bilal S. Akram

Laron Harlem

Bolling Smith

Chris Matthews

India Gardener

Randall Sylvertooth

LaRese Purnell

Juan Toney

Sharif Akram

Darrell Scott

To submit comments, feedback or to inquire about advertising please contact us at

TRANSFORMING THE LIVES OF MEN Subscribe FREE online: Code M Magazine is published by CODE MEDIA GROUP, LLC © 2024 All Rights Reserved CODE M Magazine was created to be a guiding force in creating a dialogue for black men everywhere. Code M focuses on the conversations of advancement, mental health, career choices, the political landscape and relationships that define and shape the lives of black men everywhere. CEO AND CFO: BILAL AKRAM 216-695-0911 PRESIDENT: BRAD BOWLING 440-796-5763 ADVERTISING: KEVIN JONES 216-926-3999 #CODEMAGINTL



Andrea Wilson is a distinguished figure in the world of real estate, known for her impeccable expertise and dynamic career. With a background that seamlessly blends financial acumen and entrepreneurial spirit, Andrea has emerged as a trailblazer in the industry.

Corporate Accountant Turned Real Estate Maven Andrea's journey to becoming a top real estate broker was nothing short of remarkable. She began her career as a corporate accountant, where she honed her financial prowess. Armed with an MBA, Andrea leveraged her financial

Get to know people who are making a difference in their careers and changing the world! by Paris Lampkins

acumen to navigate the complex world of real estate with precision and finesse.

Broker-owner of Brick House Realty As the proud owner of Brick House Realty, Andrea has established herself as a formidable force in the Cleveland real estate market. Her agency is synonymous with integrity, excellence, and a commitment to serving clients with the utmost professionalism.

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Courtney Smith is an accomplished educator from Cleveland with nearly 15 years of experience spanning from infancy to adulthood education. Holding a bachelor's degree in English and education from Cleveland State University, and a master's in industrial and organizational psychology from Adler University, she has a robust background. Courtney has managed preschools, taught in secondary schools, and provided English instruction internationally in China and South Africa.

Her experience in diverse educational settings, including public, private, and international schools, has equipped her with extensive knowledge in creating effective support systems for students. As a mother and educational leader, she places a high value on safe, loving, and enriching learning environments, with a focus on early childhood development, including social-emotional growth and language acquisition.


Brandon is a versatile, and innovative program administrator with both public and private sector experiences. He is currently a Business Development Specialist II with Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Prior to GCRTA, Brandon worked as Program Coordinator for the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio, Assistant Program Administrator for the City of Cleveland, Career Manager for Cuyahoga County, and Graduate Intern for Senator Sherrod Brown. Brandon earned a Master of Public Administration, and two Graduate Certifications in Nonprofit Management and Community Planning from the University of Illinois and worked a Graduate Public Service Internship for the Illinois Department of Public Health.


Juan is a highly motivated individual with a burning passion for empowering others. As a Certified Integrative Life Coach, Sports Nutrionist, and Personal Trainer, Juan seamlessly combines his expertise to guide individuals on a transformative journey toward achieving their goals. His enthusiasm spills over into the realm of motivational speaking, where he shares invaluable insights into transforming both the mind and body.

Areas of Expertise: - Goal Setting: Juan is your go-to expert for setting and achieving meaningful goals. - Personal Development: With a focus on holistic growth, Juan helps individuals unlock their full potential. - Nutrition: As the CEO of Fit 4Ever Foods, Juan brings a wealth of knowledge on maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. - Weight Loss: bodies is Juan's specialty, and he guides individuals toward sustainable weight loss. - Team Building: Juan excels in fostering a sense of unity and collaboration within teams.

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“A man's bookcase will tell you everything you'll ever need to know about him.” - Walter Mosley

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” - John Wooden

“Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.”

- Bruce Lee

“Every problem is a character-building opportunity, and the more difficult it is, the greater the potential for building spiritual muscle and moral fiber.” - Rick Warren

“Martial arts is not about fighting; it's about building character.”

- Robert Foster Bennett

“The best index to a person's character is how he treats people

who can't do him any good, and how he treats people who can't fight back.” - Abigail Van Buren

“Top 15 Things Money Can’t Buy, Time. Happiness. Inner Peace. Integrity. Love. Character. Manners. Health. Respect. Morals. Trust. Patience. Class. Common sense. Dignity.”

- Roy T. Bennett

“Solid character will reflect itself in consistent behavior, while poor character will seek to hide behind deceptive words and actions.” - Myles Munroe

“Talent is a gift, but character is a choice.” - John C. Maxwell

Romans 5:3-4 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, (ESV)

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Myles Munroe


Tony Franklin wanted to help people better understand the struggles of being Black, so he created the podcast, A Black Executive Perspective. Franklin turned up the conversation on race and turned himself into a spokesman for clarity.

The old saying, “out of sight, is out of mind,” defines how most people discuss race relations in America. If you are white, you only pay attention to white issues. If you are Black, you only pay attention to Black issues. The complications that come from this approach means that people typically only care about issues that impact them directly.

Tony Franklin’s life changed when George Floyd was killed.

“Watching that murder happen on TV changed me emotionally,” Franklin, aka Tony Tidbit said. “I remember growing up in Michigan where I had my first racial awakening. My mother explained to me and my brother that we were going to be judged by our skin color rather than the content of our charac-


Franklin understood growing up that he would have to work twice as hard as whites to fulfill his dreams. He was taught to never mention race taught to never use race as an excuse to not do something.

Franklin climbed the corporate ladder and reached the executive level in the advertising industry knowing that on most occasions he would be the only person of color in the room. But the George Floyd murder changed him. It moved him in a way where he knew he had to do something.

“When my wife and I had to sit down with our kids to try to explain what happened to Floyd was when I knew I had to do something different,” Franklin explained. “I was sitting there having the same conversation with my kids that my mom had with me when I was ten years old. I knew I had to do something different than never mentioning race.”

Franklin had an awakening. He wrote a Facebook article about his experiences, and it got an incredible response. He got a great response from his friends and from his boss. Franklin just started working for WarnerMedia and only had been there for a couple of months. But he was so inspired to make a change, he sent the CEO Jason Kilar his Facebook Article who had just taken over at WarnerMedia.

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Lex Frye and Tony Franklin recording A Black Executive Perspective podcast.

“I was scared to death. I didn’t know what his response would be, but I knew I needed to do something different.” Kilar sent him a message and thanked him for sharing his experience and stated he was there to make sure every person felt included.

Based on the positive responses, he started a weekly forum at work called “An Open Conversation on Race” where any employee could share their experiences on race to discuss how they felt and to learn from one another.

Initially, the forum was predominantly attended by white individuals, many of whom were unaware of the issues being discussed. This lack of awareness highlighted how issues affecting people of color often go unnoticed by those not directly impacted, leading to a blind spot in their understanding.

To foster open dialogue, Franklin established "Ground Rules" for participation, aiming to create a "Safe Space" where everyone could feel comfortable speaking freely and honestly. "The main barrier to discussing race is FEAR," Franklin noted. "It was crucial to create an environment where participants could express themselves without fear of ridicule."

Initially, it took several sessions for participants to feel comfortable enough to fully express themselves, especially in today's climate where a single comment can jeopardize a career.

"I had to lead by example at first, sharing my own stories about biases and racial experiences," Franklin explained. "Once people saw that I was being candid and sincere, they began to open up as well. From there, the dialogue really took off."

Franklin's initiative, "An Open Conversation on Race," quickly


became popular within his company. "I witnessed firsthand how people transformed when they were in a space where they could learn from others without fear of judgment or criticism for their views," he noted. While not everyone agreed on every topic, the opportunity to engage in these difficult discussions was what truly mattered.

Based on the success, Franklin was encouraged to extend his reach beyond the company. This led to the creation of the A Black Executive Perspective Podcast, a platform designed to engage a wider audience in meaningful dialogue about race.

A Black Executive Perspective Podcast is dedicated to giving a voice to the often-unheard black executive experience while fostering an environment that encourages diverse viewpoints and thought-provoking conversations. We believe in the transformative power of dialogue, as it serves to unite, educate, and inspire people from all walks of life.

Today, A Black Executive Perspective Podcast reaches a global audience, offering insights into race relations and promoting an inclusive dialogue. Franklin’s journey from a private struggle with race to leading public conversations marks a significant contribution to raising awareness and fostering understanding across communities.●

View the podcast at:

Tony Franklin is the president of A Black Executive Perspective Podcast.

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Divorced fathers must quickly learn the skills of raising a daughter after they become the only parent in the household.

Brad Bowling is the President of CODE Media Group, LLC. Bowling has his BA in mass media communication and an MBA in marketing. He contributes articles to the magazine continuing his love for writing.

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[ LIFE ] CODE M / JUNE 2024 21

When Ricardo Smythe got divorced, he knew he would have to parent all three of his kids on his own. He thought he knew his kids very well, but over the next two years he learned that parenting his daughters was completely different that parenting his boys.

As a masculine man, raised by a masculine man, Smythe understood how to raise boys. Up to the point where he got a divorce, his ex-wife did most of the parenting when it came to his daughters. Sure, he knew how to protect his girls, he also knew how to make them laugh, but all the other stuff was left to his ex-wife.

Smythe did not realize that he was not prepared to parent his girls

than his management of his girls. Smythe is not alone. Divorced fathers all over the country are learning that they really do know how to parent girls the way the parent boys. Yelling or intimidating to control does not work with girls. If fathers are going to parent successfully, they are going to have to become more conscious of how their daughters receive information and communicate from their level.

“I thought I had a good relationship with my girls before my divorce,” Smythe said. “But I quickly learned that I only knew them from one perspective, and I would need to become more sensitive if I was going to be able to parent them the way they deserved.”

Fathers are responsible for protection and guidance. Moms

Dads love their daughters more to give them the mental and emotional strength to cater to the men's world out there. It’s a hidden fear that maybe other men who will eventually come into her life will not give her love as much as they can, so they want to fill heart with love before the hard times.

until he was divorced, with his own home and had to deal with his daughters with no support.

“Me and my oldest daughter got into an argument. I put my foot down and she quickly told me that she was not going to do what I wanted and did not care what I did to her,” Smythe said.

“I did not know what to do! My son always just did what I said. My son feared my response, my girls did not. I knew then I was in trouble.”

Smythe found out that he really did not know his girls the way he knew his son. Sure, he has been with them since birth. He helped change their diapers and saw their first footsteps, but his management of his son was quite different

When fathers are involved with their daughters, it increases the daughters confidence.

are responsible for nurturing and patience. But when Dads start to parent on their own, they must develop the skills needed to be able to relate to their daughters.

It is an experience that completely reshapes men’s perspectives, changing the way many fathers relate to daughters. Some men change because they feel a greater sense of responsibility to their daughters, and they want to be model

[ LIFE ]
CODE M / JUNE 2024 23

examples in their eyes. It makes them want to be more chivalrous daily.

The change is not just mental, men learn about hair texture, nail polishes, and menstrual cycles. They need to understand hormones changes and the emotions that come with being a female. If they are going to parent their daughters successfully, they are going to have to be able to relate to their daughters. That is no easy task.

Becoming a girl dad takes time. It might take up to two years to develop the skillset to parent girls successfully. There is a delicate balancing act between being a disciplined father and a nurturing one. A Girls dad knows how to adapt into an all-girls environment. These dads know how to love and support their daughters and that makes them amazing dads. They give their daughters a sense of belonging and safety.

After a year of parenting his girls on his own, he noticed that they began to better understand how to deal with them emotionally. He also had to develop the coping skills that they needed to be able to get past whatever was bothering them.

But Smythe also saw his girls develop some skills to deal with him as well.

“I can be a handful too, and my girls learned how to navigate my

personality as well,” Smythe continued, “We learned to co -exist and once we established some ground rules, we never had another blow up.”

Smythe and his girls developed a plan when they did not see eye to eye. They put in place rules of engagement so they would not fall back into their old habits when dealing with difficult topics.

They also learned a lot about each other during the first two years alone. The girls became more appreciative of their dads’ attempt to connect more on their level. And they also made the adjustment of better explaining their issues so they could stay focused on solving the problem instead of worrying how it was delivered.

Smythe knew when he had his daughters that he softened himself when speaking to them and raising them. He knew that he raised his son differently than how he raised his daughters. What he did not realize is that it took him parenting alone, to make the full change to becoming a girl dad.

Dads love their daughters more to give them the mental and emotional strength to cater to the men's world out there. It’s a hidden fear that maybe other men who will eventually come into her life will not give her love as much as they can, so they want to fill heart with love before the hard times.

“If I had to give any advice to any man who is about to raise his kids on his own, I would tell them to get ready for the battles, but also get ready for some incredible growth as a person and man,” Smythe said. “I am a much better parent because of having to do this on my own, and I know my girls and I are in a much better place.”

Divorce is tough on a family and even tougher on the kids. Smythe and his girls worked through their differences and as a result have a much closer relationship than ever before. Smythe is proud to be a girl dad and said it might be the best kind of dad there is.

[ LIFE ] 24 JUNE 2024 / CODE M


When Glen Germany prepared his Sunday sermon, he thought might save someone’s life. He did not know that it would end up saving him.

[ LIFE ]
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CODE M / JUNE 2024 29 [ LIFE ]

One Sunday, pastor Glenn got up to preach on understanding the ways of God instead of the works of God. The pastor of Jesus’ Dwelling Place Church, in Pittsburgh, PA, did what he did every Sunday. He drove to the church and welcomed everyone who entered. He began to speak to the congregants and then, in an instant, his life changed.

A young man walked in and pointed a loaded gun at the Glenn. What took seconds seemed like minutes.

“I was on stage for about a minute speaking before I noticed a man walk in front of me,” Glenn said. “We were expecting a guest to come speak that day, so when I saw him, I didn’t think anything of it.”

When the gunman raised his loaded gun at the pastor he pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. Glenn dashed behind his pulpit and dodged the man as best he could. Running up from the congregation was deacon Clarence. Clarence, who also serves as the cameraman for the church, saw firsthand what was going on.

The 63-year-old leaped from behind the camera, jumped over a small wall, and grabbed the gunman before he could attempt to shoot Glenn again.

“It seemed like everything happened so slow, but it really took place in seconds for this all to happen,” Glenn said. “From there we took the gun from the young man’s hand and waited for the police to arrive.”

As Glenn reflects on that day, he remembers noticing the gunman several times. The gunman walked into the church, walked around, and then left the church. He walked back in and sat down. Then he got up and walked out one more time. After his final entrance back into the church, we walked up to the podium and tried to shoot Glenn.

“He stood up and smiled at me, then walked to the middle of the room and tried to shoot me. We were all a little confused as to who he was because my brother, Gary, had invited a friend to speak at the church that day and we thought it was him.”

Pastor Glenn and his team had to wait fifteen minutes for the Pittsburgh police to show up after calling in an active shooter.

28 JUNE 2024 / CODE M [ LIFE ]

As Germany looked into the barrel of the gun, he noticed the gunman pull the trigger twice. The people standing behind the gunman could hear the click of the gun. What the church didn’t know is that the gunman walked to the church from his uncle’s house where he’d shot his uncle dead.

The gunman then proceeded to walk around until he ended up at the church. Due to hearing voices in his head, he decided that pastor Glenn and the church would be his next target. The gunman had no affiliation with the church and had never been there before.

As Glenn ran to hold the gunman down, he didn’t think of his safety. He thought of everyone else who was there. His wife and kids were in there, too. As well, there were staff and members of the church. He could only imagine what they were thinking as they almost witnessed their pastor, husband, and father get murdered.

As Glenn held the gunman down, the two began to talk and Glenn got a better understanding of the young man who tried to kill him. He was able to talk to the guy because it took the Pittsburgh police over fifteen minutes to respond to the active shooter 911 call that was placed by someone at the church.

When the police did arrive, it was one officer who walked in to address what was going on. During the fifteen-minute wait for the police, Glenn was able to connect with the gunman.

“While we waited, I learned that the young man had a troubled past,” Germany explained. “At the beginning, I was protecting the church from him. But we waited so long for the police to arrive, I ended up having to protect the young man from the church.”

Glenn got to know the gunman as the two waited for the po-

lice. He wants to stay connected with the young man because he understands being young, Black, and confused about your options in life.

“I gave the guy my phone number and told him that if he ever needed anything to call me,” Glenn said. “I’m going to keep up with him and give him the support he needs to make his time in jail valuable.”

Glenn knows firsthand the struggles of being a young Black man. The youngest out of six brothers, he struggled in his early twenties. He went to jail for fifteen years and decided to turn his life over to God during his third year in prison. He spent the next eleven years as a pastor helping other inmates learn about the bible.

“My mother knew I was going to be a pastor and my brother was a pastor before me, so my life was planned from the beginning. But I got in the way of what God wanted me to do and I paid a price for that,” Glenn said. “Now I get to help so many people, and I will help this young man, too.”

As Glenn and his family work to heal from the traumatic experience of almost being killed, he works to help his church members and his children deal with the mental and emotional toll it has taken on them.

The event that one Sunday morning changed everything for Glenn, his family, and his church. Germany has conducted over forty interviews since the attempted shooting, which has been seen by more than twenty million people. Glenn admits that his church needed a light shone on it to increase donations and membership.

No one will ever agree that almost getting shot was worth it. But just like Jesus turned water into wine, Glenn is going to make the best of the situation and he’s going to spread the word of love, God, and the church to anyone who will listen. And right now, he has the country’s ear. Preach on pastor Glenn! ●


[ LIFE ]
Deacon Clarence and Pastor Germany held the gunman at bay until the police
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In today’s dynamic financial landscape, understanding the pivotal role of credit can be the key to unlocking opportunities that cash alone cannot buy.

innovative and transformational
Chief Financial
LaRese Purnell
is an accounting and
leader. He is also the co-founder &
partner of CLE Consulting Firm. He serves as the
Editor at CODE M Magazine.
32 JUNE 2024 / CODE M


As we navigate through life, our dreams and ambitions often extend far beyond the immediate reach of our financial means. For centuries, generational wealth has been obtained and built through accessing capital and utilizing it to obtain investment opportunities. Whether it’s purchasing a home, starting a business, pursuing higher education, or just taking advantage of great insurance and loan rates, good credit can be the catalyst that bridges the gap between aspiration and reality.

The Foundation of Good Credit

At its core, credit reflects trustworthiness in financial matters. It’s a measure of how reliably you have managed borrowed money in the past, and it influences your ability to borrow in the future. Credit scores, which typically range from 300 to 850, are numerical summaries of this trustworthiness, with higher scores indicating better creditworthiness.

To put it succinctly: Your credit is your name. It’s not only the building of your credit but, at the same time, it’s the importance of valuing your last name. Most importantly, it’s imperative that the value of good credit is taught to our kids at a young age, so they create effective habits as part of their initial financial foundation.

Maintaining good credit requires consistent financial discipline and focus. This includes timely payment of bills, managing debt responsibly, and avoiding financial behaviors that could harm your credit score and your future financial outcomes. But why is maintaining good credit so crucial, and how can it finance your dreams?

The Limits of Money and the Expansive Potential of Credit

Money, while essential, has its limitations. Don’t get me wrong, Cash is King. It is finite and often scarce, based on so many factors or personal obligations. On the other hand, good credit can significantly extend your financial capabilities. Here’s how.

Access to Capital: One of the most significant advantages of good credit is access to capital. Financial institutions are more willing to lend money to individuals with strong credit histories. This means you can secure loans with lower interest rates for major purchases like homes and cars, or for investments in education and business ventures, allowing you to build equity and cash.

Lower Costs: Good credit can save you money. Interest rates on loans and credit cards are heavily influenced by your credit score. A higher score can mean thousands of dollars in savings over the life of a loan. For example, on a 30-year mortgage, even a small difference in interest rates can translate into substantial savings, which in most cases, based on the initial purchase price, could save you thousands of dollars.

Better Terms and Conditions: Beyond lower interest rates, good credit can also grant you access to more favorable loan terms. This might include longer repayment periods, higher credit limits, various options to choose

CODE M / JUNE 2024 33 [ FINANCE ]

from, and fewer fees all of which contribute to more manageable and less stressful financial planning

Opportunities for Entrepreneurship: For aspiring entrepreneurs, good credit is often a prerequisite for obtaining business loans and credit lines. Initially, in most cases, new entrepreneurs will be asked to guarantee their business loans. The various financial products available are crucial for starting or expanding a business, covering initial costs, sustaining operations, or in some cases, buying out a partner during growth periods.

Financial Flexibility and Security: Good credit offers financial flexibility and security In emergencies, having access to credit can be a lifesaver, providing funds when you need them most. It also allows for better cash flow management, enabling you to handle unexpected expenses without depleting your savings.

Leverage in Negotiations: Good credit not only helps in securing loans but also provides leverage in negotiating better terms with service providers, such as lower insurance premiums, better rental agreements, and even more favorable terms with utility companies.

Powerful Tips for Achieving and Maintaining Good Credit

Achieving and maintaining good credit is a continuous process that requires diligence and strategic financial management. Here are some powerful tips to help you build and sustain a strong credit profile.

Pay Your Bills on Time: This is the most critical factor in maintaining good credit. Late payments can significantly damage your credit score. Set up reminders or automatic payments to ensure you never miss a due date.

Keep Credit Card Balances Low: High balances relative to your credit limit can negatively impact your credit score. Aim to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent. If possible, pay off your credit card balances in full each month.

Limit New Credit Applications: Each time you apply for credit, a hard inquiry is made on your credit report, which can lower your score. Be strategic about applying for new credit and avoid opening multiple accounts in a short period.

Diversify Your Credit Mix: Having a mix of credit types, such as credit cards, installment loans, and retail accounts, can positively influence your credit score. It demonstrates your ability to manage various types of credit responsibly. Don’t apply for every-

Experts agree, excellent credit is the key to realizing financial

thing that comes in the mail or in every store that offers you 20 percent off your first purchase.

Regularly Check Your Credit Reports: Errors on your credit report can lower your score. Obtain free copies of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at least once a year and review them for inaccuracies. Dispute any errors you find. Utilize apps like Credit Karma, Nerd Wallet, Credit Wise, Mint, etc. Annually, you can visit to obtain a free copy of all three reports.

Maintain Old Credit Accounts: The length of your credit history affects your score. Keeping older accounts open can help improve the average age of your credit history, which positively impacts your score. Close accounts only when necessary.

Manage Debt Responsibly: Keeping your overall debt levels low is crucial. Aim to pay down existing debts and avoid taking on new debt unless absolutely necessary. Create a debt repayment plan to systematically reduce what you owe.

Financing Dreams: Real-Life Applications

To illustrate the transformative power of good credit, consider the following real-life applications.

Home Ownership: For many, owning a home is a significant milestone. Good credit can make this dream achievable by qualifying you for a mortgage with favorable terms. This reduces the financial burden and makes homeowner-

CODE M / JUNE 2024 35

ship more accessible.

Entrepreneurship: Launching a business often requires substantial initial investment. With good credit, you can secure the necessary funds through business loans or lines of credit, turning your entrepreneurial vision into reality.

Higher Education: Education is an investment in your future. Good credit can help you obtain student loans at lower interest rates, making higher education more affordable and reducing the financial strain of tuition fees.

Emergency Preparedness: Life is unpredictable, and financial emergencies can arise without warning. Good credit ensures that you have access to funds when needed, providing peace of mind and financial security.

Building Wealth: Good credit facilitates strategic investments that can lead to wealth accumulation over time. Whether it’s through real estate, stock market investments, or other financial instruments, good credit opens doors to opportunities that build long-term wealth.

Travel and Lifestyle: Many credit cards offer rewards programs

that can significantly enhance your lifestyle. From travel miles to cashback offers, good credit allows you to take advantage of these perks, making your money work harder for you.

Create a Budget and Stick to It: Budgeting is the cornerstone of financial health. Track your income and expenses, set financial goals, and allocate funds accordingly. A well-managed budget helps ensure you live within your means and avoid unnecessary debt.

Build an Emergency Fund: This acts as a financial safety net providing funds for unexpected expenses without relying on credit. Aim to save three to six months’ worth of living expenses in an easily accessible account.

Use Credit Wisely: Treat credit as a tool, not a crutch. Use it strategically for purchases that you can afford to pay off in full each month. Avoid the temptation to max out credit cards or take on debt you cannot repay.

Seek Financial Education: Continuously educate yourself about personal finance. Resources such as financial literacy courses, books, and online articles can provide valuable insights and help you make informed financial decisions.

Celebrate Milestones: Achieving financial milestones, such as paying off a debt or improving your credit score, is worth celebrating, you deserve it

The Gateway to Financial Freedom

Good credit is more than just a number; it’s a powerful tool that can significantly enhance your financial capabilities and open doors to opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach. By maintaining good credit, you can secure better financial products, save money on interest and fees, and, most importantly, finance your dreams.

As you embark on your journey towards financial literacy and stability, remember that building good credit is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires consistent effort, strategic planning, and responsible financial behavior. The rewards, however, are well worth the effort, offering you the financial freedom and flexibility to turn your dreams into reality.

By investing in your credit, you are investing in your future. Start today and watch as the power of good credit transforms your financial landscape and propels you toward your dreams.●

Take the steps to build your credit the right way.

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Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19th, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. Its significance lies not only in the historical event it marks but also in its resonance with ongoing struggles for civil rights, justice, and the affirmation of Black lives.

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced General Order No. 3, proclaiming that all enslaved people in Texas were free. This declaration came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, highlighting the delayed enforcement of freedom in the far reaches of the Confederacy. Juneteenth symbolizes the belated fulfillment of promises and the enduring struggle for equality.

The legacy of Juneteenth intertwines with the broader narrative of civil rights movements in the United States. From the abolitionist movements of the 19th century to the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century, African Americans have persistently fought against systemic oppression and racial injustice. Leaders like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks exemplify the courage and resilience of those who advocated for freedom, equality, and dignity.

Despite significant strides, the struggle for civil rights remains ongoing. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, founded in 2013, emerged as a response to police brutality and systemic racism, particularly in the wake of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. BLM seeks to address issues of racial injustice, police violence, and structural inequality, advocating for reforms in law enforcement practices and broader societal change.

At its core, the Black Lives Matter movement asserts the inherent value and humanity of Black lives a principle often denied by systems of power and privilege. The movement has sparked

global protests, conversations, and debates about race, justice, and equality, galvanizing a new generation of activists and allies committed to dismantling racism and building a more just society.

Justice, a fundamental principle enshrined in democratic societies, remains elusive for many Black Americans. Racial disparities persist in areas such as education, healthcare, employment, and the criminal justice system, reflecting deep-seated inequalities rooted in historical legacies of slavery, segregation, and discrimination. Achieving justice requires not only legal reforms but also broader societal changes that address systemic racism and promote equity and inclusion for all.

Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for justice and the importance of collective action in pursuit of a more equitable future. It is a day to celebrate resilience, resistance, and the victories won through perseverance and solidarity. As the nation commemorates Juneteenth, it must also recommit itself to the unfinished work of building a society where all individuals are truly free and equal, regardless of race, ethnicity, or background.

In conclusion, Juneteenth, civil rights, justice, and the Black Lives Matter movement are interconnected threads in the tapestry of American history and struggle. They remind us of the enduring fight for freedom, equality, and human dignity, and they inspire us to continue working towards a society where justice prevails, and all lives are valued and respected. ●

CODE M / JUNE 2024 39 [ OPINION ]
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US Airman, Roger Fortson, was killed by police while answering the door at his own home. His death sparks the debate on why this keeps happening and what Black America needs to do to protect its sons.

Brad Bowling is the President of CODE Media Group, LLC. Bowling has his BA in mass media communication and an MBA in marketing. He contributes articles to the magazine continuing his love for writing.
CODE M / JUNE 2024 41

It has happened again but this time it feels different. This time, the crime of murdering another Black man hit all US homes. US Special Forces Airman, Roger Fortson, was killed by an Okaloosa County sheriff’s officer for simply answering his door. The sheriff, responding to the wrong apartment on a noise complaint, shot and killed Fortson before he could say anything.

He shot him six times before the officer said anything. He was killed for being Black, in his own home, while holding a registered weapon. America murdered Roger Fortson.

He was murdered by Congress which refuses to pass any law that spots police brutality or any hate crimes against Black peo-

way while countless crimes and racism are committed against Blacks daily. He was murdered by Black Americans who refuse to vote and choose to sit on the sidelines while Black men are gunned down daily across the country.

This time is different because Roger Fortson was a gift to the country.

“He has been my gift since he was 4 years old,” Mika Fortson, Roger’s mother said. “He was a kind, loving, goofy, and intelligent person who loved to love.”

Roger Fortson, who graduated with honors, was a 23-yearold US Air Force service member who had intentions of becoming a fighter pilot. He was on the path to becoming

“Our kids can no longer be told that the police are here to protect and serve,” Ms. Fortson said. “We need to come up with something different because as soon as little Black boys are born, they have a target on their back.”

ple. He was murdered by white Americans who look the other

whatever he wanted. His trajectory could have led him to become a congressman, police chief, or even the US president. Fortson loved the badge, he loved to respect the process, and he loved life.

“He did well in everything he attempted,” Ms. Fortson said. “He was a gift to the world and they killed him.”

To date, the only thing released is the body cam footage of the sheriff coming to the home of Forston. The sheriff is seen walking into the quiet apartment to check on a noise complaint. The entire scene seems questionable. As he walks up to the apartment, no noise can be heard.

Examining the sound from the body cam, birds can be heard chirping in the background. As the sheriff knocks on the door, he hides his view from the peephole of the apartment. He checks around and then circles back to the quiet apartment. As he knocks again, he continues to hide from the peephole as he announces himself as the sheriff.

Next, Fortson is seen opening the door with a firearm to his side. As he lifts his opposite hand to gesture, the sheriff opens fire hitting Fortson six times in the body. The two exchanged no conversation. Forston never got a chance to

Roger Fortson had the dream to become a US fighter pilot.

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CODE M / JUNE 2024 43
Roger Fortson and his little sister, who looked up to her big brother.
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understand who was at the door.

Forston had just gotten home thirty minutes prior to the incident and was FaceTiming with his girlfriend when the knock came at his door. As he peeked through the peephole and saw no one, he went back for his service weapon to make sure he wasn’t about to be robbed.

After the sheriff shot him, he gasped for air and said that he couldn’t breathe. The sheriff didn’t attend to his injuries but instead checked to see if anyone else was in the apartment.

Fortson later died at the hospital from the gunshot wounds and the sheriff, who has not been named, is on paid leave until an investigation is complete.

Meanwhile, another Black man has been shot, another son has been taken from his mother, and more questions are being raised about what Black fathers should tell their sons when dealing with the police.

“Our kids can no longer be told that the police are here to protect and serve,” Ms. Fortson said. “We need to come up with something different because as soon as little Black boys are born, they have a target on their back.”

She isn’t wrong. Black fathers in America are starting to prepare for the fact it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when they or their sons will have to deal with some type of police profiling, police harassment, personal injury, or even death at the hands of the police.

Black men used to be able to consider that if they went to school, picked the right path or career, spoke proper English, and lived a certain lifestyle, they could somehow avoid the typical police/Black man interaction that’s repeatedly being played out.

But Forton was different. He graduated from high school with honors. He joined the military to give back to his country. While in the service, he was credited with saving several lives while on tour.

He was an excellent young man with a bright future, an exceptional human being who loved his country. He had what everyone would consider an amazing future where he could have been whatever he wanted.

If they can view even him as a threat, then no Black man is safe from the mental prosecution of being guilty-before-proven-innocent that

whites put Black people through daily.

And what should be said to his mother, who gave America the kind of son Americans can be proud of?

“When people ask me how I’m doing, they say that bravery is getting me through this,” Ms. Fortson said. “I tell them they’re wrong it’s the pain that’s getting me by. I am hurt and frustrated that they took my baby, and he did nothing wrong.”

Born the middle child out of five, Fortson was a hero to both his older and younger siblings. He was the torch that lit the entire family to want to be better people. He lived to make his mother proud. He lived to make his country proud.

However, America failed him. It failed to protect him, it failed to shield him, and it failed to give him the opportunity to become the man he was growing to become. The country robbed Roger Fortson of the opportunity to fall in

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Roger Fortson, pictured with his litter sister, graduated from high school with honors.

love, get married, and have his own kids. America robbed itself of developing the kind of patriot it needs for this country to be successful.

So as Black fathers ponder what to do next to protect their sons, one can only imagine the conversation that needs to be had before their sons venture out onto American streets. Wait, Roger Fortson was killed at home. He was killed because he answered the door. He was killed because of his skin color.

There is a conversation about that. There are no number of words that can be shared with a Black son before he does anything. Unfortunately, there’s no lesson learned either. The only thing Black men can do in America is wait to see who in their community is murdered next by the country and pray it’s not their own son. ●

Black women are the center of their families and the backbone of the Black community.
Roger Fortson, was proud member of the US Airforce.


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In today’s world, especially on social media and in the courtroom, fathers are often judged primarily by their financial contributions. However, the significance of a father extends far beyond monetary support.

Chris A. Matthews is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and approved supervisor for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. Visit to learn more about his work with couples and families.

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The impact of a father on a child’s development is profound, influencing various aspects of their emotional, social, and psychological well-being. This article explores how children benefit from fathers who provide more than just financial support, focusing on seven key areas: dependability, discipline, expressing love, showing up, setting good examples, being a good listener, and valuing the child’s mother.


Dependability is a cornerstone of a strong father-child relationship. When fathers are reliable and consistent in their actions, children develop secure attachment styles. Attachment theory, pioneered by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, explains that children form attachments to caregivers who are responsive to their needs. A father who is dependable provides a sense of security and trust, which is crucial for a child’s emotional development.

Children with secure attachment styles tend to exhibit higher self-esteem, better emotional regulation, and stronger interpersonal skills. They are more likely to explore their environment with confidence, knowing they have a dependable parent to rely on. This foundation of trust and reliability allows children to form healthy relationships and navigate the complexities of life with resilience.

Providing Discipline

Discipline is an essential aspect of parenting, and the way it is administered can significantly affect a child’s behavior and development. Fathers often bring a unique approach to discipline, characterized by a distinct voice tone and presence. Research suggests that a father’s authoritative, yet nurturing, discipline style can lead to better outcomes in children’s behavior and social competence.

Fathers who are actively involved in disciplining their children tend to balance firmness with warmth. This approach helps children understand

boundaries and consequences while feeling supported and loved. In comparison to single mothers, who might bear the sole responsibility of discipline, fathers can provide an additional layer of authority and stability. This dual-parent approach to discipline ensures that children receive consistent and balanced guidance, fostering a sense of responsibility and self-control.

Expressing Love

Expressing love is fundamental to a child’s emotional wellbeing. Studies have shown that children who receive affection and love from their fathers are more likely to develop positive self-esteem, better emotional regulation, and strong social skills. Fathers who openly express their love create an environment where children feel valued and cherished.

The expression of love by fathers can take many forms, including verbal affirmations, physical affection, and quality time spent together. These gestures of love reinforce a child’s sense of worth and belonging. When fathers are emotionally expressive, children learn to recognize and express their own emotions, leading to healthier emotional development and stronger interpersonal relationships.

Showing Up

The importance of fathers being present in their children’s lives cannot be overstated. Showing up, both physically and emotionally, has a profound impact on a child’s development. The distinction between the quality and quantity of time spent with children is crucial. While spending a significant amount of time with children is important, the quality of interactions holds greater value.

Fathers who actively participate in their children’s lives,

Fathers provide much more than financial support to their kids.

CODE M / JUNE 2024 51

attending school events, extracurricular activities, and family gatherings, demonstrate their commitment and involvement. This presence fosters a sense of security and stability, helping children develop a strong sense of identity and self-worth. Moreover, meaningful interactions, such as engaging in conversations, playing games, and sharing experiences, create lasting memories and strengthen the father-child bond.

Setting Good Examples

Fathers serve as powerful role models for their children, influencing their behavior and choices. Research indicates that children are more likely to adopt behaviors and habits exhibited by their parents. For instance, children of parents who smoke are more likely to become smokers themselves. Similarly, children of fathers who engage in criminal activities or substance abuse are at a higher risk of following similar paths.

Setting good examples is crucial for a child’s moral and ethical development. Fathers who demonstrate positive behaviors, such as honesty, integrity, and responsibility, instill these values in their children. Engaging in healthy habits, such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, and responsible decision-making, sets a standard for children to emulate. By embodying positive traits and behaviors, fathers can guide their children toward making constructive choic-

es and leading fulfilling lives.

Being a Good Listener

Listening is a vital component of effective parenting. Fathers who take the time to listen to their children create an environment of trust and open communication. When children feel heard and understood, they are more likely to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns.

Active listening involves giving undivided attention, empathizing with the child’s perspective, and responding thoughtfully. This practice fosters a strong emotional connection and helps children develop effective communication skills. Fathers who are good listeners can better understand their children’s needs, provide appropriate guidance, and support their emotional growth.

Valuing the Child’s Mother

The relationship between parents significantly impacts a child’s well-being. Fathers who treat their children’s mothers with respect and kindness model healthy relationship dynamics. Children who witness positive interactions between their parents learn about respect, cooperation, and empathy.

Research suggests that children from households where parents maintain a respectful and supportive relationship experience lower levels of stress and anxiety. They are more likely to develop secure attachment styles and exhibit positive social behaviors. By valuing and respecting the child’s mother, fathers contribute to a harmonious family environment that promotes emotional stability and healthy development.

The role of fathers extends far beyond financial support. Fathers who provide dependability, discipline, love, presence, good examples, attentive listening, and respect for the child’s mother play a crucial role in their children’s development. These elements contribute to a child’s emotional, social, and psychological well-being, fostering a strong foundation for a fulfilling and successful life.

By recognizing the value of these contributions, we can appreciate the profound impact fathers have on their children’s lives, demonstrating that, indeed, money doesn’t make the dad.●

Physical time spent with a child is the greatest gift a father can give.
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Each of us has a unique purpose. There’s a job that God has put you here to do — and if you don’t do it, it won’t get done in the universe. David has been ghostwriting books for well-known people since 1995. He is also the author of Married Men Coming Out: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming the Man You Were Born to Be.

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he greatest gift we have to give anyone is that of our own self-transformation. This giftedness, this purpose evolves and is revealed over time. It’s done through discipline and asking yourself how you got from there to here and it requires overcoming obstacles.”

These are the words that George Fraser has lived by most of his life. George, author, speaker, and founder of FraserNet, Inc., believes that the purpose of life involves four things: loving, giving, serving, and adding value. The process of living our purpose is fraught with obstacles and choices.

George quotes Marcus Aurelius when it comes to explaining the purpose of obstacles: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” So, it

to change what the word “flex” means. In slang parlance, it was used when showing off one’s bling, designer clothes, car, etc. To flex was to be braggadocious. But George wants to transform the term, like a conductor changing the shadings and tempo of an orchestral work. For him, it’s changing the meaning to express how Black culture has evolved.

As an example, George uses a moment in Olympic history that dramatically defined Black power and, very importantly, empowerment. That seminal moment occurred in 1968 when Tommie Smith and John Wesley Carlos took the gold and bronze medals in the 200 meters. On the podium for the Olympic medal ceremony, both Tommie and Wesley raised clenched, black-gloved fists to the sky. That singular moment captured the imagination of Black Americans and shifted the perspective of Americans in general.

“Do you know what the single most important thing in your life is? It’s to learn, earn, and return. We have a lot of us learning and a lot of us earning, but not enough of us returning. Therein lies our problem.”

all comes down to how we choose to respond to challenges and the vagaries life puts in our path. For George, that makes life a work in progress, one in which we’re given opportunities to explore life and our world. In that process, we become greater versions of ourselves, we self-transform.

It’s not an easy process, and Blacks in America are struggling to overcome extraordinary obstacles. “Life is going to force you to think and make decisions. You know, there comes a moment when you will either sink or swim. We’ve got to swim, and we’ve got to do it together.”

George likens this to an orchestra that only works when all the musicians are following the conductor who has spent time truly understanding the music in all its facets. Considering the chaos currently going on in our country, George says, “I’m not sure we have the right conductors.” What it comes down to for each of us is that “how we do anything is how we do everything.”

What George means by that is the subject of his soon-to-bepublished book, Flex: The Art of Being Unapologetically Black. Essentially, George’s primary idea behind the book is

Flex lets Black people know that there is power already residing within them, and it shows up in their faith, in challenges, in their beliefs and work in everything. What we do with that power, and how we let it elevate us to something greater is the crux of the book. Through real-life stories, it describes fifteen different definitions for flexing thereby expanding possibilities and opportunities for growth and self-transformation.

George reflects on his own life journey, the lessons, the obstacles, the mistakes, and subsequent turning points. All of it has made him who he is today. “I grew up in the Bedford-

Colin Powell.
CODE M / JUNE 2024 55
George Fraser with the late General

Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York in a family of eleven children. My father was a cab driver. My mother had a mental illness so she was hospitalized, which meant that three of us kids spent several years in foster care because our father couldn’t singlehandedly raise eleven children.”

No one who knew George thought he was college material, so he went to a vocational high school focusing on carpentry. But he couldn’t get a job in that field and ended up mopping floors and cleaning toilets on the midnight shift at La Guardia Airport. Initially, the job depressed him, but he made a momentous decision that would shape the rest of his life: to make the best of where he was and be the best at what he was doing. Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper … he should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

One night, a gentleman came into the bathroom where George was whistling while cleaning. The guy remarked that he’d never witnessed someone whistling while cleaning a public bathroom. He also noticed that the place was spotless. Then came George’s crossroads: The man asked if George would like to sell encyclopedias. As George states it, “The rest is history.”

Discovering that he excelled in English and history, George went on to work for Proctor & Gamble for thirty years in brand management, United Way as Director of Communications and Marketing, and he also worked for Ford Motor Company. During his tenure with these companies, what also captured George’s interest and heart was volunteering for multiple organizations and causes. Throughout his career, he has sat on the boards of multiple associations, organizations, and foundations.

George continues spreading his message of excelling in one’s work, career, and life through the several books he’s written, the

thousands of speeches and talks he’s given, and through his company FraserNet, Inc., which produces power networking conferences that help Blacks in all business arenas to “connect, learn, and lead.”

“Do you know what the single most important thing in your life is? It’s to learn, earn, and return. We have a lot of us learning and a lot of us earning, but not enough of us returning. Therein lies our problem. We’re not outnumbered, we’re just not giving back, reaching down, and pulling forward. That is our responsibility, I think, as a human being that this is the capstone to our story, our journey.”

George loves public speaking. He believes that the role of a great speaker is to provoke, instruct, and inspire, to say things that maybe people don’t want to hear. But he wants people to think, to make new decisions. What he sees happening to society now is that we’ve moved from the big screen movie screens and televisions to the small screen and that our phones have become such a focal point. It’s addictive. He sees that our attention spans have been reduced to that of a gnat.

And that is part of George’s motivation to continue pushing the envelope, to shift, and transform. “My primary motivation for writing is to share what I have learned and experienced in life as it pertains to relationship-building. Influences on my work include life experiences and the stories and experiences of other people. There are many common threads and themes that run through all experiences. God is my inspiration. We are just chosen vessels, instruments, and tools of a higher power.”

And that shows in how passionate George is in his approach to connecting people. It really does come back down to how you do anything, is how you do everything. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish! ●

CODE M / JUNE 2024 57
George Fraser is the President of Frasernet II, Inc.



One of the great gifts of life is the knowledge of one’s history. To seek out answers to who we are, where we come from, and how that informs where we might be going is not unlike a treasure hunt.

David has been ghostwriting books for well-known people since 1995. He is also the author of Married Men Coming Out: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming the Man You Were Born to Be.

istory is fascinating. To delve into, even just slightly, the individual to the collective and global panorama of human events can open new doors of insight and inquiry, even set us on new paths of discovery, careers, and connection. Within all of it, there are myriad interlocking puzzle pieces that create intriguing pictures, and reveal stories of mystery and adventure, that add another dimension to our sense of self.

The underlying drive in the quest to know one’s history is to answer universal questions: Who am I, where do I come from, and where am I going? It is, unequivocally, one of the greatest treasure hunts we can set upon.

With today’s technology, reaching into the mists of one’s past is truly a treasure hunt. We know not what we might find, who we’re connected to, and what surprises good and bad we might come upon. Is it worth it?

For Naftali Aklum, history is a golden thread woven throughout his ancestry that reaches back thousands of years to before the time of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. He is Ethiopian and Jewish and lives in Israel, his true homeland. Knowing his and his countrymen’s history has created the bedrock upon which their future is being built. And Naftali is on a quest to share the history of Ethi-

His quest is both personal and societal. If you ask people about the Jewish community and people, for a lot of them, when they think about the image of a Jew, it’s mainly white and European. I’m here to show the diversity within Jewish people.”

He points out that 60 percent of the Jewish population in Israel is comprised of Jews from India, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Yemen, and, yes, Ethiopia. “The Jewish people aren’t one color they’re not just white Jews, they’re Black Jews.” And for many of those Black Jews, their dream is to return to their true home, Israel, the Land of Zion.

For Naftali and his fellow Ethiopian Jews, returning to Israel was a dangerous journey, one that began in the early ‘80s and that had Naftali’s older brother, Ferede, become a wanted man. It started when Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam became prime minister of Ethiopia in 1974. Mariam’s totalitarian regime embraced communism and became anti-religious and anti-Israel.

Since the 1960s, the region has been experiencing political turmoil with rebellions and conflicts between nations. Israel began supporting Ethiopia by training counter-

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insurgency forces and providing military advisors. In 1973, even though Ethiopia broke diplomatic relations with Israel, Israel continued providing arms.

But, when Moshe Dayan, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, revealed that Israel was still providing arms and security assistance to Ethiopia, Mariam’s government clamped down and began targeting Ethiopian Jews. For wanted activists like Ferede, that was a death sentence. He had no choice but to flee the country for Sudan.

While in Sudan, Ferede contacted Mossad, the Israeli Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, and over an eighteen-month period, their efforts resulted in the smuggling of 900 Ethiopian Jews into Sudan and then on to Israel via Europe. Naftali and Ferede’s family was one of the first to make this dangerous journey, Naftali was only eleven months old at the time.

Once in Sudan, the refugees were corralled into disease-ridden camps where they lived in horrific conditions, were given the worst food, and the women were targets of rape on a daily basis by the Sudanese military. It’s estimated that over 4,000 refugees died on the 300-mile trek to Sudan. But, through three daring rescues Operation Moses, Operation Solomon, and Operation Joshua over the period of 1984 to 1991 over 20,000 Ethiopian Jews left their homes and villages to fulfill their dream of return-

ing to their homeland of Israel.

Since then, thousands more have continued emigrating to Israel in what is termed Aliyah, which translates to “the act of going up.” Today, there are around 160,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel.

Over the years, two films have been made about the exodus, Live and Become and The Red Sea Diving Resort, the latter loosely based on the life of Naftali’s brother, Ferede. Ferede is highly regarded by Ethiopian Jews and is known as “the Little Moses” in reference to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

Though Ferede passed away in 2009, his legacy lives on through Naftali, who presents lectures, workshops, and tours about the history of Ethiopian Jews. He travels the world speaking on the Ethiopian community in the Negev and throughout Israel sharing its unique narrative and cultural treasures. His website states that his objective is “… to empower the community and to contribute to a pluralistic Israeli society that views its communal diversity as a source of strength. The story of Ethiopian Jewry in Israel is a unique tale of suffering, perseverance, and fulfillment.”

Naftali also works with youth helping them to accept themselves as Jews, Blacks, and Israelis. Life in Israel isn’t easy and Ethiopian Jews are the object of racism, just like African Americans. So, he works to help young people accept who they are by learning about their past, to learn that many of their family members who emigrated from Ethiopia are truly heroes. That is why Ethiopian Jews celebrate Jerusalem Day, to remember the over 4,000 who didn’t survive the arduous flight to Israel, as well as those who persevered and established homes in Israel.

Very importantly, Naftali teaches about the history of Ethiopian Jews. “For a lot of people here, when they think about the original Jews, it’s the Ethiopian Jews because we keep the practice of Judaism the same way people did during the time of King Solomon. Over time, Jewish communities all over the world have changed a lot. Jews over the years brought the Oral Torah, which was written right after the destruction of the Second Temple. We Ethiopian Jews left Ethiopia right

Naftali Aklum has enjoyed traveling the world discussing Ethiopian/Jew principles.


after the destruction of the First Temple. We were isolated, which means we never had a relationship with any other Jewish community. So, we kept Judaism the way it used to be, during the time of the first temple. Consequently, a lot of people see us as the originals, as those who didn’t change.”

How this relates to African Americans is that Jews with African ancestry have lived in the Americas during the colonial period, the largest communities being in the Caribbean. They became members of white-run Jewish synagogues and helped form early African American synagogues in Harlem in the first part of the 20th century. To this day, Black American Jews experience an obvious double challenge.

Today, Naftali speaks throughout the US about the intersection of Ethiopian and African American Jews. It’s interesting to note that the estimated number of Black Jews in the US ranges from 20,000 to 200,000. And they experience many of the

same challenges Ethiopian Jews do in Israel. Naftali wants to change the perception people have of Black Jews everywhere.

“The message I’m trying to deliver is that even though Black people have difficulties, we can become much stronger, become solid as a rock. We can lead ourselves to the highest level we want, go wherever we want to go, and attain everything we aspire to. We need to accept, love, and believe in ourselves, and to learn about our history. We need to stand together and to support and treat each other with dignity and respect no matter what country you’re from.

Most importantly, it’s up to the younger generations. We have to think about those who are coming into this world, the young people. We need to set goals to create a better future for our children so that we can make this world a better place for everyone.” ●

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Naftali Aklum, middle-left, standing among friends.


It takes a shared vision and a team effort to make impactful change, and the Cleveland Guardians’ project has produced a winning playbook.

In the spring of 2022, the Cleveland Guardians selected Minneapolis-based Mortenson to serve as Construction Manager at Risk for renovations to Progressive Field. The partnership largely focuses on maximizing local and diverse business enterprise participation with targeted diversity, equity, and inclusion goals for the renovation projects initiatives that both Mortenson and the Guardians strongly prioritize.

“What’s great about the Guardians is how hands-on they are with community empowerment,” said Lynn Littlejohn, vice president of community empowerment at Mortenson. “The actions

they’re taking for education and outreach span beyond benefitting the project and are focused on supporting the greater Cleveland community in the long run.”

As part of the selection process, the Guardians insisted on a partnership at the leadership level with one or more local, minority and/or female-owned construction companies. Mortensen subsequently chose Independence Construction and The AKA Team to be Associate Construction Managers, allowing for daily collaboration with Cleveland-based companies that understand the benefits and challenges of supplier diversity and workforce participation when building out a project.

Logan Gerken, vice president and general manager for Mortenson, said, “We are honored to work with the Guardians to carry out the shared vision for the future of Progressive Field. Together, we’ve been focused on finding the right local collaborators and optimizing the impact of this project on Clevelandarea communities.”

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The Benefits of a Review Group

Before the project even began, the Cleveland Guardians got to work establishing a Community Review Group consisting of council members, community members, and representatives from the Guardians and Mortenson to oversee diverse business participation, workforce inclusion goals, and a workforce development program. The board meets quarterly to review progress on these initiatives and share updates on everything happening with the project.

“The idea behind the Community Review Group is to have a broad and diverse group of people, who are largely unaffiliated with the project, provide us feedback and best practices based on their experiences within the region,” explains Neil Weiss, executive vice president, chief information officer, and civic relations for the Cleveland Guardians. “What’s more, participants spread information from our project to their networks, supporting one of our goals of providing a blueprint for future projects.”

Staying Connected to Key Leaders

Lynn says, “The Guardians’ overall philosophy is centered around utilizing the project to make a difference in the community. They’re intentional in creating touch points with council members and other city leaders to develop a strategy that helps advance community both businesses and residents.”

Neil expands on this. “We’ve worked hard to stay in close contact with key government and civic officials, so they can provide feedback and help tell our story to others. This is especially important in their understanding of how money is being spent, and what has worked and what hasn’t. The back-and-forth conversation can help improve programs and community impact in the future.”

Educating and Empowering Small Businesses and Individuals

Educational sessions, open to any business in the community, pro-

vide advice on how to prepare a bid, get certified for specific work, and other important topics not always available to small business owners.

Business consultancy APB & Associates was brought in as part of the Project Management Advisory team to host workshops to help educate people and businesses on aspects such as capability statements, estimating, how to find micro-loans, mentor-protege relationships, and more. “The majority of attendees won’t even work on our project, but if they learn from these workshops (that only exist because of our project), then hopefully they can grow and win work on the next job,” Neil said.

On the workforce development side, the board organizes career fairs to inform community members of work and apprenticeship opportunities. These events help ensure that historically underserved members have a chance to be gainfully employed and change their economic status.

“We’ve worked hard to use this platform as a basis for community work, even if it doesn’t tie in directly to the construction,” says Neil. “APB has been instrumental in turning our aspirations into reality and we wouldn’t be able to make forward progress without them.”

One such example is the Grand Slam Job Fair, where the Guardians partner with city council members to host events across the wards, bringing in construction and

The Guardians renovated stadium.
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trade teams to help build awareness around career opportunities in these fields. Removing barriers to access is a critical part of increasing opportunities for businesses and community members. Holding sessions throughout Cleveland means people don’t have to drive long distances or use public transportation. “They really focus on accessibility and convenience for the sessions and career fairs,” Lynn says. “Instead of hosting them during working hours, everything is scheduled on evenings and weekends, so people don’t have to miss work to participate.”

“We’ve also brought in local, unrelated businesses from nearby neighborhoods, as well as the Guardians and our concessionaire (Delaware North), who have a lot of job opportunities available. The genesis of these events is to demonstrate how public funding can in turn benefit the residents. We’ve done two of these events and expect to do another 2-3 more,” Neil says.

Gaining New Perspectives

“Awareness is key. I’m always amazed at how few people understand what a Community Benefits Plan is or how one works but reference it because it’s the right thing to do. It’s all about education and building awareness of the problem we are trying to help solve in a small but hopefully impactful way. For example, I learned on this project that one of the biggest reasons that small, local, diverse firms don’t often bid packages is that they can’t afford to float capital or payroll for a long time until the CM pays them. If they have to wait three months to be paid, they can’t support their company and employees, so they won’t even bother to bid. We’ve focused on shortening the pay cycle as much as possible. While this isn’t rocket science, it does require persistence,” Neil explains.

Going Beyond the Numbers

Even though goals and numbers are associated with diversity initiatives, they don’t define the “why” behind teams making diverse business participation, workforce inclusion goals, and workforce development programs part of their sports construction project. It’s about so

much more than how things look on paper, but rather how people’s lives are impacted.

“The goals associated with community empowerment are just a tool to help businesses grow,” Lynn said. “You need those metrics to help measure a program’s success. But behind all of that is a genuine passion and dedication to improve the situation and position of small and diverse businesses.” When businesses can grow, they hire more people and provide the community with better-paying opportunities.

“Many (if not most) community benefits plans only focus on the levels they set for supplier diversity spend and workforce participation,” Neil says. “These are very important, but then the project will start and end. But if you look beyond the numbers, there are lots of other things that can have a lasting impact like helping small firms grow bigger and win new work. Or providing individuals with essential skills and meaningful employment that ultimately changes their trajectory and that of their future generations.”

Immaculate Cleaning is a small, local, minority business enterprise that has been awarded work on the Guardians project. Neil explains, “Everyone has been really impressed by their capabilities and willingness to dig in and be a true partner. Even better, though, is the fact that we’ve given them opportunities beyond this project that will hopefully strengthen their business for years.”

If you’d like to learn how your sports project can incorporate diverse business participation, workforce inclusion goals, and workforce development programs, get in touch! ●

Baseball fans enjoying the new changes at Progressive Field.

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AI programming might be biased against Blacks and other minorities when it comes to how code is written and used to interact with the technology around the world.

Artificial Intelligence, better known as AI, has been around for at least five decades. Basically, it’s where a machine can make decisions and take action without human interaction. AI peaked in the ‘60s, then the ‘80s, and starting in 2010, it had advanced to such a degree that it was being taken more seriously. Recently, there have been great advancements made in AI and machine learning (ML) applications for use in decision-making and in autonomous moving vehicles.

Although a very useful technology, AI can also be very dangerous. The likes of Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk have signed a letter in the past protesting the speed of advancement in AI technologies. They deemed it very dangerous for various applications and that it needs to be technically and ethically controlled prior to deployment.

With its ability to make decisions without human intervention, AI’s decisions can be disastrous or even catastrophic. AI uses applied algorithm-based software cod-

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Dr. Randall Sylvertooth, is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated was raised in Cleveland, Ohio and is an alumnus of The University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, George Mason University and Capital Technology University.

ing for making decisions based on patterns derived from data collected through ML. The decisions AI arrives at are quick and final. The danger is found in the data collected via ML as it can be skewed.

Two major flaws with AI and ML are facial recognition and language differentiation, which have been highlighted by Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru, two women of color. Unfortunately, these flaws have unintentionally targeted people of color and different ethnicities. Despite this, these powerful data-collecting and distributed technologies are used in the US by major tech companies and around the world.

The AI facial recognition systems were constructed based on research and the collected distorted data coming from sentiment systems such as social networks and the World Wide Web (WWW). Joy and Timnit have exposed how coded bias and AI with its combination of facial recognition and language pattern capabilities can fail to recognize people of color, different racial ethnicities, and their languages.

Joy was featured in the documentary, Coded Bias, directed by Shalini Kantayya. Joy, using scientific testing systems, explained the bias within facial recognition programs describing specifically how these systems are used against those who aren’t like the white men who originally formulated the recognition technology. The documentary further discusses how invasive this technology can be around the world and the harm and misinformation it can create for people of color in America and abroad.

Timnit was featured in Wired Magazine where she described being forced out of her ethical AI co-lead position at Google because she released her research paper without Google’s approval. The paper was on the “Risks of AI Language Models.” The AI algorithmic models were based on staggering amounts of text data, which are a line of research core to Google’s business.

At the time, Timnit was a leading voice in AI ethics and was one of the only Black women at Google Research. Concerning public involvement, she said, “I think that if I were to go back to three, four years ago from 2020, there was a lot less AI ethical awareness. Now entities like the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] have gotten heavily involved, as well as the Algorithmic Justice League and the Data for Black Lives organizations. Unfortunately, the weight of this bias that is embedded in both visual and language is more on the politicians because there isn’t a mecha-

AI programming can cause issues for minorities if it is not used correctly.

nism in place to involve the public in decision making for the use of advance AI technology as it progresses.”

Both Timnit and Joy believe that politicians are not providing the public a way to be involved in the technology developments that will directly affect their lives and well-being. For instance, Timnit said, a well-known data analytics technology company was being used in New Orleans for predictive policing and the public was unaware of it. She explained that there was no vote, no bill, and no discussion with the public regarding the study. She believes that our government needs to actively give the public a chance to weigh in on issues with advancements in AI technology now and in the future.

Both Timnit and Joy have made great strides in bringing AI technology to the forefront of public forums helping people of color to stay informed on AI’s applications and dangers. It’s also important for people of color and other ethnicities to take on the responsibility of getting involved in their governments starting at the congressional level, which Joy did by testifying before the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

It’s vitally important for people of color and diverse ethnic backgrounds to understand the importance of AI-generated applications before they are developed and distributed so that they aren’t unintentionally targeted by machines now and in the future. ●

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The summer season is upon us and Black people glow this time of year. Let’s celebrate the different levels of melanin in our bodies by showcasing us with some great summer looks.

A wardrobe shopper, stylist, and accessories designer who specializes in dapper looks that truly appeal to the most discerning eye. mailto:,

The beach is always a great look with a surfboard in tow.

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Summer is the perfect time to show off the hard work put into the body.

Taking pictures is one of summer’s best activities. Capturing the season is always a good thing.

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There is nothing like celebrating summer with a great cocktail.

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