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Volume 9 – Number 25 JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2017

DENÈE BENTON Living Her Dream on Broadway

MICHAEL THOMAS NFL player fulfills his dream, and gives back





contents 8 The Many Faces of Millennials 14 Duval County Once Again Posts Highest Overall Federal Graduation Rate In District’s History 18 Black Millennials at the Heart of the Black Lives Matter Movement 20 Florida Lottery Celebrates New Milestones 22 Miami Dolphins’ free safety Michael Thomas fulfills his dream of giving back while playing in the NFL 26 Goal Setting: The WHAT in Goal Setting 28 Let’s Continue to Make History 30 ONYX Spotlight: Dhyana Ziegler, DCJ, Ph.D 31 ONYX Spotlight: Phillip Laws 32 Governor Rick Scott Recognizes Edward Waters College President, Dr. Nathaniel Glover with “Great Floridian Award” 33 Meet Florida’s African-American Congressional Representatives 44 ONYX on the Move Denee Benton and Brittain Ashford, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.


48 The High Price Of Imprisonment 50 Police and the Community 54 Millennial Wine Snobs? COVER STORY


Photo by Chad Batka


46 New Year Financial Health Checklist










FROM THE PUBLISHER PUBLISHER/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Richard E. ‘Rich’ Black MANAGING EDITOR Patricia Etayo ASSOCIATE EDITOR Gwen Belton Phyllis Davis Sharon Fletcher Jones, Community Liaison



JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 HAPPY NEW YEAR! Welcome to what we believe will be a year of unlimited opportunities for personal and professional growth. Speaking of unlimited opportunities, we are excited to introduce you to our New Year’s edition of ONYX which has been dedicated to the millennials. Yes, that’s right.… that group of individuals who are as different as they are alike. They seem to be the most creative, diverse and global in their prospective and value TRUST above all else. They are most times over achievers and committed to traveling the road less traveled. They are true to themselves and committed to making their dreams a reality. On the cover, you’ll find Ms. Denee Benton, a millennial who embodies all the attributes we previously mentioned, as a matter of fact she is following her dream as a performer and taking Broadway by storm. She co-stars in “Natasha, Pierre, The Great Comet of 1812” with singer Josh Groban, who’s best known for his hit, Let this be our prayer. Another millennial who’s making an impact on and off the grid iron is, Michael Thomas, safety for the Miami Dolphins. Mr. Thomas has struck the right balance between making plays on the fields and playing to win as it relates to the mentoring of inner city youth in his community. Recently, I was invited to visit the campus of the University of Florida concerning a program that assists students in securing internships in the field of Journalism and Communication. I decided that I would take the University up on its invitation and visited the campus. WOW…... upon my arrival to the school of Journalism and Communication, I was shocked and amazed at the world of media which I found as fascinating as Jurassic Park. The school is one of two in the country that has received funding to study the characteristics of Millennials through a company on the campus called the Agency. This marketing outfit is unique as it is led by professionals, staffed by students and inspired by faculty. Check out the article they’ve provided for this issue of ONYX entitled, The many faces of the Millennial. Many thanks to Dean Diane McFarlin, Andy Hopson, Bob Norberg, Jim Harrison, Nathan King, Dr. Tom Kellecher, Katie Le and our tour guide for the day, Ms. Stephanie Byrne. Visit them at ONYX on the Move is always a great read as it allows us to escape the drudges of life and visit places, life and good times. In this issue, we visit Jacksonville and attended UNCF Jacksonville Leadership Luncheon. This was phenomenal event which raised scholarship dollars for worthy youth in their pursuit of a college degree. Here we hobnob with media giant, Mr. Tom Joyner, who served as the keynote speaker for the 11th Annual Leadership Luncheon. Indeed, this was a party with a purpose.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR Matt deJager EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT Pamela Martin COMMUNITY RELATIONS COORDINATOR Maria Barnes CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Talia Ashley Denise Moore Eric Easter, Urban News Services Joyce Jones Steven King Michael Laderman

Pam Tedesco Eric Pettus The Agency, University of Florida Dr. Delvena Thomas Tonyaa Weathersby Roniece Weaver

CIRCULATION DIRECTORS Eugene Leach and Alice Leach CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Jason Bell Ken Lewis John Reed ONYX ADVISORY COMMITTEE Michelle Tatom, Chair Bob Berryhill Dr. Lavon Bracy Byron Brooks Mable Butler Dr. Cynthia Chesnut James Clark John Crossman

Alma C. Horne Rodney Hurst Larry Lee, Jr. Zita Steglich-Ross Margaret J. Thompson Gail Thomas Alan Williams FOUNDERS

Resolutions, Resolutions, Resolutions, we have got to start eating healthier. Let’s see what advise our ONYX nutritionist, Roniece Weaver has to offer in her nutrition column entitled, Goal Setting. Mmmmm…. As always, we remain committed to our readers to entertain, inspire and inform… Enjoy!

Lester and Lillian Seay ONYX is published by RBlack and Associates, LLC, Address: P.O. Box 555672, Orlando, Florida 32855-5872 Phone (407) 4512891, or (407) 298-0544. Subscription rate is $19.95 for six issues. For subscriptions and notification of address change, contact ONYX Magazine at the above address or e-mail us at Letters to the editor are encouraged. Copyright 2015 by ONYX Magazine. All rights reserved. No part of the publication may be reproduced without written consent of the publisher. Opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the writer or interviewee and not necessarily those of the publisher. Manuscripts, photos and art should be submitted with a self-addressed stamped envelope. The publisher does not assume responsibility for any materials not submitted in manner advised. Unsolicited materials are not subject to payment from ONYX Magazine.


illennials, also known as Gen Y, now make up the largest generational population, outnumbering Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. They will have an estimated spending power of $10 trillion over their lifetimes. Googling “millennial research” generates over 1 million hits. Despite such extensive research, companies are still struggling to understand Millennials. Why is there such a disconnect? Millennials were born between 1980 and 1998. Within this generation is a diverse range of people, from college students to professionals with families, which defines why brands and marketers are having difficulty understanding this generation. Millennials are not one large, homogeneous group. In reality, the Millennial generation can be broken into three groups: 18 to 24-year-olds, 25 to 29-year-olds and 30 to 34-yearolds. Today these three groups have as many differences as they do similarities, which is what is so confounding. Based on research conducted by The Agency at UF (a Millennial marketing specialist firm), we’ve defined the characteristics of these groups as follows: Younger Millennials, aged 18 to 24, are what would be considered the “stereotypical Millennial” in society’s 8 ONYX MAGAZINE

eyes. These are the college-aged, wanderlust-infused, responsibility-averse young adults that are most frequently type casted in the media. These Millennials are more likely to have a car than older Millennials were at the same age, but they frequently use sharing services such as Uber and Lyft to get around. They are social-media savvy and 50 percent live with their parents. Millennials aged 25 to 29 came of age during the beginning of the Obama administration. For many, this was their first presidential election; the Obama presidency reflected the liberal ideals that empower this group. These Millennials have a higher income than their younger counterparts, which is reflected in their lifestyle and brand preferences. They are establishing themselves in their careers and adult lives, with only twenty-five percent of them living with their parents and forty-two percent of them married. Older Millennials, aged 30 to 34, are aptly named because they were starting their careers as the 2008 recession began. This has shaped much of their behaviors and values even today. Thirteen percent of older Millennials still live with their parents, the lowest rate

Why are Millennials so difficult to understand?

of other Millennial segments, but higher than previous generations. While these Millennials are hitting those life milestones, such as marriage, kids and buying a home, that had been deferred because of economic conditions when they finished schooling, they are doing so in a different way than before. According to Bob Norberg, Director, Strategy and Research at The Agency at UF, “Marketers are at great risk if they assume all millennials have the same characteristics. Understanding the differences within the generation, and more importantly why they are different, is the key to creating an efficient and effective marketing program. Over time these groups may evolve into a more homogeneous population, but today they are quite different.” The diversity within the Millennial generation has been in part a reflection of life events, which have a strong and lasting impact on individual’s attitudes and perceptions about life and situations. For example, older Millennials experienced job uncertainty or unemployment while in the important life phase of transitioning from student to independent adult. Because of this, older Millennials tend to be more risk-averse than younger Millennials who are still in school. An example of the life event effect on diversity within the Millennial generation can be seen within the transportation sector. 30 to 34-year-olds’ life experiences have had a profound impact on the transportation sector. With high unemployment rates and lower incomes, many older Millennials couldn’t afford to own a car. This spurred on what is called ‘the sharing economy’, specifically in the form of companies like Uber and Lyft. While younger Millennials have embraced these trends, they are actually more likely to own a car than 30 to 34-year-olds were when they were younger. Another example of the diversity among Millennial groups is reflected in where they are choosing to live. A common mis conception is that young Millennials are more likely to live in urban centers. But as shown in the accompanying infographic, that is not the case. Millennials living preferences vary by age groups. 18 to 24-yearolds are living in urban areas at the same

Within this generation is a diverse range of people, from college students to professionals with families, which defines why brands and marketers are having difficulty understanding this generation. percentage as the rest of the population. It is the older Millennials that have a higher percentage living in the 230 most populous counties. This diversity can be seen within age groups as well. “My younger sister and I are only two years apart in age, both Millennials, but we have widely different ideas for the future. I’m looking to buy a house and settle down. My sister is jet-setting off to London and talks about living with my parents after college to save money for travel,” said The Agency team member,

Katharine Hargrave. While Millennials share many overarching traits, it is important to note the differences between the age groups. A young college-aged Millennial has a very different perspective than a 34-year-old established Millennial. While this diversity makes it more challenging to differentiate Millennials, it is the key to successfully marketing to them and providing the brand experience they prefer. By tapping into these differences, the mystery of the many faces of Millennials can be solved. ONYX MAGAZINE 9



PHoto by Chad Batka

Living Her Dream


Standing: Derryl Benton (father); sitting: Jackie Benton (mother); left front: Samuel Benton; center: Denee; right front: Jared Benton.

“Lean into who you are, into what comes naturally for you and what you’re good at, and sharpen that. And if you show up, it will make room for you.” –Denèe Benton

Photo courtesy of the Benton family


n life, few people get to live out their dreams just as they have imagined. However, Central Florida’s own Denèe Benton is one such fortunate individual. Her career has taken an incredible trajectory rather quickly. At just 24 years old, Benton is starring on Broadway in her debut as Natasha in the new musical “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” opposite multi-platinum singer, Josh Groban, who is also making his Broadway debut. What’s more, this past summer she could be seen playing the social activist, Ruby, in season two of the hit Lifetime television series UnREAL.

In 2014, Benton’s professional career took off a semester before graduating at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA., when she landed the role as Nabulungi in The Book of Mormon U.S. national tour and London’s West End. Shortly afterward, she was cast as Natasha in the regional production of The Great Comet during its successful run at the American Repertory Theatre in Boston. The fact that Benton’s life-long dream to star on Broadway is now a reality is a testament to her hard work, strong faith, and a deep determination to remain true to herself. In addition, Benton credits ONYX MAGAZINE 11

Denee Benton, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.


“Words cannot express how elated I was when I learned I had the part. I am extremely grateful that the director and producers chose to see my true essence and the talent I bring to the role.” –Denèe Benton

sha role. Because the musical is based on a small portion of a love story in Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel, War and Peace set in Moscow with Russian aristocrat characters, Benton thought, “Surely, they’re not looking for someone who looks like me.” Nonetheless, she decided to give it a try. After a moving and impeccable audition, director Rachel Chavkin knew the role was hers. “Words cannot express how elated I was when I learned I had the part. I am extremely grateful that the director and producers chose to see my true essence and the talent I bring to the role.” This experience helped Benton to further solidify her determination to not let anything stand in the way of going after her dream. “Who could have guessed that a dark-skinned black woman with natural textured hair, born in a small southern town called Eustis, Fla., would play a Russian countess being chased by all these beautiful men? I am truly convinced that with God all things are possible.” Embracing and celebrating her unique-

ness is something Benton takes to heart and encourages other young people to do as well, especially young African-American women. She offers this advice to others trying to pursue their dreams, “Lean into who you are, into what comes naturally for you and what you’re good at, and sharpen that. And if you show up, it will make room for you.” Benton believes that her success thus far is only the beginning and hopes it leads to something greater, such as helping to improve the world in some way. Helping to empower young African-American women to be all they can be is a start. Benton became emotional as she shared a story of a black teenage girl who recently attended her show and was inspired by her performance as “Natasha.” The teenager excitedly commented that she is going to bring her six-year-old sister to the show because she said, ‘” I didn’t know that we could be princesses.”’ It’s clear Benton’s positive influence on the world has already begun.

Photo by Chad Batka

her parents’, Derryl and Jackie Benton, unwavering support and belief in her dream for helping her be as prepared as possible when opportunities arise. Benton adds that the constant encouragement and moral support from her two older brothers, Samuel and Jared, and her extended family help keep her going. Early in her childhood, it was evident Benton had an inclination toward the performing arts. Her mother would often see her as a toddler in the living room choreographing dances to gospel music; and as a pre-teen, making up musicals while doing her household chores. Benton grew up in Orange and Seminole counties singing in her church and school choirs and participating in school plays. It was during her high school performance as Aida at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, Fla., that she decided to solely pursue acting as a career and abandon the idea of having a double major in college as a back-up plan. Additionally, Benton’s participation in competitions such as the NAACP’s ACT-SO program and the NSSF (Negro Spiritual Scholarship Foundation) GRADY-RAYAM Prize in Vocal Performance, helped to bolster her confidence in performing on stage; and she is very grateful for the opportunities those invaluable organizations provided. Benton admits that she did not feel that there would be many roles for her as an African-American woman, especially with her natural hair. This assumption almost prevented her from auditioning for the Nata-

DUVAL COUNTY ONCE AGAIN POSTS HIGHEST OVERALL FEDERAL GRADUATION RATE IN DISTRICT’S HISTORY Duval’s African-American graduation rate tops 75.2% and continues to be #1 among the largest districts in Florida for a second year in a row

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016 - The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) released the four-year federal graduation rates today, and for the fourth consecutive year, Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) has earned its highest federal graduation rate in the district’s history. More than 78.8 percent of its students are graduating, an increase of 2.2 percentage points over 2015, and over 11 percentage points in the last four years, making Duval County the leader in graduation improvement among the state’s seven largest school districts (Broward, Dade, Duval, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas). Since Dr. Nikolai Vitti assumed his role as superintendent four years ago, the gap between the district and state has been narrowed from 7 percentage points to 1.9 percentage points. Additionally, the African-American graduation rate has continued to increase at record levels, rising more than 4.1 percentage points this past year and 12.9 percentage points since 2011-2012. DCPS African-American graduation rate continues to be the highest among the Big 7 school districts for a second year in a row. “The work occurring in our high schools around rising graduation rates best represents our commitment to students. What is particularly a point of pride is that nearly all of our schools continue to 14 ONYX MAGAZINE

“The work occurring in our high schools around rising graduation rates best represents our commitment to students.” show improvement and that our work with African-American students is leading the state,” said Dr. Vitti. “Not only are more students graduating each year, but more are college ready.” Three traditional high schools achieved a graduation rate increase of more than 8 percentage points: Andrew Jackson (+11.6 percent), Ed White (+12.6 percent), and Terry Parker (+8.4 percent). William M. Raines is now the first of the Duval Transformation Office (DTO) schools to exceed a graduation rate of over 90 percent, achieving a 92 percent graduation rate. Of the 21 traditional high schools, all schools increased their graduation rate or maintained a rate higher than 95 per-

cent. Twelve (57 percent) of these same schools exceeded the 90 percent graduation rate, up from 29 percent the year prior. Nineteen (90 percent) of the 21 high schools achieved a graduation rate of over 80 percent. Additionally, Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts achieved a graduation rate of 100 percent for three years in a row and Stanton High School became the second high school in the district to achieve a 100 percent graduation rate. As a measure that ultimately determines the initial path for post-secondary coursework, reviewing and monitoring college readiness provides another metric to gauge student success. Students who are able to attain acceptable college readiness scores are able to enter college without taking remedial coursework. DCPS graduates experienced a record high in reading at 84 percent, and in math at 72 percent, thus exceeding national averages. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education estimates that as many as 60 percent of students require remedial instruction. About Duval County Public Schools Duval County Public Schools is the 20th largest school district in the nation, serving more than 125,000 students in more than 180 schools. Visit to learn more.



Black Millennials at the Heart of the Black Lives Matter Movement t’s a good thing that for the past few years, black millennials have been using in-your-face, in-thestreets activism to fix police brutality, mass incarceration and other unfairness that infiltrates the lives of people who look like them. It’s good because now, they’ll need that energy more than ever. They’ll need it because this past November, the nation elected Donald Trump for president. 18 ONYX MAGAZINE

The New York billionaire launched his campaign in 2015 by demonizing Mexicans as criminals and rapists and calling for Muslims to be banned from entering the US. He also continued to spread the birther lie that America’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, was not born in the U.S. Not surprisingly, Trump’s election (he won the Elec-


By Tonyaa J. Weathersbee


toral College while his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the popular vote) ignited protests around the nation. Crowds of mostly young people poured into the streets of cities such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, Austin and even Ybor City in Tampa to show their opposition to America electing a bigot to its highest office. And his bigotry has proven to be devastating to at least one group of black and Latino youths. In 1989, a woman was brutally raped and assaulted while jogging in Central Park. But before the five African-American and Latino youths who were accused of that heinousness could even get their day in court, Trump took out an

$85,000 ad in four New York newspapers calling for their execution. As it turned out the teenagers, who were convicted of the crime and had served five to fifteen years for it, didn’t do it. A confession by the real rapist and DNA evidence cleared them. Their convictions were vacated, and the city of New York settled a wrongful conviction lawsuit brought by them for $41 million. Yet today, Trump continues to insist that the Central Park Five are guilty – apparently because his gut, one that apparently responds more to racial stereotypes than to reason and science – says they are. And that kind of stereotyping and indifference that will come from Trump will likely create new battles for black millennials who have been working to force the system to shed those views. Already Trump, who during his campaign said he wanted to be a champion for black America, has proposed to resurrect “stop and frisk,” policies to prevent crime. But a federal judge ruled that the practice was unconstitutional in 2013. And even if it wasn’t, it’s a safe bet that black millennials, many of whom are at the heart of the Black Lives Matter Movement, wouldn’t embrace a practice that is not only based

on racial profiling, but could also lead to more encounters between African-Americans and police. Such encounters can lead to more black people amassing records for minor infractions and, thus, being barred from occupying certain jobs or certain privileges. In other words, the stuff that Trump believes will save black people from being victims of crime could very well stifle them in building their lives. That’s why now, more than ever, black millennials will need to harness their outrage into the kind of activism necessary to fight against the horrors of a Trump administration. They will need to continue to employ traditional civil rights tactics, such as marches and civil disobedience, to bring attention to the issues that will shape their lives and their humanity. They will need to find ways to channel their fury into political activism not just during presidential election years, but also during midterm years. After all, the Tea Party – that faction of the Republican party that ultimately created Trump – came to power during the 2010 midterm elections as a repudiation to President Obama’s administration. No reason why black millennials can’t be part of a charge to repudiate Trump in 2018. Lastly, they will need to continue to use their smarts and social media savvy to beat back against a society that, with the election of Trump, is more bent on getting them to behave than to give them any justice. And from what I know about black millennials, there’s no way they will just sit back and let that happen. At least not without a fight. Tonyaa J. Weathersbee is a multiple award-winning columnist and multimedia journalist now based in Memphis, Tenn. To learn more about her work, go to www., www. or Or follow her @tonyaajw.


Recognizing $6 Billion in Sales and $30 Billion in Transfers to Education 20 ONYX MAGAZINE

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Lottery announces its fifth consecutive record-breaking sales year with an estimated $6.06 billion in annual sales during fiscal year 2015 - 2016. In addition, the Lottery anticipates reaching $30 billion in transfers to education since 1988. Governor Rick Scott said, “We are working each day to ensure that Florida’s students have the resources and opportunities they need to get a great education so they can succeed in their future careers. I applaud the Lottery for their commitment to investing in education and look forward to seeing Florida’s students become the leaders of tomorrow.” “The Florida Lottery’s mission is to maximize revenues for the enhancement of public education. We are extremely proud


FACTS Since 1988, the Florida Lottery has contributed more than $30 billion to education, and has transferred more than $1 billion to education for each of the past thirteen years. More than $4.8 billion in Bright Futures scholarships have been awarded to more than 725,000 students in the state. Additionally, $415 million has been provided to students in the form of other state student financial aid.

to be able to transfer $1.66 billion to education this year as a result of having reached $6 billion in sales. This represents a 10.9% increase in transfers to education over the previous year, something all Florida students and teachers can celebrate,” said Florida Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie. “I want to thank our retail partners, loyal players and dedicated employees who work hard every day to ensure the Florida Lottery continues to be among the very best in the nation.” Over the past twenty-eight years, the Florida Lottery has firmly established itself as a dependable

funding source for public education, contributing more than $1 billion annually for each of the past thirteen consecutive fiscal years. The Lottery’s commitment to corporate outreach and its effective business model focuses on the development of new revenue streams, creating a win-win partnership with its retailers and vendors, and benefitting Florida’s overall economy. Lottery transfers to education represent approximately six percent of the state’s total education budget, and are appropriated by the Florida Legislature and administered by the Florida Department of Education.

For more information, please visit

Florida’s public schools (Pre-K and K-12 programs) have received more than $16.4 billion since the Lottery’s inception. Florida’s state universities and colleges have also benefited, receiving a combined total of more than $7.8 billion since the Lottery’s inception. The Lottery broke all sales records in fiscal year 2015 2016, reaching more than $6 billion in sales and surpassing last year’s sales of $5.5 billion by more than $480 million. The Lottery had record Scratch-Off sales for eleven of the twelve months of fiscal year 2015 - 2016, which helped lead to overall record gross sales for eight of the twelve months this fiscal year, giving the Lottery its best sales year ever. Since 1988, Florida Lottery games have paid more than $52.4 billion in prizes and made more than 1,900 people millionaires.



Miami Dolphins’ free safety Michael Thomas fulfills his dream of giving back while playing in the NFL By Michael Laderman


Photo by Nisso Studios


Photo by Bill Piacesi

DAVIE, Florida – Growing up in Houston, Texas, Michael Thomas spent a lot of time thinking about the future. And like many of those his age, and in his neighborhood, he dreamed of one day playing in the National Football League. But unlike most others, he had a unique ulterior motive. “I always watched football and sports on ESPN when I was growing up, and I would always see those PLAY 60 commercials,” Thomas recalled, of the NFL’s campaign that encourages children to be active for 60 minutes a day. “I remember saying, ‘man, I would love for an NFL player to come to my school to speak, and play at recess with us.’ Or I’d see them reading books to kids in the library, and I’d say, ‘man, if I ever made it, I’d give kids that same opportunity. That I’d give back to them.’ It’s just something I’ve always wanted.” Thomas, two decades removed from when those dreams and thoughts first began, paused. “Now, it’s just me keeping my word and staying true to myself,” he said. To say that Thomas, after all those years, is simply

keeping his word, would be an understatement. Thomas, now 26, is in the prime of his life – both personally and professionally. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012 with the San Francisco 49ers, he is an integral part of the Miami Dolphins’ defense. The fourth-year safety from Stanford has helped transform the Dolphins into a playoff-contending team. His on-field work has been consistently good. Through the season’s first 13 games, the 5-foot-11 Thomas helped Miami to an 8-5 record by tallying 42 [combined] tackles and one sack, while starting five games and forcing one fumble. His off-field work, though, has been sensational. Thomas is a tireless volunteer, working with various organizations throughout Florida, in other states [including Tennessee, Texas, and California], and internationally. This past off-season, he was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Award at The White House for his work with the First Step Program. And at home, he and his wife, Gloria, have a beautiful baby girl, Genesis. “My parents raised me to give back,”

Thomas explained. “If you’re fortunate enough to give your time, and that might make someone else smile and might brighten up someone else’s day, then why not do that? You’d want someone to do that for you. That is how I was raised by my parents. That played a major part in how I am today, always wanting to give back to those who are less fortunate. “For me, it just stems back from wanting to give back to the people in the communities that I grew up in. It’s always been a passion to always want to give back to those who are less fortunate, those who might not have all the access that people who are more fortunate than them have. A lot of times, especially in the summers and off-seasons, I’ll throw camps, and go speak at schools, just to make an appearance to give kids a unique experience that they otherwise wouldn’t have.” From his hometown of Houston; to Fort Pierce, Florida; to Palo Alto, California; to Memphis, Tennessee, Michael Thomas has been fulfilling his dream of helping others. It has taken him to the Bahamas this past year, to personally assist ONYX MAGAZINE 23


—Michael Thomas

Stanford, and it was a culture shock. It was a great opportunity, I learned a lot, and met amazing people there. But even with all that said, I didn’t get a business background while over there. So, I always said that I would go back to school, and the opportunity came for me to get my MBA while still playing in the NFL, so I took advantage of it. “My NFL career is going to end one day. I want to have some type of business background when it does. Yeah, I’ve got a career in the NFL, and the money I’m making now is good. But I want to be smart enough to manage myself to understand what’s going on in the conversations when I’m working with other business partners. You can never know too much, you can always continue to learn. I want to be able to be in those conversations and know what is going on.” There was a time, not too long ago, when it appeared that Thomas might not have such an opportunity in life to give as unselfishly as he has. As an undrafted free agent, Thomas worked hard just to be on the 49ers practice squad. Week after week, he would put in extra work. If the coaches required the practice squad to lift three times, he would lift four. He would do extra reps to ensure he was prepared, should the opportunity to play arise. His moment finally came when the

Dolphins signed Thomas from San Francisco’s practice squad on December 10, 2013. And just five days later, he made the Dolphins’ play of the year. In his very first professional game ever, he intercepted a Tom Brady pass in the end zone with just seconds remaining in the game, to give Miami a thrilling 24-20 win over the New England Patriots. In the locker room after that game, because he was so new to the team – so new, he hadn’t even taken any snaps with Miami’s defense in practice all week – most teammates and coaches had no idea who he was. Three years later, they all do. And thanks to his hard work, not only is he able to help the Miami Dolphins in their quest for the post season; he is able to help our communities that need such an unselfish ambassador. “I can’t lie, this was my dream, man, this was my dream. It was the dream I had since I was six-years-old,” Thomas said. “Going undrafted, obviously, that was taken away from me for a little bit, for just under two years. But I just had to keep working and believing in myself. “I hope the dream doesn’t end,” he added. “I just want to keep building on it, and keep proving – not necessarily proving anybody else wrong, but just proving myself right – that I can play at this level.”

Courtesy of the Miami Dolphins

with hurricane relief, and will take him to Haiti this upcoming offseason, when he goes on a trip with Food for the Hungry. Thomas wholeheartedly knows – and appreciates – the position in life he is in, the one he has that only a select few understand – a position that allows him to do the good that is in his heart. “I’m just trying to give back as much as I can,” Thomas said, “I don’t know how long I’ll play in the NFL, and so I don’t know how long people will be willing to listen to me. People say, ‘oh, he plays in the NFL, he has the brand of the Miami Dolphins behind him, so he has a voice.’ And they’re right. When it’s like that, they’ll listen to you, they’ll help you. You can easily put a smile on someone’s face if you’ve got that [Miami Dolphins] jersey on, if you’ve got that shield on, that emblem of the Dolphins on. I don’t know, though, how long this is going to last, so I’m just trying to make as big of an impact that I can in the time I have. “You’ve got to leverage that opportunity and that identity while you’ve got it, because once it goes, people don’t answer your calls as quickly anymore, and are not as willing to help you as much anymore.” And as if his role as a community ambassador and volunteer isn’t enough, on top of his “day job” as free safety of the Miami Dolphins, somehow, some way, Thomas found the time this past year to do what many athletes do not: He went back to college to earn a second degree. Thomas, who already had a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in California, just recently completed studies at the University of Miami. His reward was a master’s in business administration. In the grand scheme of life, it was certainly not needed nor required, what with his role and salary with the Dolphins. But that is not how Thomas operates, nor thinks, in life. “I always knew that I wanted to go back to school and get some type of business education,” he explained. “When I was at Stanford, that wasn’t the case. Here I was, a young kid from Houston, Texas, going to

“You’ve got to leverage that opportunity and that identity while you’ve got it, because once it goes, people don’t answer your calls as quickly anymore, and are not as willing to help you as much anymore.”

GOAL SETTING: THE WHAT IN GOAL SETTING Welcome to the New Year ONYX readers. As we enjoy new beginnings of the New Year, we all plan to strive for bigger and better things. Don’t forget to make health and wellness one of your top priorities for the year. Making your health a top priority can add on additional lives to your lifespan, and above all you will look and feel better. The What? Grab a sheet of paper and pen and lets map out the WHAT for your goals and strategies. When setting goals at the New Year 26 ONYX MAGAZINE

you want to explain WHAT you plan to do. The WHAT can be a host of things: • Increase exercise • Drink more water • Practice portion control • Reduce late night eating • Reduce fast food choices • Reduce eating out • Make better choices when I eat out These are a few suggestions that you can consider for the New Year. The next question you must ask yourself is WHEN you will do it. When is a prime question that defines when you make the change.

The WHEN can include suggestions like: • I will Increase my exercise 3 times a week • I will drink more water, 7 days a week to obtain a goal of 64 ounces a day • I will eat my dinner on a smaller plate every day • I will eat dinner earlier or no later than 7 pm so I can get more time to walk • I will go a different way home that will not encourage me to stop at a fast food operation for dinner • I will cook dinner at home 5 days a week and only eat out 2 days a week.

By Roniece Weaver, licensed nutritionist/author

Original Goal


Technique to Improve Goal

Possible New Action Step

Lose weight

Action is not specific

Identify action liked with weight loss that you are willing to try

I will walk 20 minutes after dinner every other day after dinner

Walk more, eat less, drink more water, avoid sweets, eat more vegetables, lift weights , do yoga

Too many goals

Pick one or two specific goals and work on those. Track them for your success and revise as needed

I will pack fresh vegetables as a part of my lunch for work this week. I will have a salad with dinner five days a week.

Doctor said to avoid white flour and sugar

Goal doesn’t identify what you want to do

Create an action plan by looking at your eating patterns.

I will drink water or diet soda in the place of regular soda once a day during the work week. I will purchase whole grain breads and substitute them for white bread daily. Or I will reduce my total consumption of high carbohydrate foods 5 days a week and increase my daily intake of vegetables.

Eat less

This goal is too vague, let’s be specific.

Specify how you plan to eat less

I will drink only water after dinner (no snacks or calorie containing liquids) 5 days this week. I will eat on smaller plates and drink beverages from smaller cups. I will drink water prior to my meals to fill up faster.

• I will read the menu choices when I go out and look for healthier options, and or ask for smaller portions. THE HOW? Now this question will make you become more discipline. I will take the same examples above and create the HOW to your answers. • I will Increase my exercise 3 times a week and bring a friend to make me accountable for my actions • I will drink more water, 7 days a week to obtain a goal of 64 ounces a day, by purchasing more water, or removing the empty calorie drinks (sodas, sweet drinks, Kool-Aid) from my refrigerator. • I will eat my dinner on a smaller plate every day, and donate my larger plates (10” or greater) to goodwill so I won’t be frustrated by looking at the smaller portions on a larger plate • I will eat dinner earlier or no later than 7 pm so I can get more time to walk. I plan to cook larger portions of my main meals so they will be ready to warm up, which prevents me from eating so late at night. Or, I will prepare the ingredients in advance so I won’t spend so much time cooking once I get home.

• I will go a different way home that will not encourage me to stop at a fast food operation for dinner. I will Google map a different route that will encourage me to stop by the park and take a walk. • I will cook dinner at home 5 days a week and only eat out 2 days a week. I will cook larger portions on the weekend that will last 5 days and increase the variety of foods so I won’t get bored quickly with the leftovers. • I will read the menu choices when I go out and look for healthier options, and or ask for smaller portions. I can program the places I eat out on my cell phone so I can become more informed with the portions and calories. This will allow me to make better choices when I am eating out or shopping. Make it ACHIEVABLE Now let’s put it all together. The statements above must be achievable. If you put to many guidelines into the WHAT and HOW, you will never achieve the goal. The goal must be something that you can accomplish rather simply. As you continue to make progress you can increase the level of your challenge so you can make that the next achievable goal. Lastly, make the

achievable goal something that you can believe in. Don’t fool yourself! What’s your TIMEFRAME? When you are looking at weight loss, weight management or any lifestyle change you plan to create , you want to put a timeline on the goal. Timeliness should be realistic and achievable. If you are planning to save for the big wedding or lose weight in 6 months, there is a limit to what you can do in that timeframe. So be fair and set reasonable, achievable benchmarks to your timeline. If you find yourself not able to achieve that timeframe, it’s important to re-evaluate and reexamine what went wrong. If you are successful give yourself a big pat on the back and reset another goal. The key to change whether its saving money or changing lifestyles must include DISCIPLINE. Discipline determines the success or failure of any project you may have to work on. I encourage all my Onyx readers to do the WHAT strategy, but more importantly the repetitive behaviors will increase your chances of success. Review the chart and let’s begin your course of action. Send me an email about your progress at Enjoy Readers! ONYX MAGAZINE 27




t is hard to imagine let alone accept as historical fact that at one time in our country black literacy was considered threatening to a way of life and illegal in some states. The very idea that someone could be brutally beaten for daring to learn to read and write is more than most of us can wrap our minds around given the technology that is so readily available to most of us in the form of our cell phones, our computers, and our tablets. Indeed, many of us take reading and writing for granted as if it were as common and accessible as the very air that we breathe, which is preferable when we consider that some people rarely read or write once they graduate from high school. During this New Year and in celebration of Black History Month, I challenge each of you to give up some of your time to read for fun, to read for family, and to read for friends. There are so many great books out there and reading for fun can be so relaxing and very enlightening! After a long and challenging day at work, it can be difficult to let 28 ONYX MAGAZINE

go and settle down for the evening. Research supports that reading in bed can help you wind down and relieve the stressors of your busy day. So, go ahead and curl up with a good book for a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, reading for fun can be very stimulating and rewarding. Selecting titles from conventional sources such as a public library or a book store is a great way to spend your down time. If this method is too conventional, then of course, you can access books to read online by using apps or on a Kindle or Nook! Regardless of the source, there is nothing more exciting than choosing books based on your own individual interests and tastes. For those of you who have families with children or teens, reading can be an excellent family activity. I encourage you to turn off the television, discontinue the texting, and temper the tweets and make reading the new family pastime. Try various ways to enjoy reading together such as read-a-louds or reader’s theater. In a read

aloud, someone is reading out loud and pauses for questions and discussion. Reader’s theater involves reading a short story or novel in which each family member selects a character and everyone acts out a scene or event. The possibilities are endless! Reading for personal pleasure and personal growth is extremely rewarding, but sharing your thoughts, your feelings, and your emotions about a novel you’ve read with others is an amazing way to connect. Book clubs are great opportunities to network and share perspectives. I encourage you to join a book club or create one of your own with your friends. Pick a time and location that is convenient for the group and then decide on a novel that all of you would like to read. Historically, black literacy has been sought after, fought over, and at aught since. In honor of those who dared to read at the risk of pain and anguish I ask that you reflect how important reading continues to be in the African American community.

By Zelda Jones




he Advisory Committee for ONYX Magazine is pleased to welcome Lady Dr. Dhyana Ziegler, DCJ, Professor of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University, and current Garth C. Reeves Eminent Scholar Chair in Journalism. Dr. Ziegler has previously served in other roles at FAMU including Assistant Vice President for Instructional Technology/Academic Affairs, Interim Director of the Office of International Education and Development, the Acting Vice President for Research and Director, University Planning and Analysis. Prior to being appointed to FAMU in 1997 as the Garth C. Reeves Eminent Scholar Chair of Excellence in Journalism, Dr. Reeves was awarded tenure in 1997 as Full Professor of Broadcasting at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK), becoming the first and only African-American to be elected as President of the University of Ten-

University of Cambridge, England


nessee-Knoxville Faculty Senate. Dr. Ziegler was a charter inductee into the University’s African-American Hall of Fame, where she still holds that honor, and received recognition in February 2011 at UTK as part of the 50 Year Celebration of African American Achievement. Dr. Ziegler’s achievements are many and varied, but include making history in 2012 as the first African American woman elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the Southern Scholarship Foundation. Dr. Ziegler is a seven-time Governor’s Appointee (2000-2019) to the Florida Virtual School (FLVS); was knighted in April 2008 as a Dame of Justice by the Chivalric Order of the Knights of Justice, at the University of Cambridge in England; and, named a Genius Laureate in Communications and Technology in 2005 (highlighted in the book 500 Greatest Geniuses of the 21st Century published in 2009). More about the Lady Dr. Ziegler can be found at


Tim Lewis



hillip Laws, an accomplished corporate professional with over 30 years of experience working within the top 10% of Fortune 500 companies, will take the helm this year as the Regional Director of Operations, Mid-Atlantic Region for the Starbucks Coffee Company. The region includes D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Mr. Laws joined Starbucks Coffee Company in 2014 as a Business Development Manager within the Branded Solutions Division where he was responsible for achieving sales and profit objectives for multi-channel business segments including business & industry, college & university, healthcare, lodging, military and travel. His immediate impact and positive contributions lead to exceeding expectations for the Florida Region. After a successful stent within the Branded Solutions Division, Mr. Laws accepted a role in January 2016 within the License Division where he was responsible for managing the highest profile licensee relationships within the company to include Disney, airports and lodging. His strong core competencies in effective leadership, along with his business acumen, emotional intelligence, communication, organizational

and interpersonal skills, helped to establish a rock-solid foundation and afforded him to successfully negotiate with key decision makers and industry leaders. Mr. Laws cautions the young savvy business individual, who aspires to be successful and make a positive difference, saying, “This is a different day and age and it is critical to have a strong spiritual foundation that will help you understand your true purpose. Once determined, don’t let anyone or any situations prevent you from your destiny. Utilize your platform whatever that may be, to make a difference not only for yourself but for others as well.” Additionally, Mr. Laws invites “millennials to challenge the status quo. Have a purpose, be engaged, be intentional, be creative and enjoy the journey.” Prior to joining Starbucks Coffee Company, Mr. Laws held several leadership positions with industry leaders such as Mobil Oil Corporation, PepsiCo, and Checkers Inc. He also worked for two

Japanese pharmaceutical companies and owned a marketing firm. Mr. Laws holds a Master’s Degree in Business Management, a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, Executive Leadership certificates from Harvard University, and a Real Estate License. Mr. Laws is on the Board of Directors with the Orlando Serve Foundation and the Executive Council for the United Negro College Fund. He is also a Life Member with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Mr. Laws and his wife, Emma, currently reside in Florida. The couple has twins (girl & boy) who are attending college, and another daughter and her family living in the Midwest. According to the Seattle-based coffee chain, which opened its first store in 1971, Starbucks locations worldwide number more than 25,000 to date. The United States has over 12,500 locations and, between 2010 and 2015, Starbucks revenue almost doubled from $10.7 billion to $19.16 billion. By 2021, the company expects to amass 37,000 stores globally. ONYX MAGAZINE 31


Governor Rick Scott Recognizes Edward Waters College President, Dr. Nathaniel Glover with “Great Floridian Award” Governor Rick Scott recognized EWC President, Dr. Nathaniel Glover with the “Great Floridian Award” on May 10, 2016 for his dedication to higher education and the community of Jacksonville. He previously served in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for thirty-seven years and was elected as the first African American sheriff in Jacksonville in over 100 years. Before retiring, Dr. Glover diverted his pension benefits to create a $250,000 scholarship fund for deserving low-income students in the Jacksonville community. Governor Scott said, “Nat Glover is very deserving of the Great Floridian award and I am proud to recognize his many years of service today. President Glover is committed to making sure Florida students have the opportunity 32 ONYX MAGAZINE

to achieve their dreams. We are also thankful for his 37 years in law enforcement and keeping the families in Jacksonville safe.” Dr. Glover said, “I am honored to receive the Great Floridian award from Governor Rick Scott today. I have dedicated many years of my life and career to providing opportunities for Florida’s students to succeed and attend college. I hope my life inspires others to invest in their communities and support our state’s young people.” As noted, Dr. Glover became President of Edward waters College after serving as Jacksonville Sherriff for eight years. It is clear Dr. Glover’s heart is for the progress of young people. The Great Floridian award is given to men and women who have made significant contributions to the progress and welfare of Florida.





My mother always told me, “never grow tired of doing good.” It has served as my motto all my life. My mother, a maid, my father, a janitor, worked hard every day and instilled an unwavering work ethic in my siblings and me. At a very young age, they taught me I could achieve the American Dream. I am the youngest of seven children, but the first in my family to graduate college. I graduated with a B.S. in Criminology from Florida State University and an M.A. in Public Administration from Webster University. I started my career as a social worker and despite seeing few women in law enforcement, I was determined to add to the ranks. In 1984, I was hired at the Orlando Police Department and began the most rewarding twenty-seven-year career I could have ever imagined. As an officer, I served in numerous capacities, including as a member of the Crisis Negotiation Team, Commander of Special Operations, and Commander of the Airport Division during 9/11. I also spent three months away from my family attending the 226th session of the FBI academy and the FBI National Executive Institute. All of that would prepare me for my next divine assignment. In 2007, I was appointed by Mayor Buddy Dyer to serve as Orlando’s first female chief of police. My first day on the job as Chief, I declared an all-out war on violent crime in the city, but also understood to reduce crime, we had to address the social-ills that cause decay in communities in


the first place. Under my leadership, I am proud to say the city saw the most dramatic decrease in violent crime, a forty percent drop. I never ran for Congress to have another title. I ran for Congress to serve my community and my nation. I will fight for economic fairness for all Americans, regardless of their zip-code or race, I will fight for equal educational opportunities, and work to ensure our borders, and neighborhoods are safe. I have achieved the American Dream, and I want to make sure my grandchildren and yours have the same opportunity. I will hold America to its promise. Val is an active member of St. Mark A.M.E., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc , Orlando Chapter of the Links, Inc., NAACP Silver Life Member, Florida Bar Citizens Advisory Committee, Federal Judicial Nominating Commission for the Middle District of Florida, Heart of Florida United Way Board, Florida Police Chiefs, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, National Congress of Black Women, and numerous other affiliations. Val enjoys spending her very limited free time riding her Harley- Davidson Road King Classic motorcycle. Val has completed the O.U.C. half marathon as well as the Walt Disney marathon. Val is married to Jerry L. Demings, Orange County Sheriff. Val and Jerry have three sons and five grandchildren.



Alcee L. Hastings represents his native state of Florida by serving as Congressman for District 20, which includes parts of Broward, Palm Beach, and Hendry Counties. Congressman Hastings was first elected in 1992 and is currently serving his 13th term in the Congress. Born in Altamonte Springs, he attended Florida’s public schools, and graduated from Fisk University in 1958. He earned his law degree from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. Known to many as “Judge,” Alcee Hastings has distinguished himself as an attorney, civil rights activist, judge, and now Member of Congress. Appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, he became the first African-American Federal Judge in the State of Florida, and served in that position for ten years. Since his election to Congress as the first African-American from Florida since the post-Civil War period, Congressman Hastings has been an outspoken advocate for Floridians and our nation. Throughout his lifetime, Congressman Hastings has championed the rights of minorities, women, the elderly, children, and immigrants. Among Congress’ most respected voices in international affairs, Congressman Hastings is Ranking Democratic Member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Commonly referred to as the Helsinki Commis-

sion, this independent U.S. government agency was created in 1976 to monitor and encourage compliance with the landmark human rights and democracy-building treaty signed in Finland the previous year. Members of the Commission are appointed by the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader of the Senate, and the President. In 2007, Congressman Hastings became the first African-American to chair the Commission and continues his work in the areas of human rights, economic development, regional security, and parliamentary diplomacy. With over ten years of experience in the intelligence community, Mr. Hastings remains committed to ensuring our national security and protecting the American people. Previously, he also worked to improve our electoral system in his capacity as Vice Chairman of the Democratic Select Committee on Election Reform. Congressman Hastings is the proud recipient of numerous honors and awards bestowed on him from organizations both at home and abroad. His governing philosophy is simple: he firmly believes that progress and change can be achieved through mutual respect and appreciation, and that individuals and communities can see beyond the limits of parochialism, enabling them to better understand each other.




Congressman Alfred “Al” Lawson, Jr. is a committed public servant who brings a hard-working, problem-solving spirit to Congress and to the task of creating jobs, improving access to high-quality education from preschool through the post-secondary level, and protecting working families. Elected in November 2016, and sworn-in Jan. 3, 2017, Congressman Lawson represents Florida’s 5th Congressional District. Congressman Lawson has devoted more than half of his life to public service having served the people of Florida for twenty-eight years in the state legislature as a member of the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate. He has worked on many committees in both the House and the Senate authoring several laws including one of the most important environmental laws in the country, Preservation 2000, which created the largest state funded land acquisition program in the United States. He also authored and passed the Apalachicola Bay Protection Act and was the prime sponsor of the Everglades Protection Act. Congressman Lawson also received national recognition for his efforts to pass the Rosewood Legislation, which provided reparations to the survivors of Florida’s Rosewood massacre in the 1930s.


Congressman Lawson was named the “Dean of the Florida Legislature,” in recognition of his many years of service, and was elected Democratic Leader by his peers in 2012. The Florida Legislature named a portion of U.S. Highway 90 from the City of Midway to the City of Quincy as the “Alfred Lawson Jr. Highway” in his honor. The Congressman earned his Bachelor’s degree from FAMU, his Master’s degree from FSU, and completed course work for his Ph.D. He has received numerous awards for his achievements; most notably, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, FAMU Meritorious Award, FSU Distinguished Alumni Award, and Legislator of the Year Award from the Nature Conservancy. Congressman Lawson is active in the community and is a member of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, served on the Board of Directors of the Tallahassee Urban League, and is the former President of the FAMU Booster Club. Congressman Lawson married his college sweetheart Delores Brooks, and they have two adult children, Alfred III and Shani. He is also the proud grandfather of Kobe, Samuel, and Cameron Lawson. For a complete biography on Congressman Lawson, visit



Works Well With Others

Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24) ended 2016 on a high. During the final days of session, the Florida lawmaker passed two key pieces of bipartisan legislation that also were approved by the Senate and sent to the White House to be signed into law by President Obama. The first measure, co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), will help combat the world’s deadliest terrorist group, Boko Haram and address the ensuing humanitarian and education crises. The group, known for kidnapping 276 Nigerian schoolgirls in April 2014, has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions of others, sexually abused women and girls, and sent some of them on suicide bomb missions. “If the world does not act and come to Nigeria’s aid, the trickledown effect on the rest of the continent and other parts of the world could cause a level of damage that will take years to repair. More important, it is simply the right thing to do and will help save millions of lives,” she said. Florida’s Nigerian American community conferred upon the congresswoman the chieftaincy title of ‘Jagunmolu’ which means ‘The People’s Warrior’ during a celebration of Nigeria’s 56th Independence Day for her efforts. The second bill is the Apollo 11 Fiftieth Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act. The coin honors the Apollo 11 crew and others who made the historic mission possible including the three remarkable black female mathematicians portrayed in the film Hidden Figures. Proceeds from the sale of the coin will help fund STEM scholarships that will enormously benefit deserving minority students. Wilson conducted extensive outreach initiatives in her district including a town hall meeting with medical professionals, community leaders, business owners, and elected officials to address the Zika threat. Additionally, she fought in Congress to secure $1.1 billion to combat the virus. “Zika’s epicenter was in Wynwood which became an open laboratory in the quest

to stop its spread. We know so much more than we did when the first Zika transmission cases were confirmed but there is much more to learn. Now we have the funding for research, testing and prevention efforts,” she said. Wilson made her second appearance in November, on the hit show, The Real Housewives of Atlanta with Phaedra Parks and Porsha Williams who joined Wilson at the Democratic National Convention for a candid discussion on the impact of gun violence on African-American communities and participated in the House’s infamous sit-in calling for sensible gun control measures. In October nearly 1,000 boys from Wilson’s prized program, 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, joined police officers from several municipalities at the organization’s annual Police and Youth Day. The program also unveiled a billboard near Miami Dade College’s North Campus depicting an officer and a little boy standing in solidarity against gun violence. Wilson has introduced federal legislation to create a Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys that would examine the disproportionate hardships they face and offer solutions to end disparities. Her most pressing concern remains the creation of jobs. For more than 2000 days the Republican led Congress has not passed legislation to increase infrastructure spending which creates jobs. Congresswoman Wilson has introduced two bills that if passed would create jobs in her district and across the nation. She hopes this issue is one that both Democrats and Republicans can work together on because it is a top priority for the constituents they serve. Wilson accepted an honorary doctoral degree from Bethune-Cookman University for her contributions to society and commitment to service at their December commencement. ONYX MAGAZINE 37




In a surprise announcement in Tampa, during the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) and Florida School Board Association (FSBA) joint conference, Dr. Barbara Jenkins was named Florida’s 2017 Superintendent of the Year. Dr. Jenkins has been dedicated to serving the needs of students for more than 25 years. She was named superintendent for Orange County Public Schools in 2012. Superintendent Jenkins said, “I am honored to represent the fine superintendents of Florida. I am also extremely grateful for a phenomenal school board, talented leadership team, outstanding principals and teachers, and OCPS team members who lead our students to success every day.” Under Dr. Jenkins’ leadership, the district won the prestigious 2014 Broad Prize for Urban Education. The prize earned half-a-million dollars for student scholarships from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. The district also received the Governor’s Sterling Award in 2014 and again in 2015. The award is highly regarded for its recognition of organizations that exemplify performance excellence in Florida. Also, for three of the last five years, OCPS was named to the AP District Honor Roll by the College Board, for increasing access to Advanced Placement course work, while simultaneously maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning exam scores for college credit.


In 2015 - 2016, Dr. Jenkins served as president of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. The Orlando Business Journal honored her as a CEO of the Year in 2015. Recognized for her commitment and influence, both the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Magazine have recognized her as one of the ten most powerful people in Central Florida; Orlando Magazine ranked her number five overall in 2015, and number two in the Education category in 2016. She was also honored by ONYX Magazine as the first African-American female to serves as Superintendent in the history of Orange County. Deeply engaged in the community, Dr. Jenkins serves on the boards of United Arts of Central Florida, Winter Park Health Foundation, Greater Orlando Economic Development Commission, Florida Hospital, Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness, Orange County Youth Mental Health Commission, and is a member of the Aspen Urban Superintendent’s Network. The process for electing Florida’s Superintendent of the Year was established by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), a national organization of school superintendents and other educational leaders. In March 2017, Jenkins will represent all Florida superintendents at the AASA’s National Education Conference in New Orleans, LA where she will be recognized and honored for her public education service in Florida. Shari Bobinski


Photos by Latoya Pritchard


By Charlie Williams

Orlando, Florida- Nearly 50 players participated in the Florida Tennis Tour’s 3rd Annual African American Tennis Open this year. Players came from not only all over Florida, but also around the world representing Germany, Brazil, Aruba, Chile, Colombia, and the USA. The event’s purpose was to showcase minority talents and expose young inner city kids to seeing tennis for the very first time. Though the tournament showcased a variety of young black tennis talents, it was open to anyone of any race, age, gender, or skill level though most of the players did have a professional ranking. The event was sponsored by the City of Orlando and Commissioner Regina I. Hill, and held at the city’s iconic Orlando Tennis Center. “There are so many worthy athletes deserving of the spotlight, and we hope this event will give them some much deserved attention”, said Commissioner Regina Hill. The event also hosted a free tennis camp and competition for the inner-city rec kids. Man of the Year Tom Sweitzer ran the free camp and numerous prizes were donated to the kids including Wilson Tennis rackets, rackets, Kurt Collis Tennis Academy Lessons, Wonder Works tickets, and a family dinner at Osprey Tavern. Defending champion Stephen Watson Jr. of Pine Hills defeated Deland’s Kurt Collis 6-0, 6-1 in his semi-finals. This fine young black athlete then faced the #1 player from Aruba Patrick Sydow. Young black up and comer female Prophetess Gray defeated Brittany Tagliareni to get to her

finals against the 12-year-old black sensation Nyzah Head. The men’s finals were thrilling with numerous lead changes as both players were evenly matched. Watson took the 1st set 7-5, Sydow took the 2nd set 7-6 (7-4 tie-breaker), which forced a super-tiebreaker to decide the 3rd set. It was Sydow’s day as he won 10-5 in the super tie-breaker. Sydow, who trains at the Jaime Oncins Academy in Montverde, won $500 for his efforts and will have his name forever engraved on the championship trophy which is held on display at the Orlando Tennis Center all year around. The lady’s finals also saw the match go to the 3rd set super tie-breaker with 12-year-old Nyzah Head defeating the 14-year-old Gray to become the youngest woman to win the prestigious title. The Doubles finals was won by Jericho Grollman and Kaptan Kasper who narrowly defeated the talented black tandem team of Stephen Watson and Tayjhon McGee 9-8 (11-9 tie breaker). “It’s a bit disappointing to lose both finals after being so close to winning. But it’s a great event and learning experience. Now it’s time to train for the next one”, said Watson. “Events like the African American Tennis Open are very important to discovering and showcasing young black tennis talents. Now people will recognize more the skills of Nyzah Head as well as Stephen Watson. They both deserve sponsorships and opportunities, which every talent needs to make it to the next levels”, explained Charlie Williams, CEO of the Florida Tennis Tour and Founder of the African American Tennis Open. ONYX MAGAZINE 41




Jacksonville, FL - The United Negro College Fund-Florida in collaboration with its UNCF Jacksonville Chapter hosted the 11th Annual Leadership Luncheon on December 7, 2016, at the beautiful Omni Hotel located in Jacksonville, Florida. The event which was spear headed by UNCF Jacksonville Chair, Theresa Warren and committee members Naklya, Era Davis and Linn Real Estate; Tracey Porter, Kraton Corporation; Wallette Stanford, JEA and Wanda Willis, Edward Waters College. The event boasted some 400 attendees including elected officials and corporate citizens from the Jacksonville Community. Also in attendance were representatives of AT&T, Wells Fargo, Fifth Third Bank, Publix Super Markets Charities, CBS @ 47 / Fox 3 - Action News and Florida’s leading African-American publication, ONYX Magazine. The Luncheon was hosted by Tenikka Hughes, Anchor- WFOX TV-30, Jacksonville, Florida and entertainment was provided by the Edward Waters College Concert Choir. Keynote speaker for the event was syndicated radio personality Tom Joyner who encouraged everyone to promote Historically Black Colleges and Universities and to invest in America’s future. Anita Henri, Regional Director stated, “I agree with the words of the co-founder of the United Negro College Fund, Dr. Mary McCleod Bethune when she said, “the world around us belongs to youth, for youth will take over its’ future management. Our children must never lose their zeal for building a better world.’ ‘We have always been and will always be committed to creating educational scholarship opportunities for students in their pursuit to earn a college degree.” UNCF supports 65,000 students nationwide. Most of its recipients are from families below the poverty line and many are the first in their family to obtain a college degree. UNCF envisions a nation where all Americans have equal access to a college education that prepares them for competitive and fulfilling careers, engaged citizenship and service to our nation.


Tennikka Hughes, Anchor, WFOX TV-30

Tom Joyner and Maurice Jenkins

Anita L. Henri, Regional Development Director, UNCF

Maurice E. Jenkins, Executive Vice President, National development, UNCF

Dr. Nathial Glover, President, Edward Waters College

Tom Joyner and Jacksonville 5000 Role Models

New Year Financial Health Checklist If you are like most Americans, one of your New Year’s resolutions may reducing debt, saving for education or planning for retirement, you can use the overview and checklist below to help you organize your annual financial fitness exam.


have been to get in better financial shape. Whether your goals include

❏ Know what you want. Have a clear, concise financial goal for the year, rather than a general intention. For example, don’t just expect that you can pay down your credit card and end up with more money in the bank. Instead, set a specific goal and create a timeframe to achieve it, such as having the balance on your credit cards paid down to $0 by midyear and accumulating more than $10,000 in an emergency fund by year end.

❏ Know how much debt is too much. Your total monthly long-term debt payments, including your mortgage, credit card payments and loan payments, should not exceed approximately 35% of your gross monthly income. Prioritize your debts by making a list and organizing them by their annual interest rate. The highest rate (most likely credit card debt) should be paid off first, while you make minimum payments on your other bills. Allocate a fixed amount each month to the task and have it withdrawn automatically from your checking account if possible.

❏ Calculate how much you should save. Your savings need to tie directly to your lifestyle, longand short-term goals, and the reality of how early you have started to save and/or accumulate debt. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to contribute enough money to get the full match in your workplace retirement plan, such as your 401(k). Then try to save at least 10% of your take-home pay for emergency funds and other goals, such as buying a new home or college education for your children. If you are over 40 and are just starting to save, you may consider bumping up your savings to 25% or more of your take-home pay.

❏ Know how much you will need when you retire. Most people will need approximately 80% to 100% of their current annual income while in retirement. Although you will no longer need to save money while in retirement, you will have higher health care expenses and may even increase your expenses for things such as travel. As a ballpark estimate, your total nest egg should be roughly 20 times the annual expenses you will have that won’t be covered by pension or Social Security payments. That should enable you to withdraw approximately 5% of your savings each year without tapping into much of your principal. For example, if you think you will need the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $50,000 per year, you will need the equivalent of an inflation-adjusted $1 million nest egg.

❏ Spend wisely, especially when making large purchases.

your retirement goals. With large purchases, such as a home or a car, follow some simple guidelines. If you are buying a home, generally it shouldn’t cost more than two and a half times your gross income. You should also keep an eye on the rest of your budget when considering your monthly payment, terms of loan and total cost of owning a car. It is generally not prudent to spend more than 8% of your monthly gross income on car payments. (The average consumer pays 11% monthly.)

❏ Get proper insurance. According to the American Association of Health Plans, there are more than 40 million uninsured and millions more underinsured Americans. Life insurance is one of the most important and often overlooked policies. Life insurance can be quite complicated, but if you are married with children, depending on your family’s expenses and how much your surviving spouse can earn, you need a policy that covers six to 10 times the family income and possibly more. To calculate exactly what you should get, you must factor in the length and size of your mortgage and other debts, how old your kids are, whether you intend to put them through college and other details specific to your situation.

❏ Seek professional help. There is no better time than now to consult a qualified financial advisor for personalized assistance in getting financially fit for the New Year.

Set a budget that is realistic in the short term, fits into your long-term plan and doesn’t take you off track from This information is provided for informational purposes only. The information is intended to be generic in nature and should not be applied or relied upon in any situation without the advice of your tax, legal and/or your financial advisor. The views expressed may not be suitable for every situation. Eric A. Pettus, Founder/President, Pettus & Dawkins Financial Group 305.778.3636 * *


THE HIGH PRICE OF IMPRISONMENT A growing list of costs are being passed on to inmates and their families By Eric Easter, Urban News Service


by the private companies contracted to provide prison phone services. Forte and Wright are only the most well known among thousands of families struggling to stay in contact with incarcerated relatives. Their fight lies at the heart of more than a decade of work by lawyers and activists, in courts and before the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to find relief. Yet fifteen years later, with only some successes to claim, the fight continues, stalled repeatedly by bureaucracy and the power of corporate lobbyists. But even as that phone battle looks for resolution, the companies providing

those phones are finding new and creative ways to make an array of new services “essential” to prison management. And nearly all come at a cost to inmates and their families.

PROGRESS, PUSHBACK AND KICKBACKS The evidence is clear, inmates who stay in regular contact with family and friends fare much better in prison, adjust to life better upon release and have a dramatically better chance of staying out of prison. Phone calls are intended to solve a critical problem when visitation becomes both a financial and logistical burden.


s incarceration rates continue to grow around the United States, the enormous costs of some prison services are increasingly being paid by those who can least afford it – the families of inmates. When the DC Department of Corrections closed its notorious prison facility in Lorton, Virginia in 2001, Ulandis Forte, in prison for murder, was relocated to facilities far away from home, and family. His grandmother, Martha Wright, nearly blind and unable to travel, made frequent calls to prisons out of state, first in New Mexico, then Arizona, then Kentucky, only to find herself deeply in hardship and debt due to exorbitant fees charged

According to the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the families of inmates are among America’s poorest, with nearly twothirds falling under or near the poverty line and unable to meet basic food and housing needs. More than fifty-three percent of American inmates are housed from 100500 miles from where their families reside with over 16,000 inmates, about two percent, as far away as 1000 miles (source: Prison Policy Initiative). Steven Matthews, the former chief information officer for the Illinois Department of Corrections explained the dilemma, “In Illinois, you have most prisoners being held downstate. For a family from Chicago, a visit in-person can mean the cost of a rental car, gas, food, maybe loss of work. Then when you get there, a lockdown or any number of things can happen. So add to that the cost of lodging, food and another day lost. By the end of that, it can be upwards of $600 or more for a visit. And that’s in the same state. Compared to that, a phone call is sometimes the only option.” Yet, that “cheaper” alternative has become its own costly barrier. For some families, they can mean hundreds, or thousands of dollars in fees in addition to more than $13,000 on average in already existing debt from court costs and other expenses related to incarceration. The phone services are not provided by traditional telecom companies such AT&T, Sprint or other providers. At the center of the issue are handful of private contractors,

led by industry leaders Securus and Global TelLink (GTL), who provide both equipment and call centers through which the calls are routed and monitored for security reasons. In court cases, representatives of the industry say those security challenges are among the reasons calls come at such a high cost. After many long years of effort, in 2015, part of the battle against high rates appeared to be won, when the FCC announced new rate caps that lowered rates to a range of $0.12 to $0.31 per minute, a sliding scale based on the size of a facility. Prior to that ruling, a family could be charged an average $1.21 per minute in some facilities and as high as $40 per minute in some extreme cases. Inmates themselves make on average of $4.73 per day. At the rate before the proposed caps, a full day’s wages were equivalent to about three to four minutes of a phone call. But any sense of long term relief was short-lived. Attorneys representing the major providers of phone services, went on the attack, arguing in courts that the FCC lacked jurisdiction over calls made intrastate. The argument was sufficient enough for a federal judge to stay the action and effectively put most new reforms on hold. While a new ruling is pending, some fees have been held to an “interim cap”, which may or may not remain. Still, prices can vary wildly depending on where an inmate is housed, from as low as $0.45 for a fifyeen-minute call in West Virginia to $5.65 for the same call just one state over the border in Maryland. What was an obvious victory for the private phone companies was also cheered by an unexpected ally of the high price phone call game, the prisons themselves. Through a complicated system of “commissions”, a practice the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice openly describes as “kickbacks”, Securus, GTL and their smaller competitors win contracts, in part, based on the level of commissions they pay to prison administrations and sheriff’s offices on a per call basis. In some proposals, those commissions can run as high as sixty percent or more.

Often, the difference between the charge for a phone call, absent of commissions, and the charge including commissions can be dramatic. Lee Petro, the Washington DC attorney who represented Martha Wright and other inmate family’s pro bono has has been working on the issue for more than twelve years, cites a North Dakota proposal as a prime example. “Securus, in response to an RFP, proposed charging as little as $0.04 per minute without a commission, so they could presumable make a profit at that low a rate. But the rate they proposed, after commissions, was more than three times that rate at $0.13 a minute.” For their part, prisons claim the commissions are deposited in “inmate services” funds that, in turn are used to fund such programs as distance learning and rehabilitation programs. But according to Aleks Kajstura, legal director of the Prison Policy Initiative, which studied FOIA requests of expenditures, found that “the great bulk of money raised by phone commissions have gone to salaries and administration, not to inmate programming.” “The prison industry also claims that their bottom lines would be hurt irreparably at greatly reduced rates. Yet in states such as New York, where lower mandatory caps have been implemented, all evidence shows that lowering rates results in a higher volume of calls, and higher revenue than before the rate cuts. Basically, the lower the cost, the more people make phone calls,” said Kajstura. Meanwhile, the families and inmates at the heart of the issue, wait in limbo as the FCC and advocates figure out their next best move against a powerful foe. Yet, one day after the election of Donald J. Trump, prison industry stocks went up significantly in the speculation that the new Administration would wipe away important gains made on the issue by the FCC. According to Petro, “What’s most alarming about all these costs is not just that they are high, but they represent what is essentially a growing transfer of the cost of prisons from the government to the families of inmates. People need to know this.” ONYX MAGAZINE 49


COMMUNITY Certain occupations bequeath a lot of power. Consider it - physicians, surgeons, judges, police officers. What concepts do they have in common? The ability to save a life, end a life and re-route the path of someone’s destiny. I’ve spoken to judges off the record and heard stories of choosing between sentencing a man to prison for ten years because of repeat offenses but instead after considering all things in this man’s life such as, starting a business that employs past offenders, being a family man with children, a decision was rendered to order probation for half a decade. The judge acknowledged that sentencing him to prison for ten years would have ruined the lives of several families - the offender’s marriage and children, his employees who are the past felons/offenders along with the families they are feeding and nurturing. This is just one example but I’ve heard many. These are the stories that wield the power to change the course of another person’s life. Consider your own personal situa-


tion. Have you ever had to go before a judge? Have you ever been stopped by the police and prayed that they would be kind? Just? Fair? Or simply prayed that they were not having a bad day? I’ve seen many stories on the news about interactions with the police that ended badly for the accused. Each time I considered that if we are being responsible citizens and are respectful to the police, that we can avoid an adverse event. It wasn’t until I was involved personally in a stop that I realized several things: you could be on your best behavior ever and get stopped, we have no inherent rights as citizens, police officers have tremendous power and there’s nothing we can do about that, racism is not the only motivating factor here. It’s more like a blue thing. To date, police officers use force because that is how they are trained, not in de-escalation tactics. If you combine the interminable power, along with a police officer with the failure to manage emotions who is having a bad day, someone might die.

By Dr. Delvena Thomas

Whites make-up sixty-two percent of the nation’s population and blacks’ make-up only thirteen percent of the population. Unarmed whites, Hispanics and blacks have all been killed by the police. Twice as many whites were fatally shot by police officers than blacks. The numbers reported are not an accurate representation due to underreporting. In Albuquerque, most police shootings 2009 to 2012 were unjustified, as determined by the Justice Department. There seems to be a gross abuse of police power during traffic stops resulting in shooting of unarmed drivers. For example, Deven Guilford, a white, 17-year-old male. Guilford flashed his headlights on a snowy Michigan night in February 2015 to signal to an oncoming driver to turn off his high beams. The driver turned out to be an officer who did a U-turn and pulled Guilford over. Why did the officer pull Guilford over? Was the officer abusing his power? Is there a law against flashing your lights to signal that your bright headlights are on? The FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention log fatal shootings by police, but officials acknowledge that their data is incomplete. Starting in January 2015, The Washington Post has documented police shootings. The data supports a disproportionate number of black victims being killed by police during traffic stops. Walker Scott is a recent case. He was shot in the back after fleeing a traffic stop and reportedly the officer planted a gun. The trial of the officer resulted in a hung jury because one juror in a letter to the court stated: “I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict”. Use of force by police officers is another area of concern for blacks. Although the Justice Department has made attempts to gather and review data from several police departments across the nation, the lack of participation seems to impede this process. Blacks are more likely than other groups to be the victims of use of force. The use of force during interactions with blacks is three times more likely than interactions with whites. This significant difference remains even after considering racial disparities amongst crimes, as described above in this article. Some assert that blacks commit a higher number of crimes so are more likely to be engaged with use of force. I can personally say that the crime is not an impetus for this and do believe national statistics would suggest the same – that crime itself is not the factor in use of force but instead, it’s being black. In addition, during most situations a police officer’s failure to manage emotions and their own behaviors is the driving force. During my police stop, the situation I alluded to above, five police cars presented to the scene. All the officers were black. It was a blue thing. What will it take to change the culture in our communities? I believe the police departments must start

THE USE OF FORCE DURING INTERACTIONS WITH BLACKS IS THREE TIMES MORE LIKELY THAN INTERACTIONS WITH WHITES. with more thorough screening of potential candidates. They should select candidates who are free of serious mental defects, including maladaptive personality traits. Once selected and sworn in as officers, when situations present that suggest that there is a problem with interactions with colleagues and/or supervisors, problems with anger management or simply managing emotions, chain-of-command must refer officers to EAP. If problems persist, a requirement should be implemented so that officers must be seen by a mental health provider, of their choosing, on an on-going basis until that provider deems it no longer clinically necessary. In addition, improving community relations would be beneficial. By being seen and more involved in the communities when a crime is not in progress, citizens become familiar with the officers and are desensitized, in a way. It feels more like they belong and less like they are outsiders. Tactics used to de-escalate a situation may have to be re-visited for some police departments. Officers should be trained to de-escalate with the least restrictive amount of force to control a situation. In other words, if a citizen is down, hands up in the sky, the answer is not to shoot them, regardless of preceding events. Dr. Delvena Thomas is a board certified adult psychiatrist practicing in Miami, Florida. For more information, please visit her website: ONYX MAGAZINE 51


MILLENNIAL WINE SNOBS? By Steven King bottle after work, millennials drink anytime. Enjoying one glass of red wine on Saturday night is a fading concept. Chances are those glasses are filled several times. Millennials drink 3.1 glasses of wine per sitting compared to the 2.4 glasses consumed by generation x. The competition to reach the younger drinker means that wine marketing is evolving. Gone are the labels touting vintage year and critic ratings. Bottles now are tuned up with cool graphics and trendy lingo to sway a visually driven audience. Millennials are known to text and drink. 50% talk about wine on Facebook and 30% use other social media to chat about wine. The millennial palate will continue to evolve as they age. Right now, sweeter wines and blends are the trend for them but I am sure that to will change. Are millennials wine snobs? They are well on the way! If you have questions about food and wine email me directly.

What is a millennial? Although opinions vary, for the most part it is someone reaching adulthood around the year 2000. While the culture of millennial alcohol consumption still leans toward drinking those eclectic craft beers (maybe a result of all those beer bongs during spring break) a significant amount of those social media gurus are also drinking wine. Whereas older drinkers typically pop open a




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