She ROCKS It Magazine Summer Edition

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Inside This Edition She ROCKS It Celebrating Women Who ROCK returns after a 2 year pause due to the pandemic. This year the Gala featured amazing speakers a wonderful host and a talented entertainer.


She ROCKS It Gala 2022 Photo Highlights of the amazing afternoon


Celebrating Women Who ROCK Class of 2022 Honorees


Tawana Trammell -SRI Contributing Writer "The Struggle Within"


Meet Yvette Pegues "Why I Am on A Mission To Change The Dialogue Around Disability Inclusion"


Debra Vines - Her Story "Parents of children with special needs don't have the answers they seek"

IIn this edition, see highlights from the Gala, meet the Class of 2022 and see why we said She ROCKS It.


Host Serita Love The Success Junkie

Sharing HerStory Debra Vines Founder, The Answer Inc.






Sharing her Personal "LIST"




26 GIFTED KEYS Meet the amazing artist known as Gifted Keys

30 MISS SPACE CITY Meet Miss Space City 2022 Dee Dee James Kong




She ROCKS It would like to give a Special Thank You to Coffe Iman of Coffea Magazine for ROCKING the 2022 She ROCKS It Gala Live Interviews!






"Many Women do Noble Things but She Surpass Them All" PROVERBS 31:29 She ROCKS It Celebrating Women Who ROCK



After being postponed for 2 years due to the pandemic, She ROCKS It hosted their Annual Gala, Celebrating Women Who ROCK. The Gala shines the light on women and the amazing accomplishments they have made in numerous areas and fields that have impacted their communities and the lives of others through their work. She ROCKS It is an organization that was purposely designed to host events that honor and empower women everywhere. Our Mission is to provide a platform where women can come together, celebrate each other, Network, Be Inspired, Be Empowered, Be Motivated and Be Encouraged to share who SHE is. She ROCKS It is an organization that supports and acknowledges the success of women by using our platform to spotlight them. We promote lifelong learning by hosting educational events, we promote positive relationship building among women by hosting networking events, we support nonprofit organizations who help women live beyond their past and focus on rebuilding their future by volunteering our time with these organizations, we partner with other organizations and entrepreneurs to build strong relationships and leverage our resources to help each other succeed. The Class of 2022 included women who were nominated and selected based on their success and contributions to their communities in which they live. This year's recipients included Educators, Entrepreneurs, Community Activist, Publishers, and Businesswomen. The Gala also hosted Entrepeneur's in the vendor hall who showcased their brands, products and services. The following pages will share some highlights from this amazing day SHE had.

Celebrating Women Who ROCK

The Gala Experience 2022

Celebrating Women Who ROCK

The Gala Experience 2022

L. Marie Asad (Bottom Left) L. Marie is a community relations specialist for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, L. Marie helps bridge the healthcare gap and “remove barriers to healthy living at the community level,” she said. “We recognize that helping people live healthy lives depends on more than access to health care. It extends to access to affordable housing, reliable transportation, a safe environment, education, stable employment, and healthy food options.

Keeana Barber (Far RIGHT) Keeana Barber, Founder & CEO of WDB Marketing, has been supporting Black Owned businesses for more than 15 years. To date her company has supported over 5,000 small businesses with their marketing and printing needs. Keeana is also the visionary behind the WDB L.E.G.A.C.Y. Awards Gala. The event attracts over 700 of the top businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the city and to date has given over $50,000 in prizes to young entrepreneurs.


Afenya Montgomery (Bottom Left) Afenya Montgomery is the founder of The iCAN Collective. The iCAN Collective is a creative studio, coworking and event space, located in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood providing resources for women in business featuring conferences, workshops and seminars focused on entrepreneurship. The iCAN Collective's mission is to give women entrepreneurs the tools to create, launch and scale viable, profitable businesses.

Nicole C. Bullock (Far Right) Nicole C. Bullock is the Founder and CEO of The Nicole Cares Foundation, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization she established in 2017 during her battle with Non- Hodgkin Lymphoma. The organization’s mission is to raise awareness about blood cancer, assist people affected by the disease, and work to ensure equitable care is available to all cancer patients. . Nicole feels God placed a calling on her life to use her journey to champion for patient’s rights and promote health advocacy. In essence, it was her pathway to finding her PURPOSE!


Shenitha Burton (Bottom Left) Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Shenitha Finesse Anniece, mother of four princesses, CEO and Founder, birthed S.H.E. PUBLISHING LLC, a publishing and retail company based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Seeing the people of our world struggle through their new normal, she knew many would have a story to tell, and this legacy would begin with her-story. SHE Publishing continues to thrive by building its community of authors and has a franchise of sister publishing companies located in Florida, Texas, and Illinois.

Toy Ann McCray Hawthorne (Far Right) Activism, Artistry, Community Service, Leadership, Mentorship, Physical Fitness Instruction, and Training, along with many other attributes, they’re all done with great Zeal. From A to Z, Toy Ann has worked hard to check all of the boxes leading towards her success. Toy Ann currently has 25 years of various management positions within UPS and 25 yrs of mentoring, motivating, and developing UPS Management staff, Toy Ann found herself serving in Operations, training, human resources, and health and safety. She’s the CEO of her own Fitness program called, BGM “Blaq Girl Magic”.


Antonia Marie Turner (Bottom Left) Antonia is the owner of Harmony Beauty Company which she founded to be a place of refuge and tranquility where people of all cultural backgrounds can come together and feel pampered in a serene environment. Harmony Beauty Company is the parent company to Van Cleef Hair Studio, Harmony Hair Restoration Clinic, Harmony Beauty Studios, and The Luxe Wig Shop. A company built true to its definition Harmony Beauty company is a place where all are welcome. Where there’s “beauty together.”

Madilyn Wiley (RIGHT) Madilyn has curated her passion of education through the lens of community strategy, family advocacy, and behavioral health. All with the goal of securing equity for students, staff, and families. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Lewis University. While attending Lewis, she lived abroad in Europe serving in similar ways. Madilyn continued her studies by earning a Master of Arts in Education from Dominican University. As of June, Madilyn will join her District level team. Supporting 8 Elementary and Middle Schools on being Culturally and Linguistically Responsive and positive behavior systems.




J Dawkins

HAPPINESS EVERY TIME It's your choice! No Explanation Needed! No Permission Required! That's My Soul Point of View!

HerS T O R Y



"My lists are created through life experiences, conversations and lessons learned. I share them to serve as inspiration and encouragement to others and myself as we navigate this beautiful thing called life". #INFLUENCE-HER

1. Don't worry about it, sweetheart! 2. You have an assignment, live it out, wherever you are! 3. Have good intentions, even when they don't. You will win. 4. If it feels off, it is.TRUST. 5. The best apology is with changed behavior. 6. Be forgiving, be understanding, but don't be a fool . 7. Don't waste anyone's time. 8. Don't do it if you don't want your son or daughter to be treated that way. Period. 9. Heal. Release. Don't suppress. 10. Stop procrastinating my love. 11. Don't be so hard on yourself. 12. Discover the REAL you . 13. No regrets baby! Do it, say it, try it! Don't wait. Don't. 14. LOVE ON WHO YOU LOVE ! Now.

Photo by Feel This Moment Photography

Entrepreneu Her HerStory

On many occasions I would sit and browse online at other beautiful highend companies and admire the bags listed on their site. However, I would become so frustrated on how expensive they would be in order to have something of luxury style. I felt that no one should have to pay such incredibly high prices. I thought to myself it would be so amazing if I could create my own high-quality handbags that everyone could afford. For a couple years I didn’t think it was possible until it was possible! I created AmiraJ. Come Join the AmiraJ family, where buying luxury feels right.


miraj was created to represent a lifestyle of luxury. We dedicate ourselves on creating sophisticated designs with high quality genuine leather for our unique handbags without the impossible price tag. Our bags are very versatile and can be used for many different occasions. Instagram: shopamiraj

The Struggle Within "I want you to know you are not alone"

By Tawana Trammell Have you ever felt inadequate inspite of the many compliments others continue to give you? They say you are smart, beautiful and talented yet something tugs at your mind and says it's not true. You think to yourself, why would those that care about you lie? It must be true! You must possess all these qualities yet be unable to recognize them within yourself. That's mind boggling because you are able to recognize all the positive characteristics in others. In fact, you often secretly wish you could be like them. Day after day you fight this battle in your mind and now it is impacting your emotions. This feeling of inferiority is now affecting your thoughts and behaviors. Maybe you are acting these feelings out by self-mutilation, sexual promiscuous actions, or other risky behaviors. When others witness your actions, they may just assume that you are seeking attention, conflictual, or nonchalant. They have no idea about the struggle going on within. If only you could win this fight! I want you to know you are not alone. There are people all around you fighting the same battle! They may just mask theirs differently than you. The truth is we all have insecurities and battles, but most are unwilling to discuss them do to fear. Fear that we may be judged, talked about, or misunderstood. Therefore, we continue to suffer in silence and our hope continues to fade. I wish I had a magical solution to this generational challenge that impacts all genders, socioeconomic classes, ethnicities, and religious orientations, but I don’t. The answer lies within you. You know yourself better than anyone and you know the source of your insecurities and emotional challenges. The only way to begin to resolve the internal conflicts are to deal with the root of your issue.

Founder of TLK Empowerment Services, LLC Licensed Clinical Social Worker Author Speaker

You must first identify the origin of the issue. For example, did it start after a breakup, illness, loss or abuse? Then you must identify how you dealt with or refused to deal with this challenge. What I have discovered is most of us never took the time to resolve the issue of origination so we continue on and life adds more challenges to our bucket. We can't be upset about that because after all, life happens to everyone. The only difference is some of us are willing to resolve our issues while others wear their bandages proudly. If you are unwilling to remove the bandage, the scar will never heal. Those wounds need some air to heal, even if that mean others may notice them. The next step is to ask for HELP! Don't be afraid to request and accept help for your life issues if they are too much for you to bear alone. Sometimes you have to go against the grain to receive the help you need. Why suffer in silence when there is freedom available? I have met so many people who believe that only "crazy" people go to therapy. When I hear that statement, I reply no sane people recognize they need help, "crazy" people refuse help. You see it's no shame associated with getting assistance because if it was we would never go to the doctor, ask anyone for a favor or even pray. After all, these actions usually involve us having a need and requesting assistance! Yet our mental health challenges are ignored year after year.

We put on our beautiful garments, MAC make up, Christian Louboutin shoes, and get our designer purses and hit the road. We try to allow our outer appearance to represent how well we are doing. Why is it so important to impress people who don't care about anything you are trying to impress them with?

Have you ever purchased an item you thought was magnificent yet when you wore it no one even complimented you on it? That's because people are not that concerned about material things anymore. Everyone is dealing with issues more pressing than that. You would probably be surprised by the number of people needing help just like you. Don't be fooled by what you see but rather start listening to the heart of the words they do or don't speak. Sometimes others speak in silence. They are wondering does anyone see the struggles they are having within. You must determine when enough is enough and make a conscious and independent decision to do what is necessary to live your best life now. Only you can determine your level of need but there are professionals available to assist you through this process. My desire is once and for all to remove the stigmas associated with mental health. Our mental and emotional health is just as important as our physical health. It is important to note that they usually impact each other. For example, sometimes depressed people over eat which may cause them to become overweight and develop diabetes. Therefore, it is important to selfmonitor how your emotions impact your behavior. Behaviors are usually the result of what we are thinking and feeling. So, no matter how often you use phrases like “I'm too Blessed to be Stressed “, your actions demonstrate something else. If you are not sleeping, sometimes you are stressed and that doesn’t mean you are not blessed, it just means you may have an issue that needs to be addressed. Therefore, I encourage you to do as Shakespeare advise and “to thine own self be true “. Take the time to reflect on your life and deal with those areas that continue to ail you. If you were molested, deal with it. If you were abused, deal with it. If you are angry, deal with it. If you have been betrayed, deal with it. If you made bad decisions, accept responsibility, learn the lesson and deal with the consequences. The only reason I can encourage you to deal with your life issues is because I have also and continue to deal with mine! Again, we all have them. We are more similar than we are different. This can be a freeing revelation because it can release you to be your authentic self. You have the power to end the struggle within!


MY BROWN HUE My Brown HUE is Radiant and True! Caramel, Almond, Chestnut, Hazelnut, Cocoa and Chocolate, need I name more? Coffee, Bronze, Pecan, Mocha and Cinnamon, I'm sure you get the picture by now. My Brown is Beautiful! The beauty of the brown HUE is that it is customized just for you. The shades are made to be symbolic; it symbolizes History, Legacy, Success, Confidence, Beauty, Love and Authority. It was designed to set you apart, simply because our HUE is a beautiful piece of art! Whatever is your Brown HUE, just be YOU and walk in your Beautiful Brown Power!

My Brown HUE is truly My Soul Point of View!


My Brown Is Beautiful


HerS T O R Y

Legrone NIKITA "I had to remind myself so now I’m telling you during this season that".

#GodsGirl #TheHoodsGirl

Photo by Wolf Photography










ut B
















#GodsGirl #TheHoodsGirl #GodsGirl #TheHoodsGirl Is a visionary who has set out to encourage, engage, equip, transform, and inspire those who find themselves trying to navigate through trials, tribulations, and traumas of life in a safe, healthy, and productive way. Coining herself as #GodsGirl #TheHoodsGirl Nikita came up with this name at the point in her life when she was learning to embrace all of who she was as an individual with having shame, fear, or embarrassment be attached to it. Nikita helps individuals give birth to an intentional and obtainable plan for a positive and product future. In 2016 Nikita hosted her first Women’s brunch entitled I Was Built for This and now more than five years later she has hosted over 10 different events. She currently host quarterly brunches for women entitled Because Black Girls Brunch. It’s a time when women can come together unwind, relax, and get some much needed “me time”. She didn’t just stop at the encouragement of women, Nikita also believes that more honest uncomfortable conversations about life needed to take place within the black community and from that she created a semiannual event called Cocktails and Conversations; a time and place where adults can come mingle, eat, and unwind, but most importantly engage in open conversation about some of the stigma’s we face within the black families and how to change it? In 2018 Nikita Nicole created the Push, Pray and Proceed Method gives individual the tools they need to navigate through situations. From this method she wrote her first book entitled The Push, Pray Proceed. She also created the The BeIntentional Method. Both which have allowed her to not only flourish, while protecting her peace; but acknowledge, destroy, and rebuild her moral, spiritual, and mental foundation for a better life. In 2021 Nikita followed up the success of her first book with a bestselling novel Toxic: Who is Savanah James. “When I leave this place I want it to read, ‘Her Pain Activated Her Push Which Ignited Her To Intentionally Proceed To Her Purpose’”-Nikita Nicole


One of the most profound and echoed quotes in part says, " we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." As a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate (in Philosophy) for disability and community advocacy and academic Christian Education Leadership seminary degree, my life mission is partly filling in the gap in one of the areas where representation matters the most and is often overlooked: Disability Inclusion. It's common to see the neighborhood market display a sign out front, signifying a specific parking place for individuals who may be disabled and require closer parking. Or maybe you've seen an employment application where a set of questions inquire about a need to accommodate an applicant further. For decades, the inclusion of disabled individuals has been limited to accommodating environments to allow individuals with disabilities to simply be present.

Being present is not enough. It is imperative to go beyond being present, which I why I dedicated my mission to go beyond lobbying for others with disabilities to being in the room. I want people living with visible and invisible disabilities to have the ability to thrive. And the most effective way to see a positive evolution is to see yourself in the movement's leaders. "I want to do more than holding the door open; I want to take it off the hinges.".

My life is an example of grace, and as a believer in Christ, I give Him full credit for defying the odds and beating the challenges I have encountered. In the process of my liberation, I want to liberate others. I was diagnosed with Arnold Chiari Malformation Type 1 diagnosis as an adult. In addition to becoming wheelchair dependent,

LEADING THE DIALOGUE IN DISABILITY INCLUSION I became enlightened, learned quite a few things about myself, and gained clarity about life and my mother. It is here where I found myself at a crossroads of apparent strength and hidden weakness.

"My strength prevailed". The diagnosis was life-altering, but it could not shake my core. I consider it a catalyst in my life to my mission to serve. It contributed to my co-founding Your Invisible Disability Group (YIDG). It is here where I assist others living with a visible or invisible disability (sometimes both) by communicating the unseen difficulties they may face daily in their working environments but declining to mention them. I help facilitate the connection between CEOS and corporate representatives to educate how accommodations for a disabled individual extend far beyond a wheelchair ramp. It goes beyond a modified restroom. Medical visits can be upward of 11 within a month, whereas some individuals may see a doctor no more than 11 times in a year and, for some, a lifetime.

The truth is no amount of compliments can change the adaptation myself and others have to make every single day. We aren't seeking sympathy, just understanding. From the outside, many may think I "manage so well," but in reality, my management is a conglomerate of support from my immediate family - my husband and kids.

"The journey has not been the sweetest but has always been a blessing. And for this reason, I share my testimony and educate others, encouraging them to discover their confident life". There's no victory in waiting around for an opportunity to find you. Instead, go confidently and aggressively after your dreams, whether work or social goals. My life may have changed in multiple ways post-diagnosis. Still, my athletic desire kept its pace, as did many other interests and goals, including being crowned the first African American Ms. Wheelchair USA. These moments help me bond with other women within the disabled community, encouraging empowerment, growth, and education for those who may not understand. My focus is to continue knocking down barriers, leaning on my faith - my legacy- while embracing Disability Pride and amplifying the messages of individuals living with visible and invisible disabilities through my words, actions, and faith.


LaJuana Garrett



JOIN THE HULA HOOP MOVEMENT AND MOVE YOUR BODY! Getting in shape shouldn’t be a punishment.



At the adolescent age of 10

Felicia Apprey is a first

to Chicago, IL to live with her

generation-born Ghanaian from the south side of Chicago. At the infant age of just 3 months old, she was sent to Ghana to be raised by her great grandmother while her parents settled in America.

years old, Felicia moved back parents. Gaining a feel & view of both countries, she has seen the powers and the disadvantages of women of color in business. At an early age, Felicia recognized that something should be done & decided to take action & she decided to be the change she wished to see. Having graduated from Concordia University & receiving her bachelor’s in communications Felicia can now be found empowering women of color stretching from the United States to her native residence of Ghana. Her PR boutique, Apprey PR, is a results-driven LLC that offers services primarily to small businesses and organizations that uplift people of color.


Her Story This past spring, we had the opportunity to hear the soulful sounds of Gifted Keys. After listening to her voice, we knew SHE was someone our readers needed to know more about. We reached out to her with a few questions we thought inquiring minds may want to know. She graciously welcomed the opportunity to share who SHE is with SRI Magazine.

SRI Magazine: When did you begin your singing career? Since the age of 6, singing has chosen me. In my beginner years, I was a part of a girl singing group, “2 Apart”, with my cousins. We were all 2 years apart in age and I was the youngest. In 8th grade, I had a music teacher by the name of Mrs. James, who asked permission from my parents to take me to church with her to sing while she played piano. I also come from a musical family. Both maternal & paternal. As a young teen, I involved myself in church choir, school choirs and sang amongst my friends.

Photographer: Jason McCoy

"I must have the same courage I had 7 years ago, to go deeper into the calling God has called on my life to be a vessel of faith, perseverance and most importantly grace". GIFTED KEYS

I occasionally was asked to sing at funerals at this age as well. Singing had always been an outlet from experiencing hair loss due to Alopecia Areata (autoimmune disease). Having alopecia taught me to be empathetic towards people. I believe the gift of singing/performing requires an empathetic heart… To sing from soul to soul. Learning that aspect, started early thoughts on the idea of a singing career. So, I’d say 20+ years has cultivated the skill to be able to have a singing career. Professionally, I’ve been at this for 7 years! In my early 20’s, I’d garnished over 1.3 million views singing Erykah Badu’s “On & On”, on Facebook within a week's time. I believe the online performance went viral due to my unique aesthetic, because I was bald. That was actually the first time I’d put any singing video out there with a bald shave. I knew God had shown me that this was where he wanted me. To sing but do it showing the effects of having Alopecia; To perform BALD. When people from all over the world wrote to me asking if I had music and where could they purchase/listen?!

I knew it was something there... Something in me said, go for it! I’d put out a project, “The Unknown Agenda”, not long after that. The Unknown Agenda was created from poetry, warm tones and scatting. I didn’t quite know what I was doing in the moment of creating but I wanted to at least try. I’ve performed those songs I created to many people online and in person over the years. I’m so grateful that people out there have taken the time out to listen, purchase tickets to shows, and continuously support me by cheering me along the way and providing opportunity! I’ve had opportunities like opening up for Chrisette Michele, Assembling Background Vocals for Lupe Fiasco, Roles in Musical Theater and even performed with a 16-piece orchestra!

Gifted Keys Can you share your journey to becoming Gifted Keys? The stage name Gifted Keys came from a few different ideas. My mom used to say that I had Gifted Hands. I’m a makeup artist of 12 years. She felt the way I applied makeup was gifted in a sense. My friends also called me “keys” for short because of my birth name. At the time, I wasn’t comfortable with my birth name as a stage name so Gifted Keys felt like the best option! The more I heard the name Gifted Keys, the more I came to the idea that I could be a vessel to help others through music and performance. To guide people into their own gifts and help them realize that God gives us the keys to the gifts he’s given us. As of recent, I’ve been going with my name Keya Trammell. I said to myself, when the Obama’s hire me to perform for an event one day, I want to be called on stage as my full name! I can’t wait for that day! I often visualize/hear, “And now presenting, Ms. Keya Trammell to welcome the 44th President of the U.S. Barack Obama & The Obama Family”. Keya Trammell feels much more classier to me. God gave me that name through my parents and I’m sticking beside it!

I’d like to share the reminder of having grace with yourself. Dreaming and action are two different things but if you learn to have patience and faith, All things are possible. I’ve been singing practically my entire life. The more effort I put into vocal ability and relating to others, the more I’ve gotten closer to the idea of what purpose is in this life. Purpose is about forward progression through your truth & gifts. I am now getting prepared to start a new journey of creating an Alopecia Organization to help others who experience the disease I’ve lived with since the age of 2. To pour confidence and a safe space for people suffer from hair loss of any kind. Although this is a new idea, I must have the same courage I had 7 years ago, to go deeper into the calling God has called on my life to be a vessel of faith, perseverance and most importantly grace.



Photographer: Jason McCoy

Photographer: Jason McCoy Photography

Where can the readers follow you and stay up to date with all that you have going on? You can always see what I’m up to through my website or through instagram @keyatrammell.

Pretty Me Inc. Girls Mentoring Organization, currently serves the Chicagoland area and all surrounding suburbs. Based out of Bolingbrook IL, Pretty Me Inc. supports all girls grades 6th12th. Our program includes but is not limited to the following: Group Mentoring every 2nd and 4th Saturday 1-on-1 Mentoring Community Engagement Mental Health Learning Field Trips Dominique Robinson Founder

Guests Speakers



Shastina Pack Hunt

Sharing my truth of overcoming life's obstacles. My name Is Shastina Pack-Hunt. I am the mother of 3 amazing boys; GeMari, Gavin & Grant, better known as the Hunt Boyz. I am also a wife to my high school sweetheart George. We have been together for 17 years and married for almost 7 years. I recently completed my master's degree in Business Management with a concentration in Project Management in Dec 2021. I maintained a 4.0 GPA while in school and graduated with a 3.9 GPA. After putting off grad school for so long, I was so thrilled to finally go back and tackle one of my goals. I also started my business at the exact same time I started grad school. It was extremely challenging trying to stay on top of my work in school, work full time, while working on my business and being a wife and mother but I am very proud to say that I made it look easy. Despite the many tears I made it through. It is very odd how I even got into makeup. People ask me all the time how I started doing this and say that I must be a girlie girl. Ironically, it is the complete opposite. I was never a girlie girl. I never cared about none of the things a lot of girls I knew were into. I even hung with the boys. I didn’t start wearing makeup until I started modeling after I graduated and even then, I didn’t know how to put it on. I used to look at other girls and thought something was wrong with me because I didn’t wear makeup and didn’t have a clue as how to put it on. As I got older, I noticed that women my age were all about wearing makeup, so I started googling makeup tutorials and started practicing on myself and close family members.

My coworker asked me one day about my lipstick I had on, and I told her that I combined two lipsticks together to get this shade and she begin to tell me how good I do makeup and that I should start a lipstick line. I started doing research and realized it would cost too much to make my own and I wanted my business to stand out because so many people were selling lipstick, lip gloss or lashes so I decided I would mine a collection and started to research vendors and everything that I needed to get my business started. Starting my business wasn’t as easy as I thought. I didn’t have the money to do the things that I wanted to do, and I didn’t receive the support from the people the closes to me that I thought that I would which put me into a deeper depression.

I have been battling depression since I was a teenager, maybe even longer now that I really think about it. I never thought I was good enough for anything and was always trying to find my niche to stand out to get the approval that I wanted from people. I just always felt so misunderstood and like I never fit it. Even though I had friends, I felt like I was doing things that weren’t in my character to fit in. I also felt like whenever I had any major events in my life those same friends and even family were never around to support me. All these things made my depression worse. I think my depression started from my father passing when I was a child. I believe that all my kids came into my life when I needed that unconditional love the most. I always call them my reason, because they are the ones that keep me here, that keep me going. Without them, I don’t think I would be alive. I probably would have given up years ago.

Now I go counseling, which I feel helps with my depression tremendously. I also always set goals, both short and long term to make myself proud.

I have learned to celebrate myself and all my accomplishments no matter how big or small they are. I would tell others especially mothers to always go after your dreams, just because you are a mother doesn’t mean your life is over. It just gives you another reason to go harder and to always make sure you celebrate yourself no matter who doesn’t show up. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

Do what makes you happy and forget the naysayers.


Photo by Daniel Ebomwonyi


LEAD Hello! I am Dee Dee James Kong, Miss Space City! I was born and raised in Sioux Falls, SD and in August of 2018, I moved to Denton, TX to pursue a bachelor's degree at the University of North Texas. My parents immigrated to the United States in 1995 from South Sudan. South Sudan has experienced decades of war and conflict, causing my parents to seek refuge and raise a family elsewhere. I know my life could have looked very different had my parents chosen to raise a family overseas so every opportunity I am afforded, I never take for granted. Education has become extremely important to me over the years, so much so, I changed my major from Fashion Merchandising to Human Development and Family Science to obtain a teacher’s certification in Family and Consumer Science. Having worked as a substitute teacher throughout college and experiencing difficulties through my journey in higher education, I recognize a need for representation in our education system. While my plan for now is to teach once I graduate, I have higher aspirations to work in policy so that the public school curriculum is representative of the diversity of our nation. One organization that has helped support my scholastic ambition is the Miss Texas Scholarship Organization. I competed in my very first pageant my Freshman year of college for the 2019 Miss Phi Beta Sigma Pageant hosted by the Zeta Beta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. I was crowned Miss White 2019 (2nd Runner-Up) and decided that I wanted to continue competing.

Three years later, I held the title of Miss Aubrey 2020-2021 at the 2021 Miss Texas competition and competed again in 2022 representing Space City.

I realized that I do not need anyone’s permission to be the woman God designed me to be, all I need is the faith to believe. While I was initially drawn to the scholarship opportunities, what I gained in return was so much more. The greatest lesson I learned is selfrespect and self-love. I realized that I do not need anyone’s permission to be the woman God designed me to be, all I need is the faith to believe. I have also learned that my legacy precedes me. Whether I walk away with a crown or not, I am still a winner because I have the ability to inspire girls for generations to come. That alone is enough for me to want to become the best woman I can be.

She ROCKS It Sharing HerStory

HERStory M.E.A.N. Girls Empowerment’s

In 2014, when M.E.A.N. Girls

M.E.A.N. Girls Empowerment

founder, Shatina Edwards, was inspired

Empowerment first launched, it

specifically identifies girls who

to speak out against bullying by her

welcomed five girls who were eager

reside in Chicago’s disadvantaged

personal experience of being bullied by

to learn how to identify the causes of

neighborhoods or high-risk

her peers during middle-school. She

bullying and mean girl behavior and

communities that are typically

wanted to create an engaging program

how to avoid negativity associated

plagued by violence,

that empowers young girls to avoid

with it. Shatina developed a custom

unemployment, chaos, and lack

negativity and speak out against

curriculum that concentrates on

parental guidance, all of which

bullying in their own lives.

communication, decision-making,

adds pressure or trauma to the

Shatina researched the reasons why

self-esteem, and leadership skills that

daily lives of each young girl. Most

bullying was prevalent among girls as

encourages girls to make sound

of the girls lack appropriate

well as the adverse impact it was

decisions. Through individual

support and resources to manage

having on their development into teens

progress assessment and remarkable

it so having a positive, welcoming,

and young adults.

outcomes, Shatina is confident her

and supportive space and

curriculum and program design is

mentorship nearby will help

achieving its intended impact. To

reverse the course of traumatic

date, more than 1000 girls have

influences and guide these girls

benefitted from M.E.A.N. Girls

into becoming leaders in their own

Empowerment’s programs. Our

families and communities.

For two years, Shatina partnered with the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana to observe young girls in their peer groups both at school and at extracurricular activities. She learned how to identify the different “bully profiles'' such as girls who lacked parental attention and guidance, girls

survey feedback from their parents and other leaders (teachers, coaches, mentors, etc.) reveals that each girl has learned a great deal about how to

who felt powerful through bullying, girls

avoid negativity and embrace

who sought popularity, and girls who


were naturally assertive and dominant, but unaware of their bullying behavior. Shatina created a motto, “avoid negativity and embrace creativity,” which she has since enfolded into her

Shatina Edwards, Founder

programming and curriculum and which serves as a constant reminder to the girls that they should analyze, use creative thinking, and build selfconfidence as they confront all aspects of bullying. Through Shatina’s success in developing a program with a proven record of positive impact on hundreds of girls, she has created a girl-friendly safe space and network.

Photographer Shaun Michael Harris






Grab your bags, grab your girls, and hit the road! She deserves a vacation!




Planes From my experience and research, I found that you should look for flights when you have time and flexibility vs. sticking to a specific schedule, remember, you have options, use them, be flexible. Consider leaving mid-week vs. the weekend and be persistent with your search, look ahead of time, give yourself a few months to plan this way you have more flexibility with the choices you are given. Planes offer quick travel times, which means you get more time to have fun!


Automobiles What better way to explore the world than behind the wheel of your own vehicle. Driving to your vacation destination allows you to explore the world on your own schedule, you can stop and go as you please. Even with gas price rising, driving to your destination can eliminate long lines in airports, lost luggage, delays and cancellations. If you plan ahead, you can get a few friends to ride along, this way you split the expense and save money for some fun and entertainment.


It's time to travel on your own terms. Choose where you want to go, how you are going to get there, and who you want to go with! Your vacation should be one that offers you peace, pleasure, fun and excitement. Traveling shouldn't be difficult. I found that proper planning and budgeting is a win/win for me. Prior to the pandemic I tried to get in several trips a year. I did a few short trips and 1 or 2 what I call real vacations. My short trips were anywhere from 24-48 hours. I would find something going on in another city, I would catch a flight or take the drive, explore the city, try some great recommended foods, then head back home. A great time can happen in 24 hours. I'm learning more about what I need out of a vacation. Years ago, I needed almost 24 hours in a row of constant entertainment, I didn't even want the sleep, but I realized everything went so quick, I didn't get a chance to soak it all in. Now I am very intentional about my travel, from where I go to who I go with to what I do when I am there. I want to absorb it all, have fun, laugh, explore, connect with nature and the local culture. Most important I want to travel on my own terms, which means if I do nothing, I am happy, If I stay up all night, I am happy. If I walk alone while everyone else is sleep or gone out, I am happy. It's my choice, and I choose happiness when I travel. That's My Soul Point of View!


Amtrak is a great and fun way to travel especially with children. The train offers room to walk around, viewing lounges so you are not just stuck in one seating area, and they even offer private sleeping rooms. For those that like the scenic route, and don't mind longer trips this may be an option for you. Amtrak always has great deals on tickets. It's your vacation you choose how you want to travel!


iffany TJ a c k s o n

Making My Spirit Smile is a memoir of a young woman's life from infancy to young adulthood and chronicles the heartbreak and lack of love she experienced; it also highlights various moments when she felt God was with her, making her spirit smile even when she couldn't do it so outwardly. In addition to sharing painful memories, the author encourages readers to find their own bright spots in dark times. She provides frank descriptions of mental, physical, and sexual abuse while also sharing ways in which she attempted to rise above and seek out safe spaces and helpful adults. Making My Spirit Smile is a self-aware read, and you will learn how she forgave at times as she reflects on the adults who inflicted harm upon her. Purchase a copy today. Tiffany Jackson - S.H.E. PUBLISHING, LLC (



Parents of children with special needs don't have the answers they seek.

By Debra Vines Founder, The Answer Inc.

I was married to the perfect partner and had an amazing child. I had a great career, with what seemed like unending ambition and drive. No serious worries, no setbacks. But then, I became pregnant again unexpectedly. To tell you the truth, I really didn’t want this pregnancy, or to start this journey all over again. The doctor told me the pregnancy was high risk; that this baby growing inside me was at increased risk of health problems before, during or after delivery. Becoming pregnant this second time had snatched my ideal life right from under me. Except, the possibility of what was happening in my womb was even more gut-wrenching, and my husband and I both were petrified. I didn’t know at the time that having to raise a special needs child would present questions I had never fathomed and take me on a journey to find the answers I needed to survive as a mother, a partner, and a business owner. My prior pregnancy was normal, and my firstborn son was born healthy with no complications. I think my expectations of pregnancy and childbirth was, “I was healthy, therefore my baby will be healthy.” Researchers have found differences in the brains of babies born before 27 weeks who were later diagnosed with autism. But medical professionals didn’t know this in the 80s when Jason was born.

I delivered Jason at 24 weeks at two pounds, two ounces. He remained in the hospital for three months. Meanwhile I felt isolated at home, as the anguish of post-partum set in. The ideal our society perpetuates is for a mother to birth a child and allow that child to give her reason to live. However, birthing this child honestly felt exhausting, and I felt like dying. And Jason’s challenges didn’t end with being a preemie. We noticed developmental issues in Jason around 16 months. He wasn’t walking, talking or meeting other crucial developmental benchmarks. We went to various doctors, soliciting second, third, fourth opinions. Finally, Jason was diagnosed with Autism at 18 months. My husband and I were unsure what this would mean for our child, for us. At this time the only thing we knew about autism was from the movie Rain Man. Was my child going to be a card counting savant in Vegas, non-verbal or all the above? In the 80s, Autism was believed to affect only 1 in 10,000 people and very little was known about what we now know as “the spectrum.” In fact, American psychiatrists had just updated their diagnostic manual to list Autism as a distinctive diagnosis and described it as a “pervasive developmental disorder” distinct from schizophrenia. It described symptoms of Autism as a lack

of responsiveness, severe impairments in communication and language, and bizarre responses to their environment. Research on treatment was minimal. We were doomed. As Jason grew, so did his list of challenging behaviors. He had tantrums and random outbursts when in unfamiliar places or in an instance when his normalcy or routine was tampered with. Now we know about 40% of autistic children are nonverbal or struggle with speech. And Jason is of that 40%. So, though he slowly found ways to communicate, he spent most of his younger years not being able to talk to me. During Jasons’ early years, my husband worked a night shift and family lived far away, so I was left to care for our son virtually on my own. I sacrificed my career and personal life to navigate Jason’s life as a growing boy with special needs. As a parent of a developmentally challenged child, I didn’t get to have anything to myself. I didn’t have my own time. I didn’t have control. I felt alone, frustrated, and overwhelmed. According to a study published in the Families, Systems, & Health Journal, mental health issues are more common among parents of differently abled children than parents of typically developing children. Not surprisingly, parents of kids with special needs report that it’s difficult to seek support or treatment - or to even recognize they need help with their mental health. Between doctor visits, specialist appointments, endless researching, and other caregiving responsibilities, it’s no wonder we run out of time or money to take care of ourselves as parents. We need answers but we barely have energy to formulate the questions. No matter where I turned, I didn’t find the answers or the support I needed, especially in my under-resourced neighborhood. But I did find drugs. Through moments of weakness and not having the ability to cope with what I couldn’t control, I began to use cocaine.

My husband didn’t have the answers either. Time after time, I would ruin our family finances to feed my addiction, but he wouldn’t give up on me. I’d always run back to drugs, thinking that they would numb the pain, the overwhelm, the burden of having so many questions and so few answers. Now don’t get me wrong: I was both a functioning addict and a functioning mom. The need to take care of my family had never left my mind, but I was only willing to do it on my own terms… with drugs. Even so, I wanted answers, but resources remained limited. Once, I collected discarded computer parts and actually built a computer so I would have a way to research Autism. I was desperate to get high, but even more desperate to learn about what Jason was experiencing as an autistic child. I searched and searched, for information and my next high. I remember how fast time went. As fast as the actual high itself – the high I’d chase all day long. Raising Jason, I was putting all my energy into my son and my next high. Jason had no idea of how sick I was – or the irony. The world saw him as the special needs child with issues when I had an even more demanding special need. The overwhelming feeling of raising a child with such a painful imperfection drove me to obsess over something I could control… or thought I could control--my drug use. The irony continued as my life spiraled out of control. I began stealing to obtain drugs and landed in jail a few times. The guilt began to wear on me as much as the crack. What few friends I had left faded away. I lost faith. I remember wanting to know why God felt I was “strong enough” to handle a special needs child. I wondered if this was something I deserved. It felt like the drugs restored my control, until I couldn’t control my addiction or my actions. And it became harder to help Jason when I couldn’t help myself. I despised myself. I remember the very last time I was arrested. I didn’t care about the amount of time they wanted to give me. All I knew was that I was exhausted. I was tired of waking up and thinking about getting high and ending my day thinking the same. I wanted something different for myself and for my family.

So, while in jail, I turned my life around. Rehab was difficult. Looking at myself in the mirror was burdensome. But the thought of being a healthier me for my family motivated me. I realized I had to love myself in order to love and properly raise my children. I regarded this process like college and made sure I participated in every single group session, attended my individual sessions, and completed all treatment requirements. I wanted to be better, stronger. I even decided to stay an additional three months past when the treatment center planned to send me home to make sure I could kick this addiction permanently. It wasn’t until I witnessed Jason reach milestones in his development that I realized how much I had taken for granted. It was Jason’s determination that taught me how to heal and strengthen myself. It was Jason’s journey as a person with a disability that helped me re-embrace my ability. My patience was fallible. My endurance was flaky. Yet, here was Jason, taking on the world as a young adult: eager to make his own sandwich, take out the trash, and order his favorite milkshake. Fast forward to today where Jason is a grown man, taller than me with dreams that are as wide as his beautiful eyes. I must be honest, I underestimated Jason. Just as I underestimated myself; not understanding the purpose and possibility of my being. You can value your mistakes just as you do your triumphs. It is when I embraced my worthiness as a person, as a mother, as a partner, that I began to heal enough to care for Jason and myself. And I had an epiphany: I realized that so many moms of special needs children have little to no support in their community. It has resulted in so many of us hating ourselves, letting ourselves go, not wanting to face the realities of what we deemed as an imperfect child. Raising Jason has slowly revealed my life’s mission: to provide the answers that I so achingly searched for to other parents of children with special needs.

I started The Answer, Inc to create resources and provide support to parents so they won’t have to suffer as I did. We have established groups that provide information on resources and create dialogue for discussion and support of people with special needs. We also offer family and peer events to empower people with disabilities to practice acceptable public behaviors and hone socialization skills. Autism now impacts 1 in 54 children. Yet, traditional parenting guides or resources don’t offer the answers to the plethora of burning questions a parent has when their child is on the spectrum. Being the mother to a special needs child allowed me to take a journey to provide answers where there were none for me. Although there are still more questions than answers, I hope this ignites a conversation to help families like mine live enriched and happy lives. If you ever feel like you are going to a dark place because of all the challenges of having a child with special needs, please don’t wait…. get the help that you need.

The Answer Inc. Autism Awareness & Support Agency 708.296.5651 IG @theanswerinc FB @theanswerinc


Choose Me I choose me is an assignment we are charging all of our readers to do daily going into 2023. Affirm daily "I Choose Me". While you affirm, journal what things you want to accomplish in 2022 and what your goals and plans are for 2023. When you choose you, you put yourself first and become the number one priority in your life.


I Choose Me My Daily Affirmation Your assignment for the last 5 months of 2022. Choose YOU!


Get a journal that you will keep with you or by you each day so that you can begin to write out the daily affirmation "I Choose Me". When you write it, begin to think how you will choose you over these last 5 months of 2022. Write those things in your journal.


Make a how-to list of how you are going to accomplish your goals, plans and dreams. Make them SHE goals. Simple Heartfelt and Easy. Don't list a goal that you know you can't complete this year, keep it simple. Make sure your goal is something that will satisfy your soul and warm your heart, and finally easy does it, remember you want to accomplish the goal, you want to see the results, don't complicate things.

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Reward yourself. When you affirm, "I Choose Me", you are making yourself your number one priority. You don't want to disappoint yourself; you should want to celebrate yourself. At the beginning of the week take a look at your list to see if you have reached a milestone, if so reward yourself with something you love, (tea, coffee, perfume, new shoes) whatever it is, let it show appreciation for choosing you! Believe and have faith that everything you affirm will come to pass. How you think is everything! Saying to yourself "I Choose Me", ensures that you will no longer be last after you have taken care of everyone else. Affirming I choose me is a declaration, and a promise to self that I deserve everything I chose for myself.





These summer essentials are a few of our SRI Founder favorite things. She said summer is here and we should all have a list of must have favorite things. She has shared 7 of hers.


1. Moisturizer


Keeping your skin hydrated is very important during the summer months, having a great moisturizer or face cream on hand and using it daily is a must.

2. Snacks Snacks are a must have, but more importantly healthy snacks that you can easily fit into your bag so that you can grab a handful to hold you over until you eat that delicious meal.

3. Step Counter A step counter is a great way to keep track of how you are doing with your exercise. It is also personal motivation to keep it moving!

4. Sunglasses

Shades, Sunglasses which ever you prefer to call them is the perfect addition to any look and the perfect way to keep it cute!


4 6

5. Crossbody Purse The last thing you want in the summer is a huge bag weighing you down, grab a small crossbody, and lighten the load!

6. Lip Glosss Lip Balm/Gloss is truly a summer must have. The array of colors that are on the market is sure to match any attire you have. The Lips should always be glossy!

7. Infused Water A great way to cut back on the sugary drinks is to infuse your own water. It's a bright, refreshing and tasty way to quinch your summer thirst.


Summertime is the perfect time for you to get out and spend some fun quality time with your girls and it doesn't hurt to get a few selfies in there! Top Row Founder of SRI, Friends Felicia & Michelle Middle Row: Girlfriends Trip with Nakisha James (center in blue), Founder of SRI on vacation, Sorority Sisters: Ylandus, Johnell, Joyce, Shavon Bottom Row: Sorority Sisters, Yolanda & Karen, LaJuana FIt & Fly Founder, Friends at Juneteenth Celebration getting their dance moves on!


If you would like to be a vendor at this event, please connect with us to get more details

Editor’s Note SRI MAGAZINE She ROCKS It Magazine- The Magazine where SHE Belongs would like to thank each and every woman that contributes to the magazine. We are successful because of you. We welcome your stories, your ads, your articles and most importantly your support. As we approach 2 years of providing you with some super dope content, we are beyond grateful! To date we have exceeded 38,000 plus in readers and impressions worldwide on our digital platform, your support has truly been amazing! Stay Tuned, we have more in store for you!

Joyce Dawkins

Founder CEO

"Celebrating Who SHE Is, is what I was purposely designed to do in this life. I strive to be the difference that makes a difference and try to empower and inspire others to live the best life"

CLINK Wine & Spirits Festival Sunday September 18, 2022 CLINK is a Chicago-based wine and spirits festival dedicated to highlighting Women, Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the industry. Less than 1% of wine industry negociants are black women. Our goal is to educate, empower and encourage Minority women to follow their dreams and aspiration even if only 1% of Minority women currently occupy the space.


CLINK Creators Joyce Dawkins bottom (R) and Chrishon Lampley (L) are planning a One-of-a-Kind Experience with their creation of CLINK Wine & Spirit Festival. Learn more by visiting

STAY CONNECTED (312) 885-4160 P.O. Box 1004 Lockport Il 60441