Substantial Issue: Spring 2022

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"How Claiming A Seat On The Bus Began Her Legacy Of Taking A Stand." A Substantial Conversation with

Anita Brown-Graham

Duke Energy’s Indira Everett Talks Leadership and Community | POLITICS AND POLICY: We talk with Senator Natalie Murdock and La'Meshia Whittington

CONTENTs 06 10

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A Soulful Heart: Meet Recording Artist Tamisha Waden


LETTER FROM EIC Thre are so many Substantial women in NC we only scratched the surface. 07






with Courtney Young, FSC

A chat with Tamika Walker Kelly President of the North Carolina Association of Educators, an organization committed to advancing the cause of public education.








We talk with NCGrowth Program Manager Nicole Outlaw about business and small town growth.

A Conversation with La'Meshia Whittington La’Meshia “LA” Whittington has been a long-term advocate for Black and Brown communities across North Carolina for many years.

Duke Energy’s Indira Everett Talks About Her “Substantial” Leadership Style

Politically Correct: Senator Natalie Murdock Talks Politics and Policy

A Substantial Conversation with Anita R. Brown-Graham, founder and director of the ncIMPACT Initiative



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Kimberly Knight, Editor-in-Chief


Substantial Magazine Celebrates Women’s History Month: Welcome to the March/April Issue of Substantial Magazine. The Substantial Team is excited to present to you in this issue season fresh content about amazing women from across North Carolina in honor of Women’s History Month. As Substantial Subscribers, you will have a sneak peek of the authentic storytelling and empowering programming we have planned. As a team we worked diligently to feature women in North Carolina we believe you should know about and hopefully, they will inspire you to create your own courageous story. This is my second issue with the Substantial Team and I am delighted to feature so many incredibly dynamic women from all walks of life in the digital issue and on the Substantial Magazine website. As we enter the 2nd Quarter of the New Year and welcome Spring, it is a gentle reminder of how being present in the moment is so important. I’ve been working professionally in media publications for nearly 8 years now and after every article or blog post, I always make sure to spend time reflecting in gratitude. What an honor it has been to be able to share space with so many incredible people over the years but this issue is truly heartfelt because it focuses on my own home state. I’m originally from Eastern North Carolina and that experience taught me so many life lessons. In regards to the matriarchs in my life, I must give honor to my mother, grandmothers, aunts, and



cousins. Each of them were instrumental in my upbringing and inspired me to live my dreams out loud. My mother was definitely my blueprint of womanhood and I dedicate my works in this issue to her legacy. We hope you enjoy reading about our featured stories in this issue and may it give you insight into their individual journeys to success. If you are a media professional in North Carolina, be on the look o ut for our next “All Things Substantial: Media Mixer” powered by Substantial Magazine and The Lux Blog NC. On March 30th, join Substantial Magazine for the “Women’s History Month Discussion”!

Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff

“No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”... No woman has ever written enough”. - bell hooks


A WORD FROM OUR DIRECTOR One of my most memorable classes in college was my African Politics class. In addition to discovering the ongoing cycle of war and famine, and how that affected women and their families, I also learned about the push for economic development in different regions of the continent. With an abundance of natural resources and talented individuals who held the possibilities of the world in their own hands, banks and landowners quickly learned that if they wanted their investment opportunities to grow that they needed to put some of the power back into the hands of women in neighboring villages. One might be surprised to learn that a growing number of wealthy investors began actively pursuing businesswomen to give them access to micro loans and farmland that would allow them to grow their own crops, and ultimately turn a profit. Women have a natural ability to create abundance and stability in the world, and recognizing the potential economic impact of investing in women has become a game changer. A study by Columbia University reported that In 2018, only 15 percent of companies led by women were identified as high-growth potential. With motivations for flexibility, work-life balance, and a desire to have more control over their earning power, the amount of women owned companies has increased drastically. And today, profit margins and impact are showing proof of why women are a viable source for economic freedom and opportunity. According to statistical site Fundera Private Tech companies held by women yielded a 35% higher ROI than their male counterparts, and 57.4% of SBA Microloan program loans went to women-led or women-owned companies. Those numbers represent a very strong connection for me. As the Director of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, my days are spent looking for opportunities that would show other businesses the value of investing in this company. A large part of that proof lies in showing the ROI for those companies. Seeing statistics showing the increase in funding and results-driven business for women, I can’t help but think about how the media plays a significant role in this shift. Without media coverage, most of us would never know that there was 8


Evelyne Del, Director of Business Strategy and Partnerships

a difference between what women earn in relation to their male counterparts. And we most certainly wouldn’t know that those numbers also continue to plummet when comparing white women with women of color. Without media coverage, most of us would think that the playing field was very much level. Media that is owned and operated by black and brown communities is positioned to play a very large role in sharing these very real statistics. Substantial has always been committed to sharing black excellence with the world. But the stakes are higher now than they’ve ever been. Our team has been fortunate enough to participate in cohorts where we connect with other leaders in media from across the United States. We’ve always come out with ways to stretch ourselves and create pathways for us to showcase the importance of Black owned and operated media. Our women leaders are essential to this growing platform, and we are committed to sharing their Substantial journeys with you.


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Arts & Entertainment A SOULFUL HEART: Interview by Kimberly Knight

Meet Recording Artist Tamisha Waden

Photo courtesy of Tamisha Waden

Tamisha Waden is a professional recording artist originally from Durham, NC known for her soulful melodic sound. She has toured internationally and is known for her dynamic powerhouse voice. She honors the mantra that, “I want my listeners to hear my heart.” You may recognize her from her acclaimed performances with Grammy-Award Nominated artists like The Foreign Exchange, Gospel Legend Mavis Staples, Acclaimed Artist Phil Cook, or performing live on the CBS This Morning show. The beauty of this dynamic songbird is her attention to detail and her love of music.



KK: Tell us about your experience growing up in Durham, NC and how has it impacted your interests in music and the arts? TW: My experience growing up in Durham, obviously, as we say, I’m a “Durham-mite” and I love my city. I love the state of North Carolina and I love my home. Growing up in Durham impacted my experiences, musically, quite a bit. The only things we had, because I didn’t go to a school in the arts or anything like that, but we had a band and we had a chorus. So, long story short, I moved away at five years old after I started kindergarten. Then I came back when I was in middle school, so from sixth grade on. One of the things I did when I came back to Durham was I had to trade in my violin for a trumpet. So, of course, the marching band would be the catalyst to really push me or thrust me really into the music or battle music scene. It was being able to participate in concert bands, which I did in middle school and high school, which was so much fun. I was a member of the illustrious Hillside High School Mighty Marching Hornets. Even after joining the band, I was able to do chorus in middle school, and not only that, it opened the door for me to do theater. I did a lot of stageplays in middle school, high school, and of course singing my head off. That brought me into the world of competing. So I would venture to say that Durham really, really, really set the foundation of some sorts of music. I can go back even further as far as a foundation, but I’ll hold off. KK: When did your interest in music begin and how has your journey been becoming a professional recording artist? TW: I really knew maybe around the age of about 14-15 years old. Another long story short, there was a man, I was not sure of his title but he worked at the middle school that I was at at the time. He heard me singing and initially he thought it was somebody else. He didn’t know it was me, and he was wondering “Who is this girl, who is this woman singing?”, because everybody thought it was a grown woman, but it was me. I was all of 13-14 years old. However, through me meeting him, I joined a gospel group called “The Power Worship Ensemble”, and I got my first opportunities to record music. Also, not only to record but to perform that music. My time with “The Power Worship Ensemble” had us traveling from state to state from time to time, and at the time I’m 13-14 years old. We had opportunities to open for people like John P. Key, Ricky Dillard, and LaShun Pace-Rhodes. We all line up with these names, these big names in gospel music. I’ll take the step even further. My father being a pastor, and this was before John P. Key blew up, he was my father’s Minister of Music so I’ve been around it all my life. So I would venture to say that at the age of about 13-14, I made the decision to do this for real. As you know, of course, the rest is history.

KK: How would you describe your genre of music? TW: So I would describe it as simply just soul. I often refer to it as Indie-Soul music, because I’m an independent artist. There’s no machine behind me, I am the machine. So, I would call it Indie-Soul, again, because I’m independent, but Soul music because it’s everything. You know, as far as R&B, Gospel, and Jazz, I felt like all of that is a conglomerate of what Soul is. I have all of these elements, I believe, throughout my music, or at least, that’s the things I try to touch. These are music styles that I’ve studied, music styles that I have performed, and things that resonate with me. Some of the artists that I’ve listened to, would be people like Aretha Franklin and Danny Hathaway, Otis Redding, or Marvin Gaye. There are so many artists and even more styles, but I believe Soul music is an experience. It is the only way I know how to describe it. It’s more than just hearing it. It touches you and all of your senses and especially the emotion that comes from that kind of music. I’m really passionate and I like to sing about those things that really get to the heart of people. So that’s me. So I would describe it as simply soul music and from what comes from the heart usually goes to the heart. KK: What can Substantial readers expect to hear from you musically in 2022? TW: You can expect to hear some music from me this year. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been saying,“oh, I’m gonna put it out” but what I’ve discovered is again, you know, our timing, sometimes, it’s not always God’s timing. Although, sometimes we may want to do things, for whatever reason, it may not be the time yet. It’s time and there’s some music coming from me. It’s a difference of sorts for me because I’ve been the featured vocalist for different ensembles, The Foreign Exchange being probably the most notable one that most people know from me. You know, collaborating, performing, touring with them. So now it’s like, you know, Tamisha, on her own, and it’s just me. So that’s what you’re gonna hear. I think people are gonna be pretty, I don’t want to say surprised, but I think they’re gonna be, in a sense, surprised, like, “oh my God”, like, it’s going to be what you don’t see coming. It’s going to have that kind of effect. We didn’t see this coming at all but it’s coming.


KK: In honor of Women’s History Month, what women, past or present, have inspired you? TW: I have to start with one woman just right off the top of my head, I would definitely go to, you know, my mother. First and foremost, my mother is a very quiet, strong woman. Very shy, but very strong presence. Although very quiet, she’s in the background, but she’s the one that’s always pushing. She’s always pushing, she’s always pressing, and she’s the researcher. So if there’s something I want to know, kind of know, or I don’t really know about or whatever. I just kind of mentioned it. I can count on mom to go, find out, and come back. She’s always pushing, always praying, and always encouraging. She’s the first person and then grandmothers, which I have one still alive. Even my father’s mother, who is, you know, deceased, was also that quiet strength. She was quiet from time to time, but not really. She was the grandmother that most people say I’m the most like. So for the most part, very outspoken, if she had something to say, she was gonna say it. She believed in telling people and this is a quote from my godmother, who is also deceased, but she had a saying,“That I’m going to tell you what God loves and that’s the truth.” My grandmother is the other woman that inspired me.

and join them at the skating rink. We go skating and Tamisha would be flying around or just kind of dancing and doing my thing. It’s a form of exercise. It’s just an outlet to just kind of let go of all your cares and just be free. Learn more about Tamisha by visiting her website and follow her on social at @TamishaWaden - Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

I look to our people like Aretha Franklin, who has an amazing story, very similar background being that we both grew up as “preacher’s kids”, her father is still a pastor. Also, going through some of the things that she experienced, you know, some identical things have happened. So, definitely one of my inspirations, one of the women that I kind of glean from style wise, even. KK: What’s a hidden talent or fun fact about you? TW: I love to skate. I absolutely love it. It was something that we used to do a lot. We, as in me and my brothers, when we lived in Charlotte. Our friends would want us to come



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A Woman’s

R.O.A.R. Dionne McGee CEO, SPEAKER AND AUTHOR For Dionne McGee, serving others is second nature. The multi-passionate entrepreneur has not only created pathways for herself as a business owner and author, but she’s also creating opportunities for other women of color to create their destiny and find their R.O.A.R; simply meaning to be - Relentless. Optimistic. Ambitious and Results Driven. The NC native tells us how she’s working to provide opportunities for women of color. As the President & CEO of DG McGee Enterprises, McGee and her team create innovative ways for their clients to succeed on their own terms. 90% of her clients are women, and many of them are experiencing some of the challenges that are prevalent for minority women in their professional lives. McGee has personally experienced some of the struggles of trying to climb the corporate ladder that often make some women question the path they’re on. In her 20+ years in Corporate America McGee found that some of the resistance to her leadership often came from her employees, and not the other Executives. Because her fellow Executives shared the same mindset in regards to Leadership, they were able to work together efficiently. But there were many who fell under her leadership that just were not prepared to have a strong African American woman in a position of leadership. She managed to push 14


through and excel because she knew what she was called to do. But when you’re faced with those same challenges every single day it can make you question whether or not you should be on another path to success. Although she was an accomplished leader, McGee says she came to a realization one day that

“My skill set is better served outside, where it doesn’t have to be a struggle and a challenge to come to work every day.” Interview by Evelyne Del

Dionne Mcgee

“I live for a stage. There is nothing that gives me more energy than to be on a stage”

was called to do. But when you’re faced with those same challenges every single day it can make you question whether or not you should be on another path to success. Although she was an accomplished leader, McGee says she came to a realization one day that “My skill set is better served outside, where it doesn’t have to be a struggle and a challenge to come to work every day”. I had to have that conversation with myself in order to gather myself and move on. She started out by thinking about all of the things that she loved to do and was passionate about. One of the things she always tells people is that “If you can create multi million dollar wins for wherever you are, or help your current company find success, you’ve got to ask yourself If I can do it for them, then I KNOW I can do it for myself”. When planning her next move, her skills and passions eventually led her to create DG McGee Enterprises, where she and her team provide Project Management, Training and Development, and Career Development. They also help leaders manage some of the gray areas in career development, such as financial literacy as it relates to growing in your career. McGee explains that teaching people how to understand and manage their finances before they dive deeply in entrepreneurship or advance in their careers is necessary for their professional development. SHOW THEM HOW TO R.O.A.R Putting herself out there to work on her own personal brand was a crucial element for her business growth. They came to her in order to hear the perspective of a Black female executive, and to understand what inclusion looked like. But she had no idea that she would love it so much.


simply means to be Relentless. Optimistic. Ambitious and Results Driven.

“At one of my largest speaking engagements, I found myself with my hands underneath the table clapping. I was just so overwhelmed and I said to myself ,‘This is it!’. That was my Aha moment”. She knew then that her job was to make a difference for other people. When asked about the development of her signature R.O.A.R approach, McGee explains that she didn’t always have a loud ROAR. It was a small purr at first, but she always knew that there was something more there behind the purr. Working in different environments and creating her own lane helped her develop the ROAR that she now takes with her everywhere. As an advisory Board Member for the Women’s Business Center of NC. McGee focuses on using her voice to ensure that more women are aware of the resources available through the Women’s Business Center. She mentions ‘The Great Resignation’ and how so many people have started businesses, but don’t know what to do next. “They register their business, get a tax ID, and then what?”. McGee explains further, “There are a lot of things that need to be in place. There are things that need to be done to start it, to scale it, and then go beyond that to start hiring and things of that nature”. She was recently appointed Her appointment to the Garner Chamber of Commerce presented an additional opportunity for her to help people in need of viable resources and a clear path to success. She explains “My thoughts on the Garner Chamber of Commerce were simple. I simply wanted to be proof of possibility”. Having been in the Garner area for over 24 years, she felt like it was time to have “proof of possibility”. She reflects on being stuck in male dominated areas for so long and realizing that “things had to change. But in order for them to change, they have to change locally first so that we can expand across the nation. If I have to start in my own community showing that there is room for diversity, equity, and inclusion at these leadership tables then that’s what I’m going to do”. Dione McGee is a NC based business owner, author, and community leader. Her book Finding Your ROAR is a synopsis of her life as an African-American woman climbing the corporate ladder.

JOIN THE ROAR NATION! Get Your Top 10 Moves to Transform into a ROARING Leaders! Click the image or visit


Everywhere in the world women, face social, cultural and economic barries to equality.

24% Only 24% of Congress members are women and less than 9% are women of color.


41 Number of women Fortune 500 CEOs. Female CEOs make up only 8.1% and only 1.2% are women of oclor.


There are 9.9 million women-owned businesses total in the U.S. according to latest government data.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in 2020, women’s annual earnings were 82.3% of men’s, and the gap is even wider for many women of color.

This must change and it will - but only when we recongize and invest in the power of our women. Advertisement



to the checklist and see how questions are ranked, but that’s important. You have to have an emphasis on your approach, and put the emphasis on where their priorities are. How has the availability of resources changed since you started your business in 2005?

Understanding Business Certification -

Courtney Young FSC

Tell us the importance of having your business certified. Certification covers a couple of different things. #1, it’s a marketing tool. Being certified allows your company to have a stamp of approval to say that you are who you say you are, and you’ve been vetted by the right entities. It also helps you in the area of participation. There is always some sort of participation goal, and being certified puts you in the market to receive those opportunities. Being certified will actually help you to receive bids and opportunities from procurement offices ahead of the general public. It’s important to remember that you can go faster with the people who actually put the tools in place. What are some of the things that help businesses gain a competitive edge when winning proposals? Definitely relationship building. Being front of mind is important. It is not only what matters in that proposal; it’s also whether or not you are front of mind for contracting officers when it’s time to award opportunities. Relationship building should be done at every stage of developing your business. Another important aspect is to have multiple sources for past performance. Having a diverse portfolio of what, how, and where you do business can help you gain a competitive edge when bidding on jobs. Another important aspect is to make sure you answer all the questions they are asking. All too often people don’t go back

When I started, certification was not taken as seriously outside of trade construction and the federal government space. Since then the Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification was established. And there are now active opportunities for those set asides. In addition, opportunities can be sole sourced, and there are a pool of opportunities available under that certification. And technology has truly made doing business outside of your local area a possibility for you to expand your business footprint. Technical assistance programs have really improved over the years. When I first started, it was who you know. Now it is also tips, best practices, and knowing who the contact person is. Technology has allowed for accessibility to change the nature of business. Why is it important for businesses to have a management or business development strategy? It’s actually pretty simple - You need to have a plan on where you’re going. When running a small business, you are wearing many hats. You need to have some type of strategy for you and anyone else you are supporting. That strategy is going to help define your business and also guide you on where you are going. A lot of people are able to obtain large contracts, but when they’re over they don’t have any more business. If you have a strategy you are able to expand on your team efforts and outreach to keep the business going. Tell us your most valuable lesson that you’ve learned in business. Timing is everything. I recently had a conversation with a friend about a proposal that I submitted. I remember preparing it last year, but it never went anywhere. It’s a year and a half later, and now here I am signing a contract for something that I already did a year ago. You have to be prepared. Have your stuff in order so that when it’s time to make a move you’re able to make that move with ease. And you have to trust your instincts. There are instances where the timing may be right, but it takes trusting your instincts for things to work out. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you. Courtney Young is a 16 year Veteran Business Owner based in Columbia SC. She is also an SBA Certified Business Coach, an ACDBE/DBE Program Administrator, and the Marketing Chair of the Gullah Geechee Consortium. As a Supplier Diversity and Business Inclusion expert, she also serves as a Professional Services Liaison to the South Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors.


Community Duke Energy’s Indira Everett Talks Relations: About Her “Substantial” Leadership Style Did you know Duke Energy is a corporation based in Charlotte, North Carolina and they provide services to six states across the Southeast and Midwest with a customer base of 7.5 million people? In North Carolina, Indira Everett serves as the Director of the East Region of Duke Energy Corporation. She has served in various capacities with Duke Energy and Progress Energy for over 15 years. She’s a graduate of North Carolina State University and is an avid watcher of western tv shows. Everett’s career speaks volumes and the Substantial team is delighted to feature her as one of our “Substantial Women to Know in NC”. KK: The Substantial Team is excited to feature women in leadership roles in this issue, how would you describe your style of leadership? IE: Kimberly, thanks for this opportunity. I would say when I look at all the various types of styles, I’m probably not all one or the other but I would say I’m more transformational. I’m a transformational leader, and for me, what that means is I tried to inspire positive change in those that follow me. I tried to make sure that everyone on my team succeeds. I’m in the process of doing performance reviews now and that is a recurring message that I’m sharing. I want everybody on the team to be successful and in our department at Duke Energy there are three regions. So I like to joke with my team, the East region, that we’re the 18


“A-Team”. So it’s important for me to build up, to motivate, and to inspire the folks on my team. I try to focus on creating an environment that provides for innovation and pushes people to really go beyond just performing. To get past their comfort zone and really meet their max potential. So I like to say I have an open door policy as well and that’s a part of my style. I’m very transparent. I like to work with people that are that way as well. So I’d say I’m transformational. KK: Currently you serve as the Director of the East Region for the Duke Energy Corporation, if you were to honor a woman who has impacted or inspired your career, who would it be and why? IE: I thought about that question and I came up with two. The first I would say is my mother. My mother pushed me to do more and to excel. She was an educator and she was the type that if I brought home a “B+” she said, “Oh, that’s nice, but why not an A”. So she always instilled in me that I can always do better and to always try to have that drive. So I have and I’ve carried that throughout my career. Nothing gives me more pleasure than completing a task and doing it well and I try to pass that on to my team as well. I would say my second person that I would want to honor is a former mentor. In fact, she’s still a mentor, Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, a lot of people in North Carolina know her. She is a former Duke Energy executive

and she has always inspired me. She was always breaking barriers and was always the “first African American woman” to do this or to do that. She, I would say, inspired me, and taught me the importance of relationships internally and externally. Also, how to build positive relationships that can actually propel your career. She’s a master at relationship building. So I would say my mother and my mentor Hilda Pinnix-Ragland. KK: In your opinion, why is it important for African American women to have representation in corporate leadership positions? IE: I think it is really simple, because our voice matters. I think when African American women aren’t at the table, you’re missing out on a great advocate. I would say that African American women are influencers, we are naturally that way. Usually, we drive the direction of anything, whether it’s the spending habits in our home, advocating for political candidates all the way to an office, or when we get behind a mission and a cause we bring success. We can really bring victory and so I think translating that into a business environment can be very beneficial to companies. We’re that force that you know is very hard to reckon with because we’re so unique. We are used to multitasking, getting things done, and coming up with creative solutions. I think if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re not doing yourself a service as a company. You’re not going to be as successful, I don’t think, without us at the table.

IE: I would say, first believe you can. I think as girls, sometimes we are in the background to the little boys. We feel like well, they deserve it and maybe we’re afraid that we’ll fail. I think the first thing is little girls need to believe they can be leaders. When you believe it, you can then move on to work hard to make it happen. You can chart your course and identify mentors and sponsors, because they’re going to be important along your career path. Then I think little girls need to know they should never quit. They are just as smart as little boys, and they can do anything they can do. I think it starts with first believing that you can be a leader at a corporation. KK: What’s a hobby or fun fact about you? IE: Something fun, I love to travel. One of the treats that my husband and I enjoy is watching westerns. Old movies on a quiet Saturday, just to unwind and watch anything for that matter. A lot of old westerns, I really love history. So a lot of times we’ll watch documentaries as well. I’m just starting to read a book called “Think Again”. So just having that quiet time, because I’m always so busy, that sometimes I just need to do things that just kind of free my mind. I don’t really have to think about it. So I love watching movies of all kinds and particularly I like westerns.

KK: As a former Chatham Chamber of Commerce Board Chair, why should small businesses seek membership to join their local chamber of commerce? IE: For me, I think it’s really important for small businesses to join a chamber. Our company is a large company and certainly we’re members of chambers. I think small businesses should join because of the multiplier effect. Chambers have hundreds of businesses that are members and within those businesses, they have hundreds and even 1000s of employees. So that multiplier effect provides automatic access to all those people and you’ve gotten an automatic platform. The chamber can propel a small business forward, it can bring you a network of potential customers, it can market your business, and all of this for free just by joining the chamber. You get all of those perks and most importantly, it can be an advocate for small business. On your behalf, perhaps with governmental entities on policy, agenda items, or just building the networks in the community. It can just continue to build your multiplier effects. That network alone, perhaps something you couldn’t do, and certainly not as quick. So I think it’s important to join the chamber because you show you support that community and you care about the economic success of the community when you’re part of it.

Indira Everett, Director – East Region Government & Community Relations Duke Energy

KK: What advice would you give to a young girl or woman who has an interest in becoming a leader in a corporation?

Click to watch video highlights of our Substantial 19 interview with Indira Everett.

Together we are creating a future fueled by our members, worthy of our students, and essential to the entire state of North Carolina." - Tamika Walker Kelly

The Heart of an educator Tamika Walker Kelly, President of the North Carolina Association of Educators is committed to advancing the cause of public education. The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) is North Carolina's largest professional employee organization and NCAE's members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. Substantial caught up with the organization's president Tamika Walker Kelly to talk about her journey as an educator and why she is passionate about ensuring quality public education across our state.

She went to East Carolina so I was like, I'm going to ECU too. I applied to the School of Music, went to ECU to get my Bachelor's of Music Education, and I decided to come back home to Fayetteville to teach. I started my career at Morganton Road Elementary School and I taught there the whole time until I became NCAE president. SM: What would you say is one of the most important traits to have if you want to be an educator?

The Lumberton native who spent her childhood in Fayetteville, NC, has been a public school educator for the past 15 years, teaching as an elementary school music specialist at Morganton Road Elementary in Fayetteville, until becoming the NCAE president.

TWK: One thing that's really important to be a successful and effective educator in my opinion is to be reflective. The needs of our students who come into our classrooms change on a day-to-day basis, and they definitely change on a yearto-year basis.

SM: Tell us what led you to want to become an educator?

So learning how to refine and craft your practice, being open and willing to learn new skills to adjust will help you be or become a successful educator.

TWK: I've always wanted to be a teacher. When I was smaller, maybe five or six, I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher or a famous singer. My mom was a librarian. She worked in the public library of Robeson County, and I just fell in love with school. I loved my teachers, I liked "playing school" and all that stuff. It wasn't until high school that I for sure knew I wanted to be a music teacher. My choral teacher, Michelle McNair was the person I was enamored with, I wanted to be a music teacher just like her. 20


Also, you have to know your kids and know your community. There are a number of different ways to connect and build those relationships with them. You can't do that if you're only stuck teaching one type of way—if you have one type of mind frame or if you only have one certain set of skills. So being a reflective learner, being a forever learner, as I call it allows you to be a successful educator. I consider myself a forever learner.

SM: Tell us a little more about the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), how long has it been around, and what actually led you to want to become the president? TWK: So this is actually one of my favorite things to talk about. The North Carolina Association of educators also known as NCAE is the largest professional organization for public school workers in the state. So when we talk about public school workers, we're not talking just about teachers. We're talking about bus drivers, custodians, superintendents, administrators, every single human who works in a public school building. The history of our organization is one that I am most proud of. So the organization in its current iteration has been around since 1970. We are celebrating our 52nd year in existence. But it actually has roots that go all the way back to the 1800s. NCAE is the merger of two teacher organizations in the state of North Carolina, the North Carolina Education Association NCAE, which was primarily white educators in the state of North Carolina, and the North Carolina Teachers Association, which was the black educator organization— and those two organizations merged on July 1 of 1970 to create NCAE so we have been on the forefront of public education issues for more than a century. We have led the charge as this iteration of this organization for more than 50 years. SM: So what led you to step outside the classroom and to want to lead this organization? Walk us through that journey. TWK: I've always been an active educator, like doing the things that I thought were necessary for my students to succeed, for my colleagues to be the best educators that they could be. We talk about why we joined a lot in our organization, we call it "our union story"—"how did you got involved in the union?" So my fourth year of teaching is when I joined NCAE and it was actually my mom who paid for my membership into the organization. I'll share I was really on the verge of quitting teaching. I had just got married, I was pregnant and I was having a horrible teaching experience. So my mom paid for my membership and I got to work with some other NCAE staff and members who helped me and further taught me about the importance of education, policy and practice. I've always been into policy and politics and it was the right fit for me. More importantly, it was learning about how I have the power as an educator to change my work conditions. I was like why doesn't every educator know how to do that, so I became involved in my local association, which we call our local unions in every county and every school district. I'm a member of the Cumberland County Association of Educators. I became more and more involved, I was political action chair, I was the vice president, and then along that route, I

was working with my friend, Bryan Proffitt, who is now our vice president in a caucus called Organize 2020. Organize 2020 is the NCAE Racial & Social Justice Caucus which was founded in 2013. So working with Bryan on the caucus we decided that we were going to run together for the leadership of our organization, because the year 2020, as we know now has changed the whole world. When we started our campaign in 2019, even before the pandemic, we knew it was going to be a pivotal year for public education in our state and we wanted to be champions for change. So we ran and won. SM: What's been one of the most rewarding things about being leading the NCAE? TWK: Working as president has been extremely rewarding. It is not without challenge, but this work is extremely necessary. Because our educators and our students and our parents, who love their public schools need an advocate in spaces where decisions are being made about public education. I am glad that I get to serve in this role as president and continue the legacy of the work that was done before me. So if I had to pick a special moment, it would be last year, we did the "We Heart Public Schools RV Tour", where we held events across the state, we had an RV that was wrapped in vinyl with our logo and everything. One of our temporary staff members and friend, Leslie drove that RV from the western part of the state to the eastern part of the state and we had stops planned all in between.

Photo from

For us, it was being able to see our members, being able to talk to them and with parents, school board members, county commissioners, and students about what they love about public schools. This was one of my favorite moments. Mind you we did this during the pandemic (as safe and socially distant as possible of course) which also gave us a chance to hear about the challenges. SM: Briefly talk to me about some of those major challenges as it relates to public education? TWK: So first I will share with you that our mission and


value is that every child in the state of North Carolina should receive a high-quality public education. And over the past 10 years, we have seen a systematic dismantling of public education, whether it's through funding cuts, the elimination of resources for our schools, and the political conditions which make it much harder for us to organize to win things that our students and educators deserve. Now, if you throw on top of that, a pandemic that nobody saw coming, then the challenges that were already facing our public schools were exacerbated by the introduction of COVID into our lives. As we all know, all of our academic structures were disrupted by COVID, we suddenly had to make the shift in March of 2020, from in-person learning to school buildings being closed, and everybody transitioning to online or virtual learning. And so one of the things that we know is that the existing challenges continue to exist, for example, disparities and funding for our public schools, as we've all seen in recent weeks, and months increased talk about the Leandra Locky lawsuit against the state of North Carolina around equity and funding and resources for our schools. But then also, how do we reimagine and live up to the promise of public schools so that we can move past the past two years of disruptive learning for our students.

I'm also always deeply inspired by just other black women in general, because of who we are, and the variety and the diversity that we bring to the table. And one of my personal sheroes is Ida B. Wells. One of the things that I really loved about her is that she was a truth-teller. She told the truth and it didn't matter. It didn't matter to be fearful, it didn't matter the criticism, it mattered that she told the truth. So in my role as president but also just standing in my truth as a woman, as a black woman, I feel compelled to follow her lead and tell the truth about the things that are important and tell the truth about the world. So I will always and forever be inspired by Ida B. Wells.

SM: So being a music teacher we know you have a number of talents, what's a hobby or something not a lot of people know about you? TWK: I am a true musician. I majored in voice at ECU so I literally sing all day just in passing and for fun. I'll share I'm not a performer though, I can but I'm not. My hidden hobby, I'll share I'm a gamer. I like to play video games and I'm into Anime. My favorite video game is Need for Speed, I love racing games their my favorite. SM: So are you a Play Station gamer or Xbox? TWK: We're an Xbox house but we're also team Nintendo Switch. SM: So as we wrap up, who are some of your Sheroes? Who are those women that have helped shape your story?

SM: Any final words you'd like to leave our readers with? TWK: The NCAE knows that we might not have all of the financial power in the world. We know we might not have all of the legislative power in the world, yet. But we do have people power and it is through that collective work of bringing people together, that we can see the changes that are necessary for our students and our public schools.

TWK: I mentioned, Michelle McNair, that was my choral teacher who inspired me to become a music teacher. Getting to reconnect with her as a music teacher in the field is an incredibly special moment.



Click to watch video highlights of our Substantial interview with Tamika Walker Kelly.


Of the 115 people who have served on the Supreme Court, only three of them have been people of color – and only five have been women. President Joe Biden nominated a new justice for the Supreme Court of the United States…and it’s a Black woman. The Court decides critical cases impacting the lives of all Americans, ranging from voting rights, economic justice, reproductive rights, environmental justice, and criminal justice. Representation of a Black woman on the highest court is long overdue. Ketanji Brown Jackson’s presence and voice on the Court will undoubtedly enrich its perspective and improve its decision-making.

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Join the NAACP in supporting and amplifying this historic moment while urging senators to confirm Judge Jackson as the newest member of the Supreme Court. Sign the petition.


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SENATOR NATALIE S. MURDOCK Politically Correct: Senator Natalie Murdock Talks About Her Family Roots, Policy Reform, and Her Fight for the Average Everyday Person


enator Natalie Murdock has been one of the youngest senators in North Carolina and her passion for uniting North Carolinians of all generations has been a staple in her campaign. Her family history is rooted in entrepreneurship and social justice, which she has been privy to since a very young age. It was an honor to chat with Senator Murdock about her family roots, advocacy works, and what sets her apart from other senators. She is definitely a “substantial” woman in North Carolina you should know about. KK: First tell our readers and listeners a little about yourself. Where you grew up, went to school, etc. NM: I'm Senator Natalie Murdock. I'm proud to represent the 20th District in the North Carolina Senate. I was actually born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina, and my grandfather found himself there to found a company, Murdock Concrete. He left home at the young age of 12 and was in Wilmington for some time. He found his way to Greensboro. My mom was a student at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in nursing school. So that is how she met my dad who was still living in Greensboro at the time working on the family business. Also, he was working as a social worker and local activist. So that is how Greensboro is my hometown, born and raised there, and come from a strong legacy of civil rights fighters. My grandmother, who was a cafeteria worker, started a strike as a public school's cafeteria worker and fought for higher wages. Two of my aunts were in high school, when they attended the protest with the A&T Four (Greensboro Four) and actually their names are listed in the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro. So activism has always been kind of a part of my history. So I think it was a very natural progression for me to always be 24


politically active from a young age. I was always the one that would speak up even if it was at school. I would organize the students and say, “This isn't right”, and be like what are we going to do ? I was the representative because of the principal or the vice principal. Then even in undergrad at UNC Chapel Hill, I was also trying to get higher wages for cafeteria workers, as a result of my grandmother's story. The work to diversify academic advising at UNC Chapel Hill is something I'm very proud of. It is much more diverse than when I was a student. I was the Black Student Movement Co-Chair chair for Political Action while there and got the bug to work on political campaigns. I worked on a congressional two year old race for the US Senate. When this seat became open, a lot of folks said, “Hey, you know, you should run and so here I am”.I think like most women, it took a number of times for me to be asked to run. So after about 17 nudges, I said, “Okay, I mean, I'm running for State Senate”. KK: Upon being sworn in you were the first black women under the age of 40 to serve in the NC Senate. Did you always know you wanted to run for office or be in politics? NM: I did. I thought I would be behind the scenes for some years and at some point run. I just didn't know when. I was working on the Deborah Ross for US Senate campaign. I met her at GoTriangle. We were working on the light rail that was going to go from North Carolina Central University to UNC Chapel Hill. I thought after her win that I would go with her to DC to work with her on some transportation policy. So envision going to “the hill” and you know, being this staffer, and everything you see is like being on Scandal. I thought that would be my life at first. I would move back home and run. I didn't know what but was actually approached to run

for city council when I was living in Asheville. I just didn't feel like Asheville was going to be home for me, but I love Asheville, but I didn't think I was really going to have roots there. I think, like a lot of folks that serve, the timing has to be right. The “3 F’s” is what one of my colleagues says and it's got to be faith, family and finances. You know, you got to run it by your family. Can you afford it? I'm serving in the General Assembly. Readers and listeners should know, financially you have to have a plan, we only make $13,900 a year if I was not working independently. I've launched my own consulting company in 2017. Ironically, my office is also in Raleigh, so I am able to work even when we're in session. I'm able to quite literally run back and forth from Fayetteville Street to Jones Street to get some hours in with my business. Then of course remote work has exploded and that's made it a lot easier. A lot more of my meetings are virtual, but you do really have to have a plan. You have to have an employer that is flexible, especially being under 40. I was determined to figure it out and to share with others. You know how I did it and how I was able to serve? Luckily, I live in Durham so I'm only 20 or so minutes from the General Assembly. I moved south, you know when that redistricting was coming up. So that makes it a lot easier. So I definitely knew at some point, but I didn't know exactly what it would look like. The timing was right and I also felt led to run. One of the women that preceded me, Senator Jeanne Hopkins Lucas, was actually the first Black woman to make it to the State Senate. When I was considering running, we only had two senators in Durham, and I was bothered that we didn't have one that was a woman. When you actually look at the data from the previous District 20, that's the southern half of Durham, and it's predominantly female. How could we not have a woman senator, in a district where women turn out and vote in higher numbers. Especially as Black women from Black maternal health issues, low income wages, all these issues, student loans,and issues that we face uniquely, as women of color. I felt that we needed to have that voice in Raleigh. KK: Prior to becoming a Senator you were appointed NC Department of Justice’s Deputy Director of Communications and you’re also the Principal and Chief Strategist for Murdock and Anderson tell us about that experience and how it plays a part in what you do as a State Senator? NM: Yes, we are in an age where communications really matter. I don't think you see a lot of communication professionals that say, “Oh, I also want to run, you know, for elected office, but doing things like this, like we're doing an interview today”. On average, I probably do five to seven interviews a week. So that requires, you know, having talking points and having a message. Quite frankly, I will be partisan for a second, I've been a member of the Democratic Party since I was 18 years old. We will have to determine what our message will be, you know, we could potentially be on the heels of a World War. Quite frankly, you're dealing with inflation, we're dealing with a lot of issues in DC, and we're dealing with a very divisive culture. So we will have to find,, what is our message? How do we communicate to voters

and so I'm glad that I can bring that perspective to the table. Also, I was working for the Department of Justice. As the Deputy Director of Communications, I got to interact with every department of the Department of Justice. So even when it comes to criminal justice issues, we actually have the Justice academy that trains a lot of law enforcement. As well as working with a lot of shares across the state. So that gave me a very different perspective, even with issues such as domestic violence and human trafficking. So it was a phenomenal crash course in criminal justice and before that a lot of work in transportation. So I was able to get appointed to the transportation committee. So that has been invaluable. That was just an interview a little while ago about how we will continue to fund infrastructure as we move into more electric vehicles. We're dealing with inflation and gas at a very high level, North Carolina actually does have a gas tax, that's pretty high. So these are issues that I've been studying for years. So now it's time for the test, you know, with everything that I've been studying, and also being someone that manages their own company being able to relate to small business owners. So I'm very big on that. I'm actually doing a small business tour now, throughout Durham just to talk with those business owners about the challenges that they're facing during COVID-19. A lot of them still have not bounced back and are really struggling and some of them have already received eviction letters. I also lost 50% of my business during the pandemic. I understand I get it. So that also helps me to relate to those small business owners as well. KK: Being a Black woman, what challenges have you faced or do you face within the political arena and would you say strides have been made to ensure there are more women of color in elected positions? NM: I'm a part of an amazing network of women of color legislators nationwide, shout out NOBEL Women (National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women). That is a professional organization for black female legislators nationwide. We all have different stories and different paths as to how we got to this seat but we always have a similar thread. They may not call it imposter syndrome, but you're always making sure that you know you belong and that you do have a lot of that back and forth of knowing you have to stand in your truth. You have to acknowledge the unique experiences you have that help you to bring something different to the table that wasn't there before. Everyone doesn't know how to take that. There is a representative, Emilia Sykes, who's actually a minority leader in Ohio who is now running for Congress. She was elected in her 20’s and security often would say, “Are you lost? Are you in the wrong place?”. I've not had the exact same experience but there was a time where we have folks that monitor the House in the Senate. They're called sergeant of arms. Obviously, the ones in the Senate, you know more than the ones in the House. That was a day where I don't think I had my badge. So sure enough, one of the sergeant of arms, I'm talking to members on the House floor, and he said, “Hey, you know, sorry, ma'am, you're going to have to wrap up your


sation”. As members of the House and Senate, we are free, quite frankly, to float on the House and Senate floor whenever we want. Sometimes there's legislation moving really quickly, where you have to jump in and give someone a “no” or an update, or whatever it is. So one of the House members brought this to attention, like “she's actually a senator, she's a senator out of Durham”. He came over and personally apologized. So I've only had one experience like that but I know that so many more people have that experience where they think especially those of us that are younger. They don't start to say, wait a minute, this is actually a legislator. So I think we deal with that a lot more. I think also, it's what you make of it, I don't focus on that. I go in there every day and say, I'm going to do my job, I'm going to do the best that I can do. I am aggressive and I'm proud of it. I talked to both sides of the aisle. On day one, the Chair of Agriculture said these are the things I want to do. My grandfather was a farmer, so I care about this issue. I want to work with you on this with one of our chairs for judiciary. I talked with him about human trafficking and was able to get some things in the Senate budget. I honestly use it as a strength. So back to the business piece, what I found as being able to connect to those members that own small businesses. I went particularly with the majority, if you are what you call “self-made”, they actually love it, so I really lean into what it is that we have in common. I think when you show that you're there to work and to not deal with partisan bickering, they actually will take notice of that. You will be able to get some work done.

tional support for Black maternal health. We're still dying at higher rates compared to other ethnicities just as a result of being Black. I wanted to add other bills that will provide funding to nonprofits such as Equity Before Birth and Black Mamas Matter Alliance that really focus on Black maternal health. I think it's the biggest success, even though it's small to some people. It’s a brand new program that talks with the Chair of Education in the Senate around having menstrual products in the schools for free. We were able to get $250,000 in the budget, which actually can fund free products for half of our public schools. So school systems will have to apply for these grants up to $5,000. What's really exciting about that is that 1 in 5 people actually cannot afford these products. It causes some of them not even to go to school and this causes absenteeism. So something that seems small, but it is an essential item. So we're really excited about that. Another huge win for us is the Dignity Act so that women are not shackled as they're giving birth. So those would be the biggest ones. I think the biggest loss for us will be our inability to expand Medicaid fully. We were really hopeful this session, the Senate was in favor, actually, which is different. It's typically the House, so we thought we were going to get that done. We were able to provide Medicaid for women 12 months postpartum. Currently, they're kicked off of Medicaid after 60 days. So 12 months of healthcare is still a huge win and something that I'm really proud that we were able to accomplish this session.

KK: You’re fighting for a lot of things right now within the NC legislature. What would you say is one of your biggest successes and have you suffered a loss yet, if so would you be willing to share.

NM: I will definitely lift up Shirley Chisholm just because she was so bold and so fearless as the first Black woman in the US Congress to run as a presidential nominee for a major party. Just how bold she was to do that in the 1960s and 1970s is just beyond me. Her legacy lives on. I mean, you'll be hard pressed to find a Black woman that is in government. Even with Vice President Kamala Harris, a lot of folks missed that. When Vice President Harris was running for President, her logo was actually an ode to Chisholm. So many of us will continue to be inspired by her. I have a portrait of her in my office where she says, “Unbothered and Unbossed” and I feel that way. I feel that I do what's right for the people, you know, not special interests, and not big companies. I say what is best for average, everyday working people and that is what leads and guides me. She was very unapologetic about fighting for average, everyday people.

NM: As a woman of color, I'm proud to propose legislation that connects to the unique experience that it is to be a Black woman. So the first will be the Crown Act. So nationwide from California to New York and other states, they have moved forward with legislation to say you cannot discriminate against someone just because of their natural hair. It's not just an issue for women. It's also an issue for men. One of the first national stories about this was a young Black young man, I think he was 17 years old, who was wrestling in a wrestling match. He was over halfway through this match when the referee said, “Your hair is going to be an issue, you will have to sit out of this game if you don't cut your hair”. We all know how long it takes to grow locs (dreadlocks). They chopped them off, even here in Durham in my district, a young girl's braids were cut, again, over halfway through this softball match when you are well within this game, it wasn't early on. So we have found it is something that impacts our children and impacts their ability to exceed economically just because of their hair. So very, very proud of getting that filed. Also, I've done a lot of work with Black maternal health. We were the second state, behind California, to file a state-level version of my Omnibus, first filed by North Carolina's own Congresswoman Alma Adams. To say we want to have funding, additional healthcare, and addi26


KK: Who are one of your Sheroes or Heroes?

KK: Tell our audience about one of your hidden talent(s) NM: Well, actually one that I will be showing a little bit more on TikTok. I actually do sing and dance a little bit. Many moons ago, I was in my gospel choir doing solos and everything. I don't say it a lot because then people ask you to sing all the time. I did a little bit of a hop for Founder's Day on TikTok. Actually one of the popular original hops when I was coming up at UNC was actually Juvenile’s “Back That Thing Up”. Instagram thought I was worthy of being added to the “Back That Thing Up” Playlist, so there you go.



Photo by Alyssa LaFaro

Anita BrownGraham 28


How Claiming A Seat On The Bus Began Her Legacy Of Taking A Stand Dava Greely is a copywriter, content developer, and digital marketing strategist located in North Carolina. For more information and to get in touch, send a message to

“Louisiana is not known for being on the cutting edge of progressive civil rights, and in 1982, I found myself on a school bus in the midst of a desegregation brouhaha. It may well have been that I was on the bus for five minutes before the bus driver made the other people on the bus reorganize themselves, so I could have a way to sit. But at fourteen years old, it felt like it was five hours. I remember I got to the school. It was my first day at this high school. And the bus driver went into the principal’s office and explained what had happened and I called my dad and my dad came to the school, and I was just bawling, and I said, ‘I cannot get on that bus anymore’. But dad, who usually was so supportive of me emotionally, had this steely look on his face. And he said, ‘You’re gonna get on that bus. You’re going to get on that bus this afternoon. You’re going to get on that bus the next morning, because I’m paying taxes, and you have a right to get on that bus. And when you step on it, you better step on it like you’re the law!’” And she did. And she continues to show up and take a stand, including stepping up on stage to host her own show, ncIMPACT on PBS North Carolina! So, how did we get so lucky as to have Anita as an NC resident? “I came to North Carolina in 1988 to go to law school at the University of North Carolina. I will tell you that I’m embarrassed to say it but it’s true - I’m not sure I was clear where North Carolina was on the map when I got here, but it was a way to get out of Louisiana. And it seemed good. Coming to this state was the best thing that has ever happened in my life. And there are so many times when I’ve been asked by politicians and leaders in Louisiana, ‘Why aren’t you doing what you do in North Carolina back home?’ and there’s not a way to fully explain the magic in the DNA of the state in which people roll up their sleeves and they just get things done. But I have been captivated by that since the minute I got here. And even though I left after law school and went out to Northern California, it was only three years before I was lured back to North Carolina, because this feels like the place I was meant to be.” “There have been so many times that I’ve been the only ‘me’ in the room. But always in the back of my mind, is my dad saying, ‘I paid a price for you to be in that room… You better act like you belong.’”

Before the close of our time with Anita, we asked her to share with us the name of a woman she would honor for Women’s History Month, and she couldn’t pick just one! She chose her late and very good friend, Andrea Harris, who poured into her, never let her off the hook, and always pushed her to do better. She also chose her two daughters, saying:

With grace, compassion, and the fierceness of her beloved LSU Tigers, Anita Brown-Graham is having a substantial influence on her community through her work as a professor of public law at the UNC School of Government and the director of the ncIMPACT initiative. The initiative is fueled by her calling to help members of the community to move past differences and collectively work on common challenges that no one person nor institution can effectively challenge.

“I have two daughters who are young adults, and they are my sheep. I cannot believe, with all of my flaws, that God has blessed me to raise these young women. They are so fierce. They’re fiercely different in some ways. I’m like, wait a minute, ‘How could two people who are so different have grown up in the same house?’ but it’s because they grew up to be their own woman, who they were destined to be. And every day I look at them and think to myself, “If I could have been who you all are in my 20s, I don’t even know where I’d be right now!’ Awesomeness personified!”

Anita is no stranger to challenge. That lesson her father taught her came about from an experience in her childhood that she shared with great and intriguing detail:

The answer to that question is right here in North Carolina where she’s meant to be! And we have no intention of giving her back!

Click to watch video highlights of our Substantial 29 interview with Anita Brown-Graham.

“Yeah! So, wow, that's my baby! We really just got to thinking about misconceptions about Bertie County. Number one, our population has decreased, folks are not staying. Once they graduate high school, they don't intend to come back. And so there's this negative connotation about what Bertie is, who's here, and what we have to offer. We really want to take a look at ways to celebrate, share, and inspire people! We want to celebrate the people who are here and mention the great things happening. We want to share that at large with anyone who will listen, but we want to inspire the people who are still here too - to take that dream and move forward. Right? Because if you can identify with something that's happening in the town you live in, where you sleep, where you go to the grocery store - It just empowers the people! And that right there is indicative of the potential that Bertie has, and we're hoping it will be an umbrella model

A Former “Small Town Girl” Is Now A Woman Making a BIG Impact In North Carolina Dava Greely is a copywriter, content developer, and digital marketing strategist located in North Carolina. For more information and to get in touch, send a message to

If you ever have the pleasure of stepping into her shop, The Glam Boutique, you are certain to find a piece that lights you up and makes you feel like the glamorous, successful, show stopper you are! Your outfit for your next branding photoshoot? A motivational mug to sip your morning coffee from before you get out there and crush it? Or maybe one of the stylish hats adorning the walls and tables, each representing one of the many she wears herself. Nicole Outlaw is a fashionista, a fierce advocate for small business and economic development, and a mother of four making a truly substantial impact on her community. Before evolving into the big change-maker she is today, Nicole was something of a “small-town girl” out of Bertie County, North Carolina. Like many people who were born and raised there, she left after graduating high school to pursue the goals and opportunities she needed in order to succeed. A majority of people never return to Bertie, and the county’s population has seen a decline as a result. Well, Nicole DID return home, and when she did, she saw a need and met it well beyond anyone’s wildest expectations! As the Program Manager for NCGrowth-SmartUp, Nicole leads the way in helping small business owners set solid foundations, stay flourishing, and remain connected with one another. There’s a special place in her heart for the economic development and support of rural businesses and communities in particular. Her work experience and passion for honoring where she came from inspired her to start a nonprofit called “The Pride of Bertie”, and she could not say enough about it: 30


to where we have different initiatives and programs that will help support folks in Bertie, and it will catch on and maybe other counties will do something similar.” In addition to her business, program work, and passion projects, Nicole makes plenty of time to pour into young women of color in business. The bling in her merchandise is not the only way you can find her dropping gems! When asked about the wisdom she would impart to young women who are making their way as entrepreneurs, she gave us this one: “I look at the things I've done in the past that didn't quite align with my interests at the time. And I think those things set me up for where I am today. I was just telling my colleague that everything I've done in the past has set me up for the work I'm doing now with NC Growth! When you're doing things that are out of your interest, you really need to think about ‘How can I do this my very best? Because I don't know what this might lead to…’ And I feel like that's very important!” In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked Nicole who her icon is and who she would thank for shaping her into the woman she is, and her response brought our interview to the most beautiful close: “It would be my grandmother! She was beautiful. She was a homemaker and just the sweetest person. She was doing economic development before it was a word, right? She used the things from the farm to empower other people to make and to do things. She taught me so much about morals, being an ethical person, knowing my worth, and what I’m capable of. She inspired me in a way that will always stay with me. And I really do appreciate growing up with her because it definitely has kept me on the right track when I wanted to give up. I would always think about the ways that she would pour into me and that has lived on since she's passed. So, I definitely feel like she's the one!” We’re sure that her grandmother would be pleased to know that “The Pride of Bertie” is truly Nicole herself!

Reframing Diversity

The women of the diversity movement

From left to right: Jackie Ferguson (Head of Content and Programming), Shelley Willingham (Vice President of Business Strategy and Partnerships), Melanie Sanders (Senior Consultant), and Kristie Davis ( VP of Operations).

What started as a trial for a single eLearning course, eventually turned into an organization that has responded to the call for action that so many organizations across the country have needed. The Diversity Movement, or TDM is a diversity, equity, and inclusion company that provides solutions for business transformation. Their experienced team of professionals has extensive backgrounds in business, journalism, human rights, and data analytics. Substantial got a chance to sit down with some of the dynamic ladies who are helping to create a strong footprint for TDM and the solutions it provides to create better workplace experiences. We were fortunate enough to meet with Jackie Ferguson, Head of Content and Programming; Shelley Willingham, Vice President of Business Strategy and Partnerships; Kristie Davis, VP of Operations; and Melanie Sanders, Senior Consultant. These ladies are all dynamic in their own right, but as a whole they make up an even more dynamic team at The Diversity Movement. SM: What sets TDM apart from other DE&I organizations? JF: From my perspective - and I’m sure that the four of us would have slightly different answers on the question - but from my perspective, The Diversity Movement is a group of entrepreneurs, business executives, and instructors that understand what’s required for organizational success. So we leverage our content, our products and programming to create customized solutions for cultures of belonging that lead to successful outcomes for our clients. SM: Tell me a little bit about some of the signature programs that are offered through TDM. SW: What I love about the way we show up for our clients is that we can help them wherever they are in their journey. So from consulting, to training, to live workshops, micro video platform digital learning, full course platforms, blogs, white papers - so much great, amazing content that our content team puts out. We have a variety of ways that we’re able to help move the needle, as relates to DEI, and again, meet

people where they are and understand that people learn and retain information differently. SM: Tell me,what is the importance of diversity and inclusion in regards to how corporations are able to use this to market to diverse org audiences, SW: I think the challenge with programming is that it’s traditionally kind of been housed in HR, and it didn’t have much more than an HR function. But as much money as it takes to run a marketing and advertising campaign, you want to ensure that what you’re doing is actually going to benefit the organization as a whole and won’t just be seen as window dressing. And what we see a lot of organizations or brands do is they launch full scale diversity recruiting, or diversity marketing campaigns. But internally, that message doesn’t align with what their employees are experiencing, or even what their consumers experience when they go into a retail location. So it’s very important to connect the dots through all of your business endeavors, not just HR, but with marketing, sales and operations, and customer


service to ensure that the message is consistent throughout and that you’re living and walking the values that you say you have when you’re presenting something to somebody to an external audience in an advertising or marketing campaign. SM: A lot of times, especially when we are in an organization, it becomes personal and we don’t realize the value in having an outside party help us with those things. Melanie, your background is as a news anchor and you’ve had an amazing career. How has your past experience prepared you to dive into this role with professional development at TDM? MS: I really have been fortunate and blessed to have a really fun, exciting, professional journey. And I feel as though all of those professional experiences have led me to where I am today. Because at the core, I’m a communicator. And I love to teach communication skills, because without clear, concise, authentic communication, we’re really lost as a people. So my career, as you mentioned, started as a television journalist, and it was amazing, but that really laid the groundwork for my success as an Executive, a Video Producer, and my experience to coach top Executives as it pertains to media training, presentation, training, workplace communications, and all of those things. And then on a personal level, I’ve always really had a lifelong passion for diversity. And the more I learn about people with different types of diversity, the TDM mission as a whole, and how we’re able to really help people by changing perception. I am really fortunate to be able to use my professional skills that also foster something that I really care about, to help people and to really spread the word of the value of promoting diversity. So I’m really loving it and enjoying it. 32


SM: And congratulations on that new senior role at TDM. Again, you all just make such a phenomenal group of people that have such a large impact. Tell us a little bit about your inspiration for your award winning executive production for the ‘Who We Are’ video. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration for that. MS: That was my favorite video that I’ve ever produced, and it was awesome. I talked with Don Thompson, the CEO of The Diversity Movement, about what we wanted in a video that really would showcase and highlight the vision and the mission of The Diversity Movement. And I knew I

wanted a music video. I knew I wanted really inspirational lyrics that really talked about the beauty of diversity and how we are unique, and how that uniqueness should be celebrated. I had already met the singer and songwriter of the video, and I knew I wanted to work with her. And it just all meshed together beautifully. It all really fell into place. It’s not all the time when you’re producing a video that good things fall into place, but this video actually really fell into place. And we got a lot of amazing feedback from the TDM team. We really are all of the people featured in the video - the people who were featured are from different cultures and religions, walks of life and lifestyles, and that they wanted to be a part of this video, they were inspired to be a part of the video, and they enjoyed it. And I love their authenticity in the video. So my hope was that these people would sort of

shine on camera, because of the reasons behind The Diversity Movement and why TDM exists for these diverse people. And that’s why it’s called ‘Who We Are’ and that’s what inspired those lyrics. SM: Jackie, can we talk a little bit about how your personal upbringing has influenced the way you create content for TDM? JF: I was raised in a multi-racial, multi-generational, multi-regional, blue collar, white collar home, and my grandparents moved in with us when they retired. So I got to see the world, one world, through many different lenses and see how people navigate the world differently. So learning how to listen has always been part of how I think and process information. So as I think about the learning journey for people who are at different points of understanding and practice as they get into diversity, equity and inclusion, it’s a natural thought process for me because of the way I was raised. So if I’m having a conversation with my father, who was from the Silent Generation, White, and raised very poor, but he did quite well for himself, and then my mother, who was a Baby Boomer, and Black, it’s really interesting how they see things. So, I feel like that was a benefit in the work that I’m doing today, because it’s part of who I am to see different perspectives at the same time. SM: I think you hit on something important. When we talk about diversity and inclusion a lot of times people stick to one main thing, and that’s great but just having access to people from different generations is also embracing diversity. I go back to that video, and you all had such a wide variety of different people. What are some of the other groups that people glaze over when they are thinking about policies or thinking about

how to create content that is attractive to all people?

your own research and validate those numbers.

JF: That’s such a great question Evelyne, and, you know, people think about race or gender, sometimes sexual orientation, and that’s where they stop. But if you think about disability, or age, or neurodiversity, or just originality, there are so many different aspects. Personality is a part of diversity. So, you know, when you think about diversity on that base level of race, gender, and sexual orientation, you’re missing all of the different aspects that create real inclusion, because everyone is part of a diverse group, diverse ways of thinking, diverse ways of problem solving, and how to solve the challenge, or how to do something more efficiently. There are so many different perspectives from your life experience, and how you navigate the world that creates your personal dimensions of diversity. And so taking all of those in account, and then being mindful of that, and being respectful and embracing that allows us to create better environments and better work cultures.

From the HR perspective, I would say, Respect and the ability to speak freely. And what I mean by that is, if you feel like you can tell someone that what they’ve done is not their best work or that it could be different, and they’re open to it without there being any animosity, then you get a better work product. So those are some of the traits and characteristics that we try to encourage so we can actually get better collaboration.

SM: Christy, you are the VP of operations at TDM and we talk a lot about leadership in this space. What are some of the values that are important to you in the workplace in order to be able to support your employees? You all do very important work, so what are some of those values that are really essential for moving this thing forward and creating things? KD: I think from the finance perspective, I would definitely have to say honesty and transparency. Because when you’re talking to an individual, and they’re giving you information about research that they’ve done, you need to be able to believe that what they’re telling you is correct, because you use that information to forecast and try to figure out where we go from here and what the numbers look like. So if you don’t have confidence in that person, then it’s going to be very hard to believe them and you’re gonna have to spend more time going to do

SM: Christie, you also have another passion. You’re the co-owner of Raleigh Elite Diamonds Cheer gym, let’s talk about how leadership plays into that. And how diversity and inclusion also play into that when you’re supporting community members who are a part of your business. KD: Ironically, cheerleading was never anything I was personally interested in. We got started because there were not a lot of opportunities for people of color in cheerleading. Most of them couldn’t afford it; it’s a very expensive sport. So we ended up kind of doing something on the side, and then it actually turned into a business where we could provide those opportunities for those underrepresented girls. In the process, what I’ve learned is that we’ve helped a lot of them tremendously. Letting them know that people like them can own businesses, people like them can cheer and be equally as good as someone that doesn’t look like them. And just the mentorship that we provided to some of these girls, because we’ve been doing this now for years. Some graduate from college and they come back and help. It’s just been a great journey. SM: Speaking of other passions, Shelley, you also have another passion outside of TDM, as the founder of the National Organization for Diversity in Sales and Marketing. Tell us about your organization and how they’ve made an impact in decreasing stereotypes in terms of media content.

SW: I started that organization in the early 2000s when the conversations around diversity were really focused around “Kumbaya, We Are The World”. And my approach was, yeah, “we are the world”, but let’s talk about how we make money. Because at the end of the day, what I knew was that if I couldn’t attach a business case to these conversations, then they wouldn’t be sustainable. And again, this was the early 2000s and I worked with Fortune 500 companies on helping them recognize the increasing purchasing power and diverse segments and how they were leaving money on the table. If they were not marketing to certain groups, or being offensive, or using stereotypes to connect with different groups. In 2008, we got a Black President, so “the United States didn’t have a diversity problem anymore”. And a lot of corporations started to cut their diversity budgets around that time. And so fast forward to 2020 when we’re all sitting around, and we see what’s happening with George Floyd, watching him being murdered on national TV and seeing this resurgence of this topic, which was good in a way. But also, it was really disheartening to see that from the early work that we did, in the early 2000s. We really hadn’t come that far. Because the conversations are still back to the same thing. And so now we’re seeing some of the same kind of “woke wash”, marketing and advertising, where there really is no connection to what you’re doing internally, or to the messages you’re trying to put out in the media and with advertising. So that’s when we saw a lot of work to do there. The danger of it is that you really can hurt these movements that you’re saying that you support because you’re creating this illusion of progress that may not really be there because of public support. So there’s a lot of work to be done in this space and I’m hopeful that what we did in the early 2000s did make a difference at that time. SM: Melanie, tell us about how that connects with professional development. I know that’s an area that TDM is digging a little bit deeper


into. What are some of the offerings that you all have for professional development, and tell us a little bit about how it’s beneficial with the entire mission of TDM and what you’re trying to accomplish. MS: This is really timely because yesterday we officially kicked off with the press release about our new offering with professional development at The Diversity Movement. I was facilitating professional development training at Walk West before I transitioned over to The Diversity Movement. That’s my background - presentation training, executive presence, workplace communications, and teaching the invaluable skill of communication. People talk about it being a soft skill, but I consider it a power skill because you have to be able to communicate effectively in life. You can not be an effective, authentic communicator unless you hone your message and personal development skills, your body language, your vocal delivery, all of those things are intertwined. You also can’t be effective as a really good inclusive communicator unless you have those DEI skills to help you be an inclusive communicator. So you mentioned what sets TDM apart - it’s our professional development capabilities. At TDM, as a Certified Diversity Executive, I’m including inclusive language and other vital DEI best practices in those professional development trainings, so that our clients are getting a well rounded course on how to be an authentic, confident communicator. So we’re not just teaching those basic skills on presentation skills and media training, but also having some DEI education on how to be an inclusive thinker. SM: Tell us a little bit about the difference between you know, someone who’s talking about it and someone who is a Certified Diversity Executive. JF: From my perspective, earning the designation of Certified Diversity Executive gives you the credibility and credentials to strategically position an organization for sustainable success through the methods of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that creates those cultures of belonging and innovation, which create more profitable business. So having those credentials means you have the knowledge to be able to move an organization forward. SM: Christie, as VP of Operations, any insight on how that affects your position as a leader? What’s the difference between someone who’s just kind of using blanket terms, as opposed to someone who really is strategic and has done a lot of the work in DEI? KD: I think it helps you if you can tell the story from a business lens, because people want to know how they’re gonna make money, right? So even in my position, if they’re talking to me about something that is good for diversity, something we need to know, I’m concerned with how this is going to help us. I can see it from their point of view and



then try to make an informed decision versus one that is just completely financially based? SM: one of my favorite products that TDM has is the Beyond The Checkbox podcast. Jackie, I see your face on that podcast so often, and I just absolutely love it. Tell us about Beyond The Checkbox for those who have not had the pleasure of experiencing one of the podcast episodes. JF: On the podcast I’m able to talk to amazing and diverse people in business and advocacy and entertainment about lots of topics including belonging, inclusion, finding your purpose, creating sustainable business, and so many more topics that we cover. And my guests are game changers and glass ceiling breakers and innovators in their field. And I love hosting it because I learn so much from each guest. And I take pages and pages of notes. Because my grandmother used to say, “no matter who you are, I can learn something from you. And you can learn something from me”. And so there’s so much that I learned from each person that I speak with. I think this next season we’re getting a little more into advocacy and what that means and how we create change amongst these systems that are not built for us. So we’re looking at ‘how do we advocate for change’? How do we, in our individual day to day lives, create change and be aware of that? So a little more advocacy and activism on this next season. I’m looking forward to digging into that and making some systemic changes one step at a time. Check out the full interview with Jackie, Shelley, Melanie and Kristie.

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Connecting Communities: Advance Carolina Deputy Director La’Meshia “LA” Whittington Talks About Her Career Path and Two Life-Changing Quotes She Lives By born and raised, in the South. I was reared with community and mutual aid as a practice. So I can recall, really even preschool, like you remember those formative years when there's those “aha moments”. As a child where you're like, “Oh, I remember this”. When I was four years old, there were very distinct memories that I can recall at that age. One was my mother and my grandmother would always take me to a place we called a “mission”. It was a house that was created. My mother helped to actually ideate the ideas of how to support the community that were returning citizens. My grandmother would go in and cook meals. She was the organizing director before there was such a thing as organizing director. I saw that and I even saw sometimes they were disrespected with racism, even as they were cooking meals for multiracial communities. There were folks that didn't want to accept help or food or a home cooked meal, just simply because of a Black woman. So that was a very impressionable age for me. That was the moment when I became conscious.

La’Meshia “LA” Whittington has been a long-term advocate for Black and Brown communities across North Carolina for many years. Whether you have seen her advocating in the communities she serves, teaching on the collegiate level where she is inspiring the next generation of advocates, serving as the Deputy Director of Advance Carolina, or as the NC Black Alliance Organizing Campaigns Director. She’s a dynamic public figure with clear focus on being a community change agent. The Substantial Team is excited to talk with Whittington about what inspired her career. KK: Can you share with our Substantial readers a little about yourself? LW: Yes, it's a great pleasure and honor to be here. My name is La’Meshia Whittington but the community calls me “LA”. It just really feels good to be here. I'm an Afro Indigenous woman from North Carolina, from the Appalachian Mountains. So this is my home and I've never left. I may work, I may travel when needed, and go to other communities and within the States or abroad but this is home. KK: When it comes to your advocacy and professional works, when did this begin for you and where did your inspiration come from? LW: So, efficacy has been lifelong for me. I was really reared, 36


A consciousness of “I'm here, I'm present”. This is what my mother and grandmother did in my formative years. So that was a part of the advocacy piece. We talk about advocacy in this vacuum of if you're paid to do it, when many of us have been paid for many years. Advocacy is this lingo jargon of, “Oh, let's advocate to shift this change, policy, or law”. Really, at the end of the day for our communities, let's help each other survive, because we don't have enough resources. We have to lean on one another to click or to help present structures like helping to bring babies into the world, doulas, and actual prayer circles. Also, mothers and elders who held us as well. I saw that growing up. And that was the foundation of myself. Then as I became older, I realized it was a family legacy. I saw on my mother’s side family members and great aunts who had orphanages in Haiti. They're from the mountains of North Carolina, but felt the calling to actually create an orphanage in Haiti. To be there with the people because Blackness is not a monolith and our people are attacked, right? In so many ways, and so many oppressive structures by regimes that can capitalize on our labor, capitalize on our intellect. So seeing that for years, that's where my journey began. As far as personal, I would say, my decision point again, is it's the matriarch. Here, I remember my mother, and I when I was very young, in elementary school. My mother said to me that she was going to give a public comment at a city council local meeting, she was going to speak on TV for the first time. It's like, “Oh, my goodness TV, my mom”, and it was to protest a dirty corporation that was targeting our Black community. I remember mom saying, “I don't want to smell that in my backyard, they're not doing that to us”. So she went down

there, she let her voice be heard, she protested and the corporation was defeated. So that elementary school experience paired with the experience of seeing them go to the mission pier, the experience of that labor, even in the midst of adversity, was when I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I want to speak up and speak out anytime somebody tries to jump on me or my people, I'm going to say no. KK: As for your advocacy role with the North Carolina Black Alliance, what would you like for our readers to know about the organization and its importance in the communities you serve? LW: I'm really proud to be part of the team. This week, the week of February 14th, actually makes my second here since I've joined the team. I was a partner for years, but actually proud to be a staff member and a director. So we have a 501(c)3, and a 501(c)4. So the 501(c)3, the IRS really quick and simple, is an education nonprofit and advocacy nonprofit, right? That, of course, can endorse candidates, you can do that with the 501(c)3, you can't be partisan, but you can educate and inform. You can't tell people who to vote for or what direction they should take, you just inform them of their options. So we work with Black elected officials and that was the inception of the organization. It was created by Black elected officials for Black elected officials. So of course, other leaders, government leaders, agencies, appointed leaders, but it used to be formally named as the Association of North Carolina Black electives. So every year, we have an annual summit. It was our premier event and we will have another this year on April 28 to 29th virtually so readers please join. Over this 20 year lifespan of North Carolina Black Alliance, it became this evolution of saying we need to be intentional with bringing in the community and serving as a bridge. A bridge maker, how are we creating deeper conversations between the folks in that community, who are holding the impact of bad policies every single day? How do we connect that to Black elected officials to make sure they're supported? We oftentimes have this narrative that has been created and in a community that separates us from our power, that once we elect someone who looks like us, represents us, and we just say go do it, but then they're left alone in their silo. The attacks don't stop after the election, it actually gets a lot more steep. It gets a lot worse, because you're by yourself at that table as an elected official and how can we make sure that Black elected officials feel supported. They continue to have this open pathway of communication and so that evolution, determined by the board, means that we get to go into programming. So we serve Black and Brown communities, but specifically Black communities. Building political economic power through environmental justice by voter outreach and electoral work. We realized that we can't ask people to vote and not be there when the hurricane has displaced them. We asked people to vote if they're being evicted out of their house before the pandemic but COVID made it worse. So if we're not showing up to call for a moratorium, which we have, then we're not

doing our job. We can't say vote for people and then not actually be active in the community to say this is what it looks like to build power. This is what it looks like to hold your Black elected officials accountable. What are you asking for when they do get elected, you should know that as a community member. So our staff has grown to a team of over thirty. That is crazy, but exciting, to be able to to actually hire people from the community, people of color that just love what they do and love their people. So we have town halls, we actually have county tables that go on the 501(c)4 side of Advance Carolina. I served as deputy on both programs as the 501(c)3 Deputy Director on the 501(c)4 we have Black and Brown Policy Network, over 30 organizations, Black and Brown, that came together in the midst of COVID’s “Stay at Home” order in 2020. We said, “Where's the policy for us, that actually has the bracket?” The Black and Brown lense that we need to transform our communities to get the resources. We never imagined that the Black and Brown Policy Network as a formation would have achieved a veto against a death investigation record. In the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor, there was a hidden provision that would have allowed law enforcement to hide completely from the public record the cause of death if someone died in their custody. That made prison jail, no matter where law enforcement was, that law would have been passed in the Summer if it wasn't for the Black and Brown Policy Network. Other advocacy groups and on the ground organizations that we worked with, helped to achieve that veto. So those are examples of some of the power we can actually build on the 501(c)4. Even right now, we're able to endorse candidates, we endorsed five really strong Black women last election. Even in this present moment, we're talking about utilities working with the Utilities Commission for the state, such as the State agency utilities and Duke Energy. We are helping them to plan recommendations with other advocates on what it looks like to create a system for folks who can't afford their light bill and how can they get assistance? That’s some of the work that we do, but when we talk about North Carolina Black Alliance and Advance Carolina, we have to grab this Black tradition. So when we talk about where we come from in the landscape of North Carolina, we've seen this with other organizations, we've seen this with NAACP, and we've seen this with SNCC (pronounced Snick is the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). We've seen this even at the top of the 1900s. When we're talking about the evolution of the Reconstruction Era into Jim Crow, it was Black tradition to create Black enterprises. We had Black only towns and cities in over 24 states, in North Carolina, we had Black only beaches, also Atlanta had two Black Wall Streets. KK: In regards to your role as Deputy Director at Advance Carolina, what are key community issues that have inspired you to serve in this position?


LW: I came from a national organization that was grounded in environmental rights, environmental science, environmental protections, but it really wasn't foundational and grounded in the impact on Black communities. When that’s where environmental justice was actually birthed, which is North Carolina, which was from Black communities and Native American communities being oppressed. The Black community in Warren County, led the charge in the faith community, children, parents, families, and so that calling came within myself. That calling from my own family because we come from a long line of sustainable agriculture farmers. We come from a long line of working class folks. So that's within me. I knew that working for an organization that was White wasn't where I was called to be. I couldn't prioritize my people in the way that I needed to. So when the opportunity came, Advance Carolina, were the first before we even got into the main or micro issues and how they were tackling them. It’s an organization with a Black board, Black directors, and Black staff, come on now, all three levels. You have an organization that is under Black directorship, but even if you don't see the board, and oftentimes, we don’t see nonprofit boards but, we know percentage wise that there are often Black or Brown folks in directorship mid-level management, maybe if you're lucky. To see that in all three levels, it was an inspiration to say this is something that we can do now. KK: If someone is interested in supporting the North Carolina Black Alliance and/or Advance Carolina, how can they get involved? LW: At North Carolina Black Alliance, we want you to know that we are not anti-White. It's absolutely not, it's about building that institutional Black power in a lense that we know our communities have been oppressed or marginalized. So it's about building that equity in which allies can participate. So I say that to say that we are always looking for opportunities to be able to spread the “good word” and be able to talk about what we do in the community supporting elections. Whether that's support with amplifying our need at precincts with partners, and the addition of precincts for equity voting for reduction of racial discrimination. So you can visit our websites and we also take donations. So you can go to Advanced, and So please visit us there. You can contact us through our forms there and we usually respond pretty promptly. That's two key ways to find us and an individual donorship, being able to support all that core work. Then of course, if you're ready to be in the community, we take volunteers and partner with organizations pretty much all the time if the vision aligns with ours, and the vision is making sure that is equitable for North Carolina.

pedagogy and radical teaching. Just going back to the good Black tradition that we were able to have Black joy and liberation for loving and space. The two quotes that have guided the pathway for me, one was something my mother said all the time and still says it to this day. It's something that stuck with me. She said, “If you're gonna start it, you're gonna finish it”. There you go.It made me really think, “Okay, do I want to start this?”. Let me evaluate, “Is this for me, because once I get in it, you're telling me I can't get out of it”. So let me be responsible, pray for discernment that builds from that, and again an accountability assessment. Then from there tenacity and endurance. Once you're in it, you're going to be brought through it, you may think it's the end of the road, but once you're in it, there's a reason that the Creator has placed you in that position. To start, it's also meant for you to finish it, no matter what that finish may look like. So that's one that has carried me even when I feel like I'm at my lowest. I think a lot of us have felt that weight with COVID-19 and really talking about healing justice and mental health in the community. That's a real quote for me, the second is, “To know the difference between knowledge and wisdom”. One helps you make a living, the other helps you make a life. So just because you think you know something, doesn't mean you know something. So that wisdom comes from discernment, being a community with elders and respecting where you come from. Also having my own spiritual prayer life in alignment has helped me to discern situations in a place where, “How can I really help my people if I'm being led by just pure knowledge and not love and wisdom?”. So those two quotes are what carry with me. KK: Tell us a fun fact or unknown talent about yourself. LW: I used to have this thing when I was a kid. Do you remember those commercials that said “ It's like the most interesting man in the world?”. Oh, yeah, I would always be that kid who was like trying to learn and stuff. You know, if you start, you got to finish it. I'm a classical violinist but I am also a Celtic musician. I used to tour with my little brother before we opened up our music school. We still have our nonprofit music school. Most folks don't know that. I play over eight instruments and I love music. So I could play everything from Piedmont Blues to classical.I still love the arts. That's my heart and I was actually trained how to ride ATV four wheelers professionally at the age of six.

KK: What book, podcast, or quote has inspired your career path? LW: In the immediate, I'm also a professor at Meredith College and NC State University. My family historically ran a music school. So, I used bell hooks a lot for radical 38


Catch the full interview with La'Meshia and Kimberly. Click to watch.

provide financial assistance by providing credit counseling, assistance with loan packaging; business plan assistance; certification assistance; networking opportunities; and leadership & business development training. SM: What are some of the most common concerns women have before starting a business? LH: Some of the most common concerns that women business owners have before starting a business is funding, identifying target market, marketing strategies, life balance, opportunities, and mentorship/ business counseling.

A moment with Linda Hughes, Program Director for

The Women's Business Center of Charlotte The Women's Business Center of Charlotte's mission is empowering women with the tools, resources and opportunities needed to establish businesses, stabilize their companies, generate sustainable profits, strategize for future growth and contribute to the growth and economic development of our community. Substantial caught up with Program Director Linda Huges to learn more about the WBCC and why she's committed to ensuring the success of women business owners and entrepreneurs. SM: How did you come across the WBCC? - What was your initial role in the organization LH: After spending more than 20 years in the US Air Force and receiving multiple awards and honors, I retired and worked as an Information Technology professor. I eventually ended up moving to Charlotte to find better opportunities for my son with Autism. SM: How has your role at the WBCC changed over the past couple of years?

LH: Initially I wanted to find something with flexible hours, so I did some research and came across the Women’s Business Center of Charlotte. After meeting with the Executive Director at the time, she convinced me to volunteer. That volunteer position in 2017 eventually led to a full time position. Over time I’ve gone from a volunteer to a technology assistant, to my current role as Program Director. SM: What are some ways that women business owners in the process of starting their business can utilize resources from the WBCC? LH: The Women’s Business Center of Charlotte services 12 counties in NC (Alexander, Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly, and Union). Because we are a program of the National Institute and funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. SBA and City of Charlotte, our services are offered at no cost. We offer customized one-on-one counseling; training seminars focusing on key business topics (marketing, finance, access to capital, technology, certification, small business resources);

SM: Tell us about some of the courses the WBCC has hosted, and what's in stone for the next year. LH: In January 2022 we started the third year of our signature program ‘Game Changer’, which is sponsored by Wells Fargo. We are also running the Supply Chain Management program for the second year that is also sponsored by Wells Fargo. We will also be able to have 2 more Small Business Funding Series with QuickBooks sessions this year due to sponsorship by U.S. Bank and Bank OZK. And for our continuous programs we offer monthly sessions on business resources, Google, technology, human resources, business strategy, access to capital, certification, finance, and legal. SM: Best piece of advice you've been given during your time at the WBCC? LH: The best piece of advice I have received during my time at WBCC was stay forward focus, be unapologetic about who I am, and that I Matter.

Learn more about the Women Business 39 Center of Charlotte.

Shero Spotlights

Deborah Holt Noel

Producer and Host, PBS-NC Deborah Holt Noel is a graduate of Saint Augustine's University and earned her Master of Arts degree from the University of Maryland at College Park. Deborah is a conversationalist, content creator, and producer at PBS North Carolina. Deborah hosts and produces two popular shows at PBS-NC, "North Carolina Weekend" and "Black Issues Forum." She is enthusiastic about travel, culture, & Black life. Deborah travels across NC's small towns and big cities to bring viewers stories about great destinations. Whether you're a fan of bluegrass or jazz, an experienced hiker looking for a new trail to conquer, or a family planning their next vacation, she brings our state's must-see places and events right into our homes. If that wasn't enough Deborah has dedicated her career to ensuring Black voices have a platform to be heard. As the producer and host of the Black Issues Forum, she has developed a space for her and notable guests to discuss local, state, and national issues that affect our communities, and encourages a range of perspectives. Deborah is an award-winning journalist having produced a historical 37-minute documentary titled Exhausted Remedies: The Joe Holt Story, about her family’s pioneering effort to integrate Raleigh Public Schools. This documentary won a prestigious CINE Eagle award and is one of Deborah's proudest works. Deborah believes there are so many talented, young people out there, and says "whatever it is that you want to do, study it, learn about it, do it. In all things try to maintain your authentic self."

Click to listen to highlights of All Things Substantial with Deborah Holt Noel. 40


Dana Newell

BentonNewell Communication Dana is a native New Yorker living in NC with her husband, Mark, a trauma surgeon, and two daughters, Morgan, a journalist for WBTV in Charlotte, NC. Melani is a recent graduate of UNC-Chapter Hill embarking on a career as a physician assistant. Her passions include traveling, cooking, and family. I also enjoy reading, spending time with friends, and helping others see and achieve their dreams. In her 30-year career, She has provided vertical and horizontal growth consulting; She has worked with companies such as IBM, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Ethicon Endo-Surgery, and more. Dana has acted as CEO and COO, building operations infrastructures for several start-ups by putting them into a position to be profitable. Benton Newell Communications Dana started BentonNewell Communication because of her passion for client relations, keen business acumen, innovative strategies, financial know-how, and reliable operations skills to help clients reach the next level of increasing their business growth, profitability, and productivity. When asked one thing she loves about the field she's in, Dana says "How versatile the field is and how fast the marketing business is changing since the advent of digital." "This business takes networking, perseverance, and patience. This field is changing so rapidly staying on top of trends is very important to keep on top of what's happening in the industry," says Dana Dana says well many clients think they know the art of marketing, it takes knowledge, skill, and experience. Placing one post or learning how to make a Tik Tok video will render your business useless if you don't understand your business persona, engage with your audience, and know how to work through the customer journey to reach their goals. Readers can connect with Dana via email: and visit her website at

Annette Taylor

Minority Business/Community Affairs North Carolina Education Lottery Annette Taylor is a seasoned professional in public service, philanthropy, community and economic development. She currently manages minority business participation and outreach efforts, in addition to engagement with educational stakeholders for the North Carolina Education Lottery. Previously she served as Director of Community Engagement for U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield where she directed outreach in 14 counties, including Durham and parts of eastern North Carolina. Her work focuses on building key relationships, engaging diverse constituent groups, and leading special initiatives. Taylor’s background includes 20+ years in the nonprofit and philanthropic arena, directing resources to charitable and government organizations. Before being selected to manage the congressman’s Durham office, Taylor led the N.C. Center for Women in Public Service, helping prepare women for elected office and positions on boards and commissions.

Her career has always involved community service and civic engagement. She is a champion for women and is passionate about giving back. Taylor has served on several boards, including the Triangle Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership Center. She is a member of the NCCU School of Business Board of Visitors, and Vice Chair of the NC Council for Women. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in Communications from NCCU and Master of Science degree in Leadership from Pfeiffer University. Annette is truly passionate about diversity, women's leadership, alleviating poverty, domestic abuse and sexual assault. Connect with Annette via LinkedIn @taylorannette

Dr. Vickie Suggs-Jones is an entrepreneur, author, and adjunct professor but her passion for connecting fellow creatives makes her stand out. Her love of literature and documentaries has impacted her career and she launched DocMommyDiva to support other fellow artists. Originally from Newark, New Jersey, and raised in New York, Vickie has lived in a number of places throughout her childhood. Vickie is the youngest of three and moved to Durham, North Carolina when she was a child and later spent time in Virginia Beach. Vickie is an adjunct professor in the Mass Communications department at North Carolina Central University. Vickie launched DocMommyDiva on the heels of the book Unscripted: Narratives from Women at Life's 50-Yard Line. Doc Mommy Diva LLC is a space for creative engagement around book publications and documentary projects. While Vickie is a Doctor (Ph.D.) by training, she is a Mommy by God, and a Diva among the many dynamic women who make up her tribe. "Doc Mommy Diva sets out to promote solidarity around everything in life that challenges our purpose, individuality, and pursuit of joy. Celebrating life through storytelling is my superpower." "Once that book was off to the publisher, that's when I really started to think. I really wanted to have a business or something that was a place for creative projects. Just a space for that creative part of myself where I want to tell stories. I want to tell the stories of other people and I want to do it in either book or documentary format. In fact, I'm working on a documentary that's in progress – stay tuned. On March 26th, Vickie will have the “Unscripted Conversations and Connections” fireside chat and book event over at North Carolina Central University. The NCCU Women's Center, Spectacular Magazine, and James E. Sheppard Memorial Library are hosting and sponsoring the event. You can learn more about Dr. Vickie Suggs-Jones at and connect with her on social @DocMommyDiva - Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter


Shero Spotlights

In addition to fostering collaborative relationships, Taylor enjoys training, coaching and mentoring individuals to reach their full potential.

Dr. Vickie Suggs-Jones

Professor, Author, Entrepreneur

Shero Spotlights

Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders North Carolina Department of Commerce

Cheri Beasley

Former NC Supreme Court Justice

In February 2021, Governor Cooper appointed Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders to lead the North Carolina Department of Commerce, enlisting her experience as former Administration Secretary, strong background as a business leader and her extensive knowledge of what it takes to build a globally competitive workforce.

Cheri Beasley has devoted her life to public service and to the people of North Carolina.

Secretary Sanders’ vision for North Carolina’s post-pandemic economic restoration is to work with partners to attract better paying jobs, support small businesses, and stimulate our state’s innovation and entrepreneurial economy. Her bold and purposeful leadership aims to ensure North Carolina’s diverse state is an inclusive one that works for all people.

Cheri’s mom was a trailblazer, earning a Ph.D., and becoming a university dean and a national leader in her field. Cheri followed in her mom’s footsteps. She graduated college, earned a law degree and worked as a public defender in Fayetteville.

Sanders brings 30 years of strong management and leadership experience to Commerce as a seasoned pharmaceutical and biotechnology executive, previously serving as vice president of manufacturing and general manager of Biogen’s largest manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park. She’s also held leadership positions overseeing manufacturing, global quality assurance and quality control functions at Biogen, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, and Diosynth-Akzo Nobel. As a native North Carolinian and mother of twin daughters, she is passionate about improving the status of women in our state. Some of her work includes creating a Women’s Innovation Network at Biogen and the Lady Cardinals STEM Program for High School students while at North Carolina Department of Administration. After all, as Sanders puts it, “Improving the status of women in North Carolina is not just a woman’s issue — it is a family, poverty, and economic issue.” Sanders is also a strong supporter of diversity, equity and inclusion, believing that “you can’t be what you can’t see.” She previously served as the Chair of the North Carolina Commission on Inclusion, North Carolina Complete Count Commission, and the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force. Additionally, she serves on the Interagency Council for Coordinating Homeless Programs (ICCHP), Commission of Indian Affairs, and the North Carolina State University Board of Visitors. Bio taken from



From a young age, Cheri was taught that no door should be closed to her, and that with hard work and faith, she could accomplish anything.

In 2008, Cheri was elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, winning by a commanding 15-point margin of victory – her first of two successful statewide elections. In 2014, Cheri was elected Associate Justice of the state Supreme Court. In 2019, Cheri made history by becoming the first African American woman to serve as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. –Bio taken from

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” ― Maya Angelou

The Honorable Eva M. Clayton

The late, Andrea Harris

Former U.S. Representative of North Carolina

Trailblazer for minority businesses and communities

Elected to the House in 1992. Eva M. Clayton made history as the first African-American woman to represent North Carolina in Congress.

A native North Carolinian, the late Andrea Harris was a trailblazer for minority businesses and communities. A graduate of Bennett College, Harris became one of the youngest community agency directors in the nation, helping fight poverty across three rural North Carolina communities.

Recognized as a leader by her colleagues, Clayton was elected freshman class president. Clayton used her position and access to the White House and congressional leaders to seek assistance for African-American farmers in her district. Throughout her tenure in Congress, Clayton, who represented a rural constituency, served on the Agriculture Committee. Clayton served for five terms. In 2003, she was appointed Assistant Director-General of the United Nations's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Clayton graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a Master of Science degree from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. She also attended law school at North Carolina Central University.

After retiring from the Institute, Harris continued to serve on several boards including the state's Advisory Council for Historically Underutilized Businesses, where she was appointed in 2017. She is a recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest award for state service granted by the Office of the Governor as well as an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Bennett College. Harris, who was 72 died in May of 2020.

Shero Spotlights

Clayton worked on the Soul City community development project in Warren County, North Carolina. In 1977, she was appointed Assistant Secretary for Community Development for the North Carolina State Department of Natural Resources and Community Development and served from 1977 to 1981.

An unwavering passion to help others in need, she co-founded the NC Institute of Minority Economic Development in 1986, where she served as president in 1990. Located in the heart of Durham, the Institute supports minority and women-owned businesses.

From 1982 to 1992, Clayton served as an elected member and chair of the Warren County Board of Commissioners. In 1992, she was elected from the 1st congressional district in North Carolina to the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat; at the same time she won a special election to finish the remaining months in 1992 of the term of Congressman Walter B. Jones Sr. During her ten years of distinguished service as a United States Congresswoman, Clayton served on a number of committees and was actively engaged in the legislative development of the Department of Agriculture's Operation policy.


leading in her hometown: A Conversation with Knightdale Mayor Jessica Day I remember the excitement when we got Chick-fil-A and when we got to Applebee's, and so I've been able to see it grow to this point. And I'm excited about the future and the continued growth here. KK: When did you know you wanted to start a career in politics? JD: I love that question and it's hard for me to answer because I never wanted to start a career in politics really. I really just wanted to serve my community. I say often that I got into this from a level of curiosity and a willingness to serve. Constantly asking questions like what we can do better? I’ve seen this happen, can we do this here? Can this happen? Why do we do this? Okay, I'll consider being on this board and see how I can give back? Well, if you really want to do something, and you really want to give back, you should run for council. I was not expecting that. I said, “Okay, let's run for council, and let's do this”.

Mayor Day's no stranger to local government and public service in fact she'd say it was her curiosity and love for her hometown that started her journey into leadership. Since 2000, Knightdale has seen rapid growth and has become one of the most diverse communities in the Triangle. It is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in North Carolina. Substantial got the chance to sit down with Mayor Day who shares what it means to be in leadership in her howntown. KK: Let’s start from the beginning, can you tell us where you grew up and how that experience shaped your career path? JD: I was born in Raleigh, only because we didn't have a hospital in Knightdale but I grew up here. I went to high school at Southeast Raleigh High School. Another question I get asked often is, why didn't you go to Knightdale High School? Well, Knightdale High School didn't exist at the time. So how did it shape me? I've been able to see Knightdale grow dramatically over the years, when I was growing up here there were only about 1,500 people or residents in the Town of Knightdale. Now we're expected to hit 20,000 residents very soon. That is such a dramatic growth and I've been able to see it. I've seen it in the residents moving here and the people here but also in the housing and commercial and retail development. 44


KK: As the first African American woman to hold the position as Mayor of Knightdale, how has that experience been for you as an African American woman in leadership in a rural setting? JD: It's been such a great growth opportunity. It's been just amazing to be able to have that voice and to be in that room. I'll say a lot of my life, I have been in rooms where I've been the only or I've been the first and you can put in several things you could say the only woman or the only Woman of Color, the only Black woman, or one of this age. There are so many different things that I can say that I've experienced along the way and been able to give some different viewpoints. When I start on the board, I hit a lot of those boxes and still I some times find myself being the only female, the only Black woman, the only person of color or in some cases the youngest women.

"So I think on one end, it's creating that voice but then on the other end, it's representation, being able to show other Women of Color that this is an option for them. This is an opportunity. This is something that you can do."

KK : What would you like Substantial readers to know about Knightdale, NC? JD: I would like them to know that Knightdale is one of the fastest-growing towns and it's one of the fastest-growing because it is truly a great place to live. I love Knightdale but now I can say it's not just me because people are moving here and you can see that. One of the things that I love about it is there are several factors that make up a great community. There's housing, transportation, economic development, and education. I think one of the biggest things that makes a great community is the people that live in the town. Here in Knightdale, we have amazing people, people move here, and they say, I just love everybody, they are just so kind. I think that's because we have a culture of diversity here in Knightdale. We're one of the most diverse communities and that's any way you look at it.

experience. One, just to experience working with Disney but two, I pretty much lived in Disney World for six months, which was amazing. It was the kind of a moment that shaped a few things in my life. You can learn more about Mayor Jessica Day and the Town of Knightdale by visiting Follow Mayor Jessica Day and the Town of Knightdale via social @TownofKnightdale - Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

KK: In honor of Women’s History Month, what woman or women have inspired you? JD: This one is a tough one because this list could go on for so long for me. One person that I will say, in particular, was Keisha Lance Bottoms, the previous mayor of Atlanta. I remember going back, this is before even thinking about being mayor, through the Atlanta airport and seeing her picture. I remember saying, “Wow, she's the mayor, oh this is amazing.” That planted a seed that I didn't even know was there. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, that's what I hope to do. I hope that with me, I'm able to plant a seed for somebody else. I'll also give Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia representative, as an example. It was a huge example when she ran, I thought that was huge but for me, it was what she did after she ran. Lastly, I do have to say, and I know others may say the same thing but I really have to say this, my mother has been such a strong inspiration in my life. My mother is a server, she just cares so much and she gives so much of herself. She says, “How can I help those around me?”. I think that that's where I got my culture of how I can serve. I see my mom doing so much that I need to do more. So she's constantly an inspiration and my biggest fan. So I have to put my mom in there.

Photo from Town of Knightdale Facebook Mayor Day poses during the KnightdaleCares and VaccinateWake campaign July 2021.

See more of our Substantial interview with Mayor Jessica Day.

KK: What’s a fun fact, unknown talent, or hobby that you have? JD: I'm a Disney fan. I love Disney movies. One of my favorite movies is The Lion King. I actually worked at Disney World in Florida for six months during college. That was such a great


recognizing the Substantial contributions of our community The Year of the Black Entrepreneur looks to educate, highlight, and elevate Black entrepreneurs by creating a gateway to access and opportunity.


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