Editorial - Peggy Tatum, Editor-In-Chief It’s hard to believe that it has been nine years since we published the first issue of TCP Magazine. My kids were younger, my hair was blacker and the United States was engaged in a new war. With uncertain times, it was sometimes questionable whether or not it was a good time to start a business. However, starting a business and implementing a God-given vision are two separate parallels. I am thankful for the vision, the support of those who have helped along the way and those who are still by my side. I appreciate the struggles that have made me stronger and given me a new outlook on life. In this issue you will get a chance to read about my family’s personal testimony from the viewpoint of my son, Tolly. Sometimes success leads to failure but we serve a merciful God who allows us to redeem ourselves. This experience took me from my comfort zone of telling the stories of others to experiencing life as a mother with an incarcerated son. I now know firsthand the struggle of millions of families who deal with the penal system. A world that I would have never felt the compassion that I have now had I not encountered it personally. In this issue of the magazine, we reveal the testimonies of eleven other women in addition to myself who have overcome adversity in their lives and have triumphed. I trust that you will read their stories and share with anyone you feel who may be encouraged with a similar situation. We will also salute our Triangle Legends in honor of Black History Month on Day 2 of our Anniversary Celebration. Stay tuned for our next issue to hear their stories. Peggy Tatum, Publisher – (919) 796-4724, email@example.com Contributing Writers: Alecia Jones Alesia G. O’Neal Connie McCoy Rogers Cynthia Jones Dr. Francene Hash Dr. Linda McCall Helen Adams M. Ojinga & Dionne Harrison, MD Minister LaTeshia Pridgeon Anthony Selena & Derrell Young Terry Spicer Tolly Carr
Contents 5 – Editorial 6 – Miss Black North Carolina USA 2013 8-20 – Stories That Heal 23 – Music Connection Showcase 24 – Indie-Friendly Red Carpet & Conferences 29 – TCP Magazine Gospel Cruise 35 – Changing Lifestyle and Losing the Pounds Volume 03 Issue 2 The Connection Place, Inc. 181-104 Wind Chime Court Raleigh, NC 27615
Amanda McCoy Crowned Miss Black North Carolina USA 2013
There’s a new crown in town! Amanda McCoy won the title of Miss Black NC USA 2013 on December 16, 2012. She will represent North Carolina in the Miss Black USA Pageant in August of this year. A native North Carolinian, Amanda, was raised in Cary, NC and is the daughter of Gregory McCoy and Connie McCoy Rogers. Holding the title of Miss Teen Essence USA 2009, she graduated with honors from Southeast Raleigh High School where she was involved in various school and community outreach organizations. Currently a Junior at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, she is pursuing a BA degree in Communication Studies with a double minor in Women’s Studies and Journalism. She is also an active member of the Kappa Kappa Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
Amanda (left) with Miss Black NC 2012, At an early age, Amanda Pia Jessup.
learned the importance of giving back to the community. Her platform, P.E.A.R.L.S for Girls, focuses on a number of character traits needed to mold elementary aged girls with skills necessary in becoming prominent members of our society. Passion, Energy, Awareness, Relationships, Literacy and Social Skills make up the traits in which she built her platform. With these traits in mind, she has traveled throughout the Mecklenburg County School System mentoring young girls to aspire to be their very best and to use these skills to achieve success. She believes that a woman possessing these skills, has the ability to make it through any obstacle life has to offer. A woman possessing these skills has the power to change a nation. Her plan is to do just that….one girl at a time. Amanda’s ultimate desire is to become a well known spokesperson for Entertainment Media and continue to inspire youth of all ages throughout local and surrounding communities. In her spare time, she enjoys fishing and the outdoors, listening to country music, hanging with her sorors and spending time with family and friends. She is excited to be Miss Black North Carolina USA 2013 and gives honor to God, who is the source of all her blessings. For more information on this pageant visit www.noireproductions.com.
ALESIA GREEN O’NEAL
Finding Purpose Through Polio by Alesia G. O’Neal
John 9: 1-4: And his disciples asked him saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. My name is Alesia Green O’Neal and I am a 56 year young African American Woman. I am the third oldest of seven children born to Elizabeth and William K. Green, Sr. in Craven County. I have two brothers and four sisters with our oldest sister passing away in August, 2012. My story is one of triumph and victory from being born with polio. At the age of nine months, my parents noticed that my legs were not the same size. What they discovered was that I had polio. With limited knowledge of polio in 1956, the doctors said the only solution they knew was to put a baby brace on my right leg which would straighten and allow it to grow so that it would be equal in size to my left leg; however, the brace did not work for the growth portion. As I got older, I would have to go to the doctor to get brace after brace after brace. Of course, the kids my age and older did not understand why I had to wear it, and to be truthful, I did not understand it either. I became bitter because if God was all my parents said He was, why did He let this happen to me? If only I knew back then the great works God would have in store for me. Finally, in 1971, with the advancement of medicine, the doctors performed surgery to put a rod in my leg to replace the brace. The surgery was a success and I can wear normal flat shoes but nothing with a heel. Is the limp gone? No, but guess what? I am fine with me as me. Praise God! As I look back over my life, now I know God created me for a purpose. He did not want me to feel sorry for myself or to have people pity me. It is to be His servant to help others. I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work. I am secure in who I am in God. I don’t even think about having a limp until someone asks me what happened to my leg. There use to be a time in my life that I would cry trying to explain, but God has matured me in Him to talk boldly about it. Psalm 139: 13-14 Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. God has told me, “My daughter, there is nothing you cannot do. Just remember to always seek Me first and as long as you pray about it and seek My guidance, your decisions and choices will always be right.” I have been happily married for 16 years to my high school classmate Daniel Levi O’Neal, Sr. So you see all things are possible with God. I thank God each day for allowing me to be born, for my life, health and strength. The scripture that I hold dear to my heart is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Page 9
“My Journey of God’s GRACE” By Dr. Linda McCall Pastor Elvin is a woman of God, the mother of 12, currently married to a loving and supportive husband. She is one of eight children. At an early age, her parents noticed and nurtured her gift of singing. Under the anointing, her voice pierces one’s heart, grabs your soul as she lifts the name of Jesus through praise, worship, preaching and teaching. Pastor Elvin was raised by loving parents who displayed obedience and faithfulness to God and family. Through her parents’ faith walk she learned to trust God, and be courageous for His Grace is sufficient. Her foundational covering is a virtue from God; sanctified through divine grace which has sustained her in purpose, ministry, and life’s journey.
Pastor Elvin exercised her faith and saw God’s grace prevail when abruptly she came face to face with horrors of domestic abuse. At the age of 17, she left home and married her first husband. He wanted to destroy her. He didn’t know God’s grace was sufficient; angels had been dispatched to shield her from his fiery darts. Pastor Elvin’s husband had a military career, good provider; they traveled the world, and built a wonderful life with their 5 children. She supported and trained up her children as her parents raised her. Eventually, military life took a devastating toll on their marriage. Once a military man of moral strength, he took to drinking, living the destructive fast life; the spirit of deception overtook him and the evil deeds manifested, most often resulting in her being verbally and physically abused. Pastor Elvin, tired of the violent abuse, made plans to leave for the safety of her and the children. This angered him and the monster inside him manifested more violently. Pastor Elvin came home one day and was faced with a life changing event. Her first husband unloaded 22 pellets from a double barrel shotgun into her body. She could only scream, “He’s trying to kill me, call 911”. The grace of God helped her shield herself and the children. God’s grace provided a way of escape. Help arrived! The tragedy took a mental and physical toll on the children, family and her. She was in recovery for several months; her son was very supportive and instrumental in her recovery. She suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome but God’s grace was sufficient. Through the healing process, she never yielded to pity and never lost her faith. Her spiritual fortitude was built up through singing scriptures of praise unto God. He delivered her and engulfed her with His love, perseverance and comfort. After facing many storms and challenges; God blessed her faithfulness when she met and married her current husband, David; her true life partner. She has the love and support of children, family and friends. Pastor Elvin has not allowed past obstacles to keep her from reaching her goals. Beginning a new start, she continued her education and is now a licensed RN and owner of a Home Care Agency. She studied pastoral care at Duke University, Co-pastors in Oxford, North Carolina; a 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Indiana Black Essence Grammy Award; she and her husband both have won International acclaim as successful Gospel recording artists. Her life’s journey is an encouragement for all. She is a living testimony that you can overcome insurmountable obstacles, God’s word declares, “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9.
“Amazing Grace” by LaTeshia Pridgeon Anthony
APOSTLE FREIDA CATES
The word ‘apostle’is generally associated with men; however, the truthfulness behind the Creed and THE WORD proclaims that its station and substance of service are as intertwined as God’s first human creations…Adam and Eve. The definition of the coveted title simply means, “one sent out”. And so it was even at the genesis of Christianity when the title was attached to the men whom Jesus selected to tend Him during His ministry, witness His miracles, learn His doctrines, and to publicize His ministry. Yet… somewhere in the shadows awaited women. Apostle Freida Cates is Founder and Senior Pastor of Faith Assembly Christian Center Word of Truth in Raleigh; visionary of the Women of Destiny Fellowship, Faith Assembly Christian Academy and Christian Child Development Center, and New Beginnings School of Etiquette and Excellence. Her ministry spans eighteen years and range from entrepreneur, praise and mime dancer, to Pastor. She leads with an anointed wisdom that is the end result of being and laboring in the presence of God. “Building People” is her God-given assignment. Thus the five-fold ministry decreed for her includes not only the accolades that surround her successes; they also include the pains and trials that make God’s servants strong. From her genesis, “Miracle” should have been her name. Upon Freida’s birth, it was determined that she would not live. Born tiny with a hole in her little heart, she withstood a childhood of abuse from her mother, to a husband who seemed determined to destroy her. Even awakening during surgery when she was eight and doctors concluding she would end up retarded could not stop what God had ordained for her. This amazing woman of God openly admits to feeling lost and lonely during times of abuse by those whom she believed loved her. What causes a man to strike a woman? When she and her husband were stationed overseas, one night he came home drunk and punched her in the stomach. The next morning, she found herself doubled over in pain. She went to the bathroom and as she started to sit down, something fell in the toilet. She collected the bloody mess in a plastic bag and some friends rushed her to the hospital. She didn’t know she was pregnant with twins. Freida lost the twin to her miraculous baby girl, Jelisa. The abuse continued for several years. So, what is the cost of salvation and service? Innumerable persons have devoted their lives to Christ and have a story that belies their unwavering devotion to serve God. God uses a broken vessel and makes them His own. It is only after the storm and rains, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in life that faith and healing take place,and then God changes your name. Freida Cates is a woman whose life was changed by crisis and challenge; who not only learned, but who shares her struggles and faith in God. She is a real woman willing to pay the costs to gain the heart of Christ. Women in ministry are commonly referred to as jewels in the treasury of God. Each vessel has its own story and process of purification. Some are tried in fires while others are sacrificed to lions; and even rarer vessels like Apostle Cates have been crushed like olives. But it is only through that process of purging that one is able to drip the “oil of gladness” that comes from the whole experience declaring them ‘overcomers’ by the grace of God. Today, she is His woman; the Apostle, chosen woman of God!
“Won’t Back Down” by Selena & Derrell Young Cheryl Young was born on Sept 9, 1958 in Brooklyn, New York. She experienced drastic upsets in her childhood, but the most troubling event was the day she unearth her parents’ true identity; the person she thought was her mother was truly her aunt. Cheryl was born to Malvina Boone and Mr. Thomas, but was brought to Mary Lee Hill a few weeks after she was born. It was there in North Carolina she was raised by Mary Lee, Mary Jane (Sista), Bill Alexander, and Billy Hill (Dad). While this was the most unconventional family unit, it was her family. Cheryl’s childhood experiences fashioned the fiber of the person you see today. She has never known her father, and still longs to know him. Surviving life’s jaded patches, God has strengthened Cheryl’s faith and favored her through each circumstance.
Everyone knows Cheryl as the person who is willing to help anyone. If you have a problem, she is always trying to find the answer whether you ask her or not. Normally, she comes through. She believes in paying forward whether she gets a return or not. Anything she believes in comes to pass as evidenced by her ability to open and operate a radio station in her home town of Plymouth. Being a woman of prayer, she “knows how to get a prayer through to God”, and her prayers are never ignored. Sharing the desires of her heart with God one day, Cheryl prayed the heavy prayer of having a TV Show for ministry. It was a few months later she met Mrs. Kim Basnight, who offered to help manifest the dream. That TV show is now called the Kingdom Connection Network. This isn’t the first ministry focus organization Cheryl has erected – Deliver My People Promotions is the start. Through DMP, as it’s affectionately called, she has produced gospel plays, concerts, and choir training workshops to enrich the body of Christ. Having various hurdles to navigate throughout her life, November 2, 2012 would be her greatest challenge to date. Preparing to be the mocking bird Cheryl is known as, she went to rehearsal ready to let loose her vocal talent only to lose her memory before the close of practice. She knew only her first name. While the doctors cannot figure out what has taken place, God is purposeful. A miraculous feat has taken place from this unimaginable experience. While Cheryl didn’t know her husband of 35 years or her children, she knew one thing - she was saved and loved the Lord. This scene of life is breathtaking and she is gearing up to share the entire experience in her upcoming book entitled My Name Is Cheryl. From her birth, she has always been a fighter and what a great legacy she is living. Cheryl has gone back to voice lessons in preparation for her upcoming album, slated to be released late 2013, as well as producing more creative shows for the Kingdom Connection Network. Prepare yourselves because you haven’t seen “nothing” yet, and Cheryl won’t back down.
“Philanthropic Savior” by Peggy Tatum
DR. DONNA CORBETT
She doesn’t know the feeling of a baby leaping in her womb. Compromising her morals and accepting the status quo is not an option. No, she is not a nun but a modern day Philanthropic Savior and advocate for our children, the incarcerated and the needy. Growing up in Alamance County she was the cream of the crop. Best dressed, the first of everything, cheerleader, owned a convertible and yes she was spoiled. Even so, her parents instilled in her a strong work ethic and a high level of excellence. Upon moving to Raleigh to attend school, she took a part-time job at Ormonds at Crabtree Mall that started a lifelong trend as a work-a-holic. Her history has included stints of five jobs at a time. A schedule some her age would balk at and choose alternative means of income. These jobs have afforded Donna with a variety of skills including image consultant, recruiter, trainer, HRD Manager, Account Executive and college instructor. Why would any single woman work so much? Is it a disease, a phobia or an escape? Well Donna has extended families and she has the insatiable appetite to comfort others. She spends waking hours figuring out how to not only take care of her widowed Mom but to keep up with numerous god children’s birthdays and special occasions. Add to that assisting with friends’ financial hardships, finding jobs for unemployed, connecting released inmates to resources and any cause with a need. This is accomplished mainly on the phone driving between jobs. Estranged from her only sibling who was once her closest ally, Donna clings onto the prayer that they will unite as a family. She has comforted herself by honoring her deceased father with formation of The B.F. Corbett Leadership Academy for young boys and The B. F. Corbett Foundation where she provides scholarships to the Intern of the Year at her non-profit Amazing Grace Etiquette that she founded after spending 20 years in Corporate America. Through Amazing Grace Etiquette the prophecy her shero, Mary Corbett, gave her long ago has come to life, “Donna, you might not ever have a little girl that LOOKS like you--but you will have hundreds of little girls and little boys that ACT like you!” Dr. Corbett has taught thousands of youth and adults through numerous other programs. At the Summer Charm School with the Raleigh Police Department, she teaches etiquette and mentors at-risk girls. She share the scars of the students at the Women’s Prison who bear their hearts, their stories and their pain in her Anger Management class where breakthroughs have paralleled psychiatric visits. She understands how you can love someone so much...and that person abuses that love and that lowers your entire self-concept and how you view yourself: feeling sad, lonely and lost...and all you have is Christ (at the end of the day). Dr. Corbett reiterates, “I really can feel the pain of the women that I teach”. She also prepares the inmates with classes such as Life and Career Readiness and Small Business. Dr. Corbett spends her life seeding into the lives of others. Every day that she awakes guarantees a gift to someone less fortunate. Page 13
After separation, Joyce Hockaday didn’t have the luxury of keeping her three boys Darrell, Reginald and William together. Reggie stayed with his father and Joyce had limited privileges. A subsequent marriage to James Hockaday produced Jennifer and James Jr. All of the kids looked up to their older brother Darrell. He nurtured his siblings by taking them to Sunday School, Bible Study and different places; however, William got sidetracked and was sentenced to 8 years for armed robbery. Darrell came to his mother one day and told her that he knew something was going to happen to him and it may include death. God had revealed to him that his work was finished. Within a couple of weeks, Darrell died a sudden death at the age of 30. The autopsy revealed miliary tuberculosis, an airborne virus that normally is prevented with the help of adenoids, but his had been removed.
Darrell’s death was traumatic for Jennifer and James. Joyce had been forewarned and was able to accept that he was in a better place. Jennifer’s escape came with an unsuccessful attempt to overdose on pills. James’ problems came in Middle School when he had to repeat 6th grade. He was a highly intelligent young man but some how always ended up in the middle of trouble that wasn’t his fault. Joyce quit her job and committed to home schooling James. Persuaded that he couldn’t learn, she had to deprogram her son. After a couple of years, James became a home schooled drop out and was only interested in holding down a job. Mom knew that there was something wrong with her son. After an episode of becoming angry and knocking holes in the wall, the police were summoned. James told the police that he was mad because the FBI was listening to them. The white part of his eyes was blood red and Joyce knew that she was dealing with something dangerous. Another occurrence of him standing at their bedroom door in the middle of the night with a knife and a hammer saying he had to kill “him” was the beginning of the revolving door of commitments at Dorothea Dix Hospital to be treated for schizophrenia. This was the same James that came to his mom when he was 12 and asked, “What do I have to do to be born again?” Joyce witnessed her son physically fighting with himself, but yet he was not alone because she could see his shirt moving in places he was not touching. For two years James took shots to control the schizophrenia. By the time it was discovered that the medication was too weak, James wouldn’t go back. One day he just disappeared. The family put up posters, contacted police, TV stations and newspapers. Every day they searched the streets looking for James. A young black man missing in Southeast Raleigh wasn’t really a priority. After seven months on a cold January day, James’ skeletal remains were found in a field not far from home. Police say he hang himself with the karate belts that he once treasured. Mom recalls, “He once told me he was tired of living on this earth and if he could find a way to kill himself without going to hell, that’s what he would do.” He knew and studied the Bible, and carried it everywhere he went but he couldn’t escape the voices in his head. Joyce knows that James struggled with demons and we need to be equipped to handle situations like this. She is now learning more and more about how to gain power over the enemy.
FIRST LADY LAVERNE COOPER
Laverne Cooper was a single mother anticipating the birth of her first child. Her high school sweetheart, the baby’s father William H. Cooper II, was in the Air Force deployed to Korea and was unable to experience the occasion. Everything went well with the pregnancy until the delivery. Laverne’s blood pressure went up and the doctor induced labor. The baby slipped out of the placenta and for 45 minutes there was a lack of oxygen to the brain. The resulting prognosis was Severe Mental Retardation and Spastic Quadriplegia, the most serious and disabling form of Spastic Cerebral Palsy.
The baby was hospitalized for 30 days after birth and was in critical condition. Mom was constantly by his side. His dad was able to come home and saw his son Brandon for the first time when he was two months old. When Brandon was 18 months old, and Laverne was 21, they consummated the family with her marriage to William H. Cooper, II. The military took care of the medical expenses which was a tremendous relief. Approximately every three months Brandon was hospitalized for the first 12 years of his life due to his condition. However he was never institutionalized. He always stayed home and was taken care of by his devoted family and caregivers. Brandon attended daily the Tammy Lynn Center from the ages of 3-21 which provided mom a break. Brandon‘s life expectancy was only 12 years but God blessed him to live 15 years longer. The name Brandon means smart, funny, caring and loving. He couldn’t talk but he loved to smile and had his own way of communicating with his family. Mom and dad would always listen tentatively and understood him. When Brandon was eight years old, Laverne considered having another child. She was fearful of the possible reoccurrence of something going wrong. By this time she had become saved and was able to pray to God and consult with her husband and her 1st Lady at church who encouraged her that all would be well. William H. Cooper, III was born perfectly normal. As William III grew up he eventually was able to also help care for his brother. A big picture of Brandon is strategically placed in the living room of the Cooper household. He is sitting in his wheel chair and is dressed as if he is ready for prep school. I understand that he was always well groomed and was frequently in attendance at Upper Room COGIC where everybody knew his name. Brandon went home to be with the Lord on June 21, 2011 at age 27. A normal trip to the doctor for an everyday occurrence ended with a fatal case of pneumonia. The house is now empty and The Coopers are getting a chance to live again and enjoy each other without regrets. Laverne went back to work about a year ago. This is the first time that she has been in the workforce since 1989. The couple were faithful members of Upper Room COGIC under Superintendent Patrick L. Wooden, Sr. for over 24 years where Elder Cooper served as First Assistant to the Pastor and Chief Armour Bearer and Laverne served as Financial Treasurer for the Women’s Department. She also served in the past as Ministers Wives President, Sunday School Teacher and Home & Foreign Mission Department worker, all while still caring for Brandon. Today you can find Pastor William H. Cooper II and First Lady Laverne Cooper working in the vineyard at their newly established church, Salt of the Earth Church of God In Christ in Burlington, North Carolina. Page 15
LOUISE HINTON UMPHREY
“Now Faith” by Helen Adams “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” - HEBREWS 11:1 After graduating from high school, Louise married her high school sweetheart, Mallie Edward Umphrey. They were blessed with a wonderful family of four sons and one daughter. In addition they assisted in rearing seven grandchildren. This couple established a beautiful relationship with God and Louise was very active in church. In an effort to bring in extra income to help take care of the children, Louise remained in the work force for over twenty years. Just when they thought that everything was going very well, a series of tragedies eased into their lives. Louise stated, “This was a test of their faith.”
In 2002, Mallie was diagnosed with serious heart problems. Shortly after his discovery, Louise found a lump in her right breast. Louise went through chemotherapy and radiation. She said, “I don’t wish this on anyone.” Louise had to drive herself back and forth for treatments because her husband was too ill to drive. Every day at 8:00 a.m., she drove to the designated site to receive her treatments. After arriving home each day, Louise was too sick to cook or eat very much food. She weathered the storm and made it through this situation. It was a laborious journey, but she was reminded of the scripture in ISAIAH 40:31: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;”… Louise’s faith in God was her saving “Grace.” In 2007, Louise suffered a setback. Once again, cancer invaded her body and she was diagnosed with the disease in the same right breast. This time the cancer required a mastectomy. Again, God brought her through this terrible ordeal. In the meantime, her oldest son passed away after a brief illness. On the night of his death, his mother had a conversation with him and felt that this was a revelation from God. He revealed to his Mom how much he loved her and was at peace with God. Yes, there is more to this story! How much can a person endure? Louise has been challenged with another bout of cancer. In 2011, her body was attacked for a third time. Presently, she is still taking chemotherapy and making some progress. She has encountered other illnesses which have impeded a speedy recovery, but her doctor tells her that she is a strong person and doing well in her present condition. Louise‘s husband of fifty-six years died on February 18, 2012. She has taken the grief and hard blows in stride. Louise feels that God and her husband are watching over her and there is nothing to “fear, but fear itself.” Louise’s Testimony is stated in her own words: “I have put my trust in God. I can’t say why ME. I just think why not ME. Everybody is battling some type of calamity. I try to keep the faith, don’t worry about anything, because I know from whence cometh my help.” Psalm 121:1-2: “I WILL lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth…” Today is a new day for Louise. She is a courageous, confident, compassionate, calm, capable and caring individual. Louise knows who has the power and is willing to face each battle with a smile. Her friends, colleagues, family members and Pastor (Reverend Dr. Nathaniel J. Wood and congregation) have been a tremendous source of help to her in a time of trouble and consolation. Remember the inspirational line of the late Jim Valvano (Basketball Coach, NC State University, Raleigh, NC), “DON’T EVER GIVE UP.”
“This is Her Story” by Dr. Linda McCall
PASTOR SHARION BARRETT
Pastor Sharion Barrett is a prolific worshiper; an Intercessor, Bible Teacher, Speaker and Mentor. She ministers the life-giving, life-sustaining, life-restoration message of Jesus Christ; declaring; proclaiming; affirming; and asserts that for her “To Be Alive” today, is only by the sustaining power of God. Her favorite passage of scripture: Philippians 1: 6 “ Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”, that God Almighty is due all her Worship & Praise for His loving kindness, tender mercies, and faithfulness unto her while she is in and going through “His processing Chamber”. Truly, God has propelled her into a level of total surrender and trust in Him! Pastor Sharion Barrett was born on July 20, 1959; a native of New York. She is married to Elder Alfred Barrett of 24 years. They are blessed with four children, KeKi, Michael, Jonathan and James.. In July 2005, God called her to move to Fayetteville, NC. In May 2008, she was called to Pastor Dwelling Place Ministries located in Dunn, N.C. Shortly after her move to Fayetteville, NC and going to the doctor for a routine exam in October 2009 she was diagnosed with a very rare cancer called Squamous Cell Carcinoma; from 2009-2011 she underwent chemo, radiation and surgeries which left mounting medical bills of $18,000. Pastor Sharion Barrett is currently dealing with the side effects of radiation and chemo. It has not been an easy walk, but God has sustained her. She’s a “living testimony” of how great God is! She encourages others in her faith walk. She “trusts in the Lord with all her heart and leans not unto her own understanding but in all her ways acknowledges Him knowing He shall direct her path” Proverbs 3:5-6 (paraphrased). Pastor Sharion Barrett has endured much mental, physical and financial hardship. However, as of today, she gives God all the glory for she is free of the financial burden and “Praise God!” free of cancer! She thanks God for the loving and supportive family, especially her man of God, Elder Alfred Barrett who took care of her, told her she was beautiful and never left her side, then her children who were always there, her parents, siblings, Dwelling Place Ministries (church family), RIM and close friends prayed her through. Pastor Sharion Barrett has been relentless in holding on to her faith and trust in God. She has purposed in her heart to continue to “Preach the Gospel”, and not let her tests and trials deter her from what God had called her to do. She is an encourager and knows the Bible and declares “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but God delivers us from them all!” (Ps. 34:19) Pastor Sharion Barrett declares “To Be Alive”, that she is “confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in her will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6 paraphrased) Pastor Sharion Barrett does not like to be called a “survivor” but rather a “defeater”. We see her as an over comer and a Phenomenal Woman of God …. To God be the Glory!! Dwelling Place Ministries, 101 N Magnolia Ave. - Dunn, NC, (910) 230-0611, firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Trudy Stiff Story” by Dr. Fran Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. Psalms 34:19 KJV One person’s story may be loss of loved ones through divorce or death. Another’s may be health issues or physical abuse, while another’s may be financial ruin or success. We’ve heard the phrase, “Everyone has a story” or “Life is a journey, and where it takes us we never know”. These two statements are extremely true, especially for Trudy Stiff. Here’s her story.
the joy of her first child, Desmond.
In 1980, Trudy began working at Southeastern Virginia Training Center and soon after fell in love and married Herbert Eugene Stiff which should be a happy time in one’s life; however, each year, it seemed that Trudy was hit with painful life events. In 1984, while her father was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer, shortly after in 1987, she was blessed with
Then six year old Desmond suddenly became ill and died one week later. The very next year in 1994, Trudy was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and her mother started dialysis and showed signs of dementia; thus having to live with Trudy and her husband. One year later after coming home from dialysis treatment, Trudy’s mom sat down at the dining room table for the last time and passed away. While 1995 brought the joy of the birth of her second son, Tyler, he had sickle cell anemia, which meant constantly being in and out of the hospital. And in that same year, Trudy experienced another painful event when her beloved husband, Herbert, had a debilitating stroke at a 4th of July cookout. With Herbert no longer able to work, Trudy was forced to work two jobs to try to make ends meet. 1998 brought the pain of the death of Trudy’s father and two years later, in 2002, Herbert passed too. In 2005, Trudy lost everything when her house caught fire and was then homeless; thus having to move in with her sister. During this same time, Trudy was being threatened with blindness and had to have several eye surgeries. The stress in 2005 also hit Trudy with kidney failure causing her to begin dialysis on her birthday. In 2007, complications with diabetes caused her to have surgery on her foot and permanent rods inserted; but infection placed her in extended care for two months. Trudy’s sister passed in 2009 after having to have both legs amputated. This life map of Trudy Stiff shows over 20 years of painful events. So how does one still find the strength to smile, to have joy in their heart? GOD!! FAITH!! Trudy still says, God can and will sustain you if you just trust Him. Trudy gives all glory to her Lord and Savior for still giving her the peace that surpasses all understanding. Dr. Fran, Owner, CEO of Pathways for Life, LLC. email@example.com. Author - Trainer - Speaker on Personal Development, Entrepreneurial Success, Spiritual Leadership. Empowering women with pathways to living a successful and fulfilling life, thus becoming an example for others to follow...
“Free Behind Prison Walls” - Interviewed by Dr. Francene Hash (Dr. Fran), CEO, Owner of Pathways for Life, LLC
As I continue my life journey, God allows me to meet people with phenomenal stories. From the moment we are born and enter into earth, sometimes horrendous things happen to stop our divine destiny. Multitalented Wallene Gaither is a preacher’s daughter who grew up in the church, but at age 31 with a 7 year old son, Wallene’s freedom was taken from her all because she was at the wrong place, with the wrong people, at the wrong time, as is the case with many young people. Wallene spent 10 years in federal prison charged with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Dr. Fran - What was the pivotal experience that caused your direction to change from a church girl to a prison inmate? Wallene - “Curiosity”. My troubles began when I graduated from high school and moved to Salisbury, NC. I loved to dance and hang out. Didn’t drink, do drugs, smoke, but loved the club scene, thus connecting me with the wrong crowd. I was curious about a lifestyle outside of the church world. It’s ironic that I went to prison for a drug that I never used. Dr. Fran - How did you handle being locked away from your family and your life? Wallene - 360 degrees! I completely surrendered my life to God. Everything that my parents had taught me and that my father had preached came back to me. I read my bible, went to all the revivals and Saturday and Sunday services. God purged me and renewed my mind, a new dance in my feet, a song in my heart, and I began singing under the anointing of the Holy Ghost. I was the last one to leave church services just as I was the last one to leave the club. I became the leader of a choir called the “Singing Angels” and was co-leader of the praise team in Alderson’s Federal Prison. I helped other women and prayed with them and became an example of how one can live holy in an unholy place; behind prison walls but free on the inside. I also met Martha Stewart who was very gracious and kind. The night she was leaving prison, I sang two songs for her and did a “sing out”, which is what we do for someone before they leave. I kept myself busy doing productive things and tried to learn everything I could, went to work every day, worked in the Law Library in Florida and Virginia, drove a van for the handicapped, worked in the laundry, the kitchen, and did maintenance inside the dorm. Dr. Fran - Now what? How are you handling being home after 10 years? Wallene - It’s practically impossible for a felon to get a job; however, by the favor of God, I’m now employed. I’m not bitter nor hold any animosity. I’m working hard to develop my music, and I also desire to counsel others from going down the same path that I did. I thank God for my parents, Pastor Wallace and Shirley Gaither, and the True Temple Holiness Church who prayed for me every day. There are so many people God has gifted me with that are helping me walk this journey. I’m so grateful to them all. Dr. Fran - Some people quit, but not Wallene Gaither; for Wallene knows that her trials are the victories that she can use to glorify her God and bring healing to others in a powerful way. Page 19
Peggy Carr Tatum by Tolly Carr Peggy Tatum never asked the Lord to test her proclamation of faith; that’s the pop quiz of life that most of us hope to avoid. Multitudes of people fill the pews every Sunday thanking God for his favor and hoping that it lasts all the days of their lives. There’s nothing wrong with that and if you’re fortunate enough to keep your faith hung on the wall like a fire extinguisher; only to be used in case of emergency, then consider yourself in rare company. In 2007 real life came knocking at the door and Peggy had to trust and lean on the Lord in a way that she never had to before. I called my mother early on a Sunday morning after not being able to reach her earlier during the overnight hours. After a night out barhopping with some friends of mine, I crashed my vehicle on the way home. I was okay, the vehicle was totaled but that was the least of my concerns. An innocent pedestrian was killed in the crash and it was entirely my fault. When I finally spoke to her and explained the dire circumstances I could literally hear the breath escaping from her as the cold reality struck her in the face. She didn’t take long to wrap her head around the life-changing set of circumstances that was just dropped on her lap; she immediately went into action.
The next five months were an upheaval of an existence caused directly by me but rippling into the lives of everyone around me. Navigating the quandary of raising money for lawyers and dealing with the uncertainty of an unknown legal outcome was my mother. As I lay locked away in the county jail awaiting my trial, she carried the responsibility of maintaining both her household and mine. By gaining power of attorney over my matters she, in essence, became me. The part that gets conveniently skipped over in movies and novels is when the power company calls still expecting payment, followed by the mortgage company, followed by the IRS. Life still goes on and what seems like the minutia of our existence still has to be attended to by someone; that someone for me was my mother. How she managed to maintain her house along with my own so I would have a place to live when I returned home I don’t know; at times I can hardly manage it even today. The stand she took for her son will never be defined by the money, but rather the grace in which she stood tall. I was very proud of the things I accomplished in life professionally because I felt that I did a good job of representing my family. Growing up in the dusty sand hills of Sampson County we didn’t have much but we always had family to support us and cheer us on. As happy as I was to give them something to cheer about, I was one hundred times more disappointed to have let them down with my behavior. Just days before I was going to jail for what would ultimately be a two year stay, my mother reminded me that she was still proud of me; as proud as she had ever been. I did not fully understand the power of that moment until a few years later when I got married and had a child of my own. Peggy Tatum answered the phone that morning and she heard a son that needed the help of his mother and she answered. She called on her Father in Heaven and He answered as well. That is the story of Peggy Tatum. Page 20
Stories That Heal
As psychiatrists we are entrusted with the many stories of our patients. Usually, individuals that come seeking help for their problem begin with conveying “the story” of events that have led them to “the chair.” Every person is different. Sometimes it is a single mother who drags a reluctant child for help. Husbands and wives bring each other. A court order may mandate treatment when psychosis or bipolar illness has presented in a wild break with reality. A single courageous individual summons himself to care to sort out his struggle with loss, abuse, addiction, depression, sexuality or unusual thoughts-and a whole family history is disclosed in the process. Shame, fear, isolation, even physical inertia and pain are overcome for the purpose of obtaining healing—which is in the medical and counseling process defined as relief or cure of disease, acknowledging and rightly handling truth, regaining function, rebuilding relationships and broken trust, understanding and changing dysfunctional patterns, finding hope and comfort.
As Christians, we are privy to the thoughts of the greatest storyteller. The Lord shares in his Word how He came to create man and woman and his purpose for them in the world. He explains the circumstances of their disobedience in the Garden of Eden. The immediate effect of their sin and fall is portrayed by God through their nakedness; hiding from Him, whom they had previously known in close proximity, walking with Him in the paradise garden fashioned for their caretaking. The tragic consequences on the plight of the first family and all humanity and the earth vividly unfolds in Genesis. Yet, hope is not lost and the Bible continues from chapter to chapter to reveal God’s divine plan to lead, protect and provide for those who choose Him. Ultimately His glory, the importance of Holiness and His extraordinary love for humanity pinnacles with God sending mankind its Savior, Jesus Christ. We need His saving literally from the judgment of an eternal hell and for victory over our inward and outward battles that must be fought so His purpose is realized in our lives and those around us. So we celebrate the 9th anniversary of TCP Magazine and the victories of the “You Don’t Know My Story” inaugural class. We applaud the courage of Mrs. Peggy Tatum, Wallene Gaither, Pastor Sharion Barrett, Pastor Elvin McShaw, Dr. Donna Corbett, Cheryl Young, Trudy Stiff, Alesia O’Neal, Apostle Freida Cates, Louise Umphrey, Joyce Hockaday and First Lady Laverne Cooper. We acknowledge the families who stand with them. In 2013, our Pastor has directed us to 2 Chronicles 20:13 to purpose in our hearts to seek the Lord for ourselves and families. Break the prison of shame and fear. Make Him your Savior today. Recommit your life and purpose to Him. He will lead us to the truth and give us strength and wisdom in adversity. He will bring healing to our stories so we can all stand up and testify. Drs. M. Ojinga & Dionne Harrison MD Page 21
INDIE-FRIENDLY RED CARPET & CONFERENCES
AND THE WINNER IS...In an array of Christian and Gospel Award Shows that have branded themselves to major artists; this objectively shares, in a single medium, the established brands of award shows and conferences which have proven themselves to be, undoubtedly, supportive of the Independent Christian and Gospel Artist. There are many choices of red carpet music awards to choose from. The CEO’s of these events share a passion to uncover and develop gifts and ministry of the Independent Christian and Gospel Artist. These events have formulated their own corporate stature. They possess corporate partnerships to create an audience that evolves exceptional talents beyond “showcasing.” Phenomenal sponsorships have enabled these events to excel to national acclaim. Some have earned the attention of international artists and their audiences. How an artist seeks a rate of return on their investment for recognition varies. The ability to meet guidelines for submission periods may play a large part in the decision process. As artists begin preparation of the year forward and how best to manipulate their budgets, this information will become resourceful. Where the question, “How does this award show benefit me?” can be answered, is the place where emotional spending ends and fiscal management begins. Begin now.
NEWSOME GOSPEL MUSIC AWARDS Established: 2000, Annual Executive: Mr. Fred Newsome, Former Stellar Awards Academy Advisory Board Member. Event Location(s): Baltimore, MD & Orlando, FL Next Event: Mar 23, 2013 (Orlando, FL); July 28, 2013 (Baltimore, MD); October 4-7, 2013 (Concert Cruise). Phone: (443) 500-1171 E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org There is no fee in the submission and voting process of the Newsome Gospel Music Awards. The Newsome Awards allows you to categorize your music. This awards show demands an 80/20 presence of audience to artist where there is ministry to the unsaved and an opportunity of free enterprise; not artist performing in front of artist. An artist must be present to be awarded. Award show tickets are discounted for artists that reach nomination. The Newsome Awards Staff and panel designed a matrix outline to judge artist projects. Projects are reviewed, judged and ranked by the Newsome Awards Staff. The valuation of each project is calculated based on a numerical system. The artist who receives the highest ratings, within this matrix system, will receive the Newsome Award for that category. “This awards show was derived from my passion to target those Independent Artists that need to be honored for their ministry and not solely on their ability to perform; nor their stardom.” - Mr. Fred Newsome For more information, please visit http://www.newsomeawards.com
INDIE-FRIENDLY RED CARPET & CONFERENCES
SOUTH FLORIDA GOSPEL MUSIC AWARDS
Established: 2004, Annual Executive: Mr. Peppi Hendrix, President/CEO, South Florida Gospel Music Awards and State President of The Florida Gospel Announcers’ Guild of the GMWA, Inc. Event Location(s): West Palm Beach, FL Next Event: Feb 8-9, 2013 Phone: (561) 853-8300 E-mail:email@example.com Mr. Hendrix saw himself as a driving force to bring more visibility to well-deserved Independent Gospel Artists. The South Florida Gospel Music Awards (SFGMA) is non-territorial, and encourages artists from the United States, Bahamas, Caribbean Islands, United Kingdom and the World, to become a part of its vision. The SFGMA allows the winners to be chosen by their fans and followers. The winners with the most votes are deemed the winners of that category. We were the 1st Independent Gospel Music Awards Show in the United States as well as abroad. Each year the SFGMA is attended by guests from the Bahamas, UK, South America and many other foreign countries. “We are truly grateful for the platform God has given us to recognize well deserving Independent Gospel Artists who are making a difference for the Kingdom of God.” - Mr. Peppi Hendrix For more information, please visit http://www.sfgma.com
RHYTHM OF GOSPEL AWARDS Established: 2009, Annual Executive: Mr. Mark Rogers, President/CEO, Rhythm of Gospel Awards Event Location(s): Jacksonville, FL Next Event: July 25-28, 2013 Phone: (210) 745.5858 x 102 E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org With over 6,000, attending annually, The Rhythm of Gospel Awards has earned the title as The Largest Independent Gospel Award Show. The Rhythm of Gospel Awards will spotlight 54 categories through various religious organizations, business and community affiliations and both, National and Independent Gospel Artists. It is the first Independent Gospel Award Show to be televised. The Rhythm of Gospel Awards is hosted by the National Independent Gospel Music Association. Recordings and music video entries are submitted by Board Members and record companies then screened for placement. Finalist are chosen per category; then narrowed to a final seven per category by a panel of judges. Internet voting by fans play a small part in the final vote. For more information, please visit http://www.therhythmofgospelawards.com
INDIE-FRIENDLY RED CARPET & CONFERENCES
INDEPENDENT GOSPEL ARTIST ALLIANCE CONFERENCE Established: 2010, Annual Executive & COO: Mr. Phillip Carter, Stellar-Awarded Gospel Recording Artist & Mr. Earl Bynum, 2X Stellar-Nominated Artist and Producer/Host of “On Stage w/ Earl Bynum” Event Location(s): Norfolk, VA Next Event: July 11-13, 2013 Toll-Free Phone: 1-(855) 680-IGAA (4422) E-mail:email@example.com The Independent Gospel Artist Alliance Conference (IGAAC) has become the premier conference for current and future independent artists. This conference is designed to heighten the results of Independent Gospel Artists of all levels. The IGAAC has created networking and trade opportunities for those willing to participate in such a process. It will become organized and established as a leading source of education and mentorship. IGAAC will educate Gospel, Christian and Inspirational artists on the business of music, exposing them to the REALITY of what it takes to be independent in today’s industry. The content of IGAAC’s conference sessions changes, annually, to meet the needs of artists. Past conference sessions have included Music Distribution, Label Management, Royalties, Contracts, Marketing, Radio Relationships, and Touring. In 2011, the IGAAC introduced The Gospel Blue Mic Achievement Awards. For more information and to register, please visit http://www.indiegospelalliance.com.
EXCELLENCE IN CHRISTIAN MUSIC AWARDS Established: 2011, Annual Executive: Mr. Henry Harris, President, Excellence In Christian Music Academy/Awards & Former Stellar Awards Academy Advisory Board Member Event Location(s): Washington, DC Metro Next Event: Fall, 2013 Phone: (301) 567-5349 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org The Excellence In Christian Music Awards (ECMA) is a platform of unique approach that recognizes the accomplishments of Independent Gospel Music Artists throughout the United States. It establishes a new era of merit, training, education, and development of Christian and Gospel music artists. Many are in agreement that music is more than stage performance; and ministry exceeds the artists’ gift. Also, categories can be filled with artist of varied career levels; from the brand new artist to those already receiving airplay. ECMA recognizes development that surpasses the way in which you entered this program, and gives reason to be celebrated by this industry. Here, every artist who demonstrates ECMA standards of excellence during eligibility is considered an ECMA award winner. Page 26
INDIE-FRIENDLY RED CARPET & CONFERENCES Submission can be made by all. A one-time registration fee covers registration, cost for performances and coaching throughout the current event year. Eligibility includes completing the ECMA training curriculum; implemented to ensure that artists are equipped with the tools necessary to be successful in the music industry. “I would like to humbly thank MGM Resorts International and AARP for their 2012 ECMA sponsorship. This years’ ECMA brings more diversity, more partnerships and positions its candidates for greater access to exceptional ECMA opportunities intended to structure the whole artist and their ministry.” - Mr. Henry Harris For more information, please visit http://www.smpecma.com.
NORTH CAROLINA GOSPEL ANNOUNCERS’ GUILD PRESTIGE AWARD Executive: Bishop Arvetra Jones, Jr., President of The North Carolina Gospel Announcers’ Guild of the GMWA, Inc. Event Location(s): Durham, NC Next Event: May 14-18, 2013 - NCGAG Conference; May 17, 2013 - NCGAG Prestige Award Phone:(910) 988-4614 E-mail:email@example.com or thealjagen- cy@ gmail.com The NCGAG Prestige Award held during the NCGAG Annual Convention in May is open to all eligible groups in the NC, SC & VA areas. A select few of the categories are open to artists nationwide. Recognitions are given to outstanding music, media, radio, print and lifetime achievement. Apostle J. A. McDonald is banquet coordinator. Nomination by industry peers brings greater prestige to this award. The voting process is by members only; no public voting. Preference is given to the best and not those branded to be the best. This year, the norm will be upgraded to posh, as we deliver a special edition of the NCGAG Prestige Award. We will give back to the movers and shakers in the history of outstanding music, media and lifetime achievers. “I am excited about my many years in the industry. Being positioned as a voice for radio enables me to teach those that desire to be taught and to birth artist in this industry.” Bishop Arvetra Jones, Jr. For more information, please visit http://www.ncgag.org
Article by Alecia Jones, Contributing Writer * Restrictions apply to registration and submission procedures. Submission dates vary based on event date. Please contact each award show & conference for details. Page 27
TCP Magazine Gospel Cruise – Connecting Ministries I can honestly say if you are an upcoming artist or an established artist, or just want to go on a cruise with some true non-cliquish people, The TCP Magazine Gospel Cruise is by far the best cruise that you can ever go on.
Yes, I know there are several other annual gospel cruises that you can attend and have an opportunity to showcase on, but I have never been on one where the CEO (Peggy Tatum) takes a personal interest as much as possible, to get to know those traveling in her group. You don’t feel like you’re lost in the shuffle, you don’t feel like you haven’t got a clue of what’s going on, but instead you feel like you’re a part of the family. The cruise truly lives up to the name TCP Magazine, which stands for “The Connection Place”. I personally have built several friendships and business relationships on these cruises. If there was someone on the cruise that Mrs. Tatum felt you really needed to hook up with before the end of the cruise, she would try her best to make sure that you had made contact with that person, church, radio station, or organization before getting off that cruise ship, and that’s what I love about her and her cruises, she is genuine, and she would always ask everyone before leaving, did you pass out your business cards, did you exchange information, and did you make a connection. That’s what you call networking. Based upon the number of cabins booked, our concerts were printed in the daily cruise itinerary which was placed in each cabin the night before. Meaning,our event was open to the entire ship. In fact we had all kinds of people in attendance, black, white, young, old, Asian, it didn’t matter, everyone was welcome. While singing on stage, I would motion for the onlookers to come in. Some of them came in out of curiosity after seeing it on the ship’s itinerary, and others heard the music while walking by. They would slowly poke their heads in to see what was going on, then walk in and end up staying for the entire show; participating, clapping their hands, dancing and praising the Lord with us. This was my third cruise with TCP Magazine, and every year I reach out to other artists letting them know if you are looking for a gospel cruise where you can truly network and make some really good connections, then TCP Magazine’s Connecting Ministries Cruise is the one for you. I’m looking forward to going on the next cruise in November. Cynthia Jones
Changing Lifestyle and Losing the Pounds
Many years ago I was a cheerleader, I played softball and for years I had skinny legs. My wish was to have big legs like my Mom and sisters. When the leg hugging boots were in style in the 70’s, mine didn’t fit the straight calves. Three kids and subsequent C-Sections added 30 pounds. A hectic lifestyle, the inability to cook, plus falling in love with “Mr. Buffet” contributed another 20 and going cheap with the $1 menu added more that challenged the symmetry of my face. I was addicted to sweet tea like the country boys were addicted to Wild Irish Rose back in the day. I still have the urge to pull up to Smithfield’s Chicken and Barbeque and ask for a gallon or two of tea and a cup of that crunchy ice. Unbeknown to me, a visit to St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in November would redirect my priority. I was invited by Lori Wiggins to come hear their minister preach his first sermon as the official pastor of the church. After the service Lori introduced me to 65 year old Larry Stroud. She told me that he had lost 100 pounds and run marathons. I also learned that his daughter, Marla, was a personal trainer and owned a gym. I was really thinking, “Well, if he can run a marathon at 65, I can do something.” I called Marla and she got right back to me. I visited the gym and heard her story of her struggle with obesity. She showed me a picture of her at age 18 and she reminded me so much of my own daughter -- beautiful but needing to shed some pounds. Marla too has lost nearly 100 pounds through exercising and making lifestyle changes. My daughter and I accepted Marla as our Master Personal Trainer just in time to get adjusted prior to TCP Magazine’s Gospel Cruise. The average weight gain on a cruise is 7 pounds and we couldn’t afford that addition. Three days a week we are scheduled to work out at Real Fitt Workout Center and are required to get 30 minutes of cardio in on the off days. I made it clear to Marla that I wasn’t accustomed to having someone her age telling me what to do and being accountable to them. I also made it clear that I was three times the age of my daughter. She made it clear that if I stopped in the middle of the planks that we would just keep starting over. Well, I was the one who wanted to have those Michelle Obama shoulders and follow in her dad’s footsteps so no pain no gain. One day First Lady Cheryl Wilkins was beside me on the elliptical moving as if it was motorized. Once again I thought, if she can do it, so can I. I’m progressing on that piece. I have lost 15 pounds but borrowed some back during the cruise and the Holidays. I have netted 12 pounds, reduced inches, can make a little muscle and can now get up from the couch without holding on to my husband’s belt. I can even look at myself in the mirror after a shower without getting nauseous. As for my daughter, we’ve spent more quality time together in the past four months than we have in the past four years. If you’re ready for a healthy change, try REAL FITT. You can even get a healthy meal cooked and demonstrated in house after your workout. Visit them online at www.realfitt.com. Story by Peggy Tatum