I am a self-proclaimed dreamer. Many of the things I possess or may be involved with, at some point, I probably dreamed about it. Being physically fit, I dreamed about losing all the weight I was carrying around while stuffing my face with food. Singing in the church choir, I dreamed about it, while practicing in my car over one of WOW Greatest Gospel productions.
In short words, I will typically act on something if I dare to dream about it. I have used the gift to dream while sinking in some of my lowest moments. I wanted more, and dreaming of something better made it almost feel like I was there. I learned that there is power in what we dream about.
In that same breath, my dreams have been filled with thoughts of hope and sometimes regret. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would. If I could reverse some of the experiences of my life, I would. If I had the ability to reach back into my past and open some of the doors that were shut and close some that I walked through, I would. One might ask me why, and my response is quite direct; I would if I could.
Now, it’s not my intent to sound as if I do not appreciate the life God has blessed me with. My message is quite the opposite. I love my life and all that has helped to make it what it is. Still, I wish I could have avoided some unnecessary experiences. However, I am wise enough to know that everything has been necessary. It is all part of God’s plan for me.
Acknowledging and accepting where and how my life began instills a sense of reality into my heart. Dreaming of places where I wish I could be also encourages me to keep striving for that which is greater.
My message is simple. Life is but a whisper, and I refuse to get lost in the chaos and confusion. There is way too much for me to do, and if I never achieve all that I dream of, I will remain enthusiastic about what tomorrow promises. Tomorrow, if it comes, is provided by God. And when God blesses me with another day to live, He also blesses me with another day to dream and get to work.
Terry L. Watson Publisher
Monica Montgomery Writer
Joy Rogers Writer
Terry L. Watson Writer
Dorjea’ McClammey Writer
Felecia Reed Photographer
Bernard Smith Photographer Nini Michelle Visuals Photographer
Howard Gaither Photography
Mykel Media Company LLC Greensboro, NC 2023 All Rights Reserved
She continues to use her trajedy so help and serve others. Learn more about who she is.
When a man looks good, he feels good. Learn more about his product made just for the beard.
He is doing his part to educate and prepare young men in his community for the future. Learn more about his journey. Charlotte, NC
When it comes to good food, Phoenix, AZ, resident Celeste Talley knows all about it. Celeste is widely recognized as a Celebrity Chef. Her expert cooking skills come into play with her being the owner of Simply Celeste’s Catering, a full-scale catering company based in Phoenix.
Celeste prides herself on her brand promise of providing excellent service that creates a stressfree and memorable event for every one of its clients. Simply Celeste’s specializes in southernstyle cajun cuisine. “My team and I will come to you and prepare your meal onsite, allowing you to experience me in my element. My goal is to relieve the stress of cooking by curating a delicious meal from start to finish,” she says. Celeste’s services are ideal for Birthday Celebrations, Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties, Anniversaries, and other Social Gatherings.
“There is something unique and special about the bonding that goes on when people gather to have a meal,” Celeste says with excitement while speaking of the excitement she experiences when executing her passion for preparing food for others. “
Twelve years ago, Chef Celeste relocated to Arizona, however, her roots trace back to the east coast. She is originally from New Jersey and is the youngest of six children. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in business and communication from Arizona State University. Additionally, she has been married to her husband, John, for eleven years, and they have one seven-month-old daughter, Arielle.
How did her journey in business begin? “I had the idea to open a catering business, yet, I didn’t have any indepth information on how to go about it,” she says. The motivation for starting her business derives from Celeste’s passion for cooking, her love of excellent cuisine, and a tradition of entrepreneurship experienced by her family. She later rented out a shared commercial kitchen facility to bring her dreams to fruition.
Celeste shares she developed a love for cooking at a young age. “My father instilled in me an entrepreneurial mindset and love for cooking. I bonded with him heavily through food. I was always in the kitchen with him as my other siblings did not have the same interest in cooking that I did. He taught me how to cook, and I witnessed him and my mother run their own restaurant in the 90s called “Hearts of Lettuce”. Celeste’s father’s niche was healthy cuisine, including salads, sandwiches, and soups.
After receiving advice from her father, Celeste set her sights on making her dream of owning her own business a reality. She did her research and wrote out recipes, yet unlike her father, her vision wasn’t to set up shop in a brick-and-mortar establishment; instead, her vision involved operating a catering service.
The launch party for Simply Celeste’s occurred during a tasting for her friends and family and continued on from that point. Unfortunately and unexpectedly, her father passed away in 2017. Yet, Celeste has been committed to operating her company in his legacy. “We talked about food every day and that was okay with me. He loved to hear about what I had made for dinner and wanted to know all about my catering events. I was devastated when my father passed, but I wanted to keep his legacy alive. The best way to do that is to honor him through how I live and run my company. I do what I do because of his influence,” she says.
Cooking is something Celeste says she loves to do. “I love to cook in general, it is something I am really passionate about. I love experimenting with different flavors and seasonings, and I also love serving people and putting smiles on their faces,” she says.
Moving forward, Celeste is working towards building out the cheesecake subsidiary portion of her business and making them available for sale in grocery stores and other restaurants. Presently, she is seeking to expand her staff and build a team of permanent employees. This may include a Sioux Chef, several prep cooks, and servers for events. She is also working on building brand awareness for her services through social media and other marketing strategies. “The goal is to drive repeat business through superior customer experiences,” she says.
To learn more about Simply Celeste’s Catering, please visit their website. h
Timothy Fowler of Charlotte, NC, is the founder of Boys To Men Foundation. His organization provides thousands of boys, ages (9-17) who are referred through partnerships with local school districts and juvenile court systems) with positive alternatives and a robust support network. The mentoring program presents opportunities for enrichment, exposure, support, and guidance through group mentoring sessions led by trained volunteers and mentors. They also connect young men with consistent, positive male role models who foster effective relationships, community involvement, interactive teaching, and open communication in a loving and nurturing environment.
Timothy was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in a household with seven kids and says his father took care of them and ensured they always had a roof over their heads. Today, Timothy is a father of a teenage son, and he has a daughter who attends Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. Timothy graduated from Medgar Evers College with a BA in Elementary Education in 1995. He has worked as a Pre-K teacher for nearly 30 years. His first teaching position happened at P.S.190 in Brooklyn, and upon moving to Charlotte in 2005, Timothy worked as a Pre-K teacher at Morehead Stem Academy. Currently, he works as a Pre-K teacher at Highland Renaissance Academy.
Upon graduating from Medgar Evers College, Timothy began a career in education and has served as a role model for young people ever since. In 2008, he founded the Boys to Men Foundation. BTM’s workforce development benefits two groups: It builds character for mentees as they acquire knowledge, skills, and aptitude for gainful employment. It also benefits employers who participate in the apprenticeship program by providing an effective means of communication with a familiar candidate pool, helping to meet their demand for stellar employees.
Timothy’s desire to serve started a long time ago. He shares, “Back in my hometown of Brooklyn, I first noticed the nonexistent presence of positive male role models in underprivileged communities. Out of this need, I started my quest to counsel young teens through programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. I was a Big Brother for over five years and worked at the YMCA, and I continue to be active today. As a young male, I would always strive to bring people of all walks of life together. While attending Medgar Evers, I started a program called the Black and Latino Male Initiative. The initiative’s goal was to bring males together to discuss common issues affecting society at that time. When I moved to Charlotte, I continued that initiative by starting the Boys to Men Foundation.”
Timothy understands that he must care about others who need help outside his immediate family. “It’s a selfless act to fight for someone who is virtually a stranger until that relationship unravels. Ninety percent of our boys come from single-parent households. For these young men to have someone they can trust enough and be vulnerable with to reach out when they need help is invaluable,” he says.
Timothy says his life was greatly impacted by his grandmother, who lived in Wilmington, NC. As a young boy, he would travel there every summer to visit her. He witnessed her give back to her community and how she poured into anyone, regardless if they were members of her family. This explains why he loves giving people new experiences and watching them grow. “Every day is different. I always tell my mentees they help me grow just as much as we help them,” he shares.
For BTM, Timothy says operational funding is always tough. “There are a lot of non-profits that all need funding, so it’s a competitive environment. Fortunately, we have cultivated some great relationships with local businesses. Finding good people to help me carry out this organization’s vision and mission has also been a challenge. Yet, we are moving ahead and always looking for good people to help us,” he says.
Timothy says BTM’s goal for the upcoming year is to form more partnerships with local businesses and corporations to aid in their effort to empower young men. h
Sonya Cooke is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She is also the founder of a non-profit called Girl Talk Incorporated. Girl Talk is a lifeline for young girls in the Indianapolis area, ages ten to eighteen.
“Girl Talk Incorporated is a non-profit organization created to empower and motivate girls to be their best. We provide education and empowerment to young girls in ways that foster independence, build self-esteem, and give them the necessary tools to make good decisions,” Sonya explains.
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Sonya’s inspiration for starting this organization is taken directly from her own life.
“I was a good kid. I was very athletic in school. I was on the track team, volleyball team, and cheerleading squad. I made decent grades and stayed out of trouble,” Sonya explains. “My story is that I didn’t have anyone to help answer the difficult life questions. I had to figure a lot of things out on my own. As a result, I made a lot of bad decisions.”
Sonya was the only daughter of eight children (her mother had two boys, her father had five boys), and her mother was emotionally unavailable. “My mother suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her first husband, and I believe that it made her disconnect. So me not receiving the affirmations needed to build me up left me exposed,” Sonya shares. “My upbringing was very religious, and although there are a lot of women in my family, none of them stepped in to give me the guidance I needed to navigate the firestorm of emotions and confusion that comes with being a teenager. They didn’t talk about periods, sex, or anything about your body.”
At age sixteen, Sonya gave birth to her first child. Her second child was born when she was seventeen—her third at eighteen and her fourth at twentyone. “My first daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age two, and my second child, Justin, only lived twelve hours after birth,” Sonya shares. “And still no one snatched me up and said, ‘Let us get her some counseling or support.’ No one stepped in and said, ‘This is not okay. You are better than this! Let me help you get on the right path.’”
Sonya dropped out of high school in her junior year because her daughter needed full-time care. “I may have been a teenager, but I was still a mother. Since I was so young and my daughter needed extensive care and supervision, everyone told me to put her in a home. I said no. I was her mother and didn’t want her to be mistreated. She couldn’t speak for herself. As her mother, I was her voice and advocate.” It’s this passion that propels Girl Talk Incorporated. The organization doesn’t just give the girls a non-judgmental ear; it helps to provide them with a voice.
“My story is that I didn’t have anyone to help answer the difficult life questions. I had to figure a lot of things out on my own. As a result, I made a lot of bad decisions.”
Sonya was twenty-two when her oldest daughter, Amanda, passed away. She was six. Again, Sonya wasn’t given the support needed to process the loss or the position found within. When she was twenty-six, Sonya was a single parent of two, struggling to make ends meet. With no high school diploma or GED, jobs that paid enough to care for her family were hard to come by.
“I didn’t have a role model per se, but I had started to envision the life I wanted. I saw myself as independent and well-put together. I wanted to show my children what was possible for them,” Sonya explains. Sonya saw herself as more than her current situation, but she didn’t know how to get past where she was. Then a door opened.
“A woman I knew from church told me the doctor’s office she worked for needed an admin. She asked me if I wanted a job. I was twenty-eight when I started. I worked that job a total of four years.”
In the twenty-two years Sonya worked in the healthcare field, she earned her GED and her undergraduate degree in business marketing. She has been licensed as a life coach and has a certification in human services.
“I just needed an opportunity. I needed someone willing to take a chance on me. That’s all any of us need, really,” Sonya explained. “Girl Talk Incorporated was birthed out of my wanting to provide for young ladies what was not provided for me. I don’t want them fumbling and stumbling through life, making mistake after mistake, because nobody was willing to have those uncomfortable conversations. As women and mothers, we have to guard our girls. The best way to do that is to inform them.” The preparation of young girls who are coming of age is something Sonya is very passionate about.
It was time to activate her passion, but Sonya needed to do a little research. “Having an organization like Girl Talk was something I always wanted to do. In 2015, I finally found myself in a position to do it,” Sonya explained. “I have nieces who were around that age of curiosity. So I sat down with them and some of their friends to have some simple conversations. We talked about school, boys, sex, and relationships. After that, I felt my idea aligned with our community’s needs.” With the support of her husband and armed with the data from her (family) focus group. Sonya launched Girl Talk Incorporated in April 2015. In July 2022, Sonya retired from her career in healthcare and began working with Girl Talk Inc. fulltime.
Girl Talk is focused on those tough but necessary conversations that inform, educate, and prepare young girls to be mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.
According to their website, “Girl Talk Inc. focuses on areas such as Health & Wellness, Confidence Building, Coping Skills, College Preparedness, and Sex Education…With these tools available to young girls, our goal is to equip them with life skills that will enable them to make good decisions and achieve their personal and professional goals.”
Now that you know Sonya’s why let’s talk about the how. Girl Talk Inc. has wellorganized mentoring programs that educate and support students ages ten to eighteen.
“The Girl Talk Inc. mentoring program is an 8-week program designed to meet the growing needs of our female youth. Through a staff of volunteers and advisors, we will hold weekly meetings to address various topics and offer strategies and tools to assist the girls in dealing with day-to-day issues. At the end of the program, the girls will participate in a graduation ceremony to celebrate their achievements with parents, caregivers, family, and friends,” Sonya explained.
As a non-profit, Girl Talk Inc. relies heavily upon the gifts of its donors. “My husband is a huge financial supporter of Girl Talk Inc. I am so grateful to him and the other sponsors for their continued support of this vision. The great news is that we have received our first grant in 2022. Funding for our programs is essential to our effectiveness in the community.” In 2021, Girl Talk Inc. was honored with the Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good in the community local television station WRTV Indianapolis.
As the organization grows, the impact of Sonya’s vision for empowering the young women of her community is being felt and acknowledged as an asset. But she’s not finished yet.
On November 19th, 2022, Girl Talk Inc. hosted Conversations for our Daughters: A Mother’s Love Unveiled.” This event was designed to empower mothers to be the light and guide in their children’s lives—especially their daughters.
“A Mothers Love Unveiled is a conversation that mothers and daughters will have regarding the experiences, traumas and triumphs that mothers have had that affect their daughter’s development, both good and bad. When we share the most intimate, private parts of our lives with our daughters, we give them a glimpse of who we really are. Being transparent about our experiences, our highs, and our lows open the door for our daughters to become more self-aware of who they are,” Sonya explains.
Sonya admits she is guilty of raising her children based on her traumas. “I knew what I had experienced, and I promised I would never allow my children to go through that,” she explained. “I had a baring stepfather, so I clashed at first when I married my husband. I had to learn that not all men were like my stepfather.”
Sonya says the future of Girl Talk Inc. is all about giving her students a holistic experience. They work with counselors and social services to get the girls what they need. Most importantly, she realizes that the girls need to be well-equipped, healed, and emotionally sound mothers ready to guide the next generation of women into their future.
“Our focus will always be to empower girls, but we understand that if we help the child then send them back to a toxic environment, it’s like putting water in a bucket with a hole in the bottom. We will have to keep starting over to combat the negative influences that can sometimes be found in the home,” Sonya said. “But by supporting the moms and encouraging them to seek help, find healthy relationships, and build supportive and trusting relationships with their daughters, we can help stop the cycle. It is always good for children to have an outside listening ear, but we want mothers to be the voice their daughters rely on most.”
The most crucial thing Sonya wants to convey to everyone reading this is, “Self-love is power. When you truly love yourself, everything around you changes for the good.”
For Arkansas native LaTasha Moore, those words are a foundation on which she stands. She is a wife, mother, striving entrepreneur, and countrywoman at heart, hailing from the small southwestern town of Falcon.
LaTasha is a woman full of wisdom and credits being born to elderly parents giving her the advantage of seeing life differently at an early age. She believes that titles and accolades don’t mean anything if one’s character is not exemplary. She is also someone who has accomplished a great deal in life. Some things include closing in obtaining her Master of Arts in Spanish degree from the University of Central Arkansas. That feat complements her Masters in Public Health she acquired from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Arkansas State University. LaTasha has also lived and worked in Spain as an assistant English teacher through the North American Language and Culture Assistant program.
Currently, LaTasha is the face and founder of Tasha Teaches Spanish. Her company’s focus is to unite communities through language. “We know that learning the Spanish language shouldn’t be limited to school and college classrooms. People need Spanish education in a variety of settings for a variety of reasons, and we exist to meet that need,” she says.
LaTasha shares her company began on a God-fixed plan. “In 2018, I had just been laid off after only one year of teaching Spanish at an area charter school. Pregnant with my first child, I needed a source of income even though my thenpartner (now husband) had offered to handle the bulk of the finances. One day I received the divine thought to make a post on my personal Facebook page stating that I would teach and tutor Spanish lessons. By the end of the day, my post had over 100 likes and 40 shares. This made me realize there was a market and a need for my talents.”
Four years later, LaTasha’s business is running better than ever. She’s contracted six teachers, obtained an office space, and carries out various services and programs to serve her students and community. Some of her achievements since opening the doors of LaTasha Teaches Spanish are being the Winner of the 2020 BIG Pitch competition, Winner of the 2020 Entrepreneurs Unlimited pitch competition, Winner of the 2020 Little Rock Regional Emerging Minority Business of the Year Award, 2022 Little Rock Regional Minority Business of the Year finalist, and acceptance into the 3rd Cohort of the WEM Hub program sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas. She is also the 2022 recipient of the Small Business Growth Fund grant.
“We know that learning the Spanish language shouldn’t be limited to school and college classrooms. People need Spanish education in a variety of settings for a variety of reasons, and we exist to meet that need.”
Besides helping others become the best version of themselves, LaTasha loves her life’s calling. “I thoroughly enjoy helping people remove self-imposed barriers and fears when learning Spanish. I enjoy helping them realize that they don’t have to be worried about perfection when beginning their language-learning journey. I encourage my students to be serious about learning, study often, and be committed to reaching a high level of fluency. I am happy when they can connect with Spanish speakers in their communities, churches, at local festivals, etc.,” she says.
LaTasha says s he is inspired by the possibility of a more lingually diverse state. “The Pew Research Center puts Arkansas in the bottom five states for Spanish education. My brand, Tasha Teaches Spanish, exists to change that,” she shares. “When we think of new programs and services to offer, we keep in mind that we want to contribute to improving the Spanish language learning all over the state, not only in our area. This year we will begin to host our annual Spanish camp in different regions, and our long-term goal is to bring a Spanish language immersion school to Arkansas.”
Like many entrepreneurs, there was a time in business when LaTasha only made money through it. She shares that she did not work another job and had to rely on others for her financial wellbeing. “Humans are shaky. They are committed today and gone tomorrow. The high and low seasons of business often resulted in me being in financial binds,” she says. That was challenging for her, but she persevered.
While the journey has been unique and even challenging at times, LaTasha says there aren’t many things she would change about the way things have happened. “I would change our initial hiring practices and staff training. I was the only teacher from 2018-2020, and in 2021 we began contracting teachers to work for us. However, my hiring process was not thorough, and we ended up acquiring a few teachers that were not good fits for the role. Additionally, I failed to see the importance of frequent staff training throughout the year, and I wish I had started that sooner as well,” she says.
The future is looking bright and promising for Tasha Teaches Spanish. This year, there are plans to expand their Spanish summer camp to different regions in Arkansas. They also host community events such as trivia and movie nights, and in December 2023, they will carry out a Spanish Christmas children’s choir. Their long-term goal is to open a Spanish immersion school. Please visit their website
The saying goes that when a man looks good, he feels good. Budding entrepreneur Michael Arnett of Charleston, SC, has set his sights on ensuring it becomes a reality for all men who desire it.
The 59-year-old father, husband, caretaker, and retired Police Officer is a native of Harlem, NY, but was raised in the Bronx. Living in a melting pot, Michael saw different nationalities and cultures of people. That experience helped him grow as an individual. He says he was determined to escape his environment and see the world.
His story is that of someone who has persevered despite what his surroundings presented to him. He shares, “I lived in public housing (the PJ’s) for 25 years. I come from a two-parent household, along with two other siblings. We had great examples as parents; my father was a Police Officer, and my mom worked as a Secretary. My parents always told me to work hard, and that anything is possible. My dad told me I could be better than him and that nobody was going to give me anything.”
Michael always loved fashion. After graduating from vocational high school in 1981, he enrolled at a community college. He attended school full-time and worked full-time. His major was graphic arts and advertising. Michael successfully received his associate degree in 1985. “After college, I worked several jobs but wasn’t satisfied. In 1987, I joined the US Air Force, served for five years, and spent time in the Gulf during Desert Storm. After leaving the military, I worked until I became a police officer and was accepted into the academy in 1997. I later retired in 2018 and started on a mission of entrepreneurship, fueled by my love for fashion and to be different,” he says. In 2020, Michael relocated to his current home in Charleston to care for his mom.
Today, Michael is the owner of TheBeardedOne., a clothing apparel company that produces T-shirts, Hats (Bucket and Farmer), and Hoodies. Michael’s clothes are geared toward the Bearded community and cater to individuals with mustaches, goatees, etc.
Michael says TheBeardedOne. began after he grew a beard in late 2017. “I began to think about how to incorporate my beard into my business model. After going back and forth, I figured out how to make it happen in December 2020.”
While he has a genuine love for fashion, Michael says he also finds enjoyment in being different. “Fashion is what you make it! I have made a business out of fashion, and because I am the owner, I can do what I want and not answer to anyone,” he says.
Like most small business owners, TheBeardedOne. has faced its share of challenges. Michael says some have been finding a way to navigate through a saturated T-shirt market and rough economy. He has also had to deal with operating with limited resources. “I have overcome the saturation by offering different and unique clothes of good quality. I have found good quality clothing and still profit from my prices. With limited resources, I have attended more networking workshops and located events that allowed me to vend and showcase my apparel,” he says. Michael is also a member of the cigar club, Good Times Gang. That connection, he says, allows him to network with people from all over the country.
While his journey has been a little challenging, Michael says he wouldn’t change much about the way things have happened. “I would not change anything. The trials and tribulations are a part of life. You can grow from them or fall back and blame everyone else for your misfortunes. My advice to others who may follow in my footsteps is to keep God first in everything you do. You must have a plan, execute, network, and bring the love of what you do to your business. Stay focused and cut back folks that don’t have the same energy as you. And don’t be scared to let the world know you are here,” he says.
Living in New York prepared Michael for life at an early age. Moving forward, he plans to continue to grow his brand. He also hopes to purchase a van and convert it into a mobile store. He also hopes to have a storefront to display his apparel and help out other local fashion-based companies by displaying their apparel in his store. h
As children, we have all been asked that daunting question… “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you had asked Kim, she might have said many things, but a Spoken Word Poet wasn’t it. Today she’s a published author, teacher, and mentor of poets young and not so young. Kim B. Miller is an award-winning spoken word poet and Prince Williams County’s first black poet laureate for 2020-2022. Kim B. Miller is a wife and mother of four who found her voice in poetry. Now, she’s inspiring others to do the same.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Roosevelt, New York, Kim’s childhood did not indicate who she would become.
“We lived in the projects of Bed-Sty, Brooklyn, New York. I was so young at the time that I don’t have many memories from then,” Kim shares. “I do remember that there was a chain-link fence in front of our building, and my parents constantly warned my sister, brother, and me not to jump over the fence. I was usually the hard-headed one, but my sister jumped the fence. She landed on her face, busted her mouth open, and knocked some teeth out. I remember having to run upstairs to get my mother. There was so much blood,” Kim recalls.
It’s usually rare and exciting or traumatic events that small children remember. In Kim’s case, it was the sight of her sister sprawled, bleeding and missing teeth, and the loss of her brother. “The other memory I have of that time was when my brother died,” Kim explains. “I was five years old, and I remember the long walk down the hallway towards the door where my mother stood screaming. I had never heard her scream like that before,” Kim shared. “I kept saying it’s okay, mommy. I didn’t know what she was screaming about, but I wanted her to feel better. Soon after that, we moved to Long Island.”
With Kim’s artistic prowess, you would assume that her gift and love for poetry were cultivated at a young age. That couldn’t be further from the truth. “My parents were amazing people, but they weren’t artists. My father was a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Airforce, and my mother is a retired LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse),” Kim explained. “They were supportive, but I was never interested in being a poet. In fact, I didn’t read poetry before starting to write it.”
Growing up, Kim loved math, but not English. Spelling was her Achilles heel. “I was a wiz with math, but I was horrible at spelling as a kid. So, making a career as a poet, achieving Poet Laureate? No, not possible. It was the furthest thing from my mind,” Kim laughed.
After high school, Kim received a B.S. from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She majored in business and minored in retail management. Again, writing poetry was nowhere on her radar. Then divine inspiration hit. “I believe my gift and its timing came from Jesus, but I didn’t understand it then. I am a Christian, and I believe God is a poet,” Kim confesses. So, after hearing from God, she started writing. “I didn’t go to school for it. I didn’t research poetry or listen to poets like Nikki Giovanni or Maya Angelou. The only thing I recognized and appreciated as poetry were bible verses. So when God spoke, I started writing.”
The first time Kim shared her poetry, she decided to go big or go home. Kim took her faith in her new God-given talent to Harlem. “I went to a bookstore called Hueman Bookstore in Harlem. II felt like it was going to the Apollo for poetry at the time. Lots of people would have said, don’t do this! But this popped into my head, so I went for it,” Kim explained. “This wasn’t where you go up and read your poem and sit down. No, you received constructive feedback from the host. This isn’t the norm, but I thought it would be interesting.”
Having never experienced this kind of performance art, Kim was intrigued with the intimacy, and the connection the artist had with their audience. “Because it was a bookstore, and other things were going on, there was a lady behind me, and she talked to me the entire time I was up there,” she explained with a laugh. “She kept saying things like, ‘You betta tell ‘em, sis. You betta break that down.’ She actually made me laugh while at the same time helping me see that the things I was saying affected her. I connected with my audience, or at least that one person. That was encouraging to me.”
Fueled by the positive critiques she received from the host and the prodding of the audience, Kim fell in love with the Spoken Word artform.
A New Yorker at heart, Kim moved to Virginia in 1997 to give her family a fresh start. “My best friend moved down here first. She and I are virtually inseparable, so she started trying to convince me to move. At first, it was a hard no. She tried to entice me with the cost of living being so much lower here, but it could have been free at the time. I wasn’t moving!” Kim laughs, remembering how emphatic she was about not moving. After one visit, Kim was sold.
Continuing to explore the world of poetry as a spoken word artist, Kim did something else she thought she never would. She authored her first book. “In 2007, I wrote my first book called, ‘How to Love Your Kids, More Than You Hate That Man.’” As a divorcee with children, Kim encountered a lot of hurt and bitter women who were allowing their anger toward their ex’s to keep the fathers from their children.
“I would hear, he’s never gonna see these kids again, and bump him; they don’t need him anyway. I was like, hey, I get it. I didn’t want to see my exhusband at the time, but he still had kids, and they loved and had a relationship with their father. I wanted to let them know that their children aren’t pawns in their game of punishment,” she says.
As an outspoken advocate for parental rights, Kim works to help families understand their new normal. “I tell people, it’s not just about you. It feels that way because you are the one that was hurt, cheated on, or whatever the case may be. But when it’s all said and done, you must put the children first,” Kim shared. Including ‘How to Love Your Kids, More Than You Hate That Man,’ Kim has written five books. Three are poetry and one limited edition journal. All of which can be found on her website.
After moving to Virginia, Kim pursued her renewed passion for poetry. She started to study poetry in different genres. Spoken word poetry was a natural fit. “I enjoy the engagement and authenticity of spoken word poetry,” Kim explains. As a spoken word artist, Kim always sought opportunities to practice and hone her craft. She started studying poetry and its different genres when she found the Spirits & Lyric Poetry Slam.
“I’d never done a poetry slam before, but I saw it, and I was like, okay, let me try that. What can I say? I had this feeling I should go for it. To my surprise, I hit the trifecta. They listened, they got it, they liked it,” Kim explained. There were preliminary levels Kim had to win to earn a place in the poetry slam. As she progressed through each level, she had to pinch herself.
“It finally came down to just one other woman and me, and I didn’t expect them to call my name. So, when they did, I didn’t react. It took a minute for it to sink in. I didn’t win the actual slam because the poets I was up against were serious and seasoned, but sharing the stage with those amazing artists was worth every moment.”
Kim has won several awards and garnered accolades and recognition. She is a speaker and facilitator and is well known for her haiku. She is often called on to mentor young students in the local school system. But the accomplishment she cherishes most is becoming Prince Williams County’s first Black Poet Laureate.
“When I joined the Prince William County’s Arts Council, I learned the county had a poet laureate. I later decided to submit my work in 2018, but I was not selected,” Kim sighs. “I will be honest and say I was beyond disappointed. I was plain salty. I decided I wouldn’t try it again.” Looking at the previous winners, Kim learned there hadn’t been a black winner. “I concluded that maybe they weren’t ready for a poet laureate who looked like me. Although the submission was blind, and the judges are not given any information about the poet because I write from my perspective as a black female, I wonder if my perspective was evident,” Kim explains.
For the first time, Kim decided she wouldn’t pursue the challenge. Then she heard that still, small voice that started her on this journey. The voice led her to the bookstore in Harlem and the poetry slam stage in Virginia. “With a made-up mind, I almost didn’t enter in 2020. I figured obedience had gotten me this far, so I wasn’t going to stop following God now. But at the last minute, I heard Jesus says, ‘Go ahead and do it.’ I entered and won,” she said.
Kim never believed this path was possible because she struggled with English and writing as a kid. She says to students, “Don’t let your current situation determine your future. I was a kid who couldn’t spell, and now I perform in front of schools and colleges. If I had allowed my limitations to stop me from becoming who I am today, I would be lost. Don’t let what you see now stop you from dreaming and pushing to make those dreams a reality.”
When passion and purpose align with one another, great things are usually created.
Khadijah is best described as someone kind in nature. While she has faced several obstacles in life, Khadijah Butler of Philadelphia, PA, has persevered. She shares, “The parallels of my life are researching and giving back. I love providing aid to my community and helping others find ways to live fruitful and fulfilling lives.”
As a young adult, Khadijah endured the tragic loss of her father, Craig Butler. When she was only 19 years old, her father was murdered by a 14-year-old boy over a dispute. While the sudden loss of her father was tragic and left a huge void in her life, Khadijah repulped her tragedy into triumph. In memory of her father’s legacy, she formed the Craig D. Butler Scholarship Foundation. Its focus is to provide financial assistance to African-American citizens in Philadelphia. Khadijah stresses the importance of providing aid and resources for the black youth in Philadelphia and says that when children know they have options, it gives birth to hope within them.
The Craig D. Butler Scholarship Foundation also strives to redirect the youth’s focus off of gun violence and support education. “We want to address the educational gap and inequities that exist among black students compared to their white counterparts,” she says.
Another byproduct of The CBD Foundation is a book that Khadijah has written titled, Laying the Foundation Brick by Brick. She says the focus of her book is to essentially show others how to start a scholarship foundation or nonprofit organization. “My book was developed to assist with the healing of my father’s death and also to help promote the scholarship. When I began working on the CBD Scholarship Foundation, I could not find information on beginning a scholarship. I also did not realize the therapeutic benefits until I started writing. I didn’t have any prior aspirations to write a book, but I’m glad I did,” she says. “This book has bylaws in it, checklists, and website links. Any mistake I made along the way they are in there.”
Inspiration for Khadijah derives from her desire to be a business owner. “I always knew I wanted to start something I’m passionate about. Beginning this organization in my father’s honor was my pain point. Not just my pain point of healing from his death, but also with education and knowing that I am filling a void,” she says. “I was able to utilize my father’s love and address my concern of the education gap at the same time.”
Khadijah remains driven and sustains the vision and mission of her organization from the people she serves. “Feedback from the community and the parents does it for me. Understanding the need and finding ways to meet the need remains my most important objective,” she says.
Khadijah cites that her identity and utilizing social media as a connectivity tool to link students to her scholarship has been successful. “I have learned that when you have someone who looks like you and shares similar goals, it is easy to make a connection,” she says.
Khadijah says her future endeavors involve promoting her book throughout her community and working with public libraries within the city of Philadelphia. “There is no excuse for students not to get this valuable information. Every guidance counselor should have it. When I first began, If I had access to information to help get my foundation off the ground, there is no telling where I would be,” she says. Khadijah also plans to hold scholarship workshops for the community as well.
A second initiative that Khadijah has in the works is a project that would align the book and the scholarship in what would be called the Books and Bars Program. This new initiative is designed to help reform inmates as they prepare for reentry into society. “It may be difficult for inmates to find jobs. I want to help them navigate the world of entrepreneurship and provide other options upon release,” she shares.
It is apparent that Khadijah will continue to be a catalyst for change in Philadelphia. She plans to continue using her father’s legacy to evoke change, uplift the youth, and introduce them to positive trajectories. Please contact Khadijah directly or visit her website to learn more about the CBD Scholarship Foundation or to purchase a copy of her book.
There is no excuse for students not to get this valuable information. Every guidance counselor should have it. When I first began, If I had access to information to help get my foundation of the ground, there is no telling where I would be.”