Huami Magazine Atlanta June/July 2024

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June/July 2024

Volume 3 Issue 4

Big Beard Cargo Services

God’s Promises Have A No Quit Clause

A Letter From The Editor

There Are No If, Ands, Or Buts About It!

There is something that was spoken to me when I was a lot younger. It’s not that I am an old kind of guy; it was a while ago. Let’s leave it there. Anyhow, I was told that anything worth having would require work to obtain it. It was also shared that through the gaining process, I might encounter a few bumps and bruises, and it may even cost me some blood, sweat, and tears. All that I mentioned has been spot on or accurate in my life.

A Letter from the Editor

What if tomorrow didn’t arrive? All of your plans, hopes and dreams wouldn’t have a street to park on. What if everything that you decided to put off until tomorrow never happened? There would be no reason to save for a rainy day, and you could spare someone the trouble of making promises. What if your last opportunity seemingly expired today? What would you do?

My question is, do we really understand the definition of living a happy and fulfilled life? My interpretation of a happy life involves living a life that pleases God; it also involves love, peace, understanding my purpose, and fully grasping God’s promises.

I’ve been told that I often seem like I do too much. Honestly, I feel like I am not doing enough and I’m a firm believer in knowing that God wouldn’t put anything on me that I couldn’t handle. I sometimes wonder how life would be if I chose to sit idle and accept what it presented to me. I have found that to be very boring. In my opinion, opportunity is a blessing that isn’t afforded to everyone. A challenge to me is an adventure. What is the worst that can happen? If I do nothing, I fail, and if I try I don’t, but instead learn something new about myself. Relinquish your pride and in return acquire life.

The bible’s instructions for pleasing God is to seek Him first and acknowledge Him in all of my ways. So, accepting God as my personal Lord and Savior also means that I allow God’s love to fill my heart. When I say that I love God, it also means that I should love others, such as God loves me, and reflect His love for them. Most importantly, that should happen always.

I understand what my purpose is in life, and I accept it. To be honest, I asked for it, and it would be impossible for me to please God if I refused the assignment. I want to encourage anyone who may be thinking twice about what God has promised them. It’s OK to get tired on life’s journey; we are only human, and God has made provisions for this. It is called rest.

The best advice ever given to me happened when someone told me to make my tomorrow happen today. In doing so I have pressed my way through doors with a key that only hope provided. I have also learned the difference between what God blesses me with and what life can burden me with as well. I compare it to knowing when to be confident and when to be quiet, because someone may get it confused with being arrogant.

So, when things are not happening the way we think they should, or if it may seem like all hope is lost, dig in a little more, and you may find that things will get better. What other choice do we have? God’s promises have a no quit clause, meaning His word is good, and will never fail. Even more, He doesn’t expect us to either. Keep pushing!

Make you tomorrow happen today, but most importantly make it count. Life is but a whisper and we must put ourselves in a position to hear what it is telling us.

Terry L. Watson



Girls A.R.E. Boys C.A.N. Taja Cunningham
Caring For Mom Terry L. Watson
Huami Magazine Cutest Baby Demi Noel Martin
Charleston County Sheriff Alan Ali
Valaira Sa-Ra

Big Beard Cargo Services

Photos Provided by Nehemiah Israel

Nehemiah Israel, of Atlanta, GA, is the owner of Big Beard Cargo Services. Established in October 2018, his company provides home delivery services, assembly services (for various products and not just furniture), junk removals, haul-aways, relocations, and in-home moves, of which he assists his clients with moving heavy items in their homes.

At just 38 years old, Nehemiah has always had a business mind. He is originally from Fayetteville, NC, but has called Atlanta home for several years. There, along with his wife, he raises three sons.

Big Beard Cargo Services all started when Nehemiah first moved to Georgia in 2014 with his wife and then only oldest son, who is now 16. He says, “We were able to get a home in Lawrenceville, Georgia, but it was tough being unemployed. On just my third day in Lawrenceville, I got a call from a temporary agency to work with a company called UnderPriced Furniture. Of course, I went. I only knew how to drive forklifts, pallet jacks, and cherry pickers; however, when I was assigned to offload semi-trailers of furniture. I had never lifted heavy stuff like that before outside of my own home, and I remember telling my wife I was going to quit after two weeks. I considered it to be hard labor, but she told me to hang in there, and so I did. Soon, I was hired for a permanent position, and I am so glad that I stayed, as I eventually moved up the ladder and became one of the fastest assembly guys on the line. I was soon presented with the opportunity to become a helper to do home deliveries. This is when I realized my calling. I became one of the top delivery personnel and was featured on the delivery team website to welcome new teams coming into the company. After two years of working with them, I came up with a company name and told myself I could run a delivery service independently and make it way better than what I’d seen out here. So by the fourth year, I stepped out on my own.”

I love providing a quality and speedy service like Chick-fil-A, but in the lane I’m in.

Once out on his own, Nehemiah was faced with the reality of entrepreneurship. Things don’t always happen as planned. He made his transaction from a five-dollar Craigslist ad and Facebook posts focused on furniture assembly. He shares that little did he know so many people needed that type of service. Things would eventually take off. Today, his company caters to all types of people: single women, elderly, those who don’t have time to do it themselves, and those who don’t know where to start after seeing all the hardware and confusing instructions.

Big Beard Cargo Services is a one-stop shop, Nehemiah says, and what he loves most about his business is seeing how happy his clients are when they see their finished products. “I love providing a quality and speedy service like Chick-fil-A, but in the lane I’m in.” He also shares that he finds inspiration in his wife for being a constant source of support and encouragement. “My wife believed in me and told me that I could work for myself. She knows that I have never been a quitter and that I always try to find solutions to any problem. Additionally, my family has had the biggest impact on my journey to becoming successful.”

Anyone who might be thinking of starting a business such as Nehemiah’s should be aware of the challenges that come with it. For Nehemiah, he says, the biggest challenge he faced was the startup cost. “It took a year of saving,” he says. “The insurance is so high in the trucking industry. I worked two jobs, in the beginning, to fund the business and provide for my family to allow my wife to become a stay-at-home mom with our now twoyear-old. I wanted her to enjoy her pregnancy and not have to work during that time. It worked, but it was tough on me. I got around many of the costs by renting trucks and establishing corporate accounts with the rental companies to get better pricing. I still continue to lease my trucks, but I was able to get better insurance coverage to go with the business.”

In the future, Nehemiah plans to expand with more business-to-business opportunities. This, he hopes, will provide more employment to hardworking men like himself. “I dream of becoming a contractor for bigger companies to hire thirdparty teams to do everything I learned and love to do. One day I’ll have 100 trucks running under the Big Beard Cargo Services brand and be the biggest service provider in the state of Georgia,” Nehemiah professes. With his grit and ambition, this will happen.

To learn more about Big Beard Cargo Services, please visit their website. h

MiVUE Productions

“I amjustenjoyingtherollercoaster


Valaira Sa-Ra finds inspiration in observing people who overcome challenges in their lives. Currently residing in Los Angeles, CA, the Bronx, NY, native of French West Indian descent, her name is spoken in various arenas, including film, modeling, acting, directing and producing. Valaira is the face and founder of MiVUE Productions, a small production company that offers a variety of services, such as producing commercials for small businesses, as well as short and feature films, documentaries, and talk shows.

MiVUE Production spawned out of frustration with unprofessional and chaotic sets, late start times, make-up artists who couldn’t get it right, and a lack of opportunities and representation. Valaira says, “I started MiVUE Production and vowed to run an organization that did the complete opposite of all the things I mentioned. Not only did I want to tell underrepresented stories, but I also wanted to run a set that was organized, on time, and pleasant to be on.” Additionally, her goal is to tell stories in a different way from the film industry formula that many are used to.”

Valaira shares, “I developed a passion and commitment to fashion and entertainment at a very early age. As an actress, model, and entrepreneur, my attraction and enthusiasm for the fashion and entertainment industry eventually grew into establishing MiVUE Productions.” Valaira made her directing debut, producing and directing the featured documentary, The Rhythm of Blue, which tells the stories of seven African American Women who battled depression and mental health such as Bipolarism. Additionally, she has directed several projects that I have been invited to direct. “As an artist and creative, I love to share my vision and creativity in a positive and inspiring life-affirming way.”

Scholastically, Valaira has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s Degree in Business Management. She is a former model, and worked for companies such as PZI Jeans, Mizani, Creme of Nature, The World Natural Hair Show, Fro Fashion Week, The Bronner Bros Shows, The Black & White House, Jessica McClintock, Express, Limited, and many more. She has also appeared in Essence, Heart and Soul, and Elite Style Magazine. As an actress, Valaira performed in New York City Off-Broadway original stage plays and appeared in several commercials, web series, and short and featured films.

“Weliveinasocietywhereeveryonewantstobe paidbigbucks.Igetit,butweallstartfromhumble beginnings.Findingindividualswhoarewillingto buildwithyouisrare.”

If she hadn’t already accomplished a great deal, Valaira has found time to pour into the lives of others as a founding member of the Black Girl Magic Creative Series. Valaira is a Board Member of The International Association of Women for the LA Chapter, a member of the Towne Street Theatre, and Film Fatales.

As with most professions, Valaira has faced her share of challenges. A major challenge she says for independent filmmakers is securing funding for projects. Short films can cost between $10,000 - $30,000; anything under a million dollars is considered a low-budget film. “Finding investors who believe in your project and vision is a task, and at times, filmmakers will fund their films in hopes their film will gain traction and obtain distribution on a streaming platform. One of the ways I have managed this is by funding my own films and finding a cast and crew willing to work on a low-budget project,” she says. Valaira has built a relationship with several people who are dependable and willing and want to work.

Observing the disconnection between her community and the film industry has been the one thing that has impacted Valaira’s career more than anything. She adds, “We live in a society where everyone wants to be paid big bucks. I get it, but we all start from humble beginnings. Finding individuals who are willing to build with you is rare. This observation has impacted the way I originally viewed this industry. I came in green and bushy-tailed but received a reality check about how the industry works behind the scenes.”

Despite the unfavorable experiences Valaira has endured, she remains optimistic about what is to come. She also credits her mother for encouraging and instilling in her defiance and mindset to accomplish anything she puts her mind to. She also finds inspiration in a late friend, Angela (Jersi) Baker, who battled Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer for over 20 years. “Angela inspired me to keep going despite all the challenges and difficulties that I might face.” Valaira adds that her husband inspires her to “Just Do It.” He says, “Don’t talk about it, put it into action.”

Her advice to others who may follow in her footsteps is to find a mentor in the industry and build a relationship with that person, study the craft of filmmaking, and take classes to learn about lighting, framing, writing, and the entire aspects of filmmaking. “Filmmaking is an art form. Anyone can pick up an iPhone and begin filming, but finding something that distinguishes you from other filmmakers will make you stand out.”

Looking ahead, Valaira has two projects that she’s working on bringing to the screen. She is producing and directing another featured documentary and another short film and is also working on getting mentored by a few Directors for television. Ultimately, her next level goal is directing a television episodic.


Dekalb Commissioner Wins Runoff to Become County’s First Black Woman Ceo

DeKalb County voters have elected a new chief executive officer. She is the first Black woman in the county’s history to hold the title. DeKalb County Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson received 60% of the vote over Commissioner Larry Johnson in Tuesday’s runoff, according to the preliminary election results.

Cochran-Johnson declared victory at an election party on Tuesday night. Once the results are certified, she will succeed outgoing CEO Mike Thurmond.

Cochran-Johnson was first elected to the county in 2018 when she won the District 7 seat that covers east DeKalb. The commissioner’s bio states that she “strongly supports positive initiatives in economic development, education, public safety and home ownership.”

As part of her focus on public safety, Cochran-Johnson spearheaded legislation for all 248 gas stations in unincorporated DeKalb County to have upgraded 24-hour surveillance cameras. Cochran-Johnson will be sworn-in later this year.

Gwinnett County’s First Black-Owned Pilot School To


Soon - Lookup Flight Academy LLC

Gwinnett County Airport’s Briscoe Field is set to welcome a groundbreaking addition: Lookup Flight Academy, LLC, the first Black-owned pilot school in the area. Approved by the Board of Commissioners last week, the school secured a 25-year lease for a 2.3-acre site, complete with a hangar building and ramp.

The decision marks a significant milestone in addressing the underrepresentation of minority pilots in aviation. Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson expressed her excitement, highlighting the school’s potential to pave the way for future leaders in the industry.

Founded by aviator and entrepreneur Michael Ojo, Lookup Flight Academy aims to provide comprehensive pilot training while fostering diversity and inclusion. With a focus on mentorship and hands-on learning, the academy seeks to empower aspiring aviators from underrepresented communities.

“Pilotage demands doing the hard thing, regardless of gender or wealth,” said Ojo. “It requires equal attention from all, as your life and future hinge on it. Embrace the challenge!”

Lookup Flight Academy, LLC, plans to renovate its hangar facility to create an optimal learning environment. The school anticipates being fully operational and ready to welcome aspiring aviators by the summer.

A Taste of Black Gwinnett Happens in August

“A Taste of Black Gwinnett - August 2024” showcases Black-owned businesses and the Black diaspora community in Gwinnett County. Free admission and open to the public. Black-business owners with products and services will be showcased, plus restaurants, caterers, and food crafters with $6, $9 and $12 samplings. This event is presented by Gwinnett County Black Chamber of Commerce, Black Gwinnett Magazine and Camrose Creative Services. For more information, please call (404)590-4716

For Charleston County Sheriff

You may ask, who is Alan Ali? Well, for starters, he has many titles. He is a son, brother, husband, and father. Another crucial role that Mr. Alan loves and embraces is that of “The People’s Sheriff.”

Alan Ali is a first-generation American born, a testament to the American dream. His parents, Richard and Ann Daly, made the courageous decision to move to America from the Caribbean, a journey that not only shaped Alan’s values but also ignited his unwavering commitment to his community. “My parents were born in the Caribbean, in a little town called Montserrat. In fact, most of my family are from the Caribbean. Barbados, Antigua, and Jamaica,” he says.

Alan’s parents raised him and his siblings with a solid moral compass that still guides him to this day. “My parents taught me the virtues and values of how to treat people. They told me, ‘Alan, don’t treat people the way they want to be treated… Treat them better.’ In my thirty years in law enforcement, I have always incorporated that teaching.”

Alan Ali’s formative years were spent in the vibrant city of Boston, Massachusetts. Growing up in the Hyde Park neighborhood, he was immersed in the rich tapestry of community life. This upbringing shaped his understanding of local issues and fueled his passion for community service.

He shares, “My parents weren’t public servants. They just served. They served in the church and the community. When we see someone downtrodden or struggling to make it, we all say, ‘That could have been me.’ My parents taught me, ‘That is you! If we are all a part of this human family, that is you.’ That revelation has always stuck with me since childhood. That truth has shaped how I see myself and others. It is a big part of why I worked to treat everyone with respect. Everyone is a part of this human family. Regardless of race, religion, culture, ethnicity, economic background, or sexual orientation, we’re all people. We all want to be loved, appreciated, and valued.”

Alan was an active volunteer in his community as a youth. “Because of the values my parents raised me with, I knew there were things I would and wouldn’t do. As a youth volunteer, I tried to help others like myself avoid the negative influences that were so easy to get caught up in,” Alan explained. “I tried to be a positive model of what we should have been working towards. Mind you, I was a kid myself, but because of what I was taught at home, I recognized the dangers of living in the inner city. I wanted to help the kids in my community by reminding them that they didn’t have to get involved in gangs and drugs or any of the other things that entrap us.”

Alan’s work in his community didn’t go unnoticed. In 1986, he was the first Black person to be awarded the Michael A. Ventresca Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded through UMass Boston to entering freshmen who have demonstrated exceptional concern for others and interest in public service through extracurricular activities and community work. He adds, “I’ve always had a passion for serving others. Serving others is the greatest honor there is. I believe it is not just a purpose but a calling. In fact, there is a quote from Muhammad Ali that says, ‘Service to others is the rent that you pay for having a room here on earth.’”

As an advocate for community service projects, Alan believes serving the community involves more than fulfilling an immediate need. “Don’t get me wrong. I am all for Toys for Tots, the turkey giveaway, or the back-to-school supply rally. The issue is those are just three days. What about the rest of the year? I believe that is what separates me from the next person. I strongly advocate for helping people succeed 365 days a year.”

Mr. Ali graduated from the University of Boston, Massachusetts, with a degree in political science. He makes clear that he never intended to pursue law enforcement. “I tell people all the time that I absolutely had no intention of going into law enforcement,” Ali explains. What happened was that, in 1989, I started watching a then-popular television show called Cops.” It was from that show, and others like it, that sparked Alan’s passion for law enforcement.

With his calling to servanthood focused in a new direction, Alan set his sights on joining the Boston Police Department. “With all this new zest and zeal, after graduating from the University of Massachusetts, I wanted to work for the Boston Police Department. Unfortunately, at that time, it didn’t matter who you were; it was all about who you knew. Since my name wasn’t McMurphy or McDowell, I wasn’t at the top of the list. On top of that, the list had over two hundred applicants, and there were only about five positions,” Ali explained. “But I wasn’t going to let this stop me. I was passionate, and I knew my purpose. I believed I could make a difference. I just needed to find out how.”

Despite making excellent scores on his police exam, the door of the Boston PD still didn’t swing open for Alan. Then, he received word that the Dallas Police Department was hiring. “I didn’t know a soul in Dallas, Texas. All I had was this driving desire to go into law enforcement. Then I remembered something my parents always said. No means Next Opportunity. So, I flew down to Texas. I stayed the week and went through the battery of tests. When I got to the end, they said, ‘We’ll get back to you.’ I flew back to Boston, and two months later, I got the call telling me I had been hired and when to report,” he says.

You have to meet people where they are. If people only see you when they’ve done something wrong, they will not want to see you. You can’t serve people you don’t know. You won’t know them unless you are intentional about getting to know them.

Armed with his parents’ wisdom and faith in humanity, Alan Ali has served in many communities over the past thirty years to keep the peace.

“You have to meet people where they are,” he explained. “If people only see you when they’ve done something wrong, they will not want to see you. You can’t serve people you don’t know. You won’t know them unless you are intentional about getting to know them. That has been my goal and commitment my entire career. The only way to help people is if they trust you, and you can’t gain their trust without making a genuine connection.”

Ali has retired as a lieutenant from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Department. He plans to use the same approach to become the People’s Sheriff in Charleston County.

“My focus and intention are to promote effective crime reduction while simultaneously building public trust within the community I have sworn to serve, protect, and respect. I have always understood my role as a law enforcement officer as more so being a guardian rather than a warrior. Although both aspects are essential, there must be a discernible balance between the two.”

Public safety is my main focus, and to accomplish this goal, it’s imperative that we, as law enforcement, work for and with the community.” Where the situation dictates that law enforcement become warriors, even the force utilized must be reasonable and necessary. But let me be clear: excessive force will not be tolerated regardless of the offender’s provocation. I would emphasize to my deputies that we are law enforcers, not lawbreakers. Some bad actors plague every community, and I seek to protect every lawabiding citizen from such individuals.”

As guardians, we must move past vague and catchy slogans such as community engagement. The Sheriff’s office must actively engage the community with open and honest conversations. This approach builds legitimacy and fosters trust.” There are four areas the former Lieutenant intends to focus on as the next Sheriff of Charleston County.

“My role as Sheriff is to serve the best interests of the people of Charleston County. To accomplish this, the Sheriff’s Office must focus on four primary areas: crime prevention, community intervention, recruitment and retention, and detention,” Ali shares.

Community continues to be a primary area of focus for Alan. He adds, “Crime prevention and community intervention go hand in hand. As I explained, you need a trusted relationship between the officers and the community to keep the peace. Visit with the elderly woman sitting on her porch, play basketball with the kids in the neighborhood, go to the community stakeholders meeting, and listen to what the people say. Those people don’t want crime in their communities. If they see the officers as trusted allies, maybe Granny will tell you about the unusual activity he noticed in the pink house on the corner. Engaging with the community allows them to help prevent crime in their neighborhoods.”

Ali will focus on a critical area: the shortage of qualified officers. Since the pandemic, there has been an extreme shortage of skilled and qualified workers. Law enforcement has not been spearheaded this aftershock. “We need qualified officers. There is a nationwide shortage of trained police officers. The solution to this will be focused on recruitment and retention. I can’t stress enough how important the retention portion of this effort is,” Ali explains. We need good, seasoned mentors to train and prepare our new recruits. Without our veteran officers, we find ourselves with newly trained officers trying to mentor the recruits because so many seasoned officers are leaving the department. That is not ideal and can become dangerous if not addressed.”

The last yet equally important area Ali plans to focus on is Detention—namely, the Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County. “The Department of Justice has taken over the Charleston County detention center. They are investigating the county jail because of multiple civil rights violations, death by fentanyl overdose, and suicide. There have been multiple deaths at the detention center because of staffing issues. This goes back to retention. We have lost a lot of good deputies because of poor leadership. The result is an understaffed system. Those who are there are stressed and overworked. It makes for dangerous conditions for both the staff and the inmates,” Ali explains. “This is unacceptable on every level. Because I haven’t worked corrections, I would bring in the experts. I would also promote from within. Not all of the workers there are bad. Some of them are good officers, and I believe if given the opportunity, they would be instrumental in helping to turn things around.”

Becoming the next Charleston County Sheriff is the next level in the calling that Ali believes he has in his life. From his perspective, he has been training to do it throughout his career. For Ali, serving his community is second nature.

“Over the past several years, I have volunteered to assist with numerous food distribution programs throughout Charleston County. I have worked with the Adopt-A-Community program, encompassing over twenty non-profit community-based organizations dealing with Juvenile Justice, Mental Health, Food disparities, gun violence, child abuse, and literacy programs. Every 1 Voice Matters, Second Chance Resource Center, Representation Matters, Community Resource Center, and Sun Flowers of Hoped,” Ali shares. “When people ask me what projects I would support if elected, I laugh a little. I’ve been working in my community since I was a teenager. I’ve always worked to serve my fellow human beings because we are a family. I won’t continue to serve because I’m elected. I will serve because that is what’s required of me. That requirement won’t change, win or lose.”

As Ali prepared for the June 11th primaries, he was informed that his name would not be on the ballot. He was initially set to run as a Democratic candidate against the current Democratic incumbent for Sheriff, but now Ali will run as a Write-In Candidate.

“On April 5th, 2024, the Democratic party denied my certification to be placed on the June 11th primary ballot. I and countless voters from both ends of the spectrum were outraged. Democracy and the right to vote for your chosen candidate are inalienable rights. As of June 11th, the incumbent, supported by his team, will be the only name on the Democratic ticket the votes will be able to select.”

Encouraged by his supporters, Ali chose to challenge the decision. He sued the Democratic party, but the judge ruled against him. “The date and time of the hearing was set. Then, my lawyer called the morning of the hearing and said the time had been pushed up. My wife and I arrived only a few minutes late but were not allowed to enter. The judge ruled without me being allowed to present my case.”

This was a frustrating blow to Lieutenant Ali, but it wasn’t enough to knock him out of the race.

“As a result, I am running as a Write-In Candidate for the office of Charleston County Sheriff. Because of my decision, party members are questioning my allegiance to the Democratic party. I want to make it clear that my allegiance is to the people of Charleston County. I stand by what I said before the certification. Politics should play no role in public safety. I am beholden to the people, not the politics. When I become Sheriff, I won’t be the Democratic Sheriff or the Republican Sheriff. I will be the people’s Sheriff. I am here to serve all the citizens of Charleston County, not just those whose political ideals align with mine.”

Because of the decision, Alan Ali will be the first black Sheriff in Charleston County history. He will go in as a Write-In Candidate, and the Write-In campaign is for the General election scheduled for November 5th.

“The highest form of leadership is found in service to others, for true greatness is measured by the positive impact on the lives of those we serve.”

Taja N. Cunningham is not one to sit on the sidelines and just let things happen. In 2017, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana native and current Gautier, MS, resident became aware that students performed well under certain conditions, such as, but not limited to, one-on-one field trips, expert advice, and real-world experiences. She also noticed limited opportunities, and students lacked the motivation and support to go beyond their communities. Taja says the decision was made to poll a select group of students and ask what they would like to see happen in their prospective neighborhoods. Several students responded and shared that there was little to do in their communities and assumed their options were limited. As a result, Taja met with the school administration and inquired about starting an after-school program. With the administration’s approval, Girls A.R.E./B.O.Y.S. Can was launched, and since 2017, it has steadily grown and gained recognition for its impact on youth development. In December 2020, the organization achieved 501(c)3 non-profit status, solidifying its commitment to the community.

Girls ARE & Boys CAN offer a diverse range of services and programs tailored to empower youth, cultivate leadership skills, and create a safe and supportive environment for growth and collaboration. These programs aim to address the unique needs of at-risk youth and inspire them to become ambitious, resilient, and noble individuals. Their comprehensive approach ensures that each participant receives the necessary tools and resources to flourish academically, socially, and personally.

Girls A.R.E. & Boys C.A.N. Ambitious Resilient Empowered Courageous Ardent Noble

One key area of focus for the program is Leadership Training Workshops. Taja says, “Our leadership training program equips youth with essential skills to become confident and effective leaders. Through workshops, interactive sessions, and mentorship, participants develop critical thinking, decision making, communication, and problem-solving abilities.” Another area is Educational Support and Tutoring. The support is designed to improve

Photos Provided by Taja

academic performance and enhance job-related skills. Tutoring, study groups, and access to educational resources help youth overcome academic challenges and reach their full potential. Additionally, there is Safe Space Creation, Community Engagement Initiatives, Empowering Speaker Events, Field Trips and Experiential Learning, Personal Development Workshops, Mentorship Programs, and College and Career Readiness, where they offer college and career readiness programs that prepare youth for postsecondary education and career opportunities. This includes assistance with college applications, resume writing, interview skills, and exposure to vocational training options.

Another area of focus is Arts and Expression programs, such as creative writing, visual arts, and performing arts workshops. These provide youth with creative outlets to express themselves and build self-expression skills. There are also Health and Wellness Initiatives in which the program promotes holistic well-being by organizing health and wellness programs that focus on physical fitness, mental health, and healthy lifestyle choices. “The combination of these services and programs fosters an inclusive and nurturing environment that empowers youth to become ambitious, resilient, empowered, courageous, and noble individuals. By participating in these initiatives, youth gain the tools and inspiration needed to transcend limitations, positively influence their communities, and embrace a brighter future full of opportunities,” says Taja.

In addition to teaching middle school full-time as a science educator, Taja serves as the Director of her organization. She has earned her B.S. in Microbiology, Master’s in Business Administration, and Master’s of Educational Leadership. Taja is also married to Douglas Cunningham, an Engineer, and is the mother of one son, Ezra.

Being able to successfully secure funds to provide services to youth and families in under-served communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast is quite an accomplishment. Amazingly, her efforts do not stop there. Taja’s interests include juvenile justice policies for at-risk youth; vulnerable, underserved populations, and community and economic development policies for impoverished areas. She spends countless hours assisting with efforts through the development of programs that will encourage positive engagement and behavioral changes, and avidly searches for opportunities to introduce and engage minority youth in both traditional and non-traditional opportunities. Her special interests include

grant writing at both state and federal levels, researching and analyzing policies that affect populations labeled “at-risk,” mentoring youth in urban and rural populations, developing STEM activities, writing curriculum, reading nonfiction, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

When asked what she loves most about what she does, Taja’s response is very clear. “I love the positive impact that Girls ARE & Boys CAN has had on its members. I understand there is a dire need to strengthen and expand resources for youth and their families.”

Taja shares that her life has been greatly impacted by her 108-year-old great-grandmother, Thelma Louise Caldwell. “She is the epitome of resilience. She is a powerful force and lights up any room that she enters. Hearing about the things that she has witnessed in her lifetime and how she overcame them encourages me to press on and seek solutions for any challenge that I face.” Taja also finds inspiration in witnessing young people challenge themselves daily and finding solutions to adversity. “Our young people have a lot to say if we simply listen.”

Looking ahead, one thing is certain: Taja will be on the frontlines serving members of her community. She also aspires to own a microschool or small incubator program for students who are labeled “at-risk.” To learn more about her program, please visit her website.

Pictured below is Taja’s grandmother, Thelma Louise Caldwell, who is 108 years old.

Jacoby Waters Young Men of Distinction

In West Palm Beach, FL, the relevance of the adage “Reach One-Teach One” is on full display. In many communities across the country, the mere survival of black men has become precarious. Without a definite plan of action in place, these communities are left to find solutions that will continue the promise of a future for black men. This is where Jacoby Waters and his organization, Young Men of Distinction, come into play.

The Young Men of Distinction is a holistic mentoring program that addresses the social, emotional, and cultural needs of children ages 7-18. Members are trained and certified to become mentors, advocates, and role models for the youth within their communities. Members forge relationships that positively impact the youth through chapter-operated one-on-one and group mentoring efforts. Additionally, the program focuses on building essential skills needed to become productive, contributing citizens.

Led by Jacoby Waters as the Founder, CEO, and Executive Director, Young Men of Distinction began on May 3, 2019, with six young men. Today, in addition to the oneon-one mentoring, the program employs techniques developed using S.M.A.R.T. goals and utilizes the following mentoring relationship models: Group Mentoring, Tag Team Mentoring, and Peer to Peer Mentoring. “Our mission is to increase opportunities for adolescent boys to prosper through mentorship, motivation and guidance, helping them transition into

Photos Provided by Jacoby Waters

young men with purpose and obtain a higher education,” Jacoby says. “Our vision is to create a mentoring culture where all male members of the community can be empowered, enabling young men to become better fathers, community leaders, husbands, students, employees, entrepreneurs, business owners, friends, and more.”

Jacoby is a native of Riviera Beach, FL. He is a father, son, brother, mentor, husband, and alumnus of Florida A&M University. He shares that his stepfather and grandfather provided him with knowledge and expertise, which aided in creating a strong foundation in his life. Jacoby also received great guidance from neighbors who helped to develop his morals and values. With a strong foundation and great guidance, Jacoby has achieved several goals and continues his journey toward his dream.

The Board of Directors for YMOD includes Santarvis Brown, Ed.D, J.D. (Leadership and Education Strategist), Lynn Cheramie (Cyber Security and IT Professional), Corrien ElmoreStratton (Executive Youth Development & Community Engagement Leader), JONATHAN GARY, SR. (Investor Business Owner & Author), and Patrick Richardson, BA, MPA (Business Development Manager).

The staff of YMOD are Sonia Gilbert (Executive Director), Solomon Fleming (Junior Staff), and Tyrell Warring (Junior Staff). Stephen Brooks serves as Web Developer & Tech Support.

What Jacoby says he loves most about what he does is mentoring young men and providing them with guidance and insight. Some of the challenges faced by YMOD include funding and staff support. Jacoby has overcome these challenges by continuing his efforts and securing funding through fundraising and other grants. Jacoby shares he is inspired by the foundation he was blessed with. Additionally, he draws inspiration from his four sons and the generation behind him, aiming to provide hope and fuel their imagination.

Jacoby advises someone who may follow in his footsteps to always stay strong and stay prayed up. To learn more about YMOD, please visit their website.

Demi Noel Martin

The daughter of Danny J. Martin and Jasmine Richardson

The West Central Georgia Black Chamber of Commerce

Advocating For Your Business

The West Central Georgia Black Chamber of Commerce, established in 2022, is a 501c6 headquartered in Newnan, GA. Their purpose is to support and promote the growth of black businesses by providing resources and opportunities. Through its advocacy, policy, and thought leadership, the group encourages growth and prosperity for black businesses to ensure they remain competitive. It also represents black businesses in Carroll, Coweta, Heard, Butts, Spalding, Pike, Troup, Upson, Meriwether, Lamar, and Chambers counties.

Two areas The West Central Georgia Black Chamber of Commerce focuses on are Advocacy and Unity. In regards to advocacy, they provide proactive advocacy, meaningful services, and true business support to provide you with a competitive edge. They also share that the size of their network matters and is impactful. The chamber’s membership includes small storefronts and small businesses that offer professional and other services.

While the group shares many of the same goals, WCGBCC is one of the few organizations focused on the statewide issues that impact Georgia’s entire business community. They work closely with the Georgia Coalition of Black Chambers and cultivate other unique partnerships.

For more information about about the chamber, including membership details, please visit their website.

Dr. Chauweda Smith Total Life Counseling & Wellness, LLC


Dr. Chauweda Smith of Louisville, KY, is a mother of two sons and two daughters, an entrepreneur, a licensed therapist of 14 years, and has worked in the social service field for 17 years. She is a trauma specialist and owner of Total Life Counseling & Wellness, LLC, a mental health agency. Dr. Smith is also a certified personal trainer, speaker, adjunct professor, and community advocate. When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, reading, and exercising.

Total Life Counseling & Wellness, LLC provides community, office, and online mental health counseling. These services are available to children, adolescents, and adults from ages five and up, as well as people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Dr. Smith also provides clinical supervision to clinicians working toward their license.

After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a Bachelor’s in Pan-African Studies, Dr. Smith started working at an orphanage. There, she quickly realized she wanted to help change the lives of the children she worked with and their families. “I wanted to be the mentor and trustworthy person to others, something that I didn’t have as a youth and as a young single mom. Growing up in the West End of Louisville, I had a lot of adversaries that I had to overcome. These struggles made me realize I wanted to help those with similar life experiences,” she says. “After working with families from all backgrounds and numerous agencies, I realized that health issues were a major part of the increase in mental health services, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. While in my doctorate program, I focused my research on holistic health and combined mental health with physical fitness and nutrition to provide true holistic health services.”

Dr. Smith says she enjoys providing multiple services to a variety of people while focusing on true holistic health. “I’ve had the ability to help change the quality of life for my client’s, both physically and mentally, by assisting them to improve their mental wellbeing. This is the most humbling aspect of my career. However, at times, I feel that I am not helping enough, and I tend to overwork myself. I don’t always set boundaries, but I must remember that I am doing enough. I must also remember to take care of myself so that I can help others. That has been one of the most challenging aspects of my career,” she says.

I wanted to be the mentor and trustworthy person to others, something that I didn’t have as a youth and as a young single mom.

Dr. Smith says her parents taught her how to be resilient and the true definition of hard work. “I watched my mother juggle multiple things effortlessly, even with children. My father had a strong business mind and was the first person I knew to be a successful entrepreneur. I gained valuable qualities from both.”

Dr. Smith shares she understands that every experience a person has comes with a lesson. Grasping that concept, she states she wouldn’t change anything about the way things have happened in her career thus far, except for learning how to ask for help while starting her business. She admits to learning that she doesn’t have to be a superwoman and that receiving help from other people is okay.

As the future unfolds, Dr. Smith plans to expand Total Life Counseling & Wellness, LLC to include both mental health offices, a fitness gym, and a mental/physical health app for online services. Her goal is to be able to help people on a national level. Additionally, she plans to continue to teach social work classes to undergraduate and graduate students. To learn more about Total Life Counseling & Wellness, LLC, please visit their website.

Learn More About My Experience of Being A Caregiver For My Mother

CHAPTER THREE: Somethings, Money Can’t Buy

As time began to pass, with my mother and I sharing my home, our daily routines began to take shape. “Good morning, mama,” I would greet her each day. “Good morning,” she would return. In the first few months after her having her stroke, Mom’s words were slightly delayed. As with most stroke patients, Aphasia had set in, and Mama would stutter a little. Sometimes, she couldn’t get the entire word out, but I knew what she meant. Sometimes Mama would put a lot of emphasis on “Good”, and sometimes it would be “Morning”. Because I consider myself to be sort of a comedian, I would agitate her a little when she didn’t say her words correctly. My agitation appeared to have worked because she continued to try. When she got the entire word out, she knew it, and the look on her face said it all. “I did that”. Those moments of achievement made us both happy. It was a small sign of hope that God blessed us to share, but many more would follow.

The evenings are very special to Mama and me. On most days, we may have just finished eating dinner and would watch one of our favorite shows together. It took some getting used to for me to see how Mama responded to watching Fred Sanford and Aunt Esther go at it. I had known my Mama to be quite reserved; now, she wasn’t holding back on her laughs. Mama would let them fly, and I could tell that she truly enjoyed watching television. It appeared to be therapeutic for her, and it allowed me to gather some data to share with her doctor about how attentive she was while watching.

During these TV-watching experiences, I would ask Mama some questions about her past, short and long-distance ones. My hopes were a little deflated as some of the things that mattered most to her, she couldn’t recall. Thank God, her lack of memory wouldn’t last forever.

One thing Mama has always been able to remember is the number of children she has and all of their names. She continues to be able to name us all, from the oldest to the youngest, in chronological order. She loves her children unconditionally. My Mama is the greatest person that I know.


I decided to share my experience as a full-time caregiver for my mother to consult, console, and inform other families who may be going through a similar situation. As a son, caring for my mother never feels like work; if so, it is a labor of love. Please continue to follow this message, Becoming A Caregiver, in Huami Magazine. I hope that sharing my experience will help others. From one caregiver to the next, God Bless You!

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