Huami Magazine California June/July 2024

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June/July 2024

Volume 2 Issue 3

MiVUE Productions
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God’s Promises Have A No Quit Clause

A Letter From The Editor

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

A Letter from the Editor

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.

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 California - June/July 2024 4 4 November/December 2014 Want To Advertise? Call (336)340-7844 Editor In Chief Terry L. Watson Alana Allen - Deputy Editor Writers Tonya Dixon Terry L. Watson Alana Allen Jeuron Dove Photographers Perfect Lenz Photography Shaw Photography Group Still Shots Photography Who Shotya Photography Layout Mykel Media Company Linda Bennett HUAMI MAGAZINE is published quarterly by the Mykel Media Company. Any reproduction of any portion of this publication is prohibited without written permission from the publisher prior to doing so. Mykel Media doesn’t accept responsibility for statements made by individuals featured or advertisers. Comments concerning this publication (336) 340-7844 On The Cover
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5 JUNE/JULY 2024
CONTENTS MiVUE Productions Valaira Sa-Ra 6 On The Cover Also Featured 12
is doing her part to preserve the arts in her community. Learn more about what she has been up to.
Nijalon Jackson
Jackson, MS
all started with meeting the needs of her own child. Her efforts are now embraced around the country.
Tanisha Frederick
Louisville, KY
Jacoby Waters
more about how his organization is
the lives of
me. YMOD Inc. Palm Beach, FL Girls A.R.E. Boys
Taja Cunningham
32 18
Caring For Mom Terry L. Watson
36 24
Huami Magazine Cutest Baby Demi Noel Martin NAACP Honors Rev. Amos C. Brown

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.

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“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.


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Afredanz Dance Center

Preserving The Art of Dance

“It’s not always going to look who you think it should.” That is what Nijalon Jackson shares about her journey in dance.

Located in Pascagoula, MS, Afredanz Dance Center is a vibrant hub of dance, offering a diverse range of captivating genres for all age groups. Their dance classes embrace the grace of ballet, the vivacity of jazz, the energy of hip-hop, the innovation of modern dance, and the rich heritage of African/Afro-Caribbean Dance. Whether you’re a tiny tot of three, a spirited 18-year-old, or even an adult seeking to express yourself through dance fitness, they’ve got something for everyone, fostering a sense of inclusivity and acceptance.

Nijalon Jackson is a dance educator, artist, dance advocate, mom, and friend. That is how she describes herself. The Moss Point, MS native and Mississippi Gulf Coast resident’s life has always been surrounded by dance. With Afredanz Dance Center, Nijalon has made it a priority to preserve the art of dance, not only for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community but for others around the country.

“Since the age of 12, I always knew that I would open my own dance studio,” she says. That vision never left Nijalon, and in February 2023, that vision became a reality as the doors of Afredanz Dance Center were opened. Afredanz is a for-profit entity, and its services are designed for dance enthusiasts of all ages and varieties. These include individuals between the ages of three and eighteen years old, with sessions offered in Ballet, Jazz Dance, West African Dance, Hip Hop, and Modern Dance. The average cost of their dance lessons is $75, and tuition assistance is available.

“I love being able to open the mind of young dancers to a world of dance they have never seen or experienced before,” Nijalon says. “I love teaching and showing my students that they can do anything they put their minds to. If someone says “they can’t” in their minds, their body is not going to do it. I tell them to say instead, “I have to work harder,” and by doing so, they will see results and see the difference in their movements.”

Nijalon was able to share her opinion of how the arts community is embraced and supported in Jackson, MS. “Support and opportunities are non-existence,” she says. “This has been a struggle for Afredanz. Our students are not always exposed to arts and dance other than what they see on social media and television. They do not get to learn and understand what is actually needed to create a dance production, all of the elements, and understand the terminologies and cultures. There is so much they need to learn, and I feel the time has come for them to be exposed and learn. I think it could begin with the local school districts. I see it happening in other areas outside of Jackson. Imagine if we had that kind of support and participation, of which dance is not treated just as an elective but as important as academics; I believe that we would really see a difference.”

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Photos Provided by Nijalon Jackson/DP Photography LLC
“Funding is available, but you must look for it. In this unique world of finding grants that encourages diversity, you must work to find what is available and aligns with your vision.”

It is evident that Nijalon’s focus extends beyond meeting the needs of her existing clientele. She is committed to creating opportunities for others to be involved, and her vision isn’t gender specific. “At the end of the year, I produce an event that is free for the Mississippi Gulf Coast community, and other areas outside of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, such as New Orleans, LA and Mobile, AL. The production is called “The Dreamcatcher”. We have both boys and girls participate. The cost of the event is made possible through fundraising, and it gives our young kids an opportunity to see what it takes to be involved in a dance production. In our first year, we had one boy participate, and last year, we had two. This year, we are looking to have even more boys involved,” she says.

While Nijalon has been fortunate to carry the cost of Afredanz Dance Center through fundraising and utilizing her own resources, she admits that it gets difficult at times, and she is always open to the support of others. With that said, many people, dance coaches, and dance professors have helped Nijalon get to where she is today. She acknowledges her very first dance teacher, elementary and gifted education teacher, and former mentor, Angela Campbell, as well as Linda Whirl, Julie Hammond, Kelly Ferris Lester, Elizabeth Letz Hill, Meredith Sutton, Rebecca McArthur, and Brianna Jahn.

Currently, Afredanz has about 15 students enrolled. However, Nijalon anticipates an increase soon. On the eighth day of June this year, they conducted their 2nd Annual Dance Recital: The Michael Jackson Experience! This California - June/July 2024 14

event offered attendees an unforgettable night of dance and celebration of the legendary artist and musician.

For those who may be interested in following a path similar to what Nijalon has with building Afredanz Dance Center, she offers some advice that may help along the way. “Funding is available, but you must look for it. In this unique world of finding grants that encourages diversity, you must work to find what is available and aligns with your vision,” she says. “It also helps to have a community of family and friends who don’t mind to pour into your dreams and vision.”

Looking ahead, Nijalon plans to continue to hone her craft and make Afredanz Dance Center one of the best dance companies available. She has proven that regardless of how it looks, there are opportunities available to succeed. Her love for serving others and making an impact in the lives of young people will be a legacy that will live beyond Afredanz. Nijalon invites everyone to visit their location in Pascagoula to experience what she has to offer. “I can easily send emails and describe what we have to offer, but seeing and experiencing Afredanz in person is totally awesome. It is something about seeing an open space. The imagination and mind go wild about what can happen in there. Just imagine the endless possibilities that can happen at Afredanz Dance Center.”

California - June/July 2024 17 228-281-3324 h
1711 Market Street Suite E Pascagoula, MS 39567

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!


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

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Photos Provided by Jacoby Waters


225 NW 12th Ave, Boynton Beach, FL 33435 4701 10th Ave N, Greenacres, FL 33463


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. California - June/July 2024 22
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.
5725 Corporate Way, Suite 202 West Palm Beach, FL 33407

The 12th Annual NAACP CA/HI Legacy Hall of Fame Honoring Rev. Amos C. Brown and Danny Glover

The 12th Annual NAACP California /Hawaii Legacy Hall of Fame Honoring Rev. Amos C. Brown and Danny Glover took place on Monday, June 10, 2024, at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel in Sacramento, California. The Annual NAACP California Hawaii State Conference Legacy Hall of Fame celebration honored its 2024 inductees, Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown and Danny Glover.

Rev. Amos C. Brown, Th.D., of San Francisco, is a distinguished civil rights leader who studied under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He participated in pivotal civil rights actions and serves as President of the San Francisco Branch of the NAACP.

Danny Glover, a renowned actor, producer, and activist, is celebrated for his impactful performances in film and his commitment to civil rights and economic justice. Glover, born in San Francisco, has received numerous awards for his humanitarian efforts. The NAACP shared that it was proud to commemorate Rev. Brown’s civil rights activism and Glover’s legacy as 2024 NAACP CA/HI State Conference Legacy Hall of Fame members.

This year’s signature program was held in person in Northern California and will fund local unity capacity building, youth leadership programs, and NextGen Leadership programs and initiatives.

“Empower Your Business: Monthly Financial Literacy Workshop”

The California Black Chamber of Commerce invites you to join us for our monthly ‘Empower Your Business’ financial literacy workshop. This virtual series, held via Zoom, is designed specifically for small business owners who seek to enhance their financial knowledge and skills. The meetings are held monthly (specific dates to be announced each month) from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm PST via Zoom. Small Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, Start-Up Founders, and anyone interested in improving their financial literacy in a business are encouraged to attend.

Workshop Highlights: Understanding Financial Statements: Learn to read and interpret balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements to make informed business decisions.

Budgeting and Forecasting: Master the art of creating effective budgets and financial forecasts to guide your business strategy. Tax Planning and Compliance: Navigate the complexities of tax obligations and discover strategies to optimize your tax position.

Accessing Capital: Explore various funding options available for small businesses, including loans, grants, and investor funding.

Risk Management: Understand the principles of risk management to safeguard your business finances.

Q&A Sessions: Interact with financial experts to get answers to your specific business finance queries.

Interactive and Engaging Format: Live presentations by financial experts Breakout sessions for personalized discussions

This event is free for all participants. Pre-registration is required to receive the Zoom link. Limited spots available – register early to secure your place. For more information or to register, please contact Angela at 916-467-8878 or email

W hat’s H appening I n O ur C ommunity
Rev. Amos C. Brown Danny Glover
Information obtained from Information obtained from California Black Chamber of Commerce 24 h h

Beautiful As You Are

Photos Provided by Chanel Wells-Henderson

It has been said that you should never judge a book by its cover. In the case of Tanisha “Tish” Frederick, this adage is sufficient. The Louisville, KY, resident has made it her life’s mission to serve at every opportunity given. Whether as a wife, mother, or community leader, she remains in a position to answer the call.

Tanisha is a mother of three young adults. She has also been married to her amazing husband, Idris, for 27 years. She shares people often ask what her educational achievements are. They are in disbelief when they learn she only has a high school education. More than anything, Tanisha is a go-getter. She is a certified life coach who focuses on working with teenagers and guiding them on a path of true selflove.

In 2014, she made the decision to launch the BAYA program, which stands for Beautiful As You Are, as a response to some tenuous life situations her young daughter had encountered.

Tanisha shares, “Our family had relocated several times and finally landed in New Albany, IN, outside Louisville. When she started her new school, she was bullied relentlessly and became a self-harmer. My daughter eventually tried to take her life because she didn’t see a way out. Unfortunately, we didn’t know at the time how to handle all her feelings and attempts to harm herself, so we decided to have her hospitalized for a period of time. While she was in the hospital, I felt lost and as if I had failed as a mother. One day, while sitting at my desk at work and crying my eyes out, the CEO of the company I worked for

My daughter eventually tried to take her life because she didn’t see a way out. Unfortunately, we didn’t know at the time how to handle all her feelings and attempts to harm herself, so we decided to have her hospitalized for a period of time.
California - June/July 2024 27

self-esteem love


walked by and asked why I was crying. I told him the story of my daughter and what was going on. He told me two things: Win the day and, stop worrying about what’s going to happen to my daughter in the future and just take it one day at a time. He also asked me what I was going to do about it. As soon as he left my desk, I grabbed some sticky notes and began writing plans for a girl’s group to help girls with issues similar to my daughter’s. I decided on “Beautiful As You Are” with the goal of serving girls who didn’t fit in or were overlooked and offering a safe space where they could simply be themselves. This is how it all began.”

The BAYA program has several parts. They teach from three volumes of curriculum that Tanisha has written, and she says each lesson is very interactive and hands-on and teaches girls the importance of loving themselves unconditionally and unapologetically. Each time a girl goes through one of BAYA’s workshops, they leave with something tangible. “They may forget what we talked about, but they will never forget the visual they created,” Tanisha says. “Our self-esteem building program is in 54 Louisville, KY, and Southern Indiana schools.” They also offer programming at a community center Tanisha created just for girls, The BAYA Center, which is located in Clarksville, IN. There, Tanisha and her team can really dig in and teach their core values: community, growth, hope, and resilience.

Additionally, they teach workshops like yoga, dance, art, and sewing. However, their foundation and primary focus is selfesteem-building workshops. Tanisha has also created several journals that accompany her program in the schools and at the BAYA Center: The Burn Journal, Wreck it Journal, and Affirmation Coloring Book and Journal. Tanisha’s footprint extends beyond her immediate community. She has spoken at conferences nationwide and taught educators and parents how to connect with teenagers and make a lasting impact. “Speaking is truly one of my favorite things to do because it allows me to get the word out about the BAYA program. It also allows me to help educators tear down the walls that many teenagers put up while dealing with adults,” Tanisha said.

Learning how to run a business from the ground up has been extremely challenging for Tanisha. She explains, “Before BAYA, I had worked in hospital insurance and collections for years. I didn’t have any experience that prepared me for what I am doing now. I had to take many business classes, attend leadership conferences, and watch and learn from many successful businesswomen. I have also purposely surrounded myself with successful business leaders who offer me advice and suggestions and have really helped me develop a strong business model. I always tell the BAYA girls, “You are who you hang around.” I want BAYA to become a sustainable organization that is here long after I’m gone, and I learned early on that the only way this is possible is to surround myself with people smarter than me who share the same passion for serving the community.” California - June/July 2024 28

When asked what she loves most about what she does, Tanisha shares it’s watching girls grow beyond their fears. “I enjoy seeing young ladies grow from feeling unseen or unheard to girls who stand tall and unconcerned about what others think of them. I love to see them become confident about themselves unapologetically. I also love creating new and exciting content and programming for the BAYA girls. Outcomes are everything. Our stats say that 98% of the girls surveyed share that BAYA has increased their self-esteem. This lets me know the program is doing what it was created to do.”

While having to endure the stresses of her daughter’s ordeal, Tanisha says she thanks her for allowing her to build the BAYA organization in response to her pain and struggles. “The curriculum was created from lessons I practiced with her and her friends. The feedback of my daughter and her friends has helped me develop an outstanding curriculum and program. Watching my daughter go from broken and not wanting to live to the woman she is today truly makes me proud and inspires me to keep going to help other girls just like her. All the tears and many struggles are all worth it.”

Looking ahead, Tanisha says her goal is to have a BAYA Center throughout the United States. She also hopes to have the BAYA program and curriculum offered in schools nationwide because she knows that it’s effective and the impact is real. Within her curriculum, she has written three volumes and is close to completing volume four. Her overall goal is to develop a package with seven volumes and 24 lessons in each book, each accompanied by a journal. “Schools across the country are already using our curriculum, and the feedback truly humbles me, especially knowing the impact this program is making.” Additionally, she says her personal goal is to develop a coaching business, “Self-Love Coaching with Ms. Tish”. It will be offered virtually and will allow Tanisha to reach more girls and their families. She currently has five clients, has partnered with several foster homes to provide coaching support for their girls, and is looking to expand.

To learn more about BAYA, please visit their website.



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 California - June/July 2024 34

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.

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Pictured below is Taja’s grandmother, Thelma Louise Caldwell, who is 108 years old. Business Social Culture We Are Here For Your Community 336-303-9814 FB-LadyE_Specs IG-lady_especs Exclusive Specs for Men and Women
California - June/July 2024

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