Huami Magazine California Feb./March 2024

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Cultivating Conscious, Connected, & Courageous Leaders

® Feb./March 2024 Vol. 2 Issue 2
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Love Is What Makes Black History Important

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

It’s Black History Month, and Huami Magazine has produced a gallery of artistic portraits to honor 29 individuals who’ve helped us enjoy many opportunities. Follow our social media pages to enjoy the productions, and please feel free to share and include someone who belongs and is worthy to be celebrated also.

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?

In recent years, the argument has been that Black History should be celebrated 365 days per year. I agree. I am also aware there needs to be more emphasis on an annual year-round celebration of our Black history. Let’s get the conversation started, and let’s talk about what needs to be discussed.

While producing the gallery for this year, I enjoyed learning more about the individuals that are showcased. These include George Washington Carver, Elijah McCoy, W.E.B. DuBois, Carter G. Woodson, Hiram Rhodes Revels, Sarah Boone, Garrett Morgan, and others. It’s fascinating to learn how their perspectives on social issues of their time resonate with the present day. As Black people, we still face similar challenges, and it appears that we are still fighting the same fights of decades ago. I ask the question, what has changed?

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.

What are we doing as a people to create better living opportunities for our race and the world as a whole? Tearing each other apart with our words, actions, and slander on social media doesn’t solve our problems. We need unity instead. We need to love one another a whole lot more. How do we do that?

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.

I believe it begins with us genuinely supporting each other’s efforts, whether in business or our communities. We must love and pray for our neighbors and truly desire to see everyone succeed. Let’s not be too concerned by what the other person has and what we may lack; instead, let’s find ways to collaborate and level the playing field for us all. That is real love.

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.

One’s skin color doesn’t define real love. Real love encompasses culture, race, and religion. When we get to a place where we care more about the welfare and survival of our neighbors just as much as we do for ourselves, real love will already be waiting for us there.

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 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 E-mail at (336) 340-7844 On The Cover Photo by Shaw Photography Group
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Leaders - Tici’ess 30
Tovi C.
Zaneta Johns
is regarded as one of the best poets of today. Learn more about her and her literary works. Denver, CO
Premier Flooring Company Thomas C. Deans III Too Rise Up
Crystal Hemphill Haley 12 Huami Magazine Cutest Baby Mecca Causey
26 20
You Salon LLC Christina McNeal
Don’t look now, but the face of founder of 5FT Productions LLC is up to something new. Learn more about it. Raleigh, NC 34
Kiesha James
Meet the face and founder of CC PatchWorks. Learn more about how her programs is helping children and families beyond the classroom. Norfolk, VA

Cultivating Conscious, Connected, & Courageous Leaders

“I lost my mother when I was 14 years old. She was one of the first documented black women to die of AIDS in 1986. That experience shaped my life profoundly. Losing her made me look at life differently.”

Tovi C. Scruggs of Oakland, CA, describes herself as a visionary, innovator, and Goddess-at-Work. Having over 30 years of leadership and transformation experience, she is deeply connected to nature and other people. “I’m a leader of leaders and healer to healers.”

Originally from Los Angeles, CA, Tovi says that enrolling in UC Berkley is what got her to the Bay Area. “I’m old school. I like the Raiders, and not the 49ers as one may assume,” she says. “I lost my mother when I was 14 years old. She was one of the first documented black women to die of AIDS in 1986. That experience shaped my life profoundly. Losing her made me look at life differently. She raised me in a way that prepared me for her death,” Tovi shares. After losing her mother, Tovi went to live with her dad.

Today, Tovi is the face of Tici’ess, a leadership development company that focuses on transformational leadership development and emotionally intelligent equality and inclusion. Tovi says she started her company out of necessity. “I was in the public education system and noticed how it was failing families and kids of color, and adults in general. I ended up leaving the public system, partnering with a friend, and starting our own private school, ASA, for black children in grades 6-12. Our school invited me to look at educational trauma, to look at the pain that our systems instill on the souls of Black people and other people of color.”

In the economic downtown of 2008, they closed, and Tovi ended up returning to the public school system as a principal. Upon her return, she had a different perspective. “I was more skillful and eventually was awarded for turning a high school around and making remarkable improvements in data in a short period of time.” For doing such a good job, Tovi believes that her leadership came under attack. “I was let go for being a woman of color and getting such amazing results,” she says. That was in August 2016. Ironically, she says that being let go helped her go higher in her calling and do things her way.

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Before returning to full-time entrepreneurship, Tovi was California’s Regional Executive Director at Partners in School Innovation, where she served on the national Executive Leadership Team and led regional teams to improve educational outcomes in the nation’s lowest-performing schools. She was the co-founding director of the state-wide Equity Leaders Academy of the Association of CA School Administrators. She is an adjunct professor at Mills College School of Education, where she co-designed a first-ofits-kind course, “Trauma-informed Leadership with an Equity Lens,”. Having deep roots in mindfulness and education, it makes sense that Tovi expresses that passion in her service as the National Board President of Coalition of Schools Educating Mindfully (COSEM) and founding Board Member of Academy for Restorative Education (AFRE).

With Tici’ess, Tovi supports leaders in embracing what she terms “professional spirituality”– the vision, skills, and practices that enhance your work and leadership”. One of her programs is the EI²: Emotionally Intelligent Equity & Inclusion™ Facilitator Certification. Tovi says that through this 10-month certification program, participants will HEAL through innerwork, TRANSFORM both self and systems, and LEAD courageously to create more inclusive schools, organizations, and communities where belonging and equitable outcomes are the norm.

Having been honored by Mindful Magazine as one of the Powerful Women Leaders of 2021 who are igniting the world with courage and wisdom, Tovi also conducts meditation retreats designed to support leaders and deepen their connection to self, which she says is their connection to self and God. “I will never forget at the last meditation retreat, a woman started crying and said that I made her fall in love with God again. That is what fills me up; people in their own transformation. I really feel that meditation guides us to that. That is really how I love to spend my time,” Tovi says. California - Feb./March 2024 8

New Guide by a Black Educator Empowers Black Families

Obviously, there is value in the services and programs that Tovi offers. She has received praise and recognition from many of her clients. Caroline Simard, the PhD Managing Director at Stanford VMare Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab says, “Never have I before experienced such a transformational curriculum - even in an all-virtual format. Their mastery of the content on courageous leadership, expert facilitation, and individualized coaching approaches will forever change your outlook on leadership and give you the tools to embody your aspirations.” Rachael Jones, a participant of Tovi’s Racial Healing Allies, Cohort 1, says, “This process changed my life. I learned (and unlearned) so much about myself, and I am eternally grateful. My intention was to be present. My vision was to be a better mother and teacher. I was present, even through the unpleasant moments. I am encouraged and inspired to shine my light even brighter—for me, my children, and my students.”

Tovi credits her husband of six years, Abby Hussein, for providing constant support. She also credits Abba Malaku, as a key mentor, acknowledges Makisha Boothe, the founder of Sistahbiz Global Network. Looking ahead, Tovi plans to conduct additional meditation workshops.


To learn more about Tovi C. Scruggs and Tici’ess, please visit their website.

For more information and to download a free copy please visit
California - Feb./March 2024 11

Crisis To Connection

Crystal Hemphill-Haley has dedicated her life to serving. She is the First Lady of the United Christians Missionary Baptist Church of Los Angeles and has been married to Pastor Nathaniel G. Haley Sr. for 16 years. Together, they have seven Children and six Grandchildren. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is currently seeking her masters in the same field. Additionally, Crystal works as a public servant to various disenfranchised communities in Los Angeles, as well as the Inland Empire.

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We need our community to trust us and allow us to assist and help them. They have often been let down, and promises were made and broken by other organizations. For this very reason, I take what I do seriously. California - Feb./March 2024 14

Crystal is also the founder of the Too Rise Up Non-Profit Foundation. “My focus is to bring resources and services into communities in need,” she says. To Rise Up provides health and wellness services, food distribution, drug addiction recovery programs, spiritual counseling, and resume writing assistance for job seekers. Additionally, they offer free professional clothing for job interviews, CPR training, PTSD Counseling, housing for abused women, and Safe Passage Facilities. They also offer mentorship programs for boys and girls, summer camps, and Professional Security Training. Along with her co-founder, Delores Simms, they are driven to make a difference, as they have experienced similar challenges and risen above community and social struggles and inequities to achieve a particular level of success.

Delores Sims is the mother of two children and has a passion for helping youth and their families. “I have worked for the Kaiser Hospital for the past 15 years, and in my capacity, I have had the opportunity to provide support to many in need,” she says.

The Too Rise Up Non-Profit Foundation was born out of a sincere desire and passion to help others in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. “We have been working in these various communities for three years, and we are full speed ahead in our efforts to make a profound and positive impact on these communities and to improve the quality of life for the many needy families and youth of these communities.

More than anything, Sandra states she appreciates the opportunity she has to help enrich the lives of members in her community. “I love seeing our organization make a difference in people’s lives. I have a sincere heart for people, and to be able to give back to needy communities, even the very community where I was raised, is very fulfilling. It’s a great blessing and falls directly in line with my husband’s vision for our ministry.”

Too Rise Up has a wonderful support system and network of professionals and organizations. Those partnerships are essential in helping Crystal and her team reach those who most need her services. She says, “We need our community to trust us and allow us to assist and help them. They have often been let down, and promises were made and broken by other organizations. For this very reason, I take what I do seriously. We have staff and members of our organization who fundamentally understand our mission, and therefore, they work diligently in their capacity, in a spirit of excellence, and with integrity. We are obligated to them and committed to being transparent and open about every program and resource we offer. This is how we gain and maintain our client’s trust.”

Crystal says the motto for herself and Too Rise Up is “The Sky’s The Limit”. Moving forward, Crystal plans to lead her organization by being instrumental in establishing programs and resources. This includes developing community policies that will be vital in changing the trajectory of what happens in Los Angeles, The Inland Empire, and surrounding areas.

To learn more about Too Rise Up, please visit their website.

Crystal Hemphill-Haley Too Rise Up h

Premier Flooring Group

Information and Photos Provided by Thomas C. Dean III

The story of Thomas C. Dean III is a classic American story of overcoming adversity through hard work, determination, and guts. But this story comes with some very unusual twists and turns that make Thomas uniquely qualified to inspire others through his gifts as a community leader and public speaker.

New Orleans, LA, native Thomas C. Deans was born to a large Creole family. At age 17, Thomas’ mother gave birth to him with the help of her “village,” which included Thomas’ maternal grandparents, his paternal grandmother, his uncle, and five aunts, she raised him. His mother worked a lot to provide for him, a quality Thomas also observed in his Grandfather as he held down three jobs while providing for his family. Witnessing his family’s hard work implanted sound values and work ethics in him, qualities that he continues to carry even today.

Throughout his childhood, Thomas’ Grandfather was a revered “Indian Chief” in the 2nd Line Mardi Gras tradition in New Orleans. From the age of five, Thomas’ Grandfather and uncle began to teach him the art of costume making and indoctrinated him into the traditions of the Mardi Gras culture as a young Indian. This would become a defining part of Thomas’ life as he grew older.

At the age of 11, Thomas was forced by his Grandfather into his first public speaking engagements. He was commissioned to speak at 28 public schools throughout New Orleans on the traditions and history of the Mardi Gras Indians. At 13, Thomas began working in the French Quarter as a busboy. Money was tight in the family, and part of earning your status in New Orleans as a young man meant dressing to impress. Thomas recalls, “We were a poor community. The only thing guys in the neighborhood had was their appearance, so dressing sharp and staying well groomed was a priority to gain respect and status.”

Growing up in New Orleans also meant that Thomas would have to learn how to survive, and knowing how to fight was a necessity if you wanted to go to the playground. “To make it in the neighborhood and gain the respect of your peers, you had to be able to stand your ground and learn to scrap, and that’s what I did,” says Thomas.

While Thomas worked a job and even played football in Middle School, academics were more important to his mother, specifically for Thomas to maintain good grades. “My mother’s rule was that I had to maintain at least a B average if I wanted to work during school,” he says. Following his mother’s instruction, Thomas excelled and became captain of the football team, even holding the office of Student Body President.

In high school, Thomas continued to hone his public speaking and leadership skills. He was part of the speech and debate club, and in his Senior year, he was class president. As a Senior, Thomas earned a nomination through the Louisiana House of Representatives, gaining him a full scholarship to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Thomas experienced a few ups and downs while adjusting as a young cadet with the U.S. Air Force Academy. Things didn’t go as planned, and at 22 years of age, he returned home to New Orleans and dove directly into his work creating Mardi Gras costumes with his Grandfather and uncle. His uncle had since graduated to become the 2nd generation Indian Chief, following Thomas’ Grandfather, who remained the patriarch. His uncle had fallen ill and was forced to pass the Chief’s stick on to another member of their Tribe. Fortunately, Thomas had developed a formidable self-confidence and was prepared to answer the call of his family’s legacy.


He rejoined the family processions and, that year, created his own costume. While participating in the event, Thomas’s costume and presence in the “2nd Line” procession caught the attention of the community, and people began whispering about how Thomas had outshone the new chief of their tribe. Thomas had created a bright yellow costume, and people said Thomas was the “prettier” one of the two of them. This was unusual, particularly as Thomas was quite young at the time, and this ended up creating a certain degree of jealousy and friction with the new Big Chief.

The following year, when Thomas was 23, his Grandfather stepped in to resolve the matter. He determined that between the two of them, Thomas possessed the greater charisma and leadership abilities. So he anointed Thomas to the role of Big Chief and handed him the ceremonial stick. Thomas was given the name “Big Chief Bo”.

Something else happened upon Thomas’s return to New Orleans: he reunited with his girlfriend Enola, whom he’d been dating since he was 17. He and Enola were married that same year, and the following year, their twin sons Thomas and Tony were born.

In the years to follow, Thomas worked for MCI as a salesperson and at a restaurant at night. When MCI left New Orleans, Thomas moved into a few corporate Sales Management positions, first at Cadillac of Metarie and later with Fairfield Resorts, while continuing to work nights in the restaurant business. His next career venture would be in the flooring business, where he learned the trade and worked doing sales and installations. He also opened a dry cleaners around this time.

In 2003, he decided to open his own flooring store and installation business in New Orleans, Premier Flooring Group. Things were going well, but then Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and turned his business upside down. The impact of the storm was too severe, and Thomas and Enola decided to pack their bags and relocate with their children to Atlanta, GA. What was supposed to be a temporary move became a permanent stay.

In Atlanta, Thomas took a position as a sales manager in the flooring business to support his family until his sons graduated high school. A few years would pass while he worked as a salesperson in Atlanta, and Thomas knew there was more that his family needed. Obediently, he opened his heart and asked God to please lead him to something that would provide more financial stability to his family. God was listening. California - Feb./March 2024 18
Elona and Thomas C. Dean

While attending a meeting at his place of employment, he got a call from his wife, Enola, telling him their home was in flames. Everyone was safe, but the entire house was burning down. All of their belongings, including any family photos that survived Katrina, were taken in the fire. When the fire department arrived, and the scene was investigated, it was determined that a shoe-shining device that Thomas used had shorted and created the spark that ignited the fire. By the grace of God, Thomas had recently restructured his home insurance policy to cover everything. From that tragedy grew a blessing, and Thomas was able to use some seed funding to open his own flooring business.

Thomas and his family moved from Stone Mountain to Conyers, GA, and purchased a new home. In 2017, Thomas founded the Premier Flooring Group, the same name as the fledgling company he’d started in New Orleans before Katrina hit. In Conyers, Thomas worked as a community leader, helping in local political campaigns with the Splost Committee, as an Ambassador/Chair in the Rockdale/Conyers Chamber of Commerce, and as a teacher for the Entrepreneurs Academy at the Chamber. In 2019, he graduated from the “Leadership Rockdale” program, and he currently speaks as a mentor for two different organizations: the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, a national group as well as The Hills Academy representing “The Man’s Cave”, a Rockdale County-based mentoring organization that has adopted Hills Academy for its mentoring program.

Premier Flooring Group has grown to become a successful business, which Thomas runs today with his two sons, Thomas and Tony. He has 15 teams of installers in the field who run a range of commercial and residential projects ranging from flooring to staircases, kitchen and bath remodeling, and basement renovation throughout the greater Atlanta area. In 2021, Premier Flooring Group was named the #1 business partner for education by the Rockdale/Conyers Chamber of Commerce and Rockdale County Schools.

In 2023, Thomas founded the Premier Business Network, a 501c3 and thriving weekly Business Development Organization of entrepreneurs who meet to network, exchange ideas, and help members grow their businesses. He speaks regularly at meetings and does a range of public speaking engagements in and around the Atlanta community, focusing on the power of relationships in building a successful business career.

Big “Cheif” Bo The Conyers Chamber of Commerce

Dr. 5FT Productions LLC

“The Building of A Legacy”

He is best described as a man of vision.

Dr. Terrence Graham is a licensed therapist and the sole owner of Graham Moore & Clark, LLC. He is a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist, a Clinical Certified Sex Offender Treatment Specialist, and a Distance Credentialed Counselor. Dr. Graham also works as an S.A.P (Substance Abuse Professional) with the Department of Transportation. He evaluates employees of the D.O.T as they work to regain their driving privileges after failing a drug screening. In addition to working with adults, Dr. Graham also provides therapy services to adolescents across seven different states, including Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana.

Dr. Graham, a Gulf War Combat Veteran in the United States Army and an NC A&T State University graduate, has been blessed with many gifts and talents. He is a locally acclaimed author and independent filmmaker preparing to build his own studio on family land, which will be his company’s new home, 5FT Productions, LLC.

Family is essential to Dr. Graham. He shares his parent’s love and support is what shaped him and his brother. “I was born and raised in Magnolia, NC. My parents raised my brother and me to value family, education, sports, and community. My father was a Vietnam Combat Veteran in the United States Air Force, and my mother, a retired Quality Assurance Clerk, wore many different hats. By setting the standards and helping me focus on what’s important, my parents made it possible for me to become the man I am today.”

As a child, Dr. Graham’s love of the arts was sparked by one of his classmates. He wanted to create amazing drawings like his friend. So, he went to his number one fan for help. “While in elementary school, I had a friend named Stan Singletary who could draw. He used to draw comic book characters, and they were amazing; I was so inspired that I went home one day and asked my mom to teach me how to draw,” Graham shared. “My mother wasn’t an artist, but she taught herself so she could teach me. I’ve always loved comic books and I learned to draw Marvel and DC comic superheroes like Spiderman and Batman. I worked at it until I became good at drawing and began making my own comic books and selling them to the kids at school. It was just pocket money to buy snacks, and not knowing what an entrepreneur was as a kindergartner, it would become the first time I would make my passion profitable.”

Dr. Graham’s creativity is something that has stuck with him. As a therapist, he pulls on his unique personality and gifts to help his clients and utilizes his love of hip-hop and comic books as part of his therapeutic process. As with art, there aren’t any limitations on where it can go. That principle applies to Dr. Graham, who saw an opportunity to use his talent for storytelling and drawing to create a book to use in his practice. The book allowed his clients to engage and explore topics like anger and grief. In 2003, in collaboration with his brother Eric Graham, Dr. Graham created their first action comic series, Bobbee Bee the Hater.

Although the production company was conceived in 2003 with the publishing of the Bobbee Bee the Hater book series, 5FT Productions, LLC was formally launched in 2016.


“Growing up, my eldest son had a lot of anger issues. He couldn’t see how the things he was doing and how he was reacting to certain situations were impacting the family. So, my brother and I decided to create a character based on my son. We wrote and illustrated an action comic depicting him and the situations he would find himself in,” Graham explained. “There are three books in the series: In the Mind of Bobbee Bee the Hater, Larry Long Legs featuring Bobbee Bee the Hater, and A Sad Day for Jose.”

Understanding that art imitates life, Dr. Graham felt the Bobbee Bee the Hater books could help his son and other children dealing with anger issues. “Bobbee Bee the Hater is a reflection of most kids at that age who are struggling with anger issues. H.A.T.E.R is actually an acronym that stands for His Anger Teaches Everybody Reality. The goal was to use these books as a cautionary tale to show kids what happens when you allow your anger and frustration to control you,” Graham explained. “I was a School-Based Therapist for Wake County Human Services for thirteen years. The book series was an effective tool I utilized in my therapy sessions. By using a platform that will get the child’s attention, we have a better chance of helping them discover the keys to success. That is why the Bobbee Bee series was so successful.”

The popularity and reach of the Bobbee Bee the Hater series went beyond Dr. Graham’s clients. “The books were being used in classrooms throughout the district, as well as by my colleagues,” Graham shared. “The downside is, although they were short action comics, in reality, kids don’t like to read. We had to find a platform that was accessible to everyone.” The Graham brothers sat down and formulated a plan of action. Due to their desire to make a bigger impact, the duo decided to turn the book series into an independent film.

In 2012, the movie, In The Mind of Bobbee Bee the Hater, debuted at James Sprunt Community College in Kenansville, NC. “The community came out and supported its own. It was a rough cut because it was our first film, but being selftaught, it went pretty well,” Graham shared. “Remember, it was before we were using social media the way we do now, so most people heard about the movie through word of mouth. That said, there was an overwhelming reception of our movie and a huge outpouring of community support. People hadn’t seen anything like that done in their communities before, and they were excited! It became a whole movement. We sold Bobbee Bee the Hater DVDs, soundtrack CDs, T-shirts, and other merchandise. People wanted to be a part of what the film represented to them.”

Another key to the successful reception of In The Mind of Bobbee Bee the Hater had a lot to do with their decision to cast people from their local community. “We decided what better way to connect the film with people than to make them a part of it. We cast individuals from the community, some of our childhood friends, and their children. My son, William Shakur Graham, the inspiration for Bobbee Bee, played the title role,” Dr. Graham says. Even more impressive is that William is currently working on his PhD in Education Leadership, Policy, and Human Development at North Carolina State University.


Seeing the impact of the books and the film, Dr. Graham was inspired to explore cinema and storytelling further. “What is important to understand is that our stories are how we maintain history and culture. After the first film, I recognized I had another skill set to draw on. Since I am a therapist, I wanted to find a way to connect the new skill, filmmaking, with my private practice,” Graham passionately explained. “I decided I wanted to make documentaries on people in my community. Who better to tell our stories than us?”

The next project the production company would take on was a documentary spotlighting an essential figure in the local community. “My first docu-film was based on Rudolph Becton. Mr. Becton’s barbershop is a pillar in my community. He was my grandmother’s best friend. Everybody went to Becton’s barbershop to get their hair cut. He wasn’t just a barber. He was a role model to young black men. He was the first black entrepreneur I had ever seen. He owned his own business; he was a deacon in the church and a civil rights leader. Without knowing it, Mr. Becton created a safe space for black men to gather and speak their minds. It was a place where fathers could take their sons to teach them everything from politics and religion to sports and music. Every community needs a Becton’s Barbershop.”

With a new target in sight, Dr. Graham spent a year interviewing Mr. Becton and filming his story. He shares, “A big part of therapy is giving people a voice, a platform, and a space to tell their story. Telling Mr. Becton’s story wasn’t just about him. It was also about the community he served faithfully. It is about the young men he inspired and nurtured. We let the community see themselves in the life and story of Mr. Becton. In his narrative, we were all elevated.”


In 2017, Dr. Graham received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I AM A DREAM Award for the docu-film, Becton The Barber. “Mr. Becton is well known in Magnolia, and stories like his enrich us all and can inspire other communities to see their greatness within. That is why I wanted to get it out there,” Dr. Graham says.

Additionally, Dr. Graham has five films to his credit, including Earl of Duplin, The Cycle, and Dumpster Diving. In 2022, he received the Let’s Talk Media Productions Community Social Wellness In Film Award for Dumpster Diving, a docu-film. His growth as a writer, director, and filmmaker is exhibited in each production. “The theme in all my films is self-help and overcoming trauma. Thanks to social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon Prime, I can get my films out to those who can benefit from them,” he shares.

When Dr. Graham created his first comic book, he knew the arts would be an important part of his life. Now, at fifty-three, he is about to achieve something few black men have by building a television studio on his family’s land. “Now that I have done the books, the independent movies, and the docu-films, it’s time to take things to the next level,” he professes.

Construction of the new home of 5FT Productions, LLC began in August 2023 and will be completed during the summer of 2024. It will be the home of the Terrence Graham Talk Show, hosted by Dr. Graham and co-host DeAndria “Dee” Blount. Dr. Graham says with the support of his childhood friends, the studio will provide a platform for guests to laugh and learn. It will also honor others with love for their accolades, accomplishments, and achievements and offer advertisement opportunities. Dr. Graham says, “I’ve always wanted to have my own talk show. I loved watching shows like The Johnny Carson Show, The Arsenio Hall Show, Stephen A. Smith, and Rap City with Big Tigger. My dream is to host a show that combines those influences.”



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In addition to producing his talk show, Dr. Graham plans to utilize his newly constructed studio to record his podcast, shoot other films, produce a sitcom, and provide live workshops and trainings. Having such a life-changing experience happen in his hometown of Magnolia is very important to Dr. Graham. “This isn’t for me. I want to make this space an opportunity for people to be seen and heard. I’m creating a platform for educators, therapists, entrepreneurs, budding artists, and musicians. My parents helped me understand the importance of family and community. Because of the land my Grandmother, Bertha Graham, left our family, my dream is coming full circle. With this generational gift, I can build my legacy upon theirs,” he says. “Along with my sons, William Shakur Graham and Xavier Graham, and with my community behind me, the sky is the limit for 5FT Productions, LLC.” Graham 5Ft Productions LLC

McNeal Simply You Salon LLC

Christina Holloway of Cleveland, OH, is someone who loves sharing the knowledge and education she has obtained with others, all to help them along their journey. She says, “My mission is to ensure customer service is number one. I find joy in giving back because it truly makes my heart feel good.”

Today, Christina is an entrepreneur and the sole owner of Simply You Salon, LLC. Her company offers manicures and pedicures. On the retail side, she offers handmade body blend oil, body creams, clothing, and accessories. “We help recreate our client’s hands and feet using various techniques. We also offer travel services in which we visit clients who are unable to come to the salon. Additionally, we offer children’s services with a kiddy corner and small business shelf spaces for other businesses to showcase their products and services. For the most part, we offer services that are designed for everyone and anyone. Our motto is “Everyone is welcome to simply you”.

Christina is also a single mother of one son who currently attends DePaul University, following in her footsteps. She attended Cleveland State University and graduated in 2019 with her BA, with a minor in Criminology and Research. She recalls, “At that time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my degree. I’ve always had a passion for natural nails, and in 2012, along with faith and support, I attended Inner State Beauty School Manicuring Class. I passed the coursework and was licensed by the Ohio State Board of Cosmetology that same year, and I decided that my passion needed practice to build my future business.”

Christina began working for Lolita Salon, and for three years, the owner allowed Christina the opportunity for growth, development, and knowledge of how to build a business. “I followed through with what she said and eventually opened my own salon in 2016. In addition to managing her salon, she works as an Administrative Officer for Veterans Affairs, an opportunity she has to serve our nation’s heroes.

Christina says her mother has impacted her life and career more than anyone. “After losing my mother suddenly in 1998 while in high school, I was totally unaware of how she had taught me throughout my life to allow your faith to guide you. I’ve used both of them to get me through the toughest and greatest days of my life. I have learned to believe in myself despite the challenges,” she says.

After losing my mother suddenly in 1998 while in high school, I was totally unaware of how she had taught me throughout my life to allow your faith to guide you.
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Like most businesses, both big and small, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted how they were operated. Many were even forced to close their doors or shut down; however, Christina persevered and managed to find her way through that storm. She says, “I became stronger at understanding that things are bound to happen, and when they do, never give up. Stand, pray, and manage the challenge because once it gets the best of you, it’s hard to come back.” Another challenge Christina faced was dealing with having to find a location for her business with little notice. Still, she persevered. “My mental health was put in the forefront, and when things started to unfold, I realized that I was not as strong as I thought and was, or as I was telling others. I got depressed, fought anxiety, and many other things. No one knew but my son. I stayed, prayed, motivated, and determined; I got myself together! Then, one day, I heard from a friend who was transitioning, and she told me not to give up. I said, “OK”. I won! I fought depression, and I got the help I needed, and I have not stopped moving along on this journey. Even more, my energy is back at full throttle.”

Christina is excited about what is coming next for her. She is anticipating magazine covers and articles about black business owners. She is also planning to write a book that will include her quotes and the affirmations she spoke about herself during her difficult times. “I plan to travel and speak to other entrepreneurs. The term “what’s next” is like the saying, “life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you will get, see, or know,” she says. h California - Feb./March 2024 28

Author & Poet

Zaneta Varnado Johns is a woman on fire. Known to her readers as Zan Johns, she is an author and poet featured in over 70 national and international publications. What is even more impressive is that she is only getting started.

At the age of 62, Zan published her first book of poetry. That was in 2020, yet she has been writing since 1979. Zan’s poise and beauty, both inside and out, are reflected in her poetry. Her soothing and comforting voice is saturated with a natural Southern Hospitality.

Zan Johns began writing in her early twenties and was inspired by authors like Maya Angelou and her kindred spirit, Nikki Giovanni, who she reminds me of in a lot of ways. Zan had the pleasure of hearing both celebrated authors speak when they each visited the University of Colorado in the 1970s, but something lit a spark in her when she heard Nikki Giovanni recite the poem “Ego Tripping.” Seeing these black women using their words and doing what they loved to do let Zaneta know that, as a black woman, she could do it, too, and she eventually did.

Although Colorado has been home to Zan for almost 50 years, her roots are traced to Hammond, Louisiana, a town of approximately 21,000 people located 45 miles east of Baton Rouge and 45 miles northwest of New Orleans. She came from a large, loving family of nine, including her hardworking parents, five siblings, and paternal grandmother. She says the nurturing she received from her parents helped her to develop into a confident, caring person. Growing up in a nearly half-black and half-white community at the dawn of integration may have led to her insightfulness. This characteristic is beautifully demonstrated in her body of work.

Writing and poetry were a goto for Zan, and her passion for them followed her throughout her young life. She attended the University of Colorado for three-plus years before leaving the classroom with exceptional critical thinking skills and knowledge. Soon after, she started working in the university’s payroll department before becoming appointed director of human resources. In between that time, Zan married and had two children. In her professional career, which spanned 29 years, she brought a climate of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which again is reflected in her poetry. During that time, Zan continued to write, penning hundreds of poems she only shared with the people closest to her. At the age of 50, Zan retired and focused more on spending time with her family, traveling, staying fit, and, of course, writing.

As time passed on, Zan described getting little nudges from God that she should be doing something with her writing. She says, “Her sister-in-law, an author herself, encouraged me to join the Women Speakers Association. At first, I resisted the idea because I thought of myself as a quiet person. When I worked in Human Resources, of course, I was required to speak, but once I retired, I was more laid back.”

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Zan had no interest in public speaking but later learned that the Women Speakers Association focused not only on empowering women to express themselves but also on empowering women to write to inspire. It published a series of inspiring books, each featuring women who shared their trials and triumphs. Zan’s poetry is also featured in four of them on the dedication page, including “Voices of the 21st Century: Resilient Women Who Rise and Make a Difference”, “Voices of the 21st Century: Conscious, Caring Women Who Make a Difference”, “Voices of the 21st Century: Women Transforming the World”, and “Voices of the 21st Century: Women Empowered Through Passion and Purpose.”

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020, Zan Johns decided to take her poetry and publish her first book of poetry entitled “Poetic Forecast”. It almost instantly became a #1 Bestseller on Amazon. Zan states, “We were afraid; this was something we’ve never seen in our lifetime; I couldn’t see my family, our grandchildren; we were forced to stay inside and keep still. I looked through my poems, many of which I’ve written years before, sat at my desk, and asked God to give me the words,” she says. The old adage comes to mind, “you have to be careful what you ask God for”, because when she was finished, Zaneta Varnado Johns gave the world Zan Johns, and some of the most intuitive, and compassionate poetry.

What has become her signature piece, “What Matters”, beckons the readers to search their hearts for what really matters, as demonstrated in the lines, “If your eyes met my eyes in the midst of a crisis, would their shape and color concern you? If you felt my hands as they massaged your aching body, would you care about the pigmentation of my skin?” This poem gives readers the message to take inventory of what really matters. Her poem, “One Day” explores how things would be in a perfect world.

Another poem from Poetic Forecast called “Spiritual Reset” captured 2020 and encased it in a nutshell. It described the pandemic, the chaos, the politics, and the racial unrest experienced during that time. If we were to put that poem, “Spiritual Reset” in a time capsule to be opened 100 years from now, the person who found it would be able to read it and know exactly what we were experiencing. Her next book of poetry, “After the Rainbow,” captured her personal experiences about life, family, nature, and her love of diversity. She published the What Matters Journal in July 2023, and her latest book debuted in the fall of 2023.She hadn’t planned on publishing a poetry book in 2023. Urged by friends and family, she birthed “Encore” which features a poem that became my favorite, “Why I Write”.

Zan’s writing has brought her full circle, from listening to Nikki Giovanni speak and writing her ideas on pieces of paper to attending Nikki Giovanni’s latest book signing and presenting the legend with a signed copy of her own book. The things Zan has accomplished in life, even after retirement, prove that it’s never too late to start doing what you love to do, and what Zan loves is “touching the world line by line.”

This year, Zaneta has plans to release another book of poetry. Zaneta Varnado Johns is a woman led by her spirituality. She is a sagacious author and poet who encourages other writers to listen to God’s words. “When God tells you what to do, there is a burning…” Zan Johns is a woman on fire.

To learn more about Zaneta Johns, please visit her website.

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Keisha James CC PatchWorks LLC

Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered for its sudden and harsh wave of destruction imposed throughout the world. Countless lives were lost, sickness and illness became bedfellows with fear, and the adage of tomorrow isn’t promised lived up to its daunting declaration. As with each storm, there are often a few bright spots that were revealed in the pandemic’s wake. One is the creation of CC PatchWorks LLC.

Keisha James of Norfolk, VA, shares the vision to launch CC PatchWorks LLC, which came from her desire to serve the early education community during the pandemic by providing virtual administrative support to childcare providers. Her desire grew into serving entrepreneurs who serve children and families.

CC Patchworks LLC offers Processes & Systems Consulting Services to establish and improve systems within her clients businesses. She is passionate about serving black and brown entrepreneurs who may be starting or fully established. Keisha’s goal is to establish or improve systems within her client’s business. Presently, she is in the process of releasing a children’s book and working on launching a Homeschool Hub & Networking platform that will allow entrepreneurs to establish profiles to market their businesses. Additionally, homeschooling families can connect and utilize resources from highlighted companies or providers that California - Feb./March 2024 34

offer educational support services. “I aim to support the whole child through my work because they are influenced by what they are connected to. This can be their environment, immediate support circle, parents, families, educators, and community. By supporting these core components, our children will have a solid foundation to be successful throughout life,” she says.

Keisha is a natural lover of life. She is an entrepreneur, educator, and empowered single mother of one charismatic little boy. She is the eldest of four children from her mother and the second eldest from her father. “My father is native to Antigua and my mother’s father native to Grenada so I am of Caribbean Descent,” she says. Keisha was born in Brooklyn, NY and later raised in Atlantic City, NJ.

Her educational path began in Early Childhood Education & Development. Keisha holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Family & Child Studies and a Master’s in Teacher Leadership & Educational Management. She is a Certified Infant & Toddler Class Observer with a Certificate in Women’s Entrepreneurship, a Certificate in Career Coaching, and a Certificate as a Trauma-Informed Individual. Additionally, she is the Co-Founder of Curriculum Agents.

Keisha has provided her services to entrepreneurs in various industries, including Health Care, Beauty and Hair Care, Food and Beverage, and Professional Services as well as Education and Child Care. “My business has impacted children, families, contractors, and business owners. Most importantly, I work to ensure that they have the support, tools, and resources needed to operate effectively,” she says.

Being an entrepreneur can come with many challenges. Keisha says that one challenge she has faced is starting over following a divorce, all while starting two companies, being a present parent, and homeschooling her son. She has managed her challenges by dedicating her time into laying a new foundation for her family by pouring her passion and creativity into growing her businesses. “Things have been tight, but my son is my motivation, and I am vested in doing right by him,” she says. Keisha has also benefited from the support of her SCORE mentor, the Start Small, Think Big program, and her loyal clients and closest friends. “Self-care through journaling, counseling, self-help books, yoga, aromatherapy, daily walks, music, meditation, and prayer have also played significant roles.”

Though Keisha has faced some difficult moments, maybe more than she anticipated, she doesn’t regret anything that has happened. “Life is about learning and growing through trial and error to figure out who we are and what works best for us,” she stated. In the future, she plans to publish ebooks and children’s books and launch a homeschool hub. She also hopes to expand her business by hiring other virtual administrative assistants in the near future.


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Keisha James CC PatchWorks LLC 757-354-4596
“Without a vision the people perish, but without courage dreams die.”
Rosa Parks

Mecca Causey

The son of Ryan Causey and Nijalon Jackson-Causey California - Feb./March 2024 40
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