Huami Magazine Charleston Feb./March 2024

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Celebrating Black History Month


Feb./March. 2024 Vol. 2 Issue 8

North Charleston’s First Black Mayor

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Love Is What Makes Black History Important A Letter From The Editor

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. 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? 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? 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. 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.

Terry L. Watson 4 Terry L Watson


Terry L. Watson Joy Edwards Dorjea’ McClammey Monica Montgomery

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CC PatchWorks LLC

Keisha James

On The Cover

North Charleston’s 1st Black Mayor Reggie Burgess


Ohana Services Inc

Florene Price



South Carolina Us Senator

Deon Tedder

Huami Magazine Cutest Baby

Mecca Causey



Also Featured

Zaneta Johns She is regarded as one of the best poets of today. Learn more about her and her literary works. Denver, CO


Crystal Hemphill-Hayes Meet the face and founder of Too Rise Up Inc. Her organization is committed to enriching lives of others. Los Angeles, CA


Roberta Lea It’s all about music, life, and, love. Learn more about this soulful songstress and the journey she has taken in music. Norfolk, VA



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North Charleston’s First Black Mayor

By Kassaundra Lockhart Photos Provided by Reggie Burgess Throughout the years, Reggie Burgess has been identified by a plethora of titles – son, brother, student-athlete, friend, husband, father, officer, fraternity brother, and police chief. On January 2, 2024, a new title was added to his esteemed list: Mayor of North Charleston, SC. Notably, he’s the first African American elected to the position. Burgess’s history-making achievement is one he embraces. “Becoming the first African American mayor is truly a blessing! Being the first is an important, historic accomplishment because the citizens of North Charleston made November 7, 2023 [election day] a moment in history that will forever be remembered. As for my community, I would say that being given the opportunity to receive the position of mayor is a powerful message for all communities, especially the African American community. It shows African Americans possess the skill set to lead, guide and direct,” he shares. During his campaign, his platform focused on three issues: addressing public safety concerns, improving infrastructure, and enhancing the quality of life for residents of North Charleston. Despite only being on the job for six weeks, he’s already building upon his foundation, which was established during his childhood, to reach his goals. Burgess’ journey to the city’s top seat began on the streets of the Union Heights, Daniel Jenkins, George Legare and Liberty Hill communities. Reared, with his two brothers, by his parents, Albertha and Willie Jamison, his childhood was filled with extracurricular activities that helped propel him to success. A lover of sports, Burgess played football, basketball, baseball, and track and field in his hometown. An honors winner in football and track and field, the North Charleston native (who graduated from North Charleston High School) received a full scholarship to play football for Morgan State University in Maryland.

As for my community, I would say that being given the opportunity to receive the position of mayor is a powerful message for all communities, especially the African American community.


At the Historically Black College/University, Burgess continued to acquire accolades for his performance on the field. He was named a Sporting News All-American in Division 1-AA, was chosen for the Historical Black College Sports All-American First team and was selected to various All-MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) teams. Once his collegiate career ended and his hopes of playing in the National Football League (NFL) didn’t transpire, he returned to the place he knew he loved, North Charleston. In 1989, Burgess’ career in public service commenced when he joined the North Charleston Police Department (NCPD). Initially, he was a patrol officer and “worked in all districts.” Burgess says, “I joined the North Charleston Police Department to help improve communities and change the perception of law enforcement in minority communities. As well as the negative perception of lawenforcement interactions inside the law-enforcement communities.” Throughout the years, Burgess ascended the ranks. While doing so, he held positions within the department, such as the DARE and GREAT officer. Burgess also worked in investigations. Nearly 30 years after joining the police department, Burgess was appointed NCPD’s Chief of Police in 2018.

Pictured with Reggie are his wife, Tracy, son, Reggie II, and daughter, Kristen He recalls, “I was Chief of Police for five years. As a department, we accomplished a lot. I believe our community engagement initiatives have helped to bring crime down two consecutive years and have improved police and community relationships.” As an African American male working in law enforcement, the career came with its own set of challenges. However, Burgess noted the positives outweighed the negatives. “I can say that in the 34 years of working in law enforcement, my experience was good. Of course, there were moments that I questioned this profession, but working for the citizens kept me working through any issues.” Keeping his reason for entering the profession at the forefront of his mind isn’t the only thing that’s sustained him. Burgess eagerly expresses the role his family has always played in his life. “It’s personal because my family has always believed in working hard and doing the right thing - treating people fairly and making a positive difference,” he says. “Most importantly, my family believed in me. Being the first African American mayor does not stop with me. We must continue to pass the torch and keep it going for generations to come. The community must remember our legacy.” While acknowledging what he believes needs to be done to assure progress, Burgess, a member of Royal Missionary Baptist Church, also acknowledges he wouldn’t be in the position he is without “the Lord Jesus Christ who is my inspiration” and his family. He credits his loved ones for being vital to his journey as they helped him prepare for his campaign. Burgess specified that his parents, wife, Tracy, and children, Reggie II and Kristen, have impacted his life.


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I will continue to work hard today, tomorrow, and in the future for North Charleston. Whatever God has for me to do or however he chooses to order my steps, I will listen.


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Transitioning from police chief to mayor has presented many similarities between the two positions for Burgess. Both are front-facing positions within the city structure. Both require solid leadership capabilities. Being the police chief allowed Burgess to serve his community. Being mayor allows him to continue doing what he’s done for over three decades in his hometown. “Serving the citizens is what I love! I believe that my out-and-about style of being in the communities as Chief of Police will help my transition into the role as mayor,” Burgess states. “I’ll have meetings in the office as well as outside at businesses or communities. I plan to bring the government to the communities by having listening sessions with the department heads and City Council meetings strategically in the communities.” Along with his on-the-job training, Burgess has utilized education to equip him with the necessary tools to be successful. He holds a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Claflin University. At the Southern Police Institute, the Senior Management Institute for Police, and the US Secret Service Academy, Burgess completed advanced training. During his time as an officer, he received management skills training in team building, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. “I love and thank both Morgan State and Claflin University for preparing me for public service,” he says. Although spare time isn’t abundant for Burgess, when he manages to acquire some, he enjoys spending it watching old movies (Western, war documentaries, African American stories and epics) and listening to music. He even DJ’s occasionally under the pseudonym “DJ 911”. Additionally, Burgess is a proud member of the esteemed Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Now that he has officially stepped into his history-making role, what’s next for the native son who’s been chosen as the leader of the city he loves to call home? He shares, “I will continue to work hard today, tomorrow, and in the future for North Charleston. Whatever God has for me to do or however he chooses to order my steps, I will listen. I will continue to provide an environment for our citizens so they can ‘Win. Every. Day.” h

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Keisha James CC PatchWorks LLC

By Terry L. Watson - Photos Provided by Keisha James 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


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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. h

Keisha James CC PatchWorks LLC 757-354-4596



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Author & Poet

By Myra Davis Branic Photos Provided by Zaneta Varnado Johns

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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United States Senator

Deon Tedder By Sherry Rogers Hill Photos Provided by Senator Deon Tedder

Deon Tedder was born to lead. With charisma and an innate ability to motivate and inspire others, the 33-year-old attorney is one to be watched on the political spectrum, recently making history as the youngest member of the South Carolina State Senate. A native of Durham, North Carolina, he continued his family’s legacy by attending Durham’s Hillside High School, where his dad, the late Louis Tedder Jr., and his mom, Chandra Tedder, once attended. At Hillside High, he excelled academically and discovered his sphere of influence through extracurricular activities. “In high school, I was class president, Mr. Hillside High, a student government representative, and a trumpet player in the marching band,” he shares. During summer breaks, the young scholar participated in North Carolina Central University’s Legal Eagle camp, sponsored by the university’s law school. “The summer camp taught us about law and government, and toward the end of camp, we participated in mock trials. This is what sparked my interest in wanting to pursue a legal career.” By the time Tedder graduated from High School in 2008, he had the rare distinction of acquiring a perfect attendance record, never missing a day of school from kindergarten to the 12th grade. This accolade was a nod to his parents’ strong value of education. “Although my parents did not attend college, education was very important to both of them.“ They instilled this core belief into their son, who not only graduated with honors but also as the recipient of a full academic scholarship to South Carolina State University. His family was ecstatic. In preparation for his college transition, the firstgeneration college student traveled with his mom and dad to Orangeburg, South Carolina, to the campus to meet with the honors program director and tour the residential facility. Deon was all set to go when the unthinkable happened only a few weeks later. His dad died unexpectedly, completely devastating his family.

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“Life threw us a curveball after my dad died. I contemplated not going to college. I was mom’s only child, and it was just her and my dad. So, I felt like I needed to stay home and work to help her pay bills. I felt guilty leaving her to go to college,” he says. Recognizing the pivotal moment in Deon’s life, his family rallied around him. “My aunts and uncles said my dad would have wanted me to go because he didn’t have that opportunity. Earning a full academic scholarship made him super excited.” With the assurance from his family that his mom would be supported, the resilient leader stayed the course and reluctantly headed to South Carolina State University. Void of the typical excitement experienced by new college students, Tedder was grieving the loss of his dad, compounded by the concern of leaving his mother. Tedder says, “When I arrived, my anxiety increased. I learned that my mom, who was an administrative assistant, had picked up a second job. She was working so hard to prevent me from having to work. It was very tough.” Recognizing his mom’s sacrifice, Deon would remain focused and committed to excelling while in college. Once acclimating himself, he did what came naturally to him: to thrive academically and engage through leadership and student involvement. During his tenure at South Carolina State, Tedder was actively involved in various facets of student government. He served as junior class president and pledged the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. In his senior year, he experienced the sting of defeat when he ran for Student Government president and lost the election to a friend. Characteristic of the wise young leader, Tedder graciously conceded to his opponent and agreed to support him. Together, the two created the position of Chief of Staff for Tedder, and the student government position still exists at the university today. During summer breaks, Tedder took advantage of internship opportunities. His assertiveness changed the trajectory of his life, landing him an opportunity to serve as an intern at the United States Senate for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. “This experience exposed me to politics and sparked my interest in wanting to go into public service,“ said Tedder. “It was interesting seeing people making serious decisions about people who looked like me, but there weren’t people who looked like me making those decisions. Decisions were being made regarding minority communities, yet there was no representation or perspective in many cases. So that sparked my interest and the exposure was amazing,” he added. There was no one in my family involved in politics or law, so I used different opportunities to expand my network.“ Another internship opportunity was with Sidley Austin’s Prelaw Scholars program. Notable alumni of the firm include the former first couple, President Barack and Michelle Obama. Tedder acknowledges that each of the work experiences he acquired through networking, expanding his network, and exposure. This a skill he imparts to young people when given the opportunity. Tedder graduated magna cum laude from South Carolina State University in 2012. He describes his graduation as an emotional experience. “My entire extended family, aunts and uncles, and even some of my dad’s friends came. People joked with me by asking if my family took a charter bus because we had so many people who showed up for my graduation. It was emotional because people were there to support me while knowing that my dad would’ve been there. We had a huge section in the stands at the football stadium, and when they called my name, you would’ve thought that someone scored a touchdown at the Superbowl,” he laughed.


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Following graduation, Tedder headed off to law school at the University of South Carolina. While in law school, he served as a representative of the Student Bar Association for his first two years. In his third year of law school, he served as a law school senator. While a law student, Tedder worked a clerkship and served as a law school senator representing the law school for the University of SC student government system. He graduated in 2015 and secured a judicial clerkship with the Honorable Casey Manning, a Circuit Court Judge and the first African American basketball player for the University of South Carolina. “That was good exposure and an experience sitting on the bench with the judge, doing legal research,” he says. Tedder’s career did not go without challenges. He acknowledges that he sat for the bar twice before actually passing it. That experience impacted him financially and was humiliating. After all, failure was not a familiar experience for this confident leader. “My favorite scripture, Jeremiah 29:11, kept me going at this time. , “For I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord. Plans to prosper you and bring you no harm, plans of hope and a future. I kept reciting this,“ said Tedder.

“Had I passed the South Carolina bar, I would be limited to that state, but passing New York’s uniform bar allows me to practice in South Carolina as well as in North Carolina, where my family continues to live.”

Three is a charm, so on his third try, he passed the bar in the state of New York, which granted him reciprocity in several states, including South Carolina. “I know that everything happens for a reason. Had I passed the South Carolina bar, I would be limited to that state, but passing New York’s uniform bar allows me to practice in South Carolina as well as in North Carolina, where my family continues to live,” he says. In 2020, Tedder served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing District 109. While in office, the first bill passed by Representative Tedder was “HBCU Day,” which was created to bring greater awareness to historically black colleges and universities. The state of South Carolina recognizes HBCU Day each year on the third Tuesday in February, thanks to the former House Rep. Three years later, a South Carolina senate seat was vacated following the resignation of former SC Senator Marlon Kimpson, one of Tedder’s mentors. Deciding that he could make an even greater impact on others, Representative Tedder threw his hat in the senate race. Following a highly contested campaign, Tedder won by an 11-vote margin in the primary race. He went on to beat the Republican candidate, making history as South Carolina’s youngest state Senator at the age of 33. Earlier this year, surrounded by his wife of six months, Dr. Jillian BroughtonTedder, his mom, and his family village, Tedder was sworn into office as a South Carolina State Senator, representing District 42 (Charleston and Dorchester Counties). The newly elected senator plans to continue pushing legislation that supports affordable housing, public education, criminal justice reform, and the rights of women. “Whatever I do, I want to make sure to provide access and opportunities to other people,” he said. h

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Ohana Services, Inc. By Terry L. Watson - Photos Provided by Florene Price

Florene Price learned the value of hard work and education at an early age. Florene was raised with her two young brothers by a single mother who worked several jobs to afford their enrollment in a parochial school in Anniston, Alabama. The path was set for Florene to succeed. After obtaining her formal education, Florene attended Jacksonville State University and obtained a Bachelors degree in Social Work and a Bachelor’s of Science in Sociology. “Hard work and determination were in my soul. I graduated in three years with double majors, all while working part-time. In the summers between semesters, I worked full-time as an Administration Assistant at the nowclosed military base, Fort McClellan, and the Anniston Army Depot,” she says. Today, Florene serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Ohana Services, Inc. Her company offers various services that focus on helping individuals live independently. These functional skills involve parent coaching, fiscal management and budgeting, workplace readiness, behavioral interventions, time management skills, and community resource referrals. Ohana also offers mentoring and volunteering services. Their candidates are trained, screened, and matched with identified youth in need of. Each mentor and volunteer must provide a mentoring relationship with the youth and family. Through the supportive relationship/role modeling of positive behaviors and skills, the youth is provided with new techniques and skills to help navigate daily life. Learning appropriate social skills and demonstrating what was taught, Florene says, is important in helping youths and families become more independent and self-sufficient.

“Hard work and determination were in my soul. I graduated in three years with double majors, all while working part-time.”

With Ohana’s Family Support Services, Case Managers provide assistance and support in various settings such as home, schools, doctors’ offices, courts, etc. Florene says her goal is to help build natural support and teach functional skills that empower individuals and families towards autonomy. “Community support is about teaching skills, addressing barriers, and connecting to resources. It also includes identifying strengths, guiding positive approaches, and implementing new strategies to assist with managing family relationships. We help our clients build skills to deal with difficult emotions,” she says. Charleston - Feb./March 2024 25

Florene was very intentional with selecting the name of her company. “Ohana means “Family” in Hawaiian, and I loved the meaning of the word. My daughters loved the Lilo and Stich movie, and we would watch it several times a year. I grew up surrounded by extended family members including my grandmothers, great-great grandmothers, grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins, great uncles, and great aunts. We always had large family gatherings, and I didn’t realize how fortunate I was until I left home for college. It was then I encountered many people who didn’t have family close to them or had never experienced large family gatherings.”

Pictured above is Florene’s daughter (wedding day) and family.

Pictured below is Florene’s 90 year old grandmother and other famaily members.

After graduating college, Florene began working as a Case Manager for the United Way nonprofit organization. That experience encouraged her to find more ways to help individuals and families. After the United Way, she landed at the Urban League and served as a Program Director of a Pregnant Teen program and Fatherhood program. She would eventually work as a Mental Health counselor. “While counseling families, I found that some of their issues were simple. If their basic needs could be addressed, the family dynamics would be easier to maintain. That is how my vision was born,” she says. Ohana’s Family Support Services is still in the infancy stage, and while operating as a nonprofit, funding is a constant challenge. Another challenge is finding team members that are the right fit and helping them avoid burnout. Leading an organization requires Florene to be flexible and a clear thinker. She adds, “As a Black woman who can identify with many of the families and individuals our program assists, I have an exceptional perspective that has proven to be the differentiating factor. I impart ongoing training for all staff and volunteers to help them understand the families and individuals we serve without being judgmental. I also seek business partners who align with our mission and want to see our clients succeed.” Florene credits several members of her family for helping to achieve her dreams. First, she identifies her mother for impacting her life and showing her what the power of love looks like. “My mother gives selflessly to others all the time, even at her age now,” Florene says. She also credits her two daughters for pushing her to succeed. “As a divorced and single parent, I knew my children were my first priority. I worked several jobs to provide for them. I wanted them to finish high school and graduate college. I made sure they were taken care of first, and then I proceeded to start my own agency.” Florene says her great-great-grandmother Bina Grant, taught her how to have compassion. “She read the bible every day. She was the neighborhood mom and would take in anyone who needed a hot meal or a place to lay their head. She was our Matriarch.” 26

For those who may follow a path similar to hers, Florene’s advice is to ensure you have a genuine desire and passion to help others. “In this field, you may not get rich financially, but knowing that you have changed a family’s life for the better is worth all the gold in the world,” she says. Moving forward, Florene says she plans to continue growing and scaling her business and reach others in her community. She also plans to continue spending time with her family and make positive memories. h



Charleston - Feb./March 2024

Music. Life. Love By Sherry Rogers Hill - Photos Provided by Laura Schneider and Christal Marshall

To her fans, Roberta Lea is a rising musical creative ambiguously regarded as a soulful country-neo-pop singer/songwriter. While her style is eclectic, uniquely representing a fusion of musical genres, her familial roles are more precisely defined. Roberta is the devoted wife of 14 years to her husband, Nick, a retired veteran, and the loving mother to 10-year-old Vanessa and seven-yearold Michael, who seemingly have bustling social calendars of their own. When Huami Magazine caught up with Lea, she was transporting her children to piano practice, a responsibility often shared by Lea’s sister—a wonderful benefit of living within proximity to her family village. “I am extremely blessed. I have a supportive family with sweet kids, and my husband supports me 100%. We all have dreams that we’re pursuing and supporting one another as best as we can,” she says. For instance, her daughter, Vanessa, is currently participating in a play, “Black Girl Magic,” for which Lea has penned the original music. Much like her daughter, Lea’s musical journey began in elementary school, where she excelled in both piano and violin. She recalls attending a church concert series where she started exploring other instruments, including the drums. As a teenager, Lea developed a keen interest in songwriting and began crafting original songs for the church band. “The church is such a great place to incubate talent. It plays a crucial role in talent development. Regardless of your skill level, because you were singing and playing for the Lord, you would receive an ‘Amen’, or someone would tell you that you were great,” she laughed. “It was a space that said, ‘Yes,’” she added. After high school, Roberta Lea pursued her education at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach, graduating in 2008. Following the conventional path, she eventually landed a position as a high school Spanish teacher. She says, “I was following the worn, beaten, and predictable path. You graduate from college, get a 9 to 5 job, retire, and get your pension.”

I was given two extreme perspectives and not enough conversation about the middle class of musicianship. I was told that either you would be a starving artist or sell your soul in the business.

When the opportunity to pursue music arose, Lea found herself at a crossroads, admitting she had no mental framework for how to navigate the process. “I didn’t know how it worked. I was given two extreme perspectives and not enough conversation about the middle class of musicianship. I was told that either you would be a starving artist or sell your soul in the business.” Preferring neither option, she continued teaching while honing her musical craft, as she describes it, “It was something that I could never not do. It was an itch I needed to scratch.”


Photo by Laura Schneider

With the onset of Covid-19 and the transition to virtual learning, Lea, like many educators, found herself reevaluating her career. “Not all of my students logged on to participate in class discussions, and when they did, they rarely showed their faces on camera, so I didn’t know what most of them looked like. It made me consider this as an opportunity to make a change,” Lea explained. Toiling over her decision, she grappled with feelings of doubt and questioned if she was too old to pursue music full-time. “I started feeling like I was too old. I was in my 30s.” She silenced her doubts by drawing inspiration from musical icons like Tina Turner, Bill Withers, and Anita Baker, who found success later in life. “I recall figuratively talking to my 80-year-old self who asked if I had at least tried songwriting and music professionally.” Determined to pursue her dream, she shifted into a different posture, what she coined as the “pandemic pivot.” As part of her preparation, she and her husband, a realtor, devised a financial plan to support her transition to full-time music. “You really have to put yourself in a financial position where you can devote your attention without the weight of needing to make money. Having that distraction definitely interrupts the flow. This gave me the freedom to be wide open to possibilities,” Lea says. A year later, in the summer of 2020, they achieved their financial goals, becoming debt-free. “The process is called the ‘quantum leap’ because I really do believe that there is power when you finally make a decision and tell God and the universe ‘Yes’. On the very day that I resigned, I went on Twitter and posted, ‘I just resigned from my job so that I could pursue music full-time. Here I go!’ On that same day, Rissi Palmer, host and founder of the Color Me Country radio show, reached out to me and offered me a grant.” With the grant money, Lea recorded and released several singles. Meanwhile, music journalist Holly G. created the Black Opry, initially as an online blog. To Lea’s surprise, Holly G. posted on her blog, “Yay! Roberta just released her first country record. When I read it, I thought, ‘I did?’” as she laughed. Holly G. included Lea’s profile along with other Black and Brown country artists on the Black Opry Revue’s site. A few months later, the Black Opry creator invited Lea and several others to attend the Americana Music Festival.


Charleston - Feb./March 2024

Photo by Laura Schneider


“I had never been to a music festival and had no idea what the Americana festival was,” she laughed. Despite the uncertainty, Lea made her way to Nashville to assemble with other musical talents. “On the first day, there were four of us. By the second day, there were eight, and by the third day, there were 20 of us. NPR was conducting interviews at the house, and famous artists were stopping by, and suddenly, we were a thing.” During their time together, the group developed a bond and friendship. Shortly after leaving Nashville, one of the musicians sent out a call for a performer interested in a show in New York. A featured performer had canceled, and the show was six days away. The new friends answered the call. “We did this show at Rockwood Music Hall, and this was the birth of the Black Opry Revue.” The rest is history. Lea’s career has taken off like wildfire. In addition to touring extensively with the Black Opry Revue, she ended 2022 with a fully funded independent project. In September 2023, Lea launched her debut album, “Too Much of a Woman.” Last year, the musical talent was inducted into CMT’s Next Women of Country. “And I don’t even live in Nashville,” she laughs. Roberta Lea’s story is one of determination and courage. Exchanging feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, she demonstrates that it is never too late to pursue your passion. With her debut album creating a buzz and continuing to inspire audiences, one thing’s for certain, Roberta Lea’s journey is just beginning. h

Photo by Christal Marshall


Photo by Laura Schneider



Charleston - Feb./March 2024

Crisis To Connection By Terry L. Watson Photos Providied by Too Rise Up Inc

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. 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. Too Rise Up is also supported by Cristina Hemphill BSN, NP, who serves as Director of Health and Wellness. 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, Crystal 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. h

Crystal Hemphill-Haley Too Rise Up


“It’s pretty hard for the Lord to guide you if you haven’t made up your mind which way to go.”

Madam C.J. Walker


Charleston - Feb./March 2024

Mecca Causey The son of Ryan Causey and Nijalon Jackson-Causey

Charleston - Feb./March 2024 37

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