What if? That thought comes to mind when I consider what my life could be. What if I didn’t live in a particular city, or attend a certain high school? What if I had chosen a different career path or traveled a different road in life? What if I had never applied action to my dream? What if God didn’t choose me to be paired with His vision?
A Letter from the Editor
What if tomorrow didn’t arrive? All of your plans, hopes and dreams wouldn’t have a street to park on. What if everything that you decided to put off until tomorrow never happened? There would be no reason to save for a rainy day, and you could spare someone the trouble of making promises. What if your last opportunity seemingly expired today? What would you do?
I will be the first to admit that my life has been anything but simple. For the most part, it has been full of winding roads and quite noisy at times. The love and encouragement of my mother, grandmother, and others surely help to soften me; I surely miss my grandma. Yet, the storms and shortcomings I’ve endured have done their job and toughened me a little.
I have learned that my peace lies in the space between the good times and bad times, and for me to enjoy and experience peace, I must work for it. I have also learned that life will get tough, and when we get knocked down, God doesn’t expect us to stay there. There are lessons in all experiences, and getting up and trying to get it right again is part of God’s lesson.
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.
There was a point in my life when I didn’t know if I was coming or going. With every move I made, it was the wrong one. There were also times when I would move or react to whatever thought came into my mind. Again, that turned out to be the wrong thing to do. My point is everything I had done, I did it without seeking guidance from God beforehand. I was driving my own ship, yet I was going nowhere and fast.
While I made a mess of my life, God was there, like He always has been. He allowed me to make those bad decisions and provided grace to ensure I would survive them. During the times when I continued to make the same mistakes over and over again, God continued to cover me because there was a lesson that I needed to learn.
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.
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.
Despite everything I have experienced thus far, God has been right there with me. When it appears things aren’t moving fast enough, I know that God is governing the speed at which things are happening. When we get in God’s way, we block Him from blessing us. Get out of God’s way and allow God to drive. You might just learn that life is a lot easier from the passenger seat.
Journey Adult Day Center has opened another location to serve those in need of care. Greensboro, NC
The natural hair revolution has begun, and Black women are fully embracing it. It’s common to see black women wearing their natural hair in all its curly, coarse, silky, and robust glory. Companies that cater to the naturalist with products that promise to promote healthy growth and beautiful locs and tresses are also becoming more and more commonplace. So many products claim to be good for natural hair but are petroleum jelly with fragrance and ground sage. With so many options, how do we decide which products to use and what to look for?
Porscha Davis, owner and proprietor of The Salon by Porscha Danielle is a natural hair stylist who has made it her mission to cut through all the hype. As a seventeen-year veteran in the styling industry, she has a lot of wisdom to offer, but surprisingly becoming a hair stylist wasn’t on her “when I grow up” list.
“As a kid, I never thought about cosmetology as something I wanted to do. It just wasn’t an interest of mine. I didn’t learn how to braid until college,” Porscha explains. “A guy friend of mine came and asked me to braid his hair. I was like, ‘I don’t know how,’ and I was okay with that,” Porscha said, laughing. “But he insisted I braid his hair. Finally, my suitemate came in and wanted to know what the commotion was about. I told her what was happening, and she said, ‘Oh, that’s easy. I can teach you.’ So, she did. And it was absolutely horrible!” she scoffed. “But I kept trying, and eventually, it got better. Then other guys started asking me to braid their hair. I initially said no, but then they offered to pay, and the rest is history.”
“As a kid, I never thought about cosmetology as something I wanted to do. It just wasn’t an interest of mine.”
Porscha continued to practice braiding until it became her “side hustle.” We all had one in undergrad. It wasn’t until she had a frank conversation with her mother, did Porscha see becoming a stylist as a real option.
“In high school, I was an average student without studying. Once I got to college, I did what I thought was studying and would flunk my test. After a while, my mom sat me down and told me they weren’t sending me any more money for school. She said I was making good money doing hair and suggested I attend cosmetology school,” Porscha says.
Porscha left University and enrolled in cosmetology school, where she learned that she, like many
June 10th, 2023
Greenville Convention Center - Greenville, SC
“I did a lot of competitions while I was in school. In fact, I won the Midwest Beauty Show in Chicago, Illinois. I was the first-place winner in the United States, which qualified me to be on the World USA team. I went to Moscow, Russia, for the Hair Olympics and took fifth place in the world,” Porscha shared.
With all of her success in school, Porscha worried that her star had burned out, so once she graduated from cosmetology school, she was afraid to go for her license. “I had achieved so much as a student that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to live up to the reputation I had created for myself. I was afraid to fail.” It would be almost a year later before Porscha had the courage to take the state boards to become a certified cosmetologist.
By the time Porscha was licensed, she was living on her own, and because she didn’t want to use the financial support of her parents, she worried she didn’t have the time it took to build a stable client base. “I had real bills, so I went and got what I felt was a real job. It takes time for a beautician to build a clientele that qualifies as a full-time career.” As a result, hair became her side hustle once again.
Porscha worked in corporate America until 2017, when she was laid off. While looking for a new job, she was reminded that she already had a career, a stellar reputation, and the credentials to back it up. “Honestly, I could have gone full-time as a beautician before the lay-off, but I worried about job security. But being let go gave me the push I needed to launch into the deep,” Porscha explains. “I launched The Salon by Porscha Danielle in November 2017. Thirty days after I opened, I had over thirty new clients,” she says.
Located in Greenville, South Carolina, The Salon by Porscha Danielle has been going strong for six years. As a natural hair stylist, she has no shortage of clients, but it is time to look toward the future. On June 4th, 2022, Porscha hosted her first Knotty-N-Natural Hair Festival.
Owning a hair salon and styling hair are not the only things important to Porscha. She is committed to serving her community and hundreds and thousands of people at once. With the Knotty-N-Natural Hair Festival, she is able to do that. “A lot of people have a lot of questions regarding natural hair. With the festival, I am able to connect trusted vendors who have trusted products with individuals who need their questions answered,” she says.
The need for such an event in Greenville was obvious, but the question was who would make it happen. Well, the question has been answered by Porscha. “It all started when I went to my business coach and told her I wanted to do a food truck festival. I love food, so it made sense to me but not to my business coach,” Porscha laughed. “After talking it over, she suggested I have a Hair festival with food trucks. So that’s what we did. That’s how the Knotty-N-Natural Hair Festival was born.”
“A lot of people have a lot of questions regarding natural hair. With the festival, I am able to connect trusted vendors who have trusted products with individuals who need their questions answered.”
At this point, things were set in motion for the Knotty-N-Natural Hair Festival. “I love what I do, but I can only connect with one client at a time in the salon. I can’t tell you how many people have questions on behalf of their mom, sister, cousin, or friend about how to care for and manage healthy natural hair. I answer the questions, but it frustrates me because I can only reach one person at a time,” Porscha shares.
The 2022 Knotty-N-Natural Hair Festival hosted over 500 guests. Porscha projects that the 2023 festival will see over 2,000 guests. Porscha states, “It’s getting bigger and better. This festival is not just about hair, but it’s a safe space for us to come and explore what is beautiful about us (black Americans).”
Porscha is passionate about equipping people with accurate information about caring for their hair. “Because natural hair has become this booming market, so much misinformation is designed to make money. Then we have the information passed down from our parents and grandparents. I’m not saying they gave us bad information. It’s just that with all the new technology and research available to us, there are some things we have to unlearn,” Porscha explained. “This festival is also an opportunity to teach people the latest in hair care routines and techniques so that they won’t fall prey to some of the products that are damaging their hair.”
Looking back at the obstacles she’s had to overcome to get to where she is now, Porscha says this is what she wants people to know, “If you can dream it, then it’s possible. Faith is the central part of who I am, and without it, I couldn’t have come this far. There is no way I could have conceived or achieved all that I have on my own. It was divine inspiration. Knotty-N-Natural serves my community, and as we come together and celebrate what’s great about Black hair and cosmetology, we will only get stronger.”
To truly connect with your inner core, it requires you to be willing to be open with yourself. This means removing every layer and misconception and revealing some things you may have never thought about doing. This is a true example of self-truth. Minister Shuntina Manuel has done just that and allowed her life to serve as an example of God’s unwavering love for us all.
Shuntina is the founder of EMPOWER, formally known as Woman Be Transformed. Shuntina is a worshipper and firm believer in the word and power of God. As a pastor and mentor, she is committed to a lifestyle of service that promotes permanent change and enhanced authenticity. “My ministry did not begin with me saying I wanted to start a ministry. It began with God putting the vision in my heart. That vision was a women’s ministry that affirms all women. My passion will always be to utilize my experiences, insight, and influence to help others evolve into the best version of themselves,” she says. Her ministry is built on a foundation of empowerment, transcending gender, ethnicities, and generations; her only target is to redeem the lost through the demonstrated power of God’s love and restoration.
Shuntina is a native of Greensboro, NC. She is a women’s advocate and female minister who believes in educating, empowering, and equipping all women. Furthermore, Shuntina has been gifted by the grace of God to impact women from various walks of life.
It was in 2018 when Women Be Transformed came to fruition. The first event was held at the Spartanburg Marriott in Spartanburg, SC. Since evolving to EMPOWER, it has successfully reached and guided women to awaken healing, wholeness, and love for themselves and others. EMPOWER assists women in various transitions in their personal life; spiritually, socially and relationally.
Shuntina shares how she finds life in women who can be truthful with themselves. “I am most inspired by truth. I am inspired by strong women who are unafraid to speak the truth in love. This is not bitter, caustic, cutting, or polluted with sarcasm. It’s not judgmental arrogance, either. It’s a love encounter with other women who are focused on clearing the path for the next generation. It’s women who are not embarrassed or too proud, or afraid to share their stories. Women who invest their lives in others because they understand it’s not all about them,” she says.
What Shuntina loves most about EMPOWER is the ability of her ministry to serve as a safe place where women can support each other. The area of support that EMPOWER focuses on is developing an authentic relationship with Christ and one another through prayerful and intentionally planned events, including fellowship. She also shares that she finds inspiration in those who have shown unconditional love to her. These same individuals have significantly impacted her life and helped her become the woman she is today. These individuals include her mom, her dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and various family members and friends. She also acknowledges several mentors for pouring into her life and ministry. “A common denominator is that they have all loved me unconditionally and each reflects God’s Love for me,” she says.
Shuntina is hosting the Safe Room Experience at the Spartanburg Marriott in Spartanburg, SC in March. The event is FREE to attend and will include special guests Prophetess Kristy Lyles and Dr. Elisa Lashell Harney. Moving forward, Shuntina will continue to EMPOWER women to be the best version of themselves by providing a safe place for them to come and be free.
To learn more about The Safe Room Experience and other events Pastor Shuntina Manuel hosts, please contact her directly.
“It’s a love encounter with other
women who are focused on clearing the path for the next generation. It’s women who are not embarrassed or too proud, or afraid to share their stories.
Women who invest their lives in others because they understand it’s not all about them.”
Photos Provided by Chris Kelly
Jeanice Sherai Durrah of Spartanburg, SC, loves her family. She says that most people who know her instantly make a connection to her family, as she readily expresses how she cherishes the time they spend together.
Jeanice is also a woman of God and a Believer in Jesus. She is the wife of Victor Durrah, Jr., and together they share a daughter, Victory Jeanice Durrah, whom they profess as the love of their lives. “She is a combination of both of us in the most grace-filled and compassionate way that only God could do,” Jeanice says.
Professionally, Jeanice is a Certified Life Coach, Mental Health Coach, and Holy Yoga Instructor. Her brand, Jeanice Sherai LLC, was launched in 2018 and is a mental wellness company that offers privately booked Christian-based yoga classes to small/ large groups, nonprofits, schools, and more. Their mission is to promote whole minds and present moments in every life encounter. “Our vision is to see a world free from anxiety and depression,” Jeanice says. She has worked with autistic adults, at-risk teenage girls, and women, helping them to walk into the life God has promised them. Through her Leadership Workshops, she utilizes a specially crafted curriculum called ThinkBIG.
Jeanice is a business owner and full-time corporate employee. She has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science Degree, a Master of Business in Finance, and a Master of Information Systems in Computer Security. She’s a Certified Life Coach, Six Sigma Green Belt, Guided Christian Meditation Specialist, Mental Health Coach, and Holy Yoga Instructor. She has also authored several books, including “Decide Today is Your Day: 21 Affirmations Guaranteed to Change Your Life”, and “Goal Digger: A Goal Setting Workbook”. Another book she has published is “31 Days of Faith: From Familiarity to Freedom, “ co-written with her husband, Victor. Other books published by Jeanice are “How Do You Know When It’s God?, and “Victory Smiles”, a children’s book about her daughter and also co-written with my husband. She also hosts the podcast, The Better in Ten Show, and is a YouVersion™️ Bible Plan partner.
Jeanice was featured as the Opening Speaker at the Dear CLT Brunch in Charlotte, NC. She has also been a featured writer for Forbes, Boss Babes, and She Wins Society (formerly known as Women By Choice). She is also the Co-Founder of Queen of the Mountain, an annual retreat inviting women to unite to be restored, release what is heavy to God, relax, and draw closer to God in their season. “I love helping people relax. I believe that it’s needed. God gifted me with a talent that allows people to enter my space and walk out free of anything heavy they may have been carrying.”
Jeanice became certified as a Holy Yoga Instructor in 2019, and in January 2020, she started her business. “In the two years prior, I felt God leading me to transition from a woman who was writing about her pains and hardships and coaching women in that place to a woman who had been freed and helping women learn how to relax and enjoy this freedom. This birthed my vision,” she says.
The benefits of yoga are extensive and often not considered when it comes to its major impacts on our health. “When we think of freedom, we often connect it to wealth but not health. Yoga contributes to eliminating anxiety, fighting depression, lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, lowering blood pressure, increasing our sleeping patterns, protecting our muscles from injury, and so much more. Like many other African Americans, my family history consists of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I not only wanted to help us choose intentionally to relax, but I desired for those I encounter to understand that freedom is also directly connected to our choices concerning our health,” she says.
Loving people and serving God while doing so is her signature. She says she finds inspiration from her parents and is motivated by their faith, encouragement, and hard work. “They have indeed been an example of how to operate in life. The values instilled in me and the foundation set by them will carry me for a lifetime,” she says.
Running a business can be challenging, and Jeanice has faced a few herself. “When creating a business, you may want to be validated by the wrong things. You can allow this to be a measuring tool concerning your success, but man can not measure what can only be understood Eternal. I’ve overcome these challenges by shifting my perspective from those things in the world to the One that called me.”
Her advice to others who may follow in her footsteps is to keep going. “There is no destination. When you reach one goal, it will never be enough, you will always want to go bigger. So enjoy the journey.”
Moving forward, Jeanice plans to continue to serve others. “I want people who look like me to live long, healthy lives and not just live, but indeed be able to enjoy it even in their senior years.,” she says.
“Like many other African Americans, my family history consists of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I not only wanted to help us choose intentionally to relax, but I desired for those I encounter to understand that freedom is also directly connected to our choices concerning our health.”
Businessman, family man, author, and visionary. Dr. Nicholas ‘Nic’ Sturdifen appears to do it all.
Nic, as he prefers, is a proud product of Newport News, Virginia. As a man of Christ, he loves being able to show the love of Christ in everything he does. Nic has several degrees, an undergrad, two master’s, and a doctorate. Nic is a Qualified Mental Health Professional certified by the Virginia Board of Counseling. He is an author and has written two books, the Center of Influence and the 5 Phases of Human Engagement. Also, Nic owns High Point Hush Puppies, a collegiate-level summer league baseball team located in High Point, NC.
With all his endeavors, Nic has found time for more; he co-owns Life Push LLC with his wife, Kaylin. Founded in 2014, Life Push LLC is a human services engagement company that offers mentoring, counseling, and family development. They are also directly engaged with public school systems.
Why did a very involved businessman decide to buy a minor-league baseball team? Nic responds, “I’m big on access. Baseball can be an expensive sport that not many minorities have access to play. I wanted to create a space for athletes of all shades where they could engage and play,” he says. Nic shares he also wanted to let young black men and people of color everywhere know that they don’t just have to play the sport; they can own a team too. “I really want us to be an example of what that looks like, someone who looks like them and is involved with team ownership.” Most importantly, The High Point Hushpuppies helps to support players who wish to create a path to professional baseball.
Nic’s athletic background doesn’t include baseball. He grew up playing soccer and played football at the collegiate level. “Baseball always sparked my interest, yet unfortunately, like many other minorities growing up, I didn’t have access to the sport and wasn’t introduced to it. I know that baseball is deeply rooted in communities across the country, in the world for that matter, and I figured it would be good to be a vehicle to help underserved communities,” he says.
“I’m big on access. Baseball can be an expensive sport that not many minorities have access to play. I wanted to create a space for athletes of all shades where they could engage and play.”
Having The Highpoint Hush Puppies located in the Triad made good sense to Nic. He says he wanted to continue upholding and honoring High Point’s history. While he supports getting more African Americans involved with the sport of baseball, he says he doesn’t want to make it a black-and-white thing. “This isn’t a black team, it’s not a white team, this is a team open and accessible for everyone,” he shared.
Nic says his biggest inspiration is time. He explained that we all have a limited time here on earth, and he’s motivated by wasting his share. His focus is to help others and lead them into a better place. His biggest fear is when it’s all said and done, he’ll look back and wish he had done more and pressed harder. He wants to leave empty, knowing he gave it all and left behind a legacy for his kids and generations.
He also finds rest in the work of others who have come before him. He shares, “I look back at each generation, and I can see the progress. Every generation is responsible for building on the shoulders of the previous generation. From my great-grandparents to my children, work happened, and the work must continue.”
As for the future of Nic and The High Point Hushpuppies, he plans to continue growing the team and changing the perspective of baseball and what it can be. He also plans to continue helping others, providing affordable entertainment to families, and bringing more revenue to the Piedmont triad area. Yet, his vision doesn’t end with baseball. Nic plans to own a soccer team and even build a school.
For those who may follow his path, here’s some advice that Nic offers. “Understand this, to be successful, especially in entrepreneurship, you will have to be either lucky or blessed. I recommend being blessed because luck can run out. You must have strong-rooted faith before you jump in. Also, stop waiting on other people to believe in you, because their beliefs have nothing to do with your success,” he says.
To learn more about Nic Sturdifen and The High Point Hush Puppies, please visit their website.
If someone in authority grants you something, or if something is granted to you, you are allowed to have it. That is the meaning of Granted Access, the brand developed by Christian Anderson, an award-winning gospel artist and savvy businesswoman.
Born and raised in Tennessee but now residing in North Carolina, Christian is widely known for singing and ministering the good news of Jesus Christ to help build the Kingdom of God. She is a psalmist, student-teacher, preacher, and lover of life and God’s people. Her genuine love for God has opened the door for her soulful, heart-touching sounds to bless the ears who desire intimate and compassionate worship. “My genre of music is Gospel. I sing to others to let them know how much God loves them and that they can do anything through Christ, who gives them the ability and strength to do so,” she says.
Christian says one of her most significant accomplishments was becoming a mom to her beautiful daughter Yael Maylean. Christian lost her mother, the late Minister Maylean Anderson when she was just seven years of age. She would be raised by her father, William Anderson, along with her siblings. Life would happen for Christian, and she adjusted as it did.
She attended the Job Corps right after high school and studied Phlebotomy. She shares that she always loved the healthcare field and knew she wanted to help people somehow, so becoming a nationally certified Phlebotomist was a way for her to do so. She worked in that field for nearly six years before becoming a licensed cosmetologist.
Christian says her initial inspiration comes directly from God. “Knowing He has begun a good work in me, and knowing I have the responsibility to live out what He has given me,” she says. Christian has faced several trials and storms in her life, and has learned some lessons as well. In addition to her mother passing, suffering abuse at the hands of her stepmother, and even marrying someone God told her not to marry, Christian testimony amplifies the story of an overcomer. “My testimony inspires me to tell it to as many people who will hear it, and show them what healing, victory, grit, and freedom looks like. It’s no goodness of my own that I’m still here. It’s only by His grace, mercy, and blood constantly covering my life.”
When not singing, Christian serves in full-time ministry with several business ventures on the side. One business is called “Melody Bedtimes Stories”. It’s a show and innovative idea she says God gave her, and one that she shares with her daughter Yael. “I sing books to children all over the World. We encourage, enlighten, affirm, and uplift them. We also let them know they are important, valuable, and needed!”
She references scripture in the bible, 2 Corinthians 2:14 which says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” With her brand, Access Granted, Christian says it consists of her “VICTORY OV” Merchandise. “God has granted us access to having victory over every area of our lives. If you are dealing with depression, the merch will read, “VICTORY OV Depression”. Granted Access isn’t limited to clothing, it is a mindset we must carry everyday,” she says.
In addition to being inspired by her daughter, Christian finds inspiration in her pastors, Kendall and Quierra McDowell, the founding leaders of Revival Now Global Church. “My pastor’s stand on the Word of God with no compromise, and they Truly Love God’s people. They love me, correct me and help guide and encourage me. I’m truly grateful for them and the impact they continue to have on my daughter’s life and my life. I can honorably say my life has never been the same since becoming a part of Revival Now Global Church.,” she says.
She also credits her manager Jessica Williams for having a huge impact on her life and career. “She goes above and beyond the call of duty and is truly a God-sent. I often tell the story of how she became my manager and how we attended the same church, but I didn’t know her personally, nor did I know her name at the time. The Lord put it in my heart to have a concert named “I’m An Overcomer”. I didn’t have a team, nor did I know of anyone who could help me, so I prayed and asked God to send help. Her face literally popped into my head. I approached her, thinking she’s going to think I’m crazy. I informed her of what God told me about her, and she agreed to help me assemble everything. I later asked her to be my manager. She said no at first but soon obliged, and we have been rocking since 2017,” Christian shared.
Being able to make an impact on the lives of God’s people and be the voice some so desperately need is what makes it happen for Christian. “I enjoy the opportunity to be the intercessor, the encourager, the mentor, the motivator, the testament of triumph over any and everything the enemy tries to keep God’s people bound in,” she says.
As Christian looks to the future, she has several projects underway. One is publishing her first book titled, “I WANT WHAT YOU WANT”. Her book will provide a description of her life, spanning from a little girl to adulthood. It will share the many challenges she faced, the disobedience she walked in, and the consequences of it. It will show the Triumphant Victory she now walks in as well.
More than anything, Christian says she looks forward to growing more in God. She also wants to grow more in knowledge and understanding and obtain the necessary wisdom to walk life’s journey. “I want to be a better, anointed mother, love my family and friends, and love God’s people the way He requires for me. I am also looking forward to meeting my purpose partner so we can purposely build the Kingdom of God together and make hell nervous!” h
My testimony inspires me to tell it to as many people who will hear it to, and show them what healing, victory, grit, and freedom looks like. It’s no goodness of my own that I’m still here. It’s only by His grace, mercy, and blood constantly covering my life.”
The Good Book tells us in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” It also says in Zachariah 4:9, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” These two verses have motivated James R. Gorham throughout his life. He never forgot the vision and continues to appreciate the humble beginnings of his life.
Meet Brigadier General James Roy Gorham, known by most as J. R. and affectionately known as that curly-haired little boy from the tobacco fields of Falkland, NC. Read on and learn how the sharecropper’s son rose from a boy priming tobacco in his parent’s tobacco field to becoming the first African American Brigadier General in the North Carolina National Guard. J. R. shares, “I was born to Roy and Madie Gorham in 1956. I have five older sisters, so I had six mammas. Since I was the first boy born after five girls, I was the apple of their eyes. I was fortunate to have been born into a loving family, even though we lived in a four-bedroom shack. That shack had holes in the floors and in the walls, we had plastic around our windows in the winter, and we even had an outhouse. That shack had no running water, so I had to draw water from a well. On the weekends, I had to draw 80 buckets of water just so mama could wash the clothes because we had one of those washing machines with rollers so it took a lot of water to do the laundry. I didn’t have any expectations to do anything in particular with my life back then because we were actually po’ with one “o” and we could not afford the “r” that’s just how poor we were. Looking back on it, we were only poor in resources, but in the things that really mattered in life we had an abundance.”
Growing up in an authoritative household can seem daunting to many teenagers, and J. R. was no different. So when the day came to forgo working in his father’s tobacco field and living under his strict rules, J. R. took it by joining the United States Army.
“I didn’t join the army out of any patriotic duty. I joined to get out of that tobacco field and to get from under my daddy’s thumb. I just wanted to live my life. My best friend until this very day, Rick Streeter, and I got our money together and sent in our initial deposit so we could attend NC A&T State University in 1974, but that didn’t happen. Instead of us going to school, we played hooky. After we messed around all day, we went down to the recruiting office to listen to that spill so we could get a note to return to school. When I tell you that the recruiting officer painted a wonderful picture of us seeing the world, we bought it; hook, line and sinker, and we signed up that day!”
Through our lived experience, most people understand everything that shines ain’t gold. J. R. discovered making his own decisions came at a price. He shares, “When I joined the US Army in 1974, I was 18 years old and bringing home $312 a month. That was the first time in my life I had some real soft money in my hand. I didn’t know what to do with all that freedom. When I was transferred to Fort Hood, TX, I got with the wrong crowd and started going out every night, getting drunk, and I was making a whole lot of bad decisions. My defining moment came on Christmas Eve in 1976 when I was at my platoon sergeant’s house for a little party. At that time, The Walton’s came on tv, and they reminded me of my family. A feeling came over me that I cannot describe to you, and all of a sudden, I didn’t want the beer that was being offered to me. I left his place and while I was driving to the hole in-the-wall apartment I lived in, I looked over onto the shoulder of the road and saw that a loaf of bread has fallen out of somebody’s car. Now I want you to understand I didn’t have any bread in my house. All I had was seventy-five cents in my pocket and a fourth tank of gas in my car because I had drunk up my money. So, I pull my car off on the shoulder of the road, get out and walk towards the bread. When I stooped down to pick it up, a story that I learned in St. John’s Baptist Church in Falkner, NC, came to my remembrance, and I said to myself oh my God, I’m that prodigal son! My mamma and daddy didn’t raise me this way.”
When J. R. got back to his place, he called home for the first time in about eight months. As soon as my mother hears his voice she says, ‘Bruh come home for Christmas.’ J. R. told her that he couldn’t because he didn’t have any money. He says, “She tells me that she and daddy would wire me the money but I had enough sense to know that I cannot take that proposition from my mamma. I was 20 years old and I manned up and told my mother that I had gotten myself into this situation and it was up to me to get myself out. I knew if I had taken that money from my parents, I would be expecting them to always rescue me. Instead, I asked her to pray for me. She understood, but then she put my five sisters on the phone, and after hearing them cry, I really felt like a loser with a capital L.”
By the time J. R. got off the phone, he says the thought of checking out permanently crossed his mind. However, something inside of him, what is referred to in the Army as “Intestinal fortitude,” kicked in. “Spiritually, I know it was the Holy Spirit and He would not allow me to check out,” he says. “After I hung up, I went across the railroad tracks into a cow pasture, and I walked, and I walked. I decided in that cow pasture that this would be as low as I was ever going to go.”
Armed with a desire in his heart and a gleam in his eye J. R. went down to the local community college and enrolled in an English and Math course. Afterward, he summoned the courage to confront his Sergeant to atone for his misdeeds. When his Sergeant saw him standing outside of his office door, he looked at J. R. as though he was the last person he ever wanted to see. “He asked me what I wanted and I told him I had a proposition for him. I told him I would pull extra duty every weekend for the rest of my time there if he would take my name off the weekly extra duty roster because I had enrolled in school and needed to attend class. After he finished looking at me he said, ‘You got a deal, Gorham.’ He shook my hand and took my name off the extra duty roster. To this day he doesn’t know that random acts of kindness helped me turn my whole life around. The Good Book says, one plants another waters, but God gives the increase. So, all he was doing was watering what had already been planted in my life by my parents,” J. R. says.
Soon life got better for J.R. He started thinking about one of the many sayings that sharecropper daddy of his would say while they were riding in his old raggedy and smoky Silverado pickup truck. “He used to say, ‘Boy if you’re willing to do what other people will not do, you can go where other people cannot go.’”
J.R. didn’t realize how true that statement was until one day, in the Spring of his senior year the company commander called about 200 soldiers into formation. He asked volunteers to pick up nails in the motor pool because they were causing flat tires. He said he would give anybody who brought him two handfuls of nails a three-day pass. Now 200 soldiers heard that charge, but J.R. was the only person who brought him two handfuls of nails. Instead of him giving J. R. a three-day pass, he gave me a four-day pass. “On my way out, I rolled down my car window and hollered out who’s laughing now! Ya’ll gotta stay here and work while I get the rest of the week off. Like my daddy said, ‘If you’re willing to do what other people will not do you can go where other people cannot go.”
After J. R. left the Army he went home and attended East Carolina University. While there, he joined the North Carolina National Guard and attended Officer Candidate School in Fort Bragg, N.C. where he graduated first in his class. He was grateful that his father, who served in the Army during WWII, had the opportunity to see him graduate. While J. R. was taking pictures with generals, he remembers his father imparting yet another golden nugget in his life. “My daddy said, ‘Boy you are becoming your company. Whoever you’re hanging around with is who you will become.’ So as a Second Lieutenant, I started hanging around with the First Lieutenants until I became one. Then I started hanging around captains, majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels. Eventually, I started hanging around generals and now I’m the first African American Brigadier General in the NC National Guard,” he says.
J. R. shares that his father was a firm and wise man. “I am grateful for the chastisement, ethics, and morals he instilled in me, past the bone into my marrow. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t that sharecropper’s son. He groomed me to be a leader the oldfashioned way.”
J. R.’s progress through the military was not always as sweet as this last memory. He was often looked over for promotions he was qualified to receive, which caused him to consider retiring early. That would only be a thought and he recalls his father saying, “Boy when you get to the end of your rope, you tie a knot, and you hang on but you do not quit.”
According to J. R., “If I had let my emotions get the better of me I would have quit and retired as a major. Instead, I went to Iraq as a lieutenant colonel and was promoted to full colonel while I was in a war zone. If I had quit because of my emotions, I would have never received that promotion from on high. Not only did that happen but shortly after I returned I received a call from a two-star general inviting me to lunch. When I got there, he informed me that he had submitted my package to the Department of the Army to promote me to Brigadier General. I broke down right there at the table. I was crying from the inner part of my soul for two reasons. First, I’m going to be the first African American Brigadier General in the NC National Guard. I’m crying because in this country when you’re a man or woman of color, you become the litmus test for everyone coming behind you. I’m feeling the gravity of that responsibility in my tears.” J. R. says he was also crying because that moment made up for all the times I had been overlooked.” For the record readers, generals don’t cry. Their eyes sweat, so we can be assured that J. R.’s eyes were really sweating that day.
Today, Brigadier General Gorham is a community leader, motivational speaker, and the author of Sharecroppers Wisdom: Growing Todays Leaders the Old-Fashioned Way. He is married to Barbara; they have three children, Tony, Jamie, and Joshua.
Journey Adult Day Center Inc, a 501c3 non-profit community organization, opened its second adult day center location at 3105 Yanceyville Street in Greensboro, NC, on February 25th, 2023. Their newest location will provide a safe place for developmentally delayed clients aged 18 and over. Journey Adult Day Center also specializes in senior care and respite care.
Journey Adult Day Center has existed since 2019. It provides participants daily cognitive development and fun activities, such as Tai Chi, Hebrew lessons, Music Therapy, Gardening, Silver Sneakers exercise, arts and crafts, and much more. “We have seen positive personal development results with our participants. They have become verbal, there has been a decrease in depressive episodes, and we have seen them participate in communal socialization and achieve personal and family goals.”
Journey Adult Day Center is the only location of its kind with the capacity to serve the clients on the Department of Health and Human Service’s waitlist. The waitlist consists of over 50 people not classified as elderly with a memory care diagnosis.
During their grand opening event, the public was invited to attend and take a tour and explore some of the activities future clients will experience. Thye offered free food, music and gifts at the event.
For those who may want to help with some cognitive development program supplies, please visit our Journey’s wishlist on Amazon.com by searching for “Journey Adult Day Center”.
Journey Adult Day Center’s mission is to assist individuals and families in the enhancement of their emotional, mental and physical well-being by providing adult day health care services. Their goal is to restore the JOY in the JOurneY.