God Is A Much Better Driver Than I Am
There Are No If, Ands, Or Buts About It!
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’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.
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.
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.
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.Terry L. Watson Editor/Founder Terry L. Watson
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.
Couture Creations Designs LLCBy Terry L. Watson
For event planner and designer Donna Gullette, it all comes down to attention to detail. A native of Huntsville, AL, Donna is the owner of Couture Creations Designs, LLC. Couture Creations Design & Events and Couture Creations Pours & Potions operate under that same business name. Her company provides Event Planning and Coordination, Event Design and Décor, Day of Coordination, Custom Gift Boxes, Floral Service and rental items. Pours & Potions were added to Donna’s brand in 2019 as designer beverages and hand-crafted cocktails.
She is the baby of Ernest and Lorene Jones and says her mantra is “Don’t take my quietness for weakness”. She adds, “My parents and several members of my family were touched by the entrepreneurial spirit long ago. They loved doing their own thing and were quite successful at it. They always seemed fearless and took leaps of faith in several business ventures. My dad owned a couple of Nightclubs, and my mom worked for the school system until they decided to go into business together. They opened a Small Neighborhood Grocery Store in the Calvary Hills area of Huntsville. In addition to the convenience store, they owned a Construction Company, a nightclub, and a restaurant. My mother owned a wedding business and planned and directed weddings. I often watched and listened to everything around me and took it all in, but the weddings and fashion business captured my attention.”
At a young age, Donna’s goal was to become a fashion designer, and she also wanted to have some type of connection to the wedding industry. Home Economics was her favorite subject at school, and she learned how to sew with lessons from her mom. She remained true to fashion through high school and college. She graduated from Southern Junior College with a degree in Fashion Design and from Alabama A&M University with a degree in Fashion Merchandising. “After graduating, I started working in retail and decided that I did not want to spend all of my holidays and weekends working, and if I did, it would be something I loved and had fun doing. Later, I began my career with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. I taught youth and adults from all economic backgrounds about life skills,” she says.
It was during the 1980s, while Donna assisted her mother with her business, that her initial start with entrepreneurship began. Her parents owned a restaurant during that time, and in addition to putting on her daily chef hat, Donna was often called upon to cater weddings and other special events. After college, she began taking on event gigs and more, and then life happened, she says. “I met my Prince Charming, and we got married, and along came two blessings.”
Donna got her first business license in November 2017. The Covid 19 pandemic came along and opened new doors of opportunity for her. Couture Creations Designs, LLC began to gain traction in 2020, and Donna made a pact with herself and said that with God’s guidance and blessings, she would retire one day and work in her calling. Fast forward to the present day, her retirement was March 31st, 2022, and Donna has been busy ever since.
Donna’s typical clients are engaged couples, and individuals looking to have special events such as birthday parties, anniversaries, engagements, elopements, and showers. They also specialize in custom events for kids and adults. “I don’t offer cookie-cutter packages, so our pricing varies pending on the budget and needs of the client,” she says.
There are several things that Donna says she loves about being a business owner. One is researching and shopping for vendors to make the vision a reality for her clients. She also enjoys seeing her client’s faces at the end of the night or an event. Donna also shares that colors, objects, and other designers inspire. “My go-to is Pinterest, and at times, social media inspires me.” She also credits her family for encouraging and pushing her to be the best version of herself. “They have always encouraged me to go for it and are always on the scene at each event,” she says.
Her advice to others who may follow a similar path as she has is to do what you love and watch and learn from others in your field. She also advises joining professional groups and/or networking sessions. “Be passionate about your work, talk about your business with others, and work in silence. Most importantly, take the time to learn about Business Taxes and the financial side.”
In 2023, Donna says it is her goal to add passionate team members to the Couture Creations brand. “I would like to grow by having an office space and offering new and expanded services with a full design team. My goal for the Pours & Potions is to find a co-packing company that can package and distribute my product to stores,” she says. “I have submitted three of my Pours & Potions Flavors to Alabama A&M University Food Science Department for testing and nutrition labeling with hopes of having my products in a store near you very soon.”
Donna is committed to serving her community and giving back. As a caregiver of nine years for her mother, Donna shares she has a very special place in my heart for unpaid family caregivers. “My mission is to provide some joy to them and to other charities as I grow in business,” she says. She has also produced an annual Christmas and Cocktails event which provided her with an opportunity to allow potential clients to taste her Pours & Potions products. She has also given to the Pastoral Pointguard, a faith-based sports training program that prepares athletes for competition on the court and for the kingdom. It is also a scholarship fund named in honor of her Godson, who was killed in a tragic car accident. She also continues to do more to serve and connect with her community. h
“Doing Things Her Way” Latitude Training CenterBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Tiawna Bryant
Tiawna Bryant describes herself as an elite member of the healthcare industry.
The Detroit, MI, resident, and native is a Registered Nurse with over 20 years of healthcare experience. She is a mom, a caregiver to her parents, and a leader in her community. She is also the owner of Latitude Training Center.
Her company educates and trains aspiring healthcare workers in basic nursing services. Her students learn how to properly and safely perform Activities of Daily Living (ADL) for those who are ill or debilitated, need assistance, or can’t perform ADL care independently. ADL care consists of grooming, toileting, feeding, dressing, and helping with ambulation and transfers. Through the American Heart Association, Tiawna is a certified CPR Instructor. Additionally, her students are trained in emergency response care. Latitude’s four-week program equips individuals with job-ready skills, the kind of skills that are transferable and remain with them for life.
Tiawna obtained a degree in Applied Science from Davenport University. She began her journey of teaching CPR in her basement. She later expanded in 2018 with the assistance of an entrepreneurial training program. She continued to grow her professional services to a brick-and-mortar location and added healthcare career training. She says, “My vision for creating the Latitude Training Center was formulated while working as a Nurse Educator at the corporate level. During my tenure, I noticed there was a lack of caregivers to support the growing population of our elders. I also became aware of the idleness of our young adults in the community.” Learning those things propelled her into action.
Tiawna’s love for healthcare happened as a child. “As a teenager approaching high school, my mother frequently showed me the Sunday newspaper. She would show me the classified section and always emphasize choosing a career pathway that was in high demand and offered job stability. Becoming a nurse or an educator would provide that. Both nursing and education struck her interest, and from there, the rest is history.
“My vision for creating the Latitude Training Center was formulated while working as a Nurse Educator at the corporate level. During my tenure, I noticed there was a lack of caregivers to support the growing population of our elders. I also became aware of the idleness of our young adults in the community.”
Tiawna says she is inspired by the impact she has on her students. “My students look up to me and see themselves as leaders, nurses, caregivers, and educators. When my students ask questions about what direction they should take or how to handle a situation in their personal lives or issues at school, I am amazed and so grateful that I can be a resource. Whether it’s helping someone overcome a hurdle or giving a small nugget of advice, helping with their resumes, or just leading by example on how to conduct yourself and exude professionalism, I am grateful,” she says.
As a new business owner, the challenges never stop, and Tiawna says the one she has faced is learning how much working capital is actually needed to sustain a viable business. “You can have a beautifully well laid out business plan, but without projections and a method for growth and expansion, things can start to look quite different from when your business was just a thought on paper. Working capital is important. Having good personal credit has helped me leverage a lot of the funds that I lacked in my first year of business,” she says.
While the experience has been great for Tiawna, she says she would have done some things in business differently if given a chance to do so. “I would not have put my dreams to the side. When I initially had the inclination to be an entrepreneur, I doubted the timing and ability. The reality is once you have swallowed the idea and it starts to digest in your spirit, it will never go away. I would have started sooner in life and spoken more self-affirming words into the universe to support the thoughts that would have gotten my actions to align with what I knew to be true. Now that I am here and in the midst of it all, I am focusing on the bigger picture.”
Her advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to be ready for your circle to change and be ready for the naysayers. “Be ready to sacrifice and fight; your vision is your vision. Things and people will come against you that you may never have imagined. It can get rough, and you will ask if this is what I signed up for. My advice is to do as I did. Do your own research and hire professional consultants to help you polish your brand and get your back office paperwork together,” she says.
In the future, Tiawna plans to continue to encourage young adults to invest in themselves and their community. She also plans to continue expanding her brand and enjoy the opportunities and blessings of owning her company.
For more information about Latitude Training Center, please visit their website.
He is best described as a God-fearing man who loves being a husband and father. Those who don’t know him would probably say Stony is arrogant, but he says that’s far from the truth. “If anything, I try to motivate and encourage people to chase after their dreams and to live life to the fullest and with purpose. Life is already challenging, so I try to offer the advice I want someone to give me during times of adversary,” he shares.
Stony Murphy of Pensacola, FL, reflects on what he was told as a child, how he was treated as a black sheep and would fail in life. He has stood on that skepticism and, in turn, used it as a source of inspiration. He credits his mother, Gloria Murphy, for being an excellent example for him to live by. Stony shares that her strong will and determination to raise him, while being a single black woman helped him learn that anything is possible, just as long as he believed in himself.
Stony is a man of many talents. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is a certified Master Barber, Chef, and Graphic Designer. He is a songwriter, entertainer, stage performer, and actor, and just here recently, he was blessed to have his own radio talk show.
Again, Stony connects his successes to the direction and example set by his mother. “I don’t know how life would’ve turned out. I was rebellious, but mom never threw the towel in on me. She continuously reminded me that if I wanted better, I had to do better,” he says. Another one of his great influencers was his grandmother, Roxana Caves. She was the first black woman in Pensacola to own and operate a cosmetology school. At the age of eight, Stony shadowed her whenever she was in her salon, which happened to be attached to her house. By the time he turned ten, Stony was allowed to cut alongside her. Years later, he followed in her footsteps and became a Master Barber.
Today, Stony has firmly planted himself as a staple in his community. Along with his “twin flame”, best friend, and my lifelong partner, Renee Murphy, Stony has created the brands, L&L Smoothies and L&L Art Collectionz. “L&L Art Collectionz is an art that is one of a kind. I never paint the same piece, so when you get a painting from me, you know it’s an original, not a duplicate,” Stony says. L&L Smoothies LLC provides all-natural plant-based smoothies that aid individuals dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure, digestive issues, and more. Stony and Renee share love in their businesses and how they live. “We have been together for nearly a decade, and I would do it all over again. She is a great mother, daughter, sister, friend, and fabulous wife. Her support, love, and loyalty keep me thriving and determined to achieve any goal I set out to accomplish,” Stony says.
As for music, he acknowledges his uncle Willie Pritchard for inspiring him. He was a writer also and passed the gift of writing down to Stony. His uncle played the drums, shared the stage with many oldschool legends, and allowed Stony to sit in during rehearsals. Art, on the other hand, Stony says, was more of a hit-and-miss hobby. “I would grab the Sunday newspaper cartoon section and draw the characters just for fun. Never once did I ever think that I would gain the recognition of being an artist years later,” he says.
Art holds a special place in Stony’s life. He shares that as a writer and performer, the art of music allows him to tell his story through stories that transform into songs. “I am very transparent and honest when I write my songs. I want listeners to know they are not the only ones dealing with life’s challenges. It’s my way of exhaling, so I can move on without bottling up. My expression of how grateful I am for overcoming situations.” Being a painting artist is just the same for Stony. “I can illustrate my thoughts on a stretched canvas. Painting takes me to a place of serenity and allows me to shake off the stress of life.”
Like most business owners, having a solid support system is vital. Many entrepreneurs go into business with the mindset that family and friends will provide support. Stony says that is not how it goes. “Walking into the unknown is intimidating, so going into a situation with the backing of your immediate circle helps deal with pros and cons in business. I’ve learned to deal with business challenges by praying and asking God to cover my decisions and to surround me with people with a simpatico mindset.”
The future looks bright for Stony. He has launched a new radio show, “2 Tears in a Bucket……Y’all know the rest!” This show is filled with theories, facts, good music, and fun conversations. He also plans to remain ambitious, innovative, humble and focused. “I will stay prayed up and open to new ideas. Building prosperous relationships is my objective from this point forward.”
Nicole Hornsby-Harrison’s mission to help others is rooted in her belief that healing comes through a sound emotional and spiritual foundation. Her passion for the mental and physical well-being of those around her has helped to grow her fitness empire, Creole Fitness.
Nicole owns Creole Fitness, and is the Executive Director of the A.G.A.P.E Project, a nonprofit that focuses on her community’s physical and mental health. A native of Amite, LA, she is also a dynamic certified personal trainer, actress, author, Army Veteran, and woman of faith who is passionate about helping people journey through life as their best selves.
As a personal trainer, Nicole offers various services and products, including meal prep consultation, meditation, weight training, boxing, and many CrossFit workouts. She also makes custom blend supplements, waistbeads, and detox drinks. She says her products are designed to assist or motivate those on their fitness, mental health, and wellness journey. Additionally, Nicole is a mental health coach, author, and motivational speaker.
So how did Nicole get started with fitness? She shares, “I have always been an athlete, but I was burnt out on anything fitness when I exited the military. I took a few years off and began boxing and supporting my youngest daughter while she trained as a UFC fighter. I never thought about training anyone, but somehow I started working with one client, and things took off from there.”
Several academic achievements complement Nicole’s passion. She has a master’s degree in criminal justice and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Public Administration. She is married to Rashund Harrison, and they have five kids: Desiree, Kierra, DeAndre, Xavier, and Tiara. They also have five grandchildren: Aijah, Reign, Raelin, Keem, and Kayden.
Helping people reach their goals and conquer their fears are two things Nicole says she loves to do. Embarking on her own personal fitness journey gave her a sense of empowerment, which she tries to duplicate with her clients. “Working on myself helped me to transform her from an insecure young woman to a passionate wife, mother, businesswoman, and community leader,” she says.
Working on herself is something Nicole learned to do after facing a huge challenge in her life. On the eleventh day of February 2022, Nicole suffered a heart attack. “My life changed in a matter of minutes. I had zero blockages and learned that my heart attack was stress-induced. Since then, I’ve been spreading awareness of mental health while caring for myself. Months following my heart attack, I held my first annual Mental Health and Wellness 5k Run/Walk. I’ve visited five countries and written three books, one memoir, and one journal. I am living now, and I do not take anything for granted anymore,” Nicole says.
Other challenges Nicole has faced include getting her culture to change their relationship with food and fitness. “The younger generation is catching on, but I have a lot of work to do for my generation,” she says.
As a businesswoman and entrepreneur, Nicole remains willing to share information and tips with other aspiring business owners. She says, “Whatever you do, don’t give up. Run towards your fears and invest in yourself. If your friends and family can shop at Walmart and Target and not question their prices, then they shouldn’t question yours. Do not allow family and friends to depreciate or devalue your product and service. Real friends won’t ask for discounts or freebies, they will support you without hesitation and won’t mind paying.”
Be on the lookout for a future brick-and-mortar location for Creole Fitness. Nicole’s vision does not only include a gym but also “ninja warrior” type obstacles for those who love to push themselves to the limit. She also plans to spread mental health and wellness by promoting her memoir, Pruned, and her journal and recipe book, Pruned By June. Her annual “It’s Ok Mental Health & Wellness 5k Run/Walk is scheduled for July 2023. Please visit their website to learn more about Nicole Hornsby-Harrison and Creole Fitness. h
Love Operates In TruthBy Terry L. Watson
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.”
Smart Technology CorporationBy DorJea’ McClammey
He is described as someone who can make just about, well, anything! Christopher Jackson is the owner of Smart Technology Corporation. Based in Greensboro, NC, Smart Technology Corporation is leading the way in the areas of Precision Machining, Injection Molding, and Assembly Fabrication. They also offer various services, including engineering design assistance, reverse engineering, prototyping, and flexible, short-run production. Additionally, Smart Technology Corporation offers 3D scanning capability and can capture up to two million measurement points for a scanned subject, resulting in a precision of about 1.5 microns, or 0.00006 of an inch.
Christopher currently resides in the Triad area of North Carolina but was born and raised in Warsaw, North Carolina. He grew up playing baseball and was very good, so good that he had plans to play professionally. Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Christopher became a victim of a crime that put him in a coma. When he came out of it, he was on disability for three years, and his doctors said he would be 80% medically dependent for the rest of his life. Christopher did not let this discourage him, and he continued to work hard and ultimately regained his mobility.
Now outfitted with a new lease on life, Christoper attended Guilford Tech Community College and received a degree in machinery technology. He also became a machinist and tool maker. After about eight years, he enrolled in North Carolina A&T State University and obtained his Applied Engineering degree. Christopher would later work in various industries, including medical, consumer goods, and automotive, gaining plenty of experience from processing tools, plastics, and materials. Soon he would begin to design his own tools.
Christopher worked as a senior engineer for a company that extruded rubber and helped them launch the X5, X6, and X7 BMW series. He was also working on the new X8 BMW when the Covid 19 pandemic hit, resulting in his being laid off.
At that point, Christopher was so tired of starting over. His wife, Jackie, encouraged him to start his own company, and on the 5th day in October 2020, Smart Technology Corporation was born. “Smart Technology Corporation is a place where we do everything smart. We use the best materials and employ the best people to produce products. Our motto is, “there is no wasted time with Smart Technology”. If you can imagine it, we can make it,” he says.
Christopher has customers from all over, including the medical field, consumer goods, the communication industry, and small and local businesses. “When you come to Smart Technology with an idea, no one is turned away. We can design, develop, mass produce, and market our client’s products. Any plastic or metal products, tools, pieces, big or small, we can make,” he says.
At Smart Technology Corporation, a culture of inclusiveness and teamwork has been established. By having those components in place, the feeling of ownership has been easily embraced by everyone. “I don’t say you work for me. You work with me,” says Christopher. “Having that type of work relationship creates a culture of loyalty within the business.”
What separates him from the competition? While getting certified, Christopher wanted to become a Minority Business Enterprise. That certification gives his company access to connect with other billion-dollar companies looking to work with minorities. By 2025, corporations will aim to do trillions of dollars in business with certified MBEs in America. While there are over 30,000 companies in the same industry, African Americans run only six, and Smart Technology is one of them.
Getting his footing in such an underrepresented industry has come with some challenges. One was obtaining capital funding and resources to buy the equipment needed to operate. With continued research, he was able to create a joint partnership with a company that already had the facility and resources.
Despite the challenges, Christoper highlights his family as the #1 inspiration that keeps him going. He aims to create a legacy for his kids that will give them financial independence. In addition, he wants to leave something as a reminder of who their father was and what he did.
Moving forward, Christopher plans to provide an opportunity to NC A&T and GTTC students affiliated with the applied engineering department. These opportunities include internships, co-ops, and job opportunities. The goal of Smart Technology Corporation is to become a billiondollar company with a true community impact. “Yet, the biggest dream is to be one of the first black billionaire companies in the United States of America or the world.”
Christopher’s advice for future entrepreneurs looking to follow in his footsteps is sensible. “If you want to start your own company, find a mentor, find someone willing to give you information, and how to do and what to do. I wasted time and money trying to do and learn everything simultaneously,” he says.
To learn more about Christopher Jackson and Smart Technology Corporation and all of the amazing services they provide, please visit their website. h
MAGAZINE Zoelle Alaiya Scott
To submit photographs to be placed in the Huami Magazine Cutest Baby feature, please send a detailed email to firstname.lastname@example.orgThe daughter of Charita Jackson
Growing Leaders The Old Fashioned WayBy Dr. Marrissa Dick Photos Provided by Snuggs Photography
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.