Model Too Model
Fusion of Scents & Harmony for the Body
My Dreams Are Windows To My Freedom
My Dreams Are Windows To My Freedom
What if tomorrow didn’t arrive? All of your plans, hopes and dreams wouldn’t have a street to park on. What if everything that you decided to put off until tomorrow never happened? There would be no reason to save for a rainy day, and you could spare someone the trouble of making promises. What if your last opportunity seemingly expired today? What would you do?
In short words, I will typically act on something if I dare to dream about it. I have used the gift to dream while sinking in some of my lowest moments. I wanted more, and dreaming of something better made it almost feel like I was there. I learned that there is power in what we dream about.
In that same breath, my dreams have been filled with thoughts of hope and sometimes regret. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would. If I could reverse some of the experiences of my life, I would. If I had the ability to reach back into my past and open some of the doors that were shut and close some that I walked through, I would. One might ask me why, and my response is quite direct; I would if I could.
Now, it’s not my intent to sound as if I do not appreciate the life God has blessed me with. My message is quite the opposite. I love my life and all that has helped to make it what it is. Still, I wish I could have avoided some unnecessary experiences. However, I am wise enough to know that everything has been necessary. It is all part of God’s plan for me.
I’ve been told that I often seem like I do too much. Honestly, I feel like I am not doing enough and I’m a firm believer in knowing that God wouldn’t put anything on me that I couldn’t handle. I sometimes wonder how life would be if I chose to sit idle and accept what it presented to me. I have found that to be very boring. In my opinion, opportunity is a blessing that isn’t afforded to everyone. A challenge to me is an adventure. What is the worst that can happen? If I do nothing, I fail, and if I try I don’t, but instead learn something new about myself. Relinquish your pride and in return acquire life.
The 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.
Acknowledging and accepting where and how my life began instills a sense of reality into my heart. Dreaming of places where I wish I could be also encourages me to keep striving for that which is greater.
My message is simple. Life is but a whisper, and I refuse to get lost in the chaos and confusion. There is way too much for me to do, and if I never achieve all that I dream of, I will remain enthusiastic about what tomorrow promises. Tomorrow, if it comes, is provided by God. And when God blesses me with another day to live, He also blesses me with another day to dream and get to work.
Make you tomorrow happen today, but most importantly make it count. Life is but a whisper and we must put ourselves in a position to hear what it is telling us.
Terry L Watson Publisher
Terry L. Watson Writer
Monica Montgomery Writer
Dorjea’ McClammey Writer Joy Rogers Writer
Editor In Chief Terry L. Watson Alana Allen - Deputy Editor Writers Tonya Dixon Terry L. Watson Alana Allen Jeuron Dove
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Do we hear wedding bells? If so, there is no need to panic. Patrice J. Bridal has you covered. St. Louis, MO
He is doing his part to educate and prepare young men in his community for the future. Learn more about his journey. Charlotte, NC
The best way to describe Is’Londa Eman is someone full of love and compassion for others. She has always been active in her community. She has played basketball, she’s danced and even modeled.
The Huntsville, AL, resident was born in Mobile, AL, to Stephanie Rodgers and James Knighten. She is a honors midyear graduate of C.F.Vigor High School. Later, she enrolled in the Job Corps in Atlanta, GA, and TCU. There she took up health occupation and received both her CNA and Phlebotomy license and credentials in local transportation.
Today, she is the face and owner of Model Too Model modeling agency. Her company was launched in 2017 under the name Genisis. “It began by supporting local models with model bags that shadow different spectrums and paths of life. I relaunched my business in 2022 and named it Model Too Model,” she says.
Model Too Model is a very diverse business Is’Londa shares. Their goal is to provide each customer with a personalized designer product bag. “We call them “Model Bags”. They contain all the items our clients may need throughout the day based on their career, hobby, or event.”
Is’Londa’s journey of becoming a model began at an early age. One night, at the age of 17, she was scouted by a prestigious director after an annual ballet recital. She was cast to help promote and perform in one of the first tour shows in Mobile with Tan Stephens and Ncheechi Productions. She quickly grew a passion for the runway and for serving others.
As life continued, Is’Londa found her way to Huntsville, AL, and connected with KBoss Models. She was cast for a national pageant, Miss Fashion Global, the first for her.
“My height was a huge problem that affected me for many years, yet I found ways to pull out my torso for longer grace and length and learned how to walk in heels of every inch to increase my chances of being cast.”
Is’Londa enjoys volunteering all over the community of Huntsville, and helps out with Habitats for Humanity, and a summer lunch program with the public school system. She also has been a lead teacher of a local preschool and daycare for over four years.
Between serving and meeting new faces, Is’Londa became very observant of the lifestyles of everyone around her. One thing became obvious; she was depended upon to bring big bags of materials and supplies to share. This level of preparedness spilled over into her modeling career as Is’Londa found herself sharing supplies out of her model bag with other models for shows and shoots. These items included first aid supplies, a pair of heels, tape, and more. Those experiences sparked an idea in her mind. Is’Londa partnered with sponsors on very different career paths and other local and distant models with a similar passion. After only six months, Model Too Model was born.
While she has enjoyed a short professional modeling career, she has faced some challenges and hardships. The major disadvantages for Is’Londa have been her height, hair, and skin complexion. “I am dark skinned with full, thick hair, and I stand at about 5’5” tall, she says. She has witnessed discrimination from different agencies because of her skin tone. She was even told she wasn’t bright enough to sell a product and was denied casting opportunities. “Early in my career, a lot of hairdressers had no idea how to manage full-course hair,” she says. Her height was also a challenge as most runway models are of the average height of 5’7” tall. “My height was a huge problem that affected me for many years, yet I found ways to pull out my torso for longer grace and length and learned how to walk in heels of every inch to increase my chances of being cast. I’ve also taken many workshops to enhance poses, smiling, smizing, and elongated dressing.”
The year 2022 was a very progressive year for Is’Londa and her company. In November, she was cast once again to represent the city of Huntsville in the Miss Fashion Global Pageant. This time, it was for the new Petite category. The event was a huge success for her. Not only was she crowned, she was also honored with an Alumni award from CEO, Terrance Howard. She has also been nominated for the 2023 Miss Humanitarian Award. Moving forward, she plans to expand Model Too Model. She also plans to continue modeling, promoting and volunteering.
In closing, Is’Londa offers a few words to those whose journey may feel and look similar to the one she has traveled. “Always remain true to yourself and your craft, and always stay prepared and do your research. Also, keep an updated portfolio while maintaining the works of modeling and not just the photogenic side because being a model is more than the photos. It involves good character, preparation, and execution,” she says.
To learn more about IsLonda and Model Too Model, please contact her directly or visit her website.
Darrell Woodard of Huntsville, Alabama, is a gogetter. At just 33 years of age, he has accomplished a great deal. He is a father and an impressive businessman.
Darrell graduated from Alabama A&M University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. While in college, he was accepted into the Pathways Program at NASA. A semester before his graduation date, NASA had already offered Darrell an entry-level engineering position that he graciously accepted. He has worked as an electrical designer for NASA at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville for over ten years. He has been involved with various projects at the International Space Station.
Darrell’s two-year-old daughter Layla, he says, is the light of his life. “She melts my heart, and everything I do is to secure a better life for her.” He grew up in a stable home with both parents, Victoria and Darrell, two brothers, Darion and Charles, and one sister Beonka. “I watched my dad work his way up from being a janitor to becoming an operating room technician at Huntsville Hospital. My dad has always inspired me to understand and trust the process of anything in life. I believe I obtained my work ethic from my mom. She was self-employed and ran a home cleaning business while working as the store manager at Bruster’s Real Ice-cream. My parents have always stressed the importance of helping others, and I think that played a major role in helping shape the man I am today.”
In addition to his commitment to NASA, Darrell is also the owner of Woodard Decking & Fencing. Launched in 2018, his company specializes in building top-quality privacy fences at affordable prices. They also can construct decks of any style and recently started offering rod iron, aluminum, chain link, and vinyl fencing. Darrell’s services are offered at the commercial and residential levels.
Woodard Decking & Fencing’s motto is “WE TREAT YOUR YARD AS IF IT WERE OUR OWN”. Darrell says he had no real intentions of starting a business; it just happened. I bought my first home in August 2017 and became interested in adding a privacy fence allowing my dog to roam freely in the backyard. I called a few companies and obtained a few quotes
for comparison purposes. The quotes intrigued me, mainly because I saw the bulk of the cost was labor on most of the quotes. I started watching YouTube videos on how to build a fence and soon realized that this was something I could do. I built the fence with the assistance of my dad and brother, and it wasn’t perfect by a long shot, but I was satisfied. I learned some do’s and don’ts that I had missed in the videos. Occasionally, I do ride by my old home to see that fence, and it serves as a reminder where it all started. As of today, my company has built over 150 fences in the north Alabama area and as far as Nolensville, TX.”
The experience that Darrell’s company offers is a personable one, and he says it separates him from others in the industry. “As the owner, I prioritize communicating with every customer who decides to go with my company. I personally lay eyes on every project my staff builds, ensuring that it is built to my standards. I take much pride in doing great work consistently. It brings me joy to see the smiling faces of my customers as we are doing the final walk-through to verify they are pleased with the job completed, and that’s what I love most,” he says.
God placed some very impactful people in Darrell’s life, and he is appreciative of that. While growing up, he had two neighbors who were both engineers, Charles Gamble and Lawanna Harris, both of whom were well respected at Marshall Space Flight Center. Darrell credits them with guiding him on a career path early into his childhood. He also credits his uncle James White for introducing him to electronics. His uncle taught him how to install car audio systems at age 13. He also acknowledges several teachers and coaches he encountered while growing up for having a positive impact on his life and future.
Darrell says, “The future truly inspires me. Watching my beautiful daughter grow up daily, and watching my business grow, inspires me to keep going, keep pushing, and keep striving to defy the odds. Creating generational wealth is what inspires me.” If he could rewrite his business journey, Darrell says he would have started his business much sooner. Yet, he believes in God’s timing, and I understand that without purchasing his first home, the interest wouldn’t have ever occurred.
Darrell advises other aspiring entrepreneurs to be patient, study, and diligently work on their craft. He also advises surrounding yourself with good people and always treat others how you would like to be treated. “Surround yourself with people who see your vision, surround yourself with people who support your vision, and always remember the people who helped you along the way, and never stop believing in yourself.”
Looking towards the future, Darrell says his goal is to continue building his brand according to God’s plan. To learn more about Woodard Decking & Fencing, please contact him directly.
The saying goes that when a man looks good, he feels good. Budding entrepreneur Michael Arnett of Charleston, SC, has set his sights on ensuring it becomes a reality for all men who desire it.
The 59-year-old father, husband, caretaker, and retired Police Officer is a native of Harlem, NY, but was raised in the Bronx. Living in a melting pot, Michael saw different nationalities and cultures of people. That experience helped him grow as an individual. He says he was determined to escape his environment and see the world.
His story is that of someone who has persevered despite what his surroundings presented to him. He shares, “I lived in public housing (the PJ’s) for 25 years. I come from a two-parent household, along with two other siblings. We had great examples as parents; my father was a Police Officer, and my mom worked as a Secretary. My parents always told me to work hard, and that anything is possible. My dad told me I could be better than him and that nobody was going to give me anything.”
Michael always loved fashion. After graduating from vocational high school in 1981, he enrolled at a community college. He attended school full-time and worked full-time. His major was graphic arts and advertising. Michael successfully received his associate degree in 1985. “After college, I worked several jobs but wasn’t satisfied. In 1987, I joined the US Air Force, served for five years, and spent time in the Gulf during Desert Storm. After leaving the military, I worked until I became a police officer and was accepted into the academy in 1997. I later retired in 2018 and started on a mission of entrepreneurship, fueled by my love for fashion and to be different,” he says. In 2020, Michael relocated to his current home in Charleston to care for his mom.
Today, Michael is the owner of TheBeardedOne., a clothing apparel company that produces T-shirts, Hats (Bucket and Farmer), and Hoodies. Michael’s clothes are geared toward the Bearded community and cater to individuals with mustaches, goatees, etc.
Michael says TheBeardedOne. began after he grew a beard in late 2017. “I began to think about how to incorporate my beard into my business model. After going back and forth, I figured out how to make it happen in December 2020.”
While he has a genuine love for fashion, Michael says he also finds enjoyment in being different. “Fashion is what you make it! I have made a business out of fashion, and because I am the owner, I can do what I want and not answer to anyone,” he says.
Like most small business owners, TheBeardedOne. has faced its share of challenges. Michael says some have been finding a way to navigate through a saturated T-shirt market and rough economy. He has also had to deal with operating with limited resources. “I have overcome the saturation by offering different and unique clothes of good quality. I have found good quality clothing and still profit from my prices. With limited resources, I have attended more networking workshops and located events that allowed me to vend and showcase my apparel,” he says. Michael is also a member of the cigar club, Good Times Gang. That connection, he says, allows him to network with people from all over the country.
While his journey has been a little challenging, Michael says he wouldn’t change much about the way things have happened. “I would not change anything. The trials and tribulations are a part of life. You can grow from them or fall back and blame everyone else for your misfortunes. My advice to others who may follow in my footsteps is to keep God first in everything you do. You must have a plan, execute, network, and bring the love of what you do to your business. Stay focused and cut back folks that don’t have the same energy as you. And don’t be scared to let the world know you are here,” he says.
Living in New York prepared Michael for life at an early age. Moving forward, he plans to continue to grow his brand. He also hopes to purchase a van and convert it into a mobile store. He also hopes to have a storefront to display his apparel and help out other local fashion-based companies by displaying their apparel in his store.
When passion and purpose align with one another, great things are usually created.
Khadijah is best described as someone kind in nature. While she has faced several obstacles in life, Khadijah Butler of Philadelphia, PA, has persevered. She shares, “The parallels of my life are researching and giving back. I love providing aid to my community and helping others find ways to live fruitful and fulfilling lives.”
As a young adult, Khadijah endured the tragic loss of her father, Craig Butler. When she was only 19 years old, her father was murdered by a 14-year-old boy over a dispute. While the sudden loss of her father was tragic and left a huge void in her life, Khadijah repulped her tragedy into triumph. In memory of her father’s legacy, she formed the Craig D. Butler Scholarship Foundation. Its focus is to provide financial assistance to African-American citizens in Philadelphia. Khadijah stresses the importance of providing aid and resources for the black youth in Philadelphia and says that when children know they have options, it gives birth to hope within them.
The Craig D. Butler Scholarship Foundation also strives to redirect the youth’s focus off of gun violence and support education. “We want to address the educational gap and inequities that exist among black students compared to their white counterparts,” she says.
Another byproduct of The CBD Foundation is a book that Khadijah has written titled, Laying the Foundation Brick by Brick. She says the focus of her book is to essentially show others how to start a scholarship foundation or nonprofit organization. “My book was developed to assist with the healing of my father’s death and also to help promote the scholarship. When I began working on the CBD Scholarship Foundation, I could not find information on beginning a scholarship. I also did not realize the therapeutic benefits until I started writing. I didn’t have any prior aspirations to write a book, but I’m glad I did,” she says. “This book has bylaws in it, checklists, and website links. Any mistake I made along the way they are in there.”
Inspiration for Khadijah derives from her desire to be a business owner. “I always knew I wanted to start something I’m passionate about. Beginning this organization in my father’s honor was my pain point. Not just my pain point of healing from his death, but also with education and knowing that I am filling a void,” she says. “I was able to utilize my father’s love and address my concern of the education gap at the same time.”
Khadijah remains driven and sustains the vision and mission of her organization from the people she serves. “Feedback from the community and the parents does it for me. Understanding the need and finding ways to meet the need remains my most important objective,” she says.
Khadijah cites that her identity and utilizing social media as a connectivity tool to link students to her scholarship has been successful. “I have learned that when you have someone who looks like you and shares similar goals, it is easy to make a connection,” she says.
Khadijah says her future endeavors involve promoting her book throughout her community and working with public libraries within the city of Philadelphia. “There is no excuse for students not to get this valuable information. Every guidance counselor should have it. When I first began, If I had access to information to help get my foundation off the ground, there is no telling where I would be,” she says. Khadijah also plans to hold scholarship workshops for the community as well.
A second initiative that Khadijah has in the works is a project that would align the book and the scholarship in what would be called the Books and Bars Program. This new initiative is designed to help reform inmates as they prepare for reentry into society. “It may be difficult for inmates to find jobs. I want to help them navigate the world of entrepreneurship and provide other options upon release,” she shares.
It is apparent that Khadijah will continue to be a catalyst for change in Philadelphia. She plans to continue using her father’s legacy to evoke change, uplift the youth, and introduce them to positive trajectories. Please contact Khadijah directly or visit her website to learn more about the CBD Scholarship Foundation or to purchase a copy of her book.
There is no excuse for students not to get this valuable information. Every guidance counselor should have it. When I first began, If I had access to information to help get my foundation of the ground, there is no telling where I would be.”
If the bride isn’t happy, well, more than likely, the wedding may not go as planned. That is why it’s vitally important to utilize the services of skilled professionals for the big day. This is an area where Patrice J. Bridal excels and is always ready to serve.
Have a custom dress in mind? Patrice J. Bridal can custom-make your ideal gown or create a replica. Owned and operated by Patrice Johnson, Patrice J. Bridal based in St. Louis, MO, offers bridal gowns from top brands, in-house alterations, and custom dressmaking for brides, the bridal party, proms, and various special occasions. Patrice officially launched her company in January 2020 as the first black-owned bridal retailer in the midwestern metropolis, however, Patrice has been sewing for more than two decades.
Patrice is a native of New Orleans, LA, and has lived in St. Louis for a great portion of her life. She has been married for 22 years and is the mother of two boys, ages seven and eleven. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a Masters degree in Accounting, and one in Non-Profit Administration. Respectfully, she is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
When asked what she loves most about what she does, Patrice says it is the opportunity to work with people and dress them for some of the most significant moments of their lives. “I love celebrating and being with people in their happy moments,” she says. Patrice admits without hesitation that she wouldn’t be able to do what she does without the assistance and support of her husband, Ian, who she says has been her biggest supporter. “He has been one of the most prominent voices pushing me into my gifts when doubt crept in.”
While the Covid 19 pandemic was ravishing the world in 2020, Patrice J. Bridal was in its infancy stages. Patrice had just opened the doors of her company and was soon faced with the unknown. Covid eventually caused her to close her doors for three months, but fortunately, she was able to improvise. She provided facemasks and when the restrictions eased, she was one of the few bridal shops open as brides planned microweddings. Patrice J. Bridal would survive.
Now operating as a proven business that is capable of weathering the unknown, Patrice J. Bridal offers advice to others who may follow a similar journey such as the one she has. She says, “Be mindful of the entire journey and celebrate all the small wins as you work towards your big goal. Don’t be afraid of competition, realizing that no one can do you like you can. There is abundant room for you as long as you remain true to your gift and purpose.”
Patrice says there isn’t anything she would change about her journey in business. Everything hasn’t been perfect, but Patrice says she appreciates the things that have come, both good and bad. “I wouldn’t change anything. My experiences have been invaluable. There is no way I could produce the quality of work I do without such experiences as sewing pockets backward or making dresses that didn’t fit.”
Moving forward, you can expect Patrice J. Bridal to continue to offer its signature brand of customer service and quality products. Additionally, Patrice is working on her own collection of bridal and bridesmaid gowns that will be available in January 2024.
To learn more about Patrice J. Bridal, please visit their website.
Timothy Fowler of Charlotte, NC, is the founder of Boys To Men Foundation. His organization provides thousands of boys, ages (9-17) who are referred through partnerships with local school districts and juvenile court systems) with positive alternatives and a robust support network. The mentoring program presents opportunities for enrichment, exposure, support, and guidance through group mentoring sessions led by trained volunteers and mentors. They also connect young men with consistent, positive male role models who foster effective relationships, community involvement, interactive teaching, and open communication in a loving and nurturing environment.
Timothy was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in a household with seven kids and says his father took care of them and ensured they always had a roof over their heads. Today, Timothy is a father of a teenage son, and he has a daughter who attends Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. Timothy graduated from Medgar Evers College with a BA in Elementary Education in 1995. He has worked as a Pre-K teacher for nearly 30 years. His first teaching position happened at P.S.190 in Brooklyn, and upon moving to Charlotte in 2005, Timothy worked as a Pre-K teacher at Morehead Stem Academy. Currently, he works as a Pre-K teacher at Highland Renaissance Academy.
Upon graduating from Medgar Evers College, Timothy began a career in education and has served as a role model for young people ever since. In 2008, he founded the Boys to Men Foundation. BTM’s workforce development benefits two groups: It builds character for mentees as they acquire knowledge, skills, and aptitude for gainful employment. It also benefits employers who participate in the apprenticeship program by providing an effective means of communication with a familiar candidate pool, helping to meet their demand for stellar employees.
Timothy’s desire to serve started a long time ago. He shares, “Back in my hometown of Brooklyn, I first noticed the nonexistent presence of positive male role models in underprivileged communities. Out of this need, I started my quest to counsel young teens through programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. I was a Big Brother for over five years and worked at the YMCA, and I continue to be active today. As a young male, I would always strive to bring people of all walks of life together. While attending Medgar Evers, I started a program called the Black and Latino Male Initiative. The initiative’s goal was to bring males together to discuss common issues affecting society at that time. When I moved to Charlotte, I continued that initiative by starting the Boys to Men Foundation.”
Timothy understands that he must care about others who need help outside his immediate family. “It’s a selfless act to fight for someone who is virtually a stranger until that relationship unravels. Ninety percent of our boys come from single-parent households. For these young men to have someone they can trust enough and be vulnerable with to reach out when they need help is invaluable,” he says.
Timothy says his life was greatly impacted by his grandmother, who lived in Wilmington, NC. As a young boy, he would travel there every summer to visit her. He witnessed her give back to her community and how she poured into anyone, regardless if they were members of her family. This explains why he loves giving people new experiences and watching them grow. “Every day is different. I always tell my mentees they help me grow just as much as we help them,” he shares.
For BTM, Timothy says operational funding is always tough. “There are a lot of non-profits that all need funding, so it’s a competitive environment. Fortunately, we have cultivated some great relationships with local businesses. Finding good people to help me carry out this organization’s vision and mission has also been a challenge. Yet, we are moving ahead and always looking for good people to help us,” he says.
Timothy says BTM’s goal for the upcoming year is to form more partnerships with local businesses and corporations to aid in their effort to empower young men. h
William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” That statement is merely a short introduction to the theatrical world. In truth, some people can identify with this statement because they have family and friends who possess dramatic personalities. Actually, they are living their lives out loud as though they are on stage for the entire world to see. These dramatic family and friends would be prime characters to star in a theatre production. So, what exactly is theatre? I’m glad you asked. Professional theatre is a collaborative art form that combines words, voice, movement and visual elements to express meaning. The field of theatre not only encompasses live improvised and scripted work and has attributes in dramatic forms such as film, television, and other electronic media. Just like the dramatic people, you know theatre has two faces - - one that smiles and one that laughs. In the theatre world, these two faces are essentially a representation of drama. The laughing mask symbolizes comedy, while the crying mask represents tragedy. In essence, these two faces represent extreme human emotion. Often only our closest family and friends can tell the difference between the theatrical faces those creative personalities are wearing.
One person who could identify which face is being represented would be Mrs. Karla Shaw, Chief Executive Officer of The Dream Real Theatre Company of Chicago, Illinois. Better known as Karla Monay Shaw, her theatrical company is intentional with its unique blend of theatre and could assign these dramatic personalities roles in one of her plays. Karla’s productions cater to various interests, such as the youth, teens, young adults, and more seasoned adults. Her staged performances do more than just tell stories; her productions inspire change from within. Read on and see how Karla plans to continue to blow away the Windy City with her theatrical productions. Karla shares, “I was born and raised in Chicago. Ever since I was a young girl performing in school, I would pretend to be producing my own films and directing my own plays. Back then, I realized that theatre could help release stressors in teens’ lives, and that’s what The Dream Real Theatre Company of Chicago sets out to do. We intentionally provide a space where dreams become a reality, and our youth are engaged in positivity through theatrical productions. I want to introduce teens to classical works and teach them to take their own experiences and be creative through performance, writing, and producing plays. That’s how it all began for me, so I know other young people out there need healing, and theatre arts can be a vehicle for that. As adults, we understand that the pressures of life can alter our moral compasses. The battle is already won if we can make wise decisions and choices with a clear heart and healthy mind.”
The mission of The Dream Real Theatre Company of Chicago is to be a place where dreams can become a reality. This theatrical company inspires, engages, and entertains audiences with theatrical productions through creative processes that range from new plays to classic works. They train and support the next generation of theatre artists. Karla explains, “We have created a theatre community that brings shows to diverse communities by working with our teens and young adults through the arts by providing a place where they can be creative through stage and film. I’m an outof-the-box thinker, so when I create, I do it in ways that constantly add theatrical nuances to my plays. Because I cater to the masses, you may see a production where film is incorporated into a play, or you may see a play written for adults only. When I talk about nuances, I’m talking about creating a space for theatre arts, even when things look dim. For example, everything shut down when the world was on lockdown due to COVID-19. Nobody was producing, and Broadway was closed. That wasn’t the case for my company because I thought outside of the box. On May 16, 2022, I put on the first Zoom theatrical show called Quarantine Court. I was the first one to do it. I soon learned that Zoom Quarantine Courts were being held from the United States to London, England, but I was the first,” she says.
“Ever since I was a young girl performing in school, I would pretend to be producing my own films and directing my own plays. Back then, I realized that theatre could help release stressors in teens’ lives, and that’s what The Dream Real Theatre Company of Chicago sets out to do. We intentionally provide a space where dreams become a reality....”
Since receiving nonprofit status, Karla would like to begin fundraising to establish the Burch Shaw Williamson Media and Performing Arts Center. The center will be dedicated to her parents, husband’s father, and grandparents. The center’s mission is to offer theatre classes that will teach teens all aspects of theatre. The actors and actresses would come from the community and travel with these shows. This venture is vitally important to her because she understands the stressors associated with growing up in Chicago’s black and brown communities. Karla says, “Our senior citizens have so much wisdom to offer our youth and our youth have technology skills to offer our seniors so they can help one another. The seniors can mentor the youth with decision-making and life skills, and the youth can teach the seniors how to operate technology and navigate social media platforms. I also want to feed the homeless and help them get back on their feet. I know it sounds like a lot, and I can’t do it all, but I can do my part. I just want to bring the vision to pass that God has laid on my heart through this center.”
Another goal Karla has is establishing Saving Our Communities Through The Arts Foundation, a mentoring program. Her mission with this foundation is to go into the communities and schools and mentor teens through theatre. She shares, “We have teens and young adults who experience stressors but don’t know what to do with that energy. In 2015 I collaborated with the Department of Children and Family Services here in Chicago. I used some of the teenagers from one of the group homes to produce a play I wrote called, The Tale of Sister and Brother Scrooge. The teenagers participating in this play realized they were working on themselves. The play became a healing mechanism for them. For instance, there was a young girl who could share how she ended up in the group home. It was because she lost both of her parents in a car accident and didn’t have anyone to take her in their home. Of course, everyone didn’t open up, some thought it was a joke, and some actually dropped out of the play but what was phenomenal to me was that after the first play, those same kids who thought it was a joke or who dropped out wished they had taken it more seriously. I want this foundation to go into these communities and schools and invite teenagers in so they can have the stage to “act” out their feelings and learn how to make better choices despite their situations. I want this foundation to be an educational resource for saving lives.”
Patrons of The Dream Real Theatre Company of Chicago can look forward to their next musical production, which was written to honor the memory of her mother, Carolyn “Pretty Pat” Burch-Dandridge, who passed away in May 2022. The stage production is entitled “My Momma’s ERA”. The theme behind this musical production is to share the history of Chicago’s 39th Street Oakwood Blvd in Chicago, also known as Bronzeville and Blackville, through her mother’s lens. Karla hopes this historic play will enhance the cultural knowledge and behaviors of African American teens.
She shares, “Growing up I enjoyed hearing my mother talk about her parents moving from the South to the North and how they made it through adversity. I want to share her story because she advocated for family and community. You know, I lost my eldest sister, who had a son, Pharez. Well, I took my nephew and raised him as my own; he’s my son, and now I’m overjoyed at being a grandmother. I thank God for the privilege of being able to raise him. Pharez has been such an inspiration
to me. I knew he needed to see me trust God and make solid choices for my life, so I went back to school. I received my first degree when he graduated from the eighth grade. It was only God who allowed me to receive my degree from Chicago State University with a BA in Communications Media Arts and Theatre with honors. I also have a BS in Business Administration with honors from Colorado Technical University. I achieved both those degrees within the same year. I worked myself to the bone for those degrees and again, it was all God. I went on to earn my MBA from Grand Canyon University and I also have an associate degree in Theatre from Kennedy-King College here in Chicago. I was going to earn my doctorate degree, but life started happening, so I decided to put that on hold until I could really focus on that educational aspiration. So, education is very important to me. I want our youth to recognize how important having both God and an education is too.”
Throughout her life, Karla has met many people who have poured into her life but none as impactful as her husband, Clarence B. Williamson, III. Karla said, “My husband has been my backbone in all of this. He inspires me towards fulfilling my goals. He wants to build with me, and he constantly encourages me to keep things going. He often tells me that “God has a plan”. He constantly speaks to my spirit and reminds me to trust God’s process. I am so thankful that he’s a supporting husband. I think it’s important to recognize the people that God places in our lives. Not only has God given me a supporting husband and son, but He’s also given me family in my sisters LaDrena Stewart and Monica Shaw, and my mother-in-law, Belinda Proctor. They are there at every turn, and I’m grateful to have them in my corner. It’s not just family who support me but women like Ericka Porter, Prophet June Hollingsworth, and Prophet Latisha Thomas. When I tell you that these women inspire me daily they do just that. They are advocates and supporters of the vision that God has placed in my heart. They inspire and motivate me constantly.”
Karla says it’s her goal to inspire youth. “I want our youth to be creative in their choices and let them know that they do have positive options. This theatre company, the center and the foundation speaks to educating, healing, and ministry. It also inspires our youth through theatre and performing arts. I don’t see many resources in Chicago offering what we do for our children.”
Viola Davis once stated, “And that’s what people want to see when they go to the theatre. I believe at the end of the day they want to see themselves - - parts of their lives that they can recognize and I feel if I can achieve that, it’s pretty spectacular”. I believe Karla Monay Shaw is doing just that with her plays - - connecting and inspiring lives in real time.
Being on the pulse of her community, Karla’s peers recognize her passion for serving, so they thought well enough of her to place her on the ballot for Lt. Governor in Chicago. Though she didn’t win, she was honored that her community of peers was confidant in her integrity and heart to nominate her for the position. The future looks bright for Karla Monay Shaw, and with God’s blessing, she will continue to touch and inspire her community through theatre.
To learn more about The Dream Real Theatre Company, please visit their website.