My Dreams Are Windows To My Freedom
A Letter From The Editor
I am a self-proclaimed dreamer. Many of the things I possess or may be involved with, at some point, I probably dreamed about it. Being physically fit, I dreamed about losing all the weight I was carrying around while stuffing my face with food. Singing in the church choir, I dreamed about it, while practicing in my car over one of WOW Greatest Gospel productions.
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.
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.
Terry L. Watson Publisher
Dorjae’ McClammey Writer
Monica Montgomery Writer
Terry L. Watson Writer
Joy Rogers Writer
Katrena Wize Photographer
Howard Gaither Photographer Katherine Costello Photographer
Howard Gaither Photography
Email or Telephone firstname.lastname@example.org 336-340-7844
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Her program is designed to help single moms and teens with their parenting needs. Greensboro, NC
St. Louis, MO
Level Up Parenting Part One
An Eight Week Course of Education
Week 1 - Introduction of all material over eight weeks. They are adapting with family and friends with a newborn. What are the challenges faced, and how can I overcome them? Healthy Parenting and Relationships (Partnership with Family and Consumer Sciences Professionals). Members will use the whole session to share their experiences and struggles associated with adjusting with pregnancy.
Goal: Members will gain an understanding of their peers and the struggles they each face. Members will begin to assess the challenges associated with parenting with family and friends.
Outcome: Members will begin to develop a relationship with their peers, thus establishing a bond and connecting with one another. Understanding healthy relationships (Family, Partners, and Friendships).
Week 2 - Staying Positive Coping Skills (Mom and Baby)
This session will include role-play, video clips, and class activities to complete about parenting.
Goal: Members will develop coping skills to assist with managing emotions and challenges faced.
Outcome: Members will be more equipped to manage their behavior positively and change their mindset to positive thinking and speaking.
Week 3 - Money Matters (Budgeting, Savings, Credit)
This class will build on the “Budgeting Skills” class. It will also include worksheets and important literature on budgeting and saving money.
Goal: Members will obtain skills to manage money and food stamps.
Outcome: Members will develop budgeting skills, thus reducing the amount of dependence on others. Members will become aware of shopping tips, utilizations of coupons, and resources to help save and budget funds.
Week 4 - Computer Literacy/Interview Prep
Members will participate in role-play and hands-on learning. Staff will cover interview skills and resources related to interview clothing. Staff will require all members to practice skills learned and discussed on the computer.
Goal: Members will become knowledgeable of soft computer skills and learn essential interviewing tips.
Outcome: Members will develop or refresh their computer skills, which are needed to navigate computers and the web. Members will gain the necessary skills as it relates to interviewing preparation.
Week 5 - Parenting and Breastfeeding Speaker
A WIC speaker will cover the entire class.
Goal: Members will learn the benefits of breastfeeding and healthy eating.
Objective: Members will take advantage of the learned material and start the process of familiarizing themselves with breastfeeding and other options.
Week 6 - Career and College Readiness (Partnership with Community College and Trade Schools). The speaker for this class will be from a Professional Job/School.
Goal: Educate single moms eligible to work on how to apply for jobs and submit school applications. Teach singles how to write a resume. Somebody will also give College Prep information.
Outcome: Members will be ready for job training interviews.
Week 7 - ADL’s (Activity of Daily Living)
This class will cover Basic ADL’s of caring for self and infant. Self Care and Postpartum Depression.
Goal: Members will learn the importance of personal self-care needs associated with parenting.
Outcome: Members will implement newly learned skills and establish improved self-care to assist with parenting needs. They will also learn about the effectiveness of reducing stress levels during mommy time.
Week 8 - Safe Sex/Pregnancy Prevention
A Health Provider will come in and speak on: Prevention of Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Birth Control methods and safe sex options.
Goal: Members will learn about the statistics of teen moms. Members will learn about STD’s and the risk of unprotected sex.
Outcome: Members will become more familiar with and aware of risks associated with unprotected sex and pregnancy prevention.
Review/Survey / Where am I now? / Graduation
The first thirty minutes of class will consist of completing a survey of learned material and the usefulness of the course. Staff will use this time to review any material or resources needed. The remaining hour and a half of class will be used for Graduation and to celebrate the completion of the course.
Goal: Members will gain a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Outcome: Members recognize the importance of parenting. They will have a different outlook on life as a single parent with the information they learned over the eight weeks. They will learn how to be better parents to their children.
Helping Communities Thrive Through Mental Health EducationBy Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Katrena Wize Artography
Before the 2020-21 pandemic, the stigmas around mental health were alive and well. As the world was becoming increasingly aware of the realities of mental health, it was still easier to put those who suffered into neat categories that could be explained away. As the global community adjusts to life post-pandemic, we find that the truth about mental health issues is that anyone can suffer from them. Add to it the stress and anxiety brought on when the world was paused for a year, and we see a new level of “woke.” But now that our eyes are open, what do we do? Reketta Brown, a North Carolina Licensed Professional Counselor with over twenty years of experience and her new initiative, is here to help answer that question.
Thrive Foundation is a Guilford County-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that educates children, families, and the community on the importance of mental health awareness. This next level in servicing our communities wasn’t something that just happened. “I’ve been sitting on this nonprofit for about three years,” Reketta explained. “Where Wrights Care Services focuses on treatment and care for individual clients and their families, the Thrive Foundation focuses on training professionals in the community, the schools, and different organizations on the importance of mental health awareness.”
Reketta is the founding director of Wrights Care Services. “Wrights Care Services is a privately-owned, full-service behavioral healthcare agency. We are committed to providing clients with a personalized approach to behavioral health and substance abuse services.” As a mental health care provider, Reketta says that she always knew that she would be in the service of helping others.
“I grew up in the church as a PK (pastor’s kid),” Reketta explains. “Watching my parents serve in the church and the community inspired me. I knew that when I grew up, I would be in a profession that focused on helping others.”
Reketta’s love for people shined long before she understood the qualities she possessed that would make her a success as a counselor. “Even as a kid, I had a heart for people. I was that “listening ear” for my friends. I was the one in the group that everyone knew they could lean on.”
A compassionate heart and empathetic spirit are essential when helping people with mental health issues. Ignited with the understanding that serving others was her destiny, Reketta set her sights on nursing. After testing the waters as a C.N.A., she felt like her calling was taking her in a different direction. Reketta attended Winston-Salem State University. “I majored in Occupational Therapy at Winston-Salem State, but oddly enough, when I took the comprehensive exam, I didn’t pass the mental health portion. Go figure!” Reketta said with a laugh.
Although having to choose another field of study was a slight setback, it didn’t stop Reketta. It positioned her to find the program meant for her. “I transferred to the Rehabilitations Studies program and flourished. From that point on, I never looked back. I knew I was where I needed to be.” After earning a Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Studies from Winston Salem State in 2005, Reketta let her passion guide her.
Finding her niche, Reketta continued to push forward by attending North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and receiving her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. Her first business was a joint venture between her and two friends she met while earning her master’s degree.
Behavioral Health & Wellness Care Services was launched in 2006. Then in 2009, Reketta and a partner started Wright’s Care Services. “As a licensed clinical mental health counselor, I’ve been able to help and support so many families and individuals, specifically Black women,” Reketta shared. “I’m drawn to women and the issues we face. I work to support women who are going through traumatic changes and transitions. Helping these women is fulfilling and as a woman who has experienced divorce and is now raising a son as a single parent, I can identify with women trying to find balance in a completely off-balance world. It’s hard.”
People talk about passion and what drives them, but when you can explain your why it helps keep you grounded. “As I explained, I’ve always wanted to help people. I tried a few avenues before I focused on counseling. What convinced me… my why is that mental health doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or how much money you make. All people experience different issues in life. That was my sweet spot when I could go into unfamiliar places, see the individual, and feel compelled to help them. I knew beyond a doubt that helping people with mental health issues was what I was born to do.”
For the last thirteen years, Wright’s Care Services clinicians have been servicing the North Carolina, Triad, and surrounding areas in emotional restoration and recovery. But Reketta saw that there was more to be done. “In this post-pandemic climate, we see more and more people experiencing mental health issues or symptoms exacerbated by the stresses of pandemic life. This exposed gaps in care and the availability of information,” Reketta explained. “As we worked with our clients, we received questions from healthcare providers, parents of students, and leaders of professional and religious organizations. A lot of these questions can’t be answered in counseling. This was an opportunity for education and awareness.” From this understanding, the Thrive Foundation was born.
“I’m drawn to women and the issues we face. I work to support women who are going through traumatic changes and transitions. Helping these women is fulfilling and as a woman who has experienced divorce and is now raising a son as a single parent, I can identify with women trying to find balance in a completely offbalance world. It’s hard.”
The Thrive Foundation focuses on training and empowering patients and their families. “By filling the gaps in information and education surrounding mental health, we are giving individuals and communities the ability to thrive,” Reketta says with excitement.
Because Wright’s Care Services has an established reputation in the community, Reketta was approached by school administrators, parents, and religious organizations. “This confirmed the need for a centralized location for vital mental health information,” Reketta explained. “At the Thrive Foundation, we foster hope and resiliency in the communities we serve. This is done by providing programs and resources that help empower, educate, and evolving communities. Our trained team of mental health advocates is committed to building emotionally healthy communities.”
The educational gap that Thrive is helping to fill is between the people dealing with mental health issues and those who live, work and support them. “There are so many different layers and issues that people experience. Being able to identify the signs and symptoms, as well as how to provide support for those individuals, is crucial.” Reketta shared. Wright’s Care Services provides counseling services to two school districts, so it was a natural progression for the foundation to provide educational support for those teachers and parents. “We have become a leader in mental health support in those areas because we have the privilege to service fifteen schools within two districts.”
As Reketta’s vision continues to expand, she is continuously developing tools to help and support families. “Because of our work with children and their families, we have been able to identify specific needs and develop tools that can be used in the home. For example, I have recently launched a product called Affirm. Affirm is a collection of thirty affirmation cards for children ages five to ten. The goal is to help foster confidence early in life, helping combat adolescent insecurities.”
One of the driving forces behind the Thrive Foundation is Reketta wants to make sure there is no room for misinformation. It’s not uncommon for people in the African American community to avoid professional help because of the stigma attached to it by their community. Thrive can get the information to the people who need it most by going to the heart of these communities.
“The church and other religious entities are an intricate part of community life in the African American community. By providing sound mental health education to these organizations, we have a better chance of helping more people,” Reketta insists. “It’s one thing for a friend to suggest counseling, but if a pastor or religious leader encourages parishioners to seek out information or professional mental health support if needed. Those people are more likely to be open to it.” This openness to mental health education is key to helping strengthen individuals, families, and communities.
Moving forward, Reketta’s goal for Thrive Foundation is to continue laying the groundwork and building relationships between the public and mental health professionals. “The relationship between mental health professionals and their clients isn’t always easily won. It takes time and trust. I hope that as Wright’s Care Services works in concert with the Thrive Foundation, we can build happier and healthier communities one by one.”
For organizations and individuals who are interested in acquiring training on mental health awareness and education, please reachout to Thrive Foundation.
Reketta Brown Thrive Foundation
523 Simpson Street - Greensboro, NC 2740 www.thrive-wellness.org email@example.com 336-816-2389
Patrice J. BridalBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Patrice J. Bridal
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. www.patricejbridal.com h
It’s All About Her Love For KidsBy Dorjae’ McClammey Photos Provided by Shaunielle Foster
Who has a bigger heart than Shaunielle Foster? She is the founder and CEO of Footsteps to Follow, a non-profit organization based in Guilford County, NC, that focuses on special needs children and the inclusion of the buddy system for standard children.
A native of New York, Shaun, as she prefers to be acknowledged, has cemented her “footstep” in the modeling industry and is highly sought after for her creative expertise and fashion savvy.
Modeling is something that Shaun grasped at the young age of three. Soon she was appearing in commercials and print ads. Living in a city that never sleeps offered her opportunities at every corner. However, these opportunities did not focus on just modeling but allowed her to branch out and explore different arts, such as dancing and performing arts. Growing up in multiple industries, she felt the need for modeling would let you express who you are regardless of what the person is wearing. And the rest is history.
“It all began in 2009 with a simple conversation. My friend and I were discussing their child who had special needs. While talking, they realized there were no opportunities available for the young person to participate in the fashion and model world without being stigmatized. At that moment, the idea for Footsteps to Follow came to life,” Shaun says.
For Shaun, it is all about loving her kids. The open platform that Footsteps To Follow have gives children ages with special needs between the ages of two to 18, a sense of inclusiveness in the fashion world. With bi-annual fashion shows during April and October, they can forget their disabilities and enjoy themselves. Shaun’s mentoring program, “The Buddy System,” allows them to be matched and create life-long friendships with other children who don’t have the same setbacks or illnesses.
Another project Shaun has her hands in is a workshop called ‘Stytches.’ It allows the kids to create their own garments and showcase them during the fashion show that Footsteps To Follow produces. She has also created various partnerships with her community members to ensure the kids in her program and her community are receiving everything they need. One partnership is with the local HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University. Together, they pair each of her kids with a mentor from other local non-profits. Another program called ‘Wrapped Up In Music’ serves kids who are patients in local hospitals.
Shaun’s love doesn’t end there. She has been a foster parent for seven and a half years and has fostered over 290 children. “I felt like it was necessary to be able to be more than just a bridge gap for so many children,” she says. She has also found a way to get her family involved with her programs. Her son Kingzton, a young KidPreneur and model, has created an all-natural self-care line called “Kingz Korner.” He has all-natural lip therapy, bath bombs, awareness suds, and more. The colors of his logo are dedicated to his mother and represent all she has done for kids in the foster system. “Green is for missing children, blue is for adoption, and yellow is for unconditional love.” Shaun also has launched ‘Fatz15’, a clothing line dedicated to her daughter Daisha who she calls Fatz because she barely weighed five pounds at birth.
Although there have been challenges along the way, Shaun says she is unphased about them. “I always find the silver lining. It’s not about the challenge; it’s about finding the solution,” she says. As for the future, she is working on acquiring a brick-and-mortar location for her programs.
For anyone looking to follow in Shaun’s remarkable footsteps, her advice is to be authentically you; there is only one. “Follow your hopes, dreams, and heart, and be passionate about what you do. Doing so will not feel like work.”
To learn more about Shaunielle Foster and Footsteps to Follow, please contact them directly. h
Brownlee A Hero In His CommunityBy DorJae’ McClammey Photos Provided by Geno Brownlee
Community Activist, Geno Brownlee is committed to doing his part to change the narrative for the youth in Memphis, TN. A South Memphis native, Geno has a ground-level perspective of the inner workings of Tennessee’s second-largest city. Most importantly, he understands the challenges that young citizens in his community face and refuses to sit on the sidelines. Geno has jumped into the heart of the matter, with hope and purpose as his sidekick.
Geno is a father, independent artist, children’s book author, motivational speaker, and visionary of Changing Lives Global Foundation. Through his foundation, Geno focuses on changing the lives of kids and young adults across the mid-south.
Growing up in a tough city like Memphis made Geno want to bring light to his community. He admits that he never imagined being a children’s book author. “It all started when I went viral on the social media platform TikTok for creating a new dance. In no time, the video gained over four million views. I eventually used this engagement to promote my song,” he says. The name of his song is called, “Saucy”, and its focus is to encourage young kids to dress for success, and to stay in school, and achieve good grades. It is also a tool used to prevent bullying.
Geno made his first official school visit at Levi Elementary in Memphis on September 21, 2021. To date, he has performed for and hosted motivational seminars at over 132 schools and has been featured on local news stations countless times. He has written five children’s books, including “One Day the Sun Will Shine” and “A Superior Christmas with 901 Nazcar and Friends”.
Through Changing Lives Global Foundation, Geno has developed the Stop the Bullying Workshops, which are 15 to 20-minute sessions designed to teach kids and young adults about the different types of bullies. He’s spoken to kids from the daycare level up to the college level. What’s more impressive is that Geno’s words have spread across the country, from the mid-south to Atlanta, GA, and Cleveland, OH.
He is unequivocal and purposeful about helping youth and his work has given him a chance to connect with some big names in the entertainment industry, including T from Superior, Hadrat Faatimah, MoneyBagg Yo, Glorilla, Bankroll Freddie, Dee Mula, Marcus Ward Sr., Penny Hardway, Zach Randolph, Reagan Garland, and more.
The journey for Geno hasn’t always been easy. It has come with a few challenges here and there. Growing up, neither of his parents was in his life, and while building his foundation, many people continued to leave. He shares, “I faced a lot of people quitting on me, giving up on me, and telling me no. But when adversity sets in, that’s when I’m at my best. When things get hard for me, I go harder.”
Geno finds inspiration in serving his community and by improving child literacy one day at a time. “I sometimes believe the youth in my community are being steered in the wrong direction. By being a positive role model for them and leading by example, I want to show them what can be possible if they strive for more,” he says. “I also want to show my own kids how to succeed.” How is he doing that? One way is by developing the Changing Lives Global Foundation into a family business and enlisting his seven-yearold daughter, Brooklyn, as his manager.
In the future, Geno plans to do more for the youth in Memphis and the United States. He is currently working on four new books and taking the Changing Lives Global Foundation on tour. He will also take his Stop The Bullying Workshops to 32 more states nationwide.
Geno’s advice for others who may follow a path similar to the one he has is clear. “You’re going to go through some pain, but I promise God will use it to make you stronger. He has a purpose for you, so don’t give up. It will be a rocky road to success, but you must keep going when things get hard. Success will not come easy.”
To learn more about Geno Brownlee and all his excellent work, please follow him on Instagram and TikTok. You may also contact him directly via email.
“I sometimes believe the youth in my community are being steered in the wrong direction. By being a positive role model for them and leading by example, I want to show them what can be possible if they strive for more.”
TheBeardedOne.By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Michael Arnett
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. h
Dream Real Theatre CompanyBy Dr. Marrissa Dick - Photos Provided by Karla Shaw
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 out-of-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
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.
KidPreneur Business Expo & Talent Showcase 2022
We Had Fun!
Speaking Life through Spoken WordBy Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Katherine Costello Photography
As children, we have all been asked that daunting question… “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you had asked Kim, she might have said many things, but a Spoken Word Poet wasn’t it. Today she’s a published author, teacher, and mentor of poets young and not so young. Kim B. Miller is an award-winning spoken word poet and Prince Williams County’s first black poet laureate for 2020-2022. Kim B. Miller is a wife and mother of four who found her voice in poetry. Now, she’s inspiring others to do the same.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Roosevelt, New York, Kim’s childhood did not indicate who she would become.
“We lived in the projects of Bed-Sty, Brooklyn, New York. I was so young at the time that I don’t have many memories from then,” Kim shares. “I do remember that there was a chain-link fence in front of our building, and my parents constantly warned my sister, brother, and me not to jump over the fence. I was usually the hard-headed one, but my sister jumped the fence. She landed on her face, busted her mouth open, and knocked some teeth out. I remember having to run upstairs to get my mother. There was so much blood,” Kim recalls.
It’s usually rare and exciting or traumatic events that small children remember. In Kim’s case, it was the sight of her sister sprawled, bleeding and missing teeth, and the loss of her brother. “The other memory I have of that time was when my brother died,” Kim explains. “I was five years old, and I remember the long walk down the hallway towards the door where my mother stood screaming. I had never heard her scream like that before,” Kim shared. “I kept saying it’s okay, mommy. I didn’t know what she was screaming about, but I wanted her to feel better. Soon after that, we moved to Long Island.”
With Kim’s artistic prowess, you would assume that her gift and love for poetry were cultivated at a young age. That couldn’t be further from the truth. “My parents were amazing people, but they weren’t artists. My father was a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Airforce, and my mother is a retired LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse),” Kim explained. “They were supportive, but I was never interested in being a poet. In fact, I didn’t read poetry before starting to write it.”
Growing up, Kim loved math, but not English. Spelling was her Achilles heel. “I was a wiz with math, but I was horrible at spelling as a kid. So, making a career as a poet, achieving Poet Laureate? No, not possible. It was the furthest thing from my mind,” Kim laughed.
After high school, Kim received a B.S. from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She majored in business and minored in retail management. Again, writing poetry was nowhere on her radar. Then divine inspiration hit. “I believe my gift and its timing came from Jesus, but I didn’t understand it then. I am a Christian, and I believe God is a poet,” Kim confesses. So, after hearing from God, she started writing. “I didn’t go to school for it. I didn’t research poetry or listen to poets like Nikki Giovanni or Maya Angelou. The only thing I recognized and appreciated as poetry were bible verses. So when God spoke, I started writing.”
The first time Kim shared her poetry, she decided to go big or go home. Kim took her faith in her new God-given talent to Harlem. “I went to a bookstore called Hueman Bookstore in Harlem. II felt like it was going to the Apollo for poetry at the time. Lots of people would have said, don’t do this! But this popped into my head, so I went for it,” Kim explained. “This wasn’t where you go up and read your poem and sit down. No, you received constructive feedback from the host. This isn’t the norm, but I thought it would be interesting.”
Having never experienced this kind of performance art, Kim was intrigued with the intimacy, and the connection the artist had with their audience. “Because it was a bookstore, and other things were going on, there was a lady behind me, and she talked to me the entire time I was up there,” she explained with a laugh. “She kept saying things like, ‘You betta tell ‘em, sis. You betta break that down.’ She actually made me laugh while at the same time helping me see that the things I was saying affected her. I connected with my audience, or at least that one person. That was encouraging to me.”
Fueled by the positive critiques she received from the host and the prodding of the audience, Kim fell in love with the Spoken Word artform.
A New Yorker at heart, Kim moved to Virginia in 1997 to give her family a fresh start. “My best friend moved down here first. She and I are virtually inseparable, so she started trying to convince me to move. At first, it was a hard no. She tried to entice me with the cost of living being so much lower here, but it could have been free at the time. I wasn’t moving!” Kim laughs, remembering how emphatic she was about not moving. After one visit, Kim was sold.
Continuing to explore the world of poetry as a spoken word artist, Kim did something else she thought she never would. She authored her first book. “In 2007, I wrote my first book called, ‘How to Love Your Kids, More Than You Hate That Man.’” As a divorcee with children, Kim encountered a lot of hurt and bitter women who were allowing their anger toward their ex’s to keep the fathers from their children.
“I would hear, he’s never gonna see these kids again, and bump him; they don’t need him anyway. I was like, hey, I get it. I didn’t want to see my exhusband at the time, but he still had kids, and they loved and had a relationship with their father. I wanted to let them know that their children aren’t pawns in their game of punishment,” she says.
As an outspoken advocate for parental rights, Kim works to help families understand their new normal. “I tell people, it’s not just about you. It feels that way because you are the one that was hurt, cheated on, or whatever the case may be. But when it’s all said and done, you must put the children first,” Kim shared. Including ‘How to Love Your Kids, More Than You Hate That Man,’ Kim has written five books. Three are poetry and one limited edition journal. All of which can be found on her website.
After moving to Virginia, Kim pursued her renewed passion for poetry. She started to study poetry in different genres. Spoken word poetry was a natural fit. “I enjoy the engagement and authenticity of spoken word poetry,” Kim explains. As a spoken word artist, Kim always sought opportunities to practice and hone her craft. She started studying poetry and its different genres when she found the Spirits & Lyric Poetry Slam.
“I’d never done a poetry slam before, but I saw it, and I was like, okay, let me try that. What can I say? I had this feeling I should go for it. To my surprise, I hit the trifecta. They listened, they got it, they liked it,” Kim explained. There were preliminary levels Kim had to win to earn a place in the poetry slam. As she progressed through each level, she had to pinch herself.
“It finally came down to just one other woman and me, and I didn’t expect them to call my name. So, when they did, I didn’t react. It took a minute for it to sink in. I didn’t win the actual slam because the poets I was up against were serious and seasoned, but sharing the stage with those amazing artists was worth every moment.”
Kim has won several awards and garnered accolades and recognition. She is a speaker and facilitator and is well known for her haiku. She is often called on to mentor young students in the local school system. But the accomplishment she cherishes most is becoming Prince Williams County’s first Black Poet Laureate.
“When I joined the Prince William County’s Arts Council, I learned the county had a poet laureate. I later decided to submit my work in 2018, but I was not selected,” Kim sighs. “I will be honest and say I was beyond disappointed. I was plain salty. I decided I wouldn’t try it again.” Looking at the previous winners, Kim learned there hadn’t been a black winner. “I concluded that maybe they weren’t ready for a poet laureate who looked like me. Although the submission was blind, and the judges are not given any information about the poet because I write from my perspective as a black female, I wonder if my perspective was evident,” Kim explains.
For the first time, Kim decided she wouldn’t pursue the challenge. Then she heard that still, small voice that started her on this journey. The voice led her to the bookstore in Harlem and the poetry slam stage in Virginia. “With a made-up mind, I almost didn’t enter in 2020. I figured obedience had gotten me this far, so I wasn’t going to stop following God now. But at the last minute, I heard Jesus says, ‘Go ahead and do it.’ I entered and won,” she said.
Kim never believed this path was possible because she struggled with English and writing as a kid. She says to students, “Don’t let your current situation determine your future. I was a kid who couldn’t spell, and now I perform in front of schools and colleges. If I had allowed my limitations to stop me from becoming who I am today, I would be lost. Don’t let what you see now stop you from dreaming and pushing to make those dreams a reality.”
The Dixon GroupBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Ryan Dixon
It’s been said that it takes two to make a thing go right. In the case of Ryan and Cherri Dixon, that assertion couldn’t be more accurate. Together, they make up the Dixon Group, which operates under the RE/MAX Champions Realty The Dixon Group Greensboro, NC. This full-service realty brand provides professional real estate services for purchasing or selling Commercial, Residential, and Investment Properties throughout North Carolina.
Ryan is a father, grandfather, and husband to Cherri. He is also a Greensboro native and James B. Dudley High School graduate. He is a proud U.S. Air Force veteran who served for 20 years. Some of his deployed locations were Iraq, Kuwait, Cuba, and Australia. He shares he met Cherri at his first military duty assignment at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina.
Cherri is a native of the Bronx, NY, and moved to Charleston, SC, during her grade school years. She is a devoted mother, grandmother, and wife to Ryan and says she loves traveling with Ryan, meeting new people, and giving back to the communities they are a part of. In addition to the brand she is building with Ryan, she works as a Human Resources Specialist for the United Postal Service. She pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Workforce Education Development and one in Human Resource Management from Southern Illinois University. Together, Cherri and Ryan have six children, and two grandchildren.
Ryan and Cherri say they love witnessing a family’s happiness when buying their firsttime home or a forever home. “We both were inspired to pursue Real Estate mainly because many of our close family and friends have succeeded in this field. We also love being business owners and helping people achieve their dream of home ownership. We love seeing entrepreneurs’ dreams come when they purchase an investment or commercial property. Most of all, we love working as a husband-and-wife team and building a foundation for our family and a business for future generations.”
Looking forward, Ryan and Cherri plan to expand. They hope to accomplish this with their children joining their business and also venturing out to other states. “Our goals for 2023 is to get more face-to-face contact with potential clients, network, and promote our business. We also want to increase our sales and see more smiling faces, knowing that we helped someone buy or sell a home,” they said. To learn more about The Dixon Group, please contact them directly.