What Else Could I Say?
A Letter From The Editor
What Else Could I Say?
A Letter From The Editor
On a recent evening, I was invited to sit on a panel alongside a couple of other gentlemen. Our mission was to share our experiences and answer a few questions on the challenges and joys of being a black man and father. Though some of the questions were shared with us beforehand, I hadn’t prepared much for the event. Little did I know, the night would be full of surprises and lessons learned.
A Letter from the Editor
What if tomorrow didn’t arrive? All of your plans, hopes and dreams wouldn’t have a street to park on. What if everything that you decided to put off until tomorrow never happened? There would be no reason to save for a rainy day, and you could spare someone the trouble of making promises. What if your last opportunity seemingly expired today? What would you do?One panelist sitting beside me appeared to be great at public speaking. I determined this by the way he held the microphone close to his face so that his voice would be projected throughout the room of people with clarity and precision. He was good. For me, I consider myself to be an average speaker, and I am not often intimidated when faced with the challenge of speaking publicly. Well, all of that was off the table that evening. While I knew what I wanted to share, when it was my turn to speak, I felt a little speechless.
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.
As the evening came to an end, a feeling of regret washed over me. Despite being invited as a panelist to share my thoughts and experiences, I couldn’t help but feel that I had left a lot unsaid. It’s a shame, really, because I know what I felt inside could resonate with someone in that room. After all, isn’t that why we were all there? To share our unique perspectives and shed some light on what it’s like to be a black man and father.
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.
That evening was a valuable lesson in many ways. One of the key takeaways was the importance of preparation before speaking. Another lesson learned was the need to seize every opportunity and own the moment. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Most importantly, I was reminded of the power of sharing my experiences and how it can change someone’s perspective. It was a great reminder not to waste any opportunity to connect with others and make a positive impact.
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.
Imagine that, me at a loss for words.
Terry L. Watson
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Louisville, KY, native Tyara Lee is the face of Open By Surprise Event & Design. Open by Surprise was then created in 2018 and became established in Kentucky in 2021. Her company provides custom products and event services, including backdrops, banners, floor wraps, life-size props, and more. “Customers can purchase these items and get them designed to their liking for celebrations, whether a birthday party, wedding, repass or business.
“We provide full event services creating unforgettable and magical experiences, incorporating a unique style and breathtaking designs. We help plan it all to identify our client’s style, budget, and vision, ensuring a unique experience,” she says.
In 2016, Tyara began her journey as a self-taught Graphic Designer. She says, “I remember creating personal projects and using them as practice, and soon created my own (Custom Chip Bag) after seeing the trendy product on Instagram. I always had an eye for design, but I wanted to make more than just party favors; I wanted to bring my designs to reality. Even more, I wasn’t designing just for myself, family, and friends but for others who admired my work. That was the moment I realized I wanted to be an Event Planner.”
Tyara has also achieved educational success. She graduated from Brown Mackie College with an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting. Additionally, she served as a Product Broker for five years and has experience as a Floral Designer and Master Floor Wrap Installer.
Tyara says what she loves most about being a designer is connecting with potential customers and clients to ensure she makes their dream a reality in both event and design. She also enjoys surprising and putting smiles on their faces upon execution of their planning. She goes on to share how important serving others is to her. “I have a passion for helping people. It’s also a dope feeling to have an impact and connection with others within the community through artistic expression.”
Tyara says there was a time when she felt her target audience didn’t understand her business model. That was challenging, she says, but things changed. She soon noticed she was getting more attention for her custom products versus her events. “I told myself I didn’t want to be known just for my custom products, I wanted for them to know that we can do it all. I overcame this challenge by rebranding and revamping my business. I jotted down ideas for a new business name and determined my brand’s appearance to attract my target audience. I hired a graphic designer who specialized in business branding and worked with her to develop a website that better fits my brand.”
Tyara says rebuilding her business has helped her become wiser and more aware. She says, “I believe that everything happens for a reason and that the changes I’ve made thus far are for the better. Potential customers and clients shall take my business seriously because I am more serious about it.”
To learn more about Open By Surprise Events, please contact Tyara Lee directly.
“I told myself I didn’t want to be known just for my custom products, I wanted for them to know that we can do it all.”
Juneteenth is a holiday that, until recent years, only a few cities or states outside of Texas celebrated. What is Juneteenth? It is the commemoration of the actual end of legalized slavery in the United States. Texas declared June 19th, or Juneteenth, “Emancipation Day in Texas,” a legal state holiday in 1980. Over the years, African-American communities have worked to educate and promote the acknowledgment of Juneteenth.
While visiting Dallas for work, Rueben Hayes first encountered a Juneteenth celebration in all its grandeur. “I didn’t learn about Juneteenth until 2013. I was on a work assignment for a hospital in Dallas, Texas. I had the opportunity to attend a Juneteenth festival, and I was blown away by how beautiful and culturally rich the event was,” Rueben Hayes explains. “There was music, art, dancing, food, oh my goodness, the food! I was just in awe of it all.”
Rueben was so impacted by what he experienced at his first Juneteenth festival in Dallas that he traveled to different Juneteenth festivals around the country for the four years that followed. “I’ve been to Atlanta, Nashville, and Columbia, and each festival was as amazing and impressive as the next,” Hayes shares.
Over the years, Rueben’s interest, knowledge, and excitement grew regarding the Juneteenth festivals, but starting a commemoration festival in Greenville, South Carolina, wasn’t in the plans. “As much as I enjoyed the commemoration celebrations, I never considered doing something like that in Greenville. The reason was that when I returned home, most people weren’t familiar with what Juneteenth really was in 2014 and 2015. Again, I didn’t learn the history of Juneteenth and how significant it was to African American culture as well as American history until I attended the Dallas festival in 2013,” Rueben confessed. Like so many, Rueben had heard the name Juneteenth but did not know its history, never making the connection to its significance as the actual moment of African-American independence in the U.S.
As an entrepreneur, one of the businesses Rueben owned was an entertainment company. “In the past, I had worked with large events and festivals. Organizing events is something I loved doing, but nothing on the scale of what was to come.” Yet in 2017, Rueben felt compelled to organize a Juneteenth commemoration festival in Greenville, South Carolina.
“I started contacting and making connections to make a Juneteenth festival a reality in 2018. But my surgical supply business experienced tremendous growth, and my priorities shifted,” Rueben explained. “I decided to put the festival plans on hold, believing I could pick them back up in 2018 or 2019 and launch the Greenville Juneteenth festival in 2020. Then the pandemic hit.”
What initially appeared to be a setback was just another example of time and season. “The world shutting down due to the Covid pandemic sidelined us. But when President Biden made Juneteenth a national holiday in 2021, we knew it was the perfect time to get the plans for the festival back on track.”
Monopolizing on the momentum of Biden’s monuments decision to acknowledge June 19th as “African-American Independence Day,” Rueben and his partners began to plan and organize a festival unlike anything the city of Greenville had ever seen.
Rueben is the Executive Director and founder of Juneteenth GVL. His friend and partner in this venture, Vandavid Vernon, is the co-founder. Vandavid, CEO of Vernon Veteran Services, worked alongside Rueben to make the Greenville Juneteenth celebration a reality. “From the start, we knew there was a demand for what we were preparing, but we were still surprised at the level of support we received from the city of Greenville and sponsors,” Rueben explained.
Rueben and his team didn’t just want to celebrate Juneteenth; they wanted to educate their community and give them a cultural platform and experience; unlike anything they had ever seen. “It was important that we hold the festival here in Greenville and the upstate,” Rueben explained. “We wanted to expose our community to what Juneteenth means to Americans, not just African-Americans.”
The heart of the Juneteenth GVL Festival is based on these five pillars: Educate, Enhance, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “We want people from every race, creed, and color to come out and take part. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the good in our shared history and educate and unite people,” Vandavid explained.
The inaugural 2022 Juneteenth GVL Festival was a three-day event that kicked off with the Juneteenth Gala. “One of my directors came up with a Juneteenth Gala. Since we had never attempted anything like that, we did extensive research to find a model for what we were trying to achieve. We found that there hadn’t been an event like it anywhere in the country,” Rueben explained. “The gala’s purpose was to raise funds so that the festival would be free to the community, but we could achieve so much more.”
There were over six-hundred attendees at the 2022 Juneteenth Gala. Patrons were treated to the crowning of the first Mr. and Ms. Juneteenth GVL, a fashion show, exhibits from local artists, and live music and dancing. “In addition to meeting our goal for the festival, the success of the 2022 Juneteenth Gala allowed the foundation to give two $2,500 scholarships and donate $20,000 to non-profit African American organizations,” Rueben shared.
The 2022 Juneteenth Festival took place in Fall Park in Greensville. “We had between ten thousand and fifteen thousand attendees. It was amazing. The city hadn’t seen anything like it in its history. For our second year, we are hoping for twice the number of participants,” Rueben shared.
Rueben and Vandavid are both veterans, and helping fellow vets is something they are both passionate about. Bringing awareness to the mental and physical health within the community is essential to them, so they will use the platform to spotlight veterans’ mental, emotional, and physical health.
“The foundation was able to do so many great things in our first year, and we want to continue making an impact. This year we’ve added wellness events that support veterans and bring awareness to their daily struggles. There will be ‘Yoga with Vets’ to honor the twenty-two veterans who commit suicide each day. The 5K is called ‘Running for Zero.’ Again, we want to bring awareness to the alarming suicide rate of veterans, hoping to get them the support they need, ultimately bringing that number down to zero.”
In addition to veteran support, the 2023 Juneteenth GVL Festival will host a job fair, an opportunity for people outside of their community to be educated on the impact of Juneteenth and why all should celebrate the holiday. “We hope to expand the festival,” Rueben said. “Not just to the upstate, but the entire state of South Carolina. I can see us hosting a Juneteenth State Fair,” Rueben explained.
Rueben and Vandavid’s vision for the future of the foundation and the festival is, in their words, lofty, but Rueben knew he couldn’t do it alone from the start. “When the idea of the Juneteenth Foundation was conceived, I prayed to God for wisdom. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. So when he sent me to Vandavid, Peter, and another friend, I told them my vision. Then I told them I would only do it if they went with me. It’s been full steam ahead ever since,” Rueben shared.
Based on the success of their first year and how year two is shaping up, it’s clear that Rueben’s prayers were answered. With prudent planning, good connections, and a determined attitude, the Juneteenth GVL will establish a cultural icon in the community of Greensville and the upstate area that will exist for years to come. It will become the model that other state festivals immolate.
Located in the southern city of Huntsville, Alabama, an aspiring entrepreneur named Jocelyn Lewis is making waves as the owner of Bamboo Park Consultants, LLC. With a passion for empowering traditional brick-andmortar business owners, Jocelyn’s expertise lies in providing cutting-edge digital marketing services. Her goal is to help businesses enhance their online visibility, boost their bottom line, and maximize their market share. Some of the services they offer are Website Development, Social Media Management, Brand Management, Online Reputation Management, Google Profile, and Email Suite Development and Management, as well as Email and SMS Marketing.
Along with running her company, Jocelyn is committed to meeting the needs of her family. She is a wife and mother of two daughters. She is also a graduate of Alabama A&M University’s School of Business and has a B.S. in Economics.
The inception of Bamboo Park Consultants, LLC happened in 2018. It was then that Jocelyn recognized a pressing challenge faced by business owners, which was juggling their core operations while maintaining a consistent online presence. She wanted to provide a solution, and one was social media marketing and management. “The first client, a dental office seeking assistance with their social media channels and content creation, set the tone for what would happen moving forward with my company,” she says. “Soon, I pursued professional development opportunities, enrolled in courses, and obtained certifications to expand my skill set. With each successful collaboration, my confidence flourished, and things took off from there.”
“With each successful collaboration, my confidence flourished, and things took off from there.”Photos Provided by Jocelyn Lewis
Jocelyn says she loves building relationships and collaborating with her clients. She shares, “I enjoy taking something that they once viewed as difficult or even impossible and helping them better understand to reach their business goals. I also love the fact that digital marketing is always changing. There is always something new to learn; thus, I am never bored. There are always new opportunities to be innovative!”
While Bamboo Park Consultants continues to make strides, Jocelyn shares some things that have strengthened her business acumen. “After college, I started a career in sales. To succeed in sales, you must be tough, resilient, confident, and good at taking rejection. My career in sales taught me a lot about building relationships and their importance. I do believe that has been the most impactful. I embraced roles in sales management and corporate sales training,” she says. “I didn’t realize then that I was building the foundation for my future and preparing for a life of entrepreneurship. My ability to build and maintain relationships has carried me and allowed me to build my dream. I learned the life of an entrepreneur is full of ups and downs, it can be a bit unpredictable. Yet, at the end of the day it is advantageous.”
Jocely shares she finds inspiration in knowing that anything is possible at the end of the day. “If you can conceive it with your mind, then you can hold it in your hand if you are willing to do the work,” she says.
While there have been challenges along her journey, there isn’t a whole lot of which she would change. “I wouldn’t change a single thing. Everything positive and negative has all worked together for my good. Facing challenges head-on has given me the grit and foresight necessary to push forward.”
Her advice to others who may follow in her footsteps is clear. “Value your relationships because they will take you further than any dollar ever will, and don’t be afraid to fail, and never stop learning” Moving forward, Jocelyn says she plans to continue to learn as much as she can and provide her clients with the best service possible while continuing to grow her business. “I want to scale into a full agency digital media powerhouse and serve multiple business sectors simultaneously. I also want to provide them with full digital media coverage while branching out into other media outlets,” she says.
Please visit their website to learn more about Bamboo Park Consultants, LLC.
May 08, 2023
The Greensboro Chapter and the Southeast Region are excited to serve as hosts for Las Amigas, Incorporated’s 62nd Annual National Conclave in the city of Greensboro, North Carolina. Greensboro is the residence of their 21st National President, Agatha Bouvìer Martin Grimes, and their Southeast Regional Director, Faye Stanley. The chapters in the Southeast Region are Cumberland, Fayetteville Elite, Greensboro, Lumberton Robeson County, Raeford, Raleigh Durham, Red Springs, St. Pauls/Bladen County, Whiteville, and Wilmington. This is the first time the National Conclave has been held in the city of Greensboro since 1991. We will not have an opportunity to showcase our city, Greensboro, for another 30-plus years. Sisters from the states of Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia will convene to manage the business of the organization. The Conclave will be held at the Embassy Suites located at 204 Centreport Drive from June 21 – June 25, 2023.
Las Amigas, Incorporated is a 501c3 organization of women founded by two educators, Mary Q. Moore and Dora R. Mason. The organization was founded on the principles of Sisterhood and Service. The Greensboro Chapter has been known in the city since 1967. The chapter continues to keep the legacy of the Co-Founders alive and address the organization’s five programmatic thrusts: Education, Economic Development, Health, Family, and Political Awareness, by providing numerous community service projects, including serving meals, providing tutoring, awarding scholarships, participating in COVID-19 vaccination programs and projects, voter registration drives, Comfort of Love blanket donations, supporting the annual MLK Breakfast and Lupus projects and programs, street cleaning in the Fisher Park Neighborhood, and supporting Hayes Taylor YMCA and Bennett College.
The public is cordially invited to join us at the following Conclave activities as we paint the town pink and orchid:
Thursday, June 22, 2023, Opening Town Hall Meeting from 6 pm to 9 pm at the International Civil Rights Museum (ICRM). It includes a museum tour, heavy hors d’oeuvres, music, and greetings by City Officials. The cost is $50.00.
Friday, June 23, 2023, Las Amigas Got Talent Show from 8 pm to 11 pm. The cost is $70, and it includes entertainment, music, a talent show, and dinner. Our distinguished panel of judges will be First Lady Debra Pierce, Ms. Shayla Thompson, and Ms. Tam Yelverton.
Saturday, June 24, 2023, Dora R. Mason Awards Luncheon from noon-3 pm. The cost is $75.00 and includes an awards luncheon, a stellar speaker, Bishop Valerie Melvin, recognition of Las Amigas Most Outstanding Chapter and Most Outstanding Member Awards, Humanitarian Award, and Community Service Award recipients. Our judges for the Most Outstanding Chapter and Most Outstanding Member Awards are Mrs. Beverly Cleveland, Dr. Michele Eley, Mrs. Bettye Jenkins, and Ms. Linda Wilson.
Saturday, June 24, 2023, Mary Q. Moore Orchid Gala from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm. The cost is $125.00 for this formal affair which includes a live band, the naming of three Honorary Members, Honorable Congresswoman Alma Adams, North Carolina Senator Gladys Robinson, and the Honorable Judge Diane Surgeon.
Saturday, June 24, 2023, The After Party from 11 pm to 1:00 am. The cost is $50.00 and the attire for this affair is Sweat Suits and Sneakers and includes music, dancing, and games.
Co-chairs for Conclave 2023 are Felicia Andrews, LaSonya Holmes-Boulware, and Brenda James.
If you have any inquiries or if you would like to purchase tickets, you may contact LaSonya Holmes-Boulware, Greensboro Chapter President - (336-580-2306). h
AGATHA BOUVIER MARTIN GRIMES
DR. AISHA MILLER
LOLA ANNE MCADOO
FAYE P. STANLEY
JOANN W. WILLIAMS
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Located in the big city of Detroit, MI is a small and unique Black-owned, independent bookstore that has been feeding the reading appetites of its community for nearly six years. Detroit Book City offers new, used, and rare books. They also specialize in African-American titles for all ages, including infants, toddlers, and adults. Additionally, they offer cultural apparel, mugs, tote bags, African oils and jewelry, incense, vinyl albums (including 45’s records), posters, postcards, and specialty magazines such as vintage Ebony and Jet Magazines.
The visionaries of Detroit Book City are Janeice and Reginald Haynes. They opened the doors in December 2017 and have been committed to serving the public and promoting, preserving, and sustaining Black literature. While Janeice is considered the store’s brainchild, she says it came to fruition with the full support of Reginald.
Janeice is a native Detroiter. She graduated from Detroit Public Schools and described herself as a lifelong learner. Her professional experience involves Human Resources, youth development, advertising, sales, publishing, graphic design, and books! Early in her career, Janeice spearheaded two teen magazines, Detroit Urban Teen and Louisville Urban Teen. In 2005, she launched The Around D-Town Coupon book, a publication that featured Black businesses and offered coupons, highlighting Detroit’s Black history from the early days to the present. In 2008, she added Around D-Town Promotions, which offered t-shirt and graphics design services. Additionally, she hosted an online directory that hyperlinked to over 500 local websites. The directory, www.metrodetroitte.com, connected high school students with opportunities in enrichment, discovery, athletics, community service, and adventure.
Reginald has worked as a full-time professional Spray Painter for 27 years. He is the proud owner of Hollywood Tees. This Black-owned print company offers cultural apparel, mugs, African oils, and African jewelry, soaps and shea butter, incense, and men’s watches. Reginald is also the backbone of Detroit Book City, and he manages the off-site book fairs and provides soulful music and sounds at the store’s events in his role as DJ Holly.
Detroit Book City hosts several cultural book fairs throughout the year. These include the A-A Family Book Expo, the Juneteenth Book Fair, the Fall Family Book Fair, and Holiday Book Festival which features Black independent writers. “We take these events to the neighborhoods, and the valuable feedback is profound,” they said. “Detroit Book City amplifies Black voices, and we strive to keep the legacy of Black literature alive in Metro Detroit. We offer space to host book signings at our store and website for independent authors through the Black Indie Author Directory.”
In 2022, Detroit Book City added a new family member, their mascot book dog, Brody. Brody accompanies Detroit Book City BookUp! Literacy Day program at school book fairs. Brody’s goal is to educate kids about the importance of reading.
When asked what she loves most about their store, Janeice shared the obvious; they love books and making them accessible to others. “I love waking up in the morning knowing we provide our people access to Black literature daily. Literacy allows us to initiate and participate in discussions, debates, and decisions related to life and our culture. Having access to books written by African Americans, across all genres for all ages, is priceless,” Janeice said. “I can’t accurately express the happiness I feel when I see new, beautifully written, and illustrated books hit the market, and we’re able to connect readers to them when they walk in our magical bookstore”.
Janeice was blessed with Black women bosses who were great mentors early in her career. “They believed in me and taught me everything they knew. The skills I gained inspired me to want more. My maternal grandmother (deceased) and mother were alpha women. They taught me to be studious and resilient,” she says. “I get inspired reading scholarly Black history that reminds me of what our ancestors have done to pave the way for us to win in life despite the obstacles and disparities we’re faced with.”
Like most business owners, Janeice and Reginald have faced their share of challenges. “Book sales can sometimes be a challenge at the store level. We are aware of our history, as it was once illegal for Blacks to read and write, you understand why the illiteracy rate is so high in the Black community. Books are a low priority on the bucket list. We manage this challenge with faith. We buy a curated collection of A-A books, then sell and give them away to encourage our customers to read,” Janeice says.
The future looks very bright for Detroit Book City. They are planning to add a cultural, heritage tourism platform to the store for their customers who are curious about the Black history of Detroit. They will continue to take the books to the neighborhoods as pop-ups, serving students in the school system and senior citizens. Please visit their store or website to learn more about Detroit Book City.
This is a follow-up story to The H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab article in the Huami Magazine 2022 edition. In this follow-up article, we will reintroduce Dr. Schenita Randolph and her work in sexual health equity for racial/ethnic minority populations and reintroduce Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), share the results of the study, and introduce the beauty industry partners who co-developed the work and helped to inform the research. Finally, we will share her futuristic vision for the HEEAT Lab and how she desires increased health equity and justice for the African American community. The Huami Magazine would like to reintroduce Dr. Schenita Randolph, an Associate Professor at the Duke University School of Nursing. Her mission is to address the root causes of health disparities and promote sexual health equity for racial/ethnic minority populations. Dr. Randolph is currently the Principal Investigator of a project funded by Gilead Sciences to develop a Salon-Based Intervention to promote the awareness and uptake of PrEP among Black women living in the United States South. She is a Fellow in the inaugural Betty Irene Moore Fellowship, where she developed the first nurse-led, web-based application to address the cooccurrence of HIV transmission and racial discrimination among African American male adolescents and young adults.
Notwithstanding, Dr. Randolph has been a nurse for over 25 years and is the founding Director of the HEEAT Research Lab. As a reminder, the H.E.E.A.T. acronym addresses Health disparities through Engagement, Equity, Advocacy, and Trust. The team members working with H.E.E.A.T. are dedicated clinicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, community members, and barber shop and beauty salon owners. These collective groups are vested in breaking down the barriers of implicit biases, health disparities, and inequities in health care delivery and outcomes within African American communities. The H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab is committed to engaging and partnering with the community to find cultural and social ways to address some of these inequities.
Dr. Randolph believes that one way of addressing the disparities is by making the African American community aware of tools in healthcare that have proven to be effective but are less used by those who could benefit from them, such as the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). This oral or injectable medication is a proven HIV prevention method for people who have taken an HIV test and know they are HIV-negative. PrEP comes in the form of a pill or injectable. In pill form, if taken daily, it is effective at preventing HIV by 99%. The FDA approves PrEP for the United States, but unfortunately, Black women do not see themselves in the messaging that advertises PrEP. According to Dr. Randolph, “PrEP is an FDA-approved oral medication if taken daily, will decrease a persons chances of acquiring HIV. PrEP has been FDA approved since 2012, but less than 1-2 % of African American cis-gendered women know about PrEP.” For those unfamiliar with the term cis gender, it is simply a person who identifies with the gender sex they were born to.
For example, a person born a male at birth identifies as a boy or a man. Likewise, a person who was born a female at birth identifies as a girl or a woman. These people are considered cis-gender. Most people would be more familiar with the word heterosexual. Dr. Randolph believes bringing awareness to PrEP is important because African American women represent over 65% of HIV cases and are 17 times more likely to acquire HIV than white women. The H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab has revealed that those who have benefited the most from taking PrEP have been men who have sex with men. Because she understands the barriers that exist for the uptake of PrEP among African American women, including providers not offering it, increasing knowledge and awareness is critical to health outcomes. “I always tell people I am not a PrEP pusher. I want to be clear on that, but I believe that women should know that PrEP exists so they can make informed decisions about their own health based on their needs and personal values. Dr. Randolph and her team are leaving no stone unturned in helping to tear down barriers to acquiring equitable access to health care. For instance, you can access PrEP through an online telehealth service called QCare Plus. This online platform will allow you to speak with a provider, and send HIV testing kits and PrEP discretely to your home, should you decide it is right for you.
Now that you know the type of research The H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab conducted, let’s find out who participated in this study and what was discovered. Barbershops and Beauty salons have historically been staples in our community and the HEEAT Lab is honored to have some of the greatest barbers and stylists partnering with them in this work. One of the main reasons we have engaged our beauty salons and barber shops is because when our men and women go there, they can receive this information. In these establishments, deep conversations are held, and information is shared while sitting in the salon chair getting their hair styled or in the barbershop getting that beard groomed. These conversations flow freely with respected and trusted people within the community. Dr. Randolph says, “That’s why we’re intentional about partnering with the beauty industry.. During COVID-19, the beauty industry was on the front line having COVID testing in their shops. So, this article also allows us to thank the barbers and the stylists, those unspoken heroes and sheroes, who have helped promote good health within our communities.”
Dr. Randolph and her team intentionally partner with the community, ensuring they are at the forefront of every conversation and engaged as community leaders and stakeholders. That’s why on April 30th, her team hosted a brunch to honor the salon owners and participants from Durham County, Wake County, and Guilford County for their engagement and update them on the research study they participated in. This emerging data is a part of Using PrEP and Doing it for Ourselves (UPDOs). The UPDOs Protective Styles is a salon-based intervention developed and tested in partnership with researchers and the community to promote awareness, knowledge, and uptake of PreExposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) among African American women living in the United States South. UPDOs take a comprehensive approach and address the overall health of African American women in the United States.
Dr. Randolph shares, “The idea behind the UPDOs initiative was to develop a series of twenty-minute segments that women can watch in their own private space, highlighting stories of Black women, their lived experiences, and overall health, including awareness of HIV and PrEP. The data revealed that women’s awareness of PrEP did increase, trust around PrEP was strengthened, and women could accept the information because they could see themselves in the mini-series.
The research also showed that women are willing to share the information with others in their networks; stigma around PrEP and HIV was also improved. Gains were made in many areas because the storylines were realistic and acceptable, and the information was delivered in a way that could be received. Even in this, women loudly voiced the need for more culturally and socially relevant messaging about health issues that impact them.”
The H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab celebrates the beauty industry partners who are strong leaders and advocates in the community and acknowledges their impact in the mission to address inequities and justice in health care outcomes and delivery.
Akili Hester of Durham, NC, is a single father and barber. He also owns Black Wallstreet Barbershop, HAYTI Barbershop, and Akilithebull.com. When asked about the H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab, he says, “I think it’s necessary that people in my community are given proper information to share throughout the community. It’s important that the faces receiving information look like the faces of the people providing the information. We must know that the information we’re getting is true and factual,” he says.
Akili is a partner with the H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab and serves on the Community Advisory Council. He says his reason for serving is his firm belief that if he eats off of a community, he must also have a positive impact on his community. “Community work is important in maintaining that balance and giving back. Sharing resources and information and having access to resources is important also”.
Akili says that H.E.E.A.T.’s role in his community means a lot because miseducation plays a big role in living in lower-income areas. He says having resources based on facts is important.
Tamica Campbell Hughes is the co-owner of Pink Kotur Hair Salon and the founder of Level Up Parenting, a non-profit organization focusing on single mothers. She has two sons and five loving grandkids. When asked about the H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab, she says it encourages community involvement. “It helps to state the facts and educate people on what is happening in our black community. By being involved, I bring in other salon owners and stylists to engage in the research study. We educate clients that come to the salon on what is happening with the study and how they can participate in the research and survey. As a black woman in the community, it concerns me there isn’t enough information available. I want to learn more so I can share it with others in our community. The lab’s work will definitely help community leaders get it out by providing information,” she says. “The more people have knowledge, the number of black women with HIV will decrease. The information will change lives once it is out there.
Dr. Ragan Johnson‘s role with the H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab aligns with the vision of Dr. Randolph. The Memphis, TN, native and Duke University professor has similar interests in HIV prevention in black communities and how barbershops and hair salons were using their platforms to connect with others. “With the current project with hair salons, I help to create the stylist training in collaboration with the communities. Our training is face-to-face and down-to-earth. We try to speak the language of our communities. This approach has been effective mainly because as much as we want to teach our communities, we also hope to learn from them. In academia, we know historically what people think about HIV. Now, we want to teach them about prevention methods, including safe sex practices and PreP, a medication that can prevent exposure to HIV,” she says.
Dr. Ragan Johnson got involved in HIV prevention after having a female family member diagnosed with HIV in the 1990s. “Back then, there was a stigma surrounding the disease. It was painted as a gay man’s disease. People affected by the disease often didn’t follow through with care because they didn’t want to be stigmatized. Even more, there wasn’t any information available on how women contracted the disease and how it impacted them. That void of information prompted me to get involved. I wanted to be part of changing the trajectory and preventing HIV in our communities,” she says. “There are more medications available now to treat the disease. As a result of the work that has been done regarding research and education, HIV is no longer a death sentence.”
In the future, Dr. Johnson envisions the program growing nationally. “I see the stylist taking ownership of the program and running with it, with individuals like Dr. Randolph and myself sitting in the background and supporting them,” she says.
Professional Hair Stylist Tasha Crews describes herself as a progressive student of life. The name of her business is WHOLSEOME U (Hair, Health & Wellness Center) dba Hair designs by Tasha. She uses her trade to reach the masses and says that “Every life that takes a seat in my chair is one that is sure to be intentionally impacted. I consider it a privilege to be in anyone’s personal space as I have been.”
Tasha says she believes the work of the HE.E.A.T. Lab to be essential in our community, as it encourages and facilitates positive health solutions. “All of the staff and participants are personally dedicated to joining arms with each other, mainly because we see the disparities first hand. Education is integral to growth and personal development. It also assists us with making better health choices and brings hope to the upcoming generations,” Tasha says. “I am involved. I hit the pavement. I am grassroots to the heart. I compel and gather people who desire better for themselves. By serving on the advisory council and as a consultant with the H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab, I use critical thinking skills and draw out imperative questions and offer tangible solutions in executing the objectives within the council’s guidelines. Suppose I can let people know they have options to assist in maintaining their health. In that case, we are closer to decreasing the health disparity number in our community for HIV, mental illness, violence, and much more. I am helping individuals have a better quality of life. In turn, they help their families have a better quality of life.”
Tasha says she believes things can improve in our communities when everyone realizes they are an integral part of our “thrival”. “Every individual has something to give back to our community. Each person must see themselves as important to our survival. Self-love and awareness are needed, and holding ourselves accountable for our personal decisions is necessary to pinpoint the culprit to our current condition. I look forward to witnessing the impact for the greater good of our communities. I love the team we have. Everyone is genuine. That’s where I like to be, with genuine people, serving from the heart and making a positive difference. I plan to serve with them and facilitate in any capacity needed to bring about that positive change. Starting in July we are partnering with the H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab on a project to offer COVID testing in our shops and engaging the community to understand the barriers and facilitators to effective health communications and messaging.”
Gene Blackmon of Greensboro, NC, is a business owner, barber, barber instructor, mentor, and community advocate. Gene is the founder of Prestige Barber College and Establishing Safe Cultures, a non-profit organization which focuses on addressing issues affecting youth in his community. The most important roles that he serves are that of father, son, and brother.
Gene shares, “The H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab is an awesome concept and gives our community the tools to educate our community on sexual health. I’m a consultant, and I’ve helped share information for studies and been a community advisory council member. I’ve chosen to be involved because I understand that there are disparities, and many of them exist because of a lack of knowledge and understanding and a lack of resources. The H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab works to address both of those disparities. Things can improve with this model of the H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab being spread further throughout our community. We need to get it into multiple places in our community; schools, after-school programs, churches, community recreational centers, barbershops, and beauty salons. We should see an improvement in healthy sexual practices in our community.
The data discovered in this initial study will continue with Dr. Randolph’s next phase of research, expanding to Mecklenburg County, Forsyth County, and Cumberland County because those counties have a prevalence of HIV. She believes that provider awareness is equally critical. She advocates for provider awareness because “you can’t blame women for their inequities when this information isn’t disseminated equitably. In particular, African American women over 55 have seen a seven percent increase in acquiring an HIV diagnosis. So, providers must be mindful of the implicit biases and perceptions they carry into the clinical setting.” We know that knowledge is power. Now that you know
The H.E.E.A.T. Research Lab, PrEP, and UPDOs, what will you do with your Power?
What does she not do? That is a fair and appropriate question that can be asked about Maryland resident Robin Annette Shipp. On the one hand, the 44-year-old is a multiethnic Creole woman who is an accomplished chef. On another, Robin brandishes a professional career in dance. It is clear that regardless of what arena, she does what is needed to succeed.
Robin says that around the young age of 18, she realized her love for cooking. “I used to watch television cooking programs like Julia Child, Justin Wilson (I Guarantee), and more. As I got older, the watching quickly turned into study sessions of all the famous cooks that were showcased on cooking programs and networks,” she says. By age 25, Robin began freelance modeling and acting in auditions for small roles and commercial print work modeling such as Model Inc, Audition America, and more.
Robin’s connection to food and all things delicious began to take shape in 2018. Around that time, she started a vendor networking and health and wellness umbrella company entitled “MotherShipp Productions”, also known as MotherShipp Global. MotherShipp Global has a focus on black business recognition.
Robin is the mother to her daughter, Harmony. She graduated from Rockville High School in Rockville, MD. She also attended Savannah State University and studied Industrial Psychology. “I thought it was a good fit for me, but it didn’t sit right. When I put myself back into school online for Information Technology in Visual Communication, I wanted something I could be happy with. However, I never finished those degrees. It took years to decide on what I wanted as a degree or certification. In 2022, I successfully registered and finished my certification as a Clinical (Board Certified) Master Herbalist from Trinity School of Natural Health. I returned the following month to obtain my certification as a personal chef from International Professions Career College,” she shares. “I incorporate both into my food as I feel that food is supposed to taste, look, and feel good. It’s healing. It should bring comfort to all levels. Healthier foods can also be comfort food. It’s meant to heal your mind, body, and spirit.”
“I thought it was a good fit for me, but it didn’t sit right. When I put myself back into school online for Information Technology in Visual Communication, I wanted something I could be happy with. However, I never finished those degrees. It took years to decide on what I wanted as a degree or certification.”
Currently, Robin owns Emerald Flame L.L.C. Her company offers catering and personal chef service for all events. These include breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and small desserts. It also has a focus on certain mini catering items and big pot items. Emerald Flame, L.L.C., ships certain food items and seasonings nationwide. The seasoning brand is called Gyrnd Seasonings. Salad dressings and other sauces, and medicinal food products are soon coming.
The Grynd Health offers a variety of flavors such as Garlic Pepper5, Spicy Turmeric, Lemon-Sage, Honey-Butter, Mushroom-Shallot, and Brown Sugar-Cinnamon-Clove. The Grynd Originals include Robin’s Rajun Cajun, Southwest Smoke, White-Hot Garlic Herb, and Creole Royalty Seafood Boil. Grynd Sauces include Creamy Cajun White Wine Sauce and Applewood Mesquite Whiskey. There is also the Cane City Rubs, named after the city sections of Louisiana that the Creole population mostly lived in. The flavors include Flamin Maple, Spikes Brown Sugar, Mesquite Citrus, and Island Heat.
“I love what I do because food brings people together. From birthdays and whatever holidays people celebrate, a celebration of life ceremony, corporate parties/networking parties, romantic dinners, or the cookout, it starts with food. When you break bread with someone, you come to the table to share each other’s presents. Even when it comes to food, just being in the background while a conference or event takes place, food makes everything better,” Robin says. “My slogan is ‘Food for the soul and health for the body”.
Robin shares that most of her challenges have been financially related as a business owner. “I have learned to keep pushing and believing in my dreams. I want to continue to be the best chef I can be and possibly heal those with my culinary and medicinal products and talents.”
As Robin’s future unravels, she says she plans to concentrate on being a traveling chef. “That is my intention. Even further, being a celebrity and semicelebrity chef. I’ve always wanted to connect with motivational speakers for many reasons besides being their chef. I would also like to start my own foundation to give food to those in need. I love what I do, and my journey has been long. Yet, it continues to strive for heights that I haven’t even thought of, but I know it is on the way.”Robin Shipp
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While Brandi Johnson-Harris of Richmond, VA can do a whole lot of things, sewing is something she finds the most enjoyment with.
She is a wife and Realtor, and was educated in both private schools and the Richmond Public Schools system, before graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School in 2003. She is the owner of A Touch of Lotus & Lotus Sewcial Club, which incorporates both sewing and real estate under one umbrella.
In 2019, Brandi started her journey in real estate. She says, “It wasn’t something that I was looking to get into, but it just happened that a family member was selling a property and needed some additional assistance. I helped, and that was pretty much all she wrote. I fell in love with helping people and assisting them with one of their life’s largest and scariest purchases,” she says.
Her venture into sewing happened in 2020 during the initial COVID lockdown. “My intention was to make masks to support my community and keep my family safe. However, that turned into a love for this new craft, and I began soaking up everything sewing. That included collecting notions and taking classes virtually. We were in a lockdown COVID, and since the craft store was deemed essential, I was able to go down a rabbit hole of sewing patterns,” Brandi shared.
She later decided to venture into garment making due to “cheesy date” that she went on with her husband, James. “I had the amazing idea to create one-of-a-kind matching outfits for us. Initially, my garments weren’t the best, but he has been a true sport in wearing my garments with pride. I can say I’ve come a long way with garment construction.” Bag-making came into play when Brandi saw a really expensive purse and focused on its construction. “I knew that it was something I could make. So with that, I set out to gain the skills essential for bag making and made it. I have been making bags ever since.”
As a realtor, Brandi helps people buy and sell homes and educates them on the process. She works with buyers who want to purchase by going the traditional route but also those who are wondering if owning a home is something they truly want to do. She also offers a lease-to-own program.
What does she love most about real estate? Her response is, “I love being able to help people educate themselves at one of the most pivotal points in their lives, along with seeing the joy that comes with purchasing a home. Whether it’s your first home or your fifth, the excitement of the new adventure and memories always await them.”
Regarding sewing, Brandi says she loves the ability to get lost in the creative process, allowing herself to make her creations come to life. “I enjoy knowing that each piece is one of a kind. It gives me a sense of confidence knowing that I’m wearing something I created custom for me, and I didn’t have to go to a thousand stores looking for that perfect piece.”
Real Estate, Brandi says, is a learn-as-you-go career. She decided to commit to it and asked her broker and seasoned agent many questions. “If there was something I didn’t know, I found out the answer, that helped build my confidence in my ability to be this essential business partner for my clients.,” she explains. Some of the challenges she faced with sewing are connected to her belief that she is qualified to perform at the current level. “I overcome these things by taking a deep inner look and knowing that my work is of a professional quality that any consumer would expect. Even though it may be a short timeframe, I have taken steps to work on my craft, and my work shows that.”
If she could rewrite the way things have happened for her with real estate, Brandi says she would have started with a larger brokerage. “I initially began with a broker who had no other agents or systems to help me succeed. It took me a lot longer to get my business off the ground while trying to figure things out on my own. For sewing, she appreciates the way things have happened thus far.
To learn more about Brandi and her brands, please visit her website.
“I enjoy knowing that each piece is one of a kind. It gives me a sense of confidence knowing that I’m wearing something I created custom for me, and I didn’t have to go to a thousand stores looking for that perfect piece.”