Project Community Center
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.
What if tomorrow didn’t arrive? All of your plans, hopes and dreams wouldn’t have a street to park on. What if everything that you decided to put off until tomorrow never happened? There would be no reason to save for a rainy day, and you could spare someone the trouble of making promises. What if your last opportunity seemingly expired today? What would you do?
In short words, I will typically act on something if I dare to dream about it. I have used the gift to dream while sinking in some of my lowest moments. I wanted more, and dreaming of something better made it almost feel like I was there. I learned that there is power in what we dream about.
In that same breath, my dreams have been filled with thoughts of hope and sometimes regret. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would. If I could reverse some of the experiences of my life, I would. If I had the ability to reach back into my past and open some of the doors that were shut and close some that I walked through, I would. One might ask me why, and my response is quite direct; I would if I could.
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.
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.
The best advice ever given to me happened when someone told me to make my tomorrow happen today. In doing so I have pressed my way through doors with a key that only hope provided. I have also learned the difference between what God blesses me with and what life can burden me with as well. I compare it to knowing when to be confident and when to be quiet, because someone may get it confused with being arrogant.
Make you tomorrow happen today, but most importantly make it count. Life is but a whisper and we must put ourselves in a position to hear what it is telling us.
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 Editor/Founder L. Watson
Editor In Chief
Terry L. Watson
Alana Allen - Deputy Editor
Tonya Dixon Terry L. Watson Alana Allen Jeuron Dove
Perfect Lenz Photography Shaw Photography Group Still Shots Photography Who Shotya Photography
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Ryan and Cherri Dixon
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Charleston, SCThe Project Community Center
With a population of nearly 630,000, Louisville, KY, is regarded as the biggest city in the bluegrass state. Of that number, African Americans make up 28%, invoking a presence full of culture, history, and promise. One of Louisville’s prominent residents has made it their lifes’ journey to give back and create opportunities for others.
Quintina Monnai McDowell is the founder of Project Community Center Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring urban projects from the West End and the East End of Louisville together using an intergenerational approach to become the center of success for everyone. To accomplish this, the organization uses the following principles; Creative and Performing Arts, Health and Wellness, Education and Leadership, and Services for families and Military Veterans.
Monnai was born and raised in Louisville, KY. She’s a mother of four children and a two-time business owner. She has a passion for children and health and wellness. Additionally, she has two degrees, one in Business Administration and one in Human Resources. Monnai enjoys meeting new people, spending time with family, and connecting with others.
Another thing Monnai enjoys is sharing her testimony of how she began her traditional lifestyle journey. “I’ve had some challenges along my journey, but I’ve overcome many of them. I’ve been married and divorced. I’ve been at my lowest, and I’ve mentally quit on myself. I felt like I lost just to only realize that it was a test of my faith, and that I had to lose to win. One thing I am proud of is that I never physically gave up. I’ve always been a fighter at heart and I love hard. I’d rather blame myself than blame anyone else. I don’t have any regrets in my life. Everything happened according to God’s will, not mine. I thank God everyday for what He has already done, what He’s doing now, what He’s about to do.”
Some of the services offered by the Project Community Center are Business Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy Mentoring, Belize Cultural Dance, and Health & Wellness. “We have implemented a health and wellness program through our nonprofit. It helps to educate children about health and wellness and how to build a healthy immune system. We also provide a transitional lifestyle program that prepares them as they mature and make lifestyle decisions and choices,” Monnai says.
One other business Monnai has produced is Sea Moss by J. Cortez. Like her nonprofit, this brand came to life in 2020. She says, “For three years I kept running from the dream that kept chasing me. I finally prayed to God and I ask “what is your dream for me?” Then it was revealed. One day, I was talking to my brother on the phone, telling him I want to start my own nonprofit. Not realizing that I was manifesting my vision. Then I wrote it down. Thereafter, I started it with three children. Soon I had 63 children. The next year came and I had 150 children. All these blessings without a permanent location to call our own. While we still don’t have a permanent location to call our own, we plan on having 300 plus children during our free summer camp this year. We’re excited and can’t wait to see what God does,” she says.
It is evident that Monnai is walking in her calling, and while walking purposefully, she has acquired a greater appreciation of love for others. “I love engaging and educating everyone about health and wellness and connecting with others spiritually. I am a huge giver and love to see everyone become successful. I love all my children, and my passion involves them. I’ve always believed that if I could help or change one person, I could change or help many,” she shares.
Like most business owners, Monnai has faced some challenge along the way. She says, “One challenge I’ve faced in business is “trust”. It’s hard for me to trust anyone. I had to learn how to overcome that obstacle in my life, especially in business. I was listening to a motivational clip from DMX and he explained trust. “Trust a person to be who they show you they are. Trust a snake to bite you, trust a thief to steal from you, and trust a liar to lie to you”. I wanted trust, but I had to also show that I could be trustworthy. I’m a very loyal person, so when trust is betrayed, it’s hard to trust again. In business, I had to learn how to trust without implementing emotion. What I mean by that is, removing my feelings from my business by separating the two. Business is business, it’s not personal. This could be a challenge for givers because you’ll always have to watch out for the takers.”
As life continues for Monnai, she plans to continue serving the Louisville community with great products and services via her brands. She also plans to continue to be a blessing to others and expand her organization in other states. “My passion is worldwide. I’m not saved to sit. I am saved to serve. Therefore, whatever path God has for me, that’s the path I’m taking,” she says.
Please visit their websites to learn more about the Project Community Center and Sea Moss by J. Cortez.
For three years I kept running from the dream that kept chasing me. I finally prayed to God and I ask “what is your dream for me?” Then it was revealed.”
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.
Louisville - Jan./Feb. 2023
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.”
Born in Aurora, CO, and partially raised in Bainbridge, GA. Kieshon Davis has enjoyed small-town living and the bigger city lifestyle. This young and budding entrepreneur is also a mother of two wonderful children and says they are her motivation and inspiration for everything she does. “Everyday, I push hard to one day make them proud and leave our family with a legacy they can enjoy and pass down to their families. Next to my children, my Christian faith is my greatest blessing. My faith in God has enabled me to look forward to each day with gratitude and encouragement,” she says.
Kieshon owns Divine Dream Designs, a full-service, lifestyle-based, professional event planning and design company. Divine Dream Designs specializes in corporate events, dinner galas, luxury outdoor dining, grand openings, and private events. Her commitment to providing great customer service from start to finish, while keeping her client’s goals, vision, and budget in mind, sets Kieshon’s brand apart from others. “I am committed to delivering on every detail while offering less stress and more fun,” she says.
Kieshon describes herself as a serial entrepreneur and says her journey began when she was a lot younger. “In grade school, I sold candy, cool pencils, silly bands, and more to the other kids. I did this so that I could have money for extra snacks. That ambition followed me to my adult years. I have owned a natural skincare line and various craft businesses. My skincare products were what pushed me to plan my first event. I had all these great products and needed a way to market them locally and generate sales. So, in September 2020, I decided to have a craft market that featured myself and 19 other African American female entrepreneurs. There was food, music, and games. The event went so well that I started having them once a month. Next, I began having an annual Cup in Hand Kickball Game and an Adult Field Day event. There, I tried to decorate my first seven-foot balloon arch and learned that it was way more difficult than I expected, and I ended up paying someone else to do it. I was inspired, and I began doing more and more balloon decorating at family events. I eventually realized I wanted to focus on the designing and overall planning of events,” she says.
Some of the products and services Kieshon offers are full event decor, main displays, draping, centerpiece making, planning, day-of coordination, and hosting. Each package includes a complete set-up and take-down, table settings (place settings, cutlery, glassware, centerpieces, balloon decor with flower garnishments, candles, and a complimentary bottle of wine, complete with lights for optimal romance. She also offers rentals for games and stands. “My favorite service is the Luxury Outdoor Dining Experience, which features a see-through, 10x10 bubble tent that encapsulates the best picnic experiences,” she says.
Kieshon says she loves being creative in everything she does. “I enjoy bringing my client’s dream events to life and seeing the look of pure joy on their faces when they realize that I took care of every last detail. All they need to do is enjoy themselves. That is what I enjoy most,” Kieshon shares.
Like most businesses, Kieshon has faced some challenges. One, she says, has been able to delegate responsibility. “Small business owners sometimes think we can do it all. We often put too much on our plates, which can eventually diminish the quality of our work. To overcome this challenge, I have built up a team of loyal employees who see my vision and want to help me reach my goals. I appreciate my mom, Autumn and Aurie. Without them, I would not have made it this far,” she shared.
Futuristically thinking, specifically within the next 5-10 years, Kieshon hopes to have her own venue and cater to luxury weddings and events. Until then, she plans to continue to perfect her craft and stay on top of trends. Her advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs who may follow a path similar to hers is never to lower your price. She says, “If your clients complain about charging what you are worth, get new clients. Someone will see your value, and you won’t have to convince them why they should pay you what you deserve. Secondly, build a solid team of those who believe in you and your vision. Behind every great leader is an amazing team of brilliant people who want to see you win. You can’t be afraid to network with other entrepreneurs who do the same thing as you and, most of all, stay positive and keep going no matter what,” she says.
To learn more about Kieshon Davis and Diving Dream Designs, please visit her website.
William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” That statement is merely a short introduction to the theatrical world. In truth, some people can identify with this statement because they have family and friends who possess dramatic personalities. Actually, they are living their lives out loud as though they are on stage for the entire world to see. These dramatic family and friends would be prime characters to star in a theatre production. So, what exactly is theatre? I’m glad you asked. Professional theatre is a collaborative art form that combines words, voice, movement and visual elements to express meaning. The field of theatre not only encompasses live improvised and scripted work and has attributes in dramatic forms such as film, television, and other electronic media. Just like the dramatic people, you know theatre has two faces - - one that smiles and one that laughs. In the theatre world, these two faces are essentially a representation of drama. The laughing mask symbolizes comedy, while the crying mask represents tragedy. In essence, these two faces represent extreme human emotion. Often only our closest family and friends can tell the difference between the theatrical faces those creative personalities are wearing.
One person who could identify which face is being represented would be Mrs. Karla Shaw, Chief Executive Officer of The Dream Real Theatre Company of Chicago, Illinois. Better known as Karla Monay Shaw, her theatrical company is intentional with its unique blend of theatre and could assign these dramatic personalities roles in one of her plays. Karla’s productions cater to various interests, such as the youth, teens, young adults, and more seasoned adults. Her staged performances do more than just tell stories; her productions inspire change from within. Read on and see how Karla plans to continue to blow away the Windy City with her theatrical productions. Karla shares, “I was born and raised in Chicago. Ever since I was a young girl performing in school, I would pretend to be producing my own films and directing my own plays. Back then, I realized that theatre could help release stressors in teens’ lives, and that’s what The Dream Real Theatre Company of Chicago sets out to do. We intentionally provide a space where dreams become a reality, and our youth are engaged in positivity through theatrical productions. I want to introduce teens to classical works and teach them to take their own experiences and be creative through performance, writing, and producing plays. That’s how it all began for me, so I know other young people out there need healing, and theatre arts can be a vehicle for that. As adults, we understand that the pressures of life can alter our moral compasses. The battle is already won if we can make wise decisions and choices with a clear heart and healthy mind.”
The mission of The Dream Real Theatre Company of Chicago is to be a place where dreams can become a reality. This theatrical company inspires, engages, and entertains audiences with theatrical productions through creative processes that range from new plays to classic works. They train and support the next generation of theatre artists. Karla explains, “We have created a theatre community that brings shows to diverse communities by working with our teens and young adults through the arts by providing a place where they can be creative through stage and film. I’m an outof-the-box thinker, so when I create, I do it in ways that constantly add theatrical nuances to my plays. Because I cater to the masses, you may see a production where film is incorporated into a play, or you may see a play written for adults only. When I talk about nuances, I’m talking about creating a space for theatre arts, even when things look dim. For example, everything shut down when the world was on lockdown due to COVID-19. Nobody was producing, and Broadway was closed. That wasn’t the case for my company because I thought outside of the box. On May 16, 2022, I put on the first Zoom theatrical show called Quarantine Court. I was the first one to do it. I soon learned that Zoom Quarantine Courts were being held from the United States to London, England, but I was the first,” she says.
“Ever since I was a young girl performing in school, I would pretend to be producing my own films and directing my own plays. Back then, I realized that theatre could help release stressors in teens’ lives, and that’s what The Dream Real Theatre Company of Chicago sets out to do. We intentionally provide a space where dreams become a reality....”
Since receiving nonprofit status, Karla would like to begin fundraising to establish the Burch Shaw Williamson Media and Performing Arts Center. The center will be dedicated to her parents, husband’s father, and grandparents. The center’s mission is to offer theatre classes that will teach teens all aspects of theatre. The actors and actresses would come from the community and travel with these shows. This venture is vitally important to her because she understands the stressors associated with growing up in Chicago’s black and brown communities. Karla says, “Our senior citizens have so much wisdom to offer our youth and our youth have technology skills to offer our seniors so they can help one another. The seniors can mentor the youth with decision-making and life skills, and the youth can teach the seniors how to operate technology and navigate social media platforms. I also want to feed the homeless and help them get back on their feet. I know it sounds like a lot, and I can’t do it all, but I can do my part. I just want to bring the vision to pass that God has laid on my heart through this center.”
Another goal Karla has is establishing Saving Our Communities Through The Arts Foundation, a mentoring program. Her mission with this foundation is to go into the communities and schools and mentor teens through theatre. She shares, “We have teens and young adults who experience stressors but don’t know what to do with that energy. In 2015 I collaborated with the Department of Children and Family Services here in Chicago. I used some of the teenagers from one of the group homes to produce a play I wrote called, The Tale of Sister and Brother Scrooge. The teenagers participating in this play realized they were working on themselves. The play became a healing mechanism for them. For instance, there was a young girl who could share how she ended up in the group home. It was because she lost both of her parents in a car accident and didn’t have anyone to take her in their home. Of course, everyone didn’t open up, some thought it was a joke, and some actually dropped out of the play but what was phenomenal to me was that after the first play, those same kids who thought it was a joke or who dropped out wished they had taken it more seriously. I want this foundation to go into these communities and schools and invite teenagers in so they can have the stage to “act” out their feelings and learn how to make better choices despite their situations. I want this foundation to be an educational resource for saving lives.”
Patrons of The Dream Real Theatre Company of Chicago can look forward to their next musical production, which was written to honor the memory of her mother, Carolyn “Pretty Pat” Burch-Dandridge, who passed away in May 2022. The stage production is entitled “My Momma’s ERA”. The theme behind this musical production is to share the history of Chicago’s 39th Street Oakwood Blvd in Chicago, also known as Bronzeville and Blackville, through her mother’s lens. Karla hopes this historic play will enhance the cultural knowledge and behaviors of African American teens.
She shares, “Growing up I enjoyed hearing my mother talk about her parents moving from the South to the North and how they made it through adversity. I want to share her story because she advocated for family and community. You know, I lost my eldest sister, who had a son, Pharez. Well, I took my nephew and raised him as my own; he’s my son, and now I’m overjoyed at being a grandmother. I thank God for the privilege of being able to raise him. Pharez has been such an inspiration
to me. I knew he needed to see me trust God and make solid choices for my life, so I went back to school. I received my first degree when he graduated from the eighth grade. It was only God who allowed me to receive my degree from Chicago State University with a BA in Communications Media Arts and Theatre with honors. I also have a BS in Business Administration with honors from Colorado Technical University. I achieved both those degrees within the same year. I worked myself to the bone for those degrees and again, it was all God. I went on to earn my MBA from Grand Canyon University and I also have an associate degree in Theatre from Kennedy-King College here in Chicago. I was going to earn my doctorate degree, but life started happening, so I decided to put that on hold until I could really focus on that educational aspiration. So, education is very important to me. I want our youth to recognize how important having both God and an education is too.”
Throughout her life, Karla has met many people who have poured into her life but none as impactful as her husband, Clarence B. Williamson, III. Karla said, “My husband has been my backbone in all of this. He inspires me towards fulfilling my goals. He wants to build with me, and he constantly encourages me to keep things going. He often tells me that “God has a plan”. He constantly speaks to my spirit and reminds me to trust God’s process. I am so thankful that he’s a supporting husband. I think it’s important to recognize the people that God places in our lives. Not only has God given me a supporting husband and son, but He’s also given me family in my sisters LaDrena Stewart and Monica Shaw, and my mother-in-law, Belinda Proctor. They are there at every turn, and I’m grateful to have them in my corner. It’s not just family who support me but women like Ericka Porter, Prophet June Hollingsworth, and Prophet Latisha Thomas. When I tell you that these women inspire me daily they do just that. They are advocates and supporters of the vision that God has placed in my heart. They inspire and motivate me constantly.”
Karla says it’s her goal to inspire youth. “I want our youth to be creative in their choices and let them know that they do have positive options. This theatre company, the center and the foundation speaks to educating, healing, and ministry. It also inspires our youth through theatre and performing arts. I don’t see many resources in Chicago offering what we do for our children.”
Viola Davis once stated, “And that’s what people want to see when they go to the theatre. I believe at the end of the day they want to see themselves - - parts of their lives that they can recognize and I feel if I can achieve that, it’s pretty spectacular”. I believe Karla Monay Shaw is doing just that with her plays - - connecting and inspiring lives in real time.
Being on the pulse of her community, Karla’s peers recognize her passion for serving, so they thought well enough of her to place her on the ballot for Lt. Governor in Chicago. Though she didn’t win, she was honored that her community of peers was confidant in her integrity and heart to nominate her for the position. The future looks bright for Karla Monay Shaw, and with God’s blessing, she will continue to touch and inspire her community through theatre.
To learn more about The Dream Real Theatre Company, please visit their website.
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.
JD Davis is the owner of Please Believe Fitness. Based in Charlotte, NC, Please Believe Fitness began with words JD spoke to himself. “If you don’t truly believe that you can accomplish what you set out to do, then there’s a strong likelihood that you probably won’t be able to.”
JD is a native of Charlotte and has served as a Certified Personal Trainer for over 20 years. He is a father of two grown young men, Donte and Tre’, and he has two beautiful grandkids; D’Mani and Donte’ Jr. JD’s career in the health and fitness industry began as a response to his being overweight. He says, “I knew I needed to make some changes in my life. S, I purchased a good pair of running shoes and started running on my lunch breaks at work. I only had 30 minutes to get it in, so I would sneak out a few minutes early to change my clothes. I would run my entire break, change back into my work uniform, and sneak back into the building about five minutes late every night,” he says. With consistency, he lost weight very quickly, but a fire had also been ignited in JD to learn more about the human body and help other people reach their weight loss goals.
After being laid off from his job, the idea to start his own fitness company came about. That is how Please Believe Fitness came to life.
At Please Believe Fitness, JD offers HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and will soon include FITRANX in his arsenal. FITRANX is a standardized training system used to gauge one’s current fitness level. He also offers nutrition assistance to all of his clients.
JD says he loves the daily interactions with the people he works with. “My “Believers” give me life! They inspire me to continuously learn and educate myself to be the best for them and provide the best possible service. I love changing and impacting lives and assisting others in accomplishing their goals.”
The future for Please Believe Fitness is limitless, and JD says while he can predict the future, he plans to continue to impact people’s lives and change the world, one pound at a time. His advice to others who may want to experience a lifestyle change as he has is this: Once you start something, don’t give up until it’s yours. Learn and study all you can and surround yourself with people who will support whatever you’re attempting to accomplish.
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 on the side 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 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 Mya 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. It was like 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 wasn’t used to the intimacy, and the connection artist have 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 again, but he still had kids, and they loved and have a relationship with their father. I wanted to let them know that their children aren’t pawns in their game of crime and punishment,” she says.
As an outspoken advocate for paternal rights, Kim works to help families understand their new normal. “I tell people, it’s not 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 newfound passion for poetry. She was starting to study poetry and all of its different genres. Kim settled on spoken word because of the performance aspect. “I enjoy the theatrics and the engagement of Spoken work,” 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 from her community. She is a speaker and facilitator and is well known for her skill at writing haikus. 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.
“I joined the Prince William County’s arts council in 2018. I then learned that they had a poet laureate. I decided to submit my work and wasn’t 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, because I write from my perspective as a black female, it would have been hard to miss the tone,” 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 didn’t enter the following year. 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.”
I didn’t go to school for it. I didn’t research poetry or listen to poets like Nikki Giovanni or Mya Angelou. The only thing I recognized and appreciated as poetry were bible verses. So when God spoke, I started writing.”
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