Huami Magazine Memphis Sept./Oct. 2022

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Sept./Oct. 2022 Volume 3 Issue 7

D2G ScreenShots Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022


God’s Plan Is Greater Than Me A Letter From The Editor

With every ordeal or trying circumstance, there will always be more than one way to handle them. We can face them head-on, or we can turn away and avoid any form of an altercation. No matter what decision is made concerning the matter, the impact or effect of what we chose will most likely be waiting on the other side of our decision. That’s why I believe it’s vital to share our thoughts with God beforehand and confirm His viewpoint because God’s plan is greater than anything I can decide for myself. Like most people, the thrill of victory is generally the reason why I compete or fight. Also, if you are anything like me, I understand that you may hate to lose, regardless of what is at stake. Yet, I am learning that I must do a better job choosing my battles because, for the most part, every battle is not mine to fight. God desires to fight for me, and He expects me to let go and allow Him to do His thing. I’ve learned that the car drives better when He controls the wheel. I recently celebrated my birthday, and to be honest; I celebrated for the entire month. That was my choice because I love birthdays. I also used that time to reflect on where I am in life and where I’ve come from. I wanted to know what I am currently doing to get to where I ultimately want to be. What was revealed is my interests and efforts were possibly pointed in the wrong direction. I learned that while I am blessed, God is more concerned about those individuals He can reach beyond me, and when I don’t allow God to use me, He isn’t able to reach them through me. Being vulnerable and a cooperative vessel are attributes of real greatness; that’s what God spoke to me. Living my life as a Christian and believer in God means that I must trust God. Even during the most difficult moments, if I just show up for the fight and trust God while I am fighting, I will then see Him move on my behalf. The things that I may be dealing with and determined to be unbearable may actually amount to nothing once it’s placed in God’s hand. How will I ever know if I don’t allow God to lead me? God has a plan and purpose for all of us, and His plan is far greater than anything we can imagine or think. I get excited when I think about everything God has prepared for me. His is greater, and all I have to do is trust His process and believe what He tells me.

Terry L. Watson 4 Terry L Watson


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SEPT./OCT. 2022


Taneka Johnson 10

Cultivate with Taneka Johnson


On The Cover

D2G Screenshots John Odum

My Best Is Yet To Come

Denaro Cook


Kingzi Royal Skin Care

Richard Steadwell

Huami Magazine Cutest Baby

Laney Williamson



Also Featured

Kara White Learn more about this serial entrepreneur. She knows something about dance, finances, and giving back to her community. Phoenix, AZ


Dr. Cokethea Hill Meet the face and founder of Blaque KC. She is doing her part to serve her community. Kansas City, MO


Alice West-Goers Learn more about the face and founder of AWG Counseling Services LLC. Denver, CO


Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

John Odum D2G ScreenShots

By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by John Odum Genuine in nature, John Odum has found his footing in the world of entrepreneurship. He is the face and founder of D2G Screenshots, a multifaceted graphic design and creative arts firm based in Memphis, TN. D2G is an acronym that represents “Dreams to Goals” and Screenshots John shares was added to his business model to allow customers to have any shirt design, image, or idea printed directly onto a T-shirt. Some of the additional products and services John offers are customprinted t-shirts and hoodies. “We use a Direct to Garment printing setup, which allows us to create vibrant, high-quality prints with a three to five day turnaround time,” he says. John was born and raised in Memphis and graduated from East High School. In high school, he met his sweetheart, a connection that led to marriage and three children. While his approach to business is calm, he has been assertive in his quest for knowledge. In doing so, he obtained an Associates Degree in Electronic Engineering Technology, a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, and a Master’s degree in Information Technology/Cybersecurity. D2GscreenShots came to life in December 2017 as a result of a graduate school assignment John had. He was asked to write a 30-page paper focusing on a new technology. After stumbling upon a printer that printed directly to t-shirts, my interest peaked, and I began to inquire about the technology,” he says. John scored a high grade for his assignment and decided to invest his money into the equipment needed to start the business, and the rest is history.

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022


“Having a son and creating a legacy is very important to me. My son’s birth motivated me to focus on my dreams of entrepreneurship and education. I want to exemplify to him that anything is possible if you do the work and believe in your dreams.”

John Odum D2G ScreenShots 901-279-0434


Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

John says he loves the creative freedom his business offers, as well as being his own boss. He also finds enjoyment in satisfying his customers. Like most business owners, John has also faced some challenges in business. Some of these involve creating a customer base in a fairly new market and setting himself apart from other shirt companies. Another challenge John shares he had was being comfortable with his product’s value and giving his customers the option to go a cheaper route with other Tshirt vendors. He was able to overcome his challenges by utilizing social media as a marketing and promotion tool. “Social media has allowed me to reach thousands of potential customers at little to no cost,” he shares. “I have built relationships with other t-shirt companies simply by referring clients to them for various services.” John says his life and career have mostly been impacted by knowing others depend on his success. “Having a son and creating a legacy is very important to me. My son’s birth motivated me to focus on my dreams of entrepreneurship and education. I want to exemplify to him that anything is possible if you do the work and believe in your dreams,” he says. John’s advice to others who may follow in his footsteps is to dream big. John shares, “Give yourself at least three years to become profitable. You must also research the industry and the competition and prepare yourself to manage taxes, licenses, and budgets. In other words, do your Homework!” There isn’t much that John says he would have changed about his journey in business. Yet, one thing he mentions is that he wishes he would have gone to college earlier to advance his communication skills and increase his exposure to marketing and business strategies. Besides those, he admits the journey has been worthwhile. As John’s future continues to look bright, he plans to expand his business and become a wholesale supplier of blank t-shirts and supply new t-shirt companies. He will also offer consulting, marketing, promotion, and startup packages to companies and help guide them into becoming successful in the t-shirt industry. To learn more about John Odum and D2G ScreenShots, please contact him directly.

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022


Taneka Johnson Cultivate with By Terry L. Watson

Taneka Johnson


Photos Provided by Taneka Johnson

After acquiring years of knowledge and experience at the benefit and disposal of others, Taneka Johnson has pivoted into the world of entrepreneurship. The Memphis, TN resident is a certified professional life and business coach with a background in I/O Psychology. With 19 years of entrepreneurship, business development, and coaching experience, Taneka aims to help others succeed in life and business. Her unique coaching method focuses on assisting solopreneurs in regaining their power by quieting the noise around their mindset. She also assists with building their confidence and bringing them support through leveraging consumer psychology and business strategy. During her time in corporate America, Taneka created training programs and documented processes for manufacturing companies. Today, she is the face and founder of Cultivate with Taneka Johnson, a consulting agency that specializes in helping other business owners establish proper business foundations by focusing on four key areas; Mindset, Operations, Business Diversity, and Business Credit. Taneka is the youngest of two children born to her mother. She is a native of Hawaii and later moved to Memphis, TN, nearly 26 years ago. She describes herself as a “military brat” and someone who is very ambitious. “I am the queen of evolution and transformation,” she says. Taneka attended Germantown High School, the University of Memphis, and obtained a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Spanish. She then attended Capella University and received her M.S. in I/O Psychology. Today, she is attending Capella University and is working to obtain her Doctorate in I/O Psychology with an emphasis in Coaching, Consulting, and Organizational Psychology. Taneka says her company offers coaching programs and services that focus on building a sustainable business foundation to support growth and scale phases. The described services are designed for small businesses, normalizing $10k+ months in their business. Tankea’s company primarily focuses on process improvement, consumer psychology, and customized business strategy. After helping to prepare her client’s business foundation, Taneka shows them how to develop SOP’s, a training library and educates them on the hiring process. For mid and large-size businesses, she provides corporate training focused on leadership, workplace culture, team building, and DEI. Additional topics discussed are SOP/process creation, evaluation, and creation of training and development programs.


How did Taneka get started along this journey? She says, “I began originally with my life coaching business in July 2017. I used to work for a small medical device company that maintained a very toxic workplace culture. There, I learned what executive coaching was and became interested in wanting to pursue it for myself. I approached the executive coach and asked him how he got started in the industry. I took the pointers that he gave me and started to shape the vision of what I wanted it to look like for myself. When I started my business, the name was DREAMWorks Life Coaching & Consulting, but we recently rebranded last year in August 2021 to its current name, Cultivate with Taneka Johnson. I had evolved as a person and business owner, and the previous name and brand were no longer a great fit for the direction I wanted to go,” she says. While helping others, Taneka says she loves to see the lightbulb go off. “I love hearing the statement, “I never thought about it that way”. It let’s me know that the teachings are working and the old mindsets are breaking to form new ones. This is the process of evolution that I embrace in my teachings,” she says.

While she loves what she does, Taneka admits some challenges come with being an entrepreneur. “I think some of the biggest challenges I have faced are when the business has gotten a little slow and when I had not yet started to believe in myself the way I should have. As a business owner, you will have slow times, but times won’t remain that way. You have to be entirely okay with pivoting if needed and trying something you have never tried before,” she says. Another challenge Taneka faced was not fully believing in herself. “You must lean into change and evolution and let it happen gracefully. Sometimes the success you desire is on the other side of the version of you fighting. You must leave those comfort zones. By doing so, you will achieve success much quicker than the average person.”


Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

While the feedback and commitment from her clients are genuinely important, Taneka shares that the most significant impact on her business happened when she decided to improve her nutritional health nearly two years ago. She credits her nutritionist, Ryan Zuber, “Your Favorite Nutritionist”, for making the process easy. “I came into it thinking I would lose some weight, but it has ended up being way more than that on this journey. It has affected how I show up as an individual and a business owner. Because I feel better, I perform better, and having mental clarity has been a significant blessing,” she says. Her best friend, Nicole Dotson, owner of Care Love Repeat Wellness, she says has been a major blessing. “I value our friendship so much, and we really push each other to be the happiest and best versions of ourselves.” The advice she offers to others who may follow in her footsteps is “to be yourself from the start, and embrace change and evolution as it naturally happens”. She says, “If you are sleeping on yourself, the difference between the life you want and where you are now is you waking completely up. Get started now. Invest in yourself, your personal development, health, and well-being. Health truly is wealth, and you will need to be healthy for the journey. Trust yourself and work on your self-discovery and never stop learning. Be bold, be daring, and go with your gut. Most importantly, you must be in tune, be intentional, and show more love.” Futuristically, Taneka says the long term goals for her business are to develop the first black-owned Employee Assistance Program. She also plans to start a staffing agency, open an entrepreneurship and leadership training center, and open multiple co-working spaces. Her goal is to venture into doing more speaking engagements and writing books. To learn more about Taneka Johnson, please visit her website.

I used to work for a small medical device company that maintained a very toxic workplace culture. There, I learned what executive coaching was and became interested in wanting to pursue it for myself.”

Taneka Johnson

Cultivate With Taneka Johnson



Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

By Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Dr. Cokethea Hill

With BLAQUE KC, Dr. Cokethea Hill is giving African-American families a seat at the table within the Kansas City, Missouri, school system. Cokethea grew up in a low-income area of Kansas City. Like most black families in her community, her family didn’t have much money. In the third grade, Cokethea was part of the second wave of the desegregation order for Kansas City Schools. “I went from going to school in my all-black neighborhood and being walked to school by my brothers every day to being bussed outside my community. It was the first time I felt like an “other.” The otherness Cokethea felt was illuminated by the fact that there were very few adults at her new school with whom she could identify. “When I was headed to fourth or fifth grade, I remember wanting Ms. Wesley or Ms. Gibbs because they were the only two black teachers at that school. When I didn’t get them, I was devastated. There was a pronounced feeling of loneliness and isolation. I remember the bullying and constantly being reminded that I didn’t belong there,” she says. Cokethea attended Lincoln College Preparatory Academy for high school. “Originally, it was the only school black kids could attend.” Lincoln College Preparatory school was established in 1865, during the civil war. Lincoln has served Kansas City’s families for over a century. To this day, Lincoln remains a Blue-Ribbon school and continues its legacy of excellence in education. “Because it set very high standards, students who attend Lincoln College Prep go on to be very successful. When you walked into the school, you knew two things for sure. One that you were special. Two, you were going to college.” After her bussing experience, Cokethea finally felt at home. But in her junior year of high school, her father passed. “When I lost my father, everything changed. My parents were forty-two and forty-eight when they had me, so when my dad died, my mother was in her sixties. College was no longer an option because I had to work.” In survival mode, Cokethea focused on helping to care for herself and her mother, but her school counselor helped her refocus. “I had a wonderful counselor named Barbara Ponder. When I told her I couldn’t go to college, she said, ‘Cokethea, this is a college preparatory academy where every student has to take the ACT. Also, you must apply for college.’ I realize now that she understood the more active I was in the college prep process, the more likely I would go.” Ms. Ponder was correct. Cokethea attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She later transferred to Central Missouri State, earning her bachelor of psychology. After graduating college, Cokethea started working for the Missouri Division of Youth Services at the Northwest Regional Youth Center. “The facility I worked in was for boys ages thirteen to eighteen. They could have been there for anything from grand theft auto, robbery, rape, and assault,” she shared.

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022


Cokethea was a youth specialist. Part of her responsibilities was to help the boys with schoolwork. Cokethea noticed a disturbing trend. “Most of them couldn’t read. I knew I’d had more opportunities, but I assumed everyone had the same level of education because they were from the same district. Yet, sixteen-year-olds were reading at a fourth-grade level. There was something terribly wrong there.” Cokethea knew something had to be done. “Most of the kids I worked with had just made a bad decision out of a handful of bad decisions. They didn’t have any good options available to them. That made me want to become a therapist.” At twentyone, she decided to return to school for her master’s degree in psychology.

“Most of the kids I worked with had just made a bad decision out of a handful of bad decisions. They didn’t have any good options available to them. That made me want to become a therapist.”

To figure out why students were being promoted without being able to read, Cokethea needed to be inside the school system. “I had so many questions I needed answers for, so I got a job in the district as a guidance counselor.” It only took three years in the K.C. school district for Cokethea to call it quits. “A new policy was passed reducing the number of credits needed to graduate high school, and I was confused. We already had students who were being passed on without the basics. Now they were lowering the standard even further. I knew the rigor wasn’t there, and they wouldn’t even have enough credits to attend community college. Additionally, many students were taking remedial classes, so they were set up to fail even if they did try to attend college. It was negligent, and I couldn’t be part of that, so I quit. I was young and impulsive, but I felt it was the right thing to do.” Cokethea went on to work for Kauffman Scholars. “Kauffman Scholars is a scholarship program that targets inner city kids in grades sixth- twelfth grade. The program gives selected students additional coaching and wraparound resources until they graduate high school. When they went to college, the program gave the students financial support for their education fees.” At twenty-four, Cokethea was living the life she wanted. She was helping the demographic she felt called to and being paid handsomely. Then she felt a higher calling. “I was in the best place I had ever been in. Then here comes a man named Barack Obama announcing his bid for presidency.” Excited by the change in the air, Cokethea applied to become an Barack Obama Organizing Fellow. This initiative was focused on teaching young people the power of relational organizing at the grassroots level to bring about change in their communities and nationally, by electing the first African American president! “I knew I had to be a part of this movement, this was an opportunity to make democracy real and tangible for myself and my community..” Cokethea was accepted as a fellow, and her life as a community activist was solidified. Passion pushed her to leave her job at Kauffman Scholars to reach a larger population. Cokethea spent the summer organizing her community in housing, voter registration, healthcare, and so much more. “I made so many amazing memories. I learned how to connect with the people of the community, I learned how to listen to them, and understand their needs and desires,” she says.


Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022



Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

After her time as a fellow ended, she was asked to apply for the K.C. school board. “People were like, hey Cokethea; you’re out here talking about change. Why don’t you run for the school board? I said you’re right! I should run for the open seat.” At twenty-eight, Cokethea was appointed to the school board. She sat from 2008 until 2010. She ran for a second term but didn’t win. “I was so disappointed. In the end, I didn’t have what the other candidates had. Money. There was no capital to support the running of my campaign. But I was grateful for the two years I was there. I was honored to be mentored by two amazing black women: Helen Ragsdale, a former teacher, and Marilyn Simmons, a parent advocate. I was young, passionate, and educated but also immature. These women taught me patience, strategy, tact, sophistication, and how to pick my battles. Working alongside them helped shape the person I am today.” Cokethea worked for a few more companies, making good use of her passion for helping her community. She worked for the United Way, the city of KC, and the School Smart KC program. This foundation gave money to help urban schools with much-needed resources. “I believe God orchestrated every step I’ve taken in my life. I worked at the United Way, where I learned to raise money, but School Smart allowed me to dream without limits because they had resources. I was blessed with the ability to travel the country to gain knowledge and learn new and innovative things meant to help the underserved,” she says. But as she looked deeper, Cokethea realized that although well intentioned initiatives seek to improve outcomes for marginalized children and families there are systemic and political forces that make moving the educational needle for Black children extremely difficult. “I would sit in the meetings and look at the presented data, which wasn’t making sense. These programs were supposed to be helping the urban community but looking at the data, the needle wasn’t moving specifically for black children. At that moment, everything came together. I always said if I ever got a seat at the table, I wouldn’t just sit back and let things happen. So I left my job and started a firm that would empower everyday people to challenge, deconstruct, and redesign systems that are harmful to black children in education.” The issue Cokethea struggled with was that the data needed to fix the issues in the black education system was not being shared with that community. “The people the information would help weren’t being made aware of their options. So, they continued to struggle. This was counterproductive.” BLAQUE KC was founded on May 25, 2020. BLAQUE stands for Black Leaders Advancing Quality Urban Education. “The date is burned into my head because the day we signed the paperwork for BLAQUE was the same day George Floyd was murdered,” she explained, tearing up. “God was up to something. It was a horrible time for us all, but now the light was cast on initiatives like ours. People were looking for opportunities to show support to the black community.”

Dr. Cokethea Hill Blaque KC

The purpose of the BLAQUE Playbook is to support community leaders in their efforts to control the narrative. They help fund the running of local campaigns. They support community advocacy and efficacy. They work to be a bridge between the families and community stakeholders and the educational system so that students receive the quality education they deserve. Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022



Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

Real Estate, Finance, and Dance....... I Do A Lot By Terry L. Watson - Photos Provided by Kara White

While Phoenix, AZ, is widely known for its often sweltering climate, someone else is blazing their own path in the black business community and helping others succeed along the way. Her name is Kara White. The young and ambitious entrepreneur wears many hats, including that of a real estate agent, financial planner, dance instructor, and director of a nonprofit organization. Kara was born and raised in Chicago, IL. In 2002, she decided to make the cross-country trek to the Desert Valley in search of a new start. That same year, she received her real estate license and followed that by becoming a licensed broker in 2009. She shares how her journey began, an experience wrapped in surprise and purpose. “While on a trip with my mother, I talked with an owner of a real estate agency. They offered me a job and even offered to cover the cost of my real estate license. However, as soon as I received the license, I left the resort gracefully and began building my clientele,” she says.


Due to the ever-changing real estate market, Kara had to reinvent herself. That’s how one of her products, Kara’s Wealth Consultant, was developed, which spawned another product, Get the Money Friend. In this brand, “F.R.I.E.N.D.” is an acronym for “Financial Consultation, Real Estate, Investments, Planning, Notary Public Services, and Debt Elimination. She also offers credit consultation with services that include Credit Report Review, a Credit Repair DIY Kit Guide, and Income Protection and Budget Review. While she has demonstrated an astute business understanding, Kara’s talents expand beyond the entrepreneurial sector. She is the former Miss Arizona International. Her platform and influence were carried over into her nonprofit organization, Live Love Dance Inc. Its focus is to empower youth and lead them to live healthy, strong, and fulfilled lives via the performing arts. It also provides workshops, empowerment sessions, galas, fundraising, private lessons, and community service events.

Kara shares she has always had a passion for dance. “When I was 11 years old, my first job was as a dance assistant. I quickly rose in rank from an assistant to teaching my own class. I’m disciplined in all seven dance forms, with contemporary dance being my favorite. I favor this style more because it incorporates the basics such as ballet and the freeing movement fundamentals of jazz and modern dance,” she says. Kara’s genuine love to see others succeed is an attribute that comes into play in her personal and professional life. “I am committed to helping others, and my business endeavors must positively impact my community. The different experiences I’ve gained have allowed me to not only help others, but I’ve benefited from those that I serve, pouring back into me,” she says. The life of an entrepreneur can present unique challenges, and Kara has also experienced her share. She says that times can get complicated, but during those moments, she has to search deep within and find a way to stay positive and keep moving. “Despite my challenges, I am committed to living in the moment. I try to live and be present because time is whatever you think it is and whatever you create. I often tell others not to dwell on the past or focus too much on the future because they don’t know what will or might happen. We must live in the moment,” she says.


Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022



Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

“I am committed to helping others, and my business endeavors must positively impact my community.”

On top of being able to help others, Kara also loves that she doesn’t have to conform to anything. Whether it’s her money world or dance world, she’s able to be personable while working at the same time. She also loves being able to work with a team of great people. As life moves forward for Kara, she expects to be involved in more endeavors and hopes to launch an event planning business. She also plans to expand her brand, Kara’s Wealth Consultant, and continue spreading financial advice in her community. Additionally, plans to continue to promote and grow Live Love Dance Incorporated. Their signature gala fundraiser is coming up in October, with proceeds going towards dance scholarships. For anyone looking to follow in Kara’s footsteps, her number one piece of advice is this; no one is going to be better at being you than you. She says, “Don’t try to be me, be better than me, be better at being you than me.” Please visit her website to learn more about Kara White and her great endeavors.

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022



Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

Richard Steadwell Kingzi Royal Skincare Collection

By Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Todd Youngblood The first question asked of Richard was, “Who is Richard Steadwell?” The look on his face was priceless. “Of all the questions I expected to be asked, that was the one I wasn’t prepared for,” Richard explained, smiling and nervous while rubbing his cold, clammy hands. It was clear that Richard was nervous, but he slipped easily into his element as he explained his plight. Richard Steadwell is living his dream of being a self-employed entrepreneur. He owns and operates Kingzi Barbers Lounge in Concord, N.C., and the Kingzi Men’s Skincare Collection. Although Richard has always possessed the creative spirit of an entrepreneur, there were limitations he says he had to overcome before he could realize his dream. “I’ve always been good with my hands. I love being creative and using my imagination. I always knew that using those natural talents would make me happy.” Richard called himself a kitchen barber because he’s been cutting hair since he was a teenager, but he never thought of it as a career. Richard was born in North Carolina but was raised in California. In the tenth grade, he decided school wasn’t for him. He shares, “I was struggling and getting into trouble a lot. I had convinced myself that they were teaching me the things I wanted to know. Deep down, part of my reasoning was I felt like I was an embarrassment to my mother, and I didn’t want to keep putting her through that, so I quit.” Richard explained. “My mother wasn’t happy about it, but my mind was made up.” Richard’s mother gave him two options, the military or trade school. Due to health issues, the military wasn’t a good fit, so Richard went to the Earl C. Clemmons Job Corps center in Morganfield, Ky. “My mother drove me to the center because she was serious about me not sitting up in her house without a job or trade of any kind. She said if I was going to be grown, I had to make a way for myself,” he says. While in Job Corp, Richard took several certification classes, including a business course. The one thing he stayed away from was getting his G.E.D. “If I had been wise and not so worried about failing, I would have just gotten my G.E.D. while in Job Corps. Things would have been a lot easier for me, and I would be farther than I am today. But, what can I say? I was young and didn’t want to listen to anybody,” Richard explains with a laugh. In his lifetime, Richard has done just about every laborious job there is. He was a self-proclaimed jack of all trades and master of none. “Wow… I can’t even begin to name all the different jobs I’ve had in my life. I’ve done everything from working fast food to construction. And

at no time did I ever feel like I was doing the job I was meant for. I wouldn’t say I like working for other people. Plus, because I didn’t have a high school diploma or G.E.D. I couldn’t go any higher than entry-level work. It was frustrating,” Richard states. After years of going from one unfulfilling job to another, Richard decided he wanted something more. One day, not long after his fortieth birthday, Richard was sitting in his barber’s chair and shared his idea of going to barber college. The response he received was surprising. “I had been going to this same guy for over ten years, and I considered him a friend, but what he told me blew me away. He told me it was too old and it would be too hard for me to build up clientele at this point. I couldn’t believe my ears,” Richard said; still a little put off by the experience. “I was like, wow. I was not expecting that at all. When I left the shop, I kept thinking about him telling me it was too late for me. The more I thought about it, the more I was determined to prove him wrong.” Immediately Richard looked into starting barber college at Park West Barber College in Greensboro, N.C. As he read the requirements, the first thing that stopped him in his tracks was the requirement of a high school diploma or equivalent.

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022



Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

“There I was again. Every time I tried to move forward, I found myself coming back to the same roadblock. All these years later, my decision to drop out of high school was still haunting me. I sat there thinking about what I wanted and the time I had wasted. I have to admit I was terrified of going back to school, but I decided I couldn’t spend one more day letting fear hold me back.” Richard enrolled at Gilford Technical Community College, Jamestown, N.C., and started working towards his G.E.D. He transferred and finished the program at Alamance Community College in Graham, NC. School was never easy for Richard, but his desire to achieve his goals was stronger than his fear of failure. “It was hard, working and going to school at the same time, but I finally knew what I was working towards. It was all going to be worth it in the end.” After completing the program, Richard had to take the G.E.D. Test. Most people struggle with standardized testing. Richard’s past traditional education experiences and test anxiety didn’t make things easy. He says, “I will be honest and say I didn’t do well initially on the G.E.D. Test. I failed it three times!” he said, shaking his head. “I couldn’t believe it! I had worked so hard. Before I knew it, I felt like I was back in high school. I didn’t think I was smart enough to pass the test. I was struggling and embarrassed. Then I remembered that I wasn’t in high school anymore, and my dreams were just on the other side of that test. I couldn’t let it stop me again.” On the fourth try, Richard passed and received his G.E.D. “I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. My family came and celebrated with me, and I made my mother proud. I made myself proud. I proved that I could do anything if I didn’t give up,” he said. After receiving his G.E.D, Richard started at Park West Barber College in Greensboro, N.C. From there, he became an apprentice barber, but he knew that he had to relocate to grow. “After job corp I moved back to Greensboro, and later moved to Durham, NC. to finish barber school. But after barber college, I wanted to go to an area where I could start fresh and have room to grow. Barbering in Durham and Greensboro was a crowded market. I thought about Jacksonville, Florida, or Georgia but settled on Charlotte, NC.” Richard was an apprentice barber at Bennett’s Barber Shop in Charlotte for four years. “You usually do one year as an apprentice before you can take your master barber’s licensure test, but I did four years because I felt I had so much to learn.” As Richard worked as an apprentice barber, he was free to explore his creativity. Barbering isn’t just about cutting hair. Men trust their barbers and seek their advice about looking and feeling their best. Richard noticed a small selection of beard and skin grooming products for men. The scents were basic and didn’t represent all men, especially black men. Hence Kingzi Men’s Skincare Collection was born. He says, “I didn’t like that most beard balms smelled like the great outdoors,” Richard said with a laugh. “Never have you heard a woman say she loves the smell of citrus on her man. So, I started experimenting with fragrances that I liked and ones that didn’t make my customers smell like car air fresheners.”

“My clients were willing and honest test subjects. I gave away free samples, and they would let me know what worked and what didn’t. Before I knew it, word got out, and it’s gained momentum from there.” Putting what he learned about sales and marketing in Job Corps, Richard is preparing to put the Kingzi Men’s Skincare Collection on the shelves of major shopping centers all over the country. But for now, the skincare line can be purchased locally at Kingzi Barber’s Lounge. This was his reply when asked what the future looked like for Richard. “The future is bright. Brighter than I thought possible at this point in my life. I was stuck for forty years because I didn’t think I was smart enough to pass a high school equivalency test. But when I faced my fears and pushed past them, the world opened up to me. Things are happing so fast I am having trouble keeping up,” Richard said, smiling proudly. “But I guess that’s a good problem to have.” Richard intends to continue growing his business, including lotions, skin conditioning oils for women, and a Kingzi clothing line. He concludes by saying, “If I could say one thing to my younger self, it would be this: Don’t let fear and other people’s opinions of you hold you back. You can achieve anything you set your mind to if you are willing to fail at it first. When you fall, you got know where to go but up!” h

Richard enrolled in YouTube university and learned all he could about creating beard balms and lotions specifically for men. Once he had the know-how, Richard started making small batched in his home and trying them on his clients.



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Laney Williamson The daughter of Elise Blackmon and Dante Williamson

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

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Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

AWG Counseling Services By Ellen Richardson Photos Provided by Reyna Jean Photography

If the truth can be told, most people have been through something in their lives that requires some form of healing. The question is, how do we exactly heal? A general answer may be by asking for help. When that option is chosen, finding the right person to help can be difficult. Fortunately, there is someone who has dedicated their life and career to assisting others during such instances. Alice West-Goers of Denver, CO, is a licensed and experienced counselor and change agent who promotes and facilitates emotional healing. She uses her personal story as a tool to connect and assist others. “My story begins with growing up in Guam. I moved to Guam with a relative whom obtained custody of my sister and I when we were removed from our birth mother’s care. My sister left the home due to behavioral concerns and was placed with my later to be adopted family. I was 17 years old when I was adopted. This was life-changing for me and ultimately affected the trajectory of my life,” she says. After two years of being placed with her new adopted family, Alice would run away from home to locate her biological family. Her actions would eventually lead to a downward spiral. She says it also made finishing school difficult. After realizing her life was headed in the wrong direction, she decided to go back home, contacted her adoptive parents, and asked for help. “At the age of 16, I contacted my adopted mother and asked her if I could come back home. I knew this would mean that I would have to go back into a house with rules and structure, but I knew that was something I needed,” she said. The decision to return home would forge a path leading Alice to a brighter future. Along with graduating from high school, Alice could now attend Regis University college. “During my time at Regis I participated in a commitment program for kids who had trouble getting through high school, which helped with my grades,” she says.

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022


“I moved to Guam with a relative whom obtained custody of my sister and I when we were removed from our birth mother’s care. My sister left the home due to behavioral concerns and was placed with my later to be adopted family. I was 17 years old when I was adopted. This was lifechanging for me and ultimately affected the trajectory of my life.”

Alice West-Goers

AWG Counseling Services 720-988-9482


Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

A new challenge would arise as Alice continued on her road toward a better life. “I got pregnant with my daughter during my sophomore year of college. With the new addition to my life, I decided to transfer to Metropolitan State University (MSU). There I received my bachelors degree in Social Work. I also served as an intern for the County of Denver. That opportunity opened the door for me to work full-time as a social worker following graduation. Life appeared to come back to me full circle. From aging out of the foster care system in Denver County to becoming an intern in the same department where I was once a foster kid, to working alongside my former social worker as a full-time employee,” Alice shares. Following her time with the city and county, Alice would acquire a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Denver, with an emphasis in Child Welfare and Trauma. Next, she worked as a childhood therapist within the nonprofit sector and later with the childhood mental health field at Aurora Mental Health Center. She would also serve as an inpatient behavioral health therapist with The Medical Center of Aurora. Though Alice’s life appeared on the right track, her life would come to another fork in the road in 2020. “It was during the Covid-19 pandemic that I decided it was time to focus more on private practice,” she said. Although it would take time to set up this practice, Alice is now celebrating her first anniversary as the owner of AWG Counseling Services. With AWG Counseling Services, Alice practice now offers counseling services, including adult therapy, family counseling, self-esteem, and healthy coping skills to eliminate destructive patterns. There is even a childhood therapist available to assist those who are dealing with social and emotional issues. Alice has also become a member of the Therapist of Color Collaborative, where therapists of color come together to provide mental health services for those who cannot afford these types of services. With her being a therapy liaison for the University of Denver, Alice’s opportunity to connect with graduate students within the social work realm to be a guiding light towards their future is a way that she gives back. Now that she has her own private practice, what is next for this bright beacon of God’s light? Along with obtaining additional training and licensures in various counseling and becoming a licensed addiction counselor, Alice has some interest in joining various coalitions that would allow her to offer services to more of those in need. To find out more about AWG Counseling Services, please visit their website. h

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022



Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

My Best Is Yet To Come By Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Denaro Cook

We’ve all heard about the many innocent people who have been victims of inadequate representation. Denaro Cook served eighteen years of a twenty-year sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. I wish I were about to tell a story about how the truth won out in the end, but that was not the case for Denaro.

Since his release in 2017, Denaro has hit the ground running, fueled by the hopes and dreams he never let go of during his eighteen years of incarceration. Music has always been a large part of Denaro’s life, and his time in prison was no different. “The inspiration didn’t stop just because I was locked up. In fact, it happened more often. I have so many songs and lyrics that I have yet to record it ain’t funny.”

The culture that most African-Americans grow up in says that you don’t turn on your family. Denaro heard this a lot as a kid. “My mother used to say all the time, ‘your family is all you got. You should never turn on your brother.’ So, I didn’t. And it cost me eighteen years.”

Growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas, Denaro has always loved country music. One of his songs is titled “I Love Country.” But it’s not the sad, jailhouse blues. What Denaro sings is Joyful Country.

At eighteen, four days after his high school prom and two weeks before graduating, Denaro was arrested and charged with a murder he didn’t commit. “The detective told me if I testified, I would have been cleared of all charges. But the person was my brother, and they already had him in custody. They knew he was the guilty party. They just wanted me to make their case for them. Because I refused to say anything, they charged me as well,” he says. Because Denaro wouldn’t testify against his brother, he was punished and spent eighteen years of his life in jail. “I completed 80% of the sentence I was given. If I’d had the financial means available to me at the time, I wouldn’t have served a day,” Denaro explained. Losing your freedom just as your life is about to begin is a hard pill to take. Especially when you and everyone involved, including the detective and prosecutor, know that your only crime was guilt by association. “I had a public defender, but they were no help. So instead of continuing to fight and get my hopes up, I decided to make peace with the hand I was dealt.” Although Denaro gave up the hope that he would be exonerated, he never gave up on hope. “That’s all you have, really. Life without hope is death.” So Denaro refocused his energy toward the future. When you are locked up, you are at the mercy of someone else. They tell you when to eat, sleep, and control every aspect of your life. The one thing they can’t control is your ability to dream,” Denaro shares.

“I could be bitter, but what would that accomplish? The time I spent in prison caused me to see life differently. I had to learn to forgive. Forgive the people who put me there, forgive myself, and forgive God. Once you do that, you can have peace no matter where you are.” Denaro credits his faith in God for seeing him through the rough times. “I learned to trust and believe God would see me through it all. And he did. Since my release, I’ve seen him work things out for me that I couldn’t do for myself. My dreams are becoming a reality,” he said.

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022



Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

Denaro is a country music recording artist. He has a talk show called Prison Chronicles. He owns a book publishing company, Cook Book Publishing LLC, and he just started a nonprofit organization called Ones WHO (Ones Who Have Overcome). “These were the things I dreamt about, and I’m watching God put people in my path who can make things happen. That’s why you don’t give up on your dreams. Especially when you are in the darkest of places.” Prison Chronicles is a YouTube web show that gives voice to those affected by the penal system. This platform gives voice to former inmates, current inmates, family members of incarcerated people, and the people who put them there. Denaro has hosted correction workers and even judges. “Everyone on both sides has experienced some form of trauma. I believe it’s essential to understand that. The show allows people to speak their truth and dispel the lies and misconceptions people have about life in prison. It’s not what you see on television. These men and women are still human beings and deserve to be treated as such. These stories not only give them a release, but it also helps others who don’t yet dare to speak out. It’s therapeutic in many ways.” The seventeen episodes of Prison Chronicles have been over three thousand times since the first video podcast aired. “We are in the process of revamping, but there will be new episodes coming soon.” As a recording artist and a talk show host, it’s only natural to have a Cook Book Publishing company. “I never thought about becoming a publisher until my brother and his friend started writing books.” Denaro’s brother, who is currently serving time for the same crime Denaro was convicted of, has written several books. “An inmate who started a publishing company while in jail published one of my brother’s books. When I visited him, he asked why I didn’t do it too. At first, I didn’t think I could, but after some research, I realized it was simple. With just a few steps, I had a legitimate book publishing company.” Cook Book Publishing is a licensed publisher with nine books published under their label and four authors.

taking you to the Goodwill to get clothes. Giving you guidance on where to go to get help for different things.” Denaro admits that he has had a few struggles while making a name for himself as a free man. “Everyone has trauma, and I’m no different. It was painful to endure what I did, knowing I hadn’t done anything wrong. While you are away, life begins, and it ends. People you love pass away, but none tells you, thinking they save you heartache. They don’t understand that it’s more painful to find out years later.” During reentry, everyone has a decision to make about the way forward. For Denaro, that meant losing friends and family. “Inside, I had to make a change of mind and change of heart. When I got out, I had to change my environment to maintain that change. I lost friends and family who didn’t understand that I wasn’t the person I was when I went in. As a man, society has taught us not to show weakness. We have to suppress it and suffer through it. To do that, we have to become detached and inaccessible. It makes having successful relationships hard because you don’t know how to open up without being vulnerable. Thankfully God blessed me with a beautiful daughter who has taught me how to love again. Because of her, I feel myself coming alive again.” It’s been five years since his release, and Denaro has never let go of three things. His faith in God, his love for his family, and the belief that it’s never too late to dream. h

The nonprofit is a recent addition but not a new idea for Denaro. “The nonprofit was just approved, but it’s an idea I planned out while in prison. Originally it was supposed to be called MAID by Us, but the name was taken. Ones WHO is a rehab, recovery, reentry, and disability assistance program for ex-inmates trying to restart their lives.” After release, most former inmates have to adjust to the world they are being released into and come to terms with losing the world they left behind. “You must apply for your social security card, driver’s license, and all kinds of documents that make it legal to walk around. You have to figure out how to function in an alien world. When I went in, technology was nowhere near where it was when I came out. I wasn’t familiar with smartphones, tablets, and things like that. For successful reentry, there needs to be technology training. You have to know how to use computers and the internet to fill out a job application.” Along with the need for help with technological advances, Ones WHO will act as a resource for people who need support during reentry. They will help with everything from basic needs such as clothes and personal care items to mental and emotional support. “You learn to cherish the things most people take for granted. Something as simple as someone 39


Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

& The Plan Works Better With Two By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Autumn Shelton Autumn Shelton and Nathaniel Taylor possess a vital ingredient that a successful relationship must have. That is chemistry. In just a few short years, this young and talented power-couple has built several businesses in Nashville, TN. Their first venture, Honeyed Natural Health & Beauty Store, made its debut in 2020, during the height of the Covid 19 pandemic. Honeyed Natural Health & Beauty Store is a natural health and wellness company that specializes in alternative holistic healing. Today, the innovative product line has converted to a new identity, and is known as the Honeyed Skincare, and has increased its overall footprint with the addition of many new products. Their newest brand is the Golden Plant Vegan Eatery, a vegan-based food product line that tastes just as good as it looks. Autumn shares, “We are a vegan popup company offering fresh vegan food, catering services, and many other plantbased options. We have vegan-friendly universal items such as sandwiches, Mexican cuisine, and Veganese, also known as Vegan Chinese) BBQ, Soul, Jerk, Mediterranean, and more.”

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022


Nathaniel and Autumn have enjoyed the vegan lifestyle for nearly five years and started their vegan business in July 2022, and while they primarily serve the community of Nashville, their pop-up arm allows for them to travel around to other states frequently. Being a vegan and owning and operating a business that caters to the growing vegan population is something that Nathaniel and Autumn has enjoyed. Autumn says, “We are changing the perspective on veganism. We provide good authentic food to those who are already vegan, transitioning to this eating lifestyle, or are simply open to trying something new.” They share personal life experiences and transitions inspired them to start The Golden Plant Eatery. “After making better health decisions and chasing a healthier lifestyle, we learned a lot about alternatives. Once we shared our cooking with others, we knew they loved it and decided it was time to finalize things and open up the doors to our business.” While the Covid 19 pandemic affected many businesses worldwide, Nathaniel and Autumn have been fortunate not to be directly impacted by it’s grip. “Our biggest struggle is getting people to try vegan and understand that you can get just as creative with vegan than you can anything else. It’s more than just a simple salad,” they said. The future looks very bright for The Golden Plant Eatery, and Autumn and Nathaniel have positioned themselves for success. “We plan to move into a food truck soon and hopefully acquire a small location. We hope to open up shop in many states one day. For now, we want to take it one step at a time,” they said. To learn more about The Golden Eatery, please visit their website. h


Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022

Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022


Meet The Author of The HBCU Homecoming By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by La-Donia Alford-Jefferies For those living within the Greensboro, NC community, the annual North Carolina A&T State University Homecoming can easily become a tradition. It is regarded as the Greatest Homecoming On Earth, or GHOE, and draws thousands to the Triad area, many of who are seeking to reconnect, engage, celebrate, and cheer for the Aggies . For La-Donia Alford-Jeffries, an A&T alumnus has created a couple of books, The HBCU Homecoming and the HBCU ABCs, and hopes they will educate and inform current and future HBCU students on the significance and history of the HBCU experience. At a young age, she was taught the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities by her mother and father, and has attended HBCU Homecomings regularly since the age of three. Her mother worked for 40 years as a full-time professor at an HBCU, and her father is an alum of A&T. She recalls how she attended A&T football games with her father and continues to sit in his lifetime stadium seats. As a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and Fort Valley State University, La-Donia continues to advocate for HBCUs. After having children, La-Donia was inspired to share her family’s experience of attending HBCU Homecomings with families around the world. Additionally, she is a former Adjunct Professor at A&T, and currently serves as the Chief of Staff for the National Organization for Women and advocates for equality.


La-Donia says she decided to write her books in 2015, but the first book was eventually published in 2019. The HBCU ABCs was self-published in 2022. “When I was pregnant with my first child, I began looking for a children’s book that would help me explain homecoming and the HBCU culture to my children. There were some HBCU children’s books, but none specifically talked about homecoming. So I decided to write one. With the success of the homecoming book, I wanted to continue the story and highlight HBCU culture for children. I then wrote and published the HBCU ABCs to tell the story of what happens after homecoming. I wanted to explain the different aspects of college for children and highlight why HBCU’s are far from inferior institutions,” she says. La-Donia says what she loves most about sharing her books is showing children what it’s like to attend an HBCU, even if they have never been on a college campus. “I’ve seen children light up when I’ve read both books. They become full of questions that lead to a discussion of higher education,” she shares. The response to her books has been wonderful. Essence magazine listed her book as one of the 50 “must read” Black Children’s and Young Adult books of the past 50 years. The production, Because of Them We Can, featured the HBCU Homecoming book, calling it “If “A Different World” had a children’s book, this would be it.” La-Donia’s parents have played a huge role in her life as they have been a part of the Greensboro community for over 20 years. They have made an impact through education, community leadership, and service and have not only supported La-Donia and her brother on their HBCU journey’s, but they have helped others attend college and have always talked about the importance of attending an HBCU. In the future, La-Donia says she plans to continue to share her stories and encourage all children to be confident. She also plans to help children learn about the opportunities available through higher education. To learn more about La-Donia and her books, please visit her website. h 45

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Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022


Memphis - Sept./Oct. 2022