What if? That thought comes to mind when I consider what my life could be. What if I didn’t live in a particular city, or attend a certain high school? What if I had chosen a different career path or traveled a different road in life? What if I had never applied action to my dream? What if God didn’t choose me to be paired with His vision?
I will be the first to admit that my life has been anything but simple. For the most part, it has been full of winding roads and quite noisy at times. The love and encouragement of my mother, grandmother, and others surely help to soften me; I surely miss my grandma. Yet, the storms and shortcomings I’ve endured have done their job and toughened me a little.
I have learned that my peace lies in the space between the good times and bad times, and for me to enjoy and experience peace, I must work for it. I have also learned that life will get tough, and when we get knocked down, God doesn’t expect us to stay there. There are lessons in all experiences, and getting up and trying to get it right again is part of God’s lesson.
There was a point in my life when I didn’t know if I was coming or going. With every move I made, it was the wrong one. There were also times when I would move or react to whatever thought came into my mind. Again, that turned out to be the wrong thing to do. My point is everything I had done, I did it without seeking guidance from God beforehand. I was driving my own ship, yet I was going nowhere and fast.
While I made a mess of my life, God was there, like He always has been. He allowed me to make those bad decisions and provided grace to ensure I would survive them. During the times when I continued to make the same mistakes over and over again, God continued to cover me because there was a lesson that I needed to learn.
Despite everything I have experienced thus far, God has been right there with me. When it appears things aren’t moving fast enough, I know that God is governing the speed at which things are happening. When we get in God’s way, we block Him from blessing us. Get out of God’s way and allow God to drive. You might just learn that life is a lot easier from the passenger seat.
Nicole Hornsby-Harrison’s mission to help others is rooted in her belief that healing comes through a sound emotional and spiritual foundation. Her passion for the mental and physical well-being of those around her has helped to grow her fitness empire, Creole Fitness.
Nicole owns Creole Fitness, and is the Executive Director of the A.G.A.P.E Project, a nonprofit that focuses on her community’s physical and mental health. A native of Amite, LA, she is also a dynamic certified personal trainer, actress, author, Army Veteran, and woman of faith who is passionate about helping people journey through life as their best selves.
As a personal trainer, Nicole offers various services and products, including meal prep consultation, meditation, weight training, boxing, and many CrossFit workouts. She also makes custom blend supplements, waistbeads, and detox drinks. She says her products are designed to assist or motivate those on their fitness, mental health, and wellness journey. Additionally, Nicole is a mental health coach, author, and motivational speaker.
So how did Nicole get started with fitness? She shares, “I have always been an athlete, but I was burnt out on anything fitness when I exited the military. I took a few years off and began boxing and supporting my youngest daughter while she trained as a UFC fighter. I never thought about training anyone, but somehow I started working with one client, and things took off from there.”
Several academic achievements complement Nicole’s passion. She has a master’s degree in criminal justice and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Public Administration. She is married to Rashund Harrison, and they have five kids: Desiree, Kierra, DeAndre, Xavier, and Tiara. They also have five grandchildren: Aijah, Reign, Raelin, Keem, and Kayden.
“I never thought about training anyone, but somehow I started working with one client, and things took off from there.”
Helping people reach their goals and conquer their fears are two things Nicole says she loves to do. Embarking on her own personal fitness journey gave her a sense of empowerment, which she tries to duplicate with her clients. “Working on myself helped me to transform her from an insecure young woman to a passionate wife, mother, businesswoman, and community leader,” she says.
Working on herself is something Nicole learned to do after facing a huge challenge in her life. On the eleventh day of February 2022, Nicole suffered a heart attack. “My life changed in a matter of minutes. I had zero blockages and learned that my heart attack was stress-induced. Since then, I’ve been spreading awareness of mental health while caring for myself. Months following my heart attack, I held my first annual Mental Health and Wellness 5k Run/Walk. I’ve visited five countries and written three books, one memoir, and one journal. I am living now, and I do not take anything for granted anymore,” Nicole says.
Other challenges Nicole has faced include getting her culture to change their relationship with food and fitness. “The younger generation is catching on, but I have a lot of work to do for my generation,” she says.
As a businesswoman and entrepreneur, Nicole remains willing to share information and tips with other aspiring business owners. She says, “Whatever you do, don’t give up. Run towards your fears and invest in yourself. If your friends and family can shop at Walmart and Target and not question their prices, then they shouldn’t question yours. Do not allow family and friends to depreciate or devalue your product and service. Real friends won’t ask for discounts or freebies, they will support you without hesitation and won’t mind paying.”
Be on the lookout for a future brick-and-mortar location for Creole Fitness. Nicole’s vision does not only include a gym but also “ninja warrior” type obstacles for those who love to push themselves to the limit. She also plans to spread mental health and wellness by promoting her memoir, Pruned, and her journal and recipe book, Pruned By June. Her annual “It’s Ok Mental Health & Wellness 5k Run/ Walk is scheduled for July 2023. Please visit their website to learn more about Nicole Hornsby-Harrison and Creole Fitness.
Corrie Wilson is The W Agency’s founding owner and operator, a one-stop shopping experience for entrepreneurs looking to take their businesses to the next level. Whether it be a start-up or an existing business looking to rebrand, The W Agency has what you need.
Based in Conway, Arkansas, Corrie has always been a small-town boy with big-time dreams. Originally from Helena, Arkansas, a lower-income area, Corrie focused on the world beyond his own. “I was always a dreamer. I was from Helena, but I knew even as a kid that the world was so much bigger,” Corrie explains.
Like most kids from the early 90s, Corrie lived vicariously through entertainment magazines and music videos, not for the reasons you’d think.
“I was that kid that paid attention to the details and techniques most people didn’t notice. I would record music videos on VHS and watch them over and over again. I would analyze and scrutinize the video frame by frame. I collected black entertainment magazines like Right On, Ebony, Jet, and Vibe Magazine,” Corrie explained. “But it wasn’t for the articles or to learn about the latest superstar. I was captivated by the artwork. I spent hours pouring over the photography, the lighting, and all the elements that came together to create that one living shot.”
Without role models in arts and culture, Corrie couldn’t explain his fixation with the visual aspects of art and entertainment. He was sure it would somehow become a large part of his identity.
After high school, Corrie gravitated towards the music entertainment industry, but it wasn’t long before he found it wasn’t for him. “Music came naturally to me. I am creative, and it seemed like the right thing at first, but I found that a career out front was restricting,” Corrie shared. “After a while, I lost my taste for the industry but found something I appreciated a lot more.”
Instead of being the performer with the flashing gold chains and latest kicks, Corrie began to look into the man behind the scenes wearing an expensive blue suit. “The real money and power were in marketing. I had gotten into photography and videography and loved it,” he says.
Corrie went the non-traditional route to learn about digital designing, creating web content, photography, and videography. “I started out producing music, but once I got a good look behind the curtain and saw who was really in control, I lost my love for working in the music industry. That’s when I redirected my energy into photography and graphic design to help other artists take their brand to the next level.”
Using the skills he honed as a kid, Corrie’s goal is to give the world a new yet classic perspective. He is not only making a name for himself but giving his clients a unique product that gets them noticed. “There are a lot of marketing firms out there, but what sets The W Agency apart is that we strive to show the heart and soul of the culture. I don’t just take pictures or make a label. Anyone can put on a suit and smile. That’s not advertising. You want to connect with your audience through your marketing. The best way to do that is to let them see the real you,” Corrie shared. By ignoring the mass-produced and over-produced media samples, Corrie is able to draw on the “vibe” that sparked his love for visual art.
“There was something authentic and organic about the visual style of the early 90s,” Corrie explained. “There was something tangible about it that made you feel like you were part of it. That’s what I try to deliver for my clients,” he says.
As Corrie started his career as a designer in 2007, in 2019, he started The W Agency. “It just made sense. I was taking the photos, doing the graphics, producing the videos, and everything else. I had all the components, so I just put them all in one place,” Corrie explained. “It benefits the clients and me when I can provide everything they need in-house.”
Because Corrie works independently, he has to be selective of the clients he takes on, but this allows him to deliver the quality he believes every client needs and deserves. “I can’t take on every project or client. I wish I could, but it would lead to mistakes and someone getting short-changed. Having a good reputation in this business is everything. So if I can’t handle something, I am part of a network of companies I can refer customers to.”
“I don’t just take pictures or make a label. Anyone can put on a suit and smile.
That’s not advertising.”
As The W Agency grows and evolves, one of the issues Corrie faces is navigating the cultural divide in marketing and advertising. As a black male from his demographic, Corrie focuses on elevating the culture but wants to ensure he doesn’t ignore it. “It’s a balancing act. We have been made to believe that professionalism looks one way. Anything else is unprofessional or hood. I find myself working toward that sweet spot—that space where quality and culture co-exist. My clients need a company that markets them as culturally relevant with a professional finish. That’s what The W Agency provides,” Corrie says.
As an entrepreneur whose business is to help others launch their businesses, Corrie knows the importance of image and branding. The W Agency takes on corporate clients as well as small businesses, but Corrie says he currently focuses on start-ups. “Being part of a company’s growth from conception to execution is the most fulfilling part of this job. Not only witnessing someone’s vision and dream come to life but knowing I was an intricate part of it makes it all worthwhile,” Corrie shares. “I understand that how a business is presented, how the visionary is perceived can make or break them. It’s all about mass appeal.”
Corrie is the sole proprietor of The W Agency, but just like his clients, he’s building a brand that will last for generations. “The time and effort I put into this aren’t just to make money. As I explained, I want to give the people who trust me with their vision the quality they deserve. Another thing that motivates me is the reputation I’m building for my children.”
Corrie is a father of three and leaving them a legacy that will outlive him is crucial. “My children have seen me work a “job” where I worked from someone else. Now they see me building a business, and even as children, they see the difference in the energy I put out. My youngest son is already asking if he can take over the business one day. I’m happy that my kids can see the benefit of entrepreneurship while they’re young. You can work a job and make good money. The thing about money is that it will come, and with it will go, but you can’t put a price on fulfillment. That’s the difference my children see in me and what I hope will inspire them to follow their dreams.”
Corrie’s belief about what excellence in branding looks like runs deep, which motivates him to give his clients the best possible experience. “You are your brand. If you want people to trust you and believe in what you put out there, you must be willing to show them who you are and stand behind your name,” Corrie explained.
The Good Book tells us in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” It also says in Zachariah 4:9, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” These two verses have motivated James R. Gorham throughout his life. He never forgot the vision and continues to appreciate the humble beginnings of his life.
Meet Brigadier General James Roy Gorham, known by most as J. R. and affectionately known as that curly-haired little boy from the tobacco fields of Falkland, NC. Read on and learn how the sharecropper’s son rose from a boy priming tobacco in his parent’s tobacco field to becoming the first African American Brigadier General in the North Carolina National Guard. J. R. shares, “I was born to Roy and Madie Gorham in 1956. I have five older sisters, so I had six mammas. Since I was the first boy born after five girls, I was the apple of their eyes. I was fortunate to have been born into a loving family, even though we lived in a four-bedroom shack. That shack had holes in the floors and in the walls, we had plastic around our windows in the winter, and we even had an outhouse. That shack had no running water, so I had to draw water from a well. On the weekends, I had to draw 80 buckets of water just so mama could wash the clothes because we had one of those washing machines with rollers so it took a lot of water to do the laundry. I didn’t have any expectations to do anything in particular with my life back then because we were actually po’ with one “o” and we could not afford the “r” that’s just how poor we were. Looking back on it, we were only poor in resources, but in the things that really mattered in life we had an abundance.”
Growing up in an authoritative household can seem daunting to many teenagers, and J. R. was no different. So when the day came to forgo working in his father’s tobacco field and living under his strict rules, J. R. took it by joining the United States Army.
“I didn’t join the army out of any patriotic duty. I joined to get out of that tobacco field and to get from under my daddy’s thumb. I just wanted to live my life. My best friend until this very day, Rick Streeter, and I got our money together and sent in our initial deposit so we could attend NC A&T State University in 1974, but that didn’t happen. Instead of us going to school, we played hooky. After we messed around all day, we went down to the recruiting office to listen to that spill so we could get a note to return to school. When I tell you that the recruiting officer painted a wonderful picture of us seeing the world, we bought it; hook, line and sinker, and we signed up that day!”
Through our lived experience, most people understand everything that shines ain’t gold. J. R. discovered making his own decisions came at a price. He shares, “When I joined the US Army in 1974, I was 18 years old and bringing home $312 a month. That was the first time in my life I had some real soft money in my hand. I didn’t know what to do with all that freedom. When I was transferred to Fort Hood, TX, I got with the wrong crowd and started going out every night, getting drunk, and I was making a whole lot of bad decisions. My defining moment came on Christmas Eve in 1976 when I was at my platoon sergeant’s house for a little party. At that time, The Walton’s came on tv, and they reminded me of my family. A feeling came over me that I cannot describe to you, and all of a sudden, I didn’t want the beer that was being offered to me. I left his place and while I was driving to the hole in-the-wall apartment I lived in, I looked over onto the shoulder of the road and saw that a loaf of bread has fallen out of somebody’s car. Now I want you to understand I didn’t have any bread in my house. All I had was seventy-five cents in my pocket and a fourth tank of gas in my car because I had drunk up my money. So, I pull my car off on the shoulder of the road, get out and walk towards the bread. When I stooped down to pick it up, a story that I learned in St. John’s Baptist Church in Falkner, NC, came to my remembrance, and I said to myself oh my God, I’m that prodigal son! My mamma and daddy didn’t raise me this way.”
When J. R. got back to his place, he called home for the first time in about eight months. As soon as my mother hears his voice she says, ‘Bruh come home for Christmas.’ J. R. told her that he couldn’t because he didn’t have any money. He says, “She tells me that she and daddy would wire me the money but I had enough sense to know that I cannot take that proposition from my mamma. I was 20 years old and I manned up and told my mother that I had gotten myself into this situation and it was up to me to get myself out. I knew if I had taken that money from my parents, I would be expecting them to always rescue me. Instead, I asked her to pray for me. She understood, but then she put my five sisters on the phone, and after hearing them cry, I really felt like a loser with a capital L.”
By the time J. R. got off the phone, he says the thought of checking out permanently crossed his mind. However, something inside of him, what is referred to in the Army as “Intestinal fortitude,” kicked in. “Spiritually, I know it was the Holy Spirit and He would not allow me to check out,” he says. “After I hung up, I went across the railroad tracks into a cow pasture, and I walked, and I walked. I decided in that cow pasture that this would be as low as I was ever going to go.”
Armed with a desire in his heart and a gleam in his eye J. R. went down to the local community college and enrolled in an English and Math course. Afterward, he summoned the courage to confront his Sergeant to atone for his misdeeds. When his Sergeant saw him standing outside of his office door, he looked at J. R. as though he was the last person he ever wanted to see. “He asked me what I wanted and I told him I had a proposition for him. I told him I would pull extra duty every weekend for the rest of my time there if he would take my name off the weekly extra duty roster because I had enrolled in school and needed to attend class. After he finished looking at me he said, ‘You got a deal, Gorham.’ He shook my hand and took my name off the extra duty roster. To this day he doesn’t know that random acts of kindness helped me turn my whole life around. The Good Book says, one plants another waters, but God gives the increase. So, all he was doing was watering what had already been planted in my life by my parents,” J. R. says.
Soon life got better for J.R. He started thinking about one of the many sayings that sharecropper daddy of his would say while they were riding in his old raggedy and smoky Silverado pickup truck. “He used to say, ‘Boy if you’re willing to do what other people will not do, you can go where other people cannot go.’”
J.R. didn’t realize how true that statement was until one day, in the Spring of his senior year the company commander called about 200 soldiers into formation. He asked volunteers to pick up nails in the motor pool because they were causing flat tires. He said he would give anybody who brought him two handfuls of nails a three-day pass. Now 200 soldiers heard that charge, but J.R. was the only person who brought him two handfuls of nails. Instead of him giving J. R. a three-day pass, he gave me a four-day pass. “On my way out, I rolled down my car window and hollered out who’s laughing now! Ya’ll gotta stay here and work while I get the rest of the week off. Like my daddy said, ‘If you’re willing to do what other people will not do you can go where other people cannot go.”
After J. R. left the Army he went home and attended East Carolina University. While there, he joined the North Carolina National Guard and attended Officer Candidate School in Fort Bragg, N.C. where he graduated first in his class. He was grateful that his father, who served in the Army during WWII, had the opportunity to see him graduate. While J. R. was taking pictures with generals, he remembers his father imparting yet another golden nugget in his life. “My daddy said, ‘Boy you are becoming your company. Whoever you’re hanging around with is who you will become.’ So as a Second Lieutenant, I started hanging around with the First Lieutenants until I became one. Then I started hanging around captains, majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels. Eventually, I started hanging around generals and now I’m the first African American Brigadier General in the NC National Guard,” he says.
J. R. shares that his father was a firm and wise man. “I am grateful for the chastisement, ethics, and morals he instilled in me, past the bone into my marrow. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t that sharecropper’s son. He groomed me to be a leader the oldfashioned way.”
J. R.’s progress through the military was not always as sweet as this last memory. He was often looked over for promotions he was qualified to receive, which caused him to consider retiring early. That would only be a thought and he recalls his father saying, “Boy when you get to the end of your rope, you tie a knot, and you hang on but you do not quit.”
According to J. R., “If I had let my emotions get the better of me I would have quit and retired as a major. Instead, I went to Iraq as a lieutenant colonel and was promoted to full colonel while I was in a war zone. If I had quit because of my emotions, I would have never received that promotion from on high. Not only did that happen but shortly after I returned I received a call from a two-star general inviting me to lunch. When I got there, he informed me that he had submitted my package to the Department of the Army to promote me to Brigadier General. I broke down right there at the table. I was crying from the inner part of my soul for two reasons. First, I’m going to be the first African American Brigadier General in the NC National Guard. I’m crying because in this country when you’re a man or woman of color, you become the litmus test for everyone coming behind you. I’m feeling the gravity of that responsibility in my tears.” J. R. says he was also crying because that moment made up for all the times I had been overlooked.” For the record readers, generals don’t cry. Their eyes sweat, so we can be assured that J. R.’s eyes were really sweating that day.
Today, Brigadier General Gorham is a community leader, motivational speaker, and the author of Sharecroppers Wisdom: Growing Todays Leaders the Old-Fashioned Way. He is married to Barbara; they have three children, Tony, Jamie, and Joshua.
If someone in authority grants you something, or if something is granted to you, you are allowed to have it. That is the meaning of Granted Access, the brand developed by Christian Anderson, an award-winning gospel artist and savvy businesswoman.
Born and raised in Tennessee but now residing in North Carolina, Christian is widely known for singing and ministering the good news of Jesus Christ to help build the Kingdom of God. She is a psalmist, student-teacher, preacher, and lover of life and God’s people. Her genuine love for God has opened the door for her soulful, heart-touching sounds to bless the ears who desire intimate and compassionate worship. “My genre of music is Gospel. I sing to others to let them know how much God loves them and that they can do anything through Christ, who gives them the ability and strength to do so,” she says.
Christian says one of her most significant accomplishments was becoming a mom to her beautiful daughter Yael Maylean. Christian lost her mother, the late Minister Maylean Anderson when she was just seven years of age. She would be raised by her father, William Anderson, along with her siblings. Life would happen for Christian, and she adjusted as it did.
She attended the Job Corps right after high school and studied Phlebotomy. She shares that she always loved the healthcare field and knew she wanted to help people somehow, so becoming a nationally certified Phlebotomist was a way for her to do so. She worked in that field for nearly six years before becoming a licensed cosmetologist.
Christian says her initial inspiration comes directly from God. “Knowing He has begun a good work in me, and knowing I have the responsibility to live out what He has given me,” she says. Christian has faced several trials and storms in her life, and has learned some lessons as well. In addition to her mother passing, suffering abuse at the hands of her stepmother, and even marrying someone God told her not to marry, Christian testimony amplifies the story of an overcomer. “My testimony inspires me to tell it to as many people who will hear it, and show them what healing, victory, grit, and freedom looks like. It’s no goodness of my own that I’m still here. It’s only by His grace, mercy, and blood constantly covering my life.”
When not singing, Christian serves in full-time ministry with several business ventures on the side. One business is called “Melody Bedtimes Stories”. It’s a show and innovative idea she says God gave her, and one that she shares with her daughter Yael. “I sing books to children all over the World. We encourage, enlighten, affirm, and uplift them. We also let them know they are important, valuable, and needed!”
She references scripture in the bible, 2 Corinthians 2:14 which says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” With her brand, Access Granted, Christian says it consists of her “VICTORY OV” Merchandise. “God has granted us access to having victory over every area of our lives. If you are dealing with depression, the merch will read, “VICTORY OV Depression”. Granted Access isn’t limited to clothing, it is a mindset we must carry everyday,” she says.
In addition to being inspired by her daughter, Christian finds inspiration in her pastors, Kendall and Quierra McDowell, the founding leaders of Revival Now Global Church. “My pastor’s stand on the Word of God with no compromise, and they Truly Love God’s people. They love me, correct me and help guide and encourage me. I’m truly grateful for them and the impact they continue to have on my daughter’s life and my life. I can honorably say my life has never been the same since becoming a part of Revival Now Global Church.,” she says.
She also credits her manager Jessica Williams for having a huge impact on her life and career. “She goes above and beyond the call of duty and is truly a God-sent. I often tell the story of how she became my manager and how we attended the same church, but I didn’t know her personally, nor did I know her name at the time. The Lord put it in my heart to have a concert named “I’m An Overcomer”. I didn’t have a team, nor did I know of anyone who could help me, so I prayed and asked God to send help. Her face literally popped into my head. I approached her, thinking she’s going to think I’m crazy. I informed her of what God told me about her, and she agreed to help me assemble everything. I later asked her to be my manager. She said no at first but soon obliged, and we have been rocking since 2017,” Christian shared.
Being able to make an impact on the lives of God’s people and be the voice some so desperately need is what makes it happen for Christian. “I enjoy the opportunity to be the intercessor, the encourager, the mentor, the motivator, the testament of triumph over any and everything the enemy tries to keep God’s people bound in,” she says.
As Christian looks to the future, she has several projects underway. One is publishing her first book titled, “I WANT WHAT YOU WANT”. Her book will provide a description of her life, spanning from a little girl to adulthood. It will share the many challenges she faced, the disobedience she walked in, and the consequences of it. It will show the Triumphant Victory she now walks in as well.
More than anything, Christian says she looks forward to growing more in God. She also wants to grow more in knowledge and understanding and obtain the necessary wisdom to walk life’s journey. “I want to be a better, anointed mother, love my family and friends, and love God’s people the way He requires for me. I am also looking forward to meeting my purpose partner so we can purposely build the Kingdom of God together and make hell nervous!” h
My testimony inspires me to tell it to as many people who will hear it to, and show them what healing, victory, grit, and freedom looks like. It’s no goodness of my own that I’m still here. It’s only by His grace, mercy, and blood constantly covering my life.”
Jeanice Sherai Durrah of Greenville, SC, loves her family. She says that most people who know her instantly make a connection to her family, as she readily expresses how she cherishes the time they spend together.
Jeanice is also a woman of God and a Believer in Jesus. She is the wife of Victor Durrah, Jr., and together they share a daughter, Victory Jeanice Durrah, whom they profess as the love of their lives. “She is a combination of both of us in the most grace-filled and compassionate way that only God could do,” Jeanice says.
Professionally, Jeanice is a Certified Life Coach, Mental Health Coach, and Holy Yoga Instructor. Her brand, Jeanice Sherai LLC, was launched in 2018 and is a mental wellness company that offers privately booked Christian-based yoga classes to small/ large groups, nonprofits, schools, and more. Their mission is to promote whole minds and present moments in every life encounter. “Our vision is to see a world free from anxiety and depression,” Jeanice says. She has worked with autistic adults, at-risk teenage girls, and women, helping them to walk into the life God has promised them. Through her Leadership Workshops, she utilizes a specially crafted curriculum called ThinkBIG.
Jeanice is a business owner and full-time corporate employee. She has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science Degree, a Master of Business in Finance, and a Master of Information Systems in Computer Security. She’s a Certified Life Coach, Six Sigma Green Belt, Guided Christian Meditation Specialist, Mental Health Coach, and Holy Yoga Instructor. She has also authored several books, including “Decide Today is Your Day: 21 Affirmations Guaranteed to Change Your Life”, and “Goal Digger: A Goal Setting Workbook”. Another book she has published is “31 Days of Faith: From Familiarity to Freedom, “ co-written with her husband, Victor. Other books published by Jeanice are “How Do You Know When It’s God?, and “Victory Smiles”, a children’s book about her daughter and also co-written with my husband. She also hosts the podcast, The Better in Ten Show, and is a YouVersion™️ Bible Plan partner.
Jeanice was featured as the Opening Speaker at the Dear CLT Brunch in Charlotte, NC. She has also been a featured writer for Forbes, Boss Babes, and She Wins Society (formerly known as Women By Choice). She is also the Co-Founder of Queen of the Mountain, an annual retreat inviting women to unite to be restored, release what is heavy to God, relax, and draw closer to God in their season. “I love helping people relax. I believe that it’s needed. God gifted me with a talent that allows people to enter my space and walk out free of anything heavy they may have been carrying.”
Jeanice became certified as a Holy Yoga Instructor in 2019, and in January 2020, she started her business. “In the two years prior, I felt God leading me to transition from a woman who was writing about her pains and hardships and coaching women in that place to a woman who had been freed and helping women learn how to relax and enjoy this freedom. This birthed my vision,” she says.
The benefits of yoga are extensive and often not considered when it comes to its major impacts on our health. “When we think of freedom, we often connect it to wealth but not health. Yoga contributes to eliminating anxiety, fighting depression, lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, lowering blood pressure, increasing our sleeping patterns, protecting our muscles from injury, and so much more. Like many other African Americans, my family history consists of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I not only wanted to help us choose intentionally to relax, but I desired for those I encounter to understand that freedom is also directly connected to our choices concerning our health,” she says.
Loving people and serving God while doing so is her signature. She says she finds inspiration from her parents and is motivated by their faith, encouragement, and hard work. “They have indeed been an example of how to operate in life. The values instilled in me and the foundation set by them will carry me for a lifetime,” she says.
Running a business can be challenging, and Jeanice has faced a few herself. “When creating a business, you may want to be validated by the wrong things. You can allow this to be a measuring tool concerning your success, but man can not measure what can only be understood Eternal. I’ve overcome these challenges by shifting my perspective from those things in the world to the One that called me.”
Her advice to others who may follow in her footsteps is to keep going. “There is no destination. When you reach one goal, it will never be enough, you will always want to go bigger. So enjoy the journey.”
Moving forward, Jeanice plans to continue to serve others. “I want people who look like me to live long, healthy lives and not just live, but indeed be able to enjoy it even in their senior years.,” she says.
“Like many other African Americans, my family history consists of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I not only wanted to help us choose intentionally to relax, but I desired for those I encounter to understand that freedom is also directly connected to our choices concerning our health.”
Gene Blackmon and CJ Brinson are two individuals working to make a difference in their community. Each has chosen to use their experiences, gifts, and talents to influence those around them. Their paths have taken them on different journeys but have brought them to a common place where their goals align.
Blackmon & Brinson are both fathers raising their children in a world not designed for their success. With the rise of gun violence, they have decided not just to take a stand but to help facilitate a change. Establishing Safe Cultures Coalition is the collaboration built to shift the culture from the escalating violence we see daily to a healthy community ready to educate and equip its people to inherit the world they live in.
Gene Blackmon is a newly single father of two who is using his platform as a Master Barber and business owner to mentor and elevate the people in his community. Like most black men, he has layers that make him an influential voice in the community. “I am a father, mentor, teacher, businessman, and community activist,” Blackmon said, describing the different facets that come together to make him the man he is.
Raised on the Northeast side of Greensboro, North Carolina, by a single mother, Blackmon’s start in life was as a statistic. “We lived in a lowerincome area, and my mom was a single mother of three. My aunt was also a single mother of three. They brought us all to my grandmother’s house and raised us there. That’s how they made it work,” Blackmon explained. “This was also during the era when your neighbors weren’t just the people you lived next to. They were like family. And family looked out for each other.”
As with most lower-income communities, there are little or no opportunities for advancement or mobility. Children from these areas are considered to be “at risk.” Being labeled “at risk” puts a target on the back of many young black males, and Blackmon was no different. When he was sixteen, he got into some trouble with the law. “I was charged for a crime I didn’t commit, but I was young and trusted my public defender. I pleaded guilty, which gave me a reduced sentence but left me with a permanent record,” Blackmon explained.
After the smoke cleared, Blackmon was seventeen and needed to make a plan for the future. “I left high school because I felt like they weren’t teaching me things useful to me and my future. I got my GED and went straight to barber college.” Having a criminal record made life difficult for Blackmon at first, but he persevered, and now he owns his own barber college and works to help young people from his demographic avoid the pitfalls that tried to trap him. “I am a barber by trade, but my calling is to help elevate and educate the culture,” Blackmon shared.
CJ Brinson is also a native of Greensboro. Although his journey slightly differs from Blackmon’s, he also sees himself as being called to make a difference in the urban community. “I am a minister, a husband, and a father. My wife DraShonta, and I have three children and a fur-baby,” Brinson shares. “I wanted to become an R&B singer but was called into ministry and community activism.”
Brinson earned an undergraduate degree in political science, a minor in social justice from North Carolina A&T State University, and a master’s of divinity from Hood Theological Seminary. “Greensboro is a city rooted in social justice and community activism,” Brinson explains. “Many people don’t know this, but Greensboro has played a part in just about every move of social justice that has taken place in America. There’s the Revolutionary war, the Civil War, the A&T Four, who were instrumental in the desegregation of the Woolworth lunch counter, and the 1974 Greensboro Massacre, to name a few.”
Living around and being influenced by a rich history of social justice in the Greensboro community, Brinson felt it was a natural inevitability that he be part of the social justice movement of his generation. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Brinson earned his Master of Divinity. “It was while I was in seminary that my political thought met my religious thought, and that’s what inspired me to mobilize my community towards social justice,” Brinson explained. “After seminary, I returned to Greensboro and connected with an organization called Beloved Community Centers. It’s a faith-based group that trains community leaders. I’ve been moving forward ever since.”
As activists individually, Blackmon and Brinson worked to effect change in their community. However, they realized they could become more significant if they joined their voices with others ready to address the major issues facing today’s culture. The primary issue the duo is targeting is the rise in violent crimes in their community.
“Today’s culture has been conditioned to see violence as the answer to every situation. They are being inundated with this way of thinking from every outlet. They have constant exposure through music, movies, social media, video games, and their homes. We want to change the culture by reconditioning people, specifically young people, to see that violence isn’t the answer. Especially when we are attaching each other,” Blackmon explained.
The violence Blackmon and Brinson are discussing results from years of systemic racism, disenfranchisement, and a social media campaign to push the idea that to be seen as powerful or in control; you have to be willing to fight for it physically. And the one who can be the most ruthlessly violent will survive. Thankfully Blackmon and Brinson have a plan to turn the tide of inter-communal violence in their community.
“Establishing Safe Cultures Coalition was born out of a deep desire to resolve intercommunal violence here in Greensboro,” Brinson explains. “Homicides were increasing here in Greensboro, and I knew something needed to be done. So I called a community meeting at my barber school,” Blackmon explained. “We had a major turnout, but we didn’t have a solid resolution to our problem. CJ Brinson was in attendance and started researching national programs that addressed our community’s problems. These programs would help minimize violence from a communal perspective that didn’t involve overpolicing. From that point on, we were on a joint mission to shift the culture of our community away from the rising violent crimes.”
“We call it intercommunal crime instead of “black on black” crime because this kind of violence isn’t just happening in black neighborhoods. It’s happening in communities around the country,” Blackmon points out. “We want to get away from the idea that poor black communities are the only ones dealing with this issue.”
Blackmon clarifies that the Coalition is not activism but the community coming together to work toward a common goal. “Activism and Establishing Safe Cultures are two different things,” he explains. “Establishing Safe Cultures is the community coming together to shift the culture from one plagued with violence to a peaceful one that opens the door for more opportunities.”
The Coalition plans to shift the culture through education, mentorship, social and emotional development, and career readiness. “These workshops are designed to arm the community’s youth differently,” Blackmon shares. “We will show them and teach them that there is a better way to handle conflict. They need to know that everything doesn’t have to escalate to violence, especially when the escalation stems from something deeper.”
On February 26th, 2023, Establishing Safe Cultures Coalition held its first set of Culture Shift Workshops. One hundred girls and boys ages seven to twelve were invited to participate in this monumental experience. “The kids are going to have instruction and mentorship in personal development, financial literacy, and conflict resolution,” Blackmon explained. “There will also be group exercises for the body, mind, and spirit.”
The Coalition has been working on getting state funding to make the program sustainable. The desire is to have students meet twice weekly for instruction, training, and social-emotional development. But until that happens, the Culture Shift Workshops will be held quarterly. “Ideally, we want to have regular contact and training for the students, but without funding, that’s not possible. But we had to do something. We couldn’t allow things to remain as they are.”
Because of the efforts of Gene Blackmon, CJ Brinson, and the other members of the Establishing Safe Culture Coalition, the community of Greensboro doesn’t just have a plan of action; they have action. Working to combat years of cultural violence and disconnect won’t be easy. Still, Blackmon and Brinson exude a contagious confidence that will propel this culture shift well into a restored and unified community.
“We call it intercommunal crime instead of -black on black crime -because this kind of violence isn’t just happening in black neighborhoods. It’s happening in communities around the country.”
MAGAZINE Zoelle Alaiya Scott
To submit photographs to be placed in the Huami Magazine Cutest Baby feature, please send a detailed email to email@example.comThe daughter of Charita Jackson
To truly connect with your inner core, it requires you to be willing to be open with yourself. This means removing every layer and misconception and revealing some things you may have never thought about doing. This is a true example of self-truth. Minister Shuntina Manuel has done just that and allowed her life to serve as an example of God’s unwavering love for us all.
Shuntina is the founder of EMPOWER, formally known as Woman Be Transformed. Shuntina is a worshipper and firm believer in the word and power of God. As a pastor and mentor, she is committed to a lifestyle of service that promotes permanent change and enhanced authenticity. “My ministry did not begin with me saying I wanted to start a ministry. It began with God putting the vision in my heart. That vision was a women’s ministry that affirms all women. My passion will always be to utilize my experiences, insight, and influence to help others evolve into the best version of themselves,” she says. Her ministry is built on a foundation of empowerment, transcending gender, ethnicities, and generations; her only target is to redeem the lost through the demonstrated power of God’s love and restoration.
Shuntina is a native of Greensboro, NC. She is a women’s advocate and female minister who believes in educating, empowering, and equipping all women. Furthermore, Shuntina has been gifted by the grace of God to impact women from various walks of life.
It was in 2018 when Women Be Transformed came to fruition. The first event was held at the Spartanburg Marriott in Spartanburg, SC. Since evolving to EMPOWER, it has successfully reached and guided women to awaken healing, wholeness, and love for themselves and others. EMPOWER assists women in various transitions in their personal life; spiritually, socially and relationally.
Shuntina shares how she finds life in women who can be truthful with themselves. “I am most inspired by truth. I am inspired by strong women who are unafraid to speak the truth in love. This is not bitter, caustic, cutting, or polluted with sarcasm. It’s not judgmental arrogance, either. It’s a love encounter with other women who are focused on clearing the path for the next generation. It’s women who are not embarrassed or too proud, or afraid to share their stories. Women who invest their lives in others because they understand it’s not all about them,” she says.
What Shuntina loves most about EMPOWER is the ability of her ministry to serve as a safe place where women can support each other. The area of support that EMPOWER focuses on is developing an authentic relationship with Christ and one another through prayerful and intentionally planned events, including fellowship. She also shares that she finds inspiration in those who have shown unconditional love to her. These same individuals have significantly impacted her life and helped her become the woman she is today. These individuals include her mom, her dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and various family members and friends. She also acknowledges several mentors for pouring into her life and ministry. “A common denominator is that they have all loved me unconditionally and each reflects God’s Love for me,” she says.
Shuntina is hosting the Safe Room Experience at the Spartanburg Marriott in Spartanburg, SC in March. The event is FREE to attend and will include special guests Prophetess Kristy Lyles and Dr. Elisa Lashell Harney. Moving forward, Shuntina will continue to EMPOWER women to be the best version of themselves by providing a safe place for them to come and be free.
To learn more about The Safe Room Experience and other events Pastor Shuntina Manuel hosts, please contact her directly.
“It’s a love encounter with other women who are focused on clearing the path for the next generation. It’s women who are not embarrassed or too proud, or afraid to share their stories.
Women who invest their lives in others because they understand it’s not all about them.” h