My Dreams Are Windows To My Freedom
I am a self-proclaimed dreamer. Many of the things I possess or may be involved with, at some point, I probably dreamed about it. Being physically fit, I dreamed about losing all the weight I was carrying around while stuffing my face with food. Singing in the church choir, I dreamed about it, while practicing in my car over one of WOW Greatest Gospel productions.
In short words, I will typically act on something if I dare to dream about it. I have used the gift to dream while sinking in some of my lowest moments. I wanted more, and dreaming of something better made it almost feel like I was there. I learned that there is power in what we dream about.
In that same breath, my dreams have been filled with thoughts of hope and sometimes regret. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would. If I could reverse some of the experiences of my life, I would. If I had the ability to reach back into my past and open some of the doors that were shut and close some that I walked through, I would. One might ask me why, and my response is quite direct; I would if I could.
Now, it’s not my intent to sound as if I do not appreciate the life God has blessed me with. My message is quite the opposite. I love my life and all that has helped to make it what it is. Still, I wish I could have avoided some unnecessary experiences. However, I am wise enough to know that everything has been necessary. It is all part of God’s plan for me.
Acknowledging and accepting where and how my life began instills a sense of reality into my heart. Dreaming of places where I wish I could be also encourages me to keep striving for that which is greater.
My message is simple. Life is but a whisper, and I refuse to get lost in the chaos and confusion. There is way too much for me to do, and if I never achieve all that I dream of, I will remain enthusiastic about what tomorrow promises. Tomorrow, if it comes, is provided by God. And when God blesses me with another day to live, He also blesses me with another day to dream and get to work.
Terry L. Watson
Terry L. Watson Publisher
Monica Montgomery Writer
Joy Rogers Writer
Terry L. Watson Writer
Dorjea’ McClammey Writer
Tommie Nicholson Photographer
Still Shots Photography Photographer
Todd Youngblood Photographer
Howard Gaither Photography
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When a man looks good, he feels good. Learn more about his product made just for the beard.
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Dorcas Couture CustomsNadineBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Nadine Gentles
Nadine Gentles is a woman of faith, a lover of life, and someone who enjoys all things creative and beautiful. The Jamaican-born entrepreneur is the daughter of Winston and the late Dorcas Gentles. Nadine migrated to the United States in 2001 and landed in the Gulfport area of Mississippi. Her first three years in the US was spent working odd jobs. She also attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and received a degree in Human Services, and pursued a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising.
Nadine is also the owner of Dorcas Couture Customs. With her company, she offers custom designs from start to finish for events, including Bridal parties and Grooms packages, special events, proms, birthdays, and more. Her pieces are one of a kind and are designed to be budget-friendly. She shares that when her son, Javaughn, a fashion designer who studied at Mississippi State University, wanted to learn how to sew, she knew they were on to something. “It was 2015, and within the first weeks of me teaching him, he grasped it, and that is how Dorcas Couture Customs was formed,” she says.
Nadine shares she would like to think of herself as a more couture designer with an urban flare. “My brand started in 2015 as a tribute to my mom, Dorcas Gentles., who passed away in October 2010. Her love for sewing and the teaching she poured into me as a child prepared me for success.”
So, how did the journey begin for Nadine? She shares, “I started sewing at 16 years old. At first, I hated it; however, my mom encouraged me to continue, and now, I am obsessed.” Nadine first began by sewing an all-African attire. She points out how she loved the vibrant prints and texture of the wax fabric. She offered maxi skirts only for a bit, but as her experience developed, she transitioned to more of a formal esthetic.
“I started sewing at 16 years old. At first, I hated it; however, my mom encouraged me to continue, and now, I am obsessed.”
“Sewing is my comfort and safe space. I love to tell stories with my garments. I also desire to create items for women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ethnicity,” Nadine says.
With each piece that Nadine creates, there is a message and meaning attached to it. “I believe that every design has energy. The design process comes from a place of worship. It’s a ministry, and I thank God for the gift He has blessed me with. Designing and teaching others the art of sewing is my way of uplifting and empowering others,” she says. Over the years, Nadine has taught more than 100 women and men how to sew, with many of her students using their education to create a stream of income.
As previously mentioned, Nadine’s life has been greatly impacted by her mother. She also credits her son Javaughn for stepping up and assisting her with finding ways to keep her mother’s memory alive. Dorcas was given to Nadine’s mom by her mother, the late Monica Bowen. Dorcas is a biblical name and Nadine says Dorcas’ character describes her mom accurately. “My mom embraced her name and her calling to serve others, and I pray I can do the same.”
When Nadine first started taking orders, her community embraced her. The first prom season was 2016 and she produced items for a wedding party. In her authentic Jamaican accent Nadine describes what that experience was like. “Many times I didn’t know how to create the pieces they ordered. I am very critical so if it’s not looking right, it’s not going out. I would give up, stressed, say my prayers and go to bed. Sometimes I would dream of the piece and how to do it . God brought back to my remembrance what my mom and my teachers taught me back home. I also read and practice a lot. I am always in designer mode and I have thousands of screenshots of designs and looks I want to try. I love challenging myself. I am always learning and I never give up.”
It is evident that Nadine is walking in her calling and enjoying the rewards of doing so. In the previous eight years, Nadine’s designs have graced New Orleans Fashion Week, Georgia Peach Fashion Week, Mobile Fashion Week, Houston Fashion Week, Coastal Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, and Juneteenth Fashion Shows. She has been invited to the Project Runway and won best designer with the Fashion Life Tour. Additionally, she had the opportunity to design a gown for the 75th Tony Awards in New York City.
Her advice is clear for anyone who may follow a path similar to the one she has traveled. “You must be dedicated, find your niche, be true to yourself, know your skill level, and practice, practice. You can learn from everyone. Master your craft. Know your worth. Failure is not an option.”
Looking to the future, Nadine says she plans to open a fashion Design College, and pass on what I have been taught to others. She also plans to continue introducing others to the fashion and design field. h
Tasha Teaches SpanishBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Rolando Ochoa of Integro Photography
For Arkansas native LaTasha Moore, those words are a foundation on which she stands. She is a wife, mother, striving entrepreneur, and countrywoman at heart, hailing from the small southwestern town of Falcon.
LaTasha is a woman full of wisdom and credits being born to elderly parents giving her the advantage of seeing life differently at an early age. She believes that titles and accolades don’t mean anything if one’s character is not exemplary. She is also someone who has accomplished a great deal in life. Some things include closing in obtaining her Master of Arts in Spanish degree from the University of Central Arkansas. That feat complements her Masters in Public Health she acquired from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Arkansas State University. LaTasha has also lived and worked in Spain as an assistant English teacher through the North American Language and Culture Assistant program.
Currently, LaTasha is the face and founder of Tasha Teaches Spanish. Her company’s focus is to unite communities through language. “We know that learning the Spanish language shouldn’t be limited to school and college classrooms. People need Spanish education in a variety of settings for a variety of reasons, and we exist to meet that need,” she says.
LaTasha shares her company began on a God-fixed plan. “In 2018, I had just been laid off after only one year of teaching Spanish at an area charter school. Pregnant with my first child, I needed a source of income even though my thenpartner (now husband) had offered to handle the bulk of the finances. One day I received the divine thought to make a post on my personal Facebook page stating that I would teach and tutor Spanish lessons. By the end of the day, my post had over 100 likes and 40 shares. This made me realize there was a market and a need for my talents.”
Four years later, LaTasha’s business is running better than ever. She’s contracted six teachers, obtained an office space, and carries out various services and programs to serve her students and community. Some of her achievements since opening the doors of LaTasha Teaches Spanish are being the Winner of the 2020 BIG Pitch competition, Winner of the 2020 Entrepreneurs Unlimited pitch competition, Winner of the 2020 Little Rock Regional Emerging Minority Business of the Year Award, 2022 Little Rock Regional Minority Business of the Year finalist, and acceptance into the 3rd Cohort of the WEM Hub program sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas. She is also the 2022 recipient of the Small Business Growth Fund grant.
“We know that learning the Spanish language shouldn’t be limited to school and college classrooms. People need Spanish education in a variety of settings for a variety of reasons, and we exist to meet that need.”
Besides helping others become the best version of themselves, LaTasha loves her life’s calling. “I thoroughly enjoy helping people remove self-imposed barriers and fears when learning Spanish. I enjoy helping them realize that they don’t have to be worried about perfection when beginning their language-learning journey. I encourage my students to be serious about learning, study often, and be committed to reaching a high level of fluency. I am happy when they can connect with Spanish speakers in their communities, churches, at local festivals, etc.,” she says.
LaTasha says s he is inspired by the possibility of a more lingually diverse state. “The Pew Research Center puts Arkansas in the bottom five states for Spanish education. My brand, Tasha Teaches Spanish, exists to change that,” she shares. “When we think of new programs and services to offer, we keep in mind that we want to contribute to improving the Spanish language learning all over the state, not only in our area. This year we will begin to host our annual Spanish camp in different regions, and our long-term goal is to bring a Spanish language immersion school to Arkansas.”
Like many entrepreneurs, there was a time in business when LaTasha only made money through it. She shares that she did not work another job and had to rely on others for her financial wellbeing. “Humans are shaky. They are committed today and gone tomorrow. The high and low seasons of business often resulted in me being in financial binds,” she says. That was challenging for her, but she persevered.
While the journey has been unique and even challenging at times, LaTasha says there aren’t many things she would change about the way things have happened. “I would change our initial hiring practices and staff training. I was the only teacher from 2018-2020, and in 2021 we began contracting teachers to work for us. However, my hiring process was not thorough, and we ended up acquiring a few teachers that were not good fits for the role. Additionally, I failed to see the importance of frequent staff training throughout the year, and I wish I had started that sooner as well,” she says.
The future is looking bright and promising for Tasha Teaches Spanish. This year, there are plans to expand their Spanish summer camp to different regions in Arkansas. They also host community events such as trivia and movie nights, and in December 2023, they will carry out a Spanish Christmas children’s choir. Their long-term goal is to open a Spanish immersion school.
Please visit their website to learn more about Tasha Teaches Spanish.
Notice Andre LLCBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Andre Notice
It all comes down to how badly someone want to succeed.
Andre Notice of Houston, TX, describes himself as a purpose-driven, hungry and inspirational businessman. He is also a friend, son, uncle and man who loves God. While making moves in the Houston area, Andre says his primary focus is to leave a stamp on the earth and leave a legacy.
Andre is the owner of Notice Andre LLC. Under that brand, Andre manages several entities, including Realtor, Coach, Investor, Purpose Coach, Author, and Speaker.
Andre says he first began with real estate in 2004. Now entering his 18th year as a licensed, top-producing realtor, he is setting his sights on helping others achieve their dreams. The road has sometimes been challenging for Andre. He has managed a few trials and storms along the way but has yet to lose sight of his purpose. He shares, “When I first began, I was met with failure and opposition. I have experienced homelessness along my journey, and I have even lived with friends and family while finding my way.” He remained determined, and his persistence eventually paid off. He began hosting home-buying seminars and engaged in speaking engagements. Soon the word quickly spread about the new face in real estate in his community.
“When I first began, I was met with failure and opposition. I have experienced homelessness along my journey, and I have even lived with friends and family while finding my way.”
Through his coaching programs, Andre strives to show others how to spend the next phase of their lives in a manner that helps them to reach their fullest potential. “I show others how to feel alive,” he shares.
Andre’s commitment to excellence has been acknowledged by his peers, colleagues, and community members. “There was a period when I looked tirelessly for opportunities. With grace, things are working more in my favor, and I am experiencing an overflow.,” he says. Andre’s love for his community hasn’t changed either, as he still leads with passion and takes advantage of the opportunities he has to serve.
“I am truly living when I am growing, going and giving. This means when I am growing myself, giving my time, energy and experience, and going somewhere meaning and fulfilling a purpose. Most importantly, I understand that everything I do isn’t about me.”
The only thing Andre shares that he would have changed about how things have happened for him is to purchase a home sooner. Andre’s advice is clear for those who may follow in his footsteps or may experience some of the same challenges that he has.
DON’T GIVE UP! You’re not a failure when you fail. You’re a failure when you give up. These hard times are just a test. Pass the test and learn from it and remember to share what you’ve learned with others.”
In the future, Andrea says he plans to retire his mother soon. He also has some plans in store to expand all aspects of his business and obtain properties all around the world. By the looks and sounds of it, Andre is sure to accomplish everything he sets his eyes on.
To learn more about Andre Notice, please visit his website.
TheBeardedOne.By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Michael Arnett
The saying goes that when a man looks good, he feels good. Budding entrepreneur Michael Arnett of Charleston, SC, has set his sights on ensuring it becomes a reality for all men who desire it.
The 59-year-old father, husband, caretaker, and retired Police Officer is a native of Harlem, NY, but was raised in the Bronx. Living in a melting pot, Michael saw different nationalities and cultures of people. That experience helped him grow as an individual. He says he was determined to escape his environment and see the world.
His story is that of someone who has persevered despite what his surroundings presented to him. He shares, “I lived in public housing (the PJ’s) for 25 years. I come from a two-parent household, along with two other siblings. We had great examples as parents; my father was a Police Officer, and my mom worked as a Secretary. My parents always told me to work hard, and that anything is possible. My dad told me I could be better than him and that nobody was going to give me anything.”
Michael always loved fashion. After graduating from vocational high school in 1981, he enrolled at a community college. He attended school full-time and worked full-time. His major was graphic arts and advertising. Michael successfully received his associate degree in 1985. “After college, I worked several jobs but wasn’t satisfied. In 1987, I joined the US Air Force, served for five years, and spent time in the Gulf during Desert Storm. After leaving the military, I worked until I became a police officer and was accepted into the academy in 1997. I later retired in 2018 and started on a mission of entrepreneurship, fueled by my love for fashion and to be different,” he says. In 2020, Michael relocated to his current home in Charleston to care for his mom.
Today, Michael is the owner of TheBeardedOne., a clothing apparel company that produces T-shirts, Hats (Bucket and Farmer), and Hoodies. Michael’s clothes are geared toward the Bearded community and cater to individuals with mustaches, goatees, etc.
Michael says TheBeardedOne. began after he grew a beard in late 2017. “I began to think about how to incorporate my beard into my business model. After going back and forth, I figured out how to make it happen in December 2020.”
While he has a genuine love for fashion, Michael says he also finds enjoyment in being different. “Fashion is what you make it! I have made a business out of fashion, and because I am the owner, I can do what I want and not answer to anyone,” he says.
Like most small business owners, TheBeardedOne. has faced its share of challenges. Michael says some have been finding a way to navigate through a saturated T-shirt market and rough economy. He has also had to deal with operating with limited resources. “I have overcome the saturation by offering different and unique clothes of good quality. I have found good quality clothing and still profit from my prices. With limited resources, I have attended more networking workshops and located events that allowed me to vend and showcase my apparel,” he says. Michael is also a member of the cigar club, Good Times Gang. That connection, he says, allows him to network with people from all over the country.
While his journey has been a little challenging, Michael says he wouldn’t change much about the way things have happened. “I would not change anything. The trials and tribulations are a part of life. You can grow from them or fall back and blame everyone else for your misfortunes. My advice to others who may follow in my footsteps is to keep God first in everything you do. You must have a plan, execute, network, and bring the love of what you do to your business. Stay focused and cut back folks that don’t have the same energy as you. And don’t be scared to let the world know you are here,” he says.
Living in New York prepared Michael for life at an early age. Moving forward, he plans to continue to grow his brand. He also hopes to purchase a van and convert it into a mobile store. He also hopes to have a storefront to display his apparel and help out other local fashion-based companies by displaying their apparel in his store.
Patrice J. BridalBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Patrice J. Bridal
If the bride isn’t happy, well, more than likely, the wedding may not go as planned. That is why it’s vitally important to utilize the services of skilled professionals for the big day. This is an area where Patrice J. Bridal excels and is always ready to serve.
Have a custom dress in mind? Patrice J. Bridal can custom-make your ideal gown or create a replica. Owned and operated by Patrice Johnson, Patrice J. Bridal based in St. Louis, MO, offers bridal gowns from top brands, in-house alterations, and custom dressmaking for brides, the bridal party, proms, and various special occasions. Patrice officially launched her company in January 2020 as the first black-owned bridal retailer in the midwestern metropolis, however, Patrice has been sewing for more than two decades.
Patrice is a native of New Orleans, LA, and has lived in St. Louis for a great portion of her life. She has been married for 22 years and is the mother of two boys, ages seven and eleven. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a Masters degree in Accounting, and one in Non-Profit Administration. Respectfully, she is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
When asked what she loves most about what she does, Patrice says it is the opportunity to work with people and dress them for some of the most significant moments of their lives. “I love celebrating and being with people in their happy moments,” she says. Patrice admits without hesitation that she wouldn’t be able to do what she does without the assistance and support of her husband, Ian, who she says has been her biggest supporter. “He has been one of the most prominent voices pushing me into my gifts when doubt crept in.”
While the Covid 19 pandemic was ravishing the world in 2020, Patrice J. Bridal was in its infancy stages. Patrice had just opened the doors of her company and was soon faced with the unknown. Covid eventually caused her to close her doors for three months, but fortunately, she was able to improvise. She provided facemasks and when the restrictions eased, she was one of the few bridal shops open as brides planned microweddings. Patrice J. Bridal would survive.
Now operating as a proven business that is capable of weathering the unknown, Patrice J. Bridal offers advice to others who may follow a similar journey such as the one she has. She says, “Be mindful of the entire journey and celebrate all the small wins as you work towards your big goal. Don’t be afraid of competition, realizing that no one can do you like you can. There is abundant room for you as long as you remain true to your gift and purpose.”
Patrice says there isn’t anything she would change about her journey in business. Everything hasn’t been perfect, but Patrice says she appreciates the things that have come, both good and bad. “I wouldn’t change anything. My experiences have been invaluable. There is no way I could produce the quality of work I do without such experiences as sewing pockets backward or making dresses that didn’t fit.”
Moving forward, you can expect Patrice J. Bridal to continue to offer its signature brand of customer service and quality products. Additionally, Patrice is working on her own collection of bridal and bridesmaid gowns that will be available in January 2024.
To learn more about Patrice J. Bridal, please visit their website. www.patricejbridal.com
Jay & Jah Films LLCBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Ithiell Yisrael & Shawn Yabui
The easiest way to reach someone at their level is to know what it’s like to be there.
Pensacola, FL, native and resident Jermaine J. Williams is a man full of culture, experience, and determination. He is also someone who has clawed his way from the pits of despair and found a new footing in life by way of helping and serving others.
Jermaine is a Documentary Filmmaker, Author, Executive Producer, and advocate for positive mental health and social change. He owns Jay & Jah Films LLC, a production company producing substance-filled television and film content. His company is currently in talks with a few television networks for Rescue Addiction. This production follows Jermaine as he and his team enter crises to save those faced with addiction. It also works to educate their family/friends to help provide a breakthrough moment for all parties involved. “Our production company’s first project, the documentary “I Had To Change: The Story Of Jermaine J. Williams,” paved the way for Rescue Addiction by winning four awards worldwide in various film festivals,” he says.
In addition to managing his production company, Jermaine works as a Certified Recovery Peer Specialist with the State of Florida. This commitment pulls at Jermaine’s heartstrings because he can relate to the challenges of those he serves. He shares his testimony in an effort to help others understand his purpose.
“It was a Sunday morning, on November 29, 2015. I’ll never forget that date or day. I was on the heels of an all-night binge of cocaine and alcohol. After failed rehab stints years earlier, I had grown tired of having no control over something that had controlled me. I thought of a plan to die by suicide and was ready to execute it. But my only concern was my family finding my lifeless body in my room. So I regrouped my thoughts and exercised my faith in God. Even under the influence of substances, God began to show me that He had had enough of the punishment with which I had afflicted myself. I made it downstairs just in time to catch my family before they departed for church. I told them I had had enough, and I was done. I joined hands with my aunt, mother, and grandmother and
began to pray in complete surrender. I had been invited by a friend to church the Friday before, and I then called and told him I would like to take him up on the invitation. During praise and worship, I sat and sulked, while the rest of the congregation was standing and singing. At that time, I heard a faint but mighty voice say, “If you want to be done with this forever, you have to praise me like you never did before. I jumped to my feet during three consecutive songs and began to lift my hands in complete surrender. I was crying, foaming at the mouth, speaking in tongues with no regard for who was watching me. That was big for me because up until that moment, I had been concerned with how I was perceived. I struggled with a cocaine and alcohol addiction for thirteen years. It was the most challenging fight of my life. That day was seven years ago, and I’ve had no desire for drugs and alcohol and have enjoyed sobriety ever since,” Jermaine shared.
After reaching sobriety, Jermaine realized he had a unique story, and I wanted to tell that story to inspire others. He says from a teenager to early adulthood, he produced music. Along the way, he became a community activist who built a rapport in the political arena with an uncanny ability to speak out for those in his community. He has done this by coordinating campaigns, rallies, and more. Jermaine also wrote a religious thriller, “My Brother, The Devil, & Me.” He has also produced the documentary “I Had To Change: The Story Of Jermaine J. Williams”.
Various life experiences have inspired Jermaine. His father died when he was six years old. A drunk driver took Jermaine says, took his father away from me. Shortly after that, his aunt introduced him to the lifes’ work of Malcolm X, and Malcolm X, Jermaine says, became a father from the grave to him.
Jermaine shares he believes it is essential to help others because everyone will need help with something at one point or another. “I must pay it forward because I know what it feels like to receive support or go without it. It’s a matter of what feeling we want to leave with others. I hope it’s not the latter,” he says.
Jermaine’s work as a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist with Here Tomorrow, a nonprofit based in Jacksonville, FL, is what he loves most about what he does. “At Here Tomorrow, I take calls for 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and serve as a peer counselor to individuals who suffer from addiction and mental diagnoses. I also facilitate support groups,” he says.
As he looks towards the future, Jermaine says his goal is to engage in transition talks with television networks and finalize contracts for Rescue Addiction. “We are very, very close to that. The pilot episode is completed and receiving rave reviews from industry insiders,” Jermaine says. In addition to the novel he is working on, which includes a feature film segment, Jermaine has four other completed scripts in line. He also plans to lobby the DCF managing entity of his home county of Escambia, to advocate for mental health funding for Pensacola and surrounding areas. Something he will never cease doing is working to break the stigma surrounding mental health in the African American community.
My Brother, The Devil, & Me (Novel) is available on Amazon.
I Had To Change: The Story Of Jermaine J. Williams is available on YouTube.
Timothy Fowler Boys to Men FoundationBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Todd Youngblood
Timothy Fowler of Charlotte, NC, is the founder of Boys To Men Foundation. His organization provides thousands of boys, ages (9-17) who are referred through partnerships with local school districts and juvenile court systems) with positive alternatives and a robust support network. The mentoring program presents opportunities for enrichment, exposure, support, and guidance through group mentoring sessions led by trained volunteers and mentors. They also connect young men with consistent, positive male role models who foster effective relationships, community involvement, interactive teaching, and open communication in a loving and nurturing environment.
Timothy was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in a household with seven kids and says his father took care of them and ensured they always had a roof over their heads. Today, Timothy is a father of a teenage son, and he has a daughter who attends Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. Timothy graduated from Medgar Evers College with a BA in Elementary Education in 1995. He has worked as a Pre-K teacher for nearly 30 years. His first teaching position happened at P.S.190 in Brooklyn, and upon moving to Charlotte in 2005, Timothy worked as a Pre-K teacher at Morehead Stem Academy. Currently, he works as a Pre-K teacher at Highland Renaissance Academy.
Upon graduating from Medgar Evers College, Timothy began a career in education and has served as a role model for young people ever since. In 2008, he founded the Boys to Men Foundation. BTM’s workforce development benefits two groups: It builds character for mentees as they acquire knowledge, skills, and aptitude for gainful employment. It also benefits employers who participate in the apprenticeship program by providing an effective means of communication with a familiar candidate pool, helping to meet their demand for stellar employees.
Timothy’s desire to serve started a long time ago. He shares, “Back in my hometown of Brooklyn, I first noticed the nonexistent presence of positive male role models in underprivileged communities. Out of this need, I started my quest to counsel young teens through programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. I was a Big Brother for over five years and worked at the YMCA, and I continue to be active today. As a young male, I would always strive to bring people of all walks of life together. While attending Medgar Evers, I started a program called the Black and Latino Male Initiative. The initiative’s goal was to bring males together to discuss common issues affecting society at that time. When I moved to Charlotte, I continued that initiative by starting the Boys to Men Foundation.”
Timothy understands that he must care about others who need help outside his immediate family. “It’s a selfless act to fight for someone who is virtually a stranger until that relationship unravels. Ninety percent of our boys come from single-parent households. For these young men to have someone they can trust enough and be vulnerable with to reach out when they need help is invaluable,” he says.
Timothy says his life was greatly impacted by his grandmother, who lived in Wilmington, NC. As a young boy, he would travel there every summer to visit her. He witnessed her give back to her community and how she poured into anyone, regardless if they were members of her family. This explains why he loves giving people new experiences and watching them grow. “Every day is different. I always tell my mentees they help me grow just as much as we help them,” he shares.
For BTM, Timothy says operational funding is always tough. “There are a lot of non-profits that all need funding, so it’s a competitive environment. Fortunately, we have cultivated some great relationships with local businesses. Finding good people to help me carry out this organization’s vision and mission has also been a challenge. Yet, we are moving ahead and always looking for good people to help us,” he says.
Timothy says BTM’s goal for the upcoming year is to form more partnerships with local businesses and corporations to aid in their effort to empower young men. h
It’s All About Her Love For KidsBy Dorjae’ McClammey Photos Provided by Shaunielle Foster
Who has a bigger heart than Shaunielle Foster? She is the founder and CEO of Footsteps to Follow, a non-profit organization based in Guilford County, NC, that focuses on special needs children and the inclusion of the buddy system for standard children.
A native of New York, Shaun, as she prefers to be acknowledged, has cemented her “footstep” in the modeling industry and is highly sought after for her creative expertise and fashion savvy.
Modeling is something that Shaun grasped at the young age of three. Soon she was appearing in commercials and print ads. Living in a city that never sleeps offered her opportunities at every corner. However, these opportunities did not focus on just modeling but allowed her to branch out and explore different arts, such as dancing and performing arts. Growing up in multiple industries, she felt the need for modeling would let you express who you are regardless of what the person is wearing. And the rest is history.
“It all began in 2009 with a simple conversation. My friend and I were discussing their child who had special needs. While talking, they realized there were no opportunities available for the young person to participate in the fashion and model world without being stigmatized. At that moment, the idea for Footsteps to Follow came to life,” Shaun says.
For Shaun, it is all about loving her kids. The open platform that Footsteps To Follow have gives children ages with special needs between the ages of two to 18, a sense of inclusiveness in the fashion world. With bi-annual fashion shows during April and October, they can forget their disabilities and enjoy themselves. Shaun’s mentoring program, “The Buddy System,” allows them to be matched and create life-long friendships with other children who don’t have the same setbacks or illnesses.
Another project Shaun has her hands in is a workshop called ‘Stytches.’ It allows the kids to create their own garments and showcase them during the fashion show that Footsteps To Follow produces. She has also created various partnerships with her community members to ensure the kids in her program and her community are receiving everything they need. One partnership is with the local HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University. Together, they pair each of her kids with a mentor from other local non-profits. Another program called ‘Wrapped Up In Music’ serves kids who are patients in local hospitals.
Shaun’s love doesn’t end there. She has been a foster parent for seven and a half years and has fostered over 290 children. “I felt like it was necessary to be able to be more than just a bridge gap for so many children,” she says. She has also found a way to get her family involved with her programs. Her son Kingzton, a young KidPreneur and model, has created an all-natural self-care line called “Kingz Korner.” He has all-natural lip therapy, bath bombs, awareness suds, and more. The colors of his logo are dedicated to his mother and represent all she has done for kids in the foster system. “Green is for missing children, blue is for adoption, and yellow is for unconditional love.” Shaun also has launched ‘Fatz15’, a clothing line dedicated to her daughter Daisha who she calls Fatz because she barely weighed five pounds at birth.
Although there have been challenges along the way, Shaun says she is unphased about them. “I always find the silver lining. It’s not about the challenge; it’s about finding the solution,” she says. As for the future, she is working on acquiring a brick-and-mortar location for her programs.
For anyone looking to follow in Shaun’s remarkable footsteps, her advice is to be authentically you; there is only one. “Follow your hopes, dreams, and heart, and be passionate about what you do. Doing so will not feel like work.”
To learn more about Shaunielle Foster and Footsteps to Follow, please contact them directly. h