Huami Magazine Nashville March/April 2024

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Who Else But God!

NASHVILLE March/April 2024 Volume 4 Issue 3 ®
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Donna R. Rice 615-418-7001

Well, the first quarter of 2024 is almost over, and the question that I ask is, what have you done so far? If you are like me, you have created a list of goals for this year, and with anything, life has happened. With many distractions and obstacles, it can often be difficult to sift through the many challenges. However, success is a close friend of determination and persistence, so I encourage you to push and persevere and remember why you made that list in the first place.

I often imagine what it would be like if everything that I imagine I could do, I get it done. It feels so good to plan, yet it does not always work out how I plan. I truly believe that God gives us each a divine plan and purpose for our lives. I believe God speaks purpose into our minds and hearts, but He doesn’t stop there. He intends for us to return to Him for guidance and instruction for our purpose.

I once heard that if God blessed us like an all-you-can-eat buffet, we would probably eat all that we can eat in one setting and never return to Him for anything more. That is not how God works. God wants us to stay connected and follow the path He creates for our lives, which is constructed with steps that must be followed as He intended.

As we approach the second quarter of the year, I want to encourage you to revisit the goals you have in place and remind yourselves of your why. If we can think about it, then it is possible. If we trust God’s plan, then it will definitely happen, and it will happen in His time.

Work on your goals and dreams and goals now. All of your hard work will pay off. More than anything, we must keep pursuing what we have asked for. We must trust God and get it done!

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Now, Then, Later....... Just Get It Done!

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Who Else But God?
Donna R. Rice Alisha Wright Designs Alisha Wright
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15 28
A Caregivers Story Terry L. Watson Huami Magazine Cutest Baby Lola Knight
Bluford S.T.E.M. Academy Dr. Johnita Readus Daryle McNair
Sylvia Pennington Michanna Talley Tate, Esq.

Who Else But God!

Donna R. Rice of Nashville, TN, is a genuine example of God’s love and grace. While on her deathbed fighting COVID-19, a pandemic that took the lives of nearly 40 of her family members, with the youngest being three years old, Donna says God gave her this vision to serve in many capacities. That calling is something Donna has graciously accepted.

Donna is a native of Lorain, Ohio, but relocated to Nashville in 2012. Of nine children, she measures in as the fourth child. Donna has two adult sons, Domonique and Donoven, and four beautiful grandchildren. Domonique is married to Nikita, and they have four beautiful children: Logan, Leia, Laden (twins), and Lennox. Domonique currently serves as a Staff Sergeant in The United States Air Force. Donoven is a youth pastor and is married to Sarieyah Rice.

Donna holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and has worked extensively in the same field. After graduating with her degree, Donna began working as a correction officer with juveniles at the Woodland Hills Development Center. Sometime later, she landed a position as a Lieutenant at the A.A. Birch Courthouse and Night Court. Donna says she wanted to learn more, so she became a State Trooper with Davidson County. She was soon elevated to serve as Unit Manager at Truecore Youth Facility and remained in that position until the program was discontinued.

Her next move landed her at The Davidson County Sheriff’s Department as a SO1 officer. Next, she was offered to work with The Honorable Judge Rachel L. Bell as her Judicial Assistant at The A.A. Birch Court House. In July 2022, she humbly accepted and received a position to work security for Oprah Winfrey’s father’s funeral. Presently, Donna works as The Honorable Judge Rachell L. Bell’s private security guard, Judicial Assistant, and court officer.

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Donna shares that in 2005, she accepted the call to minister the word of God. Her ministry includes being part of the alto section with the Tennessee Mass Choir under the leadership of Minister Jason Clark. She is a member of the Ephesian Primitive Baptist Church under the leadership of Dr. Cornelius A. Hill and a graduate of Emmanuel Bible College.

Amazingly, in spite of everything that Donna is involved with, she still finds time for entrepreneurship. She owns Donna’s Playland & More. Her company specializes in creating unique, one-of-a-kind parties and events for kids.

“Looking to have fun with Minnie & Mickie? Book us today” is the slogan for Donna’s Playland & More. She began in August 2020 while dealing with the residual effects of Covid 19. She says, “I surfed the internet and ordered Minnie Mouse & Mickey Mouse mascots. My first debut happened at a black-owned daycare, Stronger Than My Father, Inc. My second event was a back-to-school bash where over 5,000 people attended,” she says.

Donna obviously understands her calling in life, which is to serve and minister the word of God to others and be a successful business owner. She professes, “My name is being mentioned in rooms I’ve never stepped in only because I stand under an open Heaven, ready to receive everything God has for me. I was not only born to win but to serve others, and I love serving people in all walks of life.”

My name is being mentioned in rooms I’ve never stepped in only because I stand under an open Heaven, ready to receive everything God has for me. I was not only born to win but to serve others, and I love serving people in all walks of life.

Donna’s father, Willie Rice, is her hero. As a little girl, she recalls how he served anyone in his community. She adds that he cooked huge meals for his family and whoever else stopped by their home. “My father would help anyone and in any way that he could. Rather, it was clothing, by monetary means, or a word from God.”

In 2022, while Donna continued to fight for her life due to the Covid 19 pandemic, she was unable to travel 535 miles to say her goodbyes to her mother, who had passed. That moment, she says, was very difficult. She managed her grief by praying daily and reading 2 Corinthians 5:8, which tells us, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Donna says she knows that her mother is in a better place and will definitely see her again.

Donna advises others who may follow a path similar to hers to find their true calling from God, not man. “Walk in your calling, pray, and keep God first in everything you do,” she says. Moving forward, Donna plans to continue sharing her story as a coping and healing method. “I tried going to a therapist, yet after sharing my story with her, she cried more than me. I learned I will have to take this faith walk alone, just me and God,” she says. Additionally, Donna is in the process of writing a book titled, “The Morning After.” Nashville - March/April 2024 8


Alisha Wright of Memphis, TN, is known for having a sharp eye for detail. She is also the face and founder of Alisha Wright Designs, an interior decor design company based in the music city. Her company offers Residential and Commercial interior decoration and commercial and residential renovation. Soon, the services she provides will include handmade decor items.

Alisha’s early life was rooted in sports. She had been a cheerleader since the age of six and cheered through primary and secondary school. She went on to deeply engross herself in the dance and cheer culture locally around Memphis. Alisha has been a Memphis Redbirds Redhot Cheerleader, a Memphis Grizzlies Grizz Girl Dancer, and a member of a local hip-hop dance troupe called M-Town Image. She has also opened up for artists who graced the stages of Memphis, like Chris Brown and India Arie. Additionally, she’s danced, sang, and acted in theater plays in the Memphis area, which she says is probably one of the best experiences she’s had in her life.

She graduated from the University of Memphis in 2004 Magna cum laude with a degree in Public Relations. Alisha left the United States in 2008, moved overseas, and lived in Spain and Japan. At one point, she returned back to the US and lived in Hawaii. “I lived abroad for seven years and had the pleasure of teaching dance abroad. Japanese culture had a significant impact on my spirit, and it changed the way I view the world. It was in Japan that I discovered my knack for design. The time I spent there was also the pinnacle of my life experiences. It was in Japan that I discovered two major lifechanging things - Meditation and Design.”

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Alisha shares she began decorating professionally through event design. While living abroad in Japan, she worked for a Boys & Girls Club that was located on a Navy Base in Sasebo. There, she developed an educational program called The International Club, which focused on a different country every month. Alisha would educate kids about the country’s culture, language, dietary preferences, etc., and develop a unique event centered around these facts. “One summer month, we focused on Indian food and film culture, and Bollywood was the theme. I decorated the Teen Center with a Bollywood theme, using beautiful jewel tones, and organized an Indian cuisine-themed dinner and movie night featuring a Bollywood movie. My coworker was in attendance and adamantly and emphatically said I should consider pursuing this trade as an actual profession. And so began my career as an event planner,” she says.

Years later, Alisha ventured into real estate but rapidly found that she preferred to design and decorate homes a lot more than selling them. In 2021, her next move was to launch her design company, Alisha Wright Designs. “I’ve been incredibly blessed to have an array of clients, from closet design to kitchen and bathroom renovation. My artistic gift is innate and is a direct gift from the Creator.”

Alisha says what she loves most about her career is the ideology of leaving behind a piece of her essence in every home she touches. “It is a great honor and a great responsibility to create a space that the client falls in love with. It reflects what they envision the most and inspires them every time they enter the room. That is the most gratifying aspect of what I do,” Alisha states. Nashville - March/April 2024 12

It is a great honor and a great responsibility to create a space that the client falls in love with. It reflects what they envision the most and inspires them every time they enter the room.

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She also adds that her internal fire is a motivating factor. “I have a perspective that screams to come out.” Another motivation for her is being a mother. She shares, “Few things in life will metamorphose a woman than raising a child. My daughter is absolutely fantastic and amazing! She has transformed me in ways that nothing else in life could have.”

While Alisha has exceeded her own personal expectations for her life as a designer, there are a few things she would change about her journey if given the chance. First, she would change her confidence level. She adds, “If I believed in myself enough earlier in my life, this journey would have been more of a flow. I did not truly know that everything I needed was already within me. I also would have told myself to think less and do more, as the momentum of motion brings forth the manifestation of what you dream your life could be. The lack of this motion is what slows down your momentum, which takes you further away from “the zone”. This, in turn, creates a stagnancy, which will block your blessings. A wise woman told me early on in my life to be like water. This is the best advice that I have ever received. Water flows in the path of least resistance, and the path of least resistance is the path of allowance. When you allow the flow, you allow the universe to bring you blessings rather than seeking them or trying to create them through the control of your reality. The truth is we honestly don’t control anything. We can control how we respond and act, and in some situations, feel, but life happens whether we choose to participate or not.”

Alisha advises anyone looking to pursue an interior design career to go for it fully and to believe in yourself first and foremost. She says, “Listen to your inner voice as it is that voice that comes directly from God. Get as much mentorship and technical training as possible and try to design every single day, whether it be something as small as a centerpiece or as large as a bathroom renovation. Also, keep your ideas and never veto anything; add to it, build on it, and refine it.”

Next, Alisha plans to commercialize handmade products such as centerpieces, wedding bouquets, and wall art/murals. h

Lola Knight The daughter of Rashaun Knight and Zaria Knight

The McNair Foundation Incorporated

“I Am About My Father’s Business”

Daryle McNair of Charlotte, NC, is the face and visionary of McNair Foundation Incorporated. This nonprofit organization focuses on preparing students for their future tomorrow. It also offers scholarships and educational assistance for deserving students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s).

The inspiration behind The McNair Foundation Incorporated is connected to Daryle’s desire to honor his parent’s legacy. He lost his father in 1995, and as time went on, he also lost his mother. Daryle shares that his mother and father made a great impression on him, and he always wanted to do something to honor them. “My father would always ask me what my plan was for my life. He wanted to know what I had in mind for my legacy and what I would do to be an asset to society, not a liability. I thought about education,” he says.

Daryle describes himself as a go-getter. He is very involved and a vital part of his community. Daryle is a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University. He works for Wells Fargo Bank as a Wholesale Relationship Associate in Commercial Investment Banking. Daryle is a proud Prince Hall Masonic Family member and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated member. Along with his wife Stefanie, who will celebrate 20 years of marriage in May, he has one daughter, Amiah.

My father would always ask me what my plan was for my life. He wanted to know what I had in mind for my legacy and what I would do to be an asset to society, not a liability. I thought about education
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The team of The McNair Foundation is composed of Daryle, the Founder and President; Dr. Stephen Cathcart, who serves as Vice President; Stephanie McNair, Secretary and Treasurer; and Ryan Howell, who oversees Fundraising and Technology. The organization also relies on the support of several volunteers.

Daryle focuses on education, specifically providing scholarships and educational assistance for students who attend HBCUs. Daryle also supports minority at-risk mentorships. “As an HBCU graduate, I was often around other HBCU graduates. I saw the importance of education and how it could prepare someone for what it would be like in the world, especially for a black man. I learned that it’s not a level playing field, and the HBCU experience helped prepare me for that,” he says.

When asked what he loves most about what he does, Daryle says it is the chance to help others. “Nothing beats the feeling of providing assistance or presenting someone with a check and helping them to continue their education. Whether it be speaking to someone and offering ideas and information, I love being able to help others. We also offer intercessory funding, which focuses on helping students who may have some funding but not enough. Knowing that I have a legacy of helping and serving others and being known for giving back, nothing beats that,” he shares.

The McNair Foundation is able to serve students anywhere within North Carolina. Their reach has extended to the eastern town of Rowland, NC, and even Durham. When an applicant is determined to be most deserving, The McNair scholarships are awarded. “We ask our prospective scholars to submit an academic resume and cover letter. When applying for a job, your resume will be the first thing someone will learn about you. The reason for doing so is we want them to get into the practice of being able to stand out on paper first,” Daryle explains. Nashville - March/April 2024 1818

Networking is something that Daryle has learned to master. He shares that with any nonprofit organization, you can never have enough funding. “Whether it be at Johnson C. Smith University or a cigar house, I am constantly networking and talking to people to let them know what we do and let them know what we do, just to see if we are a match. You have to be mindful of who your sponsors are. We have been blessed to have some great companies to believe in us and support our cause.”

One significant way Daryle and his team raise money for their organization is with The Annual McNair Invitational Golf Tournament. This year, it will happen on Saturday, March 23, 2024, at Rocky River Golf Club in Concord, North Carolina.

Moving forward, Daryle is working on developing a virtual mentorship. Most often, to be able to make school visits to meet mentees, there is often a lot of paperwork to complete, including background checks, etc. The virtual mentorship will alleviate the need to make school visits and allow Daryle’s team to reach more people from greater distances through Zoom meetings. Daryle is also looking to sponsor an athletic league for young participants. “I think about the little guys who are playing football and basketball. Their participation can be economically challenging for their parents. We want to help ease that burden through sponsorship and allow these kids to participate. Their participation will keep them off the streets and learn the value of teamwork at an early age,” Daryle explains.

For more information about The McNair Foundation Incorporated or any of its programs, please visit their website. h


Learn More About My Experience of Being A Caregiver For My Mother

CHAPTER ONE: What Do We Do Now?

I can remember the day just as if it was today. My mother had suffered an Ischemic Stroke nearly four months ago, and it took her independence and her ability to communicate and left her paralyzed on the right side of her body. Within the previous 120 days, she had visited three different rehabilitation facilities, and we had reached the point in her recovery process that required our family to make a very difficult decision.

While in rehab, Mom didn’t make a lot of progress. Her ability to speak and her speech was measured very low, as she suffered from Aphasia. (A disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language. For most people, these areas are on the left side of the brain. Aphasia usually occurs suddenly, often following a stroke or head injury. - Even more, she didn’t make a lot of progress in physical therapy and still required some assistance with every physical need. Our family all agreed that we didn’t want Mom to continue to reside in the Skilled Nursing Facility, so preparations were made for her to come home and to my home, to be more specific.

Photo Provided by Adobe Stock Photos
Yet, there was much more that my family and I would be tasked with doing, and we were thrust into the role of caregiver without any formal training or experience. The only tools and resources I had available to assist me were my unwavering love for my mother and a Godly assignment to honor her.

Coming to my home and providing accommodations for my mother’s new physical and emotional needs was something that I never imagined that I would ever have to do. Yes, my mother had new emotional needs, as she was still adapting to her new style of life, a style that depended on someone for everything she needed. At that time, I could only imagine how difficult that was for my mother, a woman who, up until the morning she suffered her stroke, was always helping anyone who needed help and putting all of her needs aside. If I could try to accurately describe the level of my mother’s independence before her brain injury, my best description would be of a servant and someone who refused to be still and rest until everyone else was taken care of.

What Do We Do Now?

The day finally arrived for my mom to come to her new home. As a family, my siblings had devised a plan to care for her. This also involved working with a reputable home care agency. With their assistance, my mother’s basic care needs would be met. All that I expected to do was coordinate the scheduling of their visits and administer my mother’s medicine, which would also involve insulin injections. We had plans in place to assist our mother with getting to the bathroom and managing things of that nature. I don’t consider myself to be a professional chef, but well before my mother’s stroke, she’d developed a love for my cooking, so I felt comfortable in that category. Yet, there was much more that my family and I would be tasked with doing, and we were thrust into the role of caregiver without any formal training or experience. The only tools and resources I had available to assist me were my unwavering love for my mother and a Godly assignment to honor her. Looking back on the previous 120 days, to even the day I got the call that my mother and best friend had suffered a stroke, and fast forward to the day my mother came to live in my home, my life would never be the same.

Welcome to the world of caregiving.


I decided to share my experience as a full-time caregiver for my mother to consult, console, and inform other families who may be going through a similar situation. As a son, caring for my mother never feels like work; if so, it is a labor of love. Please continue to follow this message, Becoming A Caregiver, in Huami Magazine.

I hope that sharing my experience will help others. From one caregiver to the next, God Bless You!

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Michanna Talley Tate is a woman who wears many hats. She is a wife, daughter, sister, and friend to many. The Greenville, SC, native is also an Attorney, a Professor, and a former Scientist. Her list could go on and on, but more than anything, Michanna genuinely loves people.

Michanna graduated from Southside High School and then attended Howard University for both undergraduate and graduate school. She attended Stetson University College of Law for law school. Today, she is the founder of Access Law LLC, formerly Michanna Talley Attorney at Law. Her firm’s main practices are Real Estate Litigation, Personal Injury, and Medical Malpractice.

Michanna says that as a lawyer, she loves helping people get results. “I originally opened my law firm in the summer of 2012 under the name Michanna Talley Attorney at Law. I was teaching science courses online and also running my law firm. When I went to law school, I intended to be self-employed and start my own law firm, which is exactly what I did. I used the money from teaching to pay my office rent, supplies, and everything else I needed to run my law firm. And to gain clients, I went to lots of networking events. I always tell people that in life, you can always do something else. I have a Masters degree and a Bachelors degree in Biology. I used those degrees during my time employed as a Molecular Microbiologist. I also used those degrees to teach science courses at different colleges and universities. I also have Graduate Certification in Epidemiology & Biostatistics (Public Health), yet even with that, I decided to do something else. That something else is law.”.

The vision to become a lawyer came from Michanna’s dad, a lawyer with his own law firm. Growing up, Michanna states that being a lawyer was not something she ever wanted. However, when you are a scientist, she adds that being self-employed is next to impossible. “I went to law school because it was a degree I knew I could use to be self-employed.”

Her life has been mostly impacted by her parents and the lessons they taught her. “In my dad, I had a built-in mentor. The foundation he taught me was priceless, and I have built on that and made my firm and the way I practice law my own,” she says. Michanna also credits her educational experience at Howard University for shaping her life. “At Howard, it wasn’t just about the academics. It was also about the culture of excellence, being away from home in a big city, and having to make my own positive decisions.”

Access Law LLC

In my dad, I had a built-in mentor. The foundation he taught me was priceless, and I have built on that and made my firm and the way I practice law my own.
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In her many years of practice, Michanna has enjoyed many memorable experiences. It comes with the territory, and they have helped her to become better. One experience she recalls involves a client whom she inherited from her dad. She says, “My client was (1 of 35) owners of 7.5 acres in Greenville County. That caused the property to become “stuck.” Recently, the judge ordered that my client owns all 7.5 acres and does not have to buy out any other family members or owners. My client drove down from New Jersey for the hearing and was so happy. He asked to hug me at least three times. I love it when my clients get a great result.”

As with any profession, Michanna has faced some challenges and has learned how to manage them appropriately. One was her desire to help everyone just because she could do so with her legal knowledge. As a result, after eight years of having her own law firm, she gave it up due to being burnt out. She became a prosecutor for about two years before returning back to her own firm. With her return, Michanna says she chose to focus on a few niche areas of law and treat her firm as a business with a goal of making a profit. Of course, Michanna is committed to helping her clients, but she wants to ensure everyone is benefiting. She is able to accomplish this by sticking to the types of cases she likes. “I have learned to say no because, quite honestly, there are lots of attorney options to choose from,” she explains.

Family is very important to Michanna. She adds that it’s essential for her to sustain her family’s legacy in practicing law because there are not many minority lawyers who handle the matters that she does. “I learned to handle these matters by receiving foundational training from my dad. My dad was one of only a handful of Black lawyers that handled real estate in the Upstate. Over the years, that same number has decreased. I am standing strong in this field and enjoying it,” she says.

Michanna remains active in her community by educating others on the law. She routinely volunteers for a nonprofit located in Greenville that assists minority entrepreneurs and speaks to new and ongoing business owners. Michanna also volunteers and speaks at other events, such as home-buying and estate-planning seminars. Last year, during Black History Month, she spoke on the issue of her property at a large manufacturing company in Greenville.

Michanna’s advice to others who may follow a path similar to hers is simple. “Everyone is not your assignment. Don’t wait until you are drained to remember this. Stick to what you like to do and do it well.”

Looking ahead, Michanna shares that she plans to continue to focus on real estate litigation, personal injury, and medical malpractice cases. That is what she likes to do. “I would love to take on more speaking engagements. I guess it is the professor in me. I genuinely love conveying information to people because I know so much incorrect information exists. I like to make sure people have the truth.”

To learn more about Attorney Michanna Talley Tate and Access Law LLC, please visit their website. Nashville - March/April 2024 26
Access Law LLC 206 Green Avenue Greenville, SC 29601 864-498-7411

Artesha Fernandez, also known as Teash, is best described as vibrant, spontaneous, funny, and stylish. She is also a popular creative and the face and voice of Tea with Teash Podcast, a Tea With Teash, LLC product.

Tea With Teash discusses various topics, including health, relationships, and daily motivation.

Born and raised in Kansas City, MO, Teash enjoys being a representative of the culture. “I love engaging with the public and keeping up with all the awesomeness my Brown Sisters and Brothers possess,” she emphatically says. In addition to managing her podcast, Teash works as a Medical Biller for a local clinic specializing in Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology. She has an Associates Degree in Human Service Management and Healthcare Administration.

Nearly five years ago, Teash says she thought about starting a podcast. It was in November 2023 that she made the decision to play with her craft and applied for her business license. In doing so, Teash built an umbrella for her amazing ideas and plans, and things began to really take off. “I started building my pages, researching my topics, and reaching out to those who were amazing to interview. My efforts involved individuals, both local and out-of-state. I just went for it. My intention was to become a Black Business Owner and make something remarkable out of my artistry.”

What Teash says she loves most about being a Podcaster is being able to not only share her life and my charismatic personality but also have the chance to tap into the lives of her peers. “I love saluting anyone that has really good things going on, and I love meeting new people and being able to share their attributes, businesses, products, and services. I also enjoy giving them extra exposure for their greatness in case the world has missed it,” she says.

I love engaging with the public and keeping up with all the awesomeness my Brown Sisters and Brothers possess.
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For Teash, coming up with better ways to get exposure and create watch worthy content has been a little difficult, and while she is fairly new to the world of podcasting, her presence has been noticed. She adds, “I have definitely brought a new meaning to the phrase “being new means nothing”. I’m getting things done”. Teash appreciates where she has come from and is equally excited about where her podcast production is going.

Teash is all in with Tea with Teash Podcast but hasn’t been able to accomplish what she has alone. She credits her sons for impacting her life and career the most. Allowing them to see her in action and following her dreams is all Teash ever wanted to show them, she says. “Even though my sons are 22 and 16, they are still impressionable and watching me. I wanted to give them Mommy/Artesha and what Artesha wanted to do with her life outside of being their amazing Mother.”

Her advice to anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps is to believe in yourself when no one else does, take it one day at a day, and make every move you make your biggest move. “I have made it by asking questions, praying, and keeping at it. My advice to others is to make a lot of noise about yourself and don’t quit!”

Looking ahead, Teash plans to open her very own black-owned business eventually. She doesn’t want to reveal the type of business yet. She also plans to continue to make a lot of noise throughout her city and remain involved with everything creative, possibly TV. She says, “I would like to have a full production set for my podcast and continue to bring Positive Culture Love.” To learn more about The Tea with Teash Podcast, please visit their website.


In the inviting city of North Little Rock, Arkansas, known for its waterfront attractions and warm Southern charm, there exists a culinary sanctuary called SAPs Creole Cuisine. Behind its doors lies not just a restaurant but a symbol of a remarkable woman’s journey—a journey marked by resilience, triumph, and an unwavering determination to live out her dreams.

At 38 years old, Sylvia Pennington is the proud owner and operator of SAPs, Creole Cuisine, which is recognized as being authentically New Orleans. The acronym SAPs is for (S)ylvia (A)nn (P)ennington. Her story is a testament to the power of the human spirit to rise above adversity. When Huami Magazine caught up with the restaurant owner, she was preparing a food-tasting presentation for the Arkansas Minority Health Commission (AMHC) as their official caterer for their upcoming health fair.

“I am attempting to combat the health crisis within minority and underserved communities. “Most people don’t want to eat healthy because they don’t want to sacrifice good-tasting food. I cook healthy food and my food tastes good. I’ve made my own seasoning for at least 15 years and every dish has its own no-salt seasoning.”

Her journey began in the vibrant, colorful city of New Orleans, where she was born and raised within the rich tapestry of the Creole culture. But her early years were marked by hardship and struggle. She was the youngest of three siblings; her family dynamic shifted when her mother married, and their family nucleus changed. “When my mother married my stepfather, we moved from the comfort of having my extended family close by to a very different life.”

Most people don’t want to eat healthy because they don’t want to sacrifice goodtasting food. I cook healthy food and my food tastes good.
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Unfortunately, their family became poisoned by abuse and dysfunction. “Things were really bad. From the ages 11-16, I slept with a knife under my pillow for protection,” Sylvia said. Although she experienced a parental disconnect, there were others who were sent to fill those emotional voids.

“We spent lots of time in church and it was there that I met the late Lois Charles. God sent her to make my life a little easier because she just clung to me for some reason. She would hug me and love on me. She gave me something to look forward to. We called her mother and she was really like my other mama,” she shared. There were others who filled the emotional gaps, void of familial support.

“11SG Calvin Bassett stood out not just as a JROTC instructor but as a beacon of guidance and support. Recognizing the struggles I faced, Serg Bassett and his wife didn’t hesitate to extend their care beyond the classroom. They ensured I was clothed, provided me with glasses, and even introduced me to the world of fine dining — a first for me. More than a teacher, Serg became a mentor, imparting lessons on self-respect and the expectations one should have from others. In my heart, he occupies the space of a father, a sentiment echoed in his unwavering acceptance of me as a daughter. They have two sons, and I always say that I’m their third child,” she laughed.

Despite the challenges she faced, Sylvia’s spirit remained unbroken. Academically, she ranked in the top 10 of her class, graduating with honors in 2004 from L.B. Landry High School and enrolled in the Culinary Institute of New Orleans. Then, in 2005, Katrina hit. It was two months before my oldest daughter was born. Sylvia, along with approximately 30 family members, evacuated the area and ended up in Memphis, Tennessee, where she stayed for about seven months before returning back home to New Orleans.

In the aftermath of Katrina, Sylvia’s resilience was tested once again as she sought to rebuild her life amidst the chaos. Forced to leave New Orleans, She found herself in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she began a new chapter working in photography and raising her family. She never wavered from her heart’s desire to one day own her very own restaurant. But life had more twists and turns in store for Sylvia. A tumultuous marriage shrouded by infidelity left her feeling isolated and alone, but it was during this dark period that Sylvia found solace. Nashville - March/April 2024 34

“I was feeling depressed. I begged God for peace..for 30 days, I prayed for peace. I isolated myself from everyone and spoke only with my brother.”

Fueled by a deep-seated passion for cooking instilled in her by her mother, Sylvia’s dreams never wavered. Despite the setbacks and challenges she faced, she remained steadfast in her determination to open her own restaurant. In 2022, that dream became a reality with the grand opening of SAP Creole Cuisine—a testament to Sylvia’s perseverance and unyielding spirit.

Today, you may find her spending time with her daughters, 18-year-old Myrionne and 10-year-old Mykell, or planning her upcoming wedding to her fiancé, Daron Plummer Jr.; she is a shining example of resilience, triumph, and love. Through the highs and lows of her journey, Sylvia has remained guided by faith and fueled by the love and support of those who have stood by her side.

As guests step through the doors of SAPs Creole Cuisine, they are greeted by delicious food and the indomitable spirit of a woman who refused to let life’s challenges define her.

Sylvia Pennington’s journey reminds us that no matter what obstacles we face, we can overcome anything with courage, resilience, and love. As she continues to write the next chapter of her story, Sylvia stands as an inspiration to us all, a beacon of hope in a world where anything is possible for those who dare to dream.

“What I love most is coming through the door, knowing that I accomplished my dream. I cut on my own light and see that God never left me.” Nashville - March/April 2024 36 A T a s t e o f N e w O r l e a n s
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