The Vision. The Foundation
My Dreams Are Windows To My FreedomThere Are No If, Ands, Or Buts About It!
My Dreams Are Windows To My FreedomThere Are No If, Ands, Or Buts About It!
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.
Joy Rogers Writer
In that same breath, my dreams have been filled with thoughts of hope and sometimes regret. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would. If I could reverse some of the experiences of my life, I would. If I had the ability to reach back into my past and open some of the doors that were shut and close some that I walked through, I would. One might ask me why, and my response is quite direct; I would if I could.
I’ve been told that I often seem like I do too much. Honestly, I feel like I am not doing enough and I’m a firm believer in knowing that God wouldn’t put anything on me that I couldn’t handle. I sometimes wonder how life would be if I chose to sit idle and accept what it presented to me. I have found that to be very boring. In my opinion, opportunity is a blessing that isn’t afforded to everyone. A challenge to me is an adventure. What is the worst that can happen? If I do nothing, I fail, and if I try I don’t, but instead learn something new about myself. Relinquish your pride and in return acquire life.
Now, it’s not my intent to sound as if I do not appreciate the life God has blessed me with. My message is quite the opposite. I love my life and all that has helped to make it what it is. Still, I wish I could have avoided some unnecessary experiences. However, I am wise enough to know that everything has been necessary. It is all part of God’s plan for me.
Acknowledging and accepting where and how my life began instills a sense of reality into my heart. Dreaming of places where I wish I could be also encourages me to keep striving for that which is greater.
The best advice ever given to me happened when someone told me to make my tomorrow happen today. In doing so I have pressed my way through doors with a key that only hope provided. I have also learned the difference between what God blesses me with and what life can burden me with as well. I compare it to knowing when to be confident and when to be quiet, because someone may get it confused with being arrogant.
Make you tomorrow happen today, but most importantly make it count. Life is but a whisper and we must put ourselves in a position to hear what it is telling us.
My message is simple. Life is but a whisper, and I refuse to get lost in the chaos and confusion. There is way too much for me to do, and if I never achieve all that I dream of, I will remain enthusiastic about what tomorrow promises. Tomorrow, if it comes, is provided by God. And when God blesses me with another day to live, He also blesses me with another day to dream and get to work.
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It started with a love for creativity, and has grown into a full blown business. Learn more about her journey. Denver, CO
She is committed to helping others in her community. Learn more about how this career business woman. Louisville, KY
When a man looks good, he feels good. Learn more about his product made just for the beard.
When passion and purpose align with one another, great things are usually created.
Khadijah is best described as someone kind in nature. While she has faced several obstacles in life, Khadijah Butler of Philadelphia, PA, has persevered. She shares, “The parallels of my life are researching and giving back. I love providing aid to my community and helping others find ways to live fruitful and fulfilling lives.”
As a young adult, Khadijah endured the tragic loss of her father, Craig Butler. When she was only 19 years old, her father was murdered by a 14-year-old boy over a dispute. While the sudden loss of her father was tragic and left a huge void in her life, Khadijah repulped her tragedy into triumph. In memory of her father’s legacy, she formed the Craig D. Butler Scholarship Foundation. Its focus is to provide financial assistance to African-American citizens in Philadelphia. Khadijah stresses the importance of providing aid and resources for the black youth in Philadelphia and says that when children know they have options, it gives birth to hope within them.
The Craig D. Butler Scholarship Foundation also strives to redirect the youth’s focus off of gun violence and support education. “We want to address the educational gap and inequities that exist among black students compared to their white counterparts,” she says.
Another byproduct of The CBD Foundation is a book that Khadijah has written titled, Laying the Foundation Brick by Brick. She says the focus of her book is to essentially show others how to start a scholarship foundation or nonprofit organization. “My book was developed to assist with the healing of my father’s death and also to help promote the scholarship. When I began working on the CBD Scholarship Foundation, I could not find information on beginning a scholarship. I also did not realize the therapeutic benefits until I started writing. I didn’t have any prior aspirations to write a book, but I’m glad I did,” she says. “This book has bylaws in it, checklists, and website links. Any mistake I made along the way they are in there.”
Inspiration for Khadijah derives from her desire to be a business owner. “I always knew I wanted to start something I’m passionate about. Beginning this organization in my father’s honor was my pain point. Not just my pain point of healing from his death, but also with education and knowing that I am filling a void,” she says. “I was able to utilize my father’s love and address my concern of the education gap at the same time.”
Khadijah remains driven and sustains the vision and mission of her organization from the people she serves. “Feedback from the community and the parents does it for me. Understanding the need and finding ways to meet the need remains my most important objective,” she says.
Khadijah cites that her identity and utilizing social media as a connectivity tool to link students to her scholarship has been successful. “I have learned that when you have someone who looks like you and shares similar goals, it is easy to make a connection,” she says.
Khadijah says her future endeavors involve promoting her book throughout her community and working with public libraries within the city of Philadelphia. “There is no excuse for students not to get this valuable information. Every guidance counselor should have it. When I first began, If I had access to information to help get my foundation off the ground, there is no telling where I would be,” she says. Khadijah also plans to hold scholarship workshops for the community as well.
A second initiative that Khadijah has in the works is a project that would align the book and the scholarship in what would be called the Books and Bars Program. This new initiative is designed to help reform inmates as they prepare for reentry into society. “It may be difficult for inmates to find jobs. I want to help them navigate the world of entrepreneurship and provide other options upon release,” she shares.
It is apparent that Khadijah will continue to be a catalyst for change in Philadelphia. She plans to continue using her father’s legacy to evoke change, uplift the youth, and introduce them to positive trajectories. Please contact Khadijah directly or visit her website to learn more about the CBD Scholarship Foundation or to purchase a copy of her book.
There is no excuse for students not to get this valuable information. Every guidance counselor should have it. When I first began, If I had access to information to help get my foundation of the ground, there is no telling where I would be.”
Born in Aurora, CO, and partially raised in Bainbridge, GA. Kieshon Davis has enjoyed small-town living and the bigger city lifestyle. This young and budding entrepreneur is also a mother of two wonderful children and says they are her motivation and inspiration for everything she does. “Everyday, I push hard to one day make them proud and leave our family with a legacy they can enjoy and pass down to their families. Next to my children, my Christian faith is my greatest blessing. My faith in God has enabled me to look forward to each day with gratitude and encouragement,” she says.
Kieshon owns Divine Dream Designs, a full-service, lifestyle-based, professional event planning and design company. Divine Dream Designs specializes in corporate events, dinner galas, luxury outdoor dining, grand openings, and private events. Her commitment to providing great customer service from start to finish, while keeping her client’s goals, vision, and budget in mind, sets Kieshon’s brand apart from others. “I am committed to delivering on every detail while offering less stress and more fun,” she says.
Kieshon describes herself as a serial entrepreneur and says her journey began when she was a lot younger. “In grade school, I sold candy, cool pencils, silly bands, and more to the other kids. I did this so that I could have money for extra snacks. That ambition followed me to my adult years. I have owned a natural skincare line and various craft businesses. My skincare products were what pushed me to plan my first event. I had all these great products and needed a way to market them locally and generate sales. So, in September 2020, I decided to have a craft market that featured myself and 19 other African American female entrepreneurs. There was food, music, and games. The event went so well that I started having them once a month. Next, I began having an annual Cup in Hand Kickball Game and an Adult Field Day event. There, I tried to decorate my first seven-foot balloon arch and learned that it was way more difficult than I expected, and I ended up paying someone else to do it. I was inspired, and I began doing more and more balloon decorating at family events. I eventually realized I wanted to focus on the designing and overall planning of events,” she says.
Some of the products and services Kieshon offers are full event decor, main displays, draping, centerpiece making, planning, day-of coordination, and hosting. Each package includes a complete set-up and take-down, table settings (place settings, cutlery, glassware, centerpieces, balloon decor with flower garnishments, candles, and a complimentary bottle of wine, complete with lights for optimal romance. She also offers rentals for games and stands. “My favorite service is the Luxury Outdoor Dining Experience, which features a see-through, 10x10 bubble tent that encapsulates the best picnic experiences,” she says.
Kieshon says she loves being creative in everything she does. “I enjoy bringing my client’s dream events to life and seeing the look of pure joy on their faces when they realize that I took care of every last detail. All they need to do is enjoy themselves. That is what I enjoy most,” Kieshon shares.
Like most businesses, Kieshon has faced some challenges. One, she says, has been able to delegate responsibility. “Small business owners sometimes think we can do it all. We often put too much on our plates, which can eventually diminish the quality of our work. To overcome this challenge, I have built up a loyal team who see my vision and want me to reach my goals. I appreciate everyone, including, my Mom, Teresa, Aurie, and my event planning sister, Autumn. Without them, I would not have made it this far,” she shared.
Futuristically thinking, specifically within the next 5-10 years, Kieshon hopes to have her own venue and cater to luxury weddings and events. Until then, she plans to continue to perfect her craft and stay on top of trends. Her advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs who may follow a path similar to hers is never to lower your price. She says, “If your clients complain about charging what you are worth, get new clients. Someone will see your value, and you won’t have to convince them why they should pay you what you deserve. Secondly, build a solid team of those who believe in you and your vision. Behind every great leader is an amazing team of brilliant people who want to see you win. You can’t be afraid to network with other entrepreneurs who do the same thing as you and, most of all, stay positive and keep going no matter what,” she says.
To learn more about Kieshon Davis and Diving Dream Designs, please visit her website. h
Community Activist, Geno Brownlee is committed to doing his part to change the narrative for the youth in Memphis, TN. A South Memphis native, Geno has a ground-level perspective of the inner workings of Tennessee’s second-largest city. Most importantly, he understands the challenges that young citizens in his community face and refuses to sit on the sidelines. Geno has jumped into the heart of the matter, with hope and purpose as his sidekick.
Geno is a father, independent artist, children’s book author, motivational speaker, and visionary of Changing Lives Global Foundation. Through his foundation, Geno focuses on changing the lives of kids and young adults across the mid-south.
Growing up in a tough city like Memphis made Geno want to bring light to his community. He admits that he never imagined being a children’s book author. “It all started when I went viral on the social media platform TikTok for creating a new dance. In no time, the video gained over four million views. I eventually used this engagement to promote my song,” he says. The name of his song is called, “Saucy”, and its focus is to encourage young kids to dress for success, and to stay in school, and achieve good grades. It is also a tool used to prevent bullying.
Geno made his first official school visit at Levi Elementary in Memphis on September 21, 2021. To date, he has performed for and hosted motivational seminars at over 132 schools and has been featured on local news stations countless times. He has written five children’s books, including “One Day the Sun Will Shine” and “A Superior Christmas with 901 Nazcar and Friends”.
Through Changing Lives Global Foundation, Geno has developed the Stop the Bullying Workshops, which are 15 to 20-minute sessions designed to teach kids and young adults about the different types of bullies. He’s spoken to kids from the daycare level up to the college level. What’s more impressive is that Geno’s words have spread across the country, from the mid-south to Atlanta, GA, and Cleveland, OH.
He is unequivocal and purposeful about helping youth and his work has given him a chance to connect with some big names in the entertainment industry, including T from Superior, Hadrat Faatimah, MoneyBagg Yo, Glorilla, Bankroll Freddie, Dee Mula, Marcus Ward Sr., Penny Hardway, Zach Randolph, Reagan Garland, and more.
The journey for Geno hasn’t always been easy. It has come with a few challenges here and there. Growing up, neither of his parents was in his life, and while building his foundation, many people continued to leave. He shares, “I faced a lot of people quitting on me, giving up on me, and telling me no. But when adversity sets in, that’s when I’m at my best. When things get hard for me, I go harder.”
Geno finds inspiration in serving his community and by improving child literacy one day at a time. “I sometimes believe the youth in my community are being steered in the wrong direction. By being a positive role model for them and leading by example, I want to show them what can be possible if they strive for more,” he says. “I also want to show my own kids how to succeed.” How is he doing that? One way is by developing the Changing Lives Global Foundation into a family business and enlisting his seven-yearold daughter, Brooklyn, as his manager.
In the future, Geno plans to do more for the youth in Memphis and the United States. He is currently working on four new books and taking the Changing Lives Global Foundation on tour. He will also take his Stop The Bullying Workshops to 32 more states nationwide.
Geno’s advice for others who may follow a path similar to the one he has is clear. “You’re going to go through some pain, but I promise God will use it to make you stronger. He has a purpose for you, so don’t give up. It will be a rocky road to success, but you must keep going when things get hard. Success will not come easy.”
To learn more about Geno Brownlee and all his excellent work, please follow him on Instagram and TikTok. You may also contact him directly via email.
“I sometimes believe the youth in my community are being steered in the wrong direction. By being a positive role model for them and leading by example, I want to show them what can be possible if they strive for more.”
With a population of nearly 630,000, Louisville, KY, is regarded as the biggest city in the bluegrass state. Of that number, African Americans make up 28%, invoking a presence full of culture, history, and promise. One of Louisville’s prominent residents has made it their lifes’ journey to give back and create opportunities for others.
Quintina Monnai McDowell is the founder of Project Community Center Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring urban projects from the West End and the East End of Louisville together using an intergenerational approach to become the center of success for everyone. To accomplish this, the organization uses the following principles; Creative and Performing Arts, Health and Wellness, Education and Leadership, and Services for families and Military Veterans.
Monnai was born and raised in Louisville, KY. She’s a mother of four children and a two-time business owner. She has a passion for children and health and wellness. Additionally, she has two degrees, one in Business Administration and one in Human Resources. Monnai enjoys meeting new people, spending time with family, and connecting with others.
Another thing Monnai enjoys is sharing her testimony of how she began her traditional lifestyle journey. “I’ve had some challenges along my journey, but I’ve overcome many of them. I’ve been married and divorced. I’ve been at my lowest, and I’ve mentally quit on myself. I felt like I lost just to only realize that it was a test of my faith, and that I had to lose to win. One thing I am proud of is that I never physically gave up. I’ve always been a fighter at heart and I love hard. I’d rather blame myself than blame anyone else. I don’t have any regrets in my life. Everything happened according to God’s will, not mine. I thank God everyday for what He has already done, what He’s doing now, what He’s about to do.”
Some of the services offered by the Project Community Center are Business Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy Mentoring, Belize Cultural Dance, and Health & Wellness. “We have implemented a health and wellness program through our nonprofit. It helps to educate children about health and wellness and how to build a healthy immune system. We also provide a transitional lifestyle program that prepares them as they mature and make lifestyle decisions and choices,” Monnai says.
One other business Monnai has produced is Sea Moss by J. Cortez. Like her nonprofit, this brand came to life in 2020. She says, “For three years I kept running from the dream that kept chasing me. I finally prayed to God and I ask “what is your dream for me?” Then it was revealed. One day, I was talking to my brother on the phone, telling him I want to start my own nonprofit. Not realizing that I was manifesting my vision. Then I wrote it down. Thereafter, I started it with three children. Soon I had 63 children. The next year came and I had 150 children. All these blessings without a permanent location to call our own. While we still don’t have a permanent location to call our own, we plan on having 300 plus children during our free summer camp this year. We’re excited and can’t wait to see what God does,” she says.
It is evident that Monnai is walking in her calling, and while walking purposefully, she has acquired a greater appreciation of love for others. “I love engaging and educating everyone about health and wellness and connecting with others spiritually. I am a huge giver and love to see everyone become successful. I love all my children, and my passion involves them. I’ve always believed that if I could help or change one person, I could change or help many,” she shares.
Like most business owners, Monnai has faced some challenge along the way. She says, “One challenge I’ve faced in business is “trust”. It’s hard for me to trust anyone. I had to learn how to overcome that obstacle in my life, especially in business. I was listening to a motivational clip from DMX and he explained trust. “Trust a person to be who they show you they are. Trust a snake to bite you, trust a thief to steal from you, and trust a liar to lie to you”. I wanted trust, but I had to also show that I could be trustworthy. I’m a very loyal person, so when trust is betrayed, it’s hard to trust again. In business, I had to learn how to trust without implementing emotion. What I mean by that is, removing my feelings from my business by separating the two. Business is business, it’s not personal. This could be a challenge for givers because you’ll always have to watch out for the takers.”
As life continues for Monnai, she plans to continue serving the Louisville community with great products and services via her brands. She also plans to continue to be a blessing to others and expand her organization in other states. “My passion is worldwide. I’m not saved to sit. I am saved to serve. Therefore, whatever path God has for me, that’s the path I’m taking,” she says.
Please visit their websites to learn more about the Project Community Center and Sea Moss by J. Cortez.
For three years I kept running from the dream that kept chasing me. I finally prayed to God and I ask “what is your dream for me?” Then it was revealed.”
The saying goes that when a man looks good, he feels good. Budding entrepreneur Michael Arnett of Charleston, SC, has set his sights on ensuring it becomes a reality for all men who desire it.
The 59-year-old father, husband, caretaker, and retired Police Officer is a native of Harlem, NY, but was raised in the Bronx. Living in a melting pot, Michael saw different nationalities and cultures of people. That experience helped him grow as an individual. He says he was determined to escape his environment and see the world.
His story is that of someone who has persevered despite what his surroundings presented to him. He shares, “I lived in public housing (the PJ’s) for 25 years. I come from a two-parent household, along with two other siblings. We had great examples as parents; my father was a Police Officer, and my mom worked as a Secretary. My parents always told me to work hard, and that anything is possible. My dad told me I could be better than him and that nobody was going to give me anything.”
Michael always loved fashion. After graduating from vocational high school in 1981, he enrolled at a community college. He attended school full-time and worked full-time. His major was graphic arts and advertising. Michael successfully received his associate degree in 1985. “After college, I worked several jobs but wasn’t satisfied. In 1987, I joined the US Air Force, served for five years, and spent time in the Gulf during Desert Storm. After leaving the military, I worked until I became a police officer and was accepted into the academy in 1997. I later retired in 2018 and started on a mission of entrepreneurship, fueled by my love for fashion and to be different,” he says. In 2020, Michael relocated to his current home in Charleston to care for his mom.
Today, Michael is the owner of TheBeardedOne., a clothing apparel company that produces T-shirts, Hats (Bucket and Farmer), and Hoodies. Michael’s clothes are geared toward the Bearded community and cater to individuals with mustaches, goatees, etc.
Michael says TheBeardedOne. began after he grew a beard in late 2017. “I began to think about how to incorporate my beard into my business model. After going back and forth, I figured out how to make it happen in December 2020.”
While he has a genuine love for fashion, Michael says he also finds enjoyment in being different. “Fashion is what you make it! I have made a business out of fashion, and because I am the owner, I can do what I want and not answer to anyone,” he says.
Like most small business owners, TheBeardedOne. has faced its share of challenges. Michael says some have been finding a way to navigate through a saturated T-shirt market and rough economy. He has also had to deal with operating with limited resources. “I have overcome the saturation by offering different and unique clothes of good quality. I have found good quality clothing and still profit from my prices. With limited resources, I have attended more networking workshops and located events that allowed me to vend and showcase my apparel,” he says. Michael is also a member of the cigar club, Good Times Gang. That connection, he says, allows him to network with people from all over the country.
While his journey has been a little challenging, Michael says he wouldn’t change much about the way things have happened. “I would not change anything. The trials and tribulations are a part of life. You can grow from them or fall back and blame everyone else for your misfortunes. My advice to others who may follow in my footsteps is to keep God first in everything you do. You must have a plan, execute, network, and bring the love of what you do to your business. Stay focused and cut back folks that don’t have the same energy as you. And don’t be scared to let the world know you are here,” he says.
Living in New York prepared Michael for life at an early age. Moving forward, he plans to continue to grow his brand. He also hopes to purchase a van and convert it into a mobile store. He also hopes to have a storefront to display his apparel and help out other local fashion-based companies by displaying their apparel in his store. h
As children, we have all been asked that daunting question… “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you had asked Kim, she might have said many things, but a Spoken Word Poet wasn’t it. Today she’s a published author, teacher, and mentor of poets young and not so young. Kim B. Miller is an award-winning spoken word poet and Prince Williams County’s first black poet laureate for 2020-2022. Kim B. Miller is a wife and mother of four who found her voice in poetry. Now, she’s inspiring others to do the same.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Roosevelt, New York, Kim’s childhood did not indicate who she would become.
“We lived in the projects of Bed-Sty, Brooklyn, New York. I was so young at the time that I don’t have many memories from then,” Kim shares. “I do remember that there was a chain-link fence in front of our building, and my parents constantly warned my sister, brother, and me not to jump over the fence. I was usually the hard-headed one, but my sister jumped the fence. She landed on her face, busted her mouth open, and knocked some teeth out. I remember having to run upstairs to get my mother. There was so much blood,” Kim recalls.
It’s usually rare and exciting or traumatic events that small children remember. In Kim’s case, it was the sight of her sister sprawled, bleeding and missing teeth, and the loss of her brother. “The other memory I have of that time was when my brother died,” Kim explains. “I was five years old, and I remember the long walk down the hallway towards the door where my mother stood screaming. I had never heard her scream like that before,” Kim shared. “I kept saying it’s okay, mommy. I didn’t know what she was screaming about, but I wanted her to feel better. Soon after that, we moved to Long Island.”
With Kim’s artistic prowess, you would assume that her gift and love for poetry were cultivated at a young age. That couldn’t be further from the truth. “My parents were amazing people, but they weren’t artists. My father was a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Airforce, and my mother is a retired LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse),” Kim explained. “They were supportive, but I was never interested in being a poet. In fact, I didn’t read poetry before starting to write it.”
Growing up, Kim loved math, but not English. Spelling was her Achilles heel. “I was a wiz with math, but I was horrible at spelling as a kid. So, making a career as a poet, achieving Poet Laureate? No, not possible. It was the furthest thing from my mind,” Kim laughed.
After high school, Kim received a B.S. from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She majored in business and minored in retail management. Again, writing poetry was nowhere on her radar. Then divine inspiration hit. “I believe my gift and its timing came from Jesus, but I didn’t understand it then. I am a Christian, and I believe God is a poet,” Kim confesses. So, after hearing from God, she started writing. “I didn’t go to school for it. I didn’t research poetry or listen to poets like Nikki Giovanni or Maya Angelou. The only thing I recognized and appreciated as poetry were bible verses. So when God spoke, I started writing.”
The first time Kim shared her poetry, she decided to go big or go home. Kim took her faith in her new God-given talent to Harlem. “I went to a bookstore called Hueman Bookstore in Harlem. II felt like it was going to the Apollo for poetry at the time. Lots of people would have said, don’t do this! But this popped into my head, so I went for it,” Kim explained. “This wasn’t where you go up and read your poem and sit down. No, you received constructive feedback from the host. This isn’t the norm, but I thought it would be interesting.”
Having never experienced this kind of performance art, Kim was intrigued with the intimacy, and the connection the artist had with their audience. “Because it was a bookstore, and other things were going on, there was a lady behind me, and she talked to me the entire time I was up there,” she explained with a laugh. “She kept saying things like, ‘You betta tell ‘em, sis. You betta break that down.’ She actually made me laugh while at the same time helping me see that the things I was saying affected her. I connected with my audience, or at least that one person. That was encouraging to me.”
Fueled by the positive critiques she received from the host and the prodding of the audience, Kim fell in love with the Spoken Word artform.
A New Yorker at heart, Kim moved to Virginia in 1997 to give her family a fresh start. “My best friend moved down here first. She and I are virtually inseparable, so she started trying to convince me to move. At first, it was a hard no. She tried to entice me with the cost of living being so much lower here, but it could have been free at the time. I wasn’t moving!” Kim laughs, remembering how emphatic she was about not moving. After one visit, Kim was sold.
Continuing to explore the world of poetry as a spoken word artist, Kim did something else she thought she never would. She authored her first book. “In 2007, I wrote my first book called, ‘How to Love Your Kids, More Than You Hate That Man.’” As a divorcee with children, Kim encountered a lot of hurt and bitter women who were allowing their anger toward their ex’s to keep the fathers from their children.
“I would hear, he’s never gonna see these kids again, and bump him; they don’t need him anyway. I was like, hey, I get it. I didn’t want to see my exhusband at the time, but he still had kids, and they loved and had a relationship with their father. I wanted to let them know that their children aren’t pawns in their game of punishment,” she says.
As an outspoken advocate for parental rights, Kim works to help families understand their new normal. “I tell people, it’s not just about you. It feels that way because you are the one that was hurt, cheated on, or whatever the case may be. But when it’s all said and done, you must put the children first,” Kim shared. Including ‘How to Love Your Kids, More Than You Hate That Man,’ Kim has written five books. Three are poetry and one limited edition journal. All of which can be found on her website.
After moving to Virginia, Kim pursued her renewed passion for poetry. She started to study poetry in different genres. Spoken word poetry was a natural fit. “I enjoy the engagement and authenticity of spoken word poetry,” Kim explains. As a spoken word artist, Kim always sought opportunities to practice and hone her craft. She started studying poetry and its different genres when she found the Spirits & Lyric Poetry Slam.
“I’d never done a poetry slam before, but I saw it, and I was like, okay, let me try that. What can I say? I had this feeling I should go for it. To my surprise, I hit the trifecta. They listened, they got it, they liked it,” Kim explained. There were preliminary levels Kim had to win to earn a place in the poetry slam. As she progressed through each level, she had to pinch herself.
“It finally came down to just one other woman and me, and I didn’t expect them to call my name. So, when they did, I didn’t react. It took a minute for it to sink in. I didn’t win the actual slam because the poets I was up against were serious and seasoned, but sharing the stage with those amazing artists was worth every moment.”
Kim has won several awards and garnered accolades and recognition. She is a speaker and facilitator and is well known for her haiku. She is often called on to mentor young students in the local school system. But the accomplishment she cherishes most is becoming Prince Williams County’s first Black Poet Laureate.
“When I joined the Prince William County’s Arts Council, I learned the county had a poet laureate. I later decided to submit my work in 2018, but I was not selected,” Kim sighs. “I will be honest and say I was beyond disappointed. I was plain salty. I decided I wouldn’t try it again.” Looking at the previous winners, Kim learned there hadn’t been a black winner. “I concluded that maybe they weren’t ready for a poet laureate who looked like me. Although the submission was blind, and the judges are not given any information about the poet because I write from my perspective as a black female, I wonder if my perspective was evident,” Kim explains.
For the first time, Kim decided she wouldn’t pursue the challenge. Then she heard that still, small voice that started her on this journey. The voice led her to the bookstore in Harlem and the poetry slam stage in Virginia. “With a made-up mind, I almost didn’t enter in 2020. I figured obedience had gotten me this far, so I wasn’t going to stop following God now. But at the last minute, I heard Jesus says, ‘Go ahead and do it.’ I entered and won,” she said.
Kim never believed this path was possible because she struggled with English and writing as a kid. She says to students, “Don’t let your current situation determine your future. I was a kid who couldn’t spell, and now I perform in front of schools and colleges. If I had allowed my limitations to stop me from becoming who I am today, I would be lost. Don’t let what you see now stop you from dreaming and pushing to make those dreams a reality.”
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