God Is A Much Better Driver Than I Am
What if? That thought comes to mind when I consider what my life could be. What if I didn’t live in a particular city, or attend a certain high school? What if I had chosen a different career path or traveled a different road in life? What if I had never applied action to my dream? What if God didn’t choose me to be paired with His vision?
I will be the first to admit that my life has been anything but simple. For the most part, it has been full of winding roads and quite noisy at times. The love and encouragement of my mother, grandmother, and others surely help to soften me; I surely miss my grandma. Yet, the storms and shortcomings I’ve endured have done their job and toughened me a little.
I have learned that my peace lies in the space between the good times and bad times, and for me to enjoy and experience peace, I must work for it. I have also learned that life will get tough, and when we get knocked down, God doesn’t expect us to stay there. There are lessons in all experiences, and getting up and trying to get it right again is part of God’s lesson.
There was a point in my life when I didn’t know if I was coming or going. With every move I made, it was the wrong one. There were also times when I would move or react to whatever thought came into my mind. Again, that turned out to be the wrong thing to do. My point is everything I had done, I did it without seeking guidance from God beforehand. I was driving my own ship, yet I was going nowhere and fast.
While I made a mess of my life, God was there, like He always has been. He allowed me to make those bad decisions and provided grace to ensure I would survive them. During the times when I continued to make the same mistakes over and over again, God continued to cover me because there was a lesson that I needed to learn.
Despite everything I have experienced thus far, God has been right there with me. When it appears things aren’t moving fast enough, I know that God is governing the speed at which things are happening. When we get in God’s way, we block Him from blessing us. Get out of God’s way and allow God to drive. You might just learn that life is a lot easier from the passenger seat.
Honors Top Minority Women Business Leaders
In honor of Women’s History Month, the Missouri Minority Business Development Agency will host its 3rd Annual Tribute to Women Business Leaders Brunch on March 25, 2023, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Marriott-St. Louis Grand Hotel, located at 800 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63101. The 2023 Missouri MBDA Tribute to Women Business Leaders Brunch’s key sponsors include World Wide Technology, Ameren, Maryville University, Regions Bank, the St. Louis Development Corporation, the Small Business Empowerment Center, HME Consulting, St. Louis County NAACP and KMOV Channel 4.
This year’s honorees include Dr. LaTonia Collins-Smith, President of Harris-Stowe State University; Nicole Adewale, President of ABNA Corporation; Jennifer Williams, President of JWI Partners; Miranda Jones, President of Little Bit Foundation; Quentella Enty, Vice President of KFA, Inc., Stacy Bourne, President of the Bourne Group, and Laraine Davis, Vice President of Community and Government Relations, Development and Alumni Relations for Maryville University. Dr. Jerrica V. Ampadu, Director of Southern Illinois UniversityEdwardsville, will serve as Keynote Speaker, and Samantha Jones, News Anchor of KMOV-TV Channel 4, will perform Mistress of Ceremonies duties.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to honor these phenomenal women business leaders, social entrepreneurs, and educators,” said Todd Gilyard, Executive Director for the Missouri MBDA.
The Missouri MBDA Business Center, located in St. Louis, MO, is operated by the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, Incorporated. The Center is part of a national network of MBDA Business Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency. The Center works with minority business enterprises to generate increased financing and contract opportunities and to create and retain jobs.
The mission of the Center is to strengthen the U.S. economy by helping ethnic minority businesses create or retain jobs and build economically vibrant, socially responsible entrepreneurs, businesses, and communities.
Quentella Enty currently serves as Vice President of KFA, Inc. Enty is an experienced entrepreneurship, procurement, and sustainability industry resource leader. She is an experienced Small Business, Woman, and Minority Owner in IT & Healthcare for Global BrandMarketing, Virtual Business Administration, E-commerce, VOIP Project Management, and professional business development coach for private firms. Her client experience includes Fortune 500 Companies, A/E/C & FM Industry, TV Media, Associations, Organizations, Universities, and Healthcare Firms. Enty’s Business Development & Management expertise includes Strategic Sourcing, Procurement, Supplier Diversity, Business Management/Development, Instruction, Business Advisory Public Speaker, and Conference Design Management. With 20 years of combined academic, public, private, civic, nonprofit, and community service leadership experience, Quentella is a highly sought-after resource in the local and national business eco-system. Various business industries, government, lenders, and Ivy League Institution Executive Business Programs have requested her sourcing expertise when looking for the right Supplier/Partner/Client for their next opportunity.
Dr. Alyce Herndon is the founder of Onyx Business Solutions, a nonprofit organization that partners in the community to offer entrepreneurial training, and she is also the owner of Onyx Business & Print Center, located in Ferguson, Missouri, which is a certified woman-owned business enterprise, certified minority business enterprise, and veteran-owned full-service commercial printing company. Dr. Herndon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, with minors in Women’s Studies and Religion, a Master of Arts in Management and Leadership, along with a Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management from Webster University. She earned her Doctorate in Business Administration from Walden University.
Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith, the first female President of Harris-Stowe State University, is a renowned education leader with innovative leadership expertise in administration and program creation. She serves as the chief advocate and leader of Harris-Stowe State University’s mission. Dr. Collins Smith holds an EdD in educational leadership from Maryville University in St. Louis. She graduated from Saint Louis University with a master’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in public health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Central Missouri.
Stacy Bourne, FAIA, is the principal of The Bourne Group, LLC, an architecture and design firm focused on influencing social change through the power of design. Bourne is the first black woman to serve on the American Institute of Architects Board. She was also awarded the retired Richard Upjohn Medal in December 2011 for her service on the National Board of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Bourne is an AIA College Fellow and holds a Master of Architecture and Master of Architecture and Urban Design degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith President of Harris-Stowe State College Stacy Bourne The Bourne Group, LLC
Miranda Jones currently serves as CEO of The Little Bit Foundation. Before Little Bit, Miranda spent 17 years with Better Family Life (BFL), serving as Chief Operations Officer and Vice President of Youth, Family & Clinical Services. While with BFL, she developed and managed programming that reached about 8,000 youth each year, including after-school, clinical, teen pregnancy prevention, workforce, and youth leadership programs. She also successfully secured $27 million in grants and resources for the agency. Since 2004, Miranda has been a board director for the award-winning Jennings School District, serving as president. She also is a former Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Jennings. Miranda holds a BA from the University of Missouri-Columbia and was in the first class of the Inside the CEO program at Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work. She is married to Addam, and they have three wonderful children Amour, Addison, and Alaila.
Nicole Adewale co-founded ABNA Corporation, a multimillion-dollar Structural and Civil Engineering Design Services firm with approximately 60 employees. ABNA also operates a general contracting division focused on civil infrastructure construction. Adewale holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a Bachelor of Science in Urban Affairs from Harris Stowe State University, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education in Social Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Nicole is married to her business partner Abe Adewale, and they are the proud parents of four daughters.
Laraine Davis is the Vice President of Community and Government Relations for the Maryville University of St. Louis. In this capacity, she provides executive oversight for the development and alumni relations division that promotes Maryville’s strategic plan to key constituencies with the objective of raising friends and funds. Davis has 23 years of experience in financial services, including government and industry relations and community relations. Throughout her 17-year tenure with Wells Fargo Advisors, Davis worked on building strategic partnerships across Well Fargo while working to serve those communities most in need. Laraine Davis is a proud Ursuline Academy graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Maryville University.VP of Community & Government Relations Development & Alumni Relations Maryville University
Jennifer Williams is the founder of JWI Partners and brings over 20 years of experience as a project management industry change leader. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Lindenwood University and is an excellent communicator and leader with a proven ability to engage, influence, and inspire stakeholders to collaborate and align processes and systems to produce results. Jennifer’s Certifications: Prosci ADKAR Change Management; Lean Six Sigma; Color Code Certified Independent Trainer; Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) with the St. Louis Airport Authority (SLAA); Women Business Enterprise (WBE) with the St. Louis Airport Authority (SLAA); State of Missouri Office of Equal Opportunity Minority/ Woman-Owned; and Business Enterprise.Laraine Davis Jennifer Williams
Dr. Jerrica Ampadu is the Associate Professor and Director of SNAP, Department of Primary Care and Health Systems Nursing for Southern Illinois UniversityEdwardsville. Dr. Ampadu has a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Master of Science in Nursing from Southern Illinois University –Edwardsville. Her clinical area of expertise is Health Equity.
This year’s festivities feature a brunch buffet, entertainment, and tributes to the honorees. Tickets for the event are $100 and may be purchased online. For sponsorship opportunities, please contact The Missouri MBDA.
Rainmaker and Risk Taker
The People’s PublicistBy Terry L. Watson
An often-used aphorism states, “If you know, then you know”. Regarding Joy Cook, having knowledge and access to her has proven to be beneficial and value-added.
Joy Cook is a mother, a mogul, and a media maven. She is also an experienced public and media relations professional, entrepreneur, and consultant. She is highly skilled in building relationships, fostering engagement, and impactful storytelling across traditional and emerging platforms. Joy has successfully mastered and is reimagining the multifaceted world of communications while serving as a mentor and educator for the next generation. She is a trailblazer and expertly guides clients from all professions to next-level success. Her clients have been featured on international platforms and made history as a direct result of her strategies and knowledge of effectively communicating in a noisy world.
Born in Hollywood, California, Joy shares she was destined to be a star. However, her parents had other plans. Her childhood experience happened thousands of miles from Hollywood, in the Bull City community of Durham, NC. She was educated in Durham County Schools and is a member of the first graduating class to go 9th through 12th grade at Riverside High School. “I am proud of my heritage and roots of growing up on Tobacco Road,” she says. Joy grew up in the legendary “Old Farm” neighborhood and attributes her success to her upbringing and her parents, who were attorneys and teachers.
With a sound foundation prepared by her parents, Joy was ready to answer her calling. She is a two-time graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Thread at Yale graduate, holding positions on numerous boards and commissions. While at Yale, she studied under the first woman editor of the New York Times, Jill Abrams. Joy currently serves as Chief Communications Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communication at Fayetteville State University, a public Historically Black University founded in 1867 and the second oldest in the University of North Carolina System. She is also the owner of Joy Cook Public Relations Group. Her company specializes in the art of Strategic Communication. “We are in tune with influencers and why trends really do matter. Our passion and commitment to innovation and excellence make us the top choice for breakthrough public relations and digital engagement results,” she says.
Since assuming her position, Joy has been anything short of busy. She has built a team of strategic communications, executive communications, media relations, campus news, photo/video production, writing, marketing, administrative and project management professionals. Her focus is to advance and promote the reputation of FSU through messaging, storytelling, earned media, and community engagement. As the chief communications officer, Joy has revamped and streamlined FSU’s digital presentation of news items, increased its visibility throughout the community, deepened connections with various local and regional media and communications partners, and secured storylines for the university with major publications such as The Washington Post and Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Some of her most recent projects include productions where she was executive producer.
Joy has over 20 years of experience and training in public and media relations, publicity, and digital engagement. In 2010, she founded Joy Cook Public Relations Group (JCPR), where she serves as the CEO and lead strategist. JCPR is one of the longest-running minority-owned PR firms in the Triad and enjoys a clientele of presidents and professionals. Additionally, she has facilitated media training programs for elected officials, as well as C-Suite and executive-level professionals. In 2013, Cook was named one of the Business Journal’s “40 Leaders Under 40” Award Winners. Joy and JCPR Group have been recognized with myriad accolades over the past decade. Joy and her clients have been featured on various news and media outlets, including HLN, CSPAN, BBC, FOX, CBS, ABC, NBC, ESSENCE Magazine Online, NPR, and more.
With her skills on full display, Joy has successfully navigated the intersection between traditional and digital media platforms. She has also embraced and mastered the art of social media as an effective and realtime marketing tool. Affectionately titled “Ms. Twitter” by the front page of a popular publication, Joy has positioned herself as one of the nation’s top authorities on Twitter (@JoyCookPR) and stays abreast of current and emerging mediums poised to make an impact. Even more, she is the author of the multiple best-selling book, “Watch the Company You Tweet: A 4 Step Guide on How to Make an Impact on Twitter.”
Joy’s start in public relations happened while working at radio station UNCG 103.1, located on the campus of UNC-Greensboro. She found a passion for publicizing local independent artists, and her interest grew from there.
When asked what she loves most about what she does, Joy responds, “I love that I am a KING maker. I love that I have the ability to turn oblivion into national prominence. I’ve had several mentors that I attribute to my career success. I have learned that success leaves clues, and I have surrounded myself with the best teachers”.
While she wouldn’t change how things have happened along her professional journey, Joy notes that some of the challenges she has faced have helped her become the woman she is today. “I left East Carolina University my freshman year to start a family. I returned to UNCG to finish twice over and start my career, all while being a young mother. In 2010, I left my corporate job to start Joy Cook Public Relations Group. That is exactly 13 years from today. In all that I’ve accomplished, I wouldn’t change anything. I feel like I am just getting started,” she says.
As she looks forward, Joy says her plans are to continue to impact people’s lives by telling the stories that make the world go round. h
Growing Leaders The Old Fashioned WayBy Dr. Marrissa Dick Photos Provided by Snuggs Photography
The Good Book tells us in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” It also says in Zachariah 4:9, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” These two verses have motivated James R. Gorham throughout his life. He never forgot the vision and continues to appreciate the humble beginnings of his life.
Meet Brigadier General James Roy Gorham, known by most as J. R. and affectionately known as that curly-haired little boy from the tobacco fields of Falkland, NC. Read on and learn how the sharecropper’s son rose from a boy priming tobacco in his parent’s tobacco field to becoming the first African American Brigadier General in the North Carolina National Guard. J. R. shares, “I was born to Roy and Madie Gorham in 1956. I have five older sisters, so I had six mammas. Since I was the first boy born after five girls, I was the apple of their eyes. I was fortunate to have been born into a loving family, even though we lived in a four-bedroom shack. That shack had holes in the floors and in the walls, we had plastic around our windows in the winter, and we even had an outhouse. That shack had no running water, so I had to draw water from a well. On the weekends, I had to draw 80 buckets of water just so mama could wash the clothes because we had one of those washing machines with rollers so it took a lot of water to do the laundry. I didn’t have any expectations to do anything in particular with my life back then because we were actually po’ with one “o” and we could not afford the “r” that’s just how poor we were. Looking back on it, we were only poor in resources, but in the things that really mattered in life we had an abundance.”
Growing up in an authoritative household can seem daunting to many teenagers, and J. R. was no different. So when the day came to forgo working in his father’s tobacco field and living under his strict rules, J. R. took it by joining the United States Army.
“I didn’t join the army out of any patriotic duty. I joined to get out of that tobacco field and to get from under my daddy’s thumb. I just wanted to live my life. My best friend until this very day, Rick Streeter, and I got our money together and sent in our initial deposit so we could attend NC A&T State University in 1974, but that didn’t happen. Instead of us going to school, we played hooky. After we messed around all day, we went down to the recruiting office to listen to that spill so we could get a note to return to school. When I tell you that the recruiting officer painted a wonderful picture of us seeing the world, we bought it; hook, line and sinker, and we signed up that day!”
Through our lived experience, most people understand everything that shines ain’t gold. J. R. discovered making his own decisions came at a price. He shares, “When I joined the US Army in 1974, I was 18 years old and bringing home $312 a month. That was the first time in my life I had some real soft money in my hand. I didn’t know what to do with all that freedom. When I was transferred to Fort Hood, TX, I got with the wrong crowd and started going out every night, getting drunk, and I was making a whole lot of bad decisions. My defining moment came on Christmas Eve in 1976 when I was at my platoon sergeant’s house for a little party. At that time, The Walton’s came on tv, and they reminded me of my family. A feeling came over me that I cannot describe to you, and all of a sudden, I didn’t want the beer that was being offered to me. I left his place and while I was driving to the hole in-the-wall apartment I lived in, I looked over onto the shoulder of the road and saw that a loaf of bread has fallen out of somebody’s car. Now I want you to understand I didn’t have any bread in my house. All I had was seventy-five cents in my pocket and a fourth tank of gas in my car because I had drunk up my money. So, I pull my car off on the shoulder of the road, get out and walk towards the bread. When I stooped down to pick it up, a story that I learned in St. John’s Baptist Church in Falkner, NC, came to my remembrance, and I said to myself oh my God, I’m that prodigal son! My mamma and daddy didn’t raise me this way.”
When J. R. got back to his place, he called home for the first time in about eight months. As soon as my mother hears his voice she says, ‘Bruh come home for Christmas.’ J. R. told her that he couldn’t because he didn’t have any money. He says, “She tells me that she and daddy would wire me the money but I had enough sense to know that I cannot take that proposition from my mamma. I was 20 years old and I manned up and told my mother that I had gotten myself into this situation and it was up to me to get myself out. I knew if I had taken that money from my parents, I would be expecting them to always rescue me. Instead, I asked her to pray for me. She understood, but then she put my five sisters on the phone, and after hearing them cry, I really felt like a loser with a capital L.”
By the time J. R. got off the phone, he says the thought of checking out permanently crossed his mind. However, something inside of him, what is referred to in the Army as “Intestinal fortitude,” kicked in. “Spiritually, I know it was the Holy Spirit and He would not allow me to check out,” he says. “After I hung up, I went across the railroad tracks into a cow pasture, and I walked, and I walked. I decided in that cow pasture that this would be as low as I was ever going to go.”
Armed with a desire in his heart and a gleam in his eye J. R. went down to the local community college and enrolled in an English and Math course. Afterward, he summoned the courage to confront his Sergeant to atone for his misdeeds. When his Sergeant saw him standing outside of his office door, he looked at J. R. as though he was the last person he ever wanted to see. “He asked me what I wanted and I told him I had a proposition for him. I told him I would pull extra duty every weekend for the rest of my time there if he would take my name off the weekly extra duty roster because I had enrolled in school and needed to attend class. After he finished looking at me he said, ‘You got a deal, Gorham.’ He shook my hand and took my name off the extra duty roster. To this day he doesn’t know that random acts of kindness helped me turn my whole life around. The Good Book says, one plants another waters, but God gives the increase. So, all he was doing was watering what had already been planted in my life by my parents,” J. R. says.
Soon life got better for J.R. He started thinking about one of the many sayings that sharecropper daddy of his would say while they were riding in his old raggedy and smoky Silverado pickup truck. “He used to say, ‘Boy if you’re willing to do what other people will not do, you can go where other people cannot go.’”
J.R. didn’t realize how true that statement was until one day, in the Spring of his senior year the company commander called about 200 soldiers into formation. He asked volunteers to pick up nails in the motor pool because they were causing flat tires. He said he would give anybody who brought him two handfuls of nails a three-day pass. Now 200 soldiers heard that charge, but J.R. was the only person who brought him two handfuls of nails. Instead of him giving J. R. a three-day pass, he gave me a four-day pass. “On my way out, I rolled down my car window and hollered out who’s laughing now! Ya’ll gotta stay here and work while I get the rest of the week off. Like my daddy said, ‘If you’re willing to do what other people will not do you can go where other people cannot go.”
After J. R. left the Army he went home and attended East Carolina University. While there, he joined the North Carolina National Guard and attended Officer Candidate School in Fort Bragg, N.C. where he graduated first in his class. He was grateful that his father, who served in the Army during WWII, had the opportunity to see him graduate. While J. R. was taking pictures with generals, he remembers his father imparting yet another golden nugget in his life. “My daddy said, ‘Boy you are becoming your company. Whoever you’re hanging around with is who you will become.’ So as a Second Lieutenant, I started hanging around with the First Lieutenants until I became one. Then I started hanging around captains, majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels. Eventually, I started hanging around generals and now I’m the first African American Brigadier General in the NC National Guard,” he says.
J. R. shares that his father was a firm and wise man. “I am grateful for the chastisement, ethics, and morals he instilled in me, past the bone into my marrow. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t that sharecropper’s son. He groomed me to be a leader the oldfashioned way.”
J. R.’s progress through the military was not always as sweet as this last memory. He was often looked over for promotions he was qualified to receive, which caused him to consider retiring early. That would only be a thought and he recalls his father saying, “Boy when you get to the end of your rope, you tie a knot, and you hang on but you do not quit.”
According to J. R., “If I had let my emotions get the better of me I would have quit and retired as a major. Instead, I went to Iraq as a lieutenant colonel and was promoted to full colonel while I was in a war zone. If I had quit because of my emotions, I would have never received that promotion from on high. Not only did that happen but shortly after I returned I received a call from a two-star general inviting me to lunch. When I got there, he informed me that he had submitted my package to the Department of the Army to promote me to Brigadier General. I broke down right there at the table. I was crying from the inner part of my soul for two reasons. First, I’m going to be the first African American Brigadier General in the NC National Guard. I’m crying because in this country when you’re a man or woman of color, you become the litmus test for everyone coming behind you. I’m feeling the gravity of that responsibility in my tears.” J. R. says he was also crying because that moment made up for all the times I had been overlooked.” For the record readers, generals don’t cry. Their eyes sweat, so we can be assured that J. R.’s eyes were really sweating that day.
Today, Brigadier General Gorham is a community leader, motivational speaker, and the author of Sharecroppers Wisdom: Growing Todays Leaders the Old-Fashioned Way. He is married to Barbara; they have three children, Tony, Jamie, and Joshua.
Christian ANDERSONBy Terry L. Watson -
If someone in authority grants you something, or if something is granted to you, you are allowed to have it. That is the meaning of Granted Access, the brand developed by Christian Anderson, an award-winning gospel artist and savvy businesswoman.
Born and raised in Tennessee but now residing in North Carolina, Christian is widely known for singing and ministering the good news of Jesus Christ to help build the Kingdom of God. She is a psalmist, student-teacher, preacher, and lover of life and God’s people. Her genuine love for God has opened the door for her soulful, heart-touching sounds to bless the ears who desire intimate and compassionate worship. “My genre of music is Gospel. I sing to others to let them know how much God loves them and that they can do anything through Christ, who gives them the ability and strength to do so,” she says.
Christian says one of her most significant accomplishments was becoming a mom to her beautiful daughter Yael Maylean. Christian lost her mother, the late Minister Maylean Anderson when she was just seven years of age. She would be raised by her father, William Anderson, along with her siblings. Life would happen for Christian, and she adjusted as it did.
She attended the Job Corps right after high school and studied Phlebotomy. She shares that she always loved the healthcare field and knew she wanted to help people somehow, so becoming a nationally certified Phlebotomist was a way for her to do so. She worked in that field for nearly six years before becoming a licensed cosmetologist.
Christian says her initial inspiration comes directly from God. “Knowing He has begun a good work in me, and knowing I have the responsibility to live out what He has given me,” she says. Christian has faced several trials and storms in her life, and has learned some lessons as well. In addition to her mother passing, suffering abuse at the hands of her stepmother, and even marrying someone God told her not to marry, Christian testimony amplifies the story of an overcomer. “My testimony inspires me to tell it to as many people who will hear it, and show them what healing, victory, grit, and freedom looks like. It’s no goodness of my own that I’m still here. It’s only by His grace, mercy, and blood constantly covering my life.”
When not singing, Christian serves in full-time ministry with several business ventures on the side. One business is called “Melody Bedtimes Stories”. It’s a show and innovative idea she says God gave her, and one that she shares with her daughter Yael. “I sing books to children all over the World. We encourage, enlighten, affirm, and uplift them. We also let them know they are important, valuable, and needed!”
She references scripture in the bible, 2 Corinthians 2:14 which says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” With her brand, Access Granted, Christian says it consists of her “VICTORY OV” Merchandise. “God has granted us access to having victory over every area of our lives. If you are dealing with depression, the merch will read, “VICTORY OV Depression”. Granted Access isn’t limited to clothing, it is a mindset we must carry everyday,” she says.
In addition to being inspired by her daughter, Christian finds inspiration in her pastors, Kendall and Quierra McDowell, the founding leaders of Revival Now Global Church. “My pastor’s stand on the Word of God with no compromise, and they Truly Love God’s people. They love me, correct me and help guide and encourage me. I’m truly grateful for them and the impact they continue to have on my daughter’s life and my life. I can honorably say my life has never been the same since becoming a part of Revival Now Global Church.,” she says.
She also credits her manager Jessica Williams for having a huge impact on her life and career. “She goes above and beyond the call of duty and is truly a God-sent. I often tell the story of how she became my manager and how we attended the same church, but I didn’t know her personally, nor did I know her name at the time. The Lord put it in my heart to have a concert named “I’m An Overcomer”. I didn’t have a team, nor did I know of anyone who could help me, so I prayed and asked God to send help. Her face literally popped into my head. I approached her, thinking she’s going to think I’m crazy. I informed her of what God told me about her, and she agreed to help me assemble everything. I later asked her to be my manager. She said no at first but soon obliged, and we have been rocking since 2017,” Christian shared.
Being able to make an impact on the lives of God’s people and be the voice some so desperately need is what makes it happen for Christian. “I enjoy the opportunity to be the intercessor, the encourager, the mentor, the motivator, the testament of triumph over any and everything the enemy tries to keep God’s people bound in,” she says.
As Christian looks to the future, she has several projects underway. One is publishing her first book titled, “I WANT WHAT YOU WANT”. Her book will provide a description of her life, spanning from a little girl to adulthood. It will share the many challenges she faced, the disobedience she walked in, and the consequences of it. It will show the Triumphant Victory she now walks in as well.
More than anything, Christian says she looks forward to growing more in God. She also wants to grow more in knowledge and understanding and obtain the necessary wisdom to walk life’s journey. “I want to be a better, anointed mother, love my family and friends, and love God’s people the way He requires for me. I am also looking forward to meeting my purpose partner so we can purposely build the Kingdom of God together and make hell nervous!” h
My testimony inspires me to tell it to as many people who will hear it to, and show them what healing, victory, grit, and freedom looks like. It’s no goodness of my own that I’m still here. It’s only by His grace, mercy, and blood constantly covering my life.”
The W AgencyBy Monica Montgomery
Corrie Wilson is The W Agency’s founding owner and operator, a one-stop shopping experience for entrepreneurs looking to take their businesses to the next level. Whether it be a start-up or an existing business looking to rebrand, The W Agency has what you need.
Based in Conway, Arkansas, Corrie has always been a small-town boy with big-time dreams. Originally from Helena, Arkansas, a lower-income area, Corrie focused on the world beyond his own. “I was always a dreamer. I was from Helena, but I knew even as a kid that the world was so much bigger,” Corrie explains.
Like most kids from the early 90s, Corrie lived vicariously through entertainment magazines and music videos, not for the reasons you’d think.
“I was that kid that paid attention to the details and techniques most people didn’t notice. I would record music videos on VHS and watch them over and over again. I would analyze and scrutinize the video frame by frame. I collected black entertainment magazines like Right On, Ebony, Jet, and Vibe Magazine,” Corrie explained. “But it wasn’t for the articles or to learn about the latest superstar. I was captivated by the artwork. I spent hours pouring over the photography, the lighting, and all the elements that came together to create that one living shot.”
Without role models in arts and culture, Corrie couldn’t explain his fixation with the visual aspects of art and entertainment. He was sure it would somehow become a large part of his identity.
After high school, Corrie gravitated towards the music entertainment industry, but it wasn’t long before he found it wasn’t for him. “Music came naturally to me. I am creative, and it seemed like the right thing at first, but I found that a career out front was restricting,” Corrie shared. “After a while, I lost my taste for the industry but found something I appreciated a lot more.”
Instead of being the performer with the flashing gold chains and latest kicks, Corrie began to look into the man behind the scenes wearing an expensive blue suit. “The real money and power were in marketing. I had gotten into photography and videography and loved it,” he says.
Corrie went the non-traditional route to learn about digital designing, creating web content, photography, and videography. “I started out producing music, but once I got a good look behind the curtain and saw who was really in control, I lost my love for working in the music industry. That’s when I redirected my energy into photography and graphic design to help other artists take their brand to the next level.”
Using the skills he honed as a kid, Corrie’s goal is to give the world a new yet classic perspective. He is not only making a name for himself but giving his clients a unique product that gets them noticed. “There are a lot of marketing firms out there, but what sets The W Agency apart is that we strive to show the heart and soul of the culture. I don’t just take pictures or make a label. Anyone can put on a suit and smile. That’s not advertising. You want to connect with your audience through your marketing. The best way to do that is to let them see the real you,” Corrie shared. By ignoring the mass-produced and over-produced media samples, Corrie is able to draw on the “vibe” that sparked his love for visual art.
“There was something authentic and organic about the visual style of the early 90s,” Corrie explained. “There was something tangible about it that made you feel like you were part of it. That’s what I try to deliver for my clients,” he says.
As Corrie started his career as a designer in 2007, in 2019, he started The W Agency. “It just made sense. I was taking the photos, doing the graphics, producing the videos, and everything else. I had all the components, so I just put them all in one place,” Corrie explained. “It benefits the clients and me when I can provide everything they need in-house.”
Because Corrie works independently, he has to be selective of the clients he takes on, but this allows him to deliver the quality he believes every client needs and deserves. “I can’t take on every project or client. I wish I could, but it would lead to mistakes and someone getting short-changed. Having a good reputation in this business is everything. So if I can’t handle something, I am part of a network of companies I can refer customers to.”
“I don’t just take pictures or make a label. Anyone can put on a suit and smile.
That’s not advertising.”
As The W Agency grows and evolves, one of the issues Corrie faces is navigating the cultural divide in marketing and advertising. As a black male from his demographic, Corrie focuses on elevating the culture but wants to ensure he doesn’t ignore it. “It’s a balancing act. We have been made to believe that professionalism looks one way. Anything else is unprofessional or hood. I find myself working toward that sweet spot—that space where quality and culture co-exist. My clients need a company that markets them as culturally relevant with a professional finish. That’s what The W Agency provides,” Corrie says.
As an entrepreneur whose business is to help others launch their businesses, Corrie knows the importance of image and branding. The W Agency takes on corporate clients as well as small businesses, but Corrie says he currently focuses on start-ups. “Being part of a company’s growth from conception to execution is the most fulfilling part of this job. Not only witnessing someone’s vision and dream come to life but knowing I was an intricate part of it makes it all worthwhile,” Corrie shares. “I understand that how a business is presented, how the visionary is perceived can make or break them. It’s all about mass appeal.”
Corrie is the sole proprietor of The W Agency, but just like his clients, he’s building a brand that will last for generations. “The time and effort I put into this aren’t just to make money. As I explained, I want to give the people who trust me with their vision the quality they deserve. Another thing that motivates me is the reputation I’m building for my children.”
Corrie is a father of three and leaving them a legacy that will outlive him is crucial. “My children have seen me work a “job” where I worked from someone else. Now they see me building a business, and even as children, they see the difference in the energy I put out. My youngest son is already asking if he can take over the business one day. I’m happy that my kids can see the benefit of entrepreneurship while they’re young. You can work a job and make good money. The thing about money is that it will come, and with it will go, but you can’t put a price on fulfillment. That’s the difference my children see in me and what I hope will inspire them to follow their dreams.”
Corrie’s belief about what excellence in branding looks like runs deep, which motivates him to give his clients the best possible experience. “You are your brand. If you want people to trust you and believe in what you put out there, you must be willing to show them who you are and stand behind your name,” Corrie explained.
Make Yourself A PriorityBy Terry L. Watson
Nicole Hornsby-Harrison’s mission to help others is rooted in her belief that healing comes through a sound emotional and spiritual foundation. Her passion for the mental and physical well-being of those around her has helped to grow her fitness empire, Creole Fitness.
Nicole owns CreoleFit Athletics and is the Executive Director of the A.G.A.P.E Project, a nonprofit that focuses on her community’s physical and mental health. A native of Amite, LA, she is also a dynamic certified personal trainer, actress, author, Army Veteran, and woman of faith who is passionate about helping people journey through life as their best selves.
As a personal trainer, Nicole offers various services and products, including meal prep consultation, meditation, weight training, boxing, and many CrossFit workouts. She also makes custom blend supplements, waistbeads, and detox drinks. She says her products are designed to assist or motivate those on their fitness, mental health, and wellness journey. Additionally, Nicole is a mental health coach, author, and motivational speaker.
So how did Nicole get started with fitness? She shares, “I have always been an athlete, but I was burnt out on anything fitness when I exited the military. I took a few years off and began boxing and supporting my youngest daughter while she trained as a UFC fighter. I never thought about training anyone, but somehow I started working with one client, and things took off from there.”
Several academic achievements complement Nicole’s passion. She has a master’s degree in criminal justice and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Public Administration. She is married to Rashund Harrison, and they have five kids: Desiree, Kierra, DeAndre, Xavier, and Tiara. They also have
“I never thought about training anyone, but somehow I started working with one client, and things took off from there.”
Helping people reach their goals and conquer their fears are two things Nicole says she loves to do. Embarking on her own personal fitness journey gave her a sense of empowerment, which she tries to duplicate with her clients. “Working on myself helped me to transform her from an insecure young woman to a passionate wife, mother, businesswoman, and community leader,” she says.
Working on herself is something Nicole learned to do after facing a huge challenge in her life. On the eleventh day of February 2022, Nicole suffered a heart attack. “My life changed in a matter of minutes. I had zero blockages and learned that my heart attack was stressinduced. Since then, I’ve been spreading awareness of mental health while caring for myself. Months following my heart attack, I held my first annual Mental Health and Wellness 5k Run/Walk. I’ve visited five countries and written three books, one memoir, and one journal. I am living now, and I do not take anything for granted anymore,” Nicole says.
Other challenges Nicole has faced include getting her culture to change their relationship with food and fitness. “The younger generation is catching on, but I have a lot of work to do for my generation,” she says.
As a businesswoman and entrepreneur, Nicole remains willing to share information and tips with other aspiring business owners. She says, “Whatever you do, don’t give up. Run towards your fears and invest in yourself. If your friends and family can shop at Walmart and Target and not question their prices, then they shouldn’t question yours. Do not allow family and friends to depreciate or devalue your product and service. Real friends won’t ask for discounts or freebies, they will support you without hesitation and won’t mind paying.”
Be on the lookout for a future brick-and-mortar location for CreoleFit Athletics. Nicole’s vision does not only include a gym but also “ninja warrior” type obstacles for those who love to push themselves to the limit. She also plans to spread mental health and wellness by promoting her memoir, Pruned, and her journal and recipe book, Pruned By June. Her annual “It’s Ok Mental Health & Wellness 5k Run/Walk is scheduled for July 2023. Please visit their website to learn more about Nicole Hornsby-Harrison and CreoleFit Athletics.
Changing The Landscape of Baseball in The TriadBy DorJea’ McClammey Photos Provided by Life Push, LLC
Businessman, family man, author, and visionary. Dr. Nicholas ‘Nic’ Sturdifen appears to do it all.
Nic, as he prefers, is a proud product of Newport News, Virginia. As a man of Christ, he loves being able to show the love of Christ in everything he does. Nic has several degrees, an undergrad, two master’s, and a doctorate. Nic is a Qualified Mental Health Professional certified by the Virginia Board of Counseling. He is an author and has written two books, the Center of Influence and the 5 Phases of Human Engagement. Also, Nic owns High Point Hush Puppies, a collegiate-level summer league baseball team located in High Point, NC.
With all his endeavors, Nic has found time for more; he co-owns Life Push LLC with his wife, Kaylin. Founded in 2014, Life Push LLC is a human services engagement company that offers mentoring, counseling, and family development. They are also directly engaged with public school systems.
Why did a very involved businessman decide to buy a minor-league baseball team? Nic responds, “I’m big on access. Baseball can be an expensive sport that not many minorities have access to play. I wanted to create a space for athletes of all shades where they could engage and play,” he says. Nic shares he also wanted to let young black men and people of color everywhere know that they don’t just have to play the sport; they can own a team too. “I really want us to be an example of what that looks like, someone who looks like them and is involved with team ownership.” Most importantly, The High Point Hushpuppies helps to support players who wish to create a path to professional baseball.
Nic’s athletic background doesn’t include baseball. He grew up playing soccer and played football at the collegiate level. “Baseball always sparked my interest, yet unfortunately, like many other minorities growing up, I didn’t have access to the sport and wasn’t introduced to it. I know that baseball is deeply rooted in communities across the country, in the world for that matter, and I figured it would be good to be a vehicle to help underserved communities,” he says.
“I’m big on access. Baseball can be an expensive sport that not many minorities have access to play. I wanted to create a space for athletes of all shades where they could engage and play.”
Having The Highpoint Hush Puppies located in the Triad made good sense to Nic. He says he wanted to continue upholding and honoring High Point’s history. While he supports getting more African Americans involved with the sport of baseball, he says he doesn’t want to make it a black-and-white thing. “This isn’t a black team, it’s not a white team, this is a team open and accessible for everyone,” he shared.
Nic says his biggest inspiration is time. He explained that we all have a limited time here on earth, and he’s motivated by wasting his share. His focus is to help others and lead them into a better place. His biggest fear is when it’s all said and done, he’ll look back and wish he had done more and pressed harder. He wants to leave empty, knowing he gave it all and left behind a legacy for his kids and generations.
He also finds rest in the work of others who have come before him. He shares, “I look back at each generation, and I can see the progress. Every generation is responsible for building on the shoulders of the previous generation. From my great-grandparents to my children, work happened, and the work must continue.”
As for the future of Nic and The High Point Hushpuppies, he plans to continue growing the team and changing the perspective of baseball and what it can be. He also plans to continue helping others, providing affordable entertainment to families, and bringing more revenue to the Piedmont triad area. Yet, his vision doesn’t end with baseball. Nic plans to own a soccer team and even build a school.
For those who may follow his path, here’s some advice that Nic offers. “Understand this, to be successful, especially in entrepreneurship, you will have to be either lucky or blessed. I recommend being blessed because luck can run out. You must have strong-rooted faith before you jump in. Also, stop waiting on other people to believe in you, because their beliefs have nothing to do with your success,” he says.
To learn more about Nic Sturdifen and The High Point Hush Puppies, please visit their website.