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Trustworthy Magazine

Christina Elmore “Having a good group of girlfriends

means the most to me in this industry,”

Fredrika Ek Around the world on a bike

We talk to 2017’s “Adventurer of the year”

10 Steps To a New You In 2021

JAN 2021


Trustworthy Magazine

Our Goal is to inspire & to be inspired. We know that everyone has a story; we want to know yours

Founder & Editor Amina Touray

Trustworthymagazine.com For comments, submissions & Inquiries pleses contact; info@trustworthymagazine.com

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On the cover: Christina Elmore Photographer: Amina Touray Makeup by: Niehla O Styling by: Janel Styles Page design: Moses Dalton

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Photo: David Bartus

Photo: sheila


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Contents

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Ki Pendleton

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Amina Touray

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Fredrika Ek

10 Steps To a New You In 2021

Views From Yosemite

Around the world on a Bike

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Clif & Jen Williams

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Christina Elmore

Married Musicians

Not Insecure About Her Life

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Dominique Cooper

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Dion Langley

Good Reads

Beat It Like A Drum

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Letter From The Editor How do you feel about entering 2021? Are you hopeful, anxious, scared, happy, sad, or excited? Be honest, I’d really like to know! I think when we are genuine with ourselves, we are open to receive answers and signs that will lead us to our right pathways. Despite all the challenges that last year brought to the world, I must say that I feel blessed that I was able to find happiness in the little things. I felt physically strong and was able to provide for myself. I think most of us were forced to pause, which led us to new insights into what’s important and what can wait. In this issue, we get to know Insecure & Twenties actress Christina Elmore better as she talks about her new love for knitting and the importance of real friends in Hollywood. As the new year has kicked in, fitness trainer Ki Pendleton gives us her 10 Steps To a New You principles. We also had the opportunity to chat with 2017’s Adventurer of the Year Fredrika Ek about her bike ride around the world. She said it best herself - “I think most people have a dream. And whatever that may be, if it’s a big one, if it’s a scary one, I think my advice would be sort of the same - you’re not going to be ready.” And with that said, I think you have to set an intention and make the best you can out of 2021, to make sure it’s in your hands! Amina Touray

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Photo: Taryn Elliott

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Photo: GN Visuals

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Kicking it with Ki - 10 Steps To a New You In 2021

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Written by Mia Nicole

e’ve all been there: It’s the morning of December 31st and before eating breakfast, you walk in the bathroom, close your eyes and gingerly step on the scale. Then as you look down at the painfully, honest numbers, you say to yourself, “I will do better starting in January!” Now that 2021 is here, (and we hope and pray it is better than 2020) it’s truly an opportunity to make those necessary lifestyle changes to become a new you. But how can you do it? We asked Personal Fitness Trainer and dancer, Kiana “Ki” Pendleton, CEO and Founder of KP Fitness, to share some ways that help her. When Ki was a young girl, watching her grandfather lift weights, was something that really intrigued her. “I used to watch my grandfather all the time as he lifted weights, and I wanted to do it too.” Ki says with a smile. “So he began to teach me how to lift and before I knew it, I had fallen in love with weight lifting.” A fan of the arts, as she grew up, Ki wanted to be a dancer. Not only was it a way for her to express herself, but she was exceptional at it and is self-taught. One advantage was that it was a phenomenal way to keep in shape. “I did ballet, tap, jazz – all kinds of dance.” However, she found one specific kind of dance that was the catalyst for her becoming a fitness instructor. “I learned to pole dance.” Ki states with a shrug. “I became so good at it, that women asked me to teach classes and help other women use this method to strengthen their bodies. When I saw women excited about what they were learning as well as lose weight, I decided that I wanted to do this forever and became a Certified Personal Trainer through W.I.T.S Academy (World Instructor Training Academy). That is how my company KP Fitness was born.” A young Millennial herself, in addition to working with adults, Ki also enjoys working with the Gen Z. “I have a few clients that are teenagers,” she says. “And they are really concerned about being healthy and fit, to the point that they have reached out to me for my services. I just love what I do!” And she is good at it! Instead of making resolutions that you can’t keep, Ki suggests making goals. So let’s kick it into gear with Ki and start the New Year off right with her “10 Steps to a New You in 2021.”

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10 StepsTo a New You in 2021

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Mentally prepare yourself for the New Year Twenty-twenty has been a year like no other. Reflect and think about what you did well throughout the year and see if there is anything that you want to improve on.

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Create ‘Smart Goals’ Goals help you know where you are going and how long it takes to get there. You want to create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

Get Plenty of Sleep It is very hard to function if you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep. That leads to sleep deprivation and that is not good for you. Your body needs an average of 7.5 hours of sleep a night. Lack of sleep can result in your metabolism not functioning properly. Two hormones that are key in this process are Ghrelin and Leptin. Michael Breus, Ph.D. – The Sleep Doctor, says, “Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you Have a Workout have more ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to Buddy stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have Having someone to less leptin.” work out with help to motivate you and keep you accountable. Find Instead of eating out often, cook your own meals. someone who is serious and Cooking helps you monitor what you’re consumhas similar goals. However, ing; calories, and sodium. even if they quit, don’t you! Find a new buddy!

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Drink More Water Simply put: Water is essential to being healthy.

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Find exercises that interest you If you don’t have a gym membership, don’t worry – you don’t have to! Try exercises at home, such as dancing, Pilates, or yoga. Gets that heart pumping!

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8.

Schedule Your Workouts Create a schedule for the time and day that you want to work out. Choose your exercise clothing the night before; that way, if there are any obstacles such as oversleeping – you will be ready to go.

“Water is essential to being healthy” Follow Ki on Instagram @kpfittness_

9.

Never Give Up January 1st is when everyone begins to work off their holiday weight; and after March is the biggest time when people fall off.

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Meal Prep – Preparing your meals ahead of time takes the guesswork out of what to eat throughout the week. It also saves time.

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Do you believe?

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Views From Yosemite

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Written by Amina Touray

here is a quote by Albert Einstein that reads - “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”. I believe that when you listen to the silence of nature, smell every scent of the tree bark, and look up into the sky, you will reconnect with your purpose and find the answers you’ve been searching for that the noise from the outside world is distracting you with. Yosemite National Park is a place I have wanted to visit ever since my days back in college. My photographer teacher, Dave, use to show us Ansel Adams’s renowned Yosemite photos and tell us that every photographer should go there one day. That “one day” didn’t reach me until nine years later. During the chaos, nature, and prayers have been my escape. When I looked up at the mountains I felt embraced by a force that told me everything will be okay. During one of our hikes, we found a creek that we decided to cross. Jumping from rock to rock was challenging, but exciting! A lot of times when I’m outdoors, I feel like a big child, experimenting with the “what ifs”. Although I almost slipped and got my foot wet I couldn’t help

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but laugh. When we finally got to the other side of the creek and walked upon the bridge, that we could have taken, things looked so different from the above viewpoint, and I could see the easier and more challenging paths. In life, if you have patience and pay attention to your surrounding, you will be rewarded. When you look deep into nature, as Einstein said, you will understand everything better. You will see things from different angles which will help you put things into new perspectives.

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Around the

world on a bike Interview & Photography by Amina Touray

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In 2015 Swedish, small-town girl Fredrika Ek decided to go for the journey of her life around the world. Not by plane, by train or by bus, but on a bicycle! Forty-five countries, 51,000 km, and 1042 days later, she returned to her hometown with a backpack full of memories from riding her bike through the Argentinian Andes mountains to getting hit by a car in Australia, getting caught inside an electrical storm cloud, to making friends for life in West Africa. We had the opportunity to chat with 2017's "European Adventurer of the Year'' about her travels and what she has learned. Tell us about your background My name is Fredrika Ek. I come from this quite boring ordinary town in the middle of Northern Sweden. Growing up I've always just been this ordinary girl. I think that I still am, but I have had some big ideas from time to time. Quite young at the age of 22 I decided to go for one of them. So I set up to ride my bicycle around the world! Wow! So had you been biking a lot, like were you a professional biker or how did you come up with the idea that - “I'm going to take my bike and ride around the world. Where did that come from? I still wouldn't describe myself as a cyclist. I found the bike to be just a perfect tool to explore new places. A lot of the places that I've had the fortune to visit or see and discover at a slow pace would have been impossible to reach had I not had the bicycle. But for me, it's really only been a tool. For me, it's been about traveling and just curiosity of seeing what's out there. As I told you, I come from this quite mundane place in the world, and I’ve always watched TV, movies, or read books about all these other places, and I wanted to see them for myself.

I laugh alot because I was super naive and of course, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into” Vol 10

When you decided that you were going to do this journey, and make this happen, what was the whole planning process like, where did you begin? I had that one moment when I decided! The idea grew on me, but then there was this one moment of decision when the whole thing went from just being a dream or a fantasy to a project that was going to happen, even though starting was still a year of. Looking back at my planning process, I laugh a lot because I was super naive and of course, I didn't know what I was getting myself into, which on one hand was quite good I think because I would never have had the guts to go for it (she laughs). I didn’t have any sponsors, any organization, or anyone helping me. It was just me trying to Google. I didn't own a bike when I decided to ride a bicycle around the world, so that was one problem. And I'm quite broke (back then), so I need to get money to buy a bike and a tent, and bags to put that tent inside. There was a whole really basic map exploring. And you said you didn't have any sponsors that help you financially with this? Trustworthy Magazine

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“

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With experience, you get more secure in yourself. But I feel like I became a bit too cocky sometimes�

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No, I thought this idea was so great, so surely someone was gonna support me doing this, and I was wrong (she laughs). I mean I was just someone saying, like so many people, that I'm going to do this huge thing and it's going to be great. I was so excited about this and most people didn't really give me a reaction at all because it was just so not grounded in reality. Practically, how did you manage to take care of yourself financially, with clothing, housing, packing, etc? Because you said at first you were broke or you didn't have much money, you were young... I think about the idea I had for a budget before I started, it was really basic, simple math. I figured a hundred Swedish Crowns (approximately $12) a day, for a thousand days, would be enough to go around the world. Preparation was for me most of the time getting that money. I was running around to like three different jobs. In the morning, in the afternoon, sometimes on the weekends, just to get the cash. And I got the gear. Depending of course on what country or climate, I had racks in the back, in the front like quite a lot of winter and summer clothes, because I was going from 50 degrees Celsius in Turkmenistan, to minus 25 degrees coming home here, and that whole range in between. So it's quite frustrating sometimes carrying these heavy loads. You have rain, you have snow, you have ice. For example, in Los Angeles weather, you're still carrying winter gear. I had all my worldly belongings with me. Were you ever scared of traveling alone? I was obviously scared. My fears from taking off to coming home were quite different because we all have some expectations, thoughts, and fears of what would happen to an alone 20-something girl heading off to the Middle East to cycle on her own, right? I spent a month cycling alone through Iran, with Sharia laws. And as a foreigner, you have to wear a scarf, like be fully dressed. And still, I got stopped by the police so many times for not being proper enough. I was really scared going into this country because

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my preconceptions were many. I mean, I’ve grown up watching these places on TV. But in reality, I've never had a warmer welcome in any place in the world. I was scared of the people when I got in there, and then getting out I was so in love with the country and everyone that welcomed me. But then scared of the traffic around...the capital has one of the highest death rates in traffic in the world. And no one thinks of that, that's like an actual risk. Through every country that you traveled through, did you ever end up in any dangerous situation or anything that shook you up? Yes, I was hit by a car in Australia. I've also had crappy situations meeting the wrong person at the wrong time sort of stuff. I think that exists, but that's such a minor part of the experience. But I have really come to have great respect for nature. With experience, you get more secure in yourself. But I feel like I became a bit too cocky sometimes, and that haven't had consequences with people, on roads or with cycling, but like not thinking that sand storms or electrical storms in the Andes, or actual drought, will kill you. So my first, and I think only, like real “I'm gonna die experience” was at 5,000 meters of altitude 5.5 in the Argentinian Andes. I was inspired one morning and decided to climb this volcano. I went up to 6000 meters. It was epic and then came the electrical storm. The whole thing about getting to be that incredibly stupid and getting away with it (she laughs). I'm grateful for it, so if anything, I've gotten a different respect for the whole environment we’re in. Where did you start your trip and where’d you go next? It started in Sundsvall, Sweden. It was actually a line me and my mom drew in the ground the last evening I was home. A starting and finish line. And I went through South Europe and took a left turn through Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. And I took a flight to South America, and the plan was to go to The States. That was my fantasy before I had started, but then stuff happened and I went for Africa instead. So from Ecuador, I made my way to Western Africa and went through the Sahara. I rode the Trustworthy Magazine

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silk trade road from Iran and Uzbekistan, all the way through China. The visa I got for Turkmenistan, it's called the North Korea of Central because the bureaucracy is out of this world. I think I've read that this is the second most closed up country in the world - apart from North Korea. The way I got my visa was just a lot of reading, trying to figure out loopholes into these desert countries. And that was a whole other thing! You had to plan for getting visas as you traveled… Yes, I got all my visas along the road, because I mean things happen - war happens, like everything changes, so you can't set up a route for three years, and think you can travel. So in the end I got a fiveday transit visa through Turkmenistan. I had 500 kilometers through the desert. And you realize that's the perfect amount of time if you have a truck (she laughs). But you had a bike! Exactly, so I was quite in a rush (she laughs) Out of all the countries that you traveled to, was there any country that really touched your heart? I think I have a few places where the actual landscapes and the actual cycling have been just so incredibly breathtaking. What places are they? That would be the high Andes, or the Chinese Himalayas, Australian outback is really cool. But then coming close to heart, I have a simple answer, that's Guinea Conakry in Western Africa. Western Africa overall, but in Guinea - I rode through it in the rainy season, and it's not too much concrete, it's muddy, and I felt like I was molding because I had no way to wash my clothes. Everything was damp for such a long time. And it was just this late evening that a woman, my age, decided to invite me to her house. She was alone and I was too. And I mean, I'm always asked about this whole thing of being “alone woman” and “if it is not risky, is it scary”, maybe but a girl like that, would she invite me if I had a beard? Probably not. She had no gain in inviting me that evening, and I didn't speak any of her like nine languages. She just gave me a roof, and we 22

shared a bed. She had a two-day-old baby girl in her arms when she invited me. That's quite brave of her. She was one of the lucky ones to have a bed, and the three of us with this mini person baby in the middle. And in the morning after breakfast, trying to speak a little bit, and swapping Whatsapp’s, her family came home, and all of a sudden from just the two or three of us, we were a whole crowd, and she told me and everyone at the same time that their baby was going to be called Fredrika. Now she's three years old, and I still get photos. That was one of my proudest moments. For anyone that would want to go on the same adventure as you, what advice would you give to them? Not to ever think that you're going to be ready for it. I mean you can plan, you can train, you can do anything, but you're never going to be ready. So don't wait for that, because it's never going to happen. Most people don't have a dream of riding around the world, but I think most people have a dream. And whatever that may be, if it's a big one, if it's a scary one, I think my advice would be sort of the same - you're not going to be ready. Would you do this again? Yes! What does this year look like for you? I have hopes, big hopes, that this year will open up some opportunities for us who like to move around the world again, and for the year that passed I've had some ideas, or like I want to do a lot of exploring closer to home also. I'm quite ashamed, I saw my first fjords in New Zealand, and there are bigger fjords, just a couple of days sightseeing from where I grew up my whole life, and it’s like you do it a bit backward sometimes. So I feel like I have a lot of, like, Norway, Finland, Sweden, that I still want to see, but obviously, the big real dream I have left is North America.

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you can plan, you can train, you can do anything, but you’re never going to be ready”

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Married Musicians Interview and photography by Amina Touray

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e chatted with married couple Clifton and Jeniffer Williams about balancing their musical careers with family life, and what the year 2020 taught them.

What are your musical backgrounds? Jen: I grew up singing in church, my dad is a pastor so I started singing before he preached each Sunday at the age of three. That birthed a lifetime of singing! As I got older, I started singing at different churches, I sang a lot at school (I tried sports at school but that was an epic fail- LOL). Eventually, I started singing in a school-funded summer program at the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in Dallas Texas and the rest was history. This introduced me to the world of musical theater and stage acting! I went on to Berklee College of Music in Boston, where I met Clif! Clif: I started playing the piano at a young age. I started taking lessons at age 9 and by age 11 I was playing in churches and performing throughout the city! I went to a performing arts high school and then matriculated to Berklee College of Music on a Presidential Scholarship. I graduated from Berklee with a dual degree in Music Education and Contemporary Writing

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I have always known that my story was always a bit different than those of my peers.”

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and Production. I’ve since moved to LA pursuing my dream of being a touring musician and musical director. Both of your families live in other states. How are you managing parenthood on your own in a big city like LA, while also pursuing your careers? Jen: Whew! That is the question we ask ourselves each day! It takes lots and lots of communication and PATIENCE. We both do a million things per day, even our downtime turns into something productive, but one of the most important things we have learned is to overly communicate and to consistently check-in. Clif: Parenthood is such hard work! It is literally Jeniffer, myself, and Kyra. I have a family calendar, personal calendar, and work calendar. I feel like we take everything week by week. We help remind each other of what’s coming up and always try to negotiate and reevaluate our priorities in order to best give our family what it needs at the time. What are your career goals? Jen: BROADWAY!! I love musical theater and I love performing. My biggest dream is to land a lead role on Broadway. I also just started a business called Comfort Cookies! It has opened up an entirely different world and mindset that is so exciting! I bake these delicious gourmet cookies and sell them at the Farmers Markets in Los Angeles, so far- so good! Clif: I aspire to increase my music directing clientele! I have some pretty awesome people that I am fortunate to call “boss”. I look forward to working with bigger and more iconic music legends. I look forward to writing and producing my own music and working towards becoming a music supervisor for various films and tv shows. In what way do you hope to inspire people?

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Instead of panicking and following the crowd of worriers, I chose to go with the flow”

Jen: Great question! I have been through so many trials in life and I have always known that my story was always a bit different than those of my peers. So I have always made sure to seek out those in my community who guide and put my energy there. It always reminds me that even in your darkest times, you can still bless someone else. This is the way I choose to inspire, is by reminding myself of the Sankofa. The Sankofa is a reminder to me that I should reach back and seek knowledge left to us by our ancestors and then take that knowledge and feed it to our future generations. Clif: I hope to inspire people with my story and my level of perseverance. I feel like I started from a very stereotypical upbringing but I’m somehow creating my own legacy and taking charge of my life and its direction. I hope to inspire others to do the same. 2020 was a challenging year for us all! What did you learn from it and take with you into 2021? Jen: 2020 was incredibly challenging and ugly and scary and traumatic in so many ways. However, 2020 taught me how to reflect within myself, how to prioritize my marriage and family, and how to choose and make time for my purpose. From the protests for Breonna Taylor, losing half of my monthly income, to losing family members to Covid- 2020 reminded me of just how resilient and badass I truly am. And that is what I am taking into 2021. Clif: I learned to allow myself to bend! This year brought so much uncertainty! Instead of panicking and following the crowd of worriers, I chose to “go with the flow” I turned on a “chill” mode and worked strategically and purposefully. I think 2020 showed me that when all hell breaks loose, I still can breathe and I am still in control. Follow: @Twenty4andmarried @Jenifferlauren @Yesclifwill

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Christina Elmore Not Insecure About Her Life Written by Mia Nicole

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Photography by Amina Touray Photo assistant Moses Dalton Makeup by Niehla O Styled by Janel Styles

ne thing that avid television watchers enthusiastically look forward to is a shocking, suspenseful season-ending of their favorite show. The season four finale of the HBO Issa Rae hit show Insecure definitely brought the drama. It left fans sitting on the edge of their seats yelling, “Oh no she didn’t” at their flat screens, as complete and utter chaos shattered some of their favorite characters’ lives. Are you a #TeamIssa – ecstatic that she and Lawrence got back together after their messy breakup? Or are you riding with #TeamCondola – Lawrence’s ex-girlfriend who dropped the bomb that she was having his baby? Keep in mind that Condola is a character portrayed by the lovely and talented actress, Christina Elmore. And yes, she is pregnant in real life; but calm down folks, she is not carrying Lawrence’s baby. Christina also plays Marie, on the Lena Waite comedy series Twenties on BET. With both parents having been in the entertainment industry, it is not surprising that Christina chose acting as her career. “My father was a dancer and an actor in his younger years and my mom is a musician, so it has always been in my life. Growing up, I did a lot of things: I did ballet, softball, and played the violin. But acting is

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the only thing that I never wanted to quit, and I just kept doing it. In high school, I joined a young professional theatre company for high school students and I got to see up close and personal with some other theatre actors and thought to myself, ‘Oh, you can have a career of this’ – so that is what I did.” As a California native, attending Harvard University gave Christina the opportunity to experience East Coast living. “I wouldn’t want to live in Boston again. My experience there was limited because I was in college. But you really can’t beat the weather in LA. Any time I want, I can go and drive up to Palos Verdes or drive to the Palisades and it can literally look like Hawaii, and I feel like I am on vacation even for just an hour. But the East Coast has some beautiful landscapes, and I do miss the four seasons. I wish we had fall and winter sometimes because we just have an endless summer here in LA.” Like the rest of us, Christina has been trying to enjoy life despite being forced to shelter-in-place due to the dreaded COVID-19 virus. “I feel grateful that we are healthy, safe, have food and a place to live,” she says. “I know that many people are suffering and it is really hard. But I have a low level of stress and try to keep safe. We haven’t been affected and haven’t lost anyone yet, so I am really grateful.” Christina is all about family. Happily married for the past 7 years and the mother of an adorable almost 4-year-old son. Christina said she felt like she spent most of 2020 being pregnant and getting to know her 3-year-old son. She reminisces about what she used to be before the pandemic. “In pre-COVID times, I would go and get a massage to relax. Also, one of my most favorite things is to go to the movies by myself. I love to just sit alone and watch a movie. But post-COVID, I can’t do that. As a family, we have been escaping to the outdoors. We enjoy hiking and beach days; they have been really fun for the family. Then for myself, I have also started knitting this year

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Dress by Charles and Ron @Charlesandron Provided @Maisonpriveepr_la @Maisonpriveepr_alexandra

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Dress by OTT @Ottdubai Provided by @Maisonpriveepr_la @Maisonpriveepr_alexandra

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Having a good group of girlfriends means the most to me in this industry”

– I have become a granny,” she chuckles. “It is really relaxing and nice to do something with your hands, put your phone down, and just be productive. I wouldn’t consider myself particularly crafty or artsy in that sense, but it’s been nice to produce something with my hands. Like, ‘here is a sweater that I made.’ It’s just nice to move your hands around and turn some string into a thing.” Being a busy Hollywood actress with two hit shows is a blessing. And Christina is busy. But to Christina, another blessing is having a good core group of friends. “Having a good group of girlfriends means the most to me in this industry,” she states. “There is so much rejection and hustle – people saying one thing and doing another. It can seem really fake. I just feel so so blessed to have a group of girlfriends – a lot of whom are also in the industry and are just grounded, normal, wonderful people. We root for each other, we tell each other about auditions and we watch each other’s work. We hang out, we cry together, we watch each other’s kids, all those kinds of things. Having them can really make LA feel normal because so much of the “Hollywood Life” here is so fake and so not normal. But it’s nice to have a group of real people in my life. I feel really really blessed to have met a lot of girlfriends when I moved back to LA from grad school. For us to be coming up at the same time in the industry and watching each other’s careers blossom and rooting for each other has been such a nice gift.” One thing that the pandemic has done was to affect the timeline of shooting not only Insecure but Twenties. “The pandemic certainly set the timeline back and changed it, where I think shooting would have started sooner. Production is back underway and shooting will begin soon. I don’t know when it will air or anything like

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Dress by Charkes & Ron @Charlesandron Provided by @Maisonpriveepr_la @Maisonpriveepr_alexandra

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Dress by @Sophia_nubes Provided @Pr_solo Ring designer Lada Legina @Ladalegina Provided @pr_solo

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I think on the surface both shows can seem pretty similar but I think when you watch them both - you realize they are telling two very different kinds of stories”

that, but by this time Last year (2019) we were wrapping up season 4 of Insecure and I had already done season 1 of Twenties. I haven’t shot anything this year. Because both shows aired in the spring. We would have gone back in the summer and fall, but that is when COVID 19 hit. Working with amazing Hollywood heavyweights like Issa Rae and Lena Waithe on their hit shows has been a dream for Christina. People have asked which character she prefers, and she can’t really answer that because she enjoys playing them both. “I think on the surface both shows can seem pretty similar but I think when you watch them both - you realize they are telling two very different kinds of stories in two different ways. So honestly, I don’t have a favorite. In Twenties, I love playing Marie. I find her to be so flawed and such a hot mess and she covers it so well. And Condola seems to have her life all the way together until she doesn’t. So that has also been fun. I don’t have a preference and I am so grateful that I get to do both.” When you see Christina Elmore aka Condola on the streets, there is no need to be outraged or accuse her of being a homewrecker. Season 5 is just around the corner and then you can find out WWLD - What Will Lawrence Do? Will he choose Issa or Condola? Whomever he decides to choose, remember one thing - It’s just a television show.

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Photo: Dziana Hasanbekava

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Good ReADS Librarian Dominique Cooper shares her Top 7 book recommendations for 2021

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DOminique

Cooper

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Interview & Photography by Amina Touray

ou have a bachelor’s degree in Library and Information Science. What is it that intrigues you so much in the world of books? Ha, ha! The world of books! I like how you put that. I am intrigued because books are just that, a world! Just as our world has so many different places, cultures, climates, and traditions, it is the same with books. I can travel to London and learn about the holocaust, through the eyes of a twelve-year-old girl, with a club foot (The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker); I can experience how a young Black girl from the South Side of Chicago becomes the first African American First Lady of the United States of America (Becoming by Michelle Obama); I can feel the chill of winter snow as I read about kids having a snowball fight after a heavy snowfall (Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats); I can even go on an adventure and watch my favorite Disney characters battle their archnemesis (The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer). Books take me to places I wouldn’t otherwise see or experience. But to be perfectly clear, Library and Information Science (LIS) is about so much more than books. The library is the hub of information literacy. Information literacy is about researching, recognizing, and thinking critically about the tough questions people ask. I learned (and teach others) how to seek out, evaluate, and apply information to best answer a question. Oftentimes, one might think, “You’re a librarian! You must know everything!” And that is not the case (giggle). Librarians know how to research and find the answer or get you pretty close to it. My degree also helped me understand that there are different types of people in the community that I serve that have different needs. My absolute favorite book is, Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper. Ms. Draper writes about a girl named Melody who cannot walk or speak but Melody is brilliant and the

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smartest in her class. But, since she cannot talk, nobody knows it. As a librarian I am able to provide people like Melody with a safe space to dig deeper into a topic or craft that interest only them. That is what intrigues me along with the world of books, hehe. How has 2020 been for you as a middle school librarian? It has been the most challenging. Back in the spring, when schools first shut down, I was totally out of my element. I started recording myself reading books so that I could send the recording to students who may not have access to a book. I later learned that there are publishing rights and rules, so I could not share out the content. I reached out to teachers to see what was going on in the curriculum and created virtual lessons and activities to support and extend classroom learning. I later learned teachers were overburdened trying to cultivate online lessons, so they didn’t have time to share what I was creating. I worked hard on projects that were basically shelved. Over the summer, the school district I work for, worked overtime to get laptop devices into student hands before August. It was coined the 1:1 initiative. They took a three-year plan and slammed it into a few months. The library is now responsible for checking laptops in and out, some troubleshooting and we create the help tickets when a technical issue is reported. One of the biggest tasks of the library at the beginning of the year is textbook distribution. Due to COVID-19, new plans and procedures had to be implemented in order to adhere to social distancing and crowd control. I found myself returning to a whole new set of textbook procedures that I had not had a voice in setting. Amina, can you imagine being hired for a photoshoot and when you get there, someone else is telling you what lighting to use, where you should stand or how to pose your model? It is like your craft is being taken from you. I believe one of my duties is to help with the recognition of library value by cre-

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One of my duties is to help with the recognition of library value by creating a solution driven space “

ating a solution driven space (A Principal’s Secret Weapon: The Librarian, Mason). The school library must operate like a well-oiled machine having the ability to transform into a gathering place for a lastminute administrative meeting, a place where teachers can bring classes to learn about research databases or learn library skills through scavenger hunts, or a place students can play Minecraft or Roblox as a reading incentive (they do in my library, smile). Overall a place to create, think and share. If I may share that in February 2020 the students and I curated our schools’ very first African American History Museum. The library partnered with multiple teachers and classes and students created individual as well as class projects to put on display. It was amazing! When the librarian is at the forefront with the best intentions for the students, it will be the busiest and buzziest place on campus. It will be staff and students first go-to. Yes, 2020 has shifted these plans and goals, but I have faith that God is taking the library somewhere beyond compare and if I can be a part of it, I can and I will, with all my heart. I love being a librarian. In today’s digital age, social media seems to be the new “news outlet” and people read their books through Kindle and various apps. Are hard copy books “dying”? I have no problem with reading from a kindle and I absolutely love and recommend audio books. I think the digital age has exTrustworthy Magazine

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The library is the loudest place you’ll ever be”

panded the opportunity to read more books, on more diverse topics on more platforms. It’s great. I do not think hard copy books are dying. Books are very much alive, no matter the format. I always tell everyone, “The library is the loudest place you’ll ever be.” This is true because there are so many different stories being told through these books. There are hundreds of thousands of voices coming through the books in a library. Speaking, yelling, laughing and crying to be heard. They are connecting and conversing. And if a reader is not connecting to a book, then they may not have the right one. “Social media seems to be the new “news outlet”, this frightens me. There is so much fake news out there. It is a part of my job to educate patrons on how to spot fake news. I attended a library conference where we were given multiple tools, such as Common Sense Media, to instruct patrons on how to determine if a website is clickbait or if an article seems sketchy and full of opinion more than fact. Again, Library and Information Science is so much more than books, hehe. We seem to live in a society and time that gets busier and busier, and it seems hard for people to 60

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either find the time or actually make it a priority to read. Do you agree/disagree? And, how can we encourage the younger generation to read more? I totally agree. Can I tell you something that may blow your mind? I do not enjoy reading. My go to for relaxation is not to cuddle up on the couch with a good book. I like arts and crafts. I like to sew, crochet, make invitations/clothes anything using my cricut. The biggest misconception about me being a librarian is that I love to read. I come from, what we call, a reluctant reader background. A reluctant reader is someone who doesn’t like to read. I probably only went to my middle school library once or twice, same in high school. I didn’t grow up visiting the public library. I am also a mother of two daughters and a wife. My life is very busy and the moment I have time, I mostly do not choose to read. One of my favorite authors is Jason Reynolds. He was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by Carla Hayden, the first African American Librarian of Congress (my hero). A class actually curated an exhibit for the museum surrounding her and when I tweeted about it, she tweeted back! I was floored! I highly recommend you watch the inauguration ceremony of his award on youtube. His interview speaks volumes about the importance of literature and young people reading. Anyway, Jason Reynolds said, “It’s not that you don’t like to read, it’s that you haven’t found the right book.” He also said, “In order to write what kids will read, you have to connect with them.” So, it’s all about getting the right book in the hands of the right student. We can encourage young people to read by asking a student what they are interested in. Once I find out what they are interested in, I take them to the shelves and we start browsing for a specific book, just for them. I like to compare book genres to movie genres for students. I tell them, “Not everyone likes every genre of movie. But just because one doesn’t like horror films

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doesn’t mean one doesn’t like all movies. We have to watch a comedy, a romance, a drama; books are the same, we have to read a comedy, a romance, a drama and eventually a student will find the book they enjoy. My husband shared an interview with me featuring Naval Ravikant and he said something that stuck with me. He said that reading is the way to knowledge. He said, “read what you love until you love to read.” One cannot learn if they do not read. He said one must start with the basics and work their way up. So, I encourage young people to read the basics of what they love and let that book lead them to the next. I encourage young people to read the comic book or the picture book or a small chapter book before trying to dive into a five-hundred-page book. Since reading is not my forte, I love it when I finish a good book! It gives me the feeling of accomplishment, as I am sure it does everyone. And what do we naturally want to do when we accomplish something? Accomplish something else. I also would like to point out that I don’t finish every book I start. If a book is not interesting to me, I put it down. I do not recommend a person continue reading a book they are not getting anything out of. Reading is growing on me. I feel that since reading is not the most popular hobby, students can relate to me and I to them. I understand the disdain when I am checking out Lord of the Flies to a class of 8th graders, or The Lightning Thief to a class of 6th graders. Both books I started and have yet to finish, hehe. My job and it is very important to me that I get to interact with these same students and encourage them to read what they want. Jason Reynolds also said something along the lines of “some adults don’t like kids because they only see them at school when they are forced to do things, they don’t want to do all day”. He suggests to “really get to know who they are”. Working at a middle school, the library is the last place on most students mind but what we fail to realize is that the library is probably the only place where true growth is occurring. It is the only place on campus where students are growing by doing what they want to do! Students are exploring their interests and collaborating with others to learn and grow. How do you feel about 2021 and what are your goals for this new year? I am the Event Coordinator for the Network for Inland Empire School Librarians. NIESL is an organization focused on helping librarians discover their potential. We hold virtual meetups and dis62

cuss library topics during this open-ended conversation. We will be hosting our first, Grow With Us, which is a conference style event to learn a new method or principal. My goal is to focus on supporting this network so that we provide the best resources to those invested in the library field. As the Event Coordinator, I create the marketing campaigns, handle all scheduling and ensure proper records of all events, meetings and discussions are maintained. I look at every new year and set a personal goal. 2020 I learned about bible journaling and hand lettering. 2021 I would like to become a Montessori Educator. My oldest daughter, who now attends the middle school I currently work at attended a Montessori private school. My youngest daughter currently attends. I love the approach that Montessori takes on education. They educate the whole child. They focus on social development, sensory, fine motor skills and more. I love being with my children during the most crucial parts of their day, their school day. Since I will have spent the past three years with my eldest at school, I want to do the same with my youngest. So, this year my goal is to go back to school and become a trained teacher and ultimately get a job working at my youngest daughter’s school. When it comes to books in 2021, Dominique has a list of recommendations for you! So, as I mentioned earlier it is important to read books that interest you. Finding the right book for you is essential to en-

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joying the time you spend reading. Also, please keep in mind that as a middle school librarian I mostly read from the Young Adult section. I hope these recommendations appeal to you whether you are an adult or child and whether you like to read or not. 1. If you like adventure, you will love this six-part series, The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. In this book, my imagination was able to travel to whimsical places where magical things were happening. 2. If you are interested in civil rights and social justice, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson will have you fighting for the efforts of equality, prison reform and police brutality. I was appalled at what I read, I felt sadness and I felt inspired by the authors fighting spirit for justice. Any book that brings out my inner hero is a must read. I read the adaptation for young adults, but the adult versions is also available. 3. In Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper, we are given a glimpse into the mind of a ten year old girl named Melody. While reading this book, I could feel her perseverance to voice her ideas from a body that wasn’t capable. Melody is my all-time favorite character because she is underestimated but comes out victorious, which is what I wish for anyone I know. 4. Another must read is The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm. As a science fiction lover, this book poses a scientific question and through research, teamwork and unexpected surprises a young girl learns that her grandfather has discovered the fountain of youth. 5. I have read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park to every English Language Learner for the past two years. This is a personal story about being forced from your native land and language and having to adapt to a whole new set of cultural norms. For anyone struggling to get into the hob-

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I look at every new year and set a personal goal”

by of reading, this book is great because at the end of every chapter you are either left feeling hopeful or anxious to find out if the downside will be turned to the upside. 6. If you love romance, please read If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson. It is a young romance but while reading it all I could think about were the characteristics I love about my husband. It reminded me that when we meet that special someone, we know instantly that we love them and this book had me fall in love with him all over again. 7. And finally, any book written by Jason Reynolds is a must read, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You , As Brave as You, All American Boys but if I had to choose one to spotlight it would be A Long Way Down. I was astonished to read a 200-page book that takes place in only sixty seconds. I also love any book written in verse. Being a reluctant reader, I find one can get through this format style quickly while not missing out on quality.

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Photo: Ksenia Chernaya

Dive In!

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Dion Langley

Beat It Like A Drum:

Professional Drummer Dion Langley’s Fight Against Lupus Written by Mia Nicole

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Photo: Frank Rodgers, Jr

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s an independent professional drummer, Dion Langley has worked with some of the biggest names in music. However, when he became sick and ended up hospitalized while on tour, his bandmates had no idea that he had been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, Lupus. Thought to be a disease that only affects women (usually between the ages of 15-45) research has shown that out of every 10 people who have lupus, only 1 is a male. And some males that have it are too embarrassed to admit it. Yet, Dion decided that he wanted to be a voice for men with lupus and became an advocate. What is lupus and does it affect men differently than it does women? We spoke with Dion about his career as a drummer who suffers from lupus and how he intends to “beat lupus.”


Mia Nicole: What is an autoimmune disease? What is lupus? Dion Langley: An autoimmune disease is where the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells. Lupus is an inflammatory disease caused when the immune system is attacking its own tissue. Your body is constantly fighting itself. MN: When were you diagnosed with lupus and how old were you? DL: I was diagnosed with lupus in 2010 and I was 29 years old. I started to see abnormal changes in my body. I lost my appetite and started losing a lot of weight. I was always tired but I didn’t know why. I was sleeping pretty much the majority of the day; I probably spent about 12-15 hours in bed. I would have chest pains so bad that I couldn’t lie flat at night. The only way that I could sleep was either sitting up in a recliner or sitting at an angle with two pillows propped behind my back. One day when I was getting dressed, I realized that I had lost so much weight because my clothes were so loose, that I decided to go to the hospital. MN: There are many symptoms of lupus. What are some that you have experienced? DL: I deal with fatigue, joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and lack of energy. Every now and then I get skin rashes depending on the amount of sun I get. I try not to stay in the sun a lot. In the summer, people don’t understand why I don’t want to go to the beach; they think I am a party pooper. But I don’t leave my house until the sun is down because it affects my health. MN: How long have you played the drums? DL: I have been playing since I was 6 years old. My uncle, Frank Rodgers, Jr. aka “Hot Shot” bought me my first drum set. He literally put the sticks in my hand and I was able to teach myself how to play. My uncle gave me confidence. He was a bass drum-

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I realized that I had lost so much weight because my clothes were so loose, that I decided to go to the hospital

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mer for different churches, and he would always bring me with him. I had gotten so good that if a church needed a drummer, I would play with them. By the time I was in the 5th or 6th grade, I was in a band. I also enjoyed playing with the school’s marching band because I loved the drum line. MN: Has lupus affected your career as a professional drummer? DL: Yes it has. Honestly, lupus affected my career at the height of my career. I was playing with a group called - God’s Boyz and we were moving up in the quartet gospel circuit. I was also traveling with a lot of different artists and bands. Unfortunately, as I was making my mark as a drummer, I ended up being hospitalized for 5 months. That crushed me because I was at the peak of my career and I loved the direction that I was going. I had a couple of important auditions, but because I was in the hospital I couldn’t go. I was devastated. It hurts because I loved drumming and couldn’t do it. But instead, I had to sit there and watched everybody else get gigs and things that you know you deserve. It was very hard. People don’t even really know the amount of energy that I use trying to complete a show, not to mention the pain in my arms and hands. After a show, everyone could see how totally tired and drained I was. It takes so much for me to do so little. What I have learned about playing drums and having lupus is that I have to go the extra mile to do the basic things that a drummer without lupus would have to do. MN: Why is lupus more common in women than it is in men? And does it affect men differently? DL: Because of their genes and hormones. Lupus hits women in their childbearing years when their estrogen levels are highest. African American women are 2 to 3 times more likely to get lupus than any other group. Some girls may get it as early as 13 or 14 years old. Certain medications can affect a man’s testosterone levels and could cause fertility because it can affect our sperm count. Plus the pain lev-

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el for men is different. So they need to come up with a stronger drug for our male hormones. The symptoms are the same, but it seems like men have more kidney and heart problems. I have pericarditis – a disease that affects my heart. Because 90% of lupus patients are women, a lot of men don’t talk about it because they don’t feel masculine. MN: It seems like the word for 2020 was pivot. How were you able to pivot as a musician because of the pandemic? DL: Man, 2020 was a stressful year. Since we had to quarantine, I didn’t have any gigs because they were all canceled. I am a single father and I needed to pivot and come up with creative ways to keep income flowing and take care of my family. I created a campaign called #BeatLupus - which is registered with the Lupus Foundation of America; as well as a #BeatLupus apparel line of hoodies, T-shirts, masks, and more. A portion of the proceeds goes towards a cure for Lupus. Also, you would be surprised at the number of people that come up to me when I have on my #BeatLupus hoodie and tell me that they have lupus or someone they know has it. I have even had a lot of men come up to me saying that they have lupus when they see me in my apparel. That is why I created my logo. On my apparel is a man with muscle, because no man wants to rock a purple heart (purple is the color to promote lupus awareness.) I want men to feel that they can still be strong, masculine, and still have lupus. As an advocate, I didn’t want to walk around with a purple heart on my chest, so I had to sit and think about something that I would feel comfortable wearing. Every time a man orders a shirt, they love it because it is all about being masculine. Men don’t want to feel weak. I also have a #BeatLupus group on Face-

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book. My goal there is to encourage others, especially men to remain positive and continue to live their lives to the fullest while living with Lupus. MN: Your work as an advocate for lupus has gotten you noticed. Tell us something good that happened to you in 2020. DL: In September, I had the privilege of being nominated as a finalist for the 2020 Best Kept Secret Award from Wego Health – the World’s largest network of over 100K Patient Leaders, who work across virtually all health conditions and topics. I was excited and grateful to have been nominated. MN: What is next for you in 2021? DL: Continue with my clothing line. It’s a lot to my clothing and my #BeatLupus organization. I tell people all the time that I take it personally because it really fits and defines me. I also want to continue teaching students through virtual drum lessons. I opened a studio called, OATH a few months ago. I want to start recording for myself and other artists. MN: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? DL: I see myself as being a huge positive influence not just on the lupus community, but on anyone that is dealing with an autoimmune disease. I want to make sure that people never give up; keep pushing and achieve all of the goals that you set in life. Lupus is just a minor setback for me, but it set me up for bigger and better things to come. I am drumming to a different beat and that is to beat lupus. And hopefully, in 5 years from now, we will have a cure for lupus and everyone can say that they #beatlupus.

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I am a single father and I needed to pivot and come up with creative ways to keep income flowing and take care of my family”

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“Let food be thy medicine”

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Photo: MaurĂ­cio Mascaror

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Photo: Jess Vide

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