Urban Sentinel (August 2020 Edition)

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AU G U S T 2020 E D I T I O N


Heals that






From The Desk of The Editor

Reginald Kearney Editor

Corretta L. Doctor

Brandon J. Jolly

Business Manager

Layout Designer

Yvonne Medley

C. NaTasha Richburg



The year is moving fast, we are entering the month of August and there are only four months left in the 2020 calendar year. July was an extremely hot month, not just the high temperatures and daily issues, but this country is still fighting the Covid-19 virus, and the protests continue. This month’s magazine features many engaging stories that cover a broad range of topics. The cover story for this month features Tina Lifford. Tina is an author, playwright, coach, and actress, that comes to Urban Sentinel to share a look into her personal development studio, ‘The Inner Fitness Project’. Popular in a variety of film and television roles, Tina is best known as Violet Bordelon, affectionately called “Aunt Vi”, on the critically acclaimed drama ‘Queen Sugar’ that is executive produced by Ava DuVernay, with Oprah Winfrey serving as an executive producer. Desmond Sean Ellington a vocalist and actor, shares his success story that begins in Oklahoma and makes it all the way to Broadway where he was cast in the Tony award winning play ‘Hamilton’. E.W. Brooks is a North Carolina author and filmmaker that shares a message about protecting your literary work and her recent win against a popular hiphop mogul in court.

Musa Bangura

Anita Davis-DeFoe



Stacey Henry-Carr

Bridgette Alfred



Cameron Posey Writer

The Urban Sentinel Magazine Address: 102 Discovery Ct.

During the month of July we lost two great civil rights leaders. The first leader who passed away was Rev. C. T. Vivian who died at the age of 95. The late Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said that he was one of the best preachers he ever heard preach. Next, we lost Congressman John Lewis who was a great civil rights icon who was the last living member of the ‘Big Six’ civil rights leaders. These great leaders will be missed by everyone in this country. We are striving to be a favorite magazine to readers around the world. We are reaching homes across nations and sharing stories of empowerment, inspiration and entertainment from the film, music and literary industries. In keeping with our broad approach to bringing you the very best information in a highly professional manner, we are adapting to a few changes. First, this issue will be the last complimentary issue as we transition towards a ‘pay-toread’ magazine on the Issuu platform. Beginning in September the cost of a single issue will be $5 dollars per issue or at a discounted $50 per year for a 12-issue subscription. Secondly, we are adding additional writers from around the world to bring you global stories that will give you a broader look into culture and resources from places that many of us only to dream about!

La Plata, Maryland 20646 Phone: 301-661-3989 Editor Reginald Kearney Advertising Inquiries Phone: 301-661-3989 E-mail: reginald.kearney@marylanddailyexaminer.com Website: www.urbansentinel.com


We value the feedback from our readers because it helps us to grow. Please email me at reginald.kearney@marylanddailyexaminer.com with your feedback. If you would like to advertise with us, send an email with the word ‘Advertise’ in the subject line. Like us on Facebook at The Urban Sentinel and follow us on Twitter at @UrbanSentinel and Instagram at @theurbansentinel. Thank you for continuing to support Urban Sentinel magazine, tell your friends about us and enjoy this month’s edition.



The Leather Man

Global Business Connections!! Meet Dr. Soha M. El Baklawy- Egypt


The Rising Star of Indie Artist Natalie Jean



Desmond Sean Ellington’s Star is on the Rise


The Invasion of Portland


My COVID-19 Story: May This Never Be My New Normal


COVID-19 When Change is Inevitable


Yvonne Witter - UK


E.W. Brooks Maffietta Lives On!


A Voice in The Black Lives Matter Movement


Tina Lifford Identity Your True Self


Extraordinary You


Raising Daughters


The Rising Star of Indie Artist Natalie Jean


Start Fresh


Together We Go Far, Alone We Go Fast


Out of Tragedy Comes Inspiration


The Multifaceted Career of Multimedia Executive Rob Schwartz


Literature Spotlight: J.D. Mason


Get Lifted!


Guard Against Identity Theft





Desmond Sean Ellington’s Star is on the Rise!

by jc gardner for the urban sentinel Desmond’s road to stardom began where many African Americans get their start, and it wasn’t in a performance arts or music school. It was in in Oklahoma, where his family lived. While there, Desmond found his footing from singing in the choir to performing in Christmas plays and Easter skits. He recalled as if it were yesterday being incredibly young, maybe around six or seven, and noticed his Easter part was always so long, while the other kids were significantly shorter. He approached the youth director in charge and asked why were his Easter speeches so long? She responded, “Because I know you could do it.” Those words planted seeds in him that took root, and it was something he would refer back to time and time again. Music was a staple in his household, where he and his siblings always dabbled in singing together, but they were restricted to gospel music, like the Walter Hawkins and the Winans. Singing came naturally to him, along with childhood dreams of being a singer and then a famous movie star. Desmond’s parents sang growing up, but his dad made sure they were all involved with singing. To this day, they even talk to each other using song lyrics. His musical pathway was not always clear-cut. Because he excelled in his studies and was in the gifted and talented program in school, after high school, he headed to the university with an engineering scholarship. But he was miserable studying engineering. His heart just wasn’t into it. He was at a crossroads. He knew he had to leave school and making that call home to his mother, who he was close with, was difficult. He noted, “I’m not scared of a lot of things, but talk about fear and 4

trembling before making that phone call…it was a struggle.” After a lot of hesitation and second-guessing, he called his mother. To his surprise, his mother was extremely supportive. She told him, “I can’t help you in the way you want to go. However, I give you permission to go and figure it out.” Those words were the best profound, influential words that he needed at that time. Using his connections from singing and networking in college, he made his way to Atlanta…and mom was right there, offering financial, spiritual, and moral support. He was able to stay with a friend who had just bought a spacious home with plenty of room for Desmond. Always having a place to lay his head was a divine intervention that follows him to this day. Once in Atlanta, he was hired to sing in clubs and soon began a career as a background singer. He’s been in the studio with producers who have worked with Yolanda Adams and Kurt Carr, to name a few. Desmond notes that to work and have staying power in this industry you need that likeability factor: “Everybody can sing, but the real question is do people want to work with you?” He prides himself on being teachable and coachable so he can be the best he can be, which has served him well in being recommended for other opportunities, where the door may have otherwise been closed. After several years, his time in Atlanta was ending, he



gave Nashville a chance. He stayed with a cousin, where he did extra work on TV shows like, “Nashviille,” and he thrived being on set. This was all well and good, but where was the music? It seemed it was elusive and the closer he got to it, the further it drifted down the road. Desmond remembers being frustrated and surrendering to God. He prayed and said, “If there is something else, let me know what it is.” He wanted the music career so badly, but perhaps he was chasing the wrong dream. Shortly after that prayer, he got a call from a connection about a casting call for a bio-musical about the life of BeBe Winans. He went back to Atlanta, auditioned, and got the part.

This was a lot to memorize in a truly short time. But why were his Easter speeches long again? Because he could do it! After five auditions over two months, he received a phone call from the casting director. She offered him a contract for the Hamilton Philip Tour. He was cast as a principal standby. Prior to COVID-19, he’d been touring with the cast for the past two and half years but after eighteen months, he became the principal actor for the Hercules Mulligan/James Madison role. He noted, “It goes to show when you dare to take the leap, Oprah said God can dream a bigger dream than you can for yourself.” He’s watched so many dreams of talented people cut short. He hopes his life is a living witness to others that you can use your gifts to succeed in your purpose.

Being on that stage was an epiphany. He was chasing a Desmond is a walking testimony that God will indeed grant music career, but his true calling was always right there at the desires of your heart. his fingertips, waiting for him to embrace it with his arms opened wide. Once the Winans tour ended, he decided to reach out to his agent to follow-up on any opportunities. The agent astounded him saying, “You’d be great for Hamilton. I’ll get you an audition.” Desmond took it with a grain of salt. He was like, “Okay, sure,” not expecting anything of it. But one Friday, he got a call from the agent saying he got him the audition. “With who?” Desmond asked “With Hamilton. You are going to go in there and kill it.” That was mind blowing, but he had to get ready. He had to rap, sing, and remember ten, yes ten songs for two different roles in three days!





PORTLAND by jay arrington for the urban sentinel

Jesús and four friends were heading to a protest against police brutality when they were seized by a group of plainclothes officers and forced into an unmarked pickup truck. “Nobody knows where you are,” the cops told Jesús. “We’re going to disappear you.” Excerpted from 'We'll disappear you': Mexican protesters recount terror of police abduction- The Guardian June 8, 2020. 8

Most Americans likely will see the event such as the one referenced above and dismiss it as the lawless behavior one might expect in so-called dystopian countries but certainly not in the United States. Perhaps that would have been the appropriate sentiment in the past. However, twice, within the last six weeks, scenes like this have played out on the streets of America. In bold defiance of well-established law, in early June Attorney General Barr ordered Bureau of Prison employees

-absent identifying insignia- onto the streets of Washington, DC to control largely peaceful protesters under the guise of protecting Federal buildings. The latest Federal invasion in Portland, Oregon continues to play itself out in real time. § 5–331.09. Identification of MPD personnel policing First Amendment assemblies. The MPD shall implement a method for enhancing the visibility to the public of the name or badge number of officers policing a First Amendment assembly by modifying the manner in which those officers’ names or badge numbers are affixed to the officers’ uniforms or helmets. The MPD shall ensure that all uniformed officers assigned to police First Amendment assemblies are equipped with the enhanced identification and may be identified even if wearing riot gear. In what appeared to be a totally unprovoked attack, one of the unidentified “riot control” officers fired a non-lethal weapon into the face of an unarmed protestor causing serious injuries that required the insertion of a titanium plate into the forehead of the protestor who remains in serious condition. What we are witnessing are practice runs for how Trump, aided by Barr, will attempt to stay in office. Much like hackers who conduct trial runs to gauge the reaction of law enforcement and educate themselves about the countermeasures taken by corporate entities that find themselves victims of such cyberattacks, Trump and Barr are conducting and engaging in Marshall Law on-the-job-training. Using Bureau of Prison employees and not the military who by now Trump and Barr

realize will not enable authoritarian behavior by following unlawful orders. A lawsuit, filed in Oregon U.S. District Court, by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says the agents violated the civil rights of Oregon residents using unlawful tactics and seeks to bar the agencies from arresting people without probable cause or a warrant. One person arrested described having a hood placed over their head and spirited away to an unknown location only to find out later they were at the Federal Courthouse. However, once the person asked for a lawyer, they were released without explanation as to who detained them and why they were detained. All without ever being Mirandized. Disgraceful. And speaking of disgraceful. In an interview with Fox’s Chris Wallace this past Sunday, Trump, when asked if he would honor the results of the upcoming presidential election, would not answer the question one way or the other. Couple this with Trump’s ongoing war against mailin voting, Federal officers invading American cities, and we have further evidence that the man has no intentions of exiting with grace. And with crickets from the GOP grace has become anathema. The man cannot even navigate an exit ramp gracefully. Imagine Trump, especially with the specter of jail time in his future, exiting the presidency gracefully. Go ahead. Imagine. I’ll wait. He’ll “disappear” us first.



the Leather


by reginald kearney for the urban sentinel Urban Sentinel magazine recently had the opportunity to interview one of the leading leather designers in the world who’s exclusive brand is renowned for its high end men’s and women’s genuine 100% calf and sheep skin jackets. Michael Lombard has established himself as one of the world’s most sort after designers when it comes to outfits that are made with some of the best quality leather in the world. Michael, I see that you do a lot of business around the world. So I assume that you are based out of Washington, D.C. Michael Lombard: I am based out of Maryland, where I attended the University of Maryland, but my hometown is New York City. It is known that fashion is seen as a universal term that brings out the ‘creativeness’ in people. Where does your sense of fashion and creativity come from? Michael Lombard: I keep getting ask this question a lot and I think it keeps evolving over time. I do a lot of traveling around the world and I have been to a lot of places, I have been to South Africa, Dubai and Monaco. I just starting pulling ideals from things I see, such as architecture, and culture. As I get a creative ideal, I can’t wait to get back, so I always bring my sketch book and I always start sketching whatever my 10

thought process may be. Usually it ends up being a collection. So traveling has been my inspiration lately and I am being inspired by all kinds of cultures and architecture. I was looking at one of your creations which was in the form of a tear gas mask. Tell the reader’s how you came up with this design. Michael Lombard: I have a team for that. I do basic mask designs such as goggles and I work with different head piece makers to accentuate my outfits. So I will come up and say I am thinking about doing my World War M collection and I will be thinking about the First World War. I am thinking about gas mask with studs and diamonds, so I put the word out and it comes back to me. I pretty much design the whole mask, but I don’t have time to make them because I am concentrating on my outfits. That is why I have a good team who can take the design and bring it to fruition for me. What was the very first piece of fashion that you designed and sold? Michael Lombard: The very first piece I made was a men’s jacket made out of calfskin, with gold zippers on it. I made it for me but someone wanted to buy it and it was sold two days later.


Forbes, and GQ magazines. What year was it when you sold your very first piece? Michael Lombard: I sold this piece in 2017. How did ‘leather’ become your creative material of choice? Michael Lombard: Great question. I have always been a lover of leather, and I would always buy leather jackets throughout my existence. So one day I was thinking, I am a great sketcher, I know how to make patterns, so why can’t I make jackets for me. Why do I need to keep buying other people’s jackets, why don’t I make my own? I made three jackets from my design, which includes the first jacket I made for me, then I posted it on the internet, and I was contacted by New York Fashion Week. They asked me if I would like to be a part of New York Fashion Week and I told them that I was not a designer. I told them that I made these designs for me. They ask me how long would it take me to make 15 outfits and I felt that this was an honor for me because I am not a fashion designer. I asked them when would the event be and they said in two months and I told them that I would have the outfits for them and I went back and said to myself is this real. It was really fast, so I started by sketching and designing 25 pieces, I went to New York Fashion Week, and they loved me. The Huffington Post was there and they wrote an article about me, calling me the “King of Leather”. From there it took off. The rest is history, 140 news outlets, 99 magazines, such as Vogue, Glamour,


What determines the type of leather that you buy? Michael Lombard: You have to have great manufactures, great sourcing and great sources of leather. The reason I decided on leather is because no one was doing leather, it is very expensive, so I knew that there wouldn’t be much competition. I source the best leather in the world. I only do high end sheepskin and high end calfskin. You have to find the best manufactures’ so each time you get the product, it will always be the same.

Who is your biggest clientele base, celebrities or noncelebrities? Michael Lombard: My clientele base is definitely high end given the fact that my collections range from $1500 to $40,000. I have dressed a lot of celebrities from Paula Abdul, Lele Pons, Ovy On The Drums, and the list goes on and on. Altogether I have dressed around 40 celebrities. What goes into a $40,000 designer outfit? Michael Lombard: There is a lot to it because it is a customize jacket, it’s the high end texture of the leather, and most of the time these jackets are fully studded. It could take up to a month to make one outfit, and a lot of times it is your name that makes the outfit valuable. These jackets are rare as most

of the time my range is $1500 to $12,000. Do you make one of a kind designs for your clients? Michael Lombard: And this is why they pay the big money, because these are one-offs, because if I do a really good design, my thought process is that I want to sale it to everyone. If I am going to make only one, it is going to cost you because it is a really good design. There are times that they will ask me to make them an exclusive outfit based on an outfit that I have for sale on my site. I tell them that I can do it but it will cost more, so I may add more studs or alter the design somewhat, so it can be exclusive to my client. You went to the University of Maryland. Do you have an educational background in fashion? Michael Lombard: I majored in Government and Politics with a minor in Business Management. I thought that I was going to be a lawyer. What is your best advice you can give to emerging fashion

designers? Michael Lombard: I am asked this question all of the time. I think about my answer all of the time and the answer has evolved. The thought that I had last year, may change this year. Knowing the industry that I know now and even through my Forbes interview when they were asking me about racism in fashion, 99% of all designers are not going to make it. They are not because the industry is so over saturated that no one knows what to buy or who to buy. If you go to Instagram, every second post is some kind of designer making something. Just don’t go into this business thinking that you are going to make it because this is a business. You have to have capital, you have to have money. You may be able to make beautiful dress, and no one may see it. This is a dog eat dog world as you have to concentrate on marketing, raising money and getting your name known. When I start I didn’t go after the money, and this is where many designers make their mistake because no one knows you, so how can you raise money. Who is going to buy you? So I went the route of getting people to know the name Michael Lombard because they are not buying the



days? Michael Lombard: The Covid-19 virus is a big challenge now because businesses are closed down and when stores open back up, people will not be buying a lot of product. The store is open in London as this area has open back up, and customers can still order online. I have also been doing a lot of magazine interviews. What is the next step in your career? Michael Lombard: I have a sneaker line coming out, and I have also been making purses and backpacks which involve using leather. This is a nature progression for me as I have leather jackets and now I have shoes and purses. He also mention that he was the only Black designer to be sponsored by Monster drinks. According to his website this international celebrity fashion designer started out as a record label executive and he quickly realized his passion for designing and creating something unique in the fashion industry. He is crowned as “The King of Leather” by Huffington Post, and his collections have been worn by professional athletes to music stars around the world. product, they are buying the name. The name is more valuable than the clothes. By getting my name in magazines around the world, once this happens, people began to know who you are and they buy your designs. So don’t get in the industry thinking that you are going to be the next Gucci. Do you do internship’s? Michael Lombard: I have had interns, but they just wanted to work with me, so I have them to help me with the marketing and media interviews. This learning helps them and it helps me to run my business. Do you have a small showroom where you can show your designs? Michael Lombard: I actually have product in a high end boutique store which is located in London called ‘The Cherry Moon’, and I have another store opening in August in Northern Ireland. So most of my designs are online and I am beginning to go into stores. Michael also stated that he would not be opening a store in Washington, D.C., but if more stores were open they would be in Milan, Paris, and London. What is the greatest challenge for fashion designers these 14


MAY THIS NEVER BE MY NEW NORMAL by pastor cheryl gaines, esq. for the urban sentinel fighting and the counsel to, “Never hit your little sister,” and, “Stop trying to bully your brother just because you are the little sister.” I cried because my grandson’s tears didn’t stop when I asked him to hug his mother for me, so he could feel a loving touch to soothe his longing heart. And I cried when he said as he returned from the caress, “And I miss Daddy, too.”

For the first time today, I cried. I didn’t cry because I have been isolating in my room for eighteen days. Nor did I cry because of the pain in my chest and lungs that has been so excruciating that it literally takes my breath away with every cough. None of those things have elicited a single tear. But when my six-year-old grandson, [name omitted], cried because he misses me, I cried. I cried because just like he misses the caresses of his Nana. Nana misses the caresses of her grandchildren. I miss him and his four-year-old sister, running around my house. I miss them falling down because they are running in their socks despite my pleas to, “at least take your socks off before you start running around, so you won’t hurt yourself.” I miss their toys in all-the-wrong-places and I miss the loving way they play together until one of them gets on the other’s nerves, and they start fighting. Yes, I even miss the

Daddy, my son, is incarcerated. I think one can only imagine the heart of a mother whose son is incarcerated in congregate living, during a virus like the pandemic we are now facing. I cried because my son, a first-time nonviolent offender, who was, I feel, treated like a Mob Boss instead of the man, husband, father, son—and the U.S. Army veteran, he is—who made an awful mistake and a bad choice, one time.

contributed to society in meaningful ways, like military service, but who are locked up, though not isolated, like me, during this era of COVID-19, could be home to embrace their children. They could be home to provide the familial leadership needed in such a time as this. They could once again enter society to provide meaningful economic contributions and to support families like mine. Today, due to COVID-19, I cried. But this is not my new normal, and never shall it be. SIDEBAR: Rev. Cheryl Mitchell Gaines, Esq., lives in Washington, D.C., is a senior pastor of an inner-city church, and is the author of the children’s book, titled KwesiMan and Fuzzyland. It delights all young readers and informs parents about the growing prevalence of children who are suffering from asthma, especially in black communities—and it offers solutions. She is also a member of the Life Journeys Writers Guild, Inc. Pastor Gaines has recovered and is working to gain a Compassionate Release for her son, and others like him.

My son entered a plea to a one-time drug offense, and there were plenty of character witnesses at his sentencing, including the representatives of an alternative program, willing to take him in and put him to work for the good of the community, and at-risk youth. But I can’t help wondering if it was his blackness that ironically made the black judge tell all the character witnesses, “You don’t know him. I do,” when he proceeded to sentence my son to the harshest sentence that I have ever seen despite my 30 years of practice in the same profession that allowed the judge to make that sentence. Today, I know that though my tears and my grandson’s tears were sparked by our longing to see one another. I also know that there are thousands of black mothers and grandmothers like me who know that their sons, and others, who are nonviolent, who




by yvonne witter for the urban sentinel How do we cope with change when the unexpected Covid 19 is all about change? We had to alter our buying habits, and grocery items. Public entertainment disappeared overnight, and the patterns of our social life and work routines for many were severely altered. Marginalised workers, overnight became essential workers and as such recognised if not in pay and conditions, at least in the hearts and minds of the populous in countries where essential services and those that deliver them became the focus of acknowledgement, applause, conversation and concern. But what if you’re not an essential worker, what then eh? Some people’s jobs are secure, such as teachers, postal workers, public transport workers, bank staff and so on. But that leaves many with a precarious future, because having service industries closed down during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s questionable whether some restaurants and shops will reopen. So how do we cope in the midst of a crisis like this? Do we pivot to the left, or do we pivot to the right? and what is left and what is right in this circumstance? I heard someone say recently that human beings are highly adaptable, and people will find a way out of this. I believe that is true, but in order to find a way they have to first learn to be still. The government guideline to stay in your house and not leave unless you have an essential journey is an opportunity for stillness, and by stillness I mean taking the opportunity for deep reflection, on where we are now and where we want to be, and how might we get there. Too many people are sitting like, light rabbits in the headlights waiting to ‘go back to normal’. Post-Covid planning is what I mean here. I am not entirely sure that this period of turbulence is a time to necessarily learn a new skill or build a new business or do something previously unimaginable. However, if you are inclined to, that is a good thing, but I do not believe that people should feel pressurised amidst all the 16

emotional turmoil they are already going through. I do not think anyone should feel pressurised to 'achieve' just for the sake of it. I do hope though that we can take the time for reflection, for looking at what we’ve achieved, acknowledging our achievements, remembering and reminding ourselves of aspirations we had for our business, and looking at how possibly latent dreams could now be reconsidered. Were you really enjoying what you were doing pre the pandemic or had your work become a drudge? Be honest now, were you jumping out of bed in the mornings feeling a bounce in your step and excited to get the job done or were you dragging yourself into work buoyed up by the designer coffee? So how about considering changes to your current service provision if you are self-employed, in order to remain relevant. You know, so that people do not forget about you. One woman I know who makes novelty cakes for parties, she got in touch to say that she was doing a box of cakes that would be delivered to my door. I placed an order even though I am swiftly growing a third chin. I did that because I wanted to support her business. I paid for them online three days before they arrived and the box of six comfort treats was delivered on Friday as promised in time for afternoon tea, and there were some delicious treats in that box, a slab of carrot cake, millionaire shortbread, coconut and jam cupcake and much more, I was spoilt for choice. My friend who runs a training business has taken her courses online, some fitness instructors doing Zumba classes are using YouTube and various other online media to keep their classes growing. The question everyone has to ask themselves is how willing they are to adapt, and what does adaptation mean to them and their business, or life in general.

Yvonne Witter UK, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. Adept at overcoming both personal and professional obstacles, Yvonne started her first businesses amidst a divorce, whilst raising her teenage son, never once second-guessing her decision to leave behind a senior job with a local authority. Pushing through her distress, she emerged stronger than ever and by 2010, had been named Southwark Businesswoman of the Year, began two successful businesses and had accepted her first overseas assignment.

Southwark Businesswoman of the Year 2009, Royal Society of Arts Fellow, Media & Arts major and cancer survivor Yvonne Witter has spent over 20 years coaching, capacity building and training small businesses, solopreneurs and NGOs across six continents to realise their potential. Yvonne’s passion for guiding entrepreneurs (women in particular) to achieve increased independence and confidence was realised via her Enterprise4Women brand, which she founded in 2005. Whilst nurturing community members in-person and online, she maintained her business and management consultancy brand, Ampod Limited, which provided international services from 2003 to 2012. Through Ampod, Enterprise4Women and her current consultancy brand, Yvonne P Witter, the award-winning business expert has lead on regeneration, capacity-building and social projects with budgets of up to £2million in the

Yvonne says, “I am driven to enable others to succeed. I know that I have contributed to the bigger picture of alleviating worklessness in Britain and beyond and have helped people explore and realise their dreams of becoming self-employed” Her work includes a collection of non-fiction published in anthologies; newspaper and magazine articles. Books: Why Do I Love These People; Hair, Power & Skin Revolution; The Voice Newspaper; Tunza Spirit; Black Success Stories, Huddersfield Literature Festival website, European Journal; Service or Servitude? Customer Service in the African Caribbean Business (2013); This is Us: Black British Women and Girls: 2May 2019; Yorkshire Writers Lunch Blogspot. www.yvonnepwitter.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/yvonnepwitter/



Global Business Connections! Meet Dr. Soha M. El Baklawy - Egypt by dr. anita davis-defoe for the urban sentinel Who am I? I'm Soha M. El Baklawy, I've always been passionate about empowering women; no matter what I believe that "There is Nothing a Woman Can Not Do!". Therefore, I started investing in my professional career and working on my selfdevelopment. By the age of 30, I was the General Manager for our family business in Egypt (chain of pharmacies/ stock market accounts and a para-pharmaceutical company). I was managing more than 90 employees while supporting others to develop their career paths and working over my progress. The next step was taking MBA to grow my experience and knowledge in implementing new management styles. And since I am a risk-taker by nature, I chose a very fresh and global business trend topic for my dissertation of the graduation project, Which was "Strategic Alliance and Why it Fails?" to simplify (Strategic Alliance is a type of Business Collaboration). Afterward, I took a Change Management course, in which I learned the importance of adapting to CHANGE as well as adopting new perspectives, currently studying DBA through John Sulston business school. Consequently, I got Nominated in Egycham 6th annual conference as 1 of the top 5 success stories owing to the fact that I was working almost entirely "out of the box".

In March 2020, I was afforded the opportunity to travel with the Michigan Association of Female Entrepreneurs (MAFE) to Egypt. We attended the Women’s Economic Forum which was being staged in Cairo and I had the opportunity to speak at the conference, meet with local businesses and nonprofits and of course immerse myself in the cultural magic of the Nile, the Pyramids and so much more. One of the highlights also was meeting Dr. Soha M. El Baklawy, the visionary who started Businessita, a company that provides business tools and information to women-led companies. We are now business partners and are working jointly to deliver business services. Global business connections unlock the door to countless possibilities‌..meet Dr. Soha M. El Baklawy The story behind Businessita: 18

By January 2018, I wanted to start my own business, Since I was a general manager and am passionate about management development, I wanted to launch something related to the business field and yet something very unique, that would fill a Market GAP. The first idea was a Strategic Alliance Consultation Firm, but sadly this idea had not quenched my passion thirst just yet (especially because I always have a feeling that one day I will change the world inshALLAH). Then a spark lit in my head that I always loved the idea of supporting and empowering women. And there you have it, I thought of merging both which is implementing strategic alliance but on a different level not only based on my collaboration but also on the collaboration of a whole community of women. Supporting and empowering each other in the business field to share experience, solve problems, decrease risks, pool business resources, etc. And of course, my target is a global

rather than a local community. In less than 2 years after the company’s inception, I have received three awards of appreciation (2 national and 1 international) for Businessita Women Empowerment’s active role in society empowering women in business. Furthermore, within 1.5 year of career shifting, I have joined some of the well reputed international women empowerment and startup associations such as Cherie Blair Foundation, FiveOne Labs (Iraqi incubator) and FasterCapital (a venture based in Dubai) as a business mentor. Finally and most proudly I have been offered an exceptional opportunity of joining The International Alliance of Women (TIAW) board as a media VP. Being the youngest and the only board member from the Middle East region, due to my outstanding achievements and character. Dr. Soha El Baklawy is the first Egyptian to win the international “World of Difference”award for woman economic empowerment in business. Dr. Soha El Baklawy founder of Businessita Women Empowerment initiative proudly won the “World of Difference” award from TIAW & WCEI associations (with UN WOMEN support) as the first Egyptian to win such an award for conducting one of the best initiatives for women economic empowerment, globally. Noting that the “World of

Difference “award is an award of recognition and appreciation for the world’s outstanding corporative initiatives for women economic empowerment Dr. Soha El Baklawy expressed her overjoy victoriously as the first Egyptian to win such an award placing Egypt on the world’s map for woman entrepreneurship. In addition to Dr. Soha El Baklawy expressed how fortunate she is to get an exceptional opportunity of joining TIAW as a VP and social entrepreneurship board member. Pointing out that such an opportunity has escalated her accountability with regard to further research and development enhancing women entrepreneurship in Egypt, creating fellowship programs with the support of national and international associations for women's economic empowerment in business. Keeping in mind that Businessita initiative targets women from the age of 18 to 65 with professional/nonprofessional backgrounds who want to start /develop their businesses/ careers. basically through mentorship, training and business consultations providing them with “a stop shop” for their business inquiries supporting their business models helping them achieve their business goals. Excelling in their businesses efficiently whilst developing themselves professionally. Businessita and Upshift Global are elated to be partnering and expanding the capacity of women-led business globally.





LIVES ON! by jc gardner for the urban sentinel Urban Sentinel had a chance to catch up to literary artist, Edwyna Books (E.W. Brooks) about her popular Mafietta book series, being an author and film producer, and how she fought and stood up to an entertainment mogul and won! Please share your writing journey with our readers: I’m just a country girl from North Carolina. When I was younger and just learning to write, like around ages seven or eight, I began to express myself. My grandmother was a retired schoolteacher, and we used to exchange letters back and forth. That helped me with my writing skills early on. As time passed, English was something that always came easily and naturally. I remember in college one of my English professors read one of my papers and asked if I thought about writing, like as a career. At the time, I said, “No.” Then some friends mentioned the same thing to me, as people would always ask me to help them write or could I proofread things for them. It didn’t hit me until years later that maybe this is what I’m supposed to be doing. What was your career path before becoming a bestselling author? I worked in customer service and advertising. That really helped me understand marketing, which would prove invaluable once my books series was published. It allowed me to take it to another level. How was Mafietta born? When I got married, my husband was in the military, and he took me away from that customer service world. When you’re in the rat race, you don’t take the time to focus, be still or listen. I had written those first few pages before I got married and 20

put it away. In 2013, during our transitional period looking for housing, I was alone a lot in the hotel room and pregnant, so I started working on it again and in two weeks, the book was done. I always envisioned it being a movie. To help promote it, I ended up creating two book trailers (by different directors) and sold to all of my friends and family. With some strategic marketing, it was picked up by a publishing company, and became an Amazon bestseller. Tell us about your experience with Damon Dash. My husband had a training in Tennessee, and I opted to go home to North Carolina with our baby. I found out after I got home that Damon Dash was conducting a seminar within ten miles of where I would be located. He had been on a popular internet radio show talking about how he was investing in

women, promoting business entrepreneurship, and making movies. I really believed God had put him in my path for a reason. I’m an avid watcher of Shark Tank and learned so much about pitching your product. I bought a ticket to the seminar and when it was my time speak, I really sold my book series. He was impressed and even noted that I was ready based on what I had already done with the books, having a script and book trailer. Within two weeks, we were in pre-production filming a pilot. It was a fast-moving train. A week before filming, I presented him with a contract, that he didn’t sign at the time. Sadly, on the first day of filming, I had to attend the funeral of my mom’s fiance’, however, on that first day of filming, he worked on shooting unrelated music videos on my dime, which wasn’t our agreement. We had a lot of creative differences, but the bottom line was he never signed the contract, but I really wanted it to work. As the sole financier, I had a lot of money tied up into the process. I told him from the beginning I had $10,000 budget. Next thing I knew, I had spent $40,000. I was putting up the money, and he was putting up the sweat equity. We ended up with a 17-minute short film; in turn, I entered it into the International Black Film Festival in Nashville, TN and won. At this point, however, we were no longer on speaking terms.

I wanted to enter it into other film festivals, but I found out by a third party that he had uploaded my film to a streaming service for monetary gain without my permission. It was clearly trademark and copyright infringement. To this day, I still don’t know how much money he earned by doing that, and he never provided it to the court. I won a significant case against him in September 2019. What is one of your biggest lessons learned from this experience? As trusting as you want to be of people, it doesn’t matter if it’s not on paper with the proper signatures. It has helped to shape who I am today as a person. I’m now working with a new production company where I have creative control. What’s next for E.W. Brooks? I have realized film is my passion. I would love to produce a series of films for myself Tyler Perry style. I’ve already adapted a few of my books to scripts. As soon as we return back to the States and regroup, I hope to start filming. Also, I really wanted to help other authors protect themselves and avoid going through what I went through. Even in the media – the way they reported my story – it wasn’t the total truth. That’s why I wrote the book, “Brooks vs. Damon Dash.” My film was stolen, and I wanted it back. This book highlights the 14-month battle to get it back. URBAN SENTINEL | AUGUST 2020



BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT by reginald kearney for the urban sentinel The names listed below are just a few of the African Americans who have been killed by the hands of police officers in this country. Michael Brown-August 9, 2014 Elijah McClain-August 30, 2019 Ahmaud Arbery-February 23, 2020 Breonna Taylor-March 13, 2020 George Floyd-May 25, 2020 Rayshard Brooks-June 12, 2020 The officers who were a part of these hideous crimes took an oath to serve and protect, that failed horribly. Each of these killings resulted in protests in cities throughout the country, including Toledo, Ohio. Julian Mack, a young activist, works hard at keeping citizens involved in the Toledo protests, a city located in Northwest Ohio. Julian is in the Black Lives Movement. He believes that it is important for everyone to be active participants in their own survival. As I interviewed Julian, his ‘passion purpose’ shined through his voice and 22

I felt every expression of his sentiments. Julian Mack credits his mother as the catalyst that got him involved in politics. At age 12 Julian knocked on doors in local campaigns encouraging voters to go to the polls. Julian continued his love for politics when he attended the University of Toledo at Bowling Green, Ohio where he served as president of the College Democratic club. Julian continued his work in politics, even working on the first Obama-Biden campaign. While in college, Julian says, “Life happened and I ended up on probation.” Julian saw a greater need to become more active in his community. In his mid-twenties he began to notice a gap in political strength surrounding issues of African Americans. Often, Julian had random encounters with law enforcement that made him uncomfortable. The police would stop

and frisk him, often with aggressive behavior that led Julian to feel like was endangered. He felt like he would be the next ‘Michael Brown,’ a young AfricanAmerican man killed in Ferguson, Missouri under the suspicion of police injustice. Julian adds, “I wanted to go to Ferguson, Missouri but I did not have a car and my employer suggested that I not go.” During the Ferguson, Missouri riots Julian was watching live streaming on his mobile device while also watching national media coverage on the television. He saw a real difference in the reporting from each side. Julian began protesting. A loss of sleep and a loss of focused caused him to step up his efforts in fighting justice. During his lunch break he would walk the streets of Toledo with ‘his hands’ up to show solidarity with the protestors in Ferguson, Missouri. He protested

for seven weeks on his lunch break and often time’s people would join him. In December 2014 Julian joined the Community Solidarity Response Network (CSRN) which is a civilian group that monitors activity and civilian complaints on the police, politicians and clergy in Toledo. This group has really been building there political base over the years. Julian stated that it is important to be a part of the politics because Toledo is a Democratic city, however it is also important to be equally plugged in to all branches of local politics. When asked about his thoughts of the recent police killings, Julian states “it was one of the most difficult things to know that you could be next and not become desensitized to the traumatic displays of terror that we are subjected to on a regular basis.” “I originally didn’t intend to watch

the George Floyd video” says Julian. “I didn’t watch it for a few days because I could tell by the language people were using that the video was graphic. I didn’t need to see the video in order to fight the issue. It took about three or four days for me to watch the video and it relit a fire as I heard Floyd call out for his mother. I also could not get the officers facial expressions out of my mind.” Julian was gassed up and ready to drive to Minneapolis to join the George Floyd protests, but then he got a tweet from an organizer and it said that they didn’t need any more organizers. She suggested that they should organize protests in their own communities. Julian’s group planned a protest for May 30th in Toledo and while doing a podcast on the subject, they got word that the police precinct in Minneapolis was on fire. At that moment Julian and his group realized that this was a different situation.

Since 2016 police reform has been taking place in the city of Toledo. They have held marches protesting against police brutality and police surveillance. Because of the increased surveillance, protest are escalated. Police should stay distanced from the protesters to reduce interference with the marchers and the right to protest. When asked if questionable police killings from the last 10 years should be investigated given the recent police killings Julian stated “absolutely, we should go back as far as we can so we can get a clearer picture of what is going on in America.” Julian agrees with the call-to-action that the police should be defunded, and the funds should be put back into the community. Julian also agrees to take police officers out of the situations that they are not trained to handle. The safest communities seem to be the ones that have the resources. Julian states” politics is in my future and I plan to run for the City Council in 2021 and it could be sooner because of some issues here in Toledo.” He also states “the Black community should also provide for their own safety, they should teach Black history to the people and Blacks should develop more sustainable communities that are affordable.” We should build our own independent institutions outside the colonial institutions here in America, because they use our own tax dollars to kill us. America needs to invest more money into the Black community. According to a June 24th news report on NBC 24, Julian Mack and his group are still hard at work since the May 30th protest. A number of changes have taken place in the police department surrounding police reform in Toledo, Ohio. Remember the name Julian Mack.




ina T Lifford ID ENT I FY YOUR T RUE SEL F by corretta l. doctor for the urban sentinel

Tina Lifford is one of America’s favorite television Aunt’s and she is an important ICON in the world of inner fitness and well-being. The Hollywood veteran and award-winning actress portrays Violet Bordelon on OWN’s ‘Queen Sugar’, an original drama series by filmmaker Ava DuVernay. Tina Lifford is CEO of The Inner Fitness Project, an initiative committed to making the practices and benefits of ‘inner fitness’ as familiar, well understood, and actionable as those of ‘physical fitness’. The mind and body should be aligned. The unimaginable situations facing our world today have increased awareness on staying healthy and being consciously aware of our mental capacity to understand and adapt to things we cannot control. The universe spoke and our mind and bodies have to respond. There is no more time to live behind a façade or mask. Identify, not discover, your true self. To discover means you had to look for it, to identify means you have to

acknowledge it. Your true self is a part of you, many of us live superficially because of the false teachings and predictions spoken over our lives from childhood. Many of us find comfort in living a lie when the truth is hard to accept. Whatever your reason for allowing yourself to hide behind a barrier to healthy wellness of the mind, learn how to let it go. Identify every great part of your life and start living it today. Coaching, teaching, and friendship are three elements that culminate into a well-balanced life coach. Tina offers the full experience of learning inner fitness. Tina teaches you that you can do away with the old myths of ‘everything lasts forever’ and ‘it is what it is’. Her work shows a commitment to help you improve your personal growth and healing process. You can learn a lesson from the pain that stifles your emotional well-being. You can overcome traumatic life experiences. You can be the change in your family’s generational inability to heal.



Focus on your positive thinking and dedicate at least one hour of your day to doing one thing toward your inner fitness. The intentional habit to care for your inner fitness will eventually become a natural part of your daily living. Tina shares that, “Inner fitness is not just for people that are hurting. The need for information and understanding is impactful in your life. It is real and relevant wherever you are on the spectrum of wellness. If you are a human being, you need to have the information about inner fitness”. Tina acknowledges that we all have nervous systems that have evolved from a very intricate and efficient survival system. Tina has been blessed with a way of seeing that helps her decode experience, and she knows that she is not unique in her emotional makeup. Tina creates opportunities through The Inner Fitness Project to disseminate information that has been helpful to her. She always helps from a gentle heart that recognizes that no-one is broken, and we are all here to lift one another up. Tina’s book, ‘The Little Book of Big Lies’ fully explains, and teaches readers the truth about lies. “Not all lies are equal” says Tina. The chapter, ‘The Truth About Lies’, will help you understand why forever is a lie and will give you a clear understanding how to discover underlying lies that impact your circumstances. There are 11 questions in the book that give different scenarios and thought processes to help you grow and discover your true self. The section, ’11 Questions for Unpacking the Lies That Make You Feel Sad or Small’ has a variety of topics that readers can likely identify themselves in. The reader may find multiple questions that fit into their life’s situations, and in the pages of the book the reader will be able to discover the truth and begin to disband the lie they have been believing and living. Tina’s book teaches readers that if we look closely at the things that scare us or make 26

us feel overwhelmed to the point of giving up, we will find a lie that is holding us down. The book tells us that we can improve our SELF if we know what to look for. I read ‘The Little Book of Big Lies’ and then I listened to the audio book that is read by Tina. I encourage you to do both. Reading the book gave me an understanding of Tina’s teachings. Hearing the book, made me put her teachings into action. I am a listener and a student of things that can improve my wholeness. Tina’s voice carries a tone of calmness and truth. I believed the words that I heard and immediately changed my thinking. This book will show you how to discover what was already in existence and it will help you discover the best of yourself. ‘The Little Book of Big Lies’ is a book that everyone needs to own. Tina doesn’t encourage the use of terms like good/bad or positive/negative. She explains, “Self-awareness leads to change. You cannot change what you cannot see. Creating the ‘muscle’, the skillset of being able to better see ‘self ’ puts you in a position of literally seeing ‘self.’ Seeing what you do, how you think, seeing your default reaction, seeing your beliefs, and when you take your seeing and you match it up with your desires for your life, you then have a clear picture of where your attention needs to be placed.” Tina also shared, “ We are in the habit of judging ourselves and we default to that so quickly that I don’t recommend judgement, and comparison is a great way to judge. When learning about our true SELF, we cannot use terms such as good or bad or looking at the positive side versus the negative side because those are judgements. To encourage judgement, good or bad, is really to keep that ‘something’s wrong’ and ‘against me’ mindset going in some way”. Discovering how to achieve wellness is not compartmental. A person has to look at the WHOLE situation without judging its characteristics. Tina tells us, “We have become disconnected from that truth of

who we are, and that disconnection has distorted our ability to see our selves clearly. The work for each of us is to begin to see the ways in which we do not honor or live from our true identity”. Children that hear negative descriptions like, ‘you are bad’ or ‘you are never going to succeed’ will grow up connected to powerful words that dampen their idea of being great. Learning to look at the whole situation and dig deeper into why those words were implanted, and from who those words came from, and understanding what was happening in the lives of the persons dictating such negativity is important. It will allow you to transfer the impact of those words back to the place they came from. You will be able to emotionally detach and start to grow healthy and willingly towards a better life. You will replace those negative connotations with actions that prove your ability to be the person you really are. You must practice inner fitness and that will exude a brighter outlook on everything you do and say. Tina is in New Orleans filming ‘Queen Sugar’ for a great part of the calendar year, yet this year’s schedule is different as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With her free time, she fills her space with peace. Tina teaches inner fitness through a variety of interactive virtual classes and wellness groups. She is growing her inner fitness audience with people from around the globe. Being in a virtual space with Tina Lifford uplifts everyone, including Tina. Tina has actively been working on her inner fitness for 40 years. Her commitment to inner fitness guides her entire life. She is committed. It is your turn. Choose inner fitness and balance your life. Be committed to uncovering your true SELF and loving every part of it. Visit www.TinaLifford.com and join The Inner Fitness Project today. For Media Inquiries, contact Squire Media & Management, Inc. 27



by stacey henry-carr for the urban sentinel

So many young girls and boys are seduced by the model industry and are looking for a way in. They search feverishly for a place to help them bring their face and talent to the world. Nina Nesbitt the CEO of Industry Direct Model and Talent has over 30 years in the model industry and her mission is to develop her models to be more than just their face she is “giving them tools for the journey�. She uses her four-step process where she scouts, develop, market, and place to produce talent that is well rounded and are ready for the paradigm shift of the industry. The shift that states they need more than just a pretty face. When Nina opened her doors, she attracted aspiring models of many shades. Although she has an inclusive business that is open to all races, because people were not used to seeing a black woman in such a position in a white-dominated industry, she attracted more people of color. Writing about Nina Nesbitt is about social change and the need to expose the truth to gain a sustainable shift. When will we see our black-


owned businesses as ENOUGH with the same level of credibility as other businesses? When will we tap in and acknowledge the great work regardless of the color of the messenger? Nina Nesbitt is the face for our people, everyone needs to know that this phenomenal resource is available. She stated that “I represent the underserved, underrepresented and underestimated” It has been 9 years since Nina moved her business from New York to Charleston, South Carolina and she recognizes there is still a ‘gap to bridge”. She ponders as to why she is missing people of color who want to penetrate the industry. Where are they? She knows that they exist, but what is keeping them from walking through her doors and taking that leap? Nina has a fervent call to action for her models. She wants them to know that “you can’t be ordinary when you are extraordinary and that is just who you are”. Her passion comes from her experiences, the doors she could not knock down, fights she loss, tears she cried, morals left on the floor, bad choices she made when she was a model. Nina remembers her journey when she needed that guidance, the person to tell her “no” and through her experiences, she gathered the lessons that can create extraordinary talent. She was only nineteen years old when she entered the model scene. She said she made major mistakes in the industry and her drive is to help her models to avoid those pitfalls. There was a time in Nina’s modeling career when she did not know if she would live because she was 5 feet

10 inches and 100 pounds. She was praised for being “skinny”, while she remained unhealthy taking pills and doing other things to get to the goal. It is this experience and others that motivate Nina to teach her models about their value and self-worth. “The industry is open to all of us” all shades and sizes and she develops her people to recognize their worth. Nina coaches her people to take modeling seriously like a business. She stated that some people are born to be in the industry, and she needs them to know the importance of branding themselves positively and keeping their value. Nina recognizes social media as a valuable tool for branding but expressed concerns that it is often used without understanding the true value. Her quote, “people make decisions based on their level of self-esteem” comes from experience The dream of being a model is so big for many young people and Nina Nesbitt is there to help them develop their roadmap and be ready with the tools for the journey. She has the drive to propel people to greatness. She has been there and lived it, and she understands the importance of having these tools. She urgently wants the modeling and entertainment industry to take notice of our people of color. In her day of modeling, the shades of blackness in the model industry were nonexistent. She is the catalyst for adding the variations of our skin tone to runways, magazines, and television. She aims to open her model’s eyes to the world and broaden their experiences and reach. Because people need to see who they

are, they have the greatness that the world needs. Nina teaches her Models lifelong skills of how to communicate and how to present themselves with poise and grace. How to articulate thoughts and feelings that are transferrable to any career and life. There is a lack of value placed on our people in many industries. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand. We are ready to THRIVE, we are no longer willing to settle for surviving. Nina partners with many big names in the industry across the world. It is her goal to use this inclusive partnership to place her models and talent. She urges prospects to understand the importance of investing in themselves to gain the outcome they desire. I call Nina Nesbitt the Life Coach of Modeling, and in this world where the climate is screaming for equality and inclusion, she can help to “Bridge the Gap” that has kept our faces in the shadows. Contact Nina Nesbitt: Emal :IDMTPLACEMENT@gmail. com Website: www.industrydirectmodel. com Face Book: https://www.facebook. com/search/top?q=industry%20 direct%20models Instagram: https://www.instagram. com/industrydirectmodels/



Raising Daughters by stacey henry-carr for the urban sentinel Lavonda Murphy may appear to be an ordinary woman, but she is doing some extraordinary things. Especially when it comes to raising her five girls and being the “Daughters of Mothers Advocate”. Lavonda Murphy has been serving in the United States Army for the last 21 years and is working toward her retirement in 2021. She has served her country and gained many rewarding experiences along the way. But it is her anticipation of the next chapter of her life that brings her the most joy. She has always had the desire to 30

serve in the community and she proclaimed her work with Daughters of Mothers as a vital part of her journey and next chapter. When we talked about her next chapter her love and connection to her family and her Daughters of Mothers group permeated through the conversation. There is no doubt about the passion she has around her awakened purpose. She is ready to go out in the world and show daughters and mothers how they connect and what they mean to each other. She said, “I am truly an advocate of

women and helping them to understand who they are so that they can put that knowledge into their girls” Lavonda wants to reach uninformed women to teach them about self-love; what it is and how it should look and feel. As she counts down to the next chapter of her life, she has a vivid blueprint of the service she will provide as a coach to women, daughters, and mothers. Her Facebook group Daughters of Mothers- May We Raise Them is a safe place for support. Lavonda describes her group as a village that “will provide counsel and comfort necessary to raise our little world changers” The mission of her mothers and daughter is a loving helping community where women can come for nonjudgmental support. Where they can continuously learn about themselves from others' mistakes and triumphs. She wants women to learn to share. She said, “sharing is so important, nobody wants to be alone, in this group you can ditch the pride, competition, and the jealousy and just share”. Lavonda’s reason for her passion for her group is her five beautiful daughters, her mom, and her “bonus mom”. She is motivated by the lessons she learned from both mother-figures in her life. She used these gems and nuggets to continue to shape her girls. She remembers not being the best daughter and decided to do her best job as a mom. She wants her girls to know they have a tribe! She has surrounded them with good people with great energy. I asked Lavonda what she was looking forward to most about her retirement from the military, and she answered peace of mind to do what she loves which is spending more time with her family. With humility, she stated that her husband had been so supportive for all the years of her being in the military and she was looking forward to giving back that support to make his business Steady Growth Fitness thrive. Her face lit up as she spoke about

continuing to help her five daughters with their bath bomb business Murphy’s Love. Her passion around this was a testament to her commitment to her family. I could not end my interview without asking Lavonda how the recent events have affected her multi-racial family; she took a deep breath before she responded. She explained that living with a biracial family is the reality that she faced with her white husband before they had children. They talked about systemic racism, generational wealth, slavery, and all the intricacies of race. There was no hiding from these realities especially when they planned on having children. And now they talk to their children about who they are as people, not their color. Although she explained to her girls that they are viewed by society as black women, she still struggles with checking the boxes on the application. Her children are in the other category on a form, but at home, they are her daughters born to an Irish descendent white father and a Black mother. She recognizes the importance of raising her girls to be strong women. She plans to help them to create phenomenal lives by teaching them selflove and surround them with a positive community. Lavonda Murphy does not want her children to believe that being black is a “strike against them” this is a phrase that is said to many children. She knows that when you are shaping young minds, you must set them up for success. She wants her daughters to know they can have what they desire and not to limit themselves. It is her lessons learned as a daughter and a mother of five girls that she wants to share with other women. Why did God give me five girls?” then she answered by saying, “to show the world five different ways to love”. Contact Lavonda Murphy: https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=daughters%20 of%20mothers-may%20we%20raise%20them https://www.facebook.com/murphyslove5 URBAN SENTINEL | AUGUST 2020


The Rising Star of Indie Artist

NATALIE JEAN by c. natasha richburg for the urban sentinel

The life and times of an indie (independent) music artist consist of the freedom to map one’s music career using the heart and soul of an internal drive along with personal resources available to them. Without the oversight and resources of executives of major record labels with deep pockets and generational connections to media outlets (e.g., radio and TV), the indie artist must generate a major fan base independent of help from major outlets. In July 2019, Forbes magazine stated, “Eighty-three percent of independent artists said it's important for them to retain creative control over their music, compared to 74% of label artists.” As a producer of indie music, I appreciate the hustle it takes to reach success. Natalie Jean has an elegant approach to her songwriting along with vocal abilities that have propelled her into the community of award-winning indie artists. Natalie has a relentless work ethic coupled with her daily grind to not only release new music, but also to manage the business of music exceptionally well. If a strong work ethic is the cornerstone of lasting success, Natalie Jean’s foundation in that regard is firmly established in this interview. Tell me about your background. Where were you born and raised? I was born in Washington DC, and raised in Kensington, MD. My parents were born in Haiti, so I consider myself to be Haitian American. From pre-school to 5th grade I attended a French school, Lycee Francais, in Bethesda MD. Growing up, my home was always filled with music. My father, Guy R. Jean, is a famous Haitian Singer. For a while, my aunt, uncles, cousins lived with us. My aunt Sandra Jean created the first all-female band in Haiti, called "Riske". My cousin Moses Jean is also an incredibly talented music producer. We also listened to a lot of Elvis Presley music, which is strange for 32

most to hear. When I was young, I wanted to be a dancer. I knew that I wanted to do something with music. But never in my wildest dreams, did I ever think that I would become a singer. I never knew that I could sing. This has been a total shock for me. What is your fondest childhood memory? My fondest childhood memory is when my father would play his guitar and we would sing songs together. Even at that time, I never thought I would be in the music business. Who are your musical influences? Nina Simone is by far one of my biggest influences, yet I was unaware of her, until a couple of years ago. I love the fact that Nina did what she wanted, and she commanded that people listen to her when she performed. She was unafraid to write about the times. I also love Celine Dion, Etta James, and Ella Fitzgerald. Jazz is my first love. I know you started writing poetry. If you were asked to present a title for a poem based on our current social motivations, what would be the title of your poem? What heart tugging words would drive your poetry? Fearless. "I am not alone. He sits with me on my throne. The whispers I hear have no power... For he is with me every hour.” "I am fearless for I know who I am.” You had 10 Jose Music Award nominations. Can you explain the premise of the Jose Music Award? What is your biggest take away from that experience? I have attended the Josie Music Awards since its inception, which was back in 2015. The Josie Music is the largest independent music award. Josie Passantino and Tinamarie Passantino, the creators, really



focus on making sure that independent artists are recognized. They have a panel of industry people that review over 30,000 submissions. They really invest everything in making sure that we feel that we are worthy and loved. So, to be nominated is truly an honor. It is also extremely exciting to win. I love my trophies. What I love about the Josie Music Awards is that you feel like your part of the family. I always have a great time, seeing all my indie friends. Everyone is there for each other. All the indie artists embrace one another. We applaud each other for all our hard work. You have been nominated for awards over 100 times. Describe what it takes to be an independent artist. What are your highs and lows? It takes a lot of effort, work, and determination. It is a lot of work. You cannot want to be in this business and not put 100% behind it. It is perseverance. Not everyone is going to like your music. You must be able to accept criticism, while staying true to yourself as an artist. You must do your due diligence. Make sure that you read everything, before submitting to anything. Also, if someone wants you to sign a contract, make sure that everything you want is covered, and that you are not giving away your life. You must submit your music everywhere that it may fit. The key is to be heard. I also submit my music to a lot of award shows and contests. I have been lucky to get some collaborations out of those and some awards. Music is extremely subjective. Just because one


person does not like your music, does not mean that several others will love it. Everyone has his or her own preference. The highs are meeting awesome new indie artists and people enjoying your music. The lows are the scammers. You encounter so many. People will try to take advantage of you. Recently, someone approached me about music promotion and being my agent. They asked me for $4,000. I said I would think about it. I was never going to give him the money. I replied that I would have to go through my savings and times were tough. I never heard back from him. What is worse, he was a verified person. But I did my research on him. He was here to scam me; So sad. Describe your latest project and how music lovers can get your music. I have two new projects. First, "Where Do You Go From Here?," a Country Americana social impact message album. It deals with world's issues, rape, racism, homelessness, the environment, police brutality, women's rights, immigration, and gun violence. Second, "Not Over You," which was written by Rory Gardiner, is a Country duet. This song is about how you are never really over your past love, no matter who you date. You know that your past love is the one. People can find my music on my website www.natalie-jean.com, iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, all the streaming platforms.



START FRESH by catherine tyson, msw for the urban sentinel

Wouldn’t it just be awesome if we could wake up every morning with a FRESH outlook. Well we actually can. Today is the dawn of a new day and yours to do as you please and because you have been given this new day indicates that you have been given another chance to do it better than yesterday. The sun is up and your life is like a blank canvas with you as the artist that will create what is on today’s page. The best way to begin to live with a different frame of mind is to start from a fresh thinking standpoint and remember that it is never too late to start fresh. Every one of us has a divine purpose for being here and when we find it, we will then be on the right path to doing what we were destined to do. Understanding that we make this journey what it is and we have the choice to make our load heavy or light is so important. Each day that we are blessed to have is to be lived to the fullest, not saving it all for tomorrow, but not spending it all today either. Learning how to figure it all out is the wonderful challenge of balance. Everything you want and hope for is just within your reach, just ask for it, go for it and more importantly when you get it, treasure it. Stay focused, on track, 36

goal oriented and enjoy the journey. To achieve your goals, you have to imagine the steps, the solutions and the actual results of something that you have always wanted to do or achieve. Now turn your imagination into action and start to create. Give yourself benchmarks and a framework, without over or underestimating your abilities. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and work from that standpoint. Begin to work on your weaknesses if the goal requires more of those skills or change the goal to something achievable. Start out with easier tasks and graduate to more complex ones. It is easy to create that life that you dream of if you simply put your imagination and creativity to work from a fresh standpoint. We all can get bogged down by negativity that can stall our steps but we can move from that spot as soon as we feel it if we are determined to stay fresh thinking. You might even surprise yourself with what you can do. Your life is like a canvas and yours alone to create the picture for your life. The canvas is filled with possibilities of the artist and what it will communicate. Today start fresh

and begin and if it isn’t achieved today then tomorrow will be a new day for you to do as you please and to create a new picture. As long as you make sure that today’s picture will not adversely affect, or compromise tomorrow’s picture you are well on your way to creating a beautiful you. And do not let naysayers get you down because it is all in your hands. Every day remember to use your senses to make this journey as wonderful as it can be. Smell the roses, see the beauty of the world, listen to the beat of your heart and taste all that is good in this world. You are alive and today is a new day. We live in paradise so go outside and enjoy the sun on your face, the smiles, the delicious aromas that surround us. And don’t waste one day on this earth not enjoying this wonderful and blessed journey. On your journey to self fulfilment, begin with a crisp outlook and every single day that you are given, make it the best one ever! Until next time. Look me up on Facebook at Catherine Tyson and follow me on Instagram @realcatherinetyson

TOGETHER WE GO FAR, ALONE WE GO FAST The grounding principles of the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihood’s (COESL) model – Complementary Capitalism!

COESL’s model is one of complementing rather than competing. It is a model which encourages individuals, at the business level and at the community level to work together as much as possible to make money and improve their quality of life rather than compete. Complementing rather than competing takes deliberate and intentional actions. To be this deliberate and this intentional, one needs to be mindful, alert, fully aware of the nuances of complementing, value self and value others and most importantly value people above materialistic gain as well as individual and collective greed.

behaviour patterns and standards of professionalism must align or can be brought into alignment. 2. Develop and agree to the implementation of strategic governance mechanisms which guide the approach. These will include agreements outlining the terms and conditions of how you will work. Additionally, other tools including code of conduct, confidentiality and non- disclosure agreements, among others, as relevant. There are some distinct advantages to our complementary capitalism model. These include:

Complementing means that individuals or groups work together to enhance each other, strengthen each other and ultimately complete the circle. This completion effectively get things done, more often than not, successfully. This completion also creates a village and encourages a culture of transparency and accountability.

1. Shared resources 2. Reduce costs and duplication of efforts 3. Innovation 4. Shared risks 5. Improve scale 6. Increase expertise

However as in any other business model, we strongly encourage people we work with to perform the following due diligence steps before taking the leap into complementary capitalism. These steps include:

Give this principle some thought and carefully analyze how it could help you improve the work you do.

1. Get to know the persons you intend to complement with – Ensuring that the mission, values and vision of the people you intend to enter this approach with, are in sync with yours and your team, is critical. Your work ethics,

Dr. Marcia Brandon is a social entrepreneur and the Managing Director/founder of the not for profit, Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods (COESL). She is also the Secretary General of the Barbados Association of Non Governmental Organizations. URBAN SENTINEL | AUGUST 2020


Out of Tragedy Comes Inspiration Pharmacist devotes herself to improving health of people of color worldwide by lenore coleman, pharmd, cdm, cde, fashp for the urban sentinel information to stop the death and dying in our community. THE PROBLEM According to the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. More Americans die from diabetes every year than from AIDS and breast cancer combined. Every day 4320 people in the US find out they have diabetes. Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) 79,535 deaths occur each year due to diabetes. African American are twice as likely as whites to have diabetes. That means that over 6 million African American in the United States have type 2 diabetes. There are 86 million people in the US with Prediabetes. We know that 1/3 of those folks will go on to develop full blown diabetes. The sad thing is that people with Prediabetes can reduce their risk of developing diabetes by just getting more exercise and eating a low calorie, low fat diet.

Although I was unable to save my Pastor, since his death my PURPOSE IS CLEAR. On September 6, 1996, my pastor, James Henry, died suddenly in the pulpit while preaching to his congregation. “On that day, “I dedicated myself to changing the state of health of African Americans in the United States as well as those living throughout the African Diaspora..” Over the past 40 years, I have been focused on providing education, training, and health screening where ever the “SLAVE SHIPS LEFT AND LANDED” with a focus on West Africa and the Caribbean. There are a lot of people that “Talk the Talk but I believe in “Walking the Walk”. After the death of my Pastor I decided to leave my Corporate Position in the Pharma Industry and followed through on my NEW SPIRITUAL MISSON. Focused on reversing the death and devastation from diabetes in my community I founded www.healingourvillage.com and www. tlc-global.org., websites geared in people of African Descent that are suffering from chronic disease like diabetes, hypertension, heart failure, obesity and depression. But it takes more just


We find that most people with diabetes have no idea what their blood sugar should be when they first wake up in the morning or during the day. Here are some Facts About Diabetes that Everyone should know Fasting Blood Sugar (blood glucose level when you first wake up) – should be between 90-130mg/dL Hemoglobin A1C (blood test that tells you how well you are controlling your blood sugar. Should be done at least twice a year if less than 8% and 4 times per year if you are greater than 8%. Ideally, we want your A1C to be 7% or less unless you have heart issues then we want the number to be 7.5% Most patients with diabetes need at least two medication (oral or injectable) to achieve their blood glucose goals. After you have been on oral medications for more than five (5) years, you may require insulin or an injectable medication to get your blood glucose UNDER GOOD CONTROL (A1C 7% or less)

Some medication work better than others, so you need to make sure you are on the right combination of medications for YOU!! COMPLICATIONS Eighty percent (80%) of patients with type 2 diabetes are overweight / obese and also have high blood pressure (BP greater than 130/80 mmHg). If you have high blood pressure and diabetes, if is critically that you get your blood pressure under control since high BP and high blood glucose combined can lead to kidney disease. • Heart Disease - Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among individuals with diabetes and is the most common reason for hospital admissions for heart attacks and strokes. • Hypertension – As of 2018, an estimated 103 million U.S.adults have high blood pressure. We know that diabetes and hypertension occur together in many patients. They share many of the same risk factors (obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle) COMPLICATIONS Kidney Disease - Each year, nearly 50,000 Americans begin treatment for kidney failure due to diabetes. Diabetes accounts for 44 percent of all NEW cases of kidney failure. Unmanaged diabetes can increase the risk of chronic kidney disease progressing to kidney failure or end‐stage renal disease (ESRD) Kidney failure ultimately requires expensive medical interventions such as dialysis or kidney transplantation for patient survival. Amputation - Circulatory problems caused by uncontrolled diabetes can lead to lower limb complications. Each year, diabetes causes about 73,000 lower limb amputations, which accounts for 60 percent of all lower limb amputations (not including amputations due to trauma). Blindness -Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness in the United States. Approximately 4000 people per year become blind due to uncontrolled diabetes. Compared to 2010, by 2050, the number of Americans with diabetic retinopathy is expected to nearly double, from 7.7 million to 14.6 million. Unfortunately, many people of color with diabetes do not seek have consistent medical care, do not have health insurance, and therefore wind up suffering from these debilitating complications. THE WEBSITES There is a lot of informational websites on the internet. Be careful which one you trust since there is a lot of misinformation. Healing Our Village now has www.hovhealth.com. We provide video education with the most up to date information available. But we go a step farther. Healing Our Village offers Village Club. Village Club provides a yearly membership for approximately $5 per month. With that membership you will receive counseling

from our doctors, pharmacists, dieticians, life coaches and career specialists. Information is NOT ENOUGH. “Just because you KNOW better does not mean you DO BETTER! You must learn to change your lifestyle. What you eat and do everyday can save your life. Most importantly, our medical experts make sure you are on the right combination of medications and are not experiencing any side effects or drug interactions. ASK THE EXPERT The Ask the Expert portal on www.hovhealth, allows visitors to the site to “Chat” and ask questions. We also have Bluetooth enabled blood pressure monitoring and blood glucose monitors for sale in our online STORE so our Experts can see your readings. Telehealth and the internet provides our medical experts much greater reach by allowing them to counsel patients beyond the confines of pharmacies, hospitals and clinics. All HOV pharmacists are trained on diabetes management and how to communicate with patients to change their behavior and adopt healthier lifestyles. On HOV Health (www.hovhealth.com) we are providing “LIVE EVENTS’ which will be available on the site and our Facebook page (healingourvillageofficial) A LITTLE TLC – TOTAL LIFESTYLE CHANGE (www.tlcglobal.org) In addition to the HOV websites, we also have a nonprofit – Total Lifestyle Change. TLC is a nonprofit service organization dedicated to eliminating healthcare disparities in people of color worldwide. We provide community-based screenings for diabetes, hypertension, Breast and Prostate Cancer, Obesity and Depression. We also have launched HOV University (www. hovuniversity.com) which is an online educational training platform for healthcare professionals. As part of TLC we offer OPERATION D.E.T.E.C.T (Diabetes Education Today Ends Complications Tomorrow) and Project F.A.I.T.H (Fellowship and Instruction Toward Health). Both programs were developed to assist underserved populations to detect, manage and prevent chronic diseases. All of these programs are supported through DONATIONS and GRANTS. Over the years it has become MORE DIFFICULT to find funding for these worthwhile projects. We need your SUPPORT! As part of our commitment to HEALING THE VILLAGE, we are excited to provide our new column entitled - FOR YOUR HEALTH. We look forward to providing current information on the common chronic conditions that are affecting the people of color. If you have any questions, feel free to visit our websites or call 00 788 0941. LIKE OUR Facebook Page. REMEMBER, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER - #nomorefunerals.



The Multifaceted Career

of Multimedia Executive

Rob Schwartz by c. natasha richburg for the urban sentinel Rob Schwartz is a multi-award-winning director/editor/producer and inspirational speaker who has developed and implemented media platforms such as TV networks “iFame TV”,“WHO?MAG Multimedia”, and “Video Vision TV” as well as multiple broadcast TV shows that air worldwide. On Rob’s various multimedia platforms, he has hosted over 3,000 celebrity interviews, in addition to affording his clients exposure to his worldwide fanbase. Rob understands the indie hip-hop music business. Thus, he has successfully navigated its evolution to serve as a mecca for the growing list of artists who track from across the country to attend his annual New Jersey-based birthday bash. Rob’s entrepreneurial diversity demonstrates calculated flexibility to successfully manage the ebbs and flows of the music industry’s culture and its evolving musical styles. As a former Wall Street executive with 10 years’ experience in risk management with Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and JP Morgan, Rob understands how to remain unwavering artist solidity as he upholds allegiance to hip-hop legends as well as hopeful newcomers. As a songwriter, Rob has worked with many Grammy Award-winning and Platinum producers as well as many known artists. Most importantly, Rod often lends an empathetic ear and encouragement to artists who ponder the highs and lows of the music business. This Rob Schwartz interview will give the reader the chance to meet an inspirational businessman who carries the mantle of optimism as he reflects on his lifelong love for hip-hop. Who is Rob Schwartz? I am a business entrepreneur who transferred his love for music and hip hop into a career. I was born in Cherry Hill, NJ and fell in love with hip hop in 3rd grade in a place where hip hop didn’t really exist. During College, I started writing R&B songs which got me working with some of the top music producers in that genre, but my career took a left turn after going through a few financial hardships. One of my fraternity brothers hooked me up with a job in finance right off Wall Street and I decided to give up on music as a career. It took me about 2 months to realize I could never give up music as a career and started a double life in finance and music. I started a website www.whomag.net back in 2001 and was one of the early hip hop sites to feature original video content. While I worked the finance job, I told myself that the number of hours I work for that company, I needed to dedicate at least half of that time to WHO?MAG every night. In 2005, I created a DVD magazine called WHO?MAG DVD Magazine Vol. #1 40



which was the first DVD Magazine picked up by Netflix, Blockbuster, Wal-Mart, and Target as well as many other stores because I kept the content clean. As I was about to release Vol. 2, I was asked by a network on Sky TV in Europe if I can make it a TV show. I had no idea how to create a TV show and YouTube wasn’t really a thing back then, so I taught myself everything by creating the first 6 episodes. It became a huge hit. I brought it back to the US and it aired on Dish TV. In 2009, my daughter was just born. I was having a hard time juggling the day job and the TV show. I was tired of games in the finance world, so in October of 2009, I decided to leave the finance world and put all of my focus on WHO?MAG. I opened a music studio with one of my best friends Mr. Mig in Cherry Hill, NJ and never looked back. In 2010, I started WHOMAG Distribution through Sony Orchard. To this date I have almost 700 releases signed to me including a Grammy Award Winning Album and multiple #1 Billboard records. In 2012, I started the first hip hop TV network on Roku & Apple TV called iFame TV. I then launched 2 other networks, WHO?MAG Multimedia in 2017 (Roku, Apple TV, Google Play, cellphone app, & www.whomagtv.com) and Video Vision (Amazon Firestick & Fire TV, Roku, and Apple TV). Besides WHO?MAG TV (86 episodes), I also own DMTV, and EDM TV show (26 episodes), and Video Vision (71 episodes). I also own a film company called Chetown Films. I am an award-winning director (Pocono Film Fest for Best Documentary) and won numerous other awards. I just finished working on a new film called “The Retaliators” coming really soon worldwide as well as directing the reboot of “Dancin’ On Air” on FUSE TV, a popular 80’s dance TV show. I do a lot, but my projects all kind of intertwine in a special way. Overall, my specialty is studying the entertainment world and figuring out how to stay 3 steps ahead. Describe what you do to relax and/or have fun? I know this sounds bad, but I really love what I do. I turned my life around completely and I can’t wait to get each day started to work on either my TV networks or my music distribution company. My day consists of talking to my clients all day. I sign artists based off of two main components. One is obviously the music; two, is the 42

person. When I sign an artist, I have to imagine if this is a client I want to work with as long as my company is around. My clients become my friends. To me, it’s more important to do that rather than hide behind emails. But when I do try to shut the world down, I’m either hanging with my kids or sitting in my backyard with a cigar and some Bourbon. The ocean fascinates me, so whenever I get a chance to go to the shore or hop on a boat, I take it. Also I love to travel. My 2020 goal is more of a 2021 goal, but I want to do some more international travel. How has Hip Hop evolved since the early 1980s? Hip hop became a bona fide genre. It was an art form and expression at first consisting of 4 elements (the emcee, DJ, graffiti, and b-boying). It grew from a culture into the world’s biggest form of music. Like all types of music, it evolves and devolves at the same time. When rock music first came out, it had one sound and spun off into classic rock, hard rock, soft rock, alternative rock, Christian rock, goth rock, and many other categories. Hip Hop has been going through the same evolution. While the culture still exists to many people like myself, the younger generation has been spinning off the subcategories. It will continues to evolve and devolve at the same time, but one thing we can say is it will be here forever. I just wish the younger generation will go back and study the greats like any other category in music and art. How has COVID-19 changed the game for the indie hip hop artist? The strong will survive. I talk to my artists everyday and try to help them figure out new strategies to survive. A lot of artists are feeling defeated right now, but while the majority of the artists are on pause, this is the perfect time to move ahead. The music industry is so vast that those loosing right now are the ones that are too scared to open up to new ideas We all know shows will be limited when venues start opening back up. We all know there is less disposable income out there. Cool. I get it. It’s so easy to complain and come up with excuses. But the strategic artists will find a way to stand out from the rest and move forward and still be successful. Artists should look at this like a test and figure out how to ace it. Is there a new normal for the business of hip hop? No, there never was. The ones who win are the ones who are first to do something new. There are always going to be

one who copy other artists. The major labels help build the copycat artists. They try to hit it while the sound is hot, but the labels try to make artist disposable. Once that sound is gone, its now hard for an artist to rebrand to a new sound. That’s why the longevity in hip hop for a lot new artists in non-existence. Meanwhile, you will see other hip hop artists who stay true to who they are and their sound stay steady and build a catalog and a career. What advice would you give for anyone with a desire to earn a living in the music business? In my opinion, sports and the entertainment industry are the two hard industries to exist in. You have to know you want this 120%. You have to be willing to sacrifice everything. It’s not easy. You will have highs and lows, but when you hit those lows, you have to understand that there will be more highs again. You have to think outside the box AND inside the box at the same time. Build a solid team that you trust. You can’t have any weak links. If you are the most driven person on your team, you need to find a new team. Also, don’t focus on the quick money. Focus on building a solid foundation.

inspiration and he has been helpful in guiding me. It’s a music industry non-fiction book, but put in a context never done before. As far as long term, everyday I build my distribution company and my TV networks. I’m always figuring out strategic ways to separate WHOMAG Distribution/ SONY Orchard from other distribution companies and looking for new artists we can build with. Also, I’m always looking for cool music movies, TV shows, concerts, or music videos to air on my networks. As far as movies, I have been asked to work on a few new ones; I just have to see which ones make sense. But I will always focus on evolving all my companies, building great relationships, sharing my knowledge and experiences as much as I can, and make any positive impact in the world.

What next for you? As of immediately, I’m working on releasing a movie I produced a few years ago. I’m also doing all of the music submissions now for the movie from my distribution company. Also, I just finished the relaunch of my www. whomagdistribution. com site. I have been wanting to write a book for a while and finally started it thanks to Chris Schwartz, CEO of Ruffhouse Records (no relation). His book has been an URBAN SENTINEL | AUGUST 2020



J.D. Mason by musu bangura for the urban sentinel

Relationships, mystery, revenge and family drama are just some of the literary threads that lace the fabric of best-selling author J.D. Mason’s work. Her written work spans across various genres, giving her readers a flavorful buffet to choose from. You Gotta Sin to Get Saved, And on the Eighth Day She Rested, One Day I Saw a Black King and The Real Mrs. Price are a few of her sultry tales that are an inviting blend of love, healing, suspense and thrill. J.D.’s books have been featured on the best-selling lists of Barnes and Noble, Amazon and the Black Expressions Book Club. She has also won the African American Literary Award, which recognizes her dynamic way of writing. Having a recent opportunity to speak with J.D., she expresses her love for writing and how important it is for black authors to maintain a staple presence in American literature and beyond. US: When did you first discover your writing voice? JDM: Like most writers who write or make up stories their whole life, that was my thing. I’ve always made up stories from when I was little kid. Growing up, I knew what I wanted to do, but it didn’t seem realistic and I didn’t know how to do it and there was nobody to talk to for that guidance. I was about 31 years old when I said I was going to take it seriously and write a book. I didn’t go to college for it or anything like that, I just knew I liked reading books. That writing voice thing is an evolution. My first book took about six years to produce – that was one evolution. Now sixteen, eighteen years later, my voice is way different. So as you get more involved, get more experienced it should grow with you and develop with you. My writing voice is an ever-evolving thing. US: Out of all the characters you’ve developed, which one represents you the most? JDM: There’s a character I developed that surprised me more and that I am more fascinated by, because the character took on his own arc and created something for himself that I didn’t see coming. I’ve never had that happen, you know, the writer is always in control, but this character, Jordan Gatewood, he started out in the book Beautiful, Dirty Rich. He’s the bad guy – and I wanted him to be the worst bad guy. And I knew that at the end of the three-book series he was gonna die! I knew this dude was going to die and I wanted you to hate him. I hated him and at some point, I wanted him dead. In the second book (of the series), something started to happen that I didn’t expect, and I found myself feeling empathy for this dude. I was not expecting to gain so much insight on him; all of the aspects of his personality started to be explained. All of a sudden, it’s like, okay he’s a bad guy, but I started to understand why. And then by that third book where he was supposed to die, something happened that I didn’t expect…he was a hero. And it was the most beautiful evolution I’ve ever seen in any of my characters. It was surprising to me because I’m the author. And I’ve learned to let your characters be. Give them space and room to develop. Don’t always feel that you have to drive. I’ve learned that you’ve got to leave that roadway open and just hang on to see where it will go. He’s the character I’m the most enamored with as opposed to one who I can relate to.




US: You have books that cover several genres. Did you start out your writing career with the intention of staying under one genre? How did it spread into other genres? JDM: If I was smart, I would’ve picked a genre and stuck with it. Writing 101 – know who you’re writing for! I’m not really a scholar when it comes to writing, so I didn’t really know what it meant to be in a certain drama. I just wanted to tell a particular story. All I could say in the beginning is that I write women’s fiction. I was writing many stories that were relationship driven and as time went on I started doing more mystery. Now I’m writing more fantasy, and that’s because I’ve always loved fantasy even though I’ve never written it before. So I finally got the courage to give fantasy a shot and see what happens. It’s all about wanting to write the story. My mindset is someone will pick it up and will want to read it. It seems to me that if you’re creative person with that creative spirit, you would want to try something different. If you fail, you fail, but I don’t understand how a creative can just stick to one genre. I think it would just drive me crazy. US: Do you feel there is enough representation in the present-day literary world in terms of minority authors? JDM: When I came into this business, you could count the number of commercially successful minority authors on one hand, maybe two. With self-publishing in place, there’s so many of us now. We have figured out a way to make self-publishing work for us because the industry itself still hasn’t figured it out. In the early 2000’s there was this network that was amazing; black bookstores all across the country, along with black distributors. The black book clubs ruled the literary world. They had publishers in New York City who knew the book club’s President by name and they would connect and promote new books. They were a powerhouse and they would move books like crazy. It was absolutely amazing. Then publishers got wind of all these black authors making all these sales through self-publishing and they started signing us to contracts. And then Amazon came along and bookstores kind of went under. But I don’t think publishing has ever really known how to reach the black reader and how to promote us. We built that internal network for ourselves because we didn’t have representation in the big industry. Now it’s harder, not just for us but for everybody, because publishing still doesn’t know what to do. With social media, you think it would be easier to reach people but it’s actually harder because of algorithms. It doesn’t matter how many 46

followers you may have on different platforms. You may have 5,000 followers on Facebook, but only 100 of them are seeing your posts. So in reaching readers now we don’t have things like mail-order book clubs or catalogs that promote who has a new book out. Black bookstores would also let everybody know who had new books out. And now it’s like how do you reach that audience? It’s not really defined anymore. I feel things may change, especially since writers and readers of color are resilient. We will find a way. US: With the different protests and reforms taking place, do you think there would be as many opportunities black writers are getting now if those events didn’t take place? JDM: No. I don’t think so. Like I said, I don’t think they know how to sell us. Some of them are trying to do the right thing and they’re feeling good right now. But the issues are still there and they still need to figure things out. One thing they can do is put their money behind the smaller writers. Take the money you’re using to promote Steven King – especially since he will always be able to sell books on his own and put it toward unknown authors. Help them push their books. Steven King will sell books all day long. He has movies and everything lined up. The rest of us authors need more help. US: Tips for black writers to thrive, especially when it comes to writing about sensitive topics? JDM: Come from a place of authenticity. I’ve never written scenes for the sake of shock value. You also want to be sensitive and respectful. Respect people who may have gone through that pain. I always know when I’ve gotten something right when I finish. I’m drained or I’m in tears because I feel it. I think that when you feel it, the reader will feel it. Don’t just describe the physical scene, describe the emotions. That always overrides the physical description. Even if you’ve never experienced what you’re writing about, you will always have to go there in order to make the story happen. Ms. Mason is currently working on short-story fantasies based on fantasy characters in a modern-day world. Her latest book, Without a Song to Sing is a follow up to her highly successful novel And on the Eight Day She Rested. Her books are currently sold at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Kobo. Visit her website to learn more at jdmasonauthor.com.



Get Lifted!

S P I RI T UA L N O U RI S H M E N T B RO U GH T TO YO U BY THE URBAN SENTINEL AND UPSHIFT GLOBAL by dr. anita davis-defoe for the urban sentinel


uring this season, we are witnessing a global health pandemic, a social and cultural upheaval, political corruption and blatant injustice, and a devastating economic crisis impacting all sectors of the marketplace. On a daily basis, the sound bytes and social media we are inundated with cause us to ponder what’s going on and certainly what is going to happen next. We all get frustrated sometime; without question this is occurring more these days, and granted there are occasions when we feel deeply disappointed, discouraged and dismayed. Sometimes we allow the circumstances we face, the challenges that confront us, the momentary setbacks of life to get us down. So often, if we take a moment to reflect, we will find that three pivotal elements are fueling our spirituality, our perceived state of being: these are thoughts, choice and habits.


Everything first begins as a thought, and thoughts ultimately manifest themselves into words and deeds. All discoveries, inventions, actions, both good and bad, flow from a thought that dominates someone’s mind. Too often, for too much of each and every day, some of us suffer from “stinking thinking,” a negative, pessimistic mindset, that is, we dwell in the valley of negativity; we are overwrought by deception, pessimism and hopelessness. When this occurs, this mindset begins to color our entire belief system, the way we approach life, in time how we view our potential for happiness and personal fulfillment. Until someone suffering from such a mental drought decides to replenish their “thought well,” he or she will be inclined to spend a considerable amount of time being stuck, exemplifying a negative force where they journey. The nature of our thoughts colors the texture of our choices. One of the birth gifts we are given is the power of choice, and for some of us that is not a good thing. Some of us have allowed past failures, environmental conditioning, toxic nurturing, family dysfunctions, societal biases and low expectations to dominate the choices we make. When we allow fleeting external factors to govern our internal thermostat, the worth of our choices is compromised. Once we make a choice to focus on our passions, our heartfelt dreams, the treasure chest of gifts and talents uniquely ours, we become divinely unstoppable.

inapt. The self-limiting habits that are impeding your progress, impacting your level of contentment, and bringing clouds of drama into your life indeed are not your friends. So the choice becomes, will you allow yourself to get lifted, that is LETTING, INSPIRATION, FUEL, THOUGHTS, EARNESTLY, DAILY. Will you choose to take actions that elevate your thinking and transform your life? Will you decide to allow purpose and the creation of heartfelt goals to order your steps? Will you even in the face of the health, political, economic, employment and social challenges currently being faced that you will choose to press on walking hand in hand with possibility? For in the end, there are four kinds of people, copouts, people who simply do not try; drop-outs, people who give up at the first sign of a challenge; hold- outs, people who refuse to give their all to anything; and allouts, people who understand that purpose, passion and persistence are the keys to personal power. Work to discover what it takes to fuel your lift off each day. Guard and select carefully the spiritual fuel that ignites your being, for your life depends upon it. Journey to discover the U in YOU!!! Get Lifted!!!

The array of choices we make over time form to follow our habits. The habits we embrace either unlock the doorway to personal greatness or unleash the lingering demons within our spirits. Habits are those intimate friends we hold dear, those behaviors that come naturally whenever a certain situation presents itself to us. But too often we forget that a genuine friend is someone who desires and encourages the best for you, not someone who makes you feel incompetent and URBAN SENTINEL | AUGUST 2020




IDENTITY THEFT by bridgette alfred for the urban sentinel

Did you know a professional thief could assume your identity in just a few hours? And it can take years for you to restore your identity. The Federal Trade Commission statistics show an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 Americans become victims of identity theft each year. Identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number or other personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund. Identity theft is an equal opportunity crime, and can strike regardless of your age, race or gender.

honest in what you do. Do not lie to one another.” C. If Your Info Is Lost or Stolen: 1. Physical: If you see one of these warning signs of identity theft, act quickly. Taking these steps will help you limit the damage. IdentityTheft.gov will guide you through each step: Call the companies where you know fraud occurred. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and get copies of your report. Report identity theft to the FTC. File a report with your local police department.

A. Warning Signs: 1. Physical: There are many ways that you might discover that someone is using your information: a notice from the IRS or find unfamiliar accounts on your credit report; strange withdrawals from your bank account; get bills that aren’t yours; or get calls about debts that you don’t owe. These crimes, known as ‘phishing’, pose an ominous modern world threat. Cyber criminals, usually out to steal personally identifiable information for the purpose of exploiting our wealth and identities.

Then, take a deep breath and begin to repair the damage. Depending on your situation, your next step might be closing accounts opened in your name or reporting fraudulent charges to your credit card company.

2. Spiritual: There is another identity thief, which is Satan. John 10:10 (TPT) reads “A thief has only one thing in mind— he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow!”

D. Conclusion: If you value your privacy on Facebook and Twitter, it’s definitely worth customizing your social media Privacy Settings. Toggling specific options can really help tighten down on security, like limiting what kind of audience can view your posts and how much strangers/yet-to-be-accepted friends can see on your profile/posts.

B. Some Ways To Avoid Identity Theft: 1. Physical: Be sure to regularly monitor you bank accounts for suspicious activity, and ensure that you change your passwords, contact your bank, credit card companies and the authorities if you suspect you’ve become a victim of phishing. The next thing to look out for is receiving a call from your ‘bank’, to confirm your online logins in order to recover your ‘stolen’ savings. The goal of the caller is to create a situation of extreme urgency, forcing you to panic and become desperate to remedy the ‘situation’. If you’re contacted with such a request, treat it as highly suspicious and end the call or disregard/delete the email/text message. 2. Spiritual: Leviticus 19:11 (NLV) reads “Do not steal. Be

2. Spiritual: Proverbs 2:6-8 (ERV) reads “The Lord is the source of wisdom; knowledge and understanding come from his mouth. He gives good advice to honest people and shields those who do what is right. He makes sure that people are treated fairly. He watches over his loyal followers.”

Pick usernames that don’t reveal sensitive information (such as your birthday and location), strong passwords to protect your accounts, and be vigilant when it comes to spotting bogus advertisements and posts built by cyber ‘phishing’ scammers. Finally, ensure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware suites for fundamental protection, and always remember to logout from social media accounts. Most people who experience identity theft must take several steps to recover. IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government’s one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. The site provides step-by-step advice and helpful resources like easy-to-print checklists and sample letters.




Photo Credits Cover: Tina Lifford Photo Credit: Kauawane Burton Cover: Desmond Sean Ellington Photo Credit: Gizelle Hernandez Page 5 Photo Credit: Gizelle Hernandez Page 6 Photo Credit: Desmond Sean Ellington Page 11 Designer: Michael Lombard Photo Credit: Alot Pictures MUA: Joanne Armstrong Jewelry: Tigerbite Jewels Page 12 Designer: Michael Lombard Collection: World War M Collection Photo Credit: Marcos Vasconcelos Models: Cassis Andrea, Alvaro Castillo, Sarah Respass, Gabriella Nepomuceno, Michael Lombard Headpieces: Michael Lombard Make-up: Cassis Castillo, Sarah Respass Hair: Sarah Respass Page 13 Designer: Michael Lombard Collection: Cyberpunk Collection Photo Credit: Alot Pictures Models: Jazmin Gonzalez, Usha Henriquez MUA: Joanne Armstrong

Page 14 (Bottom Image) Designer: Michael Lombard Collection: CYBERPUNK COLLECTION Photo Credit: Frank MacDonald Models: Olivia Chiacchia, Sasha L, Melissa Pardo, Kayla Stern, Kenzie Blakeslee, Michael Lombard ML MUA Team: Lead Makeup: Joanne Armstrong, Emma Bright Hair: Alicia Blakeslee Jewelry: Tigerbite Jewels Googles: Michael Lombard Page 20-21 Photo Credit: E.W.Brooks Page 22 Photo Credit: Jermey Wadsworth The Toledo Blade Page 23 Photo Credit: United Nations Photo Credit Page 24 Photo Credit: Kauawane Burton Page 27 Photo Credit: OWN Communications “Queen Sugar�

Page 14 (Top Image) Designer: Michael Lombard Collection: Cyberpunk Collection Photo Credit: Alot Pictures Models: Jazmin Gonzalez, Usha Henriquez, MUA: Joanne Armstrong



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