Pride Magazine • 2023 • May/June "Business" Issue

Page 2

Freedom Fighting Missionaries

Giving hope and second chances

University City Partners

Transforming the city within a city

The Importance of Juneteenth

Celebrating our freedom in America

film and digital technology guru
Nichols Charlotte’s

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Join us in Richmond, Virginia, on Aug. 1-2, 2023, for our annual Business Opportunity Conference (BOC23) where the conversation will be all about how to: At Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council, our business is all about your business growth. Through Advocacy, Connection, Certification, and Development, we help build Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) success. Your business can’t wait. Learn more and register for BOC23 today at:

Correction: An article on p. 21 of the March/April 2023 issue refers to Imana Sherrill as the principal of Trinity Episcopal School. Her correct title is head of school.

14 Departments 8 From the Publisher 10 Notable Names 11 By Faith 12 Book Review 52 FYI News & Notes Features 14 Making Mom and Dad Proud Four daughters achieve great success 16 Tommy Nichols Charlotte Black Film Festival founder 20 Pride Awards Photos Pride Magazine celebrates 30th anniversary 22 Bite Your Tongue Restaurant Chef brings New Orleans flavor to the QC 25 Best of the Best 2023 Recognizing outstanding professionals 37 Freedom Fighting Missionaries The power of second chances 40 University City Partners Transforming the city within a city 42 Supporting Entrepreneurs Eight Black businesses you should know Log on to for more features. 42 May – June 2023 46 Assistance League of Charlotte Helping at-risk students and adults 49 Leading on Opportunity Nonprofit helps solve social challenges 50 Increase and Protect Your Money Author gives sound financial advice 57 American History Why we celebrate Juneteenth
On the Cover:
Tommy Nichols, Charlotte Black Film Festival Founder
57 50
Cover photo by Tom Youngblood
May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 5

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© Novant Health, Inc. 2023 3/23 • NH-1310564


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May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 7

Artificial Intelligence Has Gone Too Far!

My recent purchase of a washer and dryer has completely unnerved me. Right now, I have zero confidence in the simple ability to wash my clothes and get them clean. Here’s the problem. These two inanimate objects want to decide (for me) how to wash and dry my clothes, and I don’t like it – at all.

Let’s start from the beginning. My washer and dryer of at least 15 or more years were beginning to look a little scary, so I decided to bite the bullet and get a new, more eye-appealing set. I made my choice based solely on aesthetic appeal, in all honesty. All my life, I’ve had boring, white washers and dryers, so when my eyes set upon a sparkling, silver-tone set, there was no turning back.

Unfortunately, things went downhill upon delivery. The dryer was dented and, as the guys brought in the washer, a piece fell out of it, at which time they immediately took it back to the truck, exclaiming I would definitely need another washer. I opted to keep the dented dryer for a discount.

After two weeks, I received another washer. It used to be, when appliances were delivered, they’d explain how to use them. Not nowadays. They run in, hook it up to the water, and run. They can’t tell you anything, because they have zero training and zero knowledge about the products they are delivering.

It gets worse. Let me share some of the so-called amenities of the washer.

• Zero pressure fill — (What the heck is this?)

• Active bacteria — (You’ve got to be kidding.)

• Active water — (Have I been washing with inactive water?)

• Delay start — (What’s the point?)

• Finish in — (I’m clueless.)

• 12 washing programs — (Give me a break!)

• Sixth sense smart sensors — (Huh?)


Who needs 12 different washing programs? The detergent dispenses automatically, but I have yet to see one iota of suds during the process. Quite frankly, my clothes don’t look clean. In addition, it is supposed to save on water and energy; however, what’s the use when the clothes don’t get completely wet during the washing cycle?

What about the dryer? Listen, I’ve already had to have a new computer board put in it because it would shut down completely if I used the “quick dry” cycle. (With no reset button anywhere, the dryer had to be pulled out and unplugged from the back for it to restart.)

All I want is to easily wash and get my clothes clean and dry. An app on my phone to help me operate my washer and dryer remotely is preposterous, and why should I have to have to search on line for directions on how to operate these technological monsters? Did I mention the stress and trauma of trying to call and get answers from the manufacturer? Well — that’s another story altogether. Thanks for letting me vent. I’m about to give up, but perhaps ChatGPT can help me with this???

For the sake of clean clothes,

8 Pride Magazine |



The Urban League of Central Carolinas (ULCC) is pleased to announce Shamira Wright, MSW, CPHM, LCSWA as the vice president of strategic partnerships. Wright brings over 17 years of experience in strategic partnerships and business development to the organization. In this role, Wright will lead the organization’s efforts to identify and cultivate strategic partnerships that align with the organization’s mission and vision.

“I’m excited to join the Urban League of Central Carolinas and work with this team. Strategic partnerships and cross collaborations across the Charlotte community will lead to innovative transformation systems change and a better life for the population we serve,” said Wright.

She will also be responsible for identifying potential partners and developing relationships that will help the organization advance its role in workforce development and education. Wright earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of North Carolina Charlotte and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from WinstonSalem University.


Sonya Ramsey, professor and the director of the history and women’s and gender studies program at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, is the author of several historical works, including “Bertha MaxwellRoddey: A Modern-Day Race Woman and the Power of Black Leadership,” published in 2022. The book covers the life and accomplishments of an influential leader and educational activist in the desegregated South.

Ramsey received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in United States History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Howard University. Ramsey is also a member of the Charlotte Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.


Isaac Akanmu is the winner of the 2023 Charlotte GoodLit Poetry Fellowship which is given to an emerging poet to support and expand their career. The yearlong fellowship is awarded to a poet who has not yet published a fulllength collection of poetry, “has a passion for writing, a demonstrable skill set and the potential to benefit from a boost to get to the next level of their poetic career,” according to information about the award on

“The voice I can develop as a young African American male of immigrant parents has the potential to inspire many Charlotte residents in diverse communities to engage with the literary arts,” Akanmu said.

Isaac Akanmu’s work has appeared in Jellyfish Review, Posit Journal, Olney Magazine and other publications. Akanmu will conduct a free poetry workshop at the University City Regional Library on Saturday, May 13 from 1 – 3 p.m., as part of the Laureate Workshop Series.


The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra (CSO) announced the appointment of Angel Adams as the orchestra’s vice president of finance and administration. In this role, Adams will oversee the organization’s day-to-day accounting operations, office administration and strategic financial plan. She joins the Charlotte Symphony from Innovative Digital Systems, a $13 million company umbrella for six individual companies, where she served as controller and human resources manager.

“I am delighted to be joining the CSO and to have the opportunity to work alongside this group of dedicated and passionate individuals,” said Adams. “I’m especially proud to be able to roll up my sleeves and get to work in support of an organization that has such strong community programs in addition to its incredible performances in venues throughout Charlotte.”

Adams is a graduate of Clemson University where she earned her bachelor’s degrees in mathematical sciences and economics.  P

10 Pride Magazine |

Building for a Greater Impact

As businesses seek to recover after the last few years of pandemic uncertainty and turmoil, they may ask, “Where do we go from here?” Although surviving was the goal for many throughout the pandemic, what’s next in business or your work life? How do you move from survival mode to something greater, more risky, purposeful, or productive?

Whether you’re an employee, supervisor, manager or director, can you shift your focus from maintaining to building? If you’re building and progressing towards your business, corporate or personal goals, kudos to you! But if you’re not, how can you? Here are some suggestions. To shift from maintenance to building, we must consider two things: processes and people. Processes are required to move things forward. Another word for processes could be systems. Systems are a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular desired end. Are you purposefully developing and documenting your processes for yourself so that they can be understood and embraced by those on your team? Well thought out processes put you in a position to be able to delegate and scale your business to multiply your impact. It’s literally sharpening your ax for greater productivity and influence.

What about people? Who is working with you to move the business, organization, personal goal, or project forward? Do they know that you’re on the same team together working towards a common end? As you think about your team, ask

yourself: Is more of the work getting done by you as a ‘worker-bee’ (maintenance) or through your leadership, envisioning, and delegation (building)? Organizations and businesses grow when both maintenance and building are equally in focus. But if you’re the only one leading your team, and most of the work is being done by you, then you’re simply maintaining. Following this pathway over time will lead to personal exhaustion, burnout, discouragement, and an unrealized goal, hindered organization and stunted business.

When considering this topic, I’m reminded of a real-life and biblical example from the book of Nehemiah. He had a heartfelt burden and vision for restoring the city of Jerusalem, which had been left in ruins after its enemies destroyed it. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king, and catalytic leader that was moved to envision the city being restored. To move his vision forward, he prayed and asked God to forgive the people who sinned against God, for their sin had invited foreign invaders to attack it in the first place. Secondly, he understood that to accomplish such an overwhelming task, he knew that he couldn’t do it alone. He needed processes, people, and resources to accomplish the rebuilding of the walls of the city.

He had no desire to simply allow the city to remain in the state that it was. He was compelled to rebuild the walls, which would regain a secure city front against outsiders and intruders. First, to move the task forward, he went to his boss (King

Artaxerxes) and asked for leave so that he could go back to his hometown and rebuild the city. The king said, “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?”

(Nehemiah 2:6) The king gave him his commitment to support his efforts. He even gave him timber for the gates of the fortress of the temple, for the wall of the city, and a house. God had given Nehemiah everything he needed to build. Throughout the book, God provided skilled people, resources, materials, and money to complete the project. In Nehemiah 13, the Bible says that the walls were rebuilt and dedicated to the Lord.

But what if the status quo was all that Nehemiah desired? What if maintaining a run-down city was his only goal? He would have missed the opportunity to witness and experience all that God wanted to do through Him for His glory.

What aspect of your business or work can benefit from a fresh perspective? What is waiting to be built or rebuilt around you? How can you begin praying and asking God to provide for the task and use you to build it? What new processes need to be put in place for something to be built and run for the long haul? What people should be added to your team? We live in the season of opportunity. Let’s sharpen our ax or our weathered chainsaw and build something amazing and God-sized for His glory and honor P

May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 11
The Rev. Dwayne Bond is the lead pastor of Wellspring Church. /

Settling Into Spring with Life Stories and Poetry

“You Are Only Just Beginning: Lessons for the Journey Ahead”

Art, poetry and encouragement work together in a striking collection created by autistic mixed media artist, Morgan Harper Nichols. With a backstory just as intriguing as her work, Nichols wasn’t diagnosed as autistic until the age of 31. Before the diagnosis became official, she knew her style of communication was special. She communicated through art! In her latest effort, Nichols provides an opportunity to assist others who are beginning a journey, no matter where it leads.

“Why Fathers Cry at Night: A Memoir in Love Poems, Recipes and Remembrances”

Occasionally, award-winning children’s book writer Kwame Alexander steps away from writing books for young readers and pens something for adults. In this captivating memoir, Alexander strings together the pieces of his past to form a kind of patchwork quilt of poems, letters and yes, recipes. We learn about how his parents’ relationship influenced his life and his own relationships. We learn about the impact of his mother’s recent passing on his life. Along the way, he provides a sort of blueprint of experiences that he hopes will forge a pathway of understanding for his two daughters, as well as a greater understanding of himself by himself.

“Narrative of Sojourner Truth”

When you think of Sojourner Truth, her famous line, “Ain’t I a Woman” probably comes to mind. Truth was a preacher, abolitionist, and women’s rights advocate in the mid 1800s. Born enslaved and emancipated in 1827, she changed her name from Isabella to Sojourner Truth and later narrated her life story because she couldn’t read or write. This rich contribution to American history is being reissued as part of the Penguin Random House Modern Library Torchbearer’s Series, “created to honor a more inclusive vision of classic books by recognizing women who wrote on their own terms, with boldness, creativity, and a spirit of resistance.”

Children's Choice

“Mermaid and Pirate”

“No Sweet Without Brine”

Let’s celebrate the poems! Let’s celebrate the poet! This collection by Cynthia Manick is a deep dive into contemporary Blackness. When you dive into this poetry collection, you will emerge, gasping for air, catching your breath, grateful for the opportunity. Treasured moments from Black life exude from the pages. From odes to Idris Elba, to appreciating halfpriced Entenmann’s poundcake, Manick seems to understand that a dill pickle tastes delicious because of the brine.

In May, Disney brings “The Little Mermaid,” one of its most popular animated classics to theaters as a live action tale starring African American songstress and actor Halle Bailey. This is the perfect time to introduce children to related books and images highlighting the diversity of our imaginations.

“Mermaid and Pirate” is not “The Little Mermaid.” Instead, the brightly illustrated picture book includes characters sure to help all children expand their appreciation of a multicultural world. P

12 Pride Magazine | BookReview

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Conceptual rendering Don’t wait to learn more! Call 1-800-983-7609 for your free brochure. 602400 Matthews May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 13 Business partners like you make it possible to fight the affordable housing crisis. Homeless to homeownership, every step of the way. Give or learn more at Corporate Champions Community Link

Happy Mother’s Day! Happy Father’s Day!

Four daughters thank their parents for nurturing their dreams

Four daughters of a local Charlotte couple are flourishing in their respective careers and making their parents, Peggy and Dr. Harvey Harris, proud. All four daughters reflect on their parents’ support and encouragement — giving them the fuel they needed to pursue challenging careers in various parts of the country.

whatever they want to achieve … They are each capable of doing anything they set their minds to do,” Peggy said. She also taught them to, “pursue your goals and always maintain humility,” she said.

Today, Victoria Harris Talley, their oldest daughter, 34, is married and has an MBA from Hampton University. She currently works as an accountant for a large international law firm in Washington, D.C.

As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day in May and June, the Harris sisters — Victoria, Kathryn, Jacquelin, and Rachel — express their gratitude and share some touching thoughts and ways their parents nurtured them as they were growing up — which continue to positively influence them today.

Peggy shared that she and her husband’s families continually poured a “can-do attitude” into them as they were growing up, and they’ve passed that nurturing support on to their daughters. “I always encourage my girls to do their best at

“(My parents) gave me many opportunities to learn and grow, while instilling values, respect and integrity,” Victoria said. “They celebrate my wins and encourage me to keep going — regardless of the situation. I hope to one day parent my children the same way they’ve parented me.”

Kathryn Harris, 32, has a medical degree from Meharry Medical College and has been practicing medicine for five years. She’s now a second year cardiology fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

14 Pride Magazine |
Peggy Harris, regional chief diversity officer for Atrium Health, and Dr. Harvey Harris, an OB/GYN with Novant Health, who have been married for nearly 39 years, are the proud parents of four extraordinarily successful daughters. Victoria Kathryn
(My parents) gave me many opportunities to learn and grow, while instilling values, respect and integrity.”
—Victoria Harris Talley

“Cardiology is my passion,” she said. “I enjoy providing lifesaving interventions for patients,” she said. “I followed my father into medicine,” Kathryn added. “He’s my inspiration for going into the field. I know I’m capable of being successful from following his example.” My mom also has always been a proponent of health equity, and I’ve learned a lot about the value of diversity in medicine from her.”

Professional dancer Jacquelin Harris, 30, has a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance from Fordham University and has danced with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for 10 years.

“It’s my dream job because of its importance in American culture and African American culture,” Jacquelin said.

Both her parents have been consistently supportive and encouraging, Jacqueline said. “In my junior year (in college), they came to watch my dance classes. After the class one day her mother said, ‘You’ll definitely get a job. You are so great!’” Jacquelin said. “That gave me the confidence to put everything I had into being a professional dancer.”

She continued, “And my father is so generous with his time and support, once driving me 10 hours to New York (and back) in a snowstorm to ensure I made an audition.”

Rachel Harris, 25, is the youngest of the four Harris daughters and loves dancing also. She earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Southern California, and she’s now a professional dancer with Parsons Dance in New York City. Rachel said she’s been dancing since she was 2 and has always devoted lots of time to the art. The positive feedback she received from her high school dance mentors inspired her to dream of dancing professionally.

“Then once I saw Jacquelin pursue a dance degree and begin her professional career, I knew my dream could become a reality,” she said.

“My parents always supported my dreams,” she added. They told her she could attend any college she wanted as long as she did well in high school. “Plus, dad often reassured me of how proud he was of me, regardless of my grades or accolades!” P

May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 15
Jacquelin Rachel
And my father is so generous with his time and support, once driving me 10 hours to New York (and back) in a snowstorm to ensure I made an audition.”
—Jacquelin Harris
“My parents always supported my dreams. Plus, dad often reassured me of how proud he was of me, regardless of my grades or accolades!”
—Rachel Harris

Tommy Nichols Promotes Filmmaking and Digital Literacy in Charlotte

Charlotte Black Film Festival

July 6 – 9, 2023

Online and In-Person Screenings

Plus: Workshops, Speakers and Red Carpet

Vision Awards

The founder of the Charlotte Black Film Festival, Tommy Nichols, is not only passionate about films, he’s also on a mission to advance job creation in Charlotte using digital technology education and training in film production. Nichols says he’s dedicated to “creating empowering platforms for dope people to do amazing things.”

See a problem, find a solution

Nichols is proud of how far the CBFF has progressed in more than 20 years of showcasing independent films from Black

creators. He fondly recounts the many testimonials people have shared with him and the scrappy little films that have gone on to see worldwide success.

But Nichols didn’t wake up one day and decide to start a film festival — this endeavor was much more intentional.

He started the first Blackowned technology training firm in Dayton, Ohio. In 2009, he moved to the Queen City to work in film and technology. Once settled in the area, he realized the Black community was woefully underserved when it came to film production and training; so in 2010, he created the Charlotte Black Film Festival.

16 Pride Magazine |
Tommy Nichols, founder of the Charlotte Black Film Festival and executive director of PowerUp USA Photo by Todd Youngblood

This year’s four-day film festival, scheduled for July 6 – 9, will be a hybrid event including 35 films that will be screened in person and 65 to be streamed online. There will also be workshops, speakers and the annual Red Carpet Vision Awards, where the best films will be recognized.

Nichols said his goal is to use the film platform to bridge the digital divide between Charlotte’s haves and have nots and use the festival to drive workforce development for up-and-coming minority filmmakers. These days he gets about 400 submissions from Charlotte’s independent Black filmmakers. He screens each entry and narrows the submissions to the top 100 to showcase.

“Our mission is to provide a platform for emerging and established Black filmmakers to showcase their work, inspire and educate audiences, and promote diversity and inclusion in the film industry,” explained Nichols.

The festival includes full-length and short films, documentaries, animations and experimental films that all explore different themes and experiences that reflect the

richness and complexity of the African American community.

“I say, ‘How can we make this film thing equal and give [Blacks] their fair share?’” said Nichols. “The Charlotte Black Film Festival is the first platform dedicated to African American content creators, producers, actors and writers. It gives the local artist access to industry training, new content direction and industry expert advice that doesn’t exist in Charlotte.”

The festival expands economic development in the film industry, but also

adds value in the tourism and hospitality industries, he said.

Evolution of a film festival

The festival has grown organically over the years, and Nichols said he likes to keep things interesting.

“We do things that others don’t — like our PitchMe Competition, Actors Idol, Fashion of Film Showcase and Red Carpet Vision Awards. And last year we added the Comedy of Film showcase,” said Nichols. And the festival has been consistent even during the Covid pandemic, he said.

Some of the hottest entries this year include: “Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story,” “African Redemption: The Life & Legacy of Marcus Garvey,” “Bigger Than Africa” and “Black Coffee.”

While many festival organizers seek to outperform the year before with bigger and better acts, Nichols has turned his attention inward to grow the event.

May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 17
Above: Charlotte Black Film Festival attendees; Right:  Tommy Nichols and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles at a past Charlotte Black Film Festival event; Bottom Right:  Tommy Nichols and his wife Michelle
“The Charlotte Black Film Festival is the first platform dedicated to African American content creators, producers, actors and writers.” —TOMMY NICHOLS
Photos courtesy of Tommy Nichols

“Adding more creative elements, funding opportunities and industry connection to the festival is key for its growth and sustainability,” Nichols said.

First, the CBFF website received a major overhaul after Nichols created

“Instead of paying $9,000 to $10,000 for another platform to screen our films, I created my own, which stands for Independent Original Content,” Nichols said.

In 2022, IOCTV received grant funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Art + Tech Expansion Fund to update CBFF’s website security protocols. Nichols also used some of the funding to create a mobile app, Reel Inclusion, which will increase the impact and reach of the festival, he said. Nichols also plans to hold quarterly screenings, ultimately giving local filmmakers more opportunities to be seen by the big studios.

“Everybody says they want to do inclusion, so — we’re trying not to give [the studios] an excuse. There will be diversity and inclusion,” he said.

The CBFF rules require the lead actor, writer or director to be from the African diaspora. However, the festival also has representation from the Latino, Asian, white and LGBTQ+ communities. Last year, the festival included a filmmaker from the deaf community for the first time.

Giving back

For Nichols, being a “digital apostle” means teaching and acting in a Godlike manner.

“I’m a man of prayer. Most of us don’t tap into heaven. [Inspiration] comes down to me from tapping into heaven that I pull down to here,” said Nichols pointing to his mentorship program, the Carolina Black Film Collective, where filmmakers collaborate on employment opportunities, grants, production and workforce development training.

on Amazon Prime. After attending their first CBFF in 2016, the McNeils volunteered at CBFF festivals and attended meetups with the collective.

“We continue to view Tommy as a mentor. He’s very passionate about seeing others succeed and possesses a wealth of knowledge,” said Peter McNeil.

Nichols is also the creator and executive director of PowerUp USA, an organization that works to empower Charlotte citizens with skills and training around digital literacy, technology, and digital filmmaking to help bridge the digital divide.

In addition to his work locally, the National Endowment for the Arts hired Nichols for a second year to review proposals and recommend media arts grants totaling almost $4 million for artistic projects nationwide. “This organization is discretely using media on the web in a very, very unique way to tell stories,” he said.

Local filmmakers Peter and Pam McNeil credit Nichols’ guidance when talking about their first feature film, “Urge,” which is now streaming

With all the work he has on his plate, Nichols said he’s accepted that the cause requires a lot of late nights and sacrifice. But in the end, it’s a story worth telling. P

18 Pride Magazine |
The National Endowment for the Arts hired Nichols for a second year to review proposals and recommend media arts grants totaling almost $4 million for artistic projects nationwide.
Top Left: Charlotte Black Film Festival attendees; Top Right: From left to right: Tommy Nichols, Actress Maria Howell, Actor Keith David and festival attendee; Bottom Right: PowerUp USA coding camp students Photos courtesy of Tommy Nichols
20 Pride Magazine |
Best dressed at the Ball
May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 21

New Orleans Chef Brings Authentic Creole Cuisine to Charlotte

For some authentic made- from-scratch delicious Creole Cuisine this side of the French Quarter, check out Bite Your Tongue, a pickup/delivery-style eatery with additional catering services in West End. This family-owned business, which also offers catering services, brought its cultural roots to the area serving flavorful dishes straight from “Nawlins.”

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Heart of the kitchen

Initially established in New Orleans in 2002, owner and selftaught Chef Martine Clark relocated her family just a day before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. They only planned to stay briefly but ultimately made Charlotte home. In 2007 they began restaurant operations in the area.

Clark created a few other projects and temporarily closed Bite Your Tongue, but she reopened her doors in November 2021 and has been serving bold, flavorful dishes ever since with her mother and daughter.

“What keeps me going is my love for cooking. It gets me out of bed. I show love by preparing food.”
— Chef Martine Clark
BiteYourTongue’scharcuterietray PhotobyAngieFord
Chef Martine Clark, owner of Bite Your Tongue restaurant
22 Pride Magazine |
Photo by Angie Ford

When asked how she got her start in the business, she said it began in her first apartment and she knew it was what she wanted to do. “I started cooking, and then I realized how much I enjoyed it.” With this determination, the rest was history. Clark opened a small space in Uptown, and it grew into what it is today.

Dishing it out

With stellar reviews, some of BYT’s most popular menu items include seafood gumbo, white chocolate bread pudding, red beans and rice, and their signature drink Strango, a strawberry lemonade with a mango tea blend. They also have heat-and-eat menu items — made-ahead meals that are purchased cold and meant to enjoy at a later time.

Clark is also a successful author — her book, “Appetizers and Cocktails,” is a collection of her go-to recipes, drink mixes, and her love of hosting gatherings. “It’s some of my favorites. I like to entertain quite a bit,” she shared. One of her cocktail creations, “Stradva,” is a spin on her popular drink Strango, mixed with vodka. It has been a big hit with customers.

You can pick up the book on the restaurant’s website, Barnes and Noble

or Amazon. Clark is working on a new publication that will feature more entrees and desserts with that authentic New Orleans taste.

The next big bite

When asked what her plans were for the future of BYT, Chef Martine shared, “I want us to be the number one grab-and-go company or heat-and-eat company in the city.” She added, “We would like to have a few of our products go national.”

Working in the food industry has its challenges, but Clark said she keeps a few things in mind. “People are counting on me. What customers think and how we run our business is very important to me.”

Additionally, being from the Big Easy has its cultural influences. “Coming from New Orleans, food is at the center of everything we do for any celebration. Food is so big in New Orleans,” she said with a smile.

Cooking is Chef Martine’s love language. “What keeps me going is my love for cooking. It gets me out of bed. I show love by preparing food,” she said.

So grab your tastebuds and visit Bite Your Tongue. See their full menu and services on their website,

Remember to tell them Pride Magazine sent you. P

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“Coming from New Orleans, food is at the center of everything we do for any celebration. Food is so big in New Orleans.”
Chef Martine Clark
Chef Martine Clark’s book, “Appetizers & Cocktails,” was published in 2022 and is available on Amazon.
May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 23
Photo by Angie Ford

Albemarle Corporation

Julie Luong

Maintenance and Reliability Engineer

Julie is responsible for equipment mechanical integrity at the Kings Mountain Lithium Plant. She collaboratively solves safety, production, and maintenance issues in the manufacturing environment.

Alex Sexton

Senior Treasury Manager

Alex oversees global liquidity and continuous improvement within the Treasury Department. She leads philanthropic initiatives for the WomenCONNECT

Employee Resource Group and serves on the employee council for the Albemarle Foundation.

Shawn McClure

Global Human Resources Information Technology Manager

Shawn partners with IT and Business Leadership to define and execute short, medium, and long-term organization goals to enhance efficiency and promote crosscompany innovation.

Hannah Stephens

Senior Director, Global Talent Acquisition

Hannah leads Albemarle’s global talent acquisition team focused on attracting the world’s brightest minds to create a more resilient world for people and planet.

Indu Kheterpal

Senior Director, Global Quality and Analytical Technology

Indu is responsible for a customer-driven quality culture within Albemarle’s Energy Storage Business. She serves on the Albemarle’s DEI steering team and is a member of the American Chemical Society’s Women Chemists Committee.

Nan Ding

Global Marketing Director

Nan has a broad career trajectory, from researching lithium extraction to managing bromine global businesses, to strategic marketing. She also leads the implementation of the business unit’s Customer Experience initiatives.

American Red Cross Tiffany Circle

Hope Martin

Sickle Cell Account Manager

Hope focuses on the education and importance of diverse blood donors to support Sickle Cell Warriors. She has built humanitarian relationships with community organizations for 16 years.

Dr. Yvette Marie Miller

Executive Medical Officer

Dr. Miller oversees blood donor recruitment and retention in the Black community to meet the transfusion needs of patients with sickle cell disease, equitable access to blood donation by the LGBTQI+ community and more.

Amity Medical Group, Inc.

Jason Hardin, MSN, AGNP-C, AAHIVS HIV/Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Jason provides competent, considerate and compassionate primary care to persons living with HIV (PLHIV), one of our community’s high priority populations.

Heather Manos, MD, FASAM Medical Director-Addiction and Recovery Services

Dr. Manos provides addiction medicine specialty care in a primary care setting and uses her expertise to cultivate a patient-centered experience for individuals suffering from various substance use disorders.

Atrium Health

Fernando Little, MSL

Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer

Fernando leads enterprise-wide collaboration in operations and academic programs. His work fosters diversity, equity, inclusion, (DEI) culturally competent care, and inclusive purchasing. He develops and monitors programs and processes to sustain an inclusive culture across the Southeast.

Peggy Harris, MHA, FACHE, CDM, SPHR

Chief Diversity Officer, Greater Charlotte, NC & Atrium Health Floyd/Rome, GA

Peggy is responsible for DEI strategy execution and administration, which includes the alignment of workforce DEI activities, oversight of DEI infrastructure, military and veteran affairs, as well as DEI education.

May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 25

Jakki Opollo, PHD,RN, MSN, PH

Vice President, Talent Initiatives & Chief Diversity Officer, Atrium Health Wake Forest

Dr. Opollo is responsible for overseeing strategy to build and strengthen structures, policies and practices to provide an inclusive environment for patients, teammates and the communities served.

Geneen Ransaw, M.Ed., SHRM-SCP, SPHR

Assistant Vice President, HR Ops & Chief Diversity Officer, Atrium Health Navicent Geneen is responsible for strategic DEI initiatives that foster inclusion across the organization.

Brenda Latham-Sadler, MD

Sr. Associate Dean, Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Clinical Professor Family and Community Medicine, an Affiliate in the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity

Dr. Latham-Sadler holds a faculty appointment in the Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, serving in leadership roles at Wake Forest School of Medicine/Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Manwell Bynum, BS

Head of Business Acceleration

Manwell ensures that Atrium Health’s economic mobility and inclusive purchasing decisions are economically viable and socially equitable, with a focus on bolstering spending in Atrium Health communities with the highest needs.

Bank of America

Will Manning

Private Bank NC Market Executive

With 17 years of service, Will leads the overall effort to serve the wealth management and banking needs of high net worth families in North Carolina, also serving on the Make A Wish Foundation board.

Grace Nystrum

Charlotte Market Executive

With 26 years of service, Grace focuses on delivering comprehensive marketing strategies and planning for the bank’s consumers. Nystrum is honored to serve on numerous boards, including Carolina Small Business Development Fund.

Marlo Wilson

Chief Operating Officer for Employee Experience Technology

With 22 years of service, Marlo provides extensive experience in creating technology- based solutions and structural frameworks, working tirelessly to strengthen representation, diversity and inclusion for Global Technology’s underrepresented teammates.

Lindsay Burrell Enterprise Financial Planning & Compensation Finance Executive

With 19 years of serving BAC, Lindsey analytically plans and forecasts, expense and revenue analysis while identifying and implementing improvements and cost saves. She serves as a board member at the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Kathryn Black Strategic Initiatives Executive

With 23 years of service, Kathryn is responsible for supporting local markets in delivering the Enterprise Jobs Initiative and overseeing the program office of the Bank of America Alumni Network

Ray Chinn

Managing Director of Operational Excellence and Transformation

With 20 years of service, Ray finds new ways to connect with customers and helps them improve their financial lives. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Prospera, NC, helping Hispanic entrepreneurs succeed.

Blacks in Technology

Natasha Walwyn Robinson, Esq. President, Blacks In Technology Charlotte

Natasha leads a team of volunteer staff members who support over 400 active members and focuses on youth programming, scholarships, career development, and professional networking.

Michelle Schultz, MS

Chief of Staff of the Global Blacks In Technology Foundation

Michelle leads administrative, member programming, and operational efforts for the foundation and heads the Converge mentorship program for over 25,000 members.

PRIDE MAGAINZE BEST OF THE BEST 2023 26 Pride Magazine |

Canopy Realtor® Association/ Canopy Housing Foundation

LaToya Simms

Director, Canopy Real Estate Institute

LaToya is responsible for day-to-day operations and management, including Canopy’s educational programming, professional development, training and the virtual Canopy Campus.

Kim Oliver

Director of Community Engagement Canopy Housing Foundation

Kim oversees the programmatic areas for the foundation and plays a key role in the planning and implementation of these initiatives to ensure programs address critical community needs.

Charlotte Area Fund

Angela Grier

Workforce Development Coordinator

Angela is a 20 year corporate veteran, managing workforce development recruitment, training, and job placement for high-demand career pathways, strategic employment partnerships, community relations and outreach.

Ashley Williams-Hatcher Programs Director/ CSBG

Ashley directs the Charlotte Area Fund’s Community Service Block Grant Self-Sufficiency program planning and execution, budgeting, hiring, state compliance reporting and performance management metrics. She has received the National Program Director of the Year Award.

Debra Moncrief

Work Readiness Soft Skills Training

Debra provides comprehensive case management, monitors client performance metrics, and ensures workforce development transition to employment/retention.

Charlotte Country Day School

Jovonne Taborn

First-Grade Lead teacher and DEIB co-leader

Jovonne helps young learners’ master essential skills to become successful. She provides support and guidance for students, faculty, and staff and is co-founder of the LS Multicultural Affinity Groups for students in grades 1-4.

Stacy Utley

Upper School Fine Arts Teacher, Advisor, Dean, and Black Student Union Club Advisor

Serving as a mentor and role model, Stacy inspires young artists to find their passion and hone their craft. He recently was awarded the Designlife Award by NC State to honor an emerging professional.

Beverley Johnson

Director of Extended Day/After School Enrichment

A 20-year veteran, Beverly guides the summer and after-school programming towards continued, consistent growth and success. She was one of the founding members of POCIS, People of Color in Independent Schools, at Country Day.

Community Link

Robin Bridges

Intake Manager

Robin supervises daily operations of intake coordinators, greeters and Travelers Aid. She also develops and manages the performance of intake coordinators while monitoring the call volume for each program.

Dempsey Miller

Director of Asset Building

Dempsey provides effective education and counseling services to homeownership counselors. He collaborates with and establishes positive relationships with the real estate and mortgage lending communities.

Marsha Clark

Asset Building Team Lead

Marsha is responsible for recruitment and training of site coordinators and VITA volunteers. She maintains working knowledge of homeownership grants and agreements, mortgage requirements, DPA programs and default/delinquency requirements and changes.

Duke Energy-Piedmont Natural Gas

Tyler Klemas

Senior Business Systems Specialist, Chair – Veterans Employee Resource Group

Tyler leads Duke Energy’s military and veteran recruiting efforts and is Chair of the Veterans Employee Resource Group (ERG).

PRIDE MAGAINZE BEST OF THE BEST 2023 May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 27

Heather Oxendine Manager Area Ops Support, Chair – Indigenous Employee Resource Group

A citizen of the Lumbee Tribe, Heather is an operations leader and inaugural chair of the Forever Indigenous Resource Support Team (FIRST), promoting indigenous awareness and advocacy.

Ruba M. Kachlan

Sr Nuclear Engineer – Nuclear Fleet D&I Council Lead

Ruba co-chairs the Nuclear Fleet D&I Council. She passionately leads her team to implement initiatives that foster an inclusive environment across the nuclear fleet.

Kamille S. Jones

Sr HR Consultant

Kamille is a 20 year human resources expert, providing strategic coaching and influencing leaders across multiple functions within her organization. She is an active board member of RAIN, Inc.

Faith Young

Managing Director, Supply Chain Management, Strategic Sourcing

Young oversees the execution of Duke Energy’s supply strategies, leveraging external resources on behalf of the company’s generation, transmission, customer delivery and natural gas businesses.

Ernst & Young LLP

Megan Turner Partner

Megan leads EY’s Financial Services Enterprise Risk practice for the south region. She serves on the board of the Urban League of Central Carolinas and Executive Leadership Team for Charlotte Go Red for Women.

Sophie Campbell-Smith Partner

Sophie leads the Health Risk practice for EY’s Americas region. With over 20 years in professional services, she advises leading health care organizations on a wide range of risk management and compliance matters.

Fifth Third Bank

Olufemi (Femi) Lamikanra, CFP® Vice President, Wealth Management Advisor

Femi assists high net-worth clients manage and sustain their wealth to achieve their personal and financial goals throughout their life and for future generations.

Ed Timberlake

VP, Small Business Community Lender

Ed works with communities throughout the bank’s low-moderate Income areas, to provide businesses with appropriate banking services and solutions that help grow, sustain, and empower them.

Rasheca Barrow

VP, Community Development Investment Director

Rasheca is responsible for deploying equity capital to support community revitalization and the creation and preservation of affordable housing in low- and moderate-income communities in the southeast.

Foundation for the Carolinas/ Foundation for Black Philanthropy

Eddie Taylor

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager

Eddie ensures that FFTC creates the policies and procedures necessary to reach its “leading with equity” goal. His internal focus is to encourage employee engagement by fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging.

David Snider

Vice President & Program Officer

David manages board and grants management for private foundations, the Lexington Area Community Foundation and the Salisbury-Rowan Community Foundation. He oversees The Plus Collective, a collective giving program that supports the LGBTQ+ community in the Charlotte region.

Ayanna Wakefield Lutin

Assistant Vice President, Family Office Partners

Ayanna oversees the Foundation’s relationships with custom clients, advising on philanthropy and managing grantmaking boards. She also helps personal fundholders and private foundations realize their charitable visions.

PRIDE MAGAINZE BEST OF THE BEST 2023 28 Pride Magazine |

Grant Thornton LLP

Jennifer Ornelas

Manager – Advisory Transformation Services, LatinX Business Resource Leader (Charlotte)

Jennifer leads large scale project management engagements for clients, primarily in the banking industry. She leads the LatinX Business Resource Group (BRG) and co-leads the Working Parents BRG for the Charlotte practice.

Danielle Coney

Associate – Audit Services, Black Professionals

Business Resource Coordinator (Charlotte)

Danielle conducts financial statement audits for clients primarily in the real estate, construction and retail industries. She coordinates community engagement activities for the Black Professionals Business Resource Group (BRG) for the Charlotte practice.

Hornets Sports & Entertainment

Seth Bennett

Chief Marketing Officer

Seth oversees the Hornets’ marketing strategy and brand identity, managing departments including marketing, creative services, event and game presentation, retail and youth programs.

Stephanie Hurren

Senior Director of Human Resources

Stephanie manages HR strategies across all Hornets Sports & Entertainment entities including the Charlotte Hornets, Greensboro Swarm, Hornets Venom GT and Spectrum Center.


Claudette Houston

Administrative Clerk in Housing Choice Voucher Department

Claudette’s dedication and steadfastness was invaluable to the organization throughout the pandemic.

Mecklenburg County Public Health Department

Karina Gonzalez

Latino/Hispanic Community Liaison

Karina leads health department efforts to bridge the health equity gap impacting Latino/Hispanic communities through sustainable policy, internal practices, programs and services.

Raydiance Swanston

Health Program Manager

Raydiance oversees the County’s dental program, which provides affordable comprehensive dental care for residents, and leads the expansion of the schools’ oral health program.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office

Bradley Venant Deputy Sheriff

Deputy Venant is currently assigned to Arrest Processing where his expertise in deescalation has a huge impact on the agency.

Michael McCray Detention Officer

Officer McCray inspires change through his work with the MCSO Community Engagement Team. He is always available to lend a helping hand.

National Institute of Minority Economic Development

Linda Hughes

Technology and Innovation Manager

Linda leads the NIMED’s (Institute) technology, systems, and innovation strategies by developing and implementing processes that increase organization quality, growth and sustainability via digital transformation. She is the change agent for data driven organizational culture.

Rocio Gonzalez

Executive Director

Rocio leads the Women’s Business Center of Charlotte, supporting women entrepreneurs in 12 counties, empowering them with education and counseling, providing the tools and resources needed to establish their business and create strategies for success.

Neighboring Concepts

Frank Little


Frank is responsible for managing projects and overseeing quality assurance and quality control. He is the primary leader for the firm’s education projects.

PRIDE MAGAINZE BEST OF THE BEST 2023 May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 29

Cathy Morrison Partner

Cathy focuses on business development strategy. She is the primary leader for the firm’s healthcare projects.

Northeastern University Charlotte

Dr. Grace Buttriss, DNP, FNP-BC, CNL Program Director/Clinical Professor, ABSN Program

Dr. Butriss oversees strategic planning and curriculum development for the Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (ABSN) Program for Northeastern’s Charlotte campus, and collaborates with health care partners to support the educational preparation of the future nursing workforce.

Andrew Bonner, PhD., BCBA-D Program Director/Assistant Clinical Professor, ABA Program

Dr. Bonner directs Northeastern’s hybrid Master’s of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), with the first student cohort planned for fall 2023 on the Charlotte campus.

Gibbie Harris, MSPH, BSN Visiting Clinical Professor, MPH Program With over 40 years in public health, in Fall 2023 Gibbie will provide the first student cohort with real-world insight into the complex issues inherent in improving health outcomes across entire communities.

Cherese Childers-McKee, PhD Program Director/Associate Teaching Professor, EdD Program

Dr. Childers-McKee supports a department of over 800 students. She is responsible for providing strategy and vision for the EdD as well as overseeing the day-to-day academic integrity of the program for the Charlotte campus.

Dr. Kristy Rogers, DNP, APRN, CPNP-PC

Assistant Clinical Professor

Dr. Rogers is a course coordinator and instructor within the Advanced Assessment & Interventions/ Lab and Public Health Community Nursing courses, linking students to community clinical rotations for the Charlotte campus.

Novant Health

Sandy Charles, MD

Novant Health

Heart & Vascular Institute - SouthPark

Dr. Charles is the first Black female cardiologist, making equality, diversity and inclusion a focal point of her practice, with a strong voice around implicit bias when it comes to treatment of men and women.

Meeta Gandhi

Director of Operations, Novant Health

Presbyterian Medical Center

Meeta has successfully managed several renovation projects between Novant Health

Presbyterian Medical Center and Novant Health

Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital. She also engages team members to help retain top talent and maintain an inclusive work environment.

Robyn Barriffe

Chief Nursing Officer, Novant Health Matthews Medical Center

Robyn oversees the implementation of best practices to ensure high standards of safety and quality. She recently launched work focused on transforming care while ensuring her team enjoys their work.

Premier Inc.

Antuan Russ

Senior Software Engineer


Antuan uses analytics to transform data into insightful information used to help hospital members deliver maximum healthcare. He also serves as Co-Lead for BPAAC ERG

Octave Rouege

Senior Consultant, Nexera Consulting Services Division

Octave focuses on operations improvement, cost reduction, and financial improvement engagements, thereby improving health system supply chain efficiencies nationwide.

Charnele Brintley

Consultant Advisory Services, Women & Infants

Charnele collaborates with hospitals and healthcare systems to identify drivers of maternal/infant mortality and morbidity and implements quality and safety improvement solutions leveraging data analysis.

PRIDE MAGAINZE BEST OF THE BEST 2023 30 Pride Magazine |

Pride Educational Empowerment Program (PEEP)

Harold C. Dixon PEEP Board Chair

Harold will oversee PEEP’s vision of helping students of color build generational wealth by learning about and investing in capital markets through a First Generation Investors Program (FGI), along with entrepreneurship and career mentoring initiatives.

Providence Day School

Olga Mawougbe, Lower School Science Department; Alumni Parent

Olga introduces Lower School students to the world of science. She is a fiercely dynamic and innovative educator with a teaching philosophy rooted in relationship building and impacting her students in organically meaningful ways.

Fayon Thompson

Upper School Library Department; Alumni Parent

Fayon works closely with students across divisions in both a classroom setting and library environment. She is a passionate educator and leader with a remarkable approach to helping and caring for students.

Robinson Bradshaw

Angelique Vincent-Hamacher Attorney

Angie’s practice focuses on employment counseling and alternative dispute resolution. She advises on a range of employment issues, including federal and state employment law compliance, policy development and implementation and more.

James Cass Attorney

James’ practice represents banks, business development companies, small business investment companies and borrowers regarding financing transactions. He advises clients about structuring, negotiating, documenting and administering senior credit facilities and more.


Monique O’Neill

Director of Marketing and Communications

Monique leads marketing for five offices, maintaining brand integrity and furthering connections in the Southeast. She also serves as a public affairs specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Jenene Seymour

Director of Diversity and Community Development

Jenene helps drive Rodgers’ diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including outreach to diverse trade partners in order to facilitate meaningful partnerships and increased business inclusion.

Southern First Bank

Tim Elleby

Team Leader, Senior Vice President

Tim has nearly 30 years of experience in financial sales, retail banking, and commercial banking. He enjoys building relationships and helping others succeed.

Spectrum Reach

Lynie Martell-Jackson Client Success Planner

Lynie is a client success planner for the Charlotte sales team. She is responsible for working with sales, understanding client needs and planning an effective television, streaming and digital campaign.

Dianna Hughes

Advertising Account Executive

Dianna partners with local clients to help them understand television, streaming and digital advertising options available.

TD Bank

Ryan Jor El Coleman

Store Manager

Ryan will manage TD Bank’s new location on Wilkinson Road. His team will support the checking, savings and credit needs of consumers and small businesses, along with connecting with community members and organizations.

PRIDE MAGAINZE BEST OF THE BEST 2023 May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 31

Cynthia Forbes

Senior Regional Giving Manager Mid-South

Cynthia leads the bank’s corporate citizenship and charitable giving activities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.

Sheldon Hilaire

Commercial Team Leader PiedmontCharlotte Region

Sheldon oversees strategic growth for TD’s commercial banking portfolio in this market and is a founding member of the North Carolina Bankers Association (NCBA) DEI Council.

Frank Onyeajam

Commercial Relationship Manager

Frank oversees client relationships and acts as a trusted advisor for small businesses to support their financing needs in Charlotte and South Carolina.

Marcus Nelson Store Manager

Beatties Ford Road

Marcus and his team will support the checking, savings and credit needs of consumers and small businesses, along with connecting with community members and organizations.

Trinity Episcopal School

Charles King

Middle School Student Life Dean and English Language Arts Teacher

Charles is responsible for fostering and implementing the vision of character development and personal formation and overseeing all aspects of student life, including programming around diversity and belonging.

Juan Carlos Rodriguez

Facilities Staff Member

Juan Carlos has 17+ years of experience helping to ensure a safe and maintained environment for students, school faculty and staff, and all community members on campus.


Scenario Adebesin

CRA Managing Director of Compliance and Exam Management

Scenario develops impactful partnerships—in Charlotte and beyond—to lead Truist’s strategy for achieving a strong Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rating.

Glorious McIntosh

Leadership Development Program Analyst

Glorious shines in Truist’s early-career exploration program. She supports high-level projects in different business segments to build a strong base for her professional journey.

Lissa Miller

Chief Supplier Diversity Officer

Lissa creates opportunities to make our business better by promoting sustainability practices and including more minority and women-owned businesses in Truist’s supply chain.

Kenya Odoms

Insurance Holdings - Chief Talent Officer

Kenya leads strategic human resource practices that support the business plan—and creates thoughtful career matches—for Truist Insurance Holdings.

Richard Stevens

Branch Leader

Richard cultivates relationships with clients in the Freedom Drive corridor, finding creative ways to help them succeed—while helping teammates do the same.

Kevin Dale

Commercial Banker III

Kevin helps some of our most complex commercial clients—manufacturers, real estate investors, and non-profits—by providing game-changing banking services, like debt financing.

PRIDE MAGAINZE BEST OF THE BEST 2023 32 Pride Magazine |

Truliant Federal Credit Union

Ondra Walker First Impressions Specialist

As the first person to welcome visitors at Truliant’s headquarters, Ondra greets guests by name and offers a friendly smile to make them feel valued.

Lindsay Cooke Manager, Financial Crimes & Security

A veteran of her field, Linsday advances the proactive safeguarding of Truliant member finances and implements strategies that make the credit union a trusted partner.

United Purpose Mortgage

LaMarcus Thurman Vice President of Community Lending LaMarcus is responsible for building relationships, awareness, and education and is constructing his team to promote new loan products and programs to help underserved communities.

Duffy Hanna President of Howard Hanan Financial Services

Duffy Hanna is the President of Howard Hanna Financial Services. He aims to be the hometown lender of choice for underserved populations in its markets.

UNC Charlotte

Malcolm B. Butler, Ph.D. Professor and Dean, Cato College of Education

Dr. Butler is responsible for the academic, programmatic, managerial and fiscal success of the University’s Cato College of Education, its students, faculty and staff.

Mari Ross, Ph.D.

Associate Vice Chancellor – Division of Student Affairs

Dr. Ross oversees the University’s Health & Wellbeing unit consisting of the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Center, Center for Wellness Promotion, Center for Integrated Care and University Recreation.

U.S. Bank

Christine Bailey

Project Analyst

Christine is responsible for developing and implementing strategic initiatives to support retail growth in Charlotte. She serves on the boards of the U.S. Bank Nosotros Latinos Business Resource Group and the nonprofit She Built This City.

Linda Webb

Anti-Money Laundering Alerts Analyst

Linda performs enhanced due diligence on customers and ensures compliance requirements. She is a board member for the U.S. Bank Charlotte Development Network.

Michele Nestel

Senior Vice President, WMIS Transformation Office

Michele leads teams that execute Wealth Management and Investment Services strategic programs. She is the geographic lead for U.S. Bank’s Charlotte Development Network.

Ade Adedeji

Managing Director, ESG Advisory, Commercial Products

Ade leads the structuring of environmental, social and governance (ESG) financings across Loan Capital Markets, Trade Finance, Sponsor Finance, Asset-Based Finance and Equipment Finance.

WCNC Charlotte

Vanessa Ruffes News Anchor

Vanessa is a news anchor who connects with the community and helps write an engaging newscast filled with fresh, unique, and forward-thinking content for the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts.

Pierre Simmons Photojournalist

Pierre shoots, writes and edits stories for WCNC TV and online. He discovers enterprise stories that include diverse voices and context.

PRIDE MAGAINZE BEST OF THE BEST 2023 May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 33

Dennis McDermott Sales Executive

Dennis specializes in creating new and incremental television and digital revenue for WCNC. He develops advertising solutions for new customers that deliver results.

Matt Hammond Promotions Manager

Matt leads the process of concepting and the production of marketing promos and graphic elements for the station, clients and community partners.

Wells Fargo

Andrew Jemerigbe Business Execution Consultant

Andrew manages multiple vertical portfolios. His responsibilities include managing risk in accordance with the third party program while working with key stakeholders.

Danielle Squires

Head of Diverse Segments - Corporate & Investment Bank Executive Vice President

Danielle is responsible for maximizing positive client outcomes and helping achieve greater access to the capital markets.

Clarence L. Nunn

Head of Diverse Segments - Wealth & Investment Management Executive Vice President

Clarence leads expansion into diverse market segments of existing products & services, targeting new prospects and existing clients within WIM and across Wells Fargo.

Wendell Brown Supplier Diversity Program Manager

Wendell integrates diverse suppliers into Wells Fargo’s sourcing and procurement processes. He serves on the board of the Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council.

PRIDE MAGAINZE BEST OF THE BEST 2023 34 Pride Magazine |

The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) has a 2023-2025 goal of awarding 9.7% projected at $6.2 million to certified DBE and subcontractors across multiple federal transit administration-funded projects, including:

• LYNX Red Line light rail study

• Gateway Station construction

• South End Station design

Are you looking for opportunities to grow your small business? 704-336-RIDE (7433)
20 years DBEs have provided essential services that assist CATS in providing public transit services to the Charlotte region. Let’s continue to work together to enhance the community one project at a time. To learn more about the DBE program, visit and click on Civil Rights.
no further than the City of Charlotte’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. The DBE program provides opportunities for small minority companies to compete for federally-assisted transportation, aviation, and highway contracts.
Look Federally insured by NCUA. *Must meet credit bureau and ChexSystems qualifications. Early Pay does not apply to certificates, loans, IRAs, IRA Money Market accounts or HSA Savings accounts. Truliant can only post funds and make them available to you up to two days early after we receive notification that an ACH deposit is on the way. We cannot guarantee early posting. We offer straightforward solutions with fast and local lending decisions to meet personal, small business or larger commercial-lending needs. Experience our full suite of banking services, including free checking with Early Pay,* great rates, home and auto insurance, and much more. Financial exper ts with roots in Charlotte, not just branches. That’s brighter banking.

Freedom Fighting Missionaries Giving hope and second chances

get back because they’ve been through an experience,” Robinson said. “But the reality of all those things hits you right in the face when you get out with nothing. You can dream all you want to dream in there, but the reality is what it is, day one.”

Robinson ultimately began working as a car salesman at a Mazda dealership and quickly climbed the ranks, progressing to top salesman then finance manager and finally to sales manager working for brands that include BMW. He made the decision to retire from the car business in 2020 to pursue his passion for helping people. He started the nonprofit organization Freedom Fighting Missionaries to help those who have been incarcerated transition to self-sufficiency.

Nobody knows hard times better than somebody who has been through hard times. Kenneth Robinson was raised by his two grandmothers. Both of his parents were crack addicts — in and out of jail when he was a child. By the age of 10, when most children are studying math and history, and maybe enjoying sports, Robinson was selling crack cocaine. By 23, he was convicted of a crime he said he did not commit and spent the next 10 years of his life in a federal penitentiary. If this life experience counts then Kenneth Robinson is probably an authority on hard times.

Robinson left prison in 2012. His plan was to find a job. “I came to Charlotte and I’m thinking somebody will let me clean bathrooms,” he said. “Maybe I could get into construction — all of the jobs that they used to give people who had a record. I said, ‘Man, surely they got a job there for somebody with a record, the lowest jobs.’” He applied for 40 jobs before

landing one with Goodwill, making $7.25 an hour — not enough to support his five children. He remembers those days and understands what life is like for people who have criminal records.

He is now devoting his life to helping people transition to life outside of prison.

“Most men and women who go to prison end up having a desire to get on their feet and

“The work is based off of our own lived experience. I went through these things myself in Charlotte, not long ago,” said Robinson. The organization’s entire staff of professionals has experienced incarceration. They learned how to get assistance through trial and error. They learned who could provide assistance and which people, companies and organizations would not. His organization gives others the benefit of the knowledge they gained.

“You can dream all you want to dream in there, but the reality is what it is, day one.”
— Kenneth Robinson
May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 37
Freedom Fighting Missionaries advocates for better reentry services and resources in Mecklenburg County during a 2020 Jail Support protest.

Jeremy Asbury, 31, is one of the people who has received support from Freedom Fighting Missionaries. Goodwill referred him to the organization in 2022. “When I got out, I was actually seeking housing. ”“My grandmother who I lived with my whole life passed away while I was incarcerated, so I was house hopping around in Charlotte — hotel hopping with my child,” he said.

“At that time, I was going through a crisis both financially and with housing. I’m a single dad and I got my child with me, and I just got tired of hotel hopping and couch surfing from house to house, sleeping in cars — and I was on probation. It was getting kind of hard on me, and I just didn’t know any other way out. So I said, either I can sink or I can go up. I chose to try to better myself and I joined the program. The program really helped me out a lot.”

Asbury credits Freedom Fighting Missionaries with assisting him with many of his critical needs since he was released. They helped him find employment and

childcare, provided an advocate to make sure that he made his court dates and helped with other legal matters, including a recent landlord dispute. He said the nonprofit helped him find a place to live and paid the deposit.

“It was marvelous how it worked,” he said, “because they actually got it for me the day of my birthday on December 21, right before Christmas.” He calls it the

biggest birthday and Christmas gift that he and his children could have asked for.

The nonprofit has helped more than 1,400 people like Asbury. During the pandemic, the organization expanded its scope of services to include anyone in Charlotte who is in distress, not just those coming out of incarceration. This includes the elderly, the unhoused and those living below the poverty line.

Freedom Fighting Missionaries has had groundbreaking accomplishments since it began.

• They are the first organization that does re-entry work to get emergency housing

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Three-time Self-Help borrower Sugar Creek Charter School, a high-performing public charter school in Charlotte that outperforms both district and state averages for Black and economically disadvantaged student groups.

“It was getting kind of hard on me, and I just didn’t know any other way out. So I said, either I can sink or I can go up. I chose to try to better myself and I joined the program. The program really helped me out a lot.”
— Jeremy Asbury
Kenneth Robinson,
and founder of Freedom Fighting Missionaries
The Carter’s Blanket™
School Self-Help business loan borrowers Deven and Marquita Carter, owners of the Charlotte-based syrups, pancakes, and waffle mixes line, Blanket™.
Sugar Creek Charter C M Y CM MY CY CMY K SHCU_Pride AD_FA.pdf 1 4/12/2023 2:58:29 PM 38 Pride Magazine |

vouchers directly from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Everybody knows the single most important piece of paper in poverty is a Section 8 Voucher. It’s the hardest piece of paper to get. The waiting list is five years. One reason not to get one is to have a record, so we advocated for our clients to be able to qualify,’’ said Robinson.

• The organization has received $3.2 million in funding since it began, making it the first Black-lead re-entry organization to receive that level of funding from the city and the county.

• The organization is in the process of constructing 16 townhouses for its clients, which are funded by a donation of land made by a church and $1.3 million from Mecklenburg County. The townhouses will be located in East Charlotte and will be fully funded and owned by Freedom Fighting Missionaries once complete.

Robinson plans to take Freedom Fighting Missionaries to every major city in North Carolina with satellite offices in some of the smaller cities. He also plans to establish the organization in Memphis, Tennesse, in the future. P

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Freedom Fighting Missionaries helped Jeremy Asbury get the all around support he needed when he was released from prison.
May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 39
Kenneth Robinson speaks at a Black Lives Matter march in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.

University City — the City Within a City

Known as “the city within a city,” University City has it all. From education, eateries, innovation, recreation and even a train, this semisuburbia provides a cornucopia of plenty to residents, businesses and students.

This bustling area has vastly transformed since its humble beginnings in 1904 when The Mecklenburg County Poor House operated at the interchange of what is now North Tryon Street and W.T. Harris Boulevard.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, formerly known as Charlotte College, was established in 1946 and is the fastest-growing school in the state’s college system. Over 80,000 people are employed by neighboring companies such as Atrium Health, Wells Fargo, TIAA, IBM and Electrolux.

With an average ridership of 25,000, the Lynx Blue Line is one of the city’s busiest light rail trains with service to NoDa, South End and Uptown. University City Regional Library is the second busiest public library in Mecklenburg County, which is expanding to a new $39 million two-story building in spring 2025. If you’d like to take a leisurely stroll, there are 14 miles of the greenway to do so. Again, the area has got it all.

University City is approximately a 3-mile radius from the interchange of North Tryon and W.T. Harris. Whether you drive it or walk it, anyone can witness the intentionality of strategic growth occurring in the area.

One of the major contributors to this burgeoning work is University City Partners. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to invest resources to shape public spaces and plans for a better-built environment that influences the way people in University City

University City has it all. From education, eateries, innovation, recreation and even a train, this semi-suburbia provides a cornucopia of plenty to residents, businesses and students.
Keith Stanley, executive director of University City Partners The Shoppes at University Place includes more than 38 shops, services and eateries. Photo courtesy of University City Partners
40 Pride Magazine |
Photo courtesy of University City Partners

live, learn, work and play in the area. To do so, University City Partners concentrates on these key areas: planning and development, economic development, and marketing and communications. Many of University City's successes can be contributed to their involvement.

At the helm of University City Partners’ work is executive director Keith Stanley. Starting his role in January 2023, the Milwaukee native has 15 years of community and economic development experience. Under Stanley’s guidance, the organization will continue to build the University City brand, increasing community engagement efforts, and supporting small business and entrepreneurial opportunities in University City.

“It’s exciting to start fresh and make new connections here in my new hometown,” Stanley said. “I’m really excited about making those connections and, specifically,

about bringing more business and entrepreneurial opportunities to our Black, indigenous, and people of color community members. I have already met so many great people.”

Stanley’s primary responsibility will be implementing the overall Strategic Vision

Plan released in 2021. Called “Connecting: People / Places / Nature,” the plan follows a road map to University City’s next 20 years of development.

As the second largest employment center in the city, University City is a significant driver of Charlotte’s economy. University City Partner’s vision plan is built on the foundation of four themes: an urban north-south axis focused on transit-oriented development, an East-West Greenbelt for mobility and recreation, building character and culture, and providing 21st-century mobility.

“In the city of Milwaukee, I worked with some of the Fortune 500 and Fortune 400 companies and improved the lives in those communities. That is what I hope to do in Charlotte,” Stanley said.

Stanley, an alumnus of Alabama State University, describes his leadership style as disruptive but in a positive manner. Admittedly not a status quo individual, Stanley shared, “I’m going to be as genuine as possible, and creative as possible, but I’m a disruptor.”

He added, “I want to connect with the people which means everyone, the small business owner, elected officials and residents, and figure out how we can help improve this slice of the city of Charlotte.”

If you think you have seen the best the University area has to offer, stay tuned. Better walkability, a bigger library, more bike lanes, a bounty of new businesses, and improved infrastructure are all on the horizon for the University City vicinity.

In Charlotte, “I want to continue with helping people; help them get a job, help them get a house, and help them to have healthier outcomes. (That’s) the legacy I hope to live every day,” Stanley said. P

I want to continue with helping people; help them get a job, help them get a house, and help them to have healthier outcomes.
—Keith Stanley
This Duke Energy transmission station lights North Tryon Street with festive lighting every night. Above: This Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, a University City staple, celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. Right: An expanded University City Regional Library is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2025. Photo courtesy of University City Partners Photo courtesy of University City Partners
May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 41
Photo courtesy of University City Partners

Eight L ocal Black-Owned Businesses You Should Know

Black entrepreneurship is on the rise, benefiting local communities and the American economy. According to, Charlotte ranks number seven in metro areas with the highest percentage of Black-owned businesses in the U.S.

There are 2,414 Black-owned businesses in the Charlotte area. They include beauty and massage therapy services, automotive repair shops, landscaping services, party planners, fashion stylists, accounting services and other companies, comprising 4.9 percent of all small businesses in the area.

In Charlotte, the following eight businesses bring a variety of entertaining and needed services to the public:

1 Abugida Ethiopian Cafe & Restaurant

3007 Central Avenue

Phone: (980) 237-2760

For the past five years, Abugida Ethiopian Cafe & Restaurant has served Charlotteans Ethiopian cuisine in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Whether you crave something new or just want to enjoy

old favorites, this mother-daughter duo will serve you well.

2 Archive CLT

2023 Beatties Ford Road

Phone: (980) 349-5575

Since 2021, Archive CLT has served coffee, culture and a dazzling display of vintage Black magazines and memorabilia to customers seeking camaraderie and historical information and nostalgia.

3 Beauty Bar Charlotte

1125 East Sugar Creek Road, Suite A

Phone: (980) 999-5118

From hair styling to body treatments, a visit to the Beauty Bar Charlotte − which has offered salon and spa services since 1998 − is a great way to de-stress from daily life. Their all-natural skin care products will help you find a feeling of complete relaxation.

Abugida Ethiopian Café & Restaurant owners, Yodite Tesafye (left) and her mother Shito Negussie
42 Pride Magazine |
This is a 1972 image of a Johnson C. Smith University student found in a magazine at Archive CLT.

4 Sugar and Spice Party Bus

Phone: (980) 277-4232

For six years, owner Joi Kennedy has specialized in hosting spa and paint events for 5 to 17-year-old girls on her legendary “Pink Party Bus,” where attendees receive everything from dolls to sweet pink treats. Boys are also welcome! Get ready to party the pink way.

5 LSJ Counseling & Clinical Services

1905 J N Pease Place, Suite 103

Phone: (704) 910-0136

LSJ Counseling & Clinical Services, PLLC is a therapy group practice which has provided individual, group, couple and family therapy for four years. Owner LaKesha Shingler Howell said the service specializes in treating social, emotional and behavioral disorders that affect mood, thinking and behavior.

6 Majic Handz Massage

2520 Sardis Road North

Phone: (704) 906-5356

Badly in need of some relaxation?

Visit Majic Handz Massage, opened by Sinnai James seven years ago as a relaxation haven for various treatments, including Swedish, deep tissue and sports massages that soothe the soul in a relaxing atmosphere.

7 G.R.I.T.S. CLT

Phone: (704) 503-8194

GRITS is an acronym for “Girls Raised in the South,” a catering company started by Chef Jo. This unique company serves a fusion of southern cuisine with the taste of the Caribbean, Creole, Spanish and African cuisines.

8 RhythmicSoul Therapy

4822 Albemarle Road

Phone: (704) 712-0483

RhythmicSoul Therapy L.L.C., founded in 2018, is dedicated to using a holistic approach to your overall health and wellness. Here you will receive a customized spa experience that is just what your spirit needs for a boost of energy using methods that include massage, detox and reflexology. P

At Sugar and Spice birthday parties, girls wear pink aprons and paint with their friends on the party bus. They also eat pizza, have a dance party and walk the pink carpet.

LSJ Counseling & Clinical Services owner, LaKesha Shingler Howell Ashley Grier, owner of RhythmicSoul Therapy G.R.I.T.S. CLT owner, Chef Jo
May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 43
Sinnai James, Majic Handz Massage owner

QWhen was Valarie R. Brooks Real Estate established, and why did you start your own company?

AI started Valarie R Brooks Real Estate in 2000, and the coaching division in 2016. I wanted to build my life’s mission and honor my dad who was also a real estate investor.

QYour company has experienced incredible growth year after year and through a few economic crises. How?

AIt’s been challenging, but my team and I remained committed to our goals and vision. We continued to build strong relationships with our clients, foster a culture of collaboration within our company and invest in the professional development of our team.

QWhat is the “why “of your newfound passion for real estate and personal/professional transformation?

AWhile I wouldn’t necessarily call it a newfound passion, my commitment to transformation has grown and blossomed over time. I have continued to invest in personal and organizational change, but life changes that tried to derail me allowed me to begin to truly appreciate the power of transformation. Through many life experiences, I learned that transformation is not about making surface-level changes, but shifting our beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. I also participated in extensive level training and development programs that further refined my understanding of transformation and how to help others. I can say my transformation journey is not new but deeply rooted and being cultivated in exciting and meaningful ways.

QMany difficult experiences? Do you mind sharing?

ALOL. They will all be in my book that is penned for publishing by the end of 2023, but I will share that my transformative journey was recently marked by a profound personal loss and catalyzed by another life-

changing event shortly after — My mother passed away in late 2021. Her transition left me reeling, and I was trying to process my grief when I was involved in a car accident three weeks later. I suffered from a traumatic brain injury that wiped out much of my memory and forced me to relearn many fundamental skills. Losing my mother taught me to let go of many assumptions and preconceptions about myself and the world around me and to approach each day with a sense of curiosity and openness. As a result of the brain injury, I am going through cognitive therapy, and I have been gifted with a new brain and a fresh way of thinking.

QWhat drives you to continue growing and developing as a coach?

AI realized that human time on this earth is limited, and it is vital to live

a beautiful and fulfilled life. I want to use my talents and experiences to make an even more positive impact in the world. Thus, my commitment to encourage others to visualize perseverance through my experiences. I adore seeing my clients’ breakthroughs and learning a new way of being.

QWith all of the challenges that you’ve faced in your life, how do you call that uninterrupted success?

AIt is because I have sharpened my ability to interrupt my interrupters, and I want to share how. I have built an incredible real estate empire through it all, I have cultivated wonderful relationships, I am deeply loved, and I have a beautiful life. I want to teach others how to be stronger than their struggles.

Learn more at

Charlotte’s own real estate and coaching mogul, Valarie R. Brooks, of Forbes-endorsed Valarie R. Brooks Real Estate and Business Academy opens her world and shares some insights about what she calls “uninterrupted success” and her newfound passion.
May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 45

Assistance League of Charlotte Supports At-Risk Students and Adults

The Assistance League of Charlotte (ALC) is a nonprofit volunteerrun organization dedicated to improving the lives of at-risk children and families through communitybased philanthropic programs. Their programs address upward mobility by providing food through mobile pantries and weekend backpacks, new school clothing, books and scholarships. In the most recent fiscal year, 176 members and 144 nonmembers together volunteered more than 54,000 hours of community service.

The nonprofit relocated to a new location at 5426 Old Pineville Road in Charlotte in mid-September. Likened to a mini department store, the new location provides a customized home for ALC and includes ample space for the thrift shop, philanthropic programs and multiple meeting rooms.

“Through our philanthropic programs, we are providing the basic tools to help bridge the gap of economic challenges faced by families through healthy food options, new school clothing, and ageappropriate books,” said ALC President, Ann Davis. “These can enhance a child’s self-esteem and help them get on the path to doing better in school. I joined Assistance League to help address the needs of young school-age children to help them realize their dreams and potential. I am proud to work with our member volunteers to address these basic needs in our community.”

Devonshire Elementary school social worker, Terrelle McCain, said this about the ALC Book Program: “Our kindergarten students were excited about picking out new books. One of our students expressed, ‘These books are for us?!’ Intimate moments like these show the wonderful needs that are being met,” said McCain.

Assistance League Thrift Shop

The organization’s thrift shop is open to the public on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Shoppers can find bargains in gently used items

Above: An Assistance League of Charlotte thrift store customer purchases items.
46 Pride Magazine |
Left: An Assistance League of Charlotte thrift store shopper

such as furniture, décor, clothing, books, kitchenware and more.

Proceeds from the volunteer-run shop help fund Assistance League’s philanthropic programs like Operation School Bell®, Operation Check Hunger, and Mecklenburg County Teen Court. ALC accepts new and gently used items at the 5426 Old Pineville Road location on Saturdays from 10 a.m. –3 p.m. The organization requests that donations are clean and in good condition.

Operation School Bell

Operation School Bell is Assistance League’s signature program and provides new uniforms, shoes, jackets and hygiene supplies for children in high-poverty Charlotte Mecklenburg (CMS) elementary schools. CMS counselors and social workers identify the specific needs of students with hopes to enhance self-esteem, promote learning and encourage regular school attendance. The Assistance League provided 9,462 children with new clothing and other necessities during the last school year.

“We have many families with 4-5 siblings at our school, so parents struggle to purchase multiple uniforms for each child and therefore are very appreciative in receiving support with uniforms, and especially coats in the winter,” said Highland Renaissance Academy’s Community in Schools Coordinator, Lazetta Lutrillo.

Operation Check Hunger

Operation Check Hunger is designed to alleviate hunger and provide proper nutrition for at-risk children in CMS. Support includes providing backpacks filled with food for at-risk children and operating mobile food pantries throughout the community. In 2021-2022, these initiatives provided 400 elementary school children with weekend backpacks containing enough food for a family of four and funded and staffed 13 mobile pantries serving 6,930 individuals.

Mecklenburg County Teen Court

Mecklenburg County Teen Court, an ALC-sponsored program, provides an alternative justice system for 12 to 17-yearold youth. The program provides juveniles with no prior convictions a second chance if they take accountability and agree to be tried by a jury of their peers. Successful completion of the program allows the youth to avoid having a permanent criminal record. The teen court places a strong

emphasis on accountability, positive peer influence and youth empowerment to effect change. In the most recent fiscal year, 56 defendants successfully closed their cases with 52 cases currently active.

Assistance League of Charlotte Scholarship Fund

The ALC Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to graduating CMS high school seniors and previous ALC Scholarship recipients for their continuing education. The scholarships are based on community service, academic performance and financial needs. They also assist with funding culinary, recreational and arts education programs with groups such as the YMCA, Arts Plus and the Community Culinary School of Charlotte.

In 2021-2022, the Scholarship Fund awarded 13 scholarships amounting to $78,100 and more than $612,700 has been awarded since the program started in 2002. To apply, students can access the application through the ALC website and must be attending an in-state public university. The application typically opens in December and the deadline is in March for the upcoming fall term.

To learn more about the Assistance League of Charlotte, visit

Thrift Shop hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. The Donation Door is open on Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. P

Above: Assistance League of Charlotte volunteers
May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 47
Left: Mecklenburg County Teen Court participants
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Leading on Opportunity

Helps Solve Social Challenges in the Charlotte Area

The Executive Director of Leading on Opportunity, Sherri Chisholm, is stirring things up and fervently leading the organization in a new direction. Founded in 2017, Leading on Opportunity (LOO) is a nonprofit with a mission to promote economic mobility and equity for all residents of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

While the organization has been striving to reach certain benchmarks with some success over the years, LOO is now committed to using the expertise of longstanding community organizations to form a “mutually satisfying partnership,” Chisholm said.

“When I arrived in Charlotte at the end of 2020, there was little evidence of progress,” she said. “Expectations were vague and goals were unclear. Our goal is to keep economic mobility alive going forward — from analysis to execution.” She noted that while the organization has set high goals, the path to fulfilling that expectation has sometimes been vague and “full of big promises” with no clear path.

Chisholm made it clear that there has recently been a “shift in the narrative and strategy” of the organization and that Leading on Opportunity is in “transition.”

Since its inception in 2017, LOO has created jobs and provided support that has helped small businesses in the Charlotte area thrive. According to its latest report, the organization has made progress in achieving goals and raising awareness regarding the “opportunity gap” in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and the importance of investing in programs and policies that promote economic mobility and equity. In doing so, Leading on Opportunity has created a diverse group of stakeholders working toward a common goal.

The organization is also working to help improve the physical and mental health and well-being of residents by promoting policies and programs that support healthy lifestyles, access to health care and mental health services. Another of LOO’s initiatives is to advocate for policies that address the social determinants of health, such as access to affordable housing, transportation and healthy food options.

Last December, LOO launched Opportunity Compass, a tool the

organization uses to guide strategy and measure the progress of local efforts so organizations can track and measure research-backed interventions. “The Compass strengthens collaborations across sectors by creating common metrics of economic mobility. This tool can guide decision-making and data-based solutions for a more equitable Charlotte-Mecklenburg community,” according to LOO’s website.

“We want to shift perspective, working on getting better,” Chisholm said. “As with any organization, there will be potential losses, but the work will continue. This is about the destination. We’re holding ourselves accountable as we head toward the common goal: economic mobility. And we are going to hold ourselves accountable.”

Looking to the future, Leading on Opportunity strives to reduce the opportunity gap in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The organization aims to increase the number of children who are reading at grade level by the third grade, reduce the number of families living in poverty, and increase the number of residents who have access to affordable housing. By continuing to work with local businesses, community organizations, and government agencies, LOO is poised to achieve these goals and create positive change in the community.

Deputy Director of LOO, Virginia Covill, agreed that this new direction is good for the organization. “We can solve problems by working with those who have already been engaged in this work. We can build bridges within the existing frame with local organizations. From a sustainability perspective, we need to build what’s already here,” she said.

Chisholm noted that one of the most pressing issues people in the Charlotte area face is the lack of affordable and available child care, a family issue that affects the workforce by preventing parents from not being able to work due to financial and personal problems.

“This is not just a woman’s issue, this is policy work — a matter of economic mobility,” she said. “We need to have a clear pipeline to child care in place over the next couple of years.”

Visit to find out more about the organization. P

Sherri Chisholm, executive director of Leading on Opportunity
May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 49

Advice on How to Increase and Protect Your Money

We all know money makes the world go ‘round, but sometimes we struggle to keep up with how our money drives the outcome of our lives. It can be scary to process, particularly in Black and brown communities that may not have had the financial knowledge and resources that their counterparts did. The truth is — financial confidence and freedom are attainable, and this is what financial expert and radio personality Tony Jackson aims to teach in his new book “Increase, Protect and Dominate Your Money.”

A certified financial education instructor from Muskegon, Michigan, Jackson takes complex financial concepts and transforms them into simple, easy-to-grasp terms on his radio show, “The Real Money Coach Show” on Praise 100.9 FM in Charlotte and through a series of financial presentations. It was through the latter that Jackson created what he calls, “IPAD Your Money.”

“It actually derived from a presentation that I had done for a conference in Houston. I call the presentation IPAD: increase, protect and dominate your money,” Jackson said. “But we couldn’t tell it all in one presentation, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, even an hour you can’t tell it all. And so that’s what sparked the idea. And so we just took that presentation, and we expanded it into the book.”

In “IPAD Your Money,” Jackson is relentlessly honest about the disparities of financial knowledge and the importance of being in control of our money, partially because it’s something he went through early in life. While

Financial Educator Gives
Your Dreams Are Our Business Personal | Mortgage Commercial | Business 230331-1085895418 6310 Fairview Road Charlotte, NC 28210 50 Pride Magazine |
Tony Jackson, author and financial education instructor

planning for his mother’s funeral in 1995, he realized that despite having six life insurance policies, his family still did not have enough money to cover the funeral. Jackson explained that this reallife experience, coupled with observed experiences in his community, prompted him to want to share knowledge of financial literacy with the world.

According to Bankrate, 90 percent of Black students take out student loans to pay for college, compared to 66 percent of white students. This staggering statistic is why Jackson made being debt free a part of the mantra of “IPAD Your Money” and why being upfront about debt can lead to a financial breakthrough.

Jackson also explained that working our way out of the mindset around money that we had growing up is key to achieving this financial freedom. Phrases like “money don’t grow on trees” and “there are starving kids in Africa” helped shape the concept of finance for many, but those ideas often hold people back from what money can really do for them, he said.

“These ideas have worked on developing our psychology as it relates to money,” he explained. “And sometimes

we have to go back to that and say, ‘Okay, listen, I need to undo some of my beliefs about money that I might have subconsciously so that I can move to the next step.’”

Jackson emphasized one of the first steps people can take to manage their finances is to save. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, only about 42 percent of Black households have a savings account. One of the initiatives that he’s planning to launch in the first quarter of 2023 is the Saving Money Challenge, where the goal is to help at least 1,000 people save at least $100 a month.

“We’ve realized that if we’re going to move the needle on this wealth gap, it has to be across the whole diaspora. It can’t be just with the folks who have money,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to move it across the whole economic spectrum, because a rising tide raises all ships. And we can’t just be concerned about the big ships. We’ve got to be concerned about the little boats too.”

For more information on “IPAD Your Money” and Jackson’s seven-week masterclass that covers each chapter of his book in detail, visit P

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May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 51
Jackson emphasized one of the first steps people can take to manage their finances is to save. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, only about 42 percent of Black households have a savings account.

New Homeownership Program Financially Supports Corridors of Opportunity

A new Charlotte homeownership pilot program will provide up to $80,000 in assistance for eligible residents purchasing homes in “areas of influence” within the Corridors of Opportunity. House Charlotte Plus offers an additional layer of financial assistance to the existing House Charlotte homeownership program.

Through this new pilot program, an eligible resident can receive an additional $50,000 as a zero percent interest deferred loan. House Charlotte Plus must be used in conjunction with House Charlotte, which currently offers up to $30,000. Together, an eligible homebuyer could receive up to $80,000 in assistance through these two programs.

As part of the $60 million in current and planned investments renewing the city’s commitment to the Corridors of Opportunity, House Charlotte Plus is only available in designated areas inside the Corridors of Opportunity known as areas of influence. To be eligible for House Charlotte Plus, a homebuyer’s income must be 80 percent of the area median income or less. The maximum purchase price is $300,000 for existing homes and $315,000 for new construction.

The entire loan balance must be repaid if the property is sold or transferred, if the owner occupancy status changes or if a cash-out refinance transaction happens before the 30-year period has expired. The loan is forgiven in year 31.

New Podcast Highlights University City-based Creatives

A new University City podcast “Spoken City” is turning up the volume on everyday creatives in that area. Each month, the podcast hosts interview guests who are speaking their unique version of goodness into the world. The podcast guests discuss their process, how where they live influences them and how they do it all in the context of a very real life.

“Three local spoken-word artists host “Spoken City”: Boris “Bluz” Rogers, an Emmy-winning and three-time winner of the National Poetry Slam; Hannah Hasan, an award-winning storyteller and poet; and Jay (Junious) Ward, a National Poetry Slam champion, Individual World Poetry Slam champion and Charlotte’s inaugural Poet Laureate.

During each episode, one of the hosts interviews a different University City creative to discuss a wide range of topics including what it means to be a creative, what creativity can look like day-today and the role that University City’s rich culture plays in influencing visionaries and ideation.

Spoken City is available on all podcast streaming platforms.

PrideBusiness FYI News & Notes
52 Pride Magazine |
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Giving Through all of Life’s Stages

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In recent years, the world has taken more notice of Juneteenth. From increased public celebrations across the U.S. and beyond to companies allowing employees to take the day off, the observance has experienced phenomenal growth in popularity and recognition. With dozens of Juneteenth events scheduled this year in Charlotte and surrounding areas, residents will have the opportunity to learn more about the importance of a holiday which many in the community have always known.

On June 19, 1865, Union army troops led by General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that enslaved people in the state had been freed by executive decree — releasing 250,000 Black people from the chains of centuries of oppression. The problem was that it was a whole two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had already been issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863.

Myths abound regarding the reason for the large gap in time. As one story goes — a messenger was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. Yet another story is that federal troops waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits

Celebrating Juneteenth:

An Important Part of American History

of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Whatever the reason, the issues surrounding freedom and justice remain ongoing in 2023, which is even more reason to honor Juneteenth’s history and tradition.

Short for June 19th, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. The day continued to be highly revered in Texas decades after

May-June 2023 | Pride Magazine 57
Above: Children enjoying a past Juneteenth festival; Below: Pape Ndiaye, founder of the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas

it occurred, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

Albert Ely Edwards, who served in the Texas House of Representatives for almost 30 years, wrote the bill that eventually passed on June 7, 1979, making Juneteenth an official state holiday. President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.

Here in Charlotte, the oldest Juneteenth celebration was the vision of Pape Ndiaye, owner of the House of Africa art gallery in Plaza Midwood. The Senegal native founded the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas 26 years ago in part because when he arrived in Charlotte, there wasn’t one, and he not only wished to use it as a “teaching tool” for the youth but also to educate the community about the “rich and powerful history of Africa.”

“My grandmother used to say that when you travel, you need to get direction, culture and heritage — the kind of direction that can help you move forward. That is part of my aim of starting the Juneteenth festival,” Ndiaye shared, adding that he hopes people will take away a sense of togetherness and unity. “That’s the only way we can go forward.”

This year’s festival will run from June 15-18th in the heart of Plaza Midwood and will showcase many events, including a celebration of history, African culture,

music, drama, African dancers, a fashion show, storytelling, a talent show and the popular drum circle performance in front of House of Africa. Also planned is a “March for Unity and Togetherness” parade beginning at Grady Cole Center on N. Kings Drive and ending at House of Africa on Thomas Avenue. Various hospitals and clinics will also be onsite conducting screenings and HIV/AIDS seminars.

A special tribute on Thomas Avenue is planned for the event’s longtime chairwoman Judge Shirley L. Fulton, who was the first African American woman to

Left: Chris Green at the Juneteenth Fashion Show in 1998

Bottom: Juneteenth festival goers listen to drumming and watch a dancer perform on the street.

win a superior court seat in North Carolina, who passed away earlier this year.

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for AfricanAmerican Arts + Culture has been honoring Juneteenth for decades as well, even back when it was known as the Afro-American Cultural Center.

“Juneteenth is mainly a point of reflection,” said Afeni Grace, public programs manager at the Gantt. “It is important for our community to reflect on history in refreshing ways so as to not repeat its regressive elements. Juneteenth is a celebration cultivated from a dark past… It is a great opportunity for all of us to creatively celebrate diversity and uplift equity as a necessary pillar of a thriving community.”

This year, the Gantt will partner with local artists and creative, grassroots initiatives to make the 2023 celebration refreshing and unique, she said. The free event will include hands-on art, music, dance, discussion and reflection and is geared toward people of all ages and backgrounds.

“This year we hope to spark great pride in our community — inspiring guests to foster deeper connections with each other and truly understand the resilience and beauty of Black history and culture,” Grace said.

“Juneteenth is more than just an African American holiday,” Ndiaye adds. “It is a piece of America’s history.” P

58 Pride Magazine |
Photo credit: Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas Above: Afeni Grace, public programs manager at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for AfricanAmerican Arts + Culture
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Creating opportunities for businesses here in Charlotte with SBA loans1

Creating opportunities for businesses here in Charlotte with SBA loans1

Bank of America is committed to helping small businesses get access to the capital they need to achieve success. Entrepreneurs are the bedrock of our communities, creating jobs and economic opportunity in every area of the country.

Bank of America is committed to helping small businesses get access to the capital they need to achieve success. Entrepreneurs are the bedrock of our communities, creating jobs and economic opportunity in every area of the country.

Now is a great time to get financing for your business. If you own a business, having access to the right financing at the right time can make a big difference. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans1 are a smart financial option for almost any business purpose. They offer longer terms, lower down payments and reduced collateral requirements.

Now is a great time to get financing for your business. If you own a business, having access to the right financing at the right time can make a big difference. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans1 are a smart financial option for almost any business purpose. They offer longer terms, lower down payments and reduced collateral requirements.

With an SBA loan, your business could have access to capital for a wide range of financing1 needs including commercial real estate, equipment, leasehold improvements and more.

With an SBA loan, your business could have access to capital for a wide range of financing1 needs including commercial real estate, equipment, leasehold improvements and more.

As America’s #1 Small Business lender and an SBA Preferred Lender, we have a complete range of SBA lending1 options as well as traditional commercial real estate loans, secured term loans and lines of credit. Our dedicated team of specialists will work to help you strengthen your business and plan for the future.

As America’s #1 Small Business lender and an SBA Preferred Lender, we have a complete range of SBA lending1 options as well as traditional commercial real estate loans, secured term loans and lines of credit. Our dedicated team of specialists will work to help you strengthen your business and plan for the future.

What would you like the power to do?®

1 Small Business Administration (SBA) financing is subject to approval through the SBA 504 and SBA 7(a) programs. Loan terms, collateral and documentation requirements apply. Actual amortization, rate and extension of credit are subject to necessary credit approval. Bank of America credit standards and documentation requirements apply. Some restrictions may apply. Please consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, nor its affiliates or employees provide legal, accounting or tax advice. © 2023 Bank of America Corporation. Bank of America and the Bank of America logo are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. MAP5519783 | PRGM-01-23-2106 | 03/2023
To learn more, scan the code or visit What would you like the power to do?®
1 Small Business Administration (SBA) financing is subject to approval through the SBA 504 and SBA 7(a) programs. Loan terms, collateral and documentation requirements apply. Actual amortization, rate and extension of credit are subject to necessary credit approval. Bank of America credit standards and documentation requirements apply. Some restrictions may apply. Please consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, nor its affiliates or employees provide legal, accounting or tax advice. © 2023 Bank of America Corporation. Bank of America and the Bank of America logo are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. MAP5519783 PRGM-01-23-2106 | 03/2023 bank of america business advantage
To learn more, scan the code or visit

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