How 1 Woman Strategically Used Her Talents to Go From ‘Top Model’ to Top Entrepreneur

LinkedIn

Talk about a career change: Dominique Reighard-Brooks started on “America’s Next Top Model.” Today, she co-owns E.E. Ward, the oldest black-owned business in America.

Dominique Reighard-Brooks is a mover, in every sense of the word.

She is presently the co-owner of award-winning moving company E.E. Ward, which is also America’s oldest black-owned business. But her career began with a lengthy run on the popular reality show competition “America’s Next Top Model,” and soared when she graced the pages of publications like Ebony and Seventeen. Then, she signed on at E.E. Ward in 2014, working alongside her husband, Brian.

To the outside observer, it may appear as though Reighard-Brooks performed a professional 180. “It’s not the sexiest business,” she freely admits. But she finds plenty of crossover between modeling and moving.

“Being a self-starter, whether in the entertainment world or working in the logistics industry, means you’ve got to be willing to take action,” she explains. When you’re a model, singer and actress, you need to learn about marketing, self-promotion and persistence — all of which comes in handy when you’re running a company.

And in Reighard-Brooks’ case, when you’re trying to “enhance and re-energize the family business,” as she puts it, knowing a few secrets from the entertainment industry is helpful. After all, even a 138-year-old company needs to cultivate a fresh appearance on social media. Under her direction, E.E. Ward maintains an active — some might even say surprisingly glamorous, for a moving company — presence on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

In the years since Reighard-Brooks made her career change and joined E.E. Ward, the company has racked up a number of new awards for quality service, and she recently oversaw its first expansion outside of its home state of Ohio.

From Top Model to Top Entrepreneur

Reighard-Brooks was born and raised in the Columbus area by a family full of entrepreneurs, from her mother to her grandparents. At age 24, she found fame as a contestant on the 2008 cycle of “America’s Next Top Model.” Though she did not win the season — she placed fourth overall — her participation was a springboard into a busy modeling and performing career. In addition to appearing in popular magazines, she modeled for fragrance J’Adore and served as the face of Brooklyn beauty brand Carol’s Daughter.

[Related: Growing Carol’s Daughter in a Brooklyn Kitchen]

She relished those opportunities, but they frequently took her abroad, and she missed her husband and children while on shoots. So she contemplated a career change that would keep her closer to home. “I wanted to explore, evolve, and use other gifts and talents that were lying dormant,” she says. So, “I made a list of everything — every skill set, every relationship I’d developed over the years in entertainment, all of that.”

That personal assessment led her to team up with her husband, who had owned E.E. Ward since 2001 after buying it from his godfather, a member of the Ward family. Not everyone, of course, gets to choose such a relatively easy path into entrepreneurship. But Reighard-Brooks believed her experience would be an asset to the family business. “In my life, I’ve been a model, a singer, a writer, a video producer, a photo editor, a writer.” she says. “And I use all of those experiences in running the business.”

Reighard-Brooks helms a bustling operation. She manages a 50-person team — 70 strong when they hire part-time work during their busiest times — spread between its Columbus, Ohio headquarters and its Grove City, Ohio hub. Under her leadership, the company expanded outside Ohio to Charlotte, North Carolina. She declined to disclose revenue figures, but says the company handles several thousand moves and deliveries each year, for both residential and commercial clients.

In addition, Reighard-Brooks is responsible for all of the content E.E. Ward produces — from social media posts and marketing campaigns to the development of its video content. A striking figure with long brunette hair, she frequently appears on E.E.Ward’s Instagram feed as the face of the company.

And in yet another unusual move for a moving company, she has also tapped into her fashion experience to launch a clothing division called 1881 Apparel. Launched last year as an offshoot of E.E. Ward, the venture “pays homage to the Ward family legacy.” The company, which sells tees and sweaters, is in its earliest stages, but Reighard-Brooks believes it has the potential to elevate the E.E. Ward brand.

Creating a Ripple Effect

When she joined E.E. Ward, Reighard-Brooks says she was wanted to cultivate the company’s unique position in history as the longest-lasting black business. She has directed the company’s ongoing involvement in philanthropic endeavors, such as its Laps for Learning fundraiser at the local YMCA. It emphasizes pool safety and has provided 393 lessons for low-income children to date.

 

Continue onto The Story Exchange to read the complete article.

Clark Atlanta University to Lead Regional Center for Entrepreneurship as part of PNC $16.8 Million Grant

LinkedIn
Motion blurred shot of two business people talking through modern office hallway. People walking in office entrance hall.

Clark Atlanta University will be one of four HBCUs to lead a Regional Center for Entrepreneurship, thanks to a $16.8 million PNC grant.

The national center will be located on the campus of Howard University, and will use a regional structure to include programming at three regional HBCUs—Clark Atlanta University, Morgan State University, and Texas Southern University. CAU will lead the South region, including HBCUs in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Each regional center will lead HBCU partners in their respective areas to coordinate education programs, research strategies, business outreach, and other community outreach efforts at partner HBCUs across the country.

A significant focus for the Center and its regional HBCU partners is to engage the black business community in growing their enterprises, thereby positively impacting the community and increasing employment and wealth for the black community.

“Clark Atlanta University’s entrepreneurial legacy extends back to the intellectual genealogy of W. E. B. Du Bois, who served as a professor of economics and sociology at Atlanta University for over 23 years in the early 20th century,” said CAU President, Dr. George T. French, Jr. “Clark Atlanta University, as well as many HBCUs, are engaged with passion and unfettered creativity to initiatives to enhance black entrepreneurship within the university and their communities.  We have always been at the forefront of entrepreneurship education, including established partnerships with entrepreneurs globally.”

The CAU School of Business Administration (CAUSBA), celebrating 75 years of excellence this year, will oversee the Regional Center and will complement ongoing and evolving activities in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED). CIED was established to develop a campus-wide entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem and Lab/Maker Space.  It offers Innovation and Design Thinking Courses and Workshops; Ideation, Lean Start-Up, and Small Business Mentoring; 3D Printing & Prototyping; Tech Transfer and Commercialization Support; Hackathons; and Business Pitch Competitions.

“CIED is the optimal focal point for innovative initiatives involving campus and community stakeholders,” says School of Business Administration Dean Silvanus Udoka.  “The Regional Center for Entrepreneurship will broaden the platform for our scholars to accelerate discovery, spark innovation, and creativity to spawn the launching of our students’ entrepreneurial endeavors and professional careers.”

CAU’s School of Business also has an Entrepreneur-In-Residence program that brings experienced entrepreneurs to the School of Business Administration to advise and assist students and faculty as they launch startups or explore the commercialization of research.  EIRs provide mentorship and guidance to the CAU community on business strategy and design, and social impact.  They also connect investors with inventors, creators, and researchers.

“We are grateful to PNC for providing us with the means to enhance our entrepreneurial initiatives, while promoting collaborations as amongst HBCUs such as Howard University and other prominent regional collaborators” said President French.

About Clark Atlanta University

Established in 1988 by the historic consolidation of Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869). Clark Atlanta University continues a more than 150-year legacy rooted in African-American tradition and focused on the future. Through global innovation, transformative educational experiences, and high-value engagement. CAU cultivates lifted lives that transform the world. Notable alumni include: James Weldon Johnson; American civil rights activist, poet, and songwriter (Lift Every Voice and Sing “The Black National Anthem”; Ralph David Abernathy Sr., American civil rights activist; Congressman Hank Johnson, Georgia District 4; Kenya Barris, American award-winning television and movie producer; Kenny Leon, Tony Award-winning Broadway Director; Jacque Reid, Emmy Award-winning Television Personality and Journalist; Brandon Thompson, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for NASCAR; Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Recording Academy. To learn more about Clark Atlanta University, visit www.cau.edu.

Michael B. Jordan and Serena Williams Partner to Help HBCU Students and Alums Launch Businesses

LinkedIn
Michael B. Jordan and Serena Williams want to give HBCU students or alums some coins for their businesses.

By Jasmine Alyce, Atlanta Black Star

Michael B. Jordan and Serena Williams are combining their star power to help elevate the businesses of HBCU students and alumni.

The “Creed” actor partnered with Invesco QQQ and Turner Sports to bring the inaugural HBCU basketball showcase to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Dec. 18. In addition to spotlighting the universities and the talented athletes that attend them, the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic is sponsoring a startup pitch competition that will give current students and alumni the opportunity to win up to $1 million toward growing their businesses.

“Invesco QQQ and Turner Sports have been amazing partners in helping bring this experience to life,” Jordan previously said in a statement announcing the showcase. “I grew up watching basketball games on TNT, so I am confident they will deliver this set of games to a true audience of basketball fans and their families in an exciting way.”

The pitch competition was created in partnership with Serena Williams‘ SerenaVentures and MaC Venture Capital. Participants who want their piece of the pie will be required to submit business proposals and investor decks online now through Nov. 18 to qualify.

“HBCUs are an integral part of our educational ecosystem and have long been centers of entrepreneurial excellence. We are thrilled to be partnering with Michael B. Jordan and MaC Ventures on highlighting the brilliant student and alumni founders,” Serena Ventures General Partner Alison Stillman said in a press release.

Click here to read the full article on Atlanta Black Star

October Is Black Professionals Month, A Push To Make Corporate Leadership More Diverse

LinkedIn
black professionals month logo

The first day of October is the first day of a month-long push to help make corporate leadership more diverse. It’s the brain-child of two black executives who say it’s time to have more diversity at the top, so they are trying something new.

It’s called Black Professionals Month, 31 days of events, recognitions and celebrations.

Denise Kaigler is one of the co-founders. She told WBZ-TV it’s time to work together. Watch video here.

“There is a such a great opportunity for us to come together, black professionals to come together, to work together, to increase our presence, black professionals’ presence in leadership roles around the world,” Kaigler said.

October 1st starts a month-long series of virtual events and speakers, all with the goal of inspiring and coaching black talent.

“We are also going to be bringing speakers together to host sessions that cover a wide range of topics that impact the ability of black professionals to climb up that corporate ladder, personal branding, career advancement sessions,” Kaigler told WBZ.

Right now, she says, the numbers are bad. Black professionals hold only 3.2 percent of all executive or senior leadership roles in America, a change she knows can’t happen by the end 31 days, but one they plan to push for years to come.

Read the complete article on CBS local.

‘Shark Tank’ Hires Emma Grede To Be First Black Woman On Panel

LinkedIn
On Shark Tank Emma Grede To Be First Black Woman On Panel

By Alexis Reese, BET

There’s a new shark in town!

For the newest season of Shark Tank, the series will have its first Black woman shark on the panel. Good American CEO and SKIMS founding partner Emma Grede, will be one of this season’s guest panelists. She will join recurring sharks, Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner and Barbara Corcoran.

Grede, an entrepreneur from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by way of London, will make her grand appearance during the season premiere on Oct. 8, according to Shadow And Act.

Grede graduated with a business degree in business studies at The London College of Fashion and has worked with brands like Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Zac Posen, Christopher Kane, Chivas, Mercedes-Benz, and Sky.

She currently is the chairman of entertainment brand ITB with clients like Calvin Klein, Net-a-Porter and H&M.

‘I’ve been doing celebrity partnerships for a long time, and I started to realize that a lot of what I was being asked to do was to put together very ‘diverse’ campaigns,” she told ELLE UK. “Oftentimes, I would cast women [in a campaign] for a brand that didn’t make clothes that would fit them. ‘I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if we created a company where we made clothes for every woman, and the company looked exactly like the ‘diverse’ campaign, with me at the helm, a Black woman?’, and it worked.”

Click here to read the full article on BET.

Meet The Woman Behind Google’s Multi-Million Dollar Partnerships With Black Founders Around The Globe

LinkedIn
Rachael Palmer, the Woman Behind Google’s Multi-Million Dollar Partnerships With Black Founders Around The Globe

By Alexa Imani Spencer, Yahoo! Finance

Rachael Palmer is behind Google’s partnership strategy with venture capitalists and startups throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Her track record includes the launch of a $2 million fund for Black founders in Europe and a $3 million scheme in Africa, Business Insider reported.

“My role focuses on driving partnerships with the region’s top VCs and startup but also working on initiatives to transform the ecosystem for the better,” Palmer told Insider.

Before she joined Google, she worked at Microsoft and American Express. She spent plenty of time working with small businesses at the latter. As an internal consultant at Google, she “quickly found my back to working within the startup ecosystem”

Every day is different and far from typical, she told Insider.

“I spend some days working closely with founders to understand their business and how we can help them, or with internal product teams discussing opportunities to engage the VC and startup ecosystem,” she said. “Another day might be spent with a VC learning more about their portfolio companies, how we can partner and also what they look for in investments.”

Palmer shared her top five tips for businesses seeking to work with Google.

Keep Google’s users in mind

For startup founders hoping to secure an investment from Google, Palmer’s main tip is to ensure you have something to offer the company’s users.

“I meet many startups that want to get their content or product built into Search,” she said. “However, they often fail to step back and think about what’s in it for our users and how it enhances the product. For a partnership to work, it has to be mutually beneficial to both sides.”

2. Do your company values align with Google’s?

For Palmer, it’s important for her to get to know what’s in “the DNA of a company.”

“I really care about its values and how closely it meshes with Google,” she said. “In a pre-COVID world, I used to enjoy a visit to the offices as you can tell a lot about a company through seeing where and how they work.”

3. Think seriously about diversity

Palmer said about picking venture capitalist business partners, “I obviously care deeply about their ability to pick winners but I also care about their perspective on diversity.”

4. Think locally and globally

Palmer said she’s always been impressed by the go-to market strategies of EMEA-based startups.

“They often establish themselves in their home country then quickly create the blueprint for expansion by becoming really good at localization, developing local partnerships and navigating regulatory situations in different markets.”

5. Expect competition

Large companies like Google have rival founders and interested venture capitalists in numbers. This year’s Black founder initiative is one example.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Finance.

Rihanna takes time with album while unveiling lingerie line

LinkedIn
Rihanna takes time with album while unveiling lingerie line

By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr., AP News

Rihanna might be extremely consumed with rolling out her popular lingerie line, but finishing her forthcoming album is still a priority.

The multi-Grammy winner is just taking her time to “experiment.” She suggests her new music will sound much different than her previous projects.

“You’re not going to expect what you hear. Just put that in your mind,” Rihanna said recently before the taping of her “Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3” event, which will air Friday on Amazon Prime Video.

It’s been five years since the pop star released her critically acclaimed eighth album “ANTI,” which included hits such as “Work,” “Love on the Brain” and “Needed.” Last year, Rihanna said she had started recording new music, holding “ tons of writing camps.”

“Whatever you know of Rihanna is not going to be what you hear,” said the singer, who has won nine Grammys in multiple categories including R&B, dance and rap. “I’m really experimenting. Music is like fashion. You should be able to play. I should be able to wear whatever I want. I treat music the same way. So I’m having fun and it’s going to be completely different.”

Rihanna hasn’t announced a release date yet for her new album, but music plays a major role in her Savage X Fenty event. It returns for a third straight year and will highlight her fashion line’s newest assortment of styles featuring an all-star lineup of models, actors and performers.

The show — recorded in downtown Los Angeles — will include performances by Nas, Ricky Martin, Jasmine Sullivan, Daddy Yankee and Normani. Adriana Lima, Gigi Hadid, Vanessa Hudgens, Erykah Badu and Alek Wek and Jeremy Pope make special appearances.

Rihanna said she’s looking forward to unveiling some of her favorite styles from the new collection.

“The cat suits, the crotchless,” she said, blushing and then moving on. “All the bras that make my boobies sit up, because, you know, I’m 33 now. They’re not where they used to be. I’m just looking forward to actually seeing my pieces on the talent, seeing it on so many different body shapes and silhouettes, because that’s what brings the pieces to life.”

In past shows, Rihanna has taken the initiative to become a champion of inclusion with her fashion line. She wants to continue to highlight men of all shapes, color and sizes in a manner similar to how she’s uplifted women with her line.

Click here to read the full article on AP News.

Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand donating $1M to help diversify newsrooms

LinkedIn
Basketball legend Michael Jordan announced that he will donate $1 million to the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting to help diversify newsrooms.

BY OLAFIMIHAN OSHIN, The Hill

Basketball legend Michael Jordan announced that he will donate $1 million to the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting to help diversify newsrooms.

The Jordan Brand grant will enable the society to expand its college internship program, create a summer journalism program at a historically black college or university in North Carolina, and launch a high school journalism project with a majority Black and Latino school in the state.

The Ida B. Wells Society, created in 2016 to help train and support minority investigative journalists, is housed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Media.

“Investigative reporting is the most important reporting in our democracy,” society co-founder and 1619 Project author Nikole Hannah-Jones said in a statement.

“It’s the reporting that holds power accountable, that unearths the way it’s wielded, that tells the stories that people don’t want told. Our democracy is in crisis as politicians are advancing a wave of voter suppression laws across the country and journalists must step up to be the firewall for our democracy,” she added. “That makes the work we do as a Society and the substantial support of Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand so critical in this moment.”

Jordan, who was the main subject of the Netflix documentary series “The Last Dance,” pledged in 2020 to donate $100 million to organizations that are dedicated to racial equality, social justice and education access over the next decade, Black Enterprise reported.

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

The Blueprint: A Conversation with Christian Wise Smith, Esq.

LinkedIn
Christian Wise Smith, suthor, smiling and holding up his childrens book

By Santura Pegram

(SP) – Tell people a little about Christian Wise Smith…who you are, how it all began, and what you’ve accomplished so far in life?

(CWS) – I was born and raised in the justice system. I saw my mother get arrested several times before she lost custody of me. My Uncle Steve was sentenced to life in prison for murder. I witnessed my grandmother stripped down to her underwear and handcuffed. Ultimately, my family and I experienced several traumatic encounters with law enforcement and the justice system during my childhood. Determined to break the negative cycles of my upbringing, I was able to turn my pain and tragedy into triumph, becoming the first in my family to graduate from college, ultimately earning my Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Juris Doctor degrees. The horrors experienced during my childhood ultimately led me to devote my career to working with our youth.

(SP) – Realizing that poverty, idle time, a lack of opportunities, and peer-related pressure often entices and influences disadvantaged people of all ages (especially teenagers and young adults) to get caught up in turning to ‘street life’ for survival, how were you able to avoid such desperate measures and traps during your youth, which could have negatively affected you later in life?

(CWS) – Before finishing high school, I saw several family members and friends destroyed by murder, violence, drugs, and other crimes. At 17, I was kicked out of school. Headed down a path leading straight to a jail cell, Officer William Dean Sr., a Black police officer, took an interest in helping me to break free of the low expectations inherent in my situation. Due to his mentoring and support, I learned that I was capable of changing my path.

(SP) – Researchers have proven there is a direct link between socioeconomic disadvantaged individuals and crime. Additionally, there are those who believe that “over 90% of crime in America and around the world takes place due to economic disadvantages and the remaining percentage involves mental illness, social disagreements, and/or other miscellaneous reasons.” If those precipitating factors are true, why have more prosecutors and court systems not taken these seriously and opted to explore better strategies and proven solutions which reinforce teaching positive behavioral change and empowering people – economically, mentally, socially, and otherwise?

(CWS) – I visited the King County Prosecutor’s Office in Seattle, Washington in 2018 to study a program they created called ‘LEAD’ (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion). Instead of booking people into jail for criminal activity that stems from poverty or behavioral health needs, officers instead take people to case managers who provide crisis response, immediate psychosocial assessment, and long-term wrap-around services that include substance, disorder treatment and housing. By the time I visited the program, they’d already had hundreds of success stories where people completely turned their lives around. Instead of being trapped in the system of recidivism, they now had jobs, housing, and lived productive lives. The program has also significantly improved their community overall. Once people are off of the streets and working, employment rates and property values increase. They’ve proven that this kind of justice system can work.

Unfortunately, most prosecutors and court systems have not opted to explore better options to help people break free from the system because of money. In 1865, we saw southern states enact Black Codes to ensure that newly freed Black Americans could be sentenced to labor for crimes such as vagrancy or “poor living conditions” after slavery was abolished. Today, many states use prisoners to manufacture license plates and other products. The prison industry is a multi-billion-dollar system. Think about bail bonding companies, probation services, and corrections officers just to name a few. Most elected prosecutors are financially supported by people who benefit from the prison industry. We need to see more prosecutors elected like Larry Krasner, Rachael Rollins, Aramis Ayala, and Deborah Gonzalez, and consider the advice of experts like Dr. Brandon Mathews and Adam Foss to see significant changes in our system that will ultimately help people break free from the system and live better lives.

(SP) – Police departments across the country have long been the primary instigator of public backlash for abusive tactics by law enforcement officers, especially acts committed against minority individuals. However, most often, prosecutors and court systems throughout America have played an equal or far more destructive role by primarily pushing for greater numbers of convictions or guilty pleas, versus considering life-improving alternatives and opportunities to dismiss cases that reveal little or no evidence to warrant prosecution. How do we get more prosecutors and judges to understand the role(s) they play in shaping or destroying communities, and make better decisions in pursuing restorative justice?

(CWS) – Our justice system has been driven by a “conviction by any means necessary” approach for several decades. This approach is cruel, costly, and counter-productive. It has created a hamster wheel cycle of incarceration that has especially destroyed the Black community, communities of color, and low-income people. This approach has destroyed lives, over-crowded jails and prisons, and has done nothing to keep us safer. The way we get more prosecutors and judges to understand the roles they play in the system is by no longer voting for prosecutors and judges who aren’t willing to change things. Voters have to be more vocal about the kind of people they want leading our local justice systems.

(SP) – A growing number of professionals in the areas of law and government are beginning to embrace the ideas of “criminal justice & prosecutorial reform visionaries” such as: Larry Krasner of Philadelphia; Rachael Rollins of Suffolk County, Massachusetts; Diana Becton of Contra Costa County, California; Jonathan Rapping of Atlanta, Georgia; Professor Jody D. Armour from the USC School of Law, and Judge Bruce Morrow of Michigan. Could you share your thoughts on some of the unique concepts any of them have implemented and how you might contribute to such growing trends?

(CWS) – I respect and appreciate those folks and everyone else who is willing to acknowledge the significant issues within our justice system and do something about it. Larry Krasner made headlines when he fired 31 staff members (which included trial attorneys, supervisor-level staff, and assistant prosecutors) on his fourth day in office to honor his promise to change the culture of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. He promised to never seek the death penalty, end cash bail, and end the mass incarceration model that has plagued the justice system for entirely too long. He was recently re-elected for a second term, which makes me hopeful that more and more voters across the country will become more aware of what he and other progressives are doing and start to vote more likeminded candidates into other local offices.

(SP)– Throughout the United States, there are legal professionals and legislators who would argue that “debtor’s prisons, exploitive labor arrangements, and/or Peonage laws” no longer exist. However, if that were true, overzealous tactics such as charging parents (typically fathers or men identified as one) with a criminal offense instead of a civil one for nonpayment of child support; suspending the driver’s licenses of a parent who is unable or unwilling to pay support; branding them with unnecessary employment-dismissive criminal records; placing them on probation, and even incarcerating such people (most often only fathers) who are unable to pay a biased, expected amount to the child(ren)’s other parent (typically a mother) has been nothing short of a fruitless abuse of law practice and a gross waste of time and public resources. Fathers who find themselves in these circumstances refuse to speak out on this touchy subject for fear of being scrutinized further or mislabeled as a Deadbeat Dad as opposed to properly being recognized as a Dead Broke Dad. A 2019-2020 study in Baltimore which is often ignored, revealed an eye-opening perspective about how this “system” has continued to do more harm than good in many instances. What are your thoughts on better ways to move away from the criminalization of child support delinquency, which adversely impacts a family’s dynamics through increased poverty and the destabilizing of (father) parent-child relationships?

(CWS) – I haven’t encountered any child support cases during my legal career thus far, but I do believe that things can improve significantly to ensure that policies aren’t counterproductive. For example, suspending someone’s driver’s license and incarcerating them because of nonpayment makes it harder for that person to maintain employment. I guarantee you that nobody is using the same cell phone they used 10 years ago, but our court systems are operating the same way they did several decades ago. Technology always evolves and we adapt to it. Unfortunately, big systems that play vital roles in our everyday lives like the justice system, the education system, and the child support system don’t evolve and improve. If we valued improving these systems as much as we value advancing technology, our country would be in much better shape. The Baltimore Sun article you’re referring to (At what cost? For Baltimore’s poorest families, the child support system exacts a heavy price — and it’s hurting whole communities – Baltimore Sun) was published in March of 2020. It reveals how counterproductive the current child support system is in Maryland, and I think that article paints a pretty good picture of how bad things truly are across the country.

(SP) – In your opinion, what would/should the ideal “prosecutor’s office-court system” look like in terms of methodologies, operations, and intended outcomes?

(CWS) – Just as our culture changes and moves forward, our justice system must use innovative and commonsense solutions that respond to the issues we face today. We must rewrite history and create a paradigm shift in the justice system to value people over conviction rates. We can accomplish this if prosecutors prioritize resources on serious and violent crimes and end the revolving door model of mass incarceration by no longer using jails as ineffective and inhumane mental health treatment facilities, homeless shelters, and drug rehab centers. Diversion programs should be implemented for low-level non-violent crimes with paths to employment and educational opportunities. Prosecutors should right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs that disproportionately ruined Black and minority communities by no longer prosecuting possession of marijuana. Prior marijuana possession convictions not attached to violent crime or drug sales should be pardoned to help several people across the country obtain employment and housing opportunities.

Prosecutors should hold police officers accountable for any misconduct or abuse. Prosecutors should never take campaign money from police unions to maintain total independence and eliminate any conflicts of interest when it comes to prosecuting police. Cash bail should be eliminated because it keeps poor people detained simply because they can’t afford bail, putting them at risk of losing employment and/or housing, which eventually leads to re-offending. Every local justice system should have a Military Veteran’s court unit to get our brave men and women who suffer from psychological or substance abuse issues the proper tools they need to be productive citizens after encountering the system. Prosecutors should be transparent and accountable. Prosecutors should also partner with public school systems to do more to divert the school to prison pipeline. These things would get us on track to seeing an ideal justice system where everyone is treated equally.

(SP) – You have accomplished quite a bit in your 38-years. It’s refreshing to note that after deciding at the last minute to run for the highly coveted District Attorney position for Fulton County-Atlanta (the largest county in the state of Georgia), you went on to maximize your skill set by launching the National Social Justice Alliance. What led you to embark upon this endeavor and what do you hope it will achieve?

(CWS)The NATIONAL SOCIAL JUSTICE ALLIANCE – HOME (nsja.org) was created to bring prosecutors from across the nation together for a common effort to fix the broken American criminal justice system. NSJA believes prosecutors are the answer. Prosecutors are the gatekeepers of our local justice systems, and are responsible for holding everyone, including police officers and other prosecutors, responsible for the acts they commit. The 2020 police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the aftermath of protests for equality, justice and calls for police reform highlight the need for prosecutors to step up. Together, the gatekeepers of the system can finally end police brutality and ensure that equality and justice are the standard for everyone.

(SP) – People have been expressing their appreciation for your new children’s book, WISEUP Adventure Series: Chris & Key Go Vote! Tell those who are unfamiliar with it what was your motivation for writing it and what is the intended outcome?

Christian Wise Smith smiling dressed in suit and tie
Christian Wise Smith, Author

(CWS) – When I ran for District Attorney in 2020, I met so many people who believed their vote didn’t matter. Recognizing this as a byproduct of voter suppression, I wanted to do something to eliminate the negative thinking that people have about whether their vote can make a difference. The answer: our kids, the next generation. By teaching our kids now about the superpower of voting, they’ll grow up knowing their votes will matter one day soon. I also wanted to do more than just tell them about voting, so the book is interactive. Young readers and their parents learn the voting process in a simple way by completing a voter registration card and casting a ballot for their favorite color. Teaching kids and their parents how to vote with an interactive children’s book is a new and direct way to increase future voter participation, fight against voter suppression efforts, and encourage the normalization of a culture of consistent voting in local and national elections.

We also just launched a community outreach program through NSJA called VOTING IS A SUPERPOWER to teach children in public school systems about the voting process. Students will receive a backpack complete with supplies and most importantly a copy of the book. We also provide a pizza party for each school we visit and appreciation gift cards for the teachers and staff. If anyone would like to donate towards helping us reach our mission of teaching millions of kids across the country how to vote, please visit njsa.org and click on any of the donate buttons to make a 100% tax deductible donation.

(SP) – You’re clearly a sound decision-maker. What do you want or plan to be doing when you’re in your 50’s or 60’s?

(CWS) – I pray to be alive, healthy, and still using everything God has blessed me with to help all of us live better lives together.

Santura Pegram (santura.pegram@yahoo.com) is a freelance writer and socially conscious business consultant who has helped to advise small businesses; nonprofit organizations; city, county, and state governmental committees; elected officials; professional athletes; and school systems.

The Types of Government Contracts & What You Need to Know

LinkedIn
Black mature businessman working on laptop

When it comes to running your small business, one of the greatest assets you can acquire to help you succeed is a government contract.

The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world. It buys all types of products and services — in both large and small quantities — and it’s required by law to consider buying from small businesses.

The government wants to buy from small businesses for several reasons, including:

  • To ensure that large businesses don’t “muscle out” small businesses
  • To gain access to the new ideas that small businesses provide
  • To support small businesses as engines of economic development and job creation
  • To offer opportunities to disadvantaged socio-economic groups

There are a multitude of contracts that can be obtained and further searched into using Sam.gov, but here are a few of the different types of government contracts that could help fund your small business:

Set-aside contracts for small businesses:

To help provide a level playing field for small businesses, the government limits competition for certain contracts to small businesses. Those contracts are called “small business set-asides,” and they help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.

There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.

Competitive set-aside contracts:

When at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.

Some set-asides are open to any small business, but some are open only to small businesses who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.

Sole-source set-aside contracts:

Most contracts are competitive, but sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract. To be considered for a sole-source contract, register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) and participate in any contracting program you may qualify for.

In some cases, sole-source contracts must be published publicly, and will be marked with an intent to sole source. Potential vendors can still view and bid on these contracts. Once the bidding process begins, the intent to sole-source may be withdrawn.

Contracting Assistance Programs:

The federal government uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars each year. There are different programs for different attributes of a small business, such as:

8 (a) Business Development Program: Small Disadvantaged businesses.

Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program: Women-owned businesses

Veteran assistance program: Veteran-owned businesses

HUBZone Program: Historically underutilized businesses

SBA Mentor-Protégé program: Sets up your business with an experienced government contractor

Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program: Provides natural resources and surplus property to small businesses.

Joint Ventures: Allows businesses to team up and acquire government contracts (more info below)

Joint Ventures:

Two or more small businesses may pool their efforts by forming a joint venture to compete for a contract award. A joint venture of multiple small businesses still qualifies for small business set-aside contracts if its documentation meets SBA requirements.

Small businesses that have a mentor-protege relationship through the All-Small Mentor-Protege program can form a joint venture with a mentor (which can be a large business). These joint ventures can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses.

A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses, if a member of the joint venture meets SBA requirements to do so.

Resources

If you still have questions or are looking for additional information, visit sam.gov or sba.gov. No matter what your situation is, there are many opportunities available to help your small business succeed.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration

Howard alum Nicole Cokley Dunlap appointed chief diversity officer, Bed Bath & Beyond

LinkedIn
Howard alum Nicole Cokley Dunlap appointed chief diversity officer, Bed Bath & Beyond

By Porsha Monique, Rollingout

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. announced Nicole Cokley Dunlap as its Chief Diversity Officer. Cokley Dunlap will lead the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy.

Cokley Dunlap brings more than 25 years of expertise to her role and will report directly to Lynda Markoe, EVP and Chief People and Culture Officer. She will begin in her new role in September 2021.

Cokley Dunlap comes to Bed Bath & Beyond from Macy’s Inc., where she held roles with increasing levels of leadership responsibilities across Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s Inc. in human resources, employee giving, diversity and inclusion, and store management.

The Howard University alum served as vice president of Macy’s DE&I strategy since 2019 and built strategies that helped drive diversity, engagement, performance, and business growth. Before that, she was Bloomingdale’s vice president, DE&I, Employee Giving and Human Resources Business Partner. Cokley Dunlap also serves as Co-President of BRAG (Black Retail Action Group) , a non-profit organization that prepares and educates people of color for executive leadership roles in retail, fashion, and related industries.

As part of its ESG strategy, Bed Bath & Beyond committed to becoming a Top 10 retail employer by 2030 by creating an equitable, inclusive work environment where all associates feel at home and can thrive. The company has set diversity, equity, and inclusion goals to reach at least 50% women representation and at least 25% racial and/or ethnic diversity at all levels by this time.

Cokley Dunlap will oversee the strategy and execution of these goals as well as partner across the enterprise to build stronger relationships with customer communities and diverse business vendors. Cokley Dunlap’s focus on implementing programs that drive inclusion and belonging will further advance the company’s people-powered focus and create and sustain its talent engine.

Markoe commented, “Nicole is a consummate leader with tremendous relationships and expertise in DE&I and will help us deliver change that is needed within our company and the communities we serve. Building our community, both inside and outside the company, is of paramount importance as we execute against Bed Bath & Beyond’s transformation plans. One of our five key practices in our strategic transformation framework is championing diversity and community, and we are pleased to appoint a Chief Diversity Officer as talented and proven as Nicole.”

Cokley Dunlap said, “As a values-driven company, I am excited to be a part of Bed Bath and Beyond’s transformation to advance the DE&I goals. With an emphasis on associates, customers, and communities, I look forward to working across the organization to optimize DE&I initiatives to drive innovation and business results.”

Click here to read the full article on Rollingout.

JAY-Z’s The Parent Company hires first Black CEO to lead major public U.S. cannabis organization

LinkedIn
JAY-Z’s The Parent Company hires first Black CEO to lead major public U.S. cannabis organization

By 

JAY-Z’s cannabis company and executive Troy Datcher are about to make history. On Monday (Aug. 16), the Hov-backed The Parent Company, which houses his Monogram cannabis brand, announced that Datcher will soon become the company’s new chief executive officer.

When Datcher assumes the role on Sept. 8, a press release notes, he will be the first Black CEO to lead a major, public cannabis organization in the country.

In a statement sent to Insider, Datcher said the California-based Parent Company has a “unique opportunity to disrupt a sector that has disproportionately impacted communities of color — including my own — for far too long.”

“This is a chance to partner with cultural powerhouses like JAY-Z and Desiree Perez to rectify the wrongs of prohibition, eradicate antiquated laws and create a new cannabis infrastructure rooted in diversity, equity and justice for our communities,” he added. “Together, we can shape a legal cannabis industry that is reflective of our entire culture in California and beyond.”

Datcher will work alongside Hov, who currently serves as The Parent Company’s chief visionary officer. Both the 51-year-old mogul and The Parent Company’s chief social equity officer, Roc Nation CEO Desiree Perez, have used the brand to lead initiatives aimed at helping Black and other minority entrepreneurs succeed in the cannabis industry.

“Troy’s business acumen, strategic thinking and leadership skills are invaluable qualities that will be critical to our organization’s growth,” Perez said. “He understands and embraces the unique responsibility we have to redefine the cannabis industry and establish a new precedent for cannabis entrepreneurs to build successful businesses.”

Datcher previously served as the senior vice president and chief customer officer of Clorox, where he worked for 20 years.

“Troy brings a wealth of invaluable experience driving high-volume sales, implementing growth strategies and a deep-seated knowledge of strategic brand execution,” The Parent Company Chairman Michael Auerbach said in the release. “His leadership expertise and perspective gained at such a prominent and enduring organization will be a significant advantage as we look to build the first 100-year company in cannabis, meet evolving consumer demands and create meaningful change in our industry.”

Click here to read the full article on Revolt.

SAWEETIE FANS GO NUTTY OVER HER MCDONALD’S MEAL WITH MEMES & GIFS

LinkedIn
SAWEETIE FANS GO NUTTY OVER HER MCDONALD’S MEAL WITH MEMES & GIFS

By Michael Saponara, Hip Hop Dx.

Saweetie’s official McDonald’s meal became readily available at Golden Arches locations across the United States on Monday (August 9), and the California native’s Icy Gang can’t get enough of Saweetie’s latest partnership deal.

The Saweetie Meal consists of a Big Mac, four-piece Chicken McNuggets, medium fries, medium Sprite, with Tangy BBQ and ‘Saweetie ‘N Sour’ sauces on the side for your dipping desires. Known for loving absurd food combinations, consumers are encouraged to mix and match sides and sauces with their Big Mac just as Saweetie would appreciate.

“McDonald’s and I run deep – from growing up back in Hayward, California, all through my college days – so I had to bring my icy gang in on my all-time favorites,” she said about the partnership in a statement. “Depending on the mood I’m in, there are so many ways to enjoy my order. I like to keep things fresh – I know that’s right.”

Saweetie’s meal is the first with a female artist and follows a line of celebrity meals that includes successful partnerships with K-pop group BTS, Latin superstar J Balvin and Travis Scott, which even caused supply shortages at some restaurants.

McDonald’s is also partnering with the “Best Friend” rapper for the Saweetstakes. Every Saweetie Meal order through the McDonald’s app will be entered to win a pair of Brandon Blackwood limited-edition handbags and a five-day trip to Las Vegas to see her perform.

Saweetie even hopped behind the counter of a local McDonald’s and surprised customers while working the drive-thru window.

Click here to read the full article on Hip Hop Dx.

America's Leading African American Business and Career Magazine

Leidos

Lumen

Lumen

American Family Ins

American Family Insurance

Verizon

verizon

Upcoming Events

  1. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022