Back @ it…Writing, that is!

26 Jan

Hey, ya’ll.  So as you all know, since I became sick I have taken a break from many things.  Writing, something that I am passionate about and would do absolutely for F-R-E-E  (although, it’s so much better when you can get a check #seriousface), is one of them…but, i’m back at it.

Last week, I got an assignment for to write a piece on “Autism in the Black Community.”  Before working on this story, I didn’t know much of anything about autism.  I heard of it before and I have seen autistic children, but I had no idea how much it affected the black community.

After a few interviews and some research, I’m able to share the story with you.  Click here for “Autism in the Black Community.”

Check it out, leave comments, Tweet it, Facebook it, email it, send a kite (people in jail DO read)…just share. LOL

As always, thanks for your support!



The Diagnosis…

24 Jan

The Diagnosis

Date: 11/5/11
Location: Piedmont Hospital

I am a young, vibrant and compulsively ambitious woman. I have things to do, people to see and places to go. I cannot have a chronic, lifelong disease. I don’t have time for that, so I thought.  But, I guess God had different thoughts because on Saturday, November 5, 2011, he allowed that rude doctor, who had no bedside manners at all, to come into my hospital room and say to me, “It’s multiple sclerosis. You have MS.”

I’m 26, I have a disease and I am going to die before I write my best-seller, before I do this and before I do that. This was my immediate thought as I laid in the hospital bed alone.  I didn’t cry. I didn’t immediately call anyone. I didn’t google MS on my iPhone. I just sat there and thought that my life was over. After sitting for a few minutes, I called home to my mother and grandmother to tell them what I had just found out.

Now keep in mind that all of this didn’t just happen out of the blue.  I had been sick since June 2011, however the doctors just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me until that day.

Excerpt from my journal… (early July 2011 — 1 month after I got sick and 5 months before the diagnosis)

It’s 12:02 a.m.  I’m laying in the bed in the dark, barely able to hold my iPhone as I type these words. The tears are flowing heavy as I lay and think about how my life has begun to unfold over the last month. On Wednesday, June 8, 2011, after leaving work a little early, I grabbed a bite to eat from Chipotle and rushed over to Seraphim Skin Care, a spa in Buckhead, for my 4pm facial appointment (which, by the way, was AMAZING).  After my facial, I headed over to Straits, a midtown Atlanta restaurant owned by rapper, actor and philanthropist Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. I had a 6:30 p.m. interview at Straits with Ms. Roberta Shields, Luda’s mom and the president of The Ludacris Foundation (TLF), for a story that I was writing for Ms. Roberta, who I would soon call my guardian angel, shared with me how they started the foundation, details about their 10 year anniversary, which was quickly approaching, and how extremely proud she was of her son and the success of his foundation.

The interview went well. So much so that afterward, Ms. Roberta and I shared some Kung Pao Chicken aka lollipop chicken–one of my fave items on the menu– and talked about everything from her raising Luda to her time living in DC and getting her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in my hometown city (hey Baltimore!). We even chatted about my recent interest in becoming a first-time homeowner. She shared with me that her and Chris have had the same Realtor since he bought his first piece of property in College Park, GA, and asked me if I was interested in using their Realtor. While talking about homes, she escorted me to her car where she had in her trunk new bamboo wood flooring that she had just purchased for one of Chris’ properties. After leaving her car, which was parked in the back of the restaurant, we walked along the side of the building back to the front. Walking back to the front, Ms. Roberta invited me back in to have a drink with her. I declined, and told her that I wanted to get back home to do some writing. We talked a bit more in the front of the restaurant, however we were interrupted by some very unhappy patrons. While she talked with them and tried to see if there was something that she could do to make their experience better, I made a phone call.  I called my friend, who was driving into the city to see me, to tell him that I was done the interview. But, before I could finish my initial sentence, I felt dizzy and immediately knew that I would not be heading home. I remember saying to him, “I feel sick. I’m going to pass out. I need to go to the hospital.”

He asked me a question, but before I could answer, I dropped the phone and screamed out Ms. Roberta’s name.  I felt so weak and sick. I was getting ready to pass out.  I felt it. I  knew it. It happened so fast, but as I fell to the ground, one of the security guys outside of Straits caught me just before my body hit the pavement.

After being rushed to the hospital in the ambulance, I spent the next five days at Emory Midtown Hospital. The day after they admitted me, I lost the use of my hands — couldn’t feed myself, clean myself, hold a phone, hold a penny—nothing!

I will never EVER forget Luda’s mommy and I will be forever grateful to her. When I passed out, she called my mother and grandmother, who were both in Baltimore, to keep them up-to-date with what was going on with me. Knowing that I was there by myself, she hopped in the ambulance and rode over to the hospital with me and stayed the entire night. I had never met this woman before that day.  Roberta Shields was heaven sent.


Little did I know—even while in the hospital over those next few days—my life would never be the same again.

I was extremely sick over the next few months after being discharged from the hospital. I couldn’t drive, cook or go to work. I couldn’t do much of anything because 75 percent of the time, I could not use my hands. I was back and forth in the doctors office, seeing specialists, getting tests done, having surgery (spinal taps) and trying to figure it all out. My mom flew down and stayed for a few weeks until she had to go back to work. At that point, my grandmother flew down. That trip turned into a three month stay for my grandmother. She gave up her entire summer to be in Atlanta with me and to take care of me during the time when my mom had to work.  I can’t even find the words to say how much that meant to me. My entire family (my mommy, grandmother, sisters, uncles and aunts) sacrificed so much for me this past summer.

Back and forth to the doctors, we waited for answers. After MRIs and spinal tap surgery revealed that there was a lot of inflammation on my spine, my neurologist put me on some very strong steroids. After a while, other than the weight gain, things seemed to be getting a little better.

In mid-September, after I closed on my house, I was able to go back to work. I know ya’ll didn’t think getting sick would stop me from finishing what I started.  (Weird enough— I was pre-approved for my loan on the morning of Wednesday, June 8, 2011, which is the same day that I passed out at Straits).  I hadn’t looked at one piece of property at that point.  So many people wondered how I even made it through this process in the midst of everything that was going on.  It was definitely difficult, but with the help of my mom and grandmother, it worked out (thank God ‘cuz I love my new home).

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On November 3, 2011, after being back at work for a month and a half, I walked into work feeling dizzy. I thought I could make it through the day, but it seemed to get worse by the minute. Everyone at work kept telling me to just go home and lay down. But, going home to lay down didn’t seem like a good idea. I hate going to hospitals, so if I ever go, I’m sick—the real kind. I remember telling a co-worker that if I laid down, I felt like I wouldn’t get back up—ever. So, I called my neurologists and explained to him what was going on.  He told me to go straight to the hospital.


Once I arrived to Piedmont Hospital, I thought that I would be okay and that I was in good hands, but after running a few tests, they really tried to send me home.  They kept telling me that I was healthy and all the results were good.  I know my body and I knew that something was wrong.  I didn’t care what the results said.  I wasn’t going anywhere until I got some answers.  A healthy 26 year old can make it an entire day without feeling dizzy; drive without having to pull over because her hands and legs will not perform it’s normal functions; see without impaired vision; and work an entire day without feeling like it’s her last day on earth.  Those people were crazy if they thought I was going home felling like death warmed over.  I refused to leave, and thank God I did.

Two days later, on Saturday, November 5, 2011, is when I found out that I had MS.


I guess I can admit it now, but for almost an entire week after my diagnosis, I didn’t know much about MS.  I didn’t want to. I did not want to read anything about the disease or talk to anyone else who had it.  I guess I wanted to act like the diagnosis never happened.

Let’s fast forward to Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 11:27 p.m. when I finally accepted that this was my life.  While laying in the bed, I started to do some research on MS and I came across these words: “Accept, Take Control & Move On!”

According to the “10 Rules of MS Care,” this was number 7, and if I was going to live a healthy productive life, I had to follow the rules, right?

I wasn’t ready to do any of this just five days after being diagnosed with MS.  But, would I ever be ready?  Not really.  I instantly realized that of the 10 rules of MS Care, this was the most important—“Accept, Take Control & Move On!”  Who is ever ready to be diagnosed with anything?  No one.  But, until I accepted it, I would not be able to take control of my situation and move on.

Mentally — I am better today than I was two months ago.  Every single day is a challenge, especially the three days of the week that I have to give myself injections—yes, needles! (my nurse keeps telling me that I’ll get used to it and it’ll become as secondary as brushing my teeth…I don’t know about that).

Physically— I have my good days and I have my bad days.  Today, ehhh, not so good.

Emotionally— Emotional roller-coaster.  But I’m a woman, so for me, that’s normal with or without a disease.

All in all, I can’t complain.  No, I’m not going to say that things could be worse (which by the way, I kinda hate when people tell me, “it could be worse”).  I have MS.  It’s not easy and I don’t like it.  Sometimes, I’m really sick and in pain, and find myself questioning God.  And then, there are other times where I am thankful for what I have went through these past eight months because it’s made me stronger and taught me some great things about myself and the people around me.  This may sound crazy, but if I never got sick, I wouldn’t have discovered one great gift/talent that I have.  I’ll share more about this new talent before the end of the week is out and hopefully you guys can support my new found creative talent.

To all of you who already knew about my illness and have kept me in your thoughts and prayers, thank you! Your kind words, emails, letters, cards, phone calls, facebook and twitter messages have meant the world to me.  To my friends and family who have been with me every step of the way—thank you and I love you dearly.

p.s. I’m not making any promises on how often, but I’m back to blogging again. 🙂 thanks for the support! 

~ jowriter

President Obama Wrote Me Back…

30 Mar

…or maybe not.

Yesterday, when I got home from work I went to the mailbox and to my surprise I found this…

White House envelope...

Now ya’ll know, after writing President Barack Obama every single day for the past 87 days, I was elated to see this envelope.  I was thinking to myself, ‘finally, I got a response.’  So, I open the letter and I see that it is not handwritten.  I immediately know that it is not him, but that was okay.  At least I was being acknowledged (until this day, I didn’t even know if they were receiving my letters).  And, honestly I didn’t expect a direct response from him—at least not this soon.

The White, right? :-/

First mistake—they spell my last name wrong.  But, it’s no big deal…maybe they couldn’t read my handwriting.  Still excited, I proceed to read the letter.

the letter I've been waiting for...

I get to the second paragraph and it has not yet addressed one thing in the 87 letters that went to the White House, but I keep reading thinking to myself, ‘they are going to get to the point very soon.’  By the time I reach the fourth paragraph, ready to go to the second page, I realize that this letter has not once mentioned the words, “school,” “loan,” or  “school loans.”  At this point, I am infuriated and I say to myself, out loud, ‘REALLY?’

I work for the Mayor of Atlanta in his communications office, and we do citizen response letters—in fact, I’ve done citizen response letters for two other Mayors (Baltimore)—so, I know that for the most part the staff of the elected official will send back generic letters to the citizen, but usually the letter will address what they mentioned in their letter.  Apparently, at the White House, if you write anything financial, they send you a letter telling you how they are putting Americans back to work.  I am not unemployed, so why are they sending me a link to find the nearest unemployment center.  They sent me three links and a phone number to find a job.  REALLY?? I mean, REALLY?  I do not own a business nor did I ever mention starting one, so why did I receive two links that give me information on tax incentives to create jobs in the U.S. as opposed to overseas.  There was ONE mention of the words “higher education” and that sentence was: “Recently laid-off workers receiving unemployment benefits have new opportunities to pursue higher education and job training programs including easier access to Pell Grants.”  OMG—I WAS SO LOST.

I have not been writing my President EVERY SINGLE DAY just to get a response and be done with it.  I have been writing President Obama EVERY SINGLE DAY because I need some help with a serious issue, and because I have yet to receive a proper response from the White House staff, I will continue writing my President EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Today, is DAY #89…

Letter #89...March 30, 2011


tomorrow they will get “Letter #90.”  I will not stop writing until I get a response that addresses my direct concern—my school loans.  Hopefully, prayerfully, that response will come in the form of a handwritten letter from my President—President Barack Obama.

He does respond…

“Dear President Barack Obama”

“Dear President Barack Obama”

“Dear President Barack Obama”

I started with a purpose, and while I am thankful for a response from The White House, I will continue writing EVERY SINGLE DAY until my purpose is fulfilled.

Aspire to Inspire: From No House to The White House

21 Mar

Michael Blake is the first African-American White House Outreach Director for the first African-American President of the United States.  Oh, and he’s 28 years young.  But, nothing was handed to him.  Blake says, “I’m a skinny kid from The Bronx, whose family went from no house in Jamaica to The White House in D.C.”  He worked hard to get where he is today, and now that he’s there, he’s not being selfish with his blessings, at all.  Taking full advantage of every opportunity he gets to inspire  other young people is an understatement.   Most people that are in positions such as Michael ‘talk the talk,’ but very few really ‘walk the walk.’

Let me tell you how serious this brother is about helping to cultivate young minorities and ‘Winning the Future.’  Last night, I had the opportunity to attend “Civic Engagement: A Conversation with White House Official Michael Blake,” a reception at the Loews Hotel in downtown Atlanta that my friend/coworker Justin Tanner helped to plan and promote along with the homie, Tharon Johnson and Le’jamiel Goodall.

Civic Engagement

The hosts -- Justin Tanner, Tharon Johnson & Le’jamiel Goodall

Michael Blake with Tharon, Justin and Le’jamiel

With over 150 young, progressive people in the building, he said to them: “take out your blackberry/iPhone and take this info down,” and he proceeded to give everyone (all 150+) his email address and then he said, “now take this number down,” which was his office number.  While I was surprised by his willingness to hand out his work email and office number, he didn’t stop there.  He then gave everyone his cell number and said, “You now know how to get in touch with me if you are serious about getting involved.”

The brother took transparency to a completely different level.

crowd shot

another crowd shot

the planning committee...

Although he is a graduate of  Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, throughout his life, Blake was constantly told that he was not good enough, but said in an interview with The Grio, “Fortunately, those who inspired me reminded me that no person can stop what God has in store.”

Recently, Blake was selected as one of The Grio’s Top 100 History Makers in the Making, and among that list were other young influential leaders such as my boss, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Erica Williams, Deputy Director of Progress 2050.

Blake’s complete Grio interview below:

President Obama calls the newly re-purposed Office of Public Engagement the “front door” of his White House and Michael Blake is the man charged with keeping that door open. The associate director has dedicated himself to the difficult task of finding realistic ways to engage the African-American community and minority businesses.


A 2004 graduate of Northwestern University’s journalism school, Blake later attended the “Yes We Can” political training program in 2006, where he gained his knack for campaigning. He went on to successfully co-organizing three state house campaigns during the 2006 midterm election and was eventually hired to work for the Obama for America campaign, serving as Deputy Political Director/Constituency Outreach Director in Iowa and Michigan. Now Blake works to keep those same groups the campaign energized in 2008 participating in 2011, through outreach programs such as special public events and blogging initiatives.

Michael Blake is making history … by helping Obama keep his promise to the American people for transparency in government. Blake is constantly seeking to better the exchange of information between politicians and the electorate, and aims to make government function as President Obama challenges it to be – inclusive, transparent, accountable and responsible.

What’s next for Michael?

A steward of political dialogue and discussion, Michael Blake continues to work to discover practical avenues for real solutions to overcome structural inequalities and education disparities in national policymaking. Eventually, he says he seems himself entering into public service.

“I really believe that public service, when it’s done right, is the best way to help people. A lot of people don’t realize, (or) think about that everything that we do in life is impacted by some form of policy. From the concrete that you’re walking on, to the size of the chair that you’re in, to the food that you eat, we don’t think about those things,” Blake said.

In his own words …

“I say that I’m a skinny kid from The Bronx, whose family went from no house in Jamaica to The White House in D.C, who was told that I wasn’t smart enough to get into Northwestern, came from an elementary school was referred to having ‘savage inequalities’ and was told that I was silly for moving to Iowa to try and get President Obama elected,” Blake told theGrio. “Fortunately, those who inspired me reminded me that no person can stop what God has in store.”

On black history …

“Whenever I was in the company of Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, especially after learning of her influence of ensuring a full ‘I Have A Dream’ speech happened on the national mall, and even being around my D.C. mother, Former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, I realized that I was apart of the generation who had the chance to still be in the presence of civil rights legends and African-Americans who were still ‘The Firsts.'” Blake told theGrio. “With this opportunity (as outreach director), I had to ensure that I served the president best by educating our people of the opportunities so that more legends and more firsts came down the line. My title, my seat in a historic building, the photos, the meetings are nice, but history was being made when we use that place to change the game for our people for the better…[H]istory is about breaking down barriers and walls that we thought would never come down.”

Recently named one of MSNBC’s 10 Black Politicians on the Rise, he’s definitely one of our nation’s most dynamic, young and progressive leaders working to help us ‘Win the Future.’

Michael Blake

Dear Mr. President…Month #2—Letters #32-#59

3 Mar

Whenever you make a commitment, you must honor it and your decision to do so in spite of  adversity or discomfort says a lot about your character.  It has only been two months and I am really tired of writing letters, but I made a commitment to myself that I would write the President every single day of 2011 until I received a response.

No mail has come from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, so I must continue writing.  In all honesty, I actually never expected to get a response for at least four to five months, but I also didn’t think that writing the POTUS everyday would be a challenge.  Boy, was I wrong.  But, if you know me you know that I’m always up for a challenge.

I must admit, during the month of February I missed a few days which means that I had to send two letters on one day as opposed to just one.  But trust and believe, if I didn’t send Letter #40 on February 9, Letter #40 was placed in the mailbox—in its own envelope—with Letter #41 on February 10.

Writing is something that I love to do, but writing about the same thing over and over can become a little tedious and quite annoying.  But, I think i’ve started to come up with ways to make writing about the same thing over and over and over again, a little less tedious.  This month, I really started to read dozens of articles and personal essays on school loan reform, loan default rates, and personal stories of other college graduates faced with the financial burden of school loan payments.  I’m learning a lot and I’m sure my reading will start to affect the content of my letters.

I write everywhere—church (God knows my heart), my bed, my home office, work (don’t tell my boss), hair salon, meetings, park, under the hair dryer in my house, bathtub, restaurants—literally everywhere.  I’ve cut back on taking pictures of me writing, but below are a few.  During the month of March, I promise to pick back up on my picture taking and also blog a little more than once a month about my letters to the President.

writing in Piedmont Park one Sunday after church...



send off...

guess where i am in this pic???

LOL the hair dryer @ my crib 🙂 told ya'll i write EVERYWHERE


....@ the office (don't tell my boss) LOL

on its way to DC

@ the home office


I’d love to hear some of your student loan stories and how you are handling the repayments.  Hit me up, I want to hear from ya’ll.

Exposure = Opportunities = Greater Chances of Reaching Success

24 Feb

I’ve always said exposure is the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people.  I often think back to my younger years (LOL, like 10 yrs ago) and reflect on all that I was exposed to, knowing that had it not been for that exposure, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I know ya’ll have heard the saying, “when you know better, you do better,”  however that’s not necessarily always the case.  When you know better, you are presented with the opportunity to do better; now, what you do with that opportunity is up to you.  When talking about success and fulfilling your potential in life, exposure to me is extremely important, however it is still what one is willing to do with that exposure.

What is that Jay said in “Say Hello”

We ain’t thugs for the sake of just being thugs
Nobody do that where we grew at, nigga, DUH!

He’s clearly saying that they were not exposed to the writers, doctors, engineers, etc.  Most of them followed things that they were exposed to, and in his case that was slinging dope.

When you are exposed to extraordinary people, cultures, and experiences, that cultivates a drive in you to reach for big things.  Once exposure and drive meet, opportunities will manifest and success becomes inevitable, if you work it right.

In August 2010, my younger sister Amber O. aka Amby Amb moved down to Atlanta with me for school.  Amber’s passion is art–music, acting, poetry & writing.  She’s extremely talented, and no, i’m not just saying that because she is my sister.

She wrote this in like 20 min last night (hope she doesn’t mind me sharing):

Some may call it luck; some may even call it chance
But I know exactly who it came from
I know it was all a part of His plan
You may put two and two together and expect an outcome of four
But with Him on your team, you will learn to expect all of that plus more
It’s funny how things can work out in your favor
Before you can even realize the taste in which you now savor
Somewhere along the lines it was already written
Whether you want it to or not, the shoe starts fitting
God makes no mistakes, so you wonder what is His purpose
Even if you’re feeling lost in the world, His love will always surface
In His eyes we are all living in the past
Because He is the author of every book
So don’t be afraid to open your eyes, don’t be afraid to look
The pages may seem long and vast, but it is only for a reason
So expect a new leaf to spring, it is time to walk into your season
I know life can get rough and give you thoughts of quitting
So before you turn the page, remember that it was already written.

There’s talent there, but her talent will never be realized unless she’s exposed to certain things, which will then present her with awesome opportunities to become successful.  Amber loves all things arts, especially theater, and Tony award-winning director Kenny Leon is her ultimate fave.  Amber recently applied to an internship at his theater company, True Colors, but soon learned that the position was filled.  They presented her with the opportunity to come in and volunteer, whenever she wanted. (we all know that interning 4 free=volunteering anyway)   She accepted and was scheduled to start on today.

I had a conversation about Amber with a few people in my office who are close with Kenny, and expressed to them what Amber was trying to do.  They said, “well Amber should come to his birthday party.”  I knew that this would make Amber’s year–she recently did a project for her theater class where she had to portray someone in theater, and the person that she chose was Kenny Leon.

Later that day, I told Amber that one of my co-workers in the Mayor’s Office of Special Events would put her name on his bday list.  You would have thought that this girl had been nominated for an Oscar.  She was mad hyped.  LOL

It’s all about EXPOSURE.  I immediately thought, this would be the perfect opportunity for Amber to not only meet Kenny, but for her to be in an environment where people have accomplished what she one day wishes to achieve.  Amber tends to be very shy, so I also thought that this would be a good opportunity to make her come out of her shell and fight for what she wants.

Last night, she tried to act like she was scared, but as an aspiring actress who gets the opportunity to be among the who’s who of the film/theater industry, both locally and nationally, she did not have any time to be scared.  I coached her through the night with Networking 101 lessons and in many cases, telling her what to say.

I don’t think that it was any coincidence that she attended his birthday party one day before she was to begin volunteering at his theater company–the perfect chance for her to talk with his staff and let them know she’s pretty important–she found a way to get into their bosses private bday party (thanks 2 my homies in the Mayor’s Office of Special Events).

I know that yesterday motivated her, and in life small things such as just meeting someone whom you admire can go along way.

If you have the opportunity to expose young people to something that can empower them to become great, do it!  Remember, someone did it for you and if they didn’t, you should feel even more anxious to offer someone what you did not have.

Here are some pics from last night.

Amby Amb & Kenny Leon

Amby Amb & I

Jasmine Guy, Terri Vaughn (LaVita Alize Jenkins from Steve Harvey Show) & their lawyer

When Amazing People Connect, Amazing Things Happen–My Blog Feature w/ Shannon Evans

15 Feb

When you are connected to awesome people, they connect you to other awesome people—and soon you have a network full of some pretty dynamic individuals.  One of my friends/co-workers had been telling me about one of his friends from Howard University who was an amazing photographer that traveled the world and simply lived out her dreams.  For some reason, he knew that once we met we would just click.  He was right.

Shannon Evans is A-MA-ZING!  The Howard University alum, who worked for the World Bank for about five years after graduating, left her corporate career behind and followed her dreams—combining her love for photography, the written word and traveling, she launched her own business, Sevan Photography.

She interviewed me last week for her company’s new blog site and we connected right away.  Our interview was scheduled for 2pm, she arrived on time and we didn’t start the interview until about 6pm, if I remember correctly.

Over a cup of herbal tea, we talked about everything from first loves to traveling.  Our mutual friend knew just what he was talking about when he had been telling the both of us that we needed to meet.  I’m sure that I was interviewed by someone who I will forever be connected to–Shannon is just simply an amazing person who just happens to be awesome behind the lens & a great writer too!

Ya’ll know I’m a sucker for great photography & writing!!!

Check out my story!

Here are some photos that didn’t make it in the story, but I LOVE them!

Today, Barack Obama Honors Rep. John Lewis, Maya Angelou and others with Presidential Medal of Freedom

15 Feb

Rep. John Lewis & Moi 🙂

Maya Angelou


Today, civil rights icon and living legend Rep. John Lewis and the iconic Renaissance woman Maya Angelou–undeniably the greatest voice of contemporary literature– are two of 15 people who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.  The ceremony will take place  at a 1:30 p.m. in the East Room of the White House.  Other honorees include my ultimate inspiration/poet Maya Angelou, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former President George H.W. Bush,  billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Yo-Yo Ma and sports legends Stan Musial and Bill Russell.

Rep. Lewis, who is serving his 13th term in Congress, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I never dreamed of anything like this.”  “I’m deeply touched and moved at just the thought of it.”

The Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

President Obama said of the 15 individuals being honored today, “These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place.  I look forward to awarding them this honor.”

If you aren’t in front of a television @ 1:30pm EST, you can see it live at

*The following individuals will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at today’s ceremony:

  • President George H. W. Bush
    George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st President of the United States.
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel
    Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.
  • Congressman John Lewis
    John Lewis is an American hero and a giant of the Civil Rights Movement.
  • John H. Adams
    John H. Adams co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1970.
  • Maya Angelou
    Dr. Maya Angelou is a prominent and celebrated author, poet, educator, producer, actress, filmmaker, and civil rights activist, who is currently the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
  • Warren Buffett
    Warren Buffett is an American investor, industrialist, and philanthropist.  He is one of the most successful investors in the world.
  • Jasper Johns
    American artist Jasper Johns has produced a distinguished body of work dealing with themes of perception and identity since the mid-1950s.
  • Gerda Weissmann Klein
    Gerda Weissmann Klein is a Jewish Holocaust survivor who has written several books about her experiences.
  • Dr. Tom Little (Posthumous)
    Dr. Tom Little was an optometrist who was brutally murdered on August 6, 2010, by the Taliban in the Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan, Afghanistan, along with nine other members of a team returning from a humanitarian mission to provide vision care in the remote Parun valley of Nuristan.
  • Yo-Yo Ma
    Yo-Yo Ma is considered the world’s greatest living cellist, recognized as a prodigy since the age of five whose celebrity transcends the world of classical music.
  • Sylvia Mendez
    Sylvia Mendez is a civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.
  • Stan Musial
    Stan “The Man” Musial is a baseball legend and Hall of Fame first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.   Musial played 22 seasons for the Cardinals from 1941 to 1963.
  • Bill Russell
    Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball.
  • Jean Kennedy Smith
    In 1974, Jean Kennedy Smith founded VSA, a non-profit organization affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center that promotes the artistic talents of children, youth and adults with disabilities.
  • John J. Sweeney
    John J. Sweeney is the current President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO, and served as President of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009.

*Content from

Black Enterprise/ Ginger + Liz’s Digital Remix– The Power of Color: 9 Women Who Nail It Every Time

8 Feb

Remember I shared my Black Enterprise print piece on young entrepreneurs Ginger + Liz with you guys at the end of January?  Well, I also turned that piece into an online slideshow showcasing some of our nation’s most accomplished businesswomen—from Oprah to the Simmons’ sisters—and nail lacquer colors that fit them best.

“To show the true power of color BLACKENTERPRISE.COM let  Johnson and Pickett try their freshly manicured hands at picking the perfect hues for some of the most influential and notable women in business, entertainment, sports and politics.”

Check it out here!

Aspire to Inspire: Cool Kidz Edition—A Message From Terrence J

7 Feb

I was perusing the internet and ran across an inspiring message from the super handsome VJ/Actor, Terrence “J” Jenkins– you know the guy from 106 & Park and now, Dantay from The Game.  This North Carolina A&T graduate has come a long way through hard work and dedication.  What I love about him is that he is open to sharing his journey—definitely a cool kid aspiring to inspire!

Terrence J

“Today is a new day. A new opportunity to follow your dreams. Take advantage of this blessing. Take that leap. Whatever your dream is, you have to step towards it. The more steps you take the more the universe will conspire to assist you…

If you want to run a label, quit your job at the bank & intern at a label. If you want to be a doctor, apply to school today, etc. I wanted to act, so every week I go to acting school for 14 hours, study film & actors, read about projects, etc. Once I took steps, roles came.

A girl replied, how can I pay my bills if I quit my job to follow my dreams? – when following your dreams you will be temporarily inconvenienced. Tyler Perry was HOMELESS years before becoming a MILLIONAIRE. Only you can determine the amount of sacrifice your dreams are worth.

Before 106 I had a job making 30k but I wasnt happy. I quit. Moved to NY, worked small jobs to get by, & lived on @FredWhit FLOOR 8 MONTHS!

Everybody has a different story. U may have kids, mortgage, bills, etc. But God is powerful. There is always a way to follow your dreams!  I just meet so many people that want to reach their goals & then complain when it sounds hard! Go watch Pursuit of Happiness

Anyway I gotta roll, I hope I reached at least one person today. God bless you all and best of luck!!!!!!!!!!!!”


For more updates from Terrence J, follow him on twitter @terrenceJ106

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