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Business profile: Lakisha Brooks

Lakisha BrooksLakisha Brooks, a native of Valdosta, Georgia, is the CEO of Brooks Enterprise and Consultants. In addition, she is a motivational speaker, author, women’s leadership and development professional and a career coach, who is motivated by education and the struggle for women’s rights.

Brooks Enterprise and Consultants is a sustainable career and leadership coaching company whose primary target is women.  The organization hosts monthly women’s leadership seminars titled “Business and Beauty” at the historic APEX Museum, where they discuss various leadership roles as they relate to those in attendance. 

Brooks’ primary goal is to implement her leadership development curriculum in corporations and organizations across the country.  The curriculum is designed to prepare high-potential female leaders for management positions.  Her mission is to challenge and educate companies on the importance of hiring and retaining top female talent.  Brooks has hosted a number of workshops and training seminars at colleges and universities across the country and hopes to one day teach at the collegiate level. Training and preparing students to be leaders in the workplace is very important to Brooks.  She is currently working on a book titled: Create the Strength, Discipline and Freedom to Define Your Best Self: A Guide for the Sustainable Leader. She hopes that this book will inspire, motivate and teach others to realize their full leadership potential. 

Atlanta Free Speech salutes Lakisha Brooks.

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Business profile: Barbara Rushing

Barbara-Rushing-Rush-2-ComputeBarbara Rushing is the founder of Rush2Compute.  Barbara runs her own business, volunteers to help the destitute learn computer skills, participates in walks to raise money for heart disease and breast cancer, and loves getting in touch with nature.

In addition to running her own organization, Barbara has over 20 years of experience working in the corporate world. Rush2Compute offers a variety of services including networking, software and hardware installation, and computer repairs.  She also offers computer classes for baby boomers and seniors with one-on-one sessions in the comfort of their homes as well as low-cost training sessions at retirement centers, such as the Smyrna Community Center, and assisted living organizations.

“Technology is here to stay,” Barbara states.  “It’s important for baby boomers and everyone to stay connected with the world, family and friends through computing technology.” Barbara loves teaching the mature generation how to use Skype, Facebook and email to keep in touch with family and friends.  This also provides the opportunity to play games, pay bills online and browse the internet for research.

Starting a business in 2009, during an economic recession wasn’t easy, but Barbara was determined to overcome any obstacle presented to her. She encourages others to have the same positive attitude towards learning new technology and when striving for their goals.  Barbara says confidently, “You can do it! I can help!”

Atlanta Free Speech salutes Barbara Rushing.

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Business profile: Nancy J. Lewis

Nancy J. Lewis

Nancy J. Lewis is the president of Progressive Techniques, Inc. Her program for middle-school girls, Divine Young Ladies, is in its sixth year of operation. When first starting this program she directed her attention to elementary school girls. However, when the mayor suggested she focus on middle-school aged girls who are at an important, pivotal time in their lives, she agreed that this was indeed a worthwhile program that needed and deserved attention.

Lewis states, “We work with urban girls who are at-risk and face challenges; my team of volunteers teaches them about character, self-esteem and how to love the skin they are in; we also talk about the importance of a quality education and having God in your life.” She believes that if you change the hearts of teen girls, then you can change their lives.

Shortly after creating Divine Young Ladies, Lewis launched a women’s entrepreneur seminar series entitled, “Transforming Women Entrepreneurs.” These quarterly seminars provide information and education for businesswomen and a place where they can connect.

Nancy J. Lewis believes that “we” as Black women and girls are important and deserve to understand the importance of loving ourselves and finding our purpose.

Atlanta Free Speech salutes Nancy J. Lewis.

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Business profile: Professor Safiya Bandele

Atlanta Free Speech would like to highlight community activist and educator Safiya Ellis Bandele. Safiya recently retired from Medgar Evers College in New York, where she served as Director of the Center for Women’s Development. Organized in 1982 as a campus-based counseling and programming unit for underserved women and families, the Center for Women’s Development assisted women in the successful pursuit of their academic degrees by providing specialized counseling and advocacy. While at Medgar Evers College, Safiya also taught English and Women’s Studies courses as well as Special Women’s Research projects in selected Brooklyn High Schools.

Safiya BandeleSafiya has lectured widely on issues affecting women, especially women of color, and has served as keynote speaker and panelist at scores of workshops and conferences on an international level including, Decatur-Clearpool Women’s Retreat, Association of Black Women Psychologists, National Conference of Black Lawyers, NYC Human Resources Administration, International Afrikan Arts Festival, and the New York State Peri-Natal Network, as well as countless local schools, churches, shelters, prisons and community organizations.

Safiya’s significant contributions have lead to many awards including, the Malcolm X Award from The EAST Organization, Outstanding Women’s Leadership Award from State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Outstanding Community Service Award from Black Veterans for Social Justice, Oni Award from the International Black Women’s Congress, Outstanding Community Service Award from the National Association of Minority Political Women, the Ellen Lurie Award from the Community Service Society, the STARS Award from the Sojourner Truth Adolescent Rites Society, and the Shirley Chisholm Leadership Award from the Borough of Brooklyn.

In 2011, Safiya developed a one-woman performance on the late, great Ida B. Wells.  Using Wells’ statement “I am an anomaly to myself and others,” Safiya presents the life of this fierce, uncompromising woman through an hour multi-media event. Using narration, dance and physical expression, song and images, Safiya presents the significance of this “Warrior for Justice”. 

Atlanta Free Speech salutes Professor Safiya Bandele.

Connect with Safiya: Linkedin

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Are you a small business owner or an entrepreneur?

Unlocking the key to economic empowerment in the black community



Did you know that Black-owned firms account for just 7.1% of all U.S. firms and only 1.8% of companies that employ more than one person? According to a report by the Small Business Administration, Black-owned firms are not necessarily profitable either. The report found that on average, for every dollar that a White-owned firm made, Black-owned businesses made 43 cents. In the face of these grim statics about the state of Black-owned business, also consider the fact that the Nielsen Company, a global information and research firm, projects Black spending power will reach $1.1 trillion by 2015.

This data should be a sounding board for the Black communityespecially Black business owners, who will probably forfeit the lion’s share of $1.1 trillion and worse, miss out on an opportunity to reinvest those dollars back into the Black community. But even if Black-owned businesses did seize this opportunity, are there any guarantees they would re-invest those dollars and create jobs, products and services to benefit the Black community? The answer to this question depends on whether these individuals have a small business owner or an entrepreneur mindset and knowing the difference between the two.

Even though people use the terms “business owner” and “entrepreneur” interchangeably, I can tell you from my experience as an entrepreneurship trainer and coach that there are distinct differences in both the mindset and motivations of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Small business owners seem more interested in making a living, having a source of regular income, and controlling their life via self-employment. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are driven by the idea that they have the ability to make an impact on people and effectuate change. Instead of a regular income, they seek financial freedom. Entrepreneurs also thrive on providing value, collaboration and growth.

Another distinction between small business owners and entrepreneurs relates to their risk profile. Small business owners crave stability. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, take calculated risks and are willing to fail. Matters surrounding employment raise another important distinction. Small business owners tend to pay their employees at or below market rate, and typically don’t view employees as business assets. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, see employees (and customers) as huge assets to their companies and are willing to offer top salaries for their service and loyalty. But, the biggest difference that I have observed in the mindset of small business owners and entrepreneurs is a long-term vision. Entrepreneurs clearly recognize a need for systemizing, growing, and positioning the business to sell for a profit; whereas, small business owners are more likely to focus on day to day management activities, make all the decisions, and seldom have a plan for succession.

An analysis of the mindset of small business owners and entrepreneurs might not seem germane to the issue of economic empowerment for the Black community, but it is. Especially if you consider that many Black communities are inundated with liquor stores, nail salons, fast food joints, hair salons, and barber shops that typically don’t create and sustain a sufficient number of employment opportunities for Black people. This is not to suggest in any way that Black small business owners are “small minded.” There are many powerful examples of small Black business owners who make invaluable contributions to the Black communityand they are the entrepreneurs that will lead us on the road to economic empowerment!

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Business profile: Sherry Mallory

Sherry Mallory is the founder and CEO of She Bop Enterprises, Inc., which is an Atlanta-based entertainment and communications company that was established in 1991. She Bop Enterprises, Inc. is the parent company of the television production firm, She Bop Entertainment (SBE). SBE has produced television shows such as Out N’ About with She Bop, Sports Profile Special, and Music Video Pixx. Over the course of a decade, SBE programs have aired on PTV 12, CAU TV 3, and WB 36.

Sherry MalloryA native of southwest Atlanta, Sherry was still in high school when she began her career in entertainment at the age of 16. She has worked as a stand-in for the television series, In the Heat of the Night (1988-1994), as well as Spike Lee’s School Daze (1988) and Drop Squad (1994). After six years on the set of In the Heat of the Night, Sherry began bartending in order to save money so she could launch her own talk show, She Bop Entertainment, with her long-time friends and co-producers Russell Watkins and Vince Haney. Their 1st episode aired in 1993 on public access People TV Cable Network Channel 12.

Now known as Out N’ About with She Bop, her television program is in its18th season and has had featured guests including, Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige, B2K and Nelly just to name to a few. SBE’s shows have also covered events such as the 2nd and 3rd Annual BET Awards, Atlanta’s For Sister’s Only convention, The Budweiser Superfest, The Black Expo, The Universoul Circus. Her show has also provided exclusive media coverage for the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks and other numerous sports events in the city of Atlanta.  

Sherry is a proud member of the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists. She is an active leader in her community who donates her time to many non-profit organizations throughout the metro Atlanta area. Sherry was honored in 1997 with the “Ritz Roast Award” by Entertainment Atlanta USA magazine.  That same year, ARI Records acknowledged her as “Talk Show Host of the Year.” Sherry has also been featured in the Atlanta Rhythm Times as well as the Georgia Sentinel Bulletin, and Rolling Out Magazine.

Atlanta Free Speech Salutes Sherry Mallory.

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Business profile: Willie E. Gary, Esq.

Willie E. GaryAttorney Willie E. Gary, known as “The Giant Killer” has challenged and won cases against some of America’s largest corporate giants on behalf of his clients. He has won some of the largest jury awards and settlements in United States history, including more than 150 cases valued in excess of $1 million each. Gary has been featured in Ebony Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Black Americans.” Forbes magazine has listed him as one of the “Top 50 Attorneys in the U.S.” He has been highlighted in many of the Nation’s most respected media publications, such as The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, Ebony, Jet, People, Black Enterprise, Fortune, The New Yorker and The National Law Journal. His remarkable legal career and tireless work on behalf of his clients have been documented on 60 Minutes, CBS Evening News, and ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. He also made a guest appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and made a live appearance on CBS’s The Early Show with Bryant Gumbel.

One of eleven children of Turner and Mary Gary, Willie Gary was born in Eastman, Georgia and raised in migrant farming communities in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

His desire to earn a college education led him to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Gary went on to North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina where he earned a Juris Doctorate in 1974.

Gary was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1974 and opened his hometown’s first African- American law firm. Gary’s practice has since grown into the thriving national partnership known as Gary, Williams, Finney, Lewis, Watson & Sperando, P.L., consisting of attorneys, a team of paralegals and a professional staff of over 100. The firm operates out of four offices. Two of the four offices are located on the St. Lucie River in historic downtown Stuart, Florida; one of which is the former Pelican Hotel where Gary worked as a dishwasher during his teenage years. The third office overlooks the Indian River Lagoon in Fort Pierce, Florida and the newest office recently opened in downtown Orlando, Florida.

Gary is a businessman, humanitarian and philanthropist, who is deeply involved in charity and civic work. He is in great demand as a motivational speaker delivering speeches at law schools, universities, churches and various organizations throughout the country. In addition, Gary is committed to enhancing the lives of young people through education and drug prevention. In 1994, he and his wife, Gloria, formed The Gary Foundation to carry out this formidable task. The Gary Foundation provides scholarships and other resources to youth, so they can realize their dreams of achieving a higher education. In 1991, Gary donated $10.1 million to his alma mater Shaw University. He has also donated millions of dollars to other Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Atlanta Free Speech recognizes Gary for his commitment to the black community. He has worked with the late Johnny Cochran on several discrimination cases. One of the cases he started with Cochran, and is still working on, is the reparation for African Americans. Gary is passionate about supporting fellow African Americans and his community. “When you make it remember where you came from; give back to your community and know that the fight and struggle are not over,” said Gary.

Atlanta Free Speech salutes Attorney Willie Gary.


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Business profile: deputy district attorney Shondeana Crews-Morris

Shondeana Crews-Morris

Photo: Courtesy of Shondeana Crews-Morris

Atlanta Free Speech would like to highlight community advocate Attorney Shondeana Crews-Morris. Shondeana is currently the Deputy District Attorney, which is second in command to the elected District Attorney for Fulton County, Georgia.  Shondeana is a graduate of Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Albany State University, as well as an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia.

Shondeana began her quest for law school after witnessing what her family endured over a battle to keep their property. After many years of working as a housekeeper, Shondeana’s great-grandmother earned enough money to purchase her own home, which was a momentous moment for her family. Unfortunately, she lost her house because she was not able to speak for herself, since she was undereducated and could not understand the terminology of the law. Shondeana saw how this situation devastated a woman she loved and the rest of her family, so from that moment she decided that she wanted to help people and give a voice to those who would otherwise be silent.

Since earning a license to practice law, Shondeana has been a voice and advocate for many Fulton County families. She became a prosecutor in 1998 when she was hired as an Assistant Solicitor and later joined the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in 1999 as an Assistant District Attorney. Her hard work and dedication to the community led to her promotion as Deputy District Attorney in 2008. Shondeana has had the opportunity to protect families and children through her role as supervisor of the Crimes Against Women and Children’s Unit, which is the largest special unit in District Attorney’s office, as well as supervisor of the Public Integrity Unit. This fierce prosecutor has ensured that anyone who has committed a crime in Fulton County was held accountable, regardless of his or her position, which has earned the public’s trust in Shondeana. She has prosecuted every type of horrific crime including, but not limited to, child murder and human trafficking cases, which is on the rise in Atlanta. Known as being tough but fair, Shondeana has earned forty-eight convictions in the fifty murder cases she has prosecuted during her tenure.

Shondeana’s commitment to her community goes beyond her work in the courtroom. “I have a four-year-old and I have a passion for protecting our women and children. I want to ensure that our communities are safe. I want to make sure that Fulton County is a safer place—that’s why I keep fighting,” said Shondeana.

In her spare time, this Georgia native is an active volunteer and a proud member of the Atlanta Bar Association, Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys (GABWA), Lawyers Club of Atlanta, Gate City Bar Association, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the Junior League of DeKalb.  In addition, she is a board member of the International House of Women and an advisory board member for the criminal justice program at Atlanta Technical College.

In 2009, Shondeana was selected by the Board of Directors of the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation to receive the Trial Award for Outstanding Advocacy in Capital Cases. She earned this recognition by being one of the top criminal prosecutors in the United States.

Shondeana Crews-Morris has been a voice and protector to many Fulton County families and the community for over a decade. It is no surprise that this fearless prosecutor is now running to become one of the Fulton County Superior Court Judges. Having over 17 years of legal experience Shondeana believes that “Fulton County families’ and community needs a Superior Court Judge who has experience, integrity, and commitment—someone who is fair, but firm and is focused on protecting our families.”

Atlanta Free Speech salutes Deputy District Attorney, Shondeana Crews-Morris.

Connect with Shondeana: Facebook Twitter 

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Business profile: artist Kerry Thomas

Kerry ThomasAtlanta Free Speech would like to highlight artist Kerry Thomas. Kerry is a singer, songwriter, producer, and acoustic guitarist that began his professional music career only a short time ago. Like many musical artists, Kerry has been singing since a very young age, but it was not until college that he began to express himself musically.

“I began singing some hooks for friends of mine that were into hip-hop in college. After a break-up, I began to play guitar and write songs about it, which went on to become my EP, Eye of the Storm,” said Kerry. “Translating my feelings at the time into song was very therapeutic and helped me get through a tough time.”

Kerry, who was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, moved around frequently during his childhood. As an introverted person, it was tough for him to constantly be the ‘new kid.’ However, it was during college that he seemed to find his way and easily adapt to changes in his life. Kerry is a graduate of Tougaloo College where he obtained a degree in Economics.  He also earned an MBA from Jackson State University.

Not only is Kerry passionate about music, but the well-being of his community holds a special place in his heart as well. Kerry states that “art is definitely at the top of the list, but I also want to mentor. There are so many people that want to profit from their art but don’t know how to start or how to do it successfully without becoming a ‘starving artist.’ I’ve had the opportunity to give back in that way and it feels great.”

Having a support system has enabled Kerry to become the man he is today. His parents have given him values and morals and have also helped him to stay focused along the way. Kerry’s musical creativity and morality has also inspired him to produce meaningful compositions. “My mission is to create honest music. Music that reflects what R&B/Soul music is today and relate it to things we all go through. Whether its relationships, hanging out, social change, etc I think it’s important to create your song. Let your voice be heard, said Kerry. I love music, plain and simple. It’s what I look forward to everyday. I love to create. It’s therapeutic.”

Musically, Kerry has been influenced by many artists including, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Eric Roberson and John Legend; their musical influences can be heard through Kerry’s diverse mix of Pop, R&B, and Neo-soul.

The Jackson Free Press voted Kerry as the Best R&B Artist in 2012. You can catch Kerry performing at various venues throughout the state of Mississippi.

Atlanta Free Speech salutes Kerry Thomas.

Be sure to check out Kerry’s new single, ‘Tonight’, which is available on iTunes and Amazon.

Connect with Kerry: Facebook  Twitter 

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