A “Conversation” with Hill Harper

Gloss Magazine Online Articles (September 2009)


He’s considered one of America’s sexiest men alive, not to mention one of the most intelligent. A classmate and friend of President Barack Obama, Hill Harper is an accomplished film actor, scholar and author. He wrote Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest your Destiny and Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny. His most recent book, The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships, is the topic of discussion in many social circles and family gatherings all over the country.

I believe timing is everything. Weeks before I was aware of the book, the same question plagued my mind every day as I walked down the streets to and from my job, my internship and my neighborhood. Why can’t black men and women get together? What has happened within our community that I rarely see black couples where I frequent? Perhaps the fact that I don’t work and live in predominantly black areas of the city may be one reason. Nevertheless, I still see it as an issue, and as it turns out, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

This is one of the reasons Harper wrote this particular book. In fact, he explained that a number of reasons sparked his idea for it, one of which included a dinner party he hosted where he was around the company of beautiful and successful black men and women who both expressed they couldn’t find mates for themselves. Not just hook-up buddies, but true potential life partners.

Then, two sets of alarming statistics reached his desk. The first one stated that in 1966, 84 percent of African American children were reared in two-parent households. Forty years later in 2006 that number plummeted to 31 percent. The other stat reported 70 percent of black professional women are single.

“That’s how I knew I had to do something,” says Harper. “I’m not going to stand by silent and witness the destruction of the African American family and African American male and female relationships. That’s how the book was born. I didn’t even know the title was going to be ‘The Conversation’.”

Harper says most books are written for women, but this book is different. The “conversation” he says that black men and women must have is made of three components. He says the first conversation deals with one’s self.

“It’s taking an honest assessment and honest look in the mirror, and having a real honest conversation with you,” he explained.

The second conversation involves your partner or potential partner. “Be willing to be completely honest and not send your representative,” said Harper. “Be vulnerable, honest and have a real conversation.”

The third conversation is with your friendship circles, your family and your community. “I hope it sparks conversations within our community, but moreover I hope people get married because of my book,” he says. “I want to be very honest; my book pushes for partnership.”

But first and foremost, we as a community must attempt to get to the meat of the problem. One of the points Harper addresses in his book was one of the reasons black men and women can’t get together is because we don’t talk to each other. How many times have you seen in movies (and in real life) groups of young brothers and sisters discussing their problems in their same-sex cliques? At what point do individuals from these groups converse with each other?

“I want to get singles talking to each other; I want real results,” says Harper.

Another reason we as a community can’t get together is because we don’t like each other. Think about it: How many negative stereotypes do we have about each other? Whether we realize it or not, those stereotypes subconsciously affect how we see each other.

“We need to move on from the ‘he say/she say’ to making the ‘he say/she say’ positive about one another,” he adds.

Harper revealed that those stereotypes don’t faze him. “The intelligence, energy, beauty, charisma, soul, spirit, wanting to help and give, the depth of experience, the legacy, history, common and shared experiences, their world views—I could go on forever,” says Harper about his love for black women. “Black women are magnificent, brilliant, beautiful, sexy and just incredible.”

In his book, Harper dedicates a chapter to crossing the other line and the issue of interracial relationships in our community.

“Freedom gives you the option to make choices,” says Jerry Clark of Chicago. Clark has been happily married to his African American wife, Robin, for 27 years.

(But I have to admit there’s just something about witnessing that ebony love that makes my heart skip a beat just a little, which leads me to the most recent example and model of this: the Obamas.)

Barack and Michelle represent what we aspire to be, as both a couple and as individuals. Both were hardworking, intelligent minds who found that special way to complement each other, and not complete each other, which is key! According to Harper, Michelle also saw the potential in Barack and not his status, which is one thing people in general (this goes beyond race) struggle.

“The fabric and the foundation of the partnership have allowed them [the Obamas] to rise to higher heights than they would be able to get to on their own, and that’s what I’m talking about in the book, that’s the ‘conversation’,” explains Harper.

Clark said he knew he was going to marry Robin when he met her but didn’t know how it would fall into plan. “If you’re committed, that’s not going away,” he says. Some of his secrets to his successful marriage include love, respect, honesty and commitment. “For us, it’s been about giving each other space and letting us be us—I never stepped on her dreams and she never did that to me.”

Potential goes beyond what you physically see and goes to the core of someone. Harper mentioned neither Michelle nor Barack would be where they are as individuals if it wasn’t for the other. He even ventured to say that principle applies to him.

“What I found for me is, I won’t reach the best level of myself on my own,” he comments. “I can stay a single man for the rest of my life and kick it with plenty of incredible women for the rest of my life, but the best version of me is in partnership. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to for me personally. I’m basically symbolic of someone in the book who’s going on a journey just like everyone else.”

The purpose of Hill’s book is to truly start a dialogue between black men and women about our hurts, fears, joys and loves, which can ultimately begin to heal those wounds and bring us together. Hill says he believes our community is going to witness the statistics mentioned earlier reverse for the first time in 40 years.

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Iya’s Facts: Iya Bakare is a freelance writer who earned both her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in Print Journalism. She earned her BA from Delta State University with a minor in English and recently graduated with a MA degree from Columbia College Chicago. The Chicago native currently freelances for Chicago-based online publications. She can be contacted at Iya@glossmagazineonline.com.

New Novel Sheds Light on Cultural Icon and Encourages Ladies to Find Their “Inner Michelle”

Gloss Magazine Online Articles (July 2012)

Since the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the world hasn’t been enamored with or followed a First Lady so closely until Michelle Obama arrived on the scene. As the first better half of the first African-American president of the United States, all eyes remain on the FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) as she decorates periodicals and television screens with her keen fashion sense, nontraditional standard of beauty and her unique rapport with people. Several books feature the First Lady’s fashion secrets and tips, but how many dig into who she is as a person?

Allison Samuels, senior writer of Newsweek’s “The Daily Beast,” says she wanted to create a book different from all the others on bookshelves about the First Lady. She created and wrote What Would Michelle Do: A Modern-Day Guide to Living with Substance and Style, which examines the life of our beloved First Lady, beyond her fashion flair. The award-winning journalist and cultural critic says she used a similar approach to books written about Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn, two other iconic ladies who are a part of the country’s history.

Allison says she first met Michelle on President Barack Obama’s campaign trail in 2007.

“I remember meeting this amazing woman with her amazing husband who both had the potential to change history,” she recalls. “She is so real, genuine, sweet and welcoming.”

Gone are the days of Clair Huxtable as we approach a time when “reality TV” plagues the media. African-American girls don’t desire to be the hot-shot attorney turned entrepreneur Joan Clayton from Girlfriends, but desire the lifestyles and images of the Basketball Wives.

“Why do our children want to be NBA wives when we have a First Lady?” Allison adds. “She [Michelle] is the epitome of grace and style, and is a wonderful daughter, wife and mother. She’s one of many, but unfortunately, we don’t see them. She leads a functional life, as opposed to a dysfunctional life. She knows who to be and what to be at every occasion. She knows about compromise and did what she needed to be done to help her husband. We as African-American women need to learn this and Michelle mastered it.”

In the novel, the journalist reveals an inside peek of Michelle’s life with her family, her relationship with President Obama that blossomed into their marriage, her role as a mother and her valued friendships. Through these various facets of the FLOTUS, we see the ‘human’ side of her, which people can relate to. Allison says the book shows ladies can apply Michelle’s lifestyle to their own lives.

“You can have that life, but there are steps you have to take to get there,” Allison comments.

Visit the official website of What Would Michelle Do? at www.michellewould.com and follow Allison Samuels on Twitter at @AllisonSamuels

Eric Roberson: More Than a Nice Guy

Gloss Magazine Online Articles (June 2012)

Chicago welcomed back singer, songwriter and producer Eric Roberson with open arms and embraced his soulful tunes for another Erro Experience last week at The Shrine (www.theshrinechicago.com).

The soulful singer paid homage to the city’s house music scene, and the crowd gravitated to the sounds of his hits and popular ‘90s tunes. As he promotes his latest project Mister Nice Guy, he describes it as both comical and lighthearted, much like his personality. With a unique sense of humor and style, Erro maintains a strong focus on his craft, career and his family, much of which he says inspired Mister Nice Guy.

“My wife, being a father, my wife’s pregnancy and the journey it took for me to get where I am now inspired this project,” he comments. “Overall, I draw inspiration from life and I write about the lives of my friends, their journeys and struggles to find love and happiness. In life, there’s so much beauty and love in the world, which offers so much to write about.”

Drawing his musical inspiration from the likes of the soulful Stevie Wonder, the gospel group Commission and the hip hop artists that make up A Tribe Called Quest, the neo soul crooner says he chases to perfect his sound that will reflect a blend of the three influences lyrically and acoustically.

With no intention to make an album as he awaited the birth of his first son, Eric admits Mister Nice Guy was a creative process he enjoyed writing, mainly because it was an involuntary muscle he used when it was created. This is when artists produce some of their most influential work. He advises aspiring artists to get into their work for the love of the craft.

“Get out of the way of yourself and give yourself to your craft, and your rewards will come,” Erro adds.

As he embarks on the rest of The Mister Nice Guy Tour and with another son on the way, the artist promises more albums and organized growth, as he says he aspires to make today better than yesterday on all levels.

For more information on Eric Roberson’s music, visit his website at www.ericrobersonmusic.com.

Follow Eric on Twitter at @IAmEricRoberson

The Boomerang Generation

UrbanFaith.com Articles (June 2012)

With a changing economy and sluggish job market, young-adult children are returning home after college or staying home longer. Should Mom and Dad put an expiration date on how long their adult kids linger?

There’s a fine line that parents must carefully tread as they rear their children and prepare them for adulthood. Even as they seek to empower their kids for independence, parents must constantly combat the tension of nature vs. nurture. They only have “ownership” of their kids for a relatively brief period, after all. But at what point do parents officially cut the umbilical cord, trust that they reared productive members of society, and release them out into the world?

Is 18 the age when one’s considered grown? If you’re old enough to drive, vote, and serve in the military, shouldn’t you also be gone from your mama and daddy’s house?

“Everyone’s different and we do our children an injustice when we send them out without preparation,” says Charlotte Stallings, a Houston-based financial expert and president/CEO of Getting Smart! LLC.

With the job market flooded with college graduates competing with those who possess more work experience, Stallings says the boomerang effect is common in all communities in lieu of the state of the economy. “People aren’t making enough to make ends meet, so short-term adjustments are taking place,” she adds. “I lived at home while I attended college and stayed at home after graduation for several years because it was cheaper. But my experience taught me how to hustle, to be resourceful, and to appreciate being in school as I took copious notes in class and studied on the bus commuting to and from school.”

Twenty years later, the Minneapolis native focuses on teaching others how to save money and create wealth. She encourages parents to introduce basic financial concepts to their kids at an early age. “Make the conversation about money a part of everyday life, weave it into dialogue and do so starting at an early age,” Stallings says. “Use positive and realistic tones about it and teach by being a positive example.”

Marita Kinney, a Dayton, Ohio-based life coach and motivational speaker, says some parents feel once children reach 18, they have learned everything they need to know and are equipped to handle all the demands of life, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if they are prepared.

“The problems arrive not because of the lack of parenting at 18 years old, but because of a lack of parenting and guidance while they were still children,” Kinney adds. “I believe parents in the black community can be at a disadvantage because some may lack the knowledge to properly prepare their children for the future.”

Stallings believes some parents don’t teach their children about finances because a lack of knowledge about them, in addition to a lack of communication between the parents as well as between the parents and their children.

“It can be an issue because today many children who have children now aren’t prepared to have them and are in a rush to complete something,” says Isaac Paul Austin III, a vocational trainer at the Haymarket Center in Chicago. “They’re not looking at a child as a joy but as an obligation. Some see parenting as a business transaction and the children are financial liabilities. People are divorcing results from effort, and the romanticized view of life we have pollutes every facet of our lives.”

On her own at the age 18, Kinney says she moved to the other side of the country and visited home twice a year, which differs from the experiences of some of her friends and some children today.

“My preparation started earlier in life because I worked in our family business and learned to save to get the things I really wanted,” she adds. “I had friends that had very little responsibility and had never worked, so in the long run, I was prepared for life. My mother always told me that she wouldn’t always be around, so she needed to know I could stand on my own two feet and take care of myself. My husband and I have six children and we’re preparing them to become upstanding, self-sufficient adults as well.”

Stallings says children leaving the house at age 18 isn’t necessarily a bad thing and depends on the family. She adds it’s perfectly fine for parents to help their young-adult children, but not at the expense of them learning self-sufficiency, which happens in some cases.

“I know a couple with two children who downsized their home after both of the children went off to college, put a ‘For Sale’ sign in their yard, and moved into a townhouse,” Stallings says. “I also know a parent who prepared her son to leave her house at 18. He had a car, she saved money for her child and prepared him for years. Her mother did the same for her and gave her $500, which was less than what she said she gave her son. In both family situations, the parents prepared their children for what was to come.”

Candice Norcott, Ph.D., a psychologist and center manager for the Isaac Ray Center, Inc. at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, says she grew up in a home where not attending college wasn’t an option.

“There is the fear that if a young-adult child is still living at home, he or she is not reaching his or her fullest potential,” she says. “The idea of leaving home after college may be an antiquated idea of a developmental milestone in a person’s life.”

As she works primarily with women, family issues, and trauma, Norcott says the question in this situation is less of being at home at age 18, but more about why would someone want to be living at home at that age or older.

Ultimately, both parent and child need to be realistic about their expectations and desires. For every family, the transition process will be different — some kids will leave the nest permanently when they take off for college, others may need extra time to find their bearings. But the most important thing is that each family have a plan for moving the process forward.

“With my peers, there was always a desire to pursue higher education, go out on our own, and to be adults as soon as possible.” Austin says. “We craved more responsibility. However, to expect someone to be fully developed at age 18 is a little unrealistic, and even can be destructive. We don’t want to coddle them, but there needs to be a balance.”

Organization Brings Virtue & Adds Value to the Ring

N’Digo Articles (July 2012)

Unfortunately, we live in a society where the sanctity of marriage and the concept of monogamy seem almost obsolete.

For those in the African-American community who are reared in single-parent households and those who grow up with both parents in the home, individuals search for role models whose loving and supportive relationships mirror what they aspire for themselves. But, where do you turn when you don’t see those examples within your family, circle of friends or other social networks where you spend a great deal of time?

When Timothy and Carla Jones became engaged, the couple admits they faced the same issue, which inspired them to create The Ring Club, whose mission is to show a new generation of married couples raised by God to change the view of marriage in popular culture. When they both searched for other married and engaged couples to fellowship with, the couple says they realized their lists were short. Timothy says the organization’s focus is to change the perspective of what’s possible for marriage by connecting like-minded married couples who share the same values for marriage.

“We want to be around like-minded people, who like us, desire to make their marriages work,” Carla adds.

Launched in October 2011, couples get a chance to connect on The Ring Club’s weekly Ring Club prayer line and at the organization’s social and book club events. Timothy says they want to change people’s perspective of what’s possible for marriage in today’s culture, and the organization shows the African-American culture values marriage.

“The Ring Club is needed because we see the opposite so much in our culture, with respect to relationships, broken relationships, settling and unfaithfulness,” he says. “You can reach that ‘happily ever after’.”

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Timothy’s parents separated when he was 10 years old and he recalls living on a block full of homes, but only two of this childhood friends lived in a two-parent household. On the contrast, Carla was reared with her mom and dad in their Georgia home, and her parents have been married for 33 years. Both Timothy and Carla admit their upbringings helped to shape their views on relationships and marriage.

“I learned from the pitfalls of what my parents experienced while dating and married,” he comments. Their mistakes shaped my perspective on marriage and parenting in a good way.”

A few years after Carla moved to Chicago, the vastly different upbringings collided when she met the Chicago native at their church in 2006. Drawn to his ability to pray and that he was a man of God, Carla said their friendship blossomed into a courtship, which turned into a relationship and created a marriage.

“We’re married for a reason and greater purpose,” Carla adds. “We’re here to encourage couples to discover what their goals are and why the Lord brought them together. I wish there was an organization like this [The Ring Club] when we were engaged because having those role models and mentors are so important for the development of your marriage.”

In less than a year, the couple developed a network of 17 married couples and five engaged couples. Timothy says the couples continue to participate in various activities and fellowship with others during dance lessons, book clubs, athletic events and barbecues. Next year, Timothy says The Ring Club will bring 20 of the smartest women and men in Chicago, put them in a room to experience each other and experience the thought of becoming ONE during Father’s Day Weekend.

Timothy says The Ring Club is more than an organization. It’s a community, network and a movement the couple plans to expand to other areas such as South Carolina, Dallas and Memphis.

“We will continue to organize and network with couples who share the same vision, values and virtues that we share for marriage, and develop a lasting relationship among them,” Timothy adds.

For more information on The Ring Club, visit www.theringclubmmc.com.

Follow The Ring Club on Twitter at @TheRingClub

Aaja Corinne Carr: Building a Fashion Brand & Finding a Philanthropic Voice

Gloss Magazine Online Articles (July 2012)

You’re never too young to give back and that’s one of Aaja Corinne Carr’s goals in life. The 21-year-old couples her love for her community with her passion for fashion to both empower women, and to encourage them to embrace their individuality and purpose in life. Her current campaign, “She’s in Color,” features real women with real stories to inspire people, especially other women, to conquer their personal dreams and goals.

“Being confident in your outward appearance has a way of stirring up the greatness inside of you and making you feel as though you can conquer whatever life throws at you,” the Chicago-native comments. “Your appearance does matter because it affects how you feel about yourself. People won’t take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously, and their first impressions of you are usually based on your outward appearance.”

As a wardrobe stylist and model coach who specializes in image branding, the Columbia College Chicago graduate says today’s youth and how African-American women are portrayed in the media go hand-in-hand.

“I’m concerned about how women in our community are perceived in the media because for many of our young girls, the media has become their teacher,” she adds. “As a woman, I want to positively influence others, make an impact, and pay it forward, which is a concept I strongly believe in.”

Through the fashion industry, Aaja got in where she fit in through styling and production. With an initial interest in performing arts, the stylist admits fashion design and becoming a buyer didn’t suit her. Through trial and error, an internship with Tamika Price of A-Line Style Services and her work with Beau Ideal, Aaja says she solidified her place in the creative market.

“What inspires me about fashion is the ability to reinvent yourself through your personal style,” Aaja comments. “I’m a creator of style and pull from different aspects of the lifestyles of people to create an image that’s unique to them. I like to be different every time.”

Although she admires the work of celebrity stylist June Ambrose and Zanna Roberts Rassi, senior fashion editor of Marie Claire, the young stylist admits she has an eclectic side inspired by each individual she styles for, and not by the work of one specific designer.

“Fashion is like a language and style is how people take trends and make them their own,” Aaja adds.

With aspirations to style A-list celebrities, Aaja also has a clear vision to host workshops and events on the philanthropic end that center on women of substance and honor such women who are role models and make a difference in the community.

“I’m motivated by knowing there’s a greater purpose in my life and God shows me there’s a greater purpose with each opportunity that He presents to me,” she says.

For more information on Aaja’s services and to view her work, visit her website at www.aajacorinnethebrand.com.

Follow her on Twitter at @AC_The Brand

Entrepreneur Establishes Legacy to Give Back to the Community

Gloss Magazine Online Articles (July 2012)

With a keen eye for business and an open heart, philanthropist Tyrone Farley’s laser focus is to plant a seed that will affect change in the community.

In March 2010, the entrepreneur created the BLINK Campaign in honor of his best friend who committed suicide a week after he discovered he was HIV positive, with aspirations to raise funds and awareness about HIV/AIDS. As a publicist in L.A., Tyrone says he wanted to change the name of the game in fundraising as he witnessed basketball players host charity games and placed bets on games, instead of filtering money back into the community. He started to host A-list red carpet events for the cause.

The St. Louis native, who recently located to Chicago, says he recently decided to change the scope of his organization when he realized he could touch more lives, and Project Awareness came to fruition. The chairman of directors, along with his staff of recent college graduates, seek to bring funds to smaller organizations and work hand-in-hand with HIV/AIDS organizations, shelters, the After School Matters Program and others.

“I’ve lived a vast life and this is my opportunity to give back because I empathize with others and would love to help people,” Tyrone adds.

The philanthropist ventured in the world of entrepreneurship at an early age when he started working at the age of 14, established his own company and co-founded another company with three other friends. With the moral support of family, Tyrone says he received the foundation he needed to start his career and embark on his journey in the business world.

“At 14, rather than going outside to play all the time, I was learning how to write a business plan and learning Robert’s Rules of Order,” he comments.

Tyrone aims to assist 200-300 families with insurance, food and housing as a start in Chicago and to eventually increase those numbers. With a goal to help those who others forget or leave for the government to assist, Tyrone says Project Awareness also works to educate people on the facts in the world today through its efforts throughout the community.

For more information on the BLINK Campaign/Project Awareness, visit www.bcawarenessfoundation.org and follow the organization on Twitter at @BlinkCampaign.

Lamman Rucker Informs and Inspires in Career and Community Service

Gloss Magazine Online Articles (June 2012)

Advocacy and activism are roles Lamman Rucker doesn’t have to audition for because they’re a part of him. Born to inform and inspire, the Philadelphia-native says he realized at an early age the difference he could make in the lives of others as he watched loved ones die from a disease that continues to affect African Americans more than any other community. As he witnessed the devastating effects of AIDS in the black community, Lamman worked with his peers to fuse his passion for the arts and love for people to evoke awareness when they established W.A.I.T.T. (Washington Area Improvisational Teen Theatre). The company promoted abstinence and educated youth about safe sex, teen pregnancy and STDs, including HIV/AIDS and through the organization, Lamman became a certified peer sex counselor.

“We were using the arts as a mechanism for social change,” he recalls.

Throughout his career, Lamman remained committed to the cause as a spokesperson for various organizations that include A.H.E.A.D., Inc., BET’s Rap-It-Up Campaign, Inner City Industry and others. In 2006, he starred in a BET film Let’s Talk, which focused on the topic of HIV/AIDS in a relationship.

“You all are my women – my mothers, sisters and best friends,” Lamman comments. “You’re the best half of us and gave life to everything I am. We have to protect you and inform you.”

One of the actor’s most recent roles informs the public about some of the most influential and inspirational people in history. In the off-Broadway play Black Men Over Tuskegee, Lamman co-stars in an adaptation that discusses the historical Tuskegee Airmen.

“The story talks about universal principles like love, pride, excellence, teamwork, family and the importance of education,” he says. “The play shows and discusses their dreams, aspirations, hobbies and flaws, and you’re able to go on this journey with them. It’s moving, educational and inspiring.”

In addition to mental stimulation about health and history, Lamman admits he believes in the importance of spiritual wellness and physical health. He teamed up with Thai Morrison, founder of Koffee & Kompany to create forplai (http://www.forplai.com), a natural bath and body care line.

“If I were going to choose a product connected to love or intimacy, but something positive and with substance to it, it would be forplai,” he comments.

Lamman says his products encourage people to take a moment to scrub away pollutants, in addition to stress, trials and tribulations, but to also care for themselves with natural products. With a focus on purity, passion, peace and power, Lamman emphasizes and advocates for the significance of overall health and wellness. The actor and businessman says he strongly encourages people to get tested for HIV, aspires to get churches and the government more involved in the cause and to get rid of the stigma against the disease.

“It can turn itself around one person at a time,” he comments.

Catch Lamman on the big screen in his next film, The Undershepherd alongside Isaiah Washington and on the NBC new series Save Me with Anne Heche.

For more updates on Lamman, visit his website www.lammanrucker.net, follow him on Twitter at @LammanRucker and his bath and body care line at @forplai

For information on Black Angels Over Tuskegee, visit www.BlackAngelsOverTuskegee.com and follow it on Twitter at @BlackAngelsPlay

Hydeia Broadbent: Much More than Ordinary

Gloss Magazine Online Articles (June 2012)

Hydeia Broadbent gives the word ‘normal’ a new meaning in Webster’s dictionary. As a part of the first generation of children with AIDS, she vowed to make it her mission to spread awareness about the disease. At the age of six, the activist started to speak out about it nationally, only a few years after her adoptive parents were told by doctors she was HIV positive-advanced with AIDS. In 1987, Hydeia’s birth mother gave birth to another child, at which time both were tested for a virus few medical experts and people knew about, except they thought the disease was only prevalent among homosexual males and drug abusers.

From the beginning, the 27-year-old says her parents made the decision they weren’t going to hide anything from her or anyone else, but rather remain proactive.

“They wanted to know who wanted to be ignorant about it up front,” Hydeia comments. “My parents never wanted me to feel like I did anything wrong. It was similar to knowing I’m a girl and I’m black.”

Between routine doctor visits and staying in the hospital, Hydeia says the majority of her childhood was spent in the hospital. It wasn’t until her teen years she noticed how some treated her differently, as she fought the disease and spoke at various engagements, including the 1996 Republican National Convention.

“Some were scared of me, but I wasn’t going anywhere,” she recalls. “No part of my childhood was normal, but I was able to stay grounded because at home I was ‘Hydeia’. I had regular chores and had a regular upbringing.”

The Las Vegas-native describes herself as a “people activist,” although some see her as a celebrity. Hydeia says she grew up in a working class family with a father who owns a business, and like others, was affected by the economy. Like many, she continues to experience the negative effects of some programs that she can’t benefit from and hinder her from assistance with the expensive costs of medication and other medical expenses.

“As an adult, you see the costly effects of living with AIDS,” she adds. “Some days you have to sit on a toilet with a bucket in front of you because the side effects make it come out at both ends. You can’t just take a pill and what people need to understand is this disease is 100 percent preventable.”

Like any other young lady, Hydeia admits she had self-esteem issues about relationships, but says she balanced it out and knows as a woman what she will and won’t accept. Ignorance and complacency about HIV/AIDS are added to the list of things the activist won’t tolerate as she continues to speak nationally and hopes to travel all over the world.

“It’s time to wake up and do something about this,” Hydeia says. “God put me in a place where people need to pay attention. Know your status and get tested so you’re not spreading the disease.”

For more information on Hydeia and National Testing Day (June 27), visit her website at www.hydeiabroadbent.com and follow her on Twitter at @HydeiaBroadbent

Chicago Club Celebrates Anniversary Merging New Sound with Old School Influence

Gloss Magazine Online Articles (May 2012)

In the midst of an economic recession three years ago, Chicago native and club owner Joe Russo created a mecca to pay homage to the Nigerian legend Fela Kuti and to lovers of Hip Hop, R&B, Funk and Afrobeats. The Shrine, Chicago’s South Loop premiere nightclub and lounge, features both mainstream and local, up-and-coming artists. On Friday, two worlds became one as the club’s celebration brought Hip Hop icons De La Soul and Chicago-based musicians Sidewalk Chalk.

“We pay close attention to classic Hip Hop, and De La Soul and Sidewalk Chalk were a perfect fit for us,” Joe comments. “We also pay attention to up-and-coming artists in Chicago.”

Joe says he was introduced to Sidewalk Chalk about two years ago, not long after the eight-member band initially formed back in 2009. Rico Sisney, vocalist and emcee of the band, says members of the band met as Columbia College students. As an opener for De La Soul, the group brought an innovative sound and twist to the Hip Hop genre and to the club.

“Our sound is the evolution of Soul, Hip Hop and Jazz,” comments Maggie Vagle, vocalist of Sidewalk Chalk.

Fronted by MC K’neqta Dots (Rico) and S-Star (Maggie), the band (Charlie Coffen on keys, Garrett McGinn on bass, Tyler Berg on drums, Sam Trump on trumpet, David Ben-Porat on trombone and Jumaane Taylor on taps) admit its sound is influenced by various genres and artists, both old and new. From Stevie Wonder to Robert Glasper and everything in-between, Sidewalk Chalk gives props to those who they admire and are on their personal playlists.

“We listen to anything that pushes the limit,” David comments.

With the recent release of their first CD Corner Store, the group says it brought them to a new level of solidarity as they continue to share their mutual respect for one another.

“Our sound is cohesive, but it also represents the different sides of who we are,” David adds. “We wanted to make our project sound different from our live shows, but to bring the same energy and intensity. Our brand is our bread and butter.”

As they embark on their first tour since the release of Corner Store on June 1, Charlie says the band looks forward to creating more albums and traveling more to share their work with the world.

As the economy improves, Joe says he plans to continue to promote local talent and bring great music to Chicago.

“It’s a labor of love to support home-grown talent,” he says. “The Shrine is committed to supporting great music and is a great hub for the South Loop.”

“Reed Between the Lines” Nadji Jeter: All Grown Up

Gloss Magazine Online (May 2012)

Actor Nadji Anthony Jeter gives the word ‘multitask’ a new meaning. Most recently known as the co-star of BET’s hit show Reed Between the Lines and movie Grown Ups, the 15-year-old manages to juggle work, school and the social life of an average, stylish teenager. What does that look like? When he’s not filming or studying, Nadji spends time with his friends or enjoys apple dippers from McDonald’s.

From the age of five, Nadji learned the value of hard work when he started dancing and landed his first job as Little Harry the Hawk, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks mini mascot. A few years later, the Atlanta native earned an opportunity to dance for R&B crooner Usher’s New Look Foundation Gala in 2005, and performed for music legend Quincy Jones, who reportedly said Nadji reminds him of the younger Michael Jackson.

“They were great opportunities and time flew by so fast,” Nadji comments, as he reflects on his earlier years.

The actor admits he knew at age seven he wanted to pursue acting as well, but his mother knew a move to Los Angeles would provide more opportunities and take him to the level. Nadji, and his mother Nadine, made the move to L.A. in 2007, where he scored more guest star roles both on the camera and on the stage as a backup dancer.

“My mom motivates me because she’s always pushed me and inspired me to get into the business,” Nadji says. “She’s my best friend and my right hand man.”

That encouragement both fostered and nurtured Nadji’s talents, which played an influential role in his development into a rising star in the acting industry, a business he says he takes seriously as he listens to and takes heed to the advice of veterans and co-stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm-Jamal Warner.

“It’s such an honor to be a part of the show,” Nadji adds, about co-starring on Reed Between the Lines. They’re [Tracee and Malcolm-Jamal] the best to have on the set because they’re great people and they’ve been acting teachers we listen to.”

With lessons from his actor mentors and the friends and family who Nadji comments keep him grounded, the 15-year-old pays it forward as a Star Power Ambassador for Starlight Children’s Foundation, an organization that grants the wishes of seriously ill children to meet child celebrities.

“I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and this is a great opportunity to do it,” he says.

With summer looming by, Nadji plans to work as he films Grown Ups 2 and to continue to shine his light for others who aspire to break into the industry.

“Seek God first, never give up, stay focused and believe,” he says. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.”