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Tag: Inspo

2023 Dec. Mag

2023 December Mag

Introducing Karen Boykin-Towns, a force to be reckoned with. Her journey from Harlem to the zenith of corporate and civic leadership illustrates a life dedicated to effecting change. A trailblazer renowned for her strategic prowess, she seamlessly intertwines business acumen with fervent advocacy, spanning her 35-year career. 

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Introducing the remarkable Karen Boykin-Towns, President/CEO of Encore Strategies LLC, a boutique consultancy specializing in the integration of business and public affairs initiatives. Throughout her illustrious career spanning multiple sectors, Karen has consistently tackled challenges with unwavering determination. In her role as a dedicated wife and mother, she channels the same vibrant energy into her 28-year marriage to former Assemblyman Darryl C. Towns and their two daughters, both accomplished HBCU graduates and professional engineers.

Karen Boykin-Towns is an accomplished strategist, a global business luminary, and a driving force for civic betterment. Her indelible mark stretches across government, the nonprofit sector, and Pfizer, a Fortune 50 global biopharmaceutical juggernaut. Her journey to success commenced within the corporate realm, where her leadership and strategic brilliance continue to forge an enduring legacy.


Woman standing in front of a holiday scene with a white christ,as tree in the background smiling with black rimmed glasses and wearing a white button up shirt with a large beaded necklace with her hand to her cheekBorn and raised in Harlem, New York, Karen Boykin-Towns emerged from challenging times with a determination to defy expectations and champion social change. Her college years marked the beginning of her activism, a journey that would lead her to cross paths with then State Senator David A. Paterson, setting her ablaze with a profound passion for public service and advocacy.

Fueled by her fervor for policy and politics, Boykin-Towns embarked on an extraordinary career. She served as legislative director and later ascended to the role of chief of staff to New York State Senator David Paterson, who would go on to become the 55th Governor of New York State. In this pivotal role, she orchestrated the strategy and execution of legislative endeavors centered on civil and human rights, community development, and environmental concerns.


At Pfizer, Karen Boykin-Towns advanced quickly into executive management roles. Her reputation for success in state government earned her the role of senior legislative analyst, where she would go on to hold pivotal leadership positions in public affairs, government relations, communications, global policy, and human resources.

Karen’s remarkable journey spanned 22 years at Pfizer where she concluded her career as Vice President of Corporate Affairs for their $34 billion global innovative medicines business. In this capacity, she held a pivotal position as a member of the Senior Leadership Committee, comprising the top 200 leaders in the global organization.

Earlier in her tenure, Karen’s significant impact in driving organizational change led to her selection in 2008 by Pfizer’s CEO as the company’s inaugural Chief Diversity Officer. In this role, she masterfully crafted an integrated, global strategy that not only fostered internal progress but also garnered external recognition for Pfizer’s strides in diversity and inclusion, positioning it as a competitive advantage. Amidst her rise in the corporate world, her unwavering commitment to advocacy remained unshaken.

Today, with over 35 years of dedicated public service, Karen Boykin-Towns exemplifies the ability to thrive in all spheres, effortlessly bridging the gap between the public and private sectors. Her family remains her anchor, and she champions the fight for equitable resources, especially for marginalized communities.


Karen actively nurtures and champions the next generation of leaders. At this year’s NAACP National Convention, the Youth & College Division established the Brock/Boykin-Towns Leadership Award in recognition of her positive impact on young Black women. She serves as Vice Chairman for the NAACP’s National Board of Directors in addition to independent director for iFIT Health & Fitness maker of NordicTrack and member of the American Airlines Community Council. Karen is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, The Links Incorporated and The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW).

Karen Boykin-Towns


As the President/CEO of Encore Strategies LLC, Karen integrates business and public affairs initiatives, showcasing her skills as a strategist, coalition builder and social change agent. Her goal is to apply and share her experience to make positive changes in business and community.

Her dedication to public service shapes policies addressing societal inequities, reflecting her unique background encompassing corporate, advocacy, and social justice. Karen Boykin-Towns sets an example for those seeking positive change, championing diversity, equity, and inclusion, and leaving an indelible impact on society. Her journey inspires us all to embrace our roles as agents of change, believing in the power of diversity on the path to success.


Boykin-Towns has been recently recognized by Ebony Magazine as one of the ‘Top 5 Black Female Activists Making History in Their Own Right’ and has been featured in Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise, Bloomberg Businessweek, CBS This Morning, Black Entertainment Television, PR Week, WWD, Crain’s, African American Career World, Network Journal and The Cut, among other publications.

Savoy Magazine named her a “Top Influential Woman in Corporate America” in 2016. In 2020, she was named “Woman of the Year” by Seeds of Fortune and named by City & State as one of New York’s Power Players in Politics and Government. In 2021 Karen was selected for Lafayette 148‘s Unordinary Women Campaign and in 2023 featured by City & State for their Above and Beyond: Women award.

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2023 Nov. Mag

2023 November Mag

Kyla Thompson, APR, boasts over 35 years of experience as a seasoned consultant in Public Relations, Marketing, Media Crisis, Media Relations, and Public Affairs. For two decades, she successfully ran her own company in Denver, CO. Among her many awards, she notably played a crucial role in crisis management in aiding the Columbine High School families after the tragedy. Kyla’s extensive account experience encompasses various industries, and she now enjoys retirement in New Mexico with her husband Roger.

Smiling woman with brown hair in a black top and standing in a park like setting and wearing a long lariat style necklace in gold metal with a large blue stone on a Cerese D magazine cover

Kyla is wearing Pave Coil Earrings.

Smiling woman with brown hair in a black top and standing in a park like setting with water in the background and wearing a lariat style necklace in gold metal with a large blue stoneKyla Thompson, APR, has been a consultant in Public Relations, Marketing, Media Crisis, Media Relations and Public Affairs for more than 35 years. She owned her own company in Denver, CO for 20 years. Her expertise includes Product Marketing, Economic Development, Large Event Management, Real Estate Development, Media Training, Community Relations, Corporate Imaging, Change Management, Key Message Development, Grass Root/Constituency Relations and fundamental communication strategies.

Who’s Who

She was listed as Who’s Who in Business by the Denver Business Journal for six consecutive years, and was awarded Denver’s prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Social Responsibility award for her firm’s volunteer work with non-profits. She was a member of the Greater Denver Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee and the Downtown Denver Partnership – which revitalized downtown Denver. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from her professional organization, Public Relations Society of America, PRSA.

To Tell the Truth

As a crisis expert, Kyla has worked for corporations and individuals to help tell their side of the story, to tell the truth and tell it in a timely fashion. In 1999, she was hired by the families of the murdered and injured victims of Columbine High School in Denver. She advised 35 family members through media training, and ongoing media advice, and comprised a team to raise $3 million to build a new library to replace the old one, which was the scene of the massacre.

Smiling woman with brown hair in a black top and standing on a waterfront with boats in the background and wearing a lariat style necklace in gold metal with a large blue stoneAccount experience includes such diverse industries as non-profits, health care organizations and hospitals, banking, construction, large real estate developments in CO and NM, environmental hazardous waste sites, environmental science companies, large engineering firms, the Denver Broncos, the Denver Avalanche hockey team, Coors Field, Denver International Airport, University of Colorado, Vail Associates and Winter Park Ski Area.

Kyla and her husband Roger, a former national TV voiceover, are both retired and live in the Rio Grande River Valley in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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2023 Oct. Mag

2023 October Mag

Dr. Barbara Sharief’s journey has been one of dedication, breaking down barriers, and serving her community in South Florida. Not only has she excelled academically, but she has also made significant contributions to her community through her own pediatric and adult homecare services. As a Broward County Commissioner for 12 years, Dr. Sharief has made history as the first black female Mayor in 100 years and the first black female President of the Florida Association of Counties in 87 years. Her numerous awards and recognitions highlight her dedication and impact, and she continues to lead her community through challenging times.

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Dr. Barbara Sharief’s life has been one of dedication, breaking down barriers, and service. Each stage prepared her to fight for her community in South Florida.

Bringing expertise in the healthcare space, Barbara is a fierce advocate for Medicaid expansion, improving Medicare and lowering prescription drug costs. Barbara obtained a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Nursing from Florida International University after graduating from Jackson Memorial Hospital School of Nursing at the University of Miami Jackson. Barbara graduated from Miami Dade Community College with an Associate of Science in Nursing. Barbara specialized in intensive clinical care and pediatrics, using her skills in a way that benefited those around her. In 2001, she continued her mission by opening her own pediatric and adult homecare service, which employed over 500 frontline heroes in her community. She is self-made, after growing her home health business for 22 years, she sold it and now operates her private family medicine practice. She learned how to run a business from her father, often helping him out with his small business while she was growing up. She comes from a large family of 10 with 7 siblings raised in Miami Florida.

Smiling black woman wearing a white button up shirt with a large black and white beaded necklace with a large gold pendant

Barbara has served as Broward County Commissioner for 12 years. She has also made history as not only Broward County’s first black female Mayor in 100 years but also the first black female President of the Florida Association of Counties in 87 years, where she advocated for all 67 counties in Florida.  Dr. Sharief received the African American Achievers Award for Business and Entrepreneurism in 2014. Later that year she received the Legacy Honors Award for Most Powerful Black Professionals in Business and Industry. She received the March of Dimes Woman of Distinction award in 2017. Dr. Sharief was inducted into the Broward County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2019 and was named Broward County Historical Society Trailblazer of the Year 2023. She is also a longtime member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and a member of the LINKS, Ft. Lauderdale chapter.

smiling balck woman wearing a bright green button up top and a long large beaded necklaceThroughout her career, she has seen her community face tragedy: from the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, Hurricane Irma, environmental and water issues as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter the instance, Barbara brings strong leadership through problem-solving and critical thinking. Time and time again, she has guided her community through difficult times, helping others overcome obstacles and stay resilient. She will bring that same experience to the State Senate as she helps our community build back stronger after the pandemic.

Barbara has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Floridians, helping to generate a projected $130 billion for transportation and infrastructure improvement projects over a 30-year period in Broward County. Barbara serves as Chair of the Opioid Lawsuit Task Force. She was a member of the Pompano Beach Community Advisory Board and was on the Broward Metropolitan Transportation Committee for the last 13 years. Barbara led the successful passing of the transportation surtax initiative in Broward County. She was a board member of the 16 County Coalition for Water Resources and Chair of the National Association of Counties Health Steering Committee. 

She is a member of the Miramar Pembroke Pines Chamber of Commerce, Women in Healthcare Florida Chapter, and National Minority Supplier Diversity. She is also deeply involved in other facets of her community such as the Black Nurses Association, Florida Nurses Association, American Nurses Association, National Nurse Practitioner Association, Jewish Democratic Council of America, the National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters, the Human Rights Campaign, Pembroke Pines Democratic Club, Weston Democratic Club, Davie Cooper City Democratic Club, Miramar Democratic Club, Womens Democratic Club of West Broward.

Smiling black woman wearing a black top and a large beaded necklaceIn her spare time, she likes to collect African-American Memorabilia and owns one of the largest collections in the United States. Her collection was on display at the African American Research Museum in Broward County. She loves to travel and is a single mom of 3 daughters Amanda, Alyssa and Hailey. She is a proud mom and states her greatest hope is to leave a legacy of making the community a better place for her children and all of those who live in Florida. 

The quote she lives by: “Never allow someone else to determine your level of success based on their limitations for themselves”. She believes that positivity, perseverance and determination can propel you to achieve everything you desire. With Barbara comes hope for a better and brighter future. Hope for change. And that is the hope she wants to bring to her district and community when elected as our Senator for Florida District 35.

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2023 Sept. Mag

2023 September Mag

Inspirational. Passionate. Authentic.

Meet Jennifer Smith, the CEO of Growth Potential Consulting and the founder of Passionate Leaders Institute®. When it comes to Jennifer, three words immediately come to mind: inspirational, passionate, and authentic. For more than two decades, she has let authenticity and passion drive her work, fueled by an unwavering desire to unlock her clients’ potential by connecting with their own passions.

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Jennifer’s journey began early on when she started volunteering. From active involvement in the youth chapter of the NAACP to showcasing her talents in local community plays, she has always been driven to make a difference. While she initially pursued a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Grambling State University, it was her experience working in a Six Sigma Quality role that revealed her true calling—working with leaders. Following this revelation, Jennifer pursued a master’s degree in Organization Development and Human Resources from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Developing Leaders

In 2007, Jennifer took her expertise and founded Growth Potential Consulting. Her firm specializes in assisting Fortune 1000 companies, mid-size businesses, and higher education institutions in identifying, assessing, and developing leaders and their teams. Today, Jennifer is a recognized leader in her industry, having worked with leaders across the globe. She has partnered with clients, coaching and facilitating the growth of over 3,500 leaders spanning 14 different industries.

Throughout her career, Jennifer has developed comprehensive training programs for thousands of employees and successfully coached diverse coalitions of leaders from nine countries, bridging multicultural gaps along the way. Her experience as a diversity leader and inclusion practitioner allows her to genuinely connect with clients and guide them toward becoming strategic, intentional, and passionate leaders.


Jennifer is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, an organization focused on “being of service to all mankind.”  Beyond her work, Jennifer remains committed to giving back to her community. She generously dedicates her time to mentoring college students and aspiring leaders, offering invaluable guidance and support to help them thrive. Jennifer’s philanthropic efforts extend beyond mentoring, as she actively contributes to charitable causes and initiatives that align with her values and goals. Notably, she supports organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and Eden Autism, while also donating to fund scholarships, supporting students’ dreams of pursuing a college education.

Jennifer’s commitment to giving back is a true testament to her character and unwavering dedication to making a positive impact on the world. With her expertise and genuine passion, she is poised to leave a lasting mark on businesses worldwide, inspiring leaders not only to lead but also to live with boundless passion.


In recognition of her accomplishments, Jennifer is a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Alumna and a TEDx Speaker. She is also a Professional Certified Coach, credentialed by the International Coach Federation. This prestigious certification allows her to strategically partner with renowned institutions such as The University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School, Fortune 100 companies, and private organizations. Jennifer volunteers as a speaker during Carey Business School courses and serves as a reviewer for the Leadership in Organizations residency program.

Jennifer Smith embodies the qualities of a remarkable leader—inspiring, passionate, and authentic. Her journey serves as a beacon of motivation for individuals and businesses alike, urging them to embrace their potential and lead a life filled with purpose.

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2023 Aug. Mag

2023 August Mag

Helen Giddings is president and CEO of Multiplex, Inc., a specialty concessions company, which she founded in 1989. Giddings also serves as honorary consul of South Africa for Texas. She is the founder and chair of the Women’s Leadership Summit, an organization created to empower, strengthen, and transform women leaders. Among many accolades and awards, Giddings served in the Texas House of Representatives for 26 years.

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Helen Giddings is president and CEO of Multiplex, Inc., a specialty concessions company, which she founded in 1989. Giddings also serves as honorary consul of South Africa for Texas. She is the founder and chair of the Women’s Leadership Summit, an organization created to empower, strengthen, and transform women leaders. 

Previously, Giddings was an executive in retail responsible for human resources and community affairs in an 11-state area, and she was the vice president of leadership development at the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce. 

House of Representatives

Giddings also served in the Texas House of Representatives for 26 years. She is a former chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and a previous Dallas Area Legislative Delegation co-chair

During her tenure in the Texas Legislature, Giddings chaired the Business and Industry Committee for three terms, having served on the committee for 10 terms. She was the vice chair of the State Affairs Committee for her last three terms prior to retiring from the Texas House of Representatives. Giddings served on the Appropriations Committee for seven terms (including her last five terms before retirement) and held leadership roles as chair and vice chair of select Appropriations subcommittees. Giddings also served on the Higher Education and Calendars Committees. In addition to the aforementioned committees, the speakers of the House appointed her to special commissions and other committees, including the Texas Legislative Council Governing Board, Financial Institutions, Public School Finance, Redistricting, House Administration, Joint Interim Committee to Study Alzheimer’s Disease, and the Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families. 

Public Service

Strongly committed to public service, Giddings served as president of the bipartisan, 1,600-member National Foundation of Women Legislators. She was the first woman of color and the first Texan in the organizations history to be elected to this prestigious position. Additionally, she was a member of the executive committees of the Women’s Legislative Network of the National Conference of State Legislators and the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women. 

Giddings also served as the board chair of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, vice chair of the Dallas Transit Board, and a member of the following: Dallas Planning Commission, Visit Dallas Board of Directors, State Bar Grievance Committee, and the Dallas County Grand Jury. 

As an avid and loyal supporter of the arts, Giddings’ board service includes leadership roles in the African American Museum, Dallas Symphony, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas Historical Society, and the Dallas Theater Center. Her contributions to the African American Museum led the museum to name a room in her honor. 

Currently, Giddings is a member of the International Women’s Forum, The Dallas Assembly, The Dallas Summit, Trinity Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, Methodist Health System Board of Directors, and the Caruth Police Institute Executive Advisory Board.


Giddings has been recognized by Ebony Magazine as one of the Top 100+ Most Influential African Americans and featured in Black Enterprise, American Way (American Express), and Jet magazines. She has also been featured in the Dallas Morning News and D Magazine. 

Giddings has received additional recognition and numerous awards for her civic service and business acumen, including the City of Lancaster, Texas naming its amphitheater, the Helen Giddings Amphitheater, in her honor; the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce Quest for Success Award; the DFW International Airport SOAR Award; the National Forum for Black Public Administrators Award; the Texas House Democratic Caucus Legend Award; the Association of Community Schools Most Valuable Legislator Award; the Outstanding Legislator Award from Mothers Against Teen Violence; the TexProtects Children’s Champion Award; the NAACP Juanita Craft Freedom President’s Award; the Eddie Bernice Johnson Trailblazer Award from Who’s Who; the James Belt Lifetime Achievement Award; the Latino Center Leadership Development Adelante Award for Lifetime Leadership; the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce Excellence, Innovation and Education Award; the Gifford K. Johnson Community Leadership Award from The University of Texas at Dallas; the African American Museum Heritage Award; the Texas Women’s Foundation Maura Women Helping Women Award; the Dallas Can Academy Woman of the Year Award; an honorary doctorate from Paul Quinn College; the United Negro College Fund Masked Award; the National Association of Historically Black Colleges Alumni Award; The University of Texas at Dallas Science and Engineering Advancement Award; the Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) Humanitarian Award; the Texas Southern University (TSU) Presidents Medal; presidential scholarships at PVAMU and TSU and a scholarship from the Concerned DeSoto Citizens named in her honor; the Texas PTA Life Membership Award; the Texas Library Association 100 Library Champions of the Century Award; the AFRIMMA Transformational Leadership Award; the Texas Medical Association Patient Protectorate Award; and the American Heart Association Heart of Honor Award. 

Women in Leadership

In 2018, Giddings founded the Women’s Leadership Summit. WLS brings together women who have risen to leadership positions with younger leaders, forming stronger networks, sharing knowledge and skills, celebrating achievements, and addressing challenges for Black women. 

These extraordinary women, limited to 300, leave inspired, motivated, and determined to become full participants in our world, helping to create a better society for all. Please go to to learn more about this unique conference which will be held September 8th and 9th at the Statler Hotel in Dallas. Cerese will be there! You should be too.

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2023 July Mag

2023 July Mag

Noted publisher and civic leader Sylvia Perry, has a very special mantra that she shares with audiences, “excellence is the fine line between what you can do and what you’re capable of.” Sylvia Perry

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Choose to Lead

While some may choose to follow or turn their head at destiny, Sylvia Perry chose to lead.

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, the daughter of an entertainment executive turned publisher found treading in her mother’s footsteps a natural progression. She served as Student Council President in high school, and in college worked alongside famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump to elevate Florida State University’s Black Student Union to unparallel heights.

“Those days were crazy. Ben was the BSU president and I was the communications director. We created the BSU’s first newspaper and challenged everything. That was before the age of the internet so our publication was a hot commodity. I am so proud of what we both did and what we are doing now.”

Professionally, she is the publisher of the Free Press of the Jacksonville Free Press, a 36-year-old weekly newspaper serving the African-American Diaspora of Northeast Florida. Her responsibilities include the overall production of the weekly newspaper including procurement and assignment of articles, representation of the newspaper throughout the community, selection and assignment of photos, quality control and maintaining industry standards.

Trying Times

She maintains that yes these are trying times for her industry, especially in the age of social media. But while there remains a thirsty customer base, the publication will continue. For Perry, her service to the community doesn’t stop with educating the masses.

Image of beautiful black woman smiling in front of a white draped background and sitting on white chain wearing a cream colored suit and a large clear beaded necklaceWhile Crump is making waves throughout the country fighting for the underserved, Perry has made her mark just completing a four-year term in The Links, Incorporated as its Southern Area Director. Armed with degrees including a B.A. in Mass Communications, Masters’ in Organizational Leadership and a Jurist Masters, she utilized her business savvy and communication acumen to lead the Links’ southern region.

With so much going on in the world and pulls for attention, how does one choose to be committed to one in what seems like a full-time job?

“It’s been said “to whom much is given, much is required,” said Perry. I live a good life and am blessed to pay it forward through a historic well-respected entity like The Links, Incorporated. 

Passion for Productivity

You can walk into any room Links occupy and you smell the passion for productivity. Whether it be a luncheon, town hall meeting or community forum, the like-minded sisters of color all have something in common – making a difference.

Representing seven states and The Bahamas in one of the oldest women’s service organizations in the country allowed her to continue her dedication to service throughout the Southeast.

Under her tenure, the area’s 84 chapters received over $1 million in funding. She also introduced the Southern Area (and open to the country at large), to a series of  Virtual Town Hall Meetings as an innovative approach to community programming in the pandemic.

“The pandemic was rough. We had to pivot to stay on our mission and create content that was interesting and motivating to the community,” she shared.

Under her leadership, the organization’s award-winning program team presented a series of social justice virtual town halls with nationally recognized leadership with topics such as Justice or Just Us, Thriving, Surviving and Mobilizing in the New South, and Moving Beyond Our Kind of People.”

She selfishly admits one of the best parts of the job is being able to visit and see members while sharing how a difference can be made.


“I adore hanging out with my sisters. The sister circle always make you feel good as we trade war stories on everything from our personal and private life to fashion. I can always look around and see one thing in common. You recognize successful looks will always include a piece of Cerese D jewelry.”

As the look of success is the tie that binds so is the commitment to community investment.

In alignment with the organization’s national agenda. Perry created several initiatives for chapters to apply to their grassroots communities. Healthy Homestead, Closing the Gap, Artist Noir, Links in Pink, SA Links Love HBCUs and Connecting Threads were all implemented with guidance toolkits and grants enabling chapters to make a difference.

“Whether your chapter’s advocacy agenda was breast cancer awareness, arts exposure, HBCUs, or even STEAM, we had something that could be done. My team took the excuse out of making a difference,” said Perry.

“Even in the pandemic, all of these programs were able to be implemented virtually to keep the underserved at the forefront of the agenda.”

The result exposed thousands in Southern communities to benefit from the opportunities Links chapters had to offer. To celebrate the end of her tenure, the Southern Area established an $85,000 HBCU scholarship.

Community Engagement

While presenting stellar service in Links’ leadership, Sylvia continued her professional work on the home front as a newspaper publisher.  Her community engagement includes having served on numerous civic boards and committees including Planned Parenthood, Jacksonville Urban League, Leadership Jacksonville, and more. Over the years the Free Press has received awards from prestigious organizations including the NAACP, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sickle Cell Association, Girl Scouts, Clear Channel, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and the Onyx Award among others. Her travels as a seasoned journalist have taken her to locations such as Libya, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Sudan and The White House.

In addition to owning a boutique PR firm and a property management company, she maintains that continuing the legacy began by her mother over 36 years ago is “something that she has to do.”

Now that her Links’ tenure is over, Perry said it’s no need to wonder what she will tackle next.

“I can say thus far it has been an interesting, charmed life full of opportunities. And while this juncture has come to an end, what I’ve learned and experienced will take my contributions of service to the next level.”

What that “level” will be – who knows, but one thing is for sure, following and getting out of the way has never been an option.

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2023 June Mag

2023 June Mag

Paula Fontana was created to inspire and motivate others to be the best version of themselves in her personal life through motivational Spoken Word and her professional endeavors.

smiling black woman holding a microphone to her mouth wearing a purple sleeveless v-neck dress and a large beaded white necklace in front of a dark red curtain on a cerese d magazine cover

Paula Fontana was created to inspire and motivate others to be the best version of themselves in her personal life through motivational Spoken Word and her professional life through co-leading the National Black MBA Association as Interim President. 

The mission of the National Black MBA Association is to lead in the creation of educational, wealth-building, and growth opportunities for Blacks throughout all stages of their careers as students, professionals, and entrepreneurs. Paula’s commitment to understanding customer needs and creating products and programming to fill those needs, intertwined with her passion for impacting and enriching lives through diversity initiatives provides the platform to make an impactful difference in serving NBMBAA members. 

image of smiling black woman staring through a round mirror light wearing a white top and tan pants with a marge beaded necklace in front of a white backdropPrior to joining the Association, Paula worked in MBA Career Management for 9 years where she developed and implemented student advising strategies and programming. While at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, she managed the career programming targeting diversity students and national MBA diversity conferences to increase student participation and success rates.

Before pursuing a career in higher education, Paula had 12 years of experience in marketing research and brand management in the consumer-packaged goods and textile industries. Paula earned her MBA from the University of Georgia and her Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University.

Fontana was born and raised in Chicago, IL, where she attended a private school in the heart of the city’s South Side. There, she developed a love for God and a passion for studying His word. Since most of her teachers and classmates also attended her church, a sense of community and accountability were commonplace. It was during those formative years that the importance of understanding and serving others were imprinted in her mind, although it would not materialize until years later.

Paula has used her gift of Spoken Word on LPs, for weddings, funerals, and birthday parties. You can also find her delivering a daily motivational word clothed in her unique statement-making Afrocentric style on social media platforms. The foundation of Paula’s life, and her pieces, is rooted in her faith and scripture.  Her favorite passage is 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”

Paula lives in a southern suburb of Atlanta, GA along with her husband Tony and her son Colby, a rising senior at Tennessee State University.

Contact Paula: 


LinkedIn – Instagram – TikTok

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  • image of smiling black woman wearing a stunning black blouse with wide ruffled sleeves and a large beaded white necklace and matching bracelet standing in front of a white background

  • Sharon Caple Mcdougle jumping in orange flight suit

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2023 May Mag

2023 May Mag

Ms. Joya Hayes is a life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Beyond her service to the Sorority, Ms. Hayes has tirelessly served the greater Austin community in many ways, and has received over 35 community awards for her dutiful service. On top of all this, she is a dynamic and energetic speaker known for her humor and powerful energy.

Smiling woman wearing a light brown top and leaning with one car against a wall with a large beaded necklace on a Cerese D magazine cover

Joya is wearing Cerese D’s Pearl Angel Necklace

Ms. Joya Hayes is a life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She was initiated in the fall of 1993 as a second-generation member of the Beta smiling woman waering a bright pink top standing in front of a window and wearing a large beaded necklace with matching earrings.Kappa Chapter at Huston-Tillotson University. At the chapter level, she has held the positions of President, Vice President, Graduate Advisor to both the Beta Kappa (Huston-Tillotson University) and Delta Xi (the University of Texas at Austin) Chapters and has chaired numerous committees and fundraisers. At the international level, Ms. Hayes has served as the South-Central Representative, and later the International Chairman, to the Graduate Advisors’ Certification Committee, where she personally trained and certified over 5,000 members of the Sorority. On the regional level, she has served as Cluster Coordinator for the Southwest/Central Texas Cluster, planned, and executed four cluster events, served as Chairman of an Undergraduate Round-up, and presented workshops at ten regional conferences, eight cluster retreats, and four Boules under the leadership of four Regional Directors. Ms. Hayes is a proud Silver Member and serves as the 26th South Central Regional Director.

Beyond her service to the Sorority, Ms. Hayes has tirelessly served the greater Austin community. Currently, she is a board member of Child, Incorporated (Austin’s Head Start Program), and is a 20-year board member of the Austin Area Heritage Council (responsible for Austin’s MLK March and Festival celebrations). She is also a member of the Town Lake Chapter of The Links, Incorporated and a former licensed foster parent in both Virginia and Texas. She has received over 35 community awards for her dutiful service. And her greatest reward has been her son, Robert Elijah Hayes, whom she adopted in June of 2016.

Professionally, Ms. Hayes is a cum laude graduate of Huston-Tillotson University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications, and a graduate of Texas State University, where she received her master’s degree in Public Administration. Ms. Hayes has 22 years of experience in human resources, training, and organizational development, community-based programming, policy & procedure development, and executive-level planning. Currently, Ms. Hayes is the Director of the Human Resources Department, and Director of Civil Service for the City of Austin, Texas.

As a motivational speaker, Ms. Hayes has delivered speeches to over one million people in six states and two countries. She is a dynamic and energetic speaker known for her humor and powerful energy. She is also an extraordinary emcee and speechwriter and has written speeches for elected officials in three states.

Joy is wearing Cerese D’s Peppi Pink Necklace in photo, top left.

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2023 Apr. Mag

2023 April Mag

Annie B. Augustin is a highly effective strategic visionary with a history of successfully spearheading technology and organizational transformation initiatives in government and industry.  Though educated in technical fields, she possesses a demonstrated ability to excel in leading strategic organizational development and effectiveness initiatives – demonstrating expertise in cross-functional collaboration, institutionalizing new concepts, aligning business unit priorities with corporate strategy, challenging conventional thinking, and implementing innovative solutions to expand business capabilities; and a track record of success leading multi-disciplinary teams to create value for the organization.  Author of a children’s book, Hopper: A Name for a Friend, the first  on a planned series. 

Image of smiling woman with black curly hair and red lipstick wearing a black leather top with large turqouise beaded necklace with silver tassels

Annie is wearing the Crumbling Towers Necklace.

Annie B. Augustin has led numerous change and transformation efforts, including serving as program manager for the merger of two electric utility companies and leading numerous organizational change initiatives for different teams within her current employer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  In this regard she maintains a keen focus on change management and culture creation.

Annie is a manager with the Federal Aviation Administration where she serves as the division manager of the Air Traffic Systems Test & Evaluation Division.  In this role she leads a team of approximately 150 federal and contract engineers and computer scientists in testing, analyzing, and evaluating air traffic management, surveillance, and mission support systems, services, and new capabilities for the National Airspace System.  In line with her passion for employee and organizational development, she previously led the development of a technical curriculum, training courses, a micro-credentialing program, other learning and development opportunities, and technical competency models.


Image of smiling woman with black curly hair and red lipstick wearing a black leather dress standing with hands on hips with large silver beaded necklace with silver tasselsAnnie’s formal education is as an engineer having obtained a Bachelor of Science degree Summa Cum Laude in Electrical Engineering from the North Carolina A&T State University, the nation’s largest HBCU, and a Master of Science degree from George Washington University. In addition, Annie has completed both the Executive Development and Women’s Executive Leadership programs at the Wharton School; the Links Leadership Academy of The Links, Incorporated; the Anna Easter Brown Leadership Institute of the North Atlantic Region of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®; the Federal Executive Institute’s Leadership for a Democratic Society; and the FAA’s Senior Leadership Development Program.

Annie is a member of the Atlantic City (NJ) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated where she serves as the chapter president, the Theta Kappa Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, the Atlantic City Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Incorporated (associate member and former president), the National Association of Parliamentarians, the National Society of Black Engineers, the International Test and Evaluation Association, the American Heart Association South/Central NJ Regional Board of Directors, and the Ocean Wind PRO-NJ Grantor Trust Advisory Committee.

What We can Conceive – We can Achieve

Annie’s lived philosophy shows up in what sometimes serves as her email tagline, “What we can conceive, we can achieve!”   The concept starts with a clear vision, in which we can see ourselves being or doing whatever is called for in that vision.  Our ability to create is limitless if we align action to purpose. She believes that the only limits on us are self-imposed; although we sometimes unknowingly adopt the limitations that others choose to impose. Scripture tells us to put our vision in writing and make it clear so those who read it may respond quickly. Accompanying the idea of our limitless ability to manifest our future is the idea that we co-create our reality by what we do or fail to do. This serves as a constant reminder to Annie of the need to MOVE. Whether we have chosen an entrepreneurial, corporate, government, or non-profit path, as we put in the required work aligned to our purpose and vision, we are able to create without limitations.

During a personal transformation intensive Annie uncovered that her purpose is to “speak for those who have lost their voice.”  One might lose her voice in many ways and circumstances. Annie has spent her life being the voice at the table for those not included in the discussion. In her next career after retirement, she is called to become an additional voice, among many others, for the homeless – especially women and girls – and is excited about where this next path will take her!

Spare time is spent traveling with her husband, Claudy, spending time with millennial sons, Nigel and Miles (when they allow it), hanging out with sisters and sister friends, and jogging daily along the Atlantic City boardwalk or other local trail.  Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” serves as a constant companion and reminder to trust God’s plan.


On today, I honor my mom, Hattie H. Bullock, who would have been 100 years old on April 1, 2023.  She lived to be 94. My mom was unconventional for her time.  She had five children between the ages of 28 and 40, while her contemporaries were having children mostly in their late teens or very early twenties.  My mom was always older than my girlfriend’s mothers.  She was a staunch believer in education and was so excited when I started a PhD program – having only achieved high school herself. One day I will finish that degree just for her since I’ve already completed about 95% of it.  Mom had great confidence in me, believing I could do anything and so I believed the same.  Therefore, on her 100th birthday I implore you to contact someone in your life who may be struggling with a decision or challenge and let them know that you have great confidence in them. I also urge all parents to continue to encourage your children to SOAR with confidence – they have no limitations.  They can go as far as anything they can imagine; the world is waiting to hear from them. Happy birthday mom!

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2023 Mar. Mag

2023 March Mag

Dr. Stacie NC Grant
God’s Media Ambassador & 21st Century Communicator 

Dr. Stacie NC Grant is an award-winning international speaker, master facilitator, best-selling author, influencer, producer, actor, publisher and celebrity emcee. Dr. Grant is living her divine calling to LEAD, TEACH and INSPIRE! Described as “God’s Media Ambassador & 21st Century Communicator”, she ignites her audiences with her captivating smile, intoxicating humor and boundless energy. 

Smiling black woman with hair in a large bun on top of head and beautiful makeup waering a bright blue and white v-neck dress and a large blue and white beaded necklace

Stacie is wearing a Blue Grand Necklace and Earrings.


Servant Leader 

Dr. Stacie NC Grant often quotes this message from Ghandi “The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This is how she has built a global platform of service. Dr. Grant has spent countless hours quietly volunteering her time and service in the community through her civic engagement and youth mentorship. From working closely with local elected officials to support community outreach to volunteering her time speaking with students in her local schools, to serving on PTA Boards, Dr. Grant gets the greatest joy from serving others. She has received numerous awards from the White House, NYS Senate, NYS Assembly, NYC City Council, Office of the Governor of NY, and national and local organizations including her most recent recognition as a Woman of Distinction by the Continental Societies, Inc. Her body of work is punctuated by receiving the 2016 Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service from our 44th President Barack Obama, an appointment in 2017 as a Fellow of the Most Excellent Order of International Experts (FOIE) and a recipient of the 2019 I CHANGE NATIONS (ICN) World Civility Ambassador Award. In 2021 Dr. Grant was named as one of The Power 50 MWBE Businesses in New York State & New York City, VIP Global Magazine Top 50 Women in Business and The Network Journal’s 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business. In 2022, Dr. Grant was recognized as the Business Person of the Year by the Queens NYC Chamber of Commerce, Visionary of LOVE Award from Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Nu Omicron Chapter, NYC Black Women’s Political Club InspireHER Awardee and The Exceptional Woman Enterprise Humanitarian Award Recipient. 

Chief Faithpreneur 

In 2014, Dr. Grant founded Destiny Designers University®, “A CLASSROOM WITHOUT BORDERS; WHERE WE GRADUATE TO THE NEXT BEST VERSION OF OURSELVES BY TURNING INSPIRATION INTO RESULTS! Destiny Designers University® is the only training & development platform for Faithpreneurs® (faith-based entrepreneurs and faith-based professionals) who grow their wealth-generating practices around an affinity to God and FAITH by learning how to leverage their Relationships, Resources and Revenue to create sustainable legacies by being cash flow positive and unapologetically profitable! 

Smiling black woman with hair in a large bun on top of head and beautiful makeup wearing a bright blue and white v-neck wrap dress and a large blue and white beaded necklace standing outsideTraining is delivered through live and self-directed courses and supported through books, products, and other merchandise. Since 2009, Faithpreneurs gather weekly on the Saturday Faithpreneur VIP Prayer Call for fellowship and encouragement. Since 2018, Faithpreneurs gather annually for the Faithpreneur® Weekend Experience. Coming out of the global pandemic of 2020, Dr. Grant expanded the multi-media platform opportunities to include the launch of The Faithpreneur Magazine, Quarterly Night of Healing Events and The Faithpreneur®TV Network. Learn more at 

MWBE Small Business Owner

Dr. Grant is the Chief Brilliance Officer of C&G Enterprises Unlimited, LLC an MWBE founded in 2016 that specializes in meeting facilitation and professional development training for Government and Corporate Clients. During COVID-19, C&G began offering decontamination services to other small business and meeting spaces to ensure the safe gathering in these public spaces. Dr. Grant is currently the Facilitator for the JFK International Airport Redevelopment Community Advisory Council, a 19 billion-dollar redevelopment project. Learn more at

Prior to 2016, C&G Enterprises provided purpose-driven event strategies for community-based and not–for–profit organizations. C&G has been featured on Access Hollywood, Fox 5, Metro TV, and WE Television. The event strategies utilized focused on producing successful outreach events that brought value to the participants and community at large. Clients included Mentoring in Medicine, Inc., Sister to Sister International, Inc., St. Paul Community Baptist Church, Inc., Own Your Power Communications, Inc., Achieving Leadership’s Purpose, Inc. and Inspired Girls, Inc. Under Dr. Grant’s leadership, C&G has received numerous awards, honors and citations from various organizations and government officials for outstanding commitment to excellence in service. 

International Speaker 

Dr. Grant has been a featured speaker for the Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Summit, FraserNet Annual Networking Conference, NYC Department of Corrections, Bronx Community College, St. John’s University, Project Enterprise, Mary J. Blige FFAWN Foundation, Women’s Academy of Excellence, Medgar Evers College, The 1209 Affair SuccessNet Series, Peak Performance Institute, Women Doing It Big Foundation, MACY*S, WBLS, L’Oreal, Black Women of Influence, Brooklyn College, Women in The Black, AARP, The New York Urban League, The Eagle Academy Foundation, NYC Department of Education, The Port Authority of NY & NJ, Celebrity Guest Host for The Network Journal and many more. Dr. Stacie NC Grant also has the distinction of being one of world-renowned Les Brown’s notable Platinum Speakers, one of his Expert Trainers and past host of Les Brown Motivational Monday Night Calls. 

Civic Leader 

Dr. Grant is a member of the Queens NY District Attorney African American Advisory Council and community consultant to members of the NY State Assembly and NYC City Council. Affectionately called the “Voice of NYC”, her voice is heard hosting numerous community programs and ceremonies across the city including Inaugurations, Graduations and the annual Queens Juneteenth Celebration. 


July 24, 2022, Dr. Grant became the International President & CEO of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. She is the 26th President of this 103-year-old organization with over 130 thousand members and close to 900 chapters across the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Bahamas, Japan, Korea, Barbados, Haiti, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Trinidad/Tobago, and most recently Accra, Ghana. Dr. Grant leads the programmatic agenda of the organization as a premiere community-conscious action-oriented organization. Learn more at: Dr. Grant declared 2023 as The Year of the International Women, Serving & Advocating for Health Justice at Home and Abroad, as she has charged her sisterhood to Embrace The S.W.E.L.L. of Service, Worldwide Wellness, Extraordinary Leadership and Legacy!

Smiling black woman with hair in a large bun on top of head and beautiful makeup wearing a bright blue and white v-neck wrap dress and a large blue and white beaded necklace standing outside with her arms spread wideDr. Grant is also the Co-Founder of the Queens NYC Affiliate of the National Cares Mentoring Movement (founded by Susan L. Taylor) whose mission is to recruit, connect and direct mentors to vulnerable young people. Additionally, she is the past secretary of her Church Choir, past President of the St. John’s University Black Alumni Association, and Associate Member of Jack & Jill of America, Inc. Queens Chapter. 

Dr. Grant currently resides in Queens, New York with her husband, Andrew, and 2 sons, Josiah and Jeremy. With God as her guide, our global community will be better for her service to humanity.

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