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Tag: Inspo

2024 Apr. Mag

April 2024 Mag

Beverly Evans Smith is the 26th National President (2017-2021) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. While serving in this role she restructured the corporate Board and headquarters operation, initiated the documentation of all business operations, updated all program manuals, added new revenue streams, significantly increased membership, and international engagement. She also served as the organization’s elected National First Vice President, National Secretary and was previously employed as Delta Sigma Theta’s Executive Director leading their headquarters business function.

Smiling black woman standing in front of a night time cityscape wearing a black sleeveless dress and the Turquoise Swirl Necklace on a Cerese D magazine cover

Beverly is wearing Cerese D’s Turquoise Swirl Necklace.


Smith retired from the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) as the Assistant Commissioner and Georgia State Director for Adult Education and GED Testing in 2018. In this role she provided adult education training programs for an average of 69,000 Georgia citizens annually with a staff of over 1200 educators and support staff at 450 sites across the state. She was also responsible for the administration of all Georgia GED testing and supported local literacy action groups throughout Georgia. In addition, Smith served as 2015-17 Chair of the National Association of State Directors in Adult Education and has testified before the U.S. Senate HELP Committee representing the issues faced by adults with literacy challenges.

As an entrepreneur, Smith is also senior vice-president of The HR Group Inc., a management consulting firm she has co-owned with her husband, Stephen, for over 30 years. Her skill sets include demonstrated expertise in organizational effectiveness, business operations redesign and restructure, strategic planning, and crisis management. As a corporate manager, Smith spent 18 years in leadership positions with AT&T (Southern Bell) implementing innovative business processes during her tenure. During that time, she also served as a member of the 1994 AT&T Malcolm Baldrige Award winning team in the area of human resources. Prior to her corporate work, Smith spent several years as university administrator in varied capacities. She is a prolific motivational speaker in the areas of leadership and change management.

A long-term community volunteer, Smith is the founding Delta National President and serves on the board of D4 Women in Action, the first of its kind 501(c)4 social welfare and advocacy organization to be established under the umbrella of a Black Greek letter organization. She is a Life Member of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), where she serves as Co-Chair of the International Affairs Committee. Smith has served on the Bowling Green State University (BGSU-Ohio) Student Affairs Leadership Council and the Board of Directors of the Delta Research and Education Foundation (DREF). In addition, she chaired the Cobb County Board of Elections & Registration for eight years and served on varied community boards including the Cobb County United Way and Girls, Incorporated. She has been a Co-Chair for Leadership Cobb and served on the Board of Directors for Chattahoochee Technical College as well as on the Alumni Board of Directors for BGSU where she chaired its Strategic Planning committee.

A recipient of numerous honors and awards, Smith was a recipient of the Phoenix Award (2022), which is the highest honor an individual or group can receive from the mayor of Atlanta. She is also the recipient of the People Profile Lifetime Achievement Award (2022) and the Network Journal 25 Influential Black Women in Business Award (2021). In 2017 Smith was recognized as an Outstanding Georgia Citizen by the Office of the Secretary of State and named the 2020 Georgia Outstanding Individual by the Georgia General Assembly. In addition, she is the recipient of a U.S. Congressional Certificate of Special Recognition. Smith was named the LEAD360 business organization’s Executive of the Year for 2020-21 and was a UNCF Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Honoree in 2020. Her alma mater, Bowling Green State University, named her to the 2018 Class of the Academy of Distinguished Alumni and she was honored by the St. Louis Urban League/Urban League Guild with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. Recognized by the NW Georgia YWCA as a Woman of Achievement, she has been listed in both Who’s Who Among African Americans and Who’s Who in the Southeast. In 2006, she was named a “History Maker” by The HistoryMakers (thehistorymakers.com), a national African American historical registry which is housed in United States Library of Congress. She has also received numerous keys and proclamations from cities/states across the country.

Beverly and her husband, Stephen, have been married for fifty-one years. The Smiths have two married children: son Brian (Rashan Ali) Smith, daughter Stacy (Dr. Jason) Frazier, and five grandchildren.

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2024 Mar. Mag

March 2024 Mag

Carol McElheney is the regional vice president of operations at Hudson, the largest travel retailer in the world. Carol has been with Hudson for more than 10 years and continues to excel in her role. She continuously demonstrates her proven abilities to craft and facilitate creative business solutions, resulting in major improvements in operating plans and successful new revenue generation.

With over 20 years in the F&B industry, Carol clearly demonstrates her understanding of the value of customer service. She defends and supports that everyone wants and deserves to be treated with respect.  When this occurs, the outcome is often the beginning of a meaningful relationship.  Carol has nurtured so many incredible relationships over the years, several of which continue to inform many of her decisions and business opportunities. From universities to corporate dining rooms, Carol has had the pleasure of building and developing business models that work and add long-term value.

Smiling black woman standing in front of a night time cityscape wearing a black sleeveless dress and and a large beaded white and black necklace on a Cerese D magazine cover

Carol is wearing Cerese D’s Real Soft Focus Pearls.


While it is important for Carol to cultivate an inclusive workplace, this sentiment carries over into her decisions to intentionally bring diverse business partners into her locations.  Women and minority-owned businesses are sorely underrepresented but have dynamic offerings that can thrive and prosper if allowed to be recognized by the masses. Our business should reflect the many travelers who come through our airports. Travelers should experience a “sense of place.” Bringing some of the city’s unique aspects inside the airport allows Hudson to pay homage to what the city and state offer.

Carol loves her role as RVP in the airport space and all that it represents! She believes everyone on her team brings value to the organization. Her leadership style supports building a diverse team and business through intentional relationship building. Carol is very passionate about serving and helping people. She is committed to ensuring all her team members are trained, mentored, and championed for personal and professional growth opportunities.

Her interests include improving all people’s lives and mentoring young professionals.  She actively serves on several boards in Alabama, most recently joining the Sloss Furnace Board in Birmingham.

Carol is a true change agent, committed to leaving everything better than she found it. Her faith and servant leader mentality continue to motivate her success.

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2024 Feb. Mag

2024 February Mag

In a departure from the ordinary, Marquita Richardson’s venture from Corporate America to the realm of pet treats is a story of purpose, and a non-traditional job path. Marquita, an extroverted perfectionist with an innate desire for deeper meaning, always sought comfort “off the beaten path.”

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Marquita is wearing Cerese D’s White Sand Capiz Necklace.


Leaving Corporate America and starting a pet treat business is probably not high on most people’s list, but an extrovert, perfectionist who always looks for the deeper meaning and purpose of every choice she makes, Marquita Richardson is unlike most people.

Smiling black woman standing in front of a night time cityscape wearing a black sleeveless jumpsuit and and a long lariat style necklace with a large bead elementFrom the earliest memory she has, Marquita has always found comfort “off the beaten path.” So, with the encouragement of a professor, forgoing the traditional job route and jumping right into entrepreneurship after obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Wayne State University (Detroit, MI) seemed more in-tuned to her purpose. Before her degree was in hand and armed with one client she obtained at the completion of an internship, Marquita launched Rich Creative Branding (RCB) a PR and social media firm whose tagline was, Don’t Leave Your Brand to Chance. After about a year, she decided to turn RCB into a part time gig and get corporate employment full time. Though a short-lived experience, Marquita gained some very valuable lessons on business and communications. 

Change Management

Marquita joined the PR team of a hospital system and quickly rose to become the communications assistant to the President. When the hospital was considering a buy-out and becoming a for profit entity, she was in the room providing perspective and crafting messaging.  

“I was doing change management, before I even knew it was change management” a statement Marquita often says when discussing her career journey.

Very early on during her time in corporate spaces, Marquita realized the things that she was naturally good at were highly sought after skills. With this realization, she bet on herself and followed yet another non-traditional job path. With the goal to get as much experience as possible in the shortest amount of time as possible, Marquita became a contractor – something normally done at the latter part of someone’s career. And after a few years and a handful of projects, she set her site on consulting with the big leagues, the “Big 4” to be exact. With no referral, no assistance, Marquita cold-submitted an application to the best of the Big 4 and got in. The rest is history, as they say… 

Smiling black woman sitting on a gray upholstered chair wearing a black sleeveless top and and a large beaded white and black necklace on a Cerese D magazine coverWorking with large and larger companies across the country and managing projects of $10+ Million, growing teams and providing thought leadership in the growing landscape of Change Management principles and DEI, Marquita has more than made her mark after eight years and tenures at two of the four largest audit firms in the world.

Making a Bigger Impact

However, as time has gone on, and as the world continues to change Marquita found herself asking, more times than not, if there was more that she could be doing to make a bigger impact, while also living in her truth and purpose. So, when the stress of a project presented itself as hives, she knew it was time to pay closer attention to the voice in her head and tap into her creativity to figure out her next chapter. Instead of money, becoming a partner or status being key drivers, Marquita focused on the things that brought her happiness in the simplest forms – her dog and baking.

Image of a smiling black woman wearing a turquoise sequined sleeveless dress standing in front a a turquoise ice cream cart holding a small white dog in a part setting with a white umbrellaFrom this place, Sweet Paws Creamery was born. Sweet Paws Creamery is a pet treat brand on a mission to make products that are good for dogs and the communities they bark in. Committed to sourcing locally, empowering and supporting local initiatives, and serving pet owners and businesses that embrace our canine companions, Marquita is making doggy ice cream with a purpose. 

It also doesn’t hurt that the pet treat business just so happens to be a 35-billion-dollar industry. Marquita is now proudly creating the company she has always wanted to work for, tapping into her creativity and doing things that she loves with who she loves.

Marquita is a living testament that remaining true to yourself, and anchoring back to your calling or purpose will always lead you to where you are supposed to be.

See what Marquita is up to:

sweetpawscreamery.com

linkedin.com/in/marquitarichardson

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2024 Jan. Mag

2024 January Mag

Soror Gina Merritt-Epps is an active, esteemed member of Xi Tau Zeta in Atlantic City. Her pivotal roles include serving as Zeta’s first National Director of Risk Management, crafting influential Risk Management Policies, and excelling as an attorney in corporate governance. Elected as Zeta’s 30th International First Vice President, where she oversees all membership functions. Her achievements span groundbreaking leadership, legal prowess, and community service, resonating with her commitment to family and professional excellence.

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Gina is wearing Cerese D’s Falling in Reverse Earrings.


Soror Gina Merritt-Epps was initiated into Mu Eta chapter at Pennsylvania State University in 1987. She currently is an active member of Xi Tau Zeta chapter in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and is a Diamond Life Member and Centennial Founders’ Society Member. Gina has served the sorority in several capacities, including her most recent service as the Director for the Atlantic Region and Zeta’s first National Director of Risk Management.

Risk Management

Beautiful black woman wearing a black off the shoulder top and a large beaded necklace and dangling earrings standing in front of greenery.She created the first formalized Risk Management Policies for the sorority and Amicae auxiliary and created the risk training program, which is now a Certification program that is highly regarded by the Sorority’s insurance carrier and campus professionals.

She also served as a member of the Zeta Organizational Leadership (ZOL) Steering Committee on two occasions, the 13th New Jersey State Director, and previously was the parliamentarian for the Atlantic Region and the State of New Jersey. At the 2022 international conference, Gina was elected to serve Zeta as the 30th International First Vice President with responsibility for all of the Sorority’s membership functions.

Beautiful black woman wearing a black off the shoulder top and a large beaded necklace and dangling earrings leaning against a steel wall

A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and Howard University School of Law, professionally, Gina is an attorney and corporate governance professional. She was the first African American female elected as an officer of southern New Jersey’s gas utility, serving in various capacities, including, Senior VP, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary. Her areas of expertise include the protection of information, corporate compliance and ethics, regulatory compliance, and Board processes. She is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Governing with Style

Gina is a member of the Society for Corporate Governance and the former chair of the Diversity Task Force. She is a Trustee for the AtlantiCare Health System and serves as Vice Chair of the Governance Committee.

A native and resident of New Jersey, Gina has two daughters, including her “bonus” daughter Soror Danielle Epps, and Taylor Epps, a reporter, and anchor for WKBW in Buffalo, New York. She is married to Michael C. Epps, Esq. a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.

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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.

EARLY ACTIVISM

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.

MULTI-HYPHENATE LEADERSHIP

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.

COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT

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

DISTINGUISHED BUSINESS EXECUTIVE

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.

RECOGNITION

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.

www.drbarbarasharief.com

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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.

image of a strong black woman wearing a sea foam colored top staring directly at the camera and wearing black rimmed eyeglasses and a large green stone and blackened silver beaded necklace on a Cerese D magazine cover


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.

Community

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.

Prestige

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.

Influential

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 www.wlsummit.org 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

Image of beautiful black woman smiling in front of a white draped background wearing a cream colored suit jacket and a large green stone pendant with gold chain on a Cerese D magazine cover


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.

Sisters

“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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