Tag: Inspo

Smiling black woman wearing a black top with beaded necklace on cover of Cerese D magazine

2021 Aug. Mag.

2021 August Mag.

If you’re under the impression that financial planning is ho-hum, you haven’t spoken with Melissa L. George. Melissa, the owner of Melissa L. George & Associates, is a multi-certified financial professional who is passionate about her work.

Smiling black woman in a black top wearing a beaded necklace on the cover of Cerese D Magazine

If you’re under the impression that financial planning is ho-hum, you haven’t spoken with Melissa L. George. Melissa, the owner of Melissa L. George & Associates, is a multi-certified financial professional who is passionate about her work.

As a double minority in a white male dominated industry, she has carved out an impressive business by listening deeply to her customers and sticking to her principles.

Melissa didn’t have a straight path from college to the financial district, paved with a network of connections. Instead, she took nine years to work her way through college, taking classes when she had enough money, and pausing when she didn’t. 

It was at Georgia State, studying to be an accountant, that she realized math alone would not satisfy her career aspirations. She loved everything about math but couldn’t envision a career stuck in an office immersed in spreadsheets. She needed more human interaction.

She had been working for the city of Atlanta, starting at age 16 as a lifeguard and pool manager, then going full-time with the city after she graduated from high school. In her mid-20s she took a job at Victoria’s Secret as a store manager, and there she made one very important connection. As she tells it, “One day, I was talking to the mall manager about what I was trying to do, how I was trying to figure out which career path would combine my love of math with my love of working with people. He said he had someone he wanted me to speak with.” He introduced her to another African-American woman with a successful career in financial planning; the woman who would recommend her for her first financial job and who would become her mentor.

Until that meeting, Melissa hadn’t been aware of financial planning as a career path. But it was a perfect fit for her business degree, her people skills, and her entrepreneurial spirit.

smiling black woman wearing black glasses in a dark blue top with yellow fingernail polish

Melissa speaks of her first day as a financial professional; 30 years old and just 3 years out of college. “My first day of work I started with three other new hires: White men who were considerably older than me and already had careers. CPAs, engineers, they seemed like a more obvious fit for this profession.” Her new manager asked her “How are you going to get people to trust you? To trust that you know what you’re doing?” And Melissa admitted she wasn’t sure. She told her manager, “I’m going to be honest and forthcoming, and if I don’t know the answer to something, I’ll just say so and go find the answer.”

“And maybe I’ll start wearing glasses.”

Melissa quickly realized that her retail background was a strength. Her service orientation, skill at reading body language, and ability to quickly establish rapport with customers were all abilities she could lean on while she learned the ropes of budgeting, debt reduction, risk management, insurance, and retirement planning.

Her customers gained confidence in her as she gained confidence in herself. As she shared the information about how to become financially secure and independent with her customers, she was learning too. “I’m very transparent,” Melissa shares. “I have always shared the mistakes that I’ve made right alongside the best practices that I’ve learned. And that transparency is important, because as a financial professional, you work hard to earn trust.”

Melissa offers a funny and apt trust analogy. She says that a person will make an appointment with a doctor, and without so much as checking the doctor’s credentials or history, will go into that doctor’s office and “snatch all their clothes off.” 

She goes on to say, “They’ve never met this person before, yet there they are with their feet in the stirrups. But they come to me and they are more guarded with their finances than with any doctor. So they give me a little information and a little money to work with, and I must earn some trust before they give me a little more information and a little more money to work with.” She understands their hesitancy. “I didn’t grow up with sound financial knowledge or education either. I understand the emotional attachment people have to their hard-earned money.” 

When she had switched from retail to financial services, she went from a salary to pure commission. This put immense pressure on her ability to earn an income while learning an entirely new career. “That was scary — a big step” she says. It wasn’t smooth sailing and she struggled. But she chose to believe in herself, and her willingness to take risks and invest in herself has paid off again and again.

Melissa worked six years for that first firm, learning the ropes and building skills. “But I was a captive agent, which meant I was limited in the products I could offer my clients.” In her 7th year she became a detached agent, which gave her more freedom to select products and offer services that she thought her customers needed, and in 2006 she founded MLGA.

DITCH THE COOKIE CUTTER.

“I don’t believe financial plans can be cookie-cutter,” Melissa says. “I craft plans for people based on their situation. Some people have children to consider, others have elderly parents they care for, or a family member with special needs. And more and more, I am working with individuals who own businesses, and we start by working on personal financial plans and then go on to work on business needs, operations and HR, and succession plans. Everyone’s situation is different.”

Ask Melissa about her personal family and friend support network, and she refers to her constellation which is her support system that she’s built over the years. When she talks about how she has developed her business, you can see that she’s built that constellation around her customers too. MLGA is a boutique firm with a powerful network of strategic partners. 

“I wanted to provide portfolio services, but to give the best possible advice you have to be glued to a computer screen monitoring the markets.” So, she formed a partnership with a company that only does portfolio management. She went on to create other partnerships that offer tax and legal services. Today she works with estate planning attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, and a wide variety of industry experts. “I want my customers to have the best financial advice there is,” so she’s assembled a network of specialists, all at the top of their game.

black woman standing in black top with empty picture frames in the background

This commitment to putting the customer first is evident in Melissa’s professional development choices as well. She has chosen to be a Certified Financial Fiduciary (CFF), which means she is legally obligated to put her clients’ financial interests above her own, and that she must disclose how she is compensated to avoid conflicts of interest in her recommendations. She is also a FINRA arbitrator, helping to resolve disputes between the investing public and the securities industry. Achieving these professional designations speaks to Melissa’s philosophy and ethical standards. 

Any conversation with Melissa includes frequent use of the word journey. College was a journey. Learning financial planning has been – and continues to be – a journey. Marriage? Ask her about marriage and you’ll get a chuckle out of her. 

“I’ve been married before,” she says. “I genuinely believe in marriage, and I’m willing to try it again, but if it’s not right, I don’t have a problem cutting the cord.” 

If there is a next time around, which she would welcome, she knows she will do a better job of listening to her gut. “When I know someone has been divorced, I ask them, were there red flags? And there always were. There were for me too. We make decisions and we make mistakes. That’s all OK. We just have to learn from those mistakes, or we will continuously repeat.” 

INVEST IN YOURSELF.

She says, “Now that I know myself well, I know my non-negotiables and deal-breakers; what I am willing and unwilling to compromise on.” So before committing again, Melissa plans to have a better handle on what the shared experience will look like. “How does a person respond when the bottom falls out? How do they treat their mother, sisters, and women in general? How are they with money management? How do they behave when they are sick? There are all these seasons you go through with someone in a long-term relationship. I think it’s important to date long enough to go through several seasons and pay attention to how each one is handled.” 

The season of the pandemic has been particularly challenging for Melissa. Since the beginning of 2019 she dissolved a significant relationship, her father died unexpectedly, she moved her mother in to live with her, the pandemic started, and both she and her mother have had surgeries. 

And during all that trauma, what Melissa decided to do was reclaim her health. “With the help of my personal trainer, I lost 60 pounds and I kept it off. I’m an avid runner. I work out, I eat well, and I’m serious about being healthy.” 

“I know how I want to ride out the 2nd half of my life.” she declares. “I don’t want to be one of those people on medications, hunched over, can’t travel. I plan to live long, be a Centenarian. But I know the next breath is not promised, so I’m making the most of my life every day.”

Black woman smelling white flowers

When asked to provide some advice to her younger self, Melissa says, “surround yourself with people who genuinely care about your well-being and listen to your inner voice. We have this innate spirit of discernment that God put that in us, and we need to learn to harness that. Build a strong inner circle. Mine is made up of my family, my lifelong friends, my sorority sisters. I know they are here for me, and I’m here for them. That’s everything. I’m Blessed!”

She continues, “Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t get caught up on where you’re supposed to be or to have accomplished by the time you’re a certain age. I didn’t understand that until I got much older why my trajectory had to be so different. But now I know that God’s plan for each of us is unique…God gives us exactly what we need to grow. So just pay attention to your own path, and the lessons you need to learn to graduate from one level to the next.”

Like the glasses she initially put on to convey confidence, but which she ultimately grew into, Melissa L George is a study in becoming what you set out to be. For her, financial planning is not just about the math, nor is it just about the money. It’s about relationships and the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s about the journey.

Melissa L. George & Associates, www.melissalgeorge.com.

Continue reading

2021 July Mag.

2021 July Mag

Discover how Regine T. Rousseau is blazing a path for black women in wine while sharing her passion and  changing the way people learn about wine, and making it fun!


The wine industry has been historically known to be exclusive, white and male. To further cement the industry’s image, the Association of African American Vintners reports that only 50 out of the 10,000 U.S. wineries are Black-owned. That is equivalent to .05 percent of the wineries! But according to the Wine Market Council Consumer Segmentation, Black consumers make up about 11 percent of wine drinkers in the country. While the numbers may be dismal in ownership, our July cover model, Regine T. Rousseau is helping shatter the glass ceiling, or in this case uncorking the bottle for a savory glass of wine with her company, Shall We Wine.

Regine is a wine and spirits expert, writer, presenter, and media personality who focuses on making wine knowledge accessible to people at all levels of proficiency. She was a nominee of the Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 Wine Star Awards for Wine Educator of the Year, she’s earned prestigious certificates for International Sommelier Guild Level II, and Executive Bourbon Steward, Stave and Thief. Regine has traveled around the globe sharing her wine and spirits expertise. She has authored or been featured in articles in the New Yorker, Wine Enthusiast, Black Enterprise, Black Food and Beverage, Wine Spectator, the Zoe Report, Forbes and Chicago Tribune.

TURNING A HOBBY INTO A PASSION.

Regine fell in love with wine while studying abroad during college in Besançon, France and began her career as a salesperson for a wine distributor. While in this role, she noticed a disconnect between wine professionals and consumers. Making wine approachable became a central premise of Regine’s work.

In 2013, Regine established Shall We Wine, a wine and spirits experiential marketing, event planning, and education company. Working with national and boutique winemakers, distilleries, importers, and distributors, she increases brand awareness, reach, and revenue for clients through innovative and traditional approaches. These include in-person and on-line activations, events, sponsorships, videos, media and social media services, and speaker and influencer marketing. She and her team are masters at translating complex terminology into language that individuals of every level of wine expertise and interest appreciates.

Regine’s speaking engagements as a keynote and panelist, include Blacks in Wine Symposium, Wonder Women in Wine, I.E.E.M Conference – Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, SoloCEO Summit, tastings.com, and Association of Writers and Writers’ Programs. She is a blogger on reginerousseaum.com and shallwewine.com, has served as subject matter expert for VinePair, has been interviewed on You & Me Chicago, WGN Chicago, Windy City Live, and Great Day Washington. Regine has also moderated a virtual event for Gallo International Women’s Month.

Sharing wine in many languages.

Language is integral to Rousseau’s work as a poet and published author where wine and written word are often interwoven. In her book Searching for Cloves and Lilies: The Wine Edition, Regine illustrates the dynamics of personal relationships while pairing each poem with wine that echoes the mood of her writing.

Regine is recipient of the Wine Bloggers Conference Ethnifacts Diversity Scholarship, grants from McBride Sisters Collections and Allies for Community Business, and Knox College’s 2020 Alumni Achievement Award. She is fluent in French, Haitian Creole, and English.

Regine has a BA from Knox College, studied at L’Université de Franche Comte and Centre de Linguistique Appliquée.

Join Cerese D Jewelry as we toast this outstanding trailblazer as we continue to recognize amazing women each month! Cheers!

CHECK OUT REGINE’S WEBSITE https://www.shallwewine.com

Cover Image: {PHOTO CREDIT: MS. DIG PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC & LOLLIPOP PHOTO (TM);  CREATIVE DIRECTOR: GENMA HOLMES} 

Continue reading

2021 June Mag.

2021 June Mag

Paulette Roby has been marching for Civil Rights since she was a child. And she’s still marching.

June 2021 Cerese D Magazine cover featuring Paulette Roby


During 1963, Birmingham was known as one of the most racist cities in the South. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had described it as a “symbol of hard-core resistance to integration.” Civil Rights activists had nicknamed it Bombingham, because of the frequency of violent attacks against those fighting the system of segregation. The children of Birmingham played a key role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and their courage and determination, then, matters today.

Paulette and Curtis Roby, laughing together, dressed in black.
Paulette with husband Curtis Roby

Six months into 2021, the Black community is fighting against voter suppression that is being supported by nearly every state legislatures and some elected leaders to the U. S. Congress; police violence against Black women, men, teens, and underage children is videotaped day after day; an insurrection on democracy witnessed by millions but is feigned by 147; safety in public spaces; and the Jim and Karen Crows disregard for anything Black from health to wealth have made 2021 look like 2020’s first cousin with a virus.

As we grapple with the mental fatigue from above, meet Paulette Porter Roby, a face of courage who believes in hope and Black Lives Matter, then and now. In 1963, 13-year-old Paulette left her classroom to become one of Birmingham’s Children Foot Soldiers who fought on the Civil Rights front lines for equality for her generation, and unbeknownst to her at the time, an inspiration for future generations to come. She was one of the youngest protesters who was arrested for standing up to the police led by then public safety commissioner Bull Connor, a determined segregationist. Paulette and other Foot Soldiers’ stance against segregation and racism helped change the course of the 1960s’ Civil Rights Movement and gave the momentum that helped cement the Voting Rights Act of 1964 into law. Throughout 1963, Birmingham’s Children Crusade nonviolent campaigns helped win victories in getting concessions from segregationists for Dr. King and local Civil Rights leaders. But those victories came with a heavy toll on the community. 16th ​Street​ Baptist Church, a meeting point for Paulette and the many school age Foot Soldiers, was also the target of a bombing that is forever etched in the soul of the Birmingham community and the annals of American and World History.  

Unable to vote at 13, Paulette knew if she did not fight for her future, then, and the future of her people, she would not be able to vote later in life. She persists with that fight today, 58 years after the Birmingham’s Children Crusade garnered unprecedented national and international media attention for its brutal assault on the child protesters, the community and even innocent church goers. Through the lens of wisdom, Paulette recognizes, now more than ever, it is important for the Black community to know that our history lessons are for us to excavate for not only insight and knowledge but to continue to engage and create strategies to help prevent the injustices of yesteryear but also stop the injustices of an ever-evolving societal system that has been woven like an invisible cloak. A cloak not to keep the community warm and bring comfort but to cover up man-made systems that keep us from addressing root causes of systemic issues that overwhelm and discourage Black communities. Black people must fight to stay empowered with solutions to build up our communities and leave legacies for our young people and our future. Paulette believes voting is one of the strongest allies of ​the ​Black community in that battle. No matter how difficult some are trying to make the hard-fought for right to vote become a vague memory from the past and not a freedom that should endure forever.

Still marching.

Today, as the Chair of the Civil Rights Activist Committee at the Foot Soldiers headquarters in Birmingham, Paulette meets with Black Lives Matters movement members, high school students, and visitors from around the world who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. She shares her personal chronicles of being a Civil Rights Foot Soldiers, then and now. She also makes sure history does not forget those who walk beside, in front, and behind her. She talks openly in public spaces about the progress of Black Americans and​ their​ communities have made. She also addresses issues within the community that must be fixed by us for us. Paulette believes Black communities must be present and doing the work while working together so when we call out targeted racists acts and unearth intentional wrongdoings that harm Black minds, bodies, and souls. This ​should be ​done without fear and the need to make concessions that sets us back instead of propelling us forward.  

We are one year out from the killing of George Floyd witnessed by millions; 100 years after ​the ​torching of Black Wall in Tulsa, Oklahoma that wiped out millions of dollars of collective wealth from the Black community; and 156 years since the first Juneteenth (the emancipation of Black slaves in Texas); Paulette vows to continue to fight for equality, march even if she does not have shoes on her feet; and will continue to protest as if her life depended on it. Because it does! Paulette talks frequently ​to national and international audiences ​about inspiring ​stories ​that represents the resiliency of​ Black people coupled with tears for our collective untold pain and loss. She believes ​the history of Black people​ must never be forgotten or swept under a flag for the sake of moving on. It is a part of our heritage and must be remembered. And shared.

Paulette Roby wearing a t-shirt that says "I'm Speaking."

In a recent Associated Press story on the Foot Soldiers, Paulette stated, “This battle has no end.” Encouraged by the visibility and courage of today’s young leaders, she said, “They are needed. There will be a demand for soldiers throughout the generation of eternity who are willing to continue the battle for justice, peace, and equality.”

We cannot stop fighting.

Nationally and internationally known, Paulette is ad​mired​ and sought after. ​Married to Vietnam Veteran Curtis Roby (USMC) who also marched ​​on the front lines and mother of two beautiful daughters, ​​Paulette​ is a living history book and continues to add to history daily as she meets with visitors to Birmingham’s Historic 4th Avenue Business District.  She joins the ranks of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth for being a brave warrior who was willing to endure the suffering administered by Birmingham’s police water cannons and trained attack dogs rather than continue to live where laws were meant to keep Black people oppressed and desperate.

This Juneteenth, join Cerese D and the ​spirit​ of Birmingham’s Foot Soldiers by honoring our ancestors, our living heroines, and unsung heroes’ courage and bravery by making sure you, your entire family, friends, and members of your organizations are registered to vote. Let us be sure to vote in every local, state, and national elections. ​Our lives depend on it!​

Love Paulette’s t-shirt? Find it here.

Cover Image: {PHOTO CREDIT: MS. DIG PHOTOGRAPHY;  CREATIVE DIRECTOR: GENMA HOLMES}

Related Articles & Resources

. . .

Continue reading

2021 May Mag.

2021 May Mag.

If you want to get organized, training from an ex-military Sergeant is as good as it gets.


With more than 33 years of helping others organize and eighteen years running the Paris Love Productivity Institute formerly Organize With Love, Paris Love knows her way around a business. Not to mention, she’s also an ex-military Sergeant, so you probably wouldn’t want to argue with her about getting organized!

Paris Love, a former United States Army Sergeant, an accountability and productivity coach, affectionately known as The Drill Sergeant of Productivity is a highly sought-after speaker with tremendous talent for bringing order to chaos and pandemonium to her clients. She provides her clients with streamlined, efficient, manageable approaches to running their lives, homes, and businesses. After many years of working with a wide range of individuals in a host of settings, she has honed in on her specialty; helping overwhelmed professionals break through the barriers that keep them disorganized, disoriented, and dissatisfied in business, career, or life. Paris helps procrastinators do the things they always talked about but never get around to doing.

A nationally recognized productivity and organizational expert, her advice has appeared on numerous websites and in publications as well as appearances on the hit TV series, A & E Hoarders, and as an organizational expert with IKEA-Atlanta. She also has shared her organizational expertise as a columnist for Hope for Women Magazine. In addition to sharing her wisdom on television and in columns, Paris is a bestselling author with ten published books. She received Amazon’s top 100 Best Sellers in two categories and the TAZ award for her novel, Growing Pains. Her most recent book was published in 2020, A Woman’s Journey; Stories of Substance, Survival and Success with 7 other Remarkable Women.

Her high energy, loving but no-nonsense approach to life and living well has made Paris a hit with audiences from the West to the East Coast and from the North to the South. Paris has been featured on Focus AtlantaCW AtlantaMy Atlanta TV and OnlineOrganizing. Known for her motivational candor that produces results, Paris guides experiences that will increase well-being and overall success. Active on social media, Paris can be often found sharing advice to help others navigate the process of decluttering and organizing on Facebook Live and Instagram. Using her social media skills, The Drill Sergeant of Productivity launched a YouTube series, Declutter Across America, that is now in its third season.

“Too much is given, much is required.”

Paris believes in serving others by giving back to her country and community. She has been engaged in various professional and civic organizations that serve women and girls, military families, veterans, and business owners. She has led many groups locally, regionally, and national levels. A natural leader, her leadership skills were enhanced and polished during her service to our country. She has helped organize or lead the following associations: Founder and President of the Gulf Coast Women’s Business Association; Past Assistant District IV Director for the Alabama Federation of Women’s Club; and Past President of the Gulf Shores Woman’s Club. As a professional organizer, Paris was highly active in the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO), a national organization that is dedicated to helping people and organizations bring order and efficiency to their lives. She was a Golden Circle member and held leadership roles as Past NAPO-GA Board of Directors; Past NAPO-GA Executive Board Member; Past Ambassador for NAPO and Past Co-chair on NAPO’s Membership Committee.

A staunch advocate for supporting women owned business, she is a current member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and serves on NAWBO’s membership committee. Paris is devoted to mentoring and sharing her knowledge she has learned along the way to encourage business owners to never give up on their dreams of entrepreneurship. She is the Ecosystem Ambassador for Bunker Labs and a mentor for the  Renew Entrepreneurial Center. She also mentors veterans at eMentor Leadership Program, a cutting-edge online mentoring program for military personnel, veterans and military spouses. 

In life, Paris believes we must continue to challenge ourselves to evolve and grow, personally and professionally. She is a proud graduate of Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (VWise) Program; a graduate of the Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) Program; a graduate of the Bunker Labs 20B cohort and a current member of the 21A cohort; and a graduate of Pre-Flight at the Entrepreneurial Center. In late 2020, Paris was inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success. Paris is a member of the TAU Upsilon Alpha Beta Chi Honor Society and is currently enrolled in IVMF’s Larry Broughton’s Masterclass. In late April, she started the SBA’s Emerging Leaders program.

Paris’ love of life and her trailblazing abilities to bring people together has not gone unnoticed. She has received numerous nominations, accolades, and awards by her organizing peers, her fellow comrades, veteran service organizations, and women groups.  Paris was nominated for the 2005 NAPO-GA’s Organizer Choice Award-Volunteer of the Year; nominated in 2008 for the Business of the Year Award by the Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce; was one of four finalists for the Vetrepreneur Award; a finalist for the 2020 Veteran & Military Spouse Entrepreneur Award for the Rosie Network; received Small Business of the Month by the Mobile Chamber of Commerce; received the Professional Development Award by the International Association of Administrative Professionals; and received Organizer of the Month by OnlineOrganizing; and received the Platinum Paperclip Award from NAPO-Georgia to name a few.

Never at a loss for words about sharing the joys of organizing, Paris has been heard on talk radio and podcasts around the country like CityCurrent podcast and Leverage Your Incredible Factor podcast. Paris is a recurring guest on the Connect Our Elders podcast. She was a sought-after speaker for women and professional conferences. She has been a speaker at NAPO’s Annual conference where she served as a panelist for “Ask the Organizer.”  Throughout the pandemic, demand for Paris to speak has increased exponentially! Corporations are recognizing the toll the pandemic has had on millions of individuals who are now working from home who are in desperate need of work/life balance and are overwhelmed with the disorganization in their homes that have suddenly become makeshift offices. As a mother and a grandmother, she understands firsthand, the importance of having balance between your career and personal life. And, keeping order in the home.

She is NaVOBA Certified Veteran Business, a Veterans Owned Small Business (VOSB) and has a Certification in Human Resource Management.  She has a Masters Degree in Human Resources and Business Administration from Keller Graduate School of Management and undergraduate degrees in Psychology from DePaul University and Fashion Design from Norfolk State University. She is currently in the final phrase of her doctoral degree in Advanced Studies of Human Behavior.

Sergeant Love was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She enlisted in the United States Army in 1989. She attended Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. Upon graduation, her assignments were in Arlington Heights, Illinois and Joliet, Illinois. A fun military fact, Sgt. Love was the only female in the Primary Leadership Development Course. As a veteran, she continues to serve her country by honoring and recognizing military families through advocacy, support, and her partnerships with Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs).

Officially designated by Congress in 1999, May is National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM) and is a declaration that encourages U.S. citizens to observe the month in a symbol of unity. NMAM honors current and former members of the United States Armed Forces. Cerese D Jewelry salutes all active and reservists’ members, veterans, and their families for their service and sacrifice.

Continue reading

2021 April Mag.

2021 April Mag

Meet the women and girls of the Sheats family, business and community leaders across generations.


To celebrate 2021 International Black Women’s History Month, we celebrate the women and girls of the Sheats family. Based in Brentwood, Tennessee, the women and girls of this family exude excellence and confidence, demonstrate their commitment to service and the community, and value family. The matriarch of the family, Mrs. Simone Sheats is a native of Buffalo, New York. It was in Nashville, Tennessee at Fisk University, however, that she met her late husband of 48 years, Dr. Jimmy B. Sheats. Together, they built a legacy based on the notion that “the more you give, the more you receive.” And with that, they have been extremely blessed.

Simone Sheats is the CEO and President of Sheats Endodontic Group (SEG), a premier, family-owned, endodontic practice network specializing in root-canal therapy founded by Jimmy in 1984. Today, the practice is led by their eldest of four children, Drs. Jimmy, II (J.) Sheats and Jan-Néé Sheats-Mathis. Jimmy and Simone’s twins, Dr. Jylana Sheats and Jamaal Sheats—university professors, also reside in the area and are excelling in the fields of Behavior Science and Art and Museum Leadership, respectively. Outside of SEG, Simone is known as a community leader and the unofficial “welcome wagon” to Nashville-area newcomers. While she is a mother of four, it has been said that she is “a mother of more,” in that Simone is known to be a great listener and mentor to her children, their friends, and other young professionals all over the country. She passionately believes that the “baby boomer” generation should think and go outside of the box to help young people of today be the leaders of tomorrow. Simone believes that just being there for your kids is not enough— and founded the Williamson County Area Chapter of Jack and Jill, Incorporated, in the 1980s to boost inter- and intra-family relationships among local African Americans. She is a member of the Parthenon Chapter of The Links, Incorporated where she has devoted more than 20 years of community service, and the Nashville Chapter of the Circle-Lets. Through SEG, Simone and the family have supported philanthropic activities with non-profit and faith-based entities. In addition to an endowed scholarship at Fisk University, they also have an endowed scholarship at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry awarded to outstanding students. These, as well as other efforts are a testament to the values that the family holds dear to their heart. 

Dr. Jan-Néé B. Sheats-Mathis is a Nashville area endodontist. A magna cum laude graduate of Spelman College, she was recognized for exemplary scholarship, leadership, and service as a member of the Mortar Board National Honor Society. She completed her Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry with honors from University of Louisville, Kentucky. Jan-Néé then continued her advanced studies at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine for an Endodontic Specialty Certificate. As a practicing endodontist at SEG, she is loved by her patients and dentist peers—having been voted as a “Nashville’s Top Dentist” for the past 7 years. Jan-Néé is an active member of several professional organizations, including the American Association of Endodontics, American Dental Association, National Dental Association, and the Capital City Dental Society, where was past president. With a strong commitment to service, Jan-Néé is involved with several organizations and is a member of The Circle-Lets, Inc., The Girlfriends, Inc., Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and The Links, Incorporated, where she has held several leadership roles. Jan-Néé’s effervescent spirit allows for the perfect work-life balance. She is also a Beautycounter consultant and enjoys travelling, spending time with family, and “veganizing” recipes in her spare time   She and her husband of 20 years, retired veteran-Ken, are proud parents of an energetic six-year-old daughter, Zoë Simone.  While Zoë aspires to be a dentist like her mom and uncle, in the interim, she enjoys being her mom’s fashion consultant and make-up artist. As a family, they are involved with and lead health and wellness efforts across Middle Tennessee.

Dr. Jylana L. Sheats is an applied behavior scientist and educator. Following in her sister’s footsteps, she was an honor student and magna cum laude graduate of Spelman College. Jylana received a Master of Public Health (nutrition) from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. She then obtained a doctorate in Health Behavior and Public Affairs at Indiana-University-Bloomington and a Post-doctoral Certificate in Behavioral Medicine from Stanford School of Medicine. Jylana’s educational background and expertise have enabled her to work across public, private, and non-profit sectors to promote equitable health and wellbeing and reduce health disparities. Currently, she is the Managing Director of Health and Wellbeing at the California-based startup, See Change Institute, which is devoted to studying and shaping behavior change programs for the greater good. Like her mother, Jylana has a passion for mentoring and holds simultaneous faculty appointments at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, the University of California-Berkeley, and Rutgers University. Given her commitment to education and service, Jylana is a member of the Spelman College “Guardian Society,” the Central New Jersey Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and the New Jersey Chapter of the Circle-Lets. A servant leader, she is an Executive Board member of the Greater Princeton Chapter of Junior League and volunteer Manager of Organizational Effectiveness for the international non-profit, Code to Hope. Jylana recently relocated from New Jersey to Brentwood, Tennessee where she loves spending time with family, travelling, and exploring her artistic skills.

Christie Sheats resides in Brentwood, TN with her wonderful husband of 21 years Dr. Jimmy B. Sheats II (J.) and their three amazing children, Jordyn, Jadyn, and Jimmy III (Tré). Christie is the founder of Naturally U, Inc. a non-profit organization created to educate and improve self-esteem of young girls through professional hair care services and education. The premise and passion behind Naturally You delve into the core of Christie, what makes her who she is; one that sees the best in everyone, although they may not see it or feel it…YET! She also demonstrates this trait as a business and training consultant. Christie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Public Administration from Suffolk University and maintains a SHRM-CP Certification.  Christie is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Circle-Lets, Inc. and has held several leadership positions in The Girl Friends, Inc., Nashville Chapter and Jack and Jill of America Inc., Williamson County Area Chapter.  She loves spending time with her family, reading/listening to books and learning to sew. The Sheats II family are active members of their church and continuously serve and give to their community and surrounding areas. J. and Christie’s two beautiful daughters Jordyn and Jadyn pictured here are a freshman in college and a junior in high school, respectively. They both have achieved outstanding academic success and have held multiple leadership positions in community and school organizations, as well as in the Williamson County Area Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Jordyn is pursuing a degree in Psychology on the pre-med track and Jadyn is considering a career in Orthopedics. They both enjoy spending time with their family and friends and are actively involved in community service.

Marcya Carter-Sheats is an Indianapolis, Indiana native but has called Nashville her home for almost 20 years. Happily married to her best friend and artist extraordinaire, Jamaal Sheats, she considers being a wife and mother her greatest gift. Jamaal and Marcya are proud parents to Juliana (aka “GiGi) and are expecting their second child this summer. When Marcya is not enjoying family time, she is working hard as the Global Operations Excellence Manager at Cummins Inc. She feels fortunate to work for a great company and has worked in various roles and lived/worked in various countries and cities for the last 19 years with Cummins Inc. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and has two Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degrees with a focus on International Business from Purdue University in Indiana and the TIAS School for Business in Tilburg, Netherlands. Marcya is also very active in her community, serving as a Board Member on TennGreen Land Conservancy, a Board Member of ClearPath Equitable Development, the Foundation Chair for the Williamson County Area Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated, member of the Frist Gala Advisory Committee and member of the Cummins Black Network leadership team. Both Jamaal and Marcya, while they work hard, feel it is vital to continuously give back to their community and set a good example of leadership and engagement for their children. They believe family is the most important gift and feel blessed that they get to spend every weekend with their family. 

The Sheats women – across the generations from girls to women, wear many hats. Yet family remains a priority. The love and admiration that they have for one another is exemplified every week when they all gather and rejoice during family dinners. Moments like these remind them of a sentiment expressed by their late patriarch, Jimmy B., when he once said, “You know, the older we get, the closer we become as friends.” For the Sheats family, truer words have never been spoken.

Continue reading

2021 March Mag.

2021 March Mag.

Meet Traci Otey Blunt, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at the National Football League!


Traci Otey Blunt is Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at the National Football League (NFL). With over 25 years of professional experience as a political operative, presidential campaign advisor, and strategic and crisis communications director, Traci’s leadership as an executive on behalf of the NFL represents the culmination of her expertise.

Her career began when she was hired by former U.S. Senator Harlan Mathews’ office as a legislative correspondent – a position considered only one step above that of an intern. She was responsible for reviewing, researching, and responding in writing to constituents contacting the office with their questions and concerns. Traci learned as much as she could during her tenure in the Senate. Though others would likely consider this an unremarkable starter position, Traci holds it in high esteem.

“When I was reading the letters and corresponding with constituents in need of help, it solidified my determination to become a change agent and taught me that communications is, truly, a craft,” said Traci. “It changed the trajectory of my professional pursuits and intentions.”

As Communications Manager at the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Traci confirmed her purpose and talents by ensuring that major policy initiatives, like the Violence Against Women Act, were explained and disseminated to a broader audience through NAAG’s first-ever conference focused on this important issue. By doing so, there was an uptick in civic, non-profit, and organizational engagement on the issue, which led to its reauthorization and elevated its national prominence.

Unsurprisingly, Traci’s reputation as a strategic communications operative attracted the attention of prominent political leaders seeking effective leaders with proven track records of excellence and innovative thoughtfulness. In 2000, Traci was tapped as Communications Director for the Gore/Lieberman Presidential Coordinated Campaign in Tennessee.

In 2002, then-D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams‘ office appointed her Director of Communications for the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development. She led, managed, planned, and coordinated the unveiling of all communications related to the City’s economic development initiatives.

Traci’s segue from government into the private sector arena was seamless. At Ogilvy Public Relations, she served as VP in the public affairs practice and also served as a leader of its multicultural practice where she had oversight of several high-profile accounts and public affairs campaigns, including: the African American Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Campaign for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS); the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Readiness Initiative; and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

Her political and communications acumen firmly established her among high-level politicians, then-Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign brought her on board in 2007 as Deputy Communications Director and Director of African American media.

Following the Clinton campaign, she transitioned to The RLJ Companies as SVP for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs and worked directly with its founder Robert L. Johnson, who is also the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET). Traci was later named the President of Urban Movie Channel, and Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs at RLJ Entertainment, where she launched the first-ever subscription video on-demand streaming channel focused on Black Film and Television.

In 2018, Traci’s preternatural skills set as a veteran political, entertainment, strategic communications operative converged when she accepted the SVP of Corporate Communications for the National Football League. Today, she directs communications strategies across key areas within the League, including: current affairs; business operations; public affairs; diversity, equity and inclusion; and social responsibility and social justice issues.

Due to her established, cross-discipline, cross-industry expertise, she also leads several communications initiatives central to the NFL’s work focused on social responsibility, including “NFL Votes” and “Inspire Change.” These key initiatives were at the forefront of the 2020 football season and have elevated the ongoing work in communities by NFL players, clubs, fans, and league staff.

“What I have learned is that when communication and interaction are not exchanged, it promotes division instead of understanding,” said Traci. “I am grateful for everyone who taught this lesson to me along the way because now, I have that much more to pass along to other women – and my daughter – how to navigate and leverage opportunities while on their professional journeys.”

Traci is a highly-sought after keynote speaker, moderator, and panelist for national organizations and is recognized as a leading voice, educated in a myriad of subject matters. As such, she has received multiple awards, including: “2020 NFL Executive of the Year” awarded by Off The Field Players’ Wives and POWERHANDZ, Inc; the 2020 “PLAY MAKE HER” award for sports and entertainment; The Network Journal’s Top 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business; PR Weeks’ ‘Champion of PR’; ColorComms 2017 Circle Award; and featured in Mocha Market Magazine – “Women in Charge, On Fire and Changing the World: National Advisor to Presidential Contender and Business Tycoon.”

Traci holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Tennessee State University, which awarded her with the Women of Legend & Merit and the Women of Influence Award from its national alumni. She is a distinguished member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, Alpha Chi Chapter. Traci grew up in both Los Angeles, California and Nashville, Tennessee. Today, she resides in South Orange, New Jersey with her family.

Continue reading

2021 Feb. Mag.

Dr. Karen Patricia Williams

Meet this trail-blazer, visionary, and thought-leader.


Dr. Karen Patricia Williams is a Nursing Distinguished Professor of women’s health at The Ohio State University College of Nursing and director of the Martha S. Pitzer Center for Women, Children and Youth. She is also a member of the Cancer Control Program at the OSUCCC – James, where her research focuses on cancer prevention and control within cancer disparities. 

The Martha S. Pitzer Center for Women, Children and Youth at The Ohio State University College of Nursing is internationally renowned for the discovery of new knowledge and its translation into real world settings to optimize health and wellness outcomes in infants, children, adolescents and women through health promotion and risk reduction. 

In her role as director, Dr. Williams is charged with thought leadership within and outside of the Center. This includes faculty recruitment, development and management, education, research, and expanding the Center’s footprint throughout the community engagement. Her goal is to help foster the Center’s vision to align with the College of Nursing as well as the goals of the university.  

In addition to leading the Martha S. Pitzer Center for Women, Youth, and Children, Dr. Williams is deeply involved in her own research that she has passionately pursued over several decades; The Kin Keeper which focuses on breast and cervical cancer prevention and control. 

With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Williams developed the Kin Keeper Cancer Prevention Intervention to address, in part, the continuous cancer burden carried by disenfranchised women of color and women with limited resources. Targeting breast and cervical cancers, the Kin Keeper Intervention has been implemented and tested with Black, Latina and Arab women. Her area of expertise is in community-based participatory research and women’s health policy. She has been involved in the evolution of women’s health research from fragmentation to the transition of bench to bedside to barrio (community) with mixed methodology, quantitative and qualitative to address health disparities.

Currently, Dr. Williams and her team are workingto identify factors and cofactors in the mechanistic and multilevel pathways of resilience and allostatic load that serve as protective and/or predictive factors of cardiovascular disease risk among Black women across the lifespan. Additionally, they are investigating the intersection of female cancers and cardiovascular disease risk in Black women.

Dr. Williams is a fierce advocate of women being seated at the table. She works tirelessly to expand the voices of women and our community in the boardroom. She believes that representation in various sectors will help drive corporate decisions that will empower leadership roles at the C-Suite level. Dr. Williamsserves in leadership roles in several national civic organizations that specifically focus on meeting the needs of women — Delta Sigma Theta, The Links Incorporated, Michigan Women’s Foundation, the YWCA, and others. Fueled by her faith, “To much is given, much is required,” is embedded in her mission to pay it forward and give back to various scholarships and endeavors that empower women and girls. Her advocacy for women, especially women of color, has been recognized by several organizations.

A graduate of Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) and Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI), Dr. Williams’ work has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Contemporary Clinical TrialsStatistics in MedicineWomen’s HealthJournal of Cancer and Journal of Urban Health. A former journalist, Dr. Williams has been featured in several national publications including Huffington PostInside the OfficeMSU TodayStar TribuneWalker’s Legacy, and  Circulation to name a few. As a trailblazer and a visionary thought leader, she is a sought-after conference speaker and media spokesperson.

Continue reading

2021 Jan. Mag.

2021 Jan. Mag.

Denise Smith is a creative and passion driven leader and a dedicated volunteer to her community and public education.


Denise Smith is a creative and passion driven leader with over 29 years of non-profit and volunteer experience who uses her carefully honed people skills in fund raising, event planning and program development. A dedicated volunteer to her community and public education, she has worked to implement positive change for students of all ages. She studied Fashion Merchandising and Design and puts the skills learned from her past career in store management to use in volunteering. She has lived in six states and has enjoyed calling each one home.

She is currently a resident of northern California’s Bay Area and is married to her high school sweetheart and husband of 33 years and is the mother of two sons (ages 29 and 23). After Denise retired from retail to raise her sons, she began volunteering in their public schools and parent organizations. She quickly became a community leader and school activist, working closely with school boards and administrations in fund raising and district operations. Denise continues to use her skills in problem identification and solving and is experienced with directing large volunteer and student populations of diverse ages and backgrounds to help her community.

She is a proud member of The Links, Incorporated and The Girl Friends, Incorporated. Denise is concentrating on bringing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) learning virtually to students within the Western Area for the Links, Incorporated in a broader reach during the pandemic. Denise has also rediscovered a love of painting with oil on canvas.

Continue reading

2020 Dec. Mag.

2020 Dec. Mag.

April Lieberman is a rotarian on a mission!


April Lieberman is Rotary District 6760’s Governor for 2020-2021. April is the fourth woman to serve in this role in the 106-year history of her District, which serves 61 Rotary clubs across Middle and West Tennessee. She is one of 535 District Governors leading Rotary International in over 200 countries, representing 1.4 million Rotarians and Rotaractors in over 46,000 clubs.

In discussing her goals, “Rotary’s theme this year is ‘Rotary Opens Opportunities.’ When my class left the Rotary International Assembly in San Diego in late January, we couldn’t have imagined how much the world would change in just a few short weeks. Yet with the unprecedented needs presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, we also have great opportunities for service.”

“I am challenging our Rotarians to find those community needs which are not currently being met, and pull resources together and rally to launch new club service projects. Whether organizing mobile food pantries, sponsoring medical equipment and protective gear, or supporting our frontline healthcare providers, I want our communities to know Rotary is there.”

“My other call to service for 2020-2021 is for Rotarians to be peacebuilders in our communities. It is unacceptable for my friends to live in fear that their children might not come back home at night because they live in Black skin. I want Rotary to do what it does best and pull together community leaders to discuss these issues of racial injustice and help forge solutions.”

“We talk about race, but usually only with our close friends or family, who probably look a lot like us. We rarely talk about race across racial lines. For the most part, we worship separately—there are Black churches and White churches. We socialize separately. We might live in different neighborhoods. We talk about each other, but we seldom talk to each other.”

“Rotarians can play a unique role. In Rotary, we welcome members of every race, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and religion. We bring together community leaders of every background, creed, and ideology, putting our energies into championing those issues on which we can agree, one of which is Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution. But peace isn’t just something that is needed in warzones overseas. I am challenging our members to be peacebuilders right here in our own town squares.”

“We Rotarians live by the ideal of the Four-Way Test of the things we think, say, and do–valuing truth, fairness, and building goodwill and better friendships for the benefit of all. It is our charge to ensure that we treat all with basic fairness, not just in our actions as individuals, but collectively as a society. This is not a matter of politics; it is a matter of basic human rights.”

“We cannot have peace until we have equal justice for all. But to address the problem, we must admit the underlying truth—that Black Americans for too long have been systematically discriminated against and brutalized by our institutions. It is time for us White Americans to stand with our Black friends and neighbors and say, ‘We’re not going to have this anymore.’”

“Anyone who feels that we all deserve fair treatment should come on over and join us in Rotary and be part of the solution. Anyone who feels helpless watching the devastating effects of this pandemic in the media, come join in the relief efforts in your community, or start your own Rotary club to serve those most in need. We are People of Action, and we welcome you.”

April Lieberman is a Yale Law graduate and former appellate attorney. She served as a federal judicial law clerk to the Honorable Rosemary Barkett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and was admitted to practice before the District of Connecticut, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second and Eleventh Circuits, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

April played Division I college basketball at Austin Peay State University. She graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Vanderbilt University in 1991 with an A.B. degree in Philosophy.

She discovered her passion for service after joining Rotary in 2013, serving as Club President, Assistant Governor, Newsletter Editor, Public Image Coordinator, and now District Governor. She supports the work of The Rotary Foundation as a multilevel Paul Harris Fellow, member of the Paul Harris Society and the Bequest Society.

District 6760 honored April as Rotarian of the Year in 2018-2019 for launching #ItsTimeRI, an international campaign advocating for women to lead in all levels of Rotary International. She is incredibly proud that Jennifer Jones of Canada, recently selected as RI President for 2022-2023, will be the first woman to lead Rotary International in its 115-year history.

April’s older daughter Tennessee is a Middle Eastern Studies major at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Her younger daughter, Willie D, is studying European History at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. April spends her free time renovating her 1850s Gothic Revival home, which happens to be Northwest Tennessee’s most infamous haunted house.  

Continue reading

2020 Nov. Mag

2020 Nov. Mag.

Celebrated business leader, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Latanya Boatwright is a woman with a mission.


Celebrated business leader, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Latanya Boatwright is a woman with a mission. Although she is a native of Georgia, Latanya has had the opportunity to live across the globe while growing up in a military household. She earned a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and Mathematics from Clark Atlanta University and received a Master of Business Administration degree in Finance from Keller Graduate School of Business. Additionally, Latanya obtained a certificate of Financial Analysis to further elevate her skills.

For more than twenty years, Latanya has excelled in employment opportunities in Corporate America with Major Fortune 500 Companies. Her leadership skills and team spirit have played a significant role in transforming the cultures where she has worked. Presently, she works closely with corporate executives to help identify financial risks and opportunities while providing sound fiscal advice.
Latanya is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She currently serves as the President of the Legacy of Pearls Foundation, Inc., the philanthropic arm of the Sigma Omega Omega Chapter of the sorority. As a board member of Legacy of Peals Foundation, she has played a significant role in community programs and securing scholarship funds for our youth. As a respected leader in the community, Latanya sits on several nonprofit boards and is an active member of other community organizations.

Always ready to face a new challenge, Latanya recently launched a natural, organic body care product line, Body by Shambre. Her additional business interest includes real estate. In fact, she is a member of an African American real estate association whose goal is to become a premier real estate investment group with holdings throughout the country.

While navigating her busy schedule, you will frequently notice Latanya wearing Cerese D Jewelry.

https://www.bodybyshambre.com

Continue reading



© 2021 Cerese D, Inc. COPYRIGHT, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED