The Backstory Behind the Business
Updated: Feb 21, 2021
"When you call our business, you will usually get me on the line. I want to bring a personal touch, get to know you and listen with an empathetic ear to understand your needs."
When I reflect on my journey, I have enough solid memories to connect the dots to better understand how I got here and why. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, the daughter of hard-working migrants from Mississippi who were determined to make a better life for their children. Though we lived in the city, everyone got up early to go to work like we were on a farm, including me. You had to be sick if you were still in bed past 7 a.m. My parents brought a strong work ethic from the rural South that is in my blood.
Growing up, I loved answering the phone and taking messages for our home plumbing business and carrying my dad's toolbox to his side jobs after he had already worked his regular job as a tradesman for the Chicago Housing Authority. My mother, then a seamstress turned stay-at-home mom, studied along side me to become the first college graduate in our family. She became a Chicago Public School teacher for many years. My parents owned income property and believed in keeping my sister and me involved in church, solid home training and cultural activities. Around us were good, kind and hard-working people helping each other. To me, it was a wonderful, nitty-gritty world despite the political and economic unrest during the Civil Rights movement.
Before entrepreneurship became popular, my parents also owned a small local laundromat with drop-off service on 71st Street near King Drive. On Saturdays, my mother and me washed and folded customers' clothes all day. It was hell. During my lunch break, I split to the record shop down the street to listen to the latest hits and purchase an album. In the back of the record shop was a rickety wire stand loaded down with paperbacks by all kinds of black writers. I found heaven. Each week, I purchased an album and oodles of books with my $20 weekly pay from working at the laundromat. I wondered why I had not been introduced to some of these black intellectuals such as James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. I devoured those books, escaping into other realities about the black experience that were told by eloquent writers. My mother asked me why did I like these books. "I love to read, mama," I said. "They are writing about us."
As a child, I rarely saw positive stories on TV or in the newspapers about the heroes and heroines in our community. I did not think I was pretty because none of the magazines or billboards showed the softer, beautiful side of us. I recall having a tantrum in the middle of the living room floor when my mother gave me a black doll. I called her ugly and demanded that my mother take her back to the store to get a white version. That was the image of beauty - the blue-eyed blond white doll.
I did not feel good about being a child of color until the 1970s when I saw gorgeous Virginia Slims' "You've Come A Long Way, Baby" billboards of black model Beverly Johnson and became an avid reader of Ebony and Jet magazines with positive images of black celebrities and an upwardly mobile black middle class. (It was an honor to later join Ebony in 2006 as an editor and journalist who traveled the Gulf Coast reporting on the impact of post-Katrina on African Americans, wrote about the importance of adopting black children from personal experience, and many other thought-provoking articles for the magazine. )
The day my mother put about a dozen paperbacks on the dining room table, she acknowledged my passion for reading, but she wasn't prepared for the path I would take. During the early '70s, I had the unpopular idea at the time that I would become a reporter to write positive untold stories. The idea partly stemmed from reading wondrous and vividly illustrated fairy tales from our family collection of children's encyclopedias. I imagined writing real-life, illustrated stories that led me to create and staple together my own short books with colorfully drawn pictures on the cover. While reading aloud one of my stories in an 8th grade language arts class, my teacher interrupted, "You could become a journalist." She said that I had an "eye for description and detail" and could one day write for newspapers and magazines. It was the first time that someone had pinpointed for me a career path that would allow me to express my writing and make a living.
"Where do you go to become a journalist? " I asked. She said that one of the finest journalism schools was Northwestern University in nearby Evanston, Illinois. I left school on a mission to look up the definition of a journalist and the university in the encyclopedia at home. The deal was sealed.
My parents thought it was outrageous that a black child would want to become a reporter and did their best to dissuade me. For so long, society's highest aspiration level for a black girl was to become a teacher or maybe a nurse. Working at the post office was close behind. Becoming a reporter was akin to wanting to be a spy. When my parents' disapproval didn't work, my mother took me to my pediatrician for counseling and a physical exam. After he assured her that there was nothing wrong with me other than a healthy dose of confidence, I pursued my dream.
During study hall at Kenwood Academy, I taught myself how to speed read in an attempt to absorb more information to become a better honor student. I had high reading scores and good grades, but the pressure to get into a top university drove me to the limit. By the time I applied to college, I already had several published articles under my belt, participated in NU's high school summer journalism program and appeared as a high school host on Chicago Sun-Times columnist Vernon Jarrett's public affairs TV show, "Face to Face," on Channel 7. I also wrote for the high school newspaper and participated in community service projects. Despite a white high school counselor telling me that it would be a "flip of a coin" for me to get into Northwestern, I was accepted into NU's journalism school. (I was also accepted into every university to which I applied, including the University of Illinois, University of Missouri, University of Michigan and Syracuse University.)
A.t NU, I wrote for the Daily Northwestern and hosted a public affairs show on the campus radio station, WNUR. I also applied and earned a reporting internship at The Chicago Defender, the Decatur Herald and Review, The Muskegon Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post and Newsweek magazine, which later hired me as a full-time correspondent at 23.
I did not grasp the complexity of race in America until I became a journalism/political science major at Northwestern. I signed up for courses in world politics and African American literature under renowned professors Sterling Stuckey, Leon Forrest and Duke Jenkins. Our black professors became our heroes telling it like it was. We found ourselves enthralled, slipping away to fireside chats and favorite hangouts with our professors for after-the-classroom discussions. Northwestern educated and shaped my broad perspective about race in America. I found my purpose to honestly report about race, culture, differences and people making an impact in our lives to breakdown barriers.
The nomadic life of a journalist for Newsweek, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Chicago Sun-Times, CBS-TV affiliates and Ebony took me around the world reporting stories about tragedies and triumphs of people from various backgrounds. Over the years, long after I have moved on from newsrooms, a reader or viewer would appear to tell me how a story I wrote made a difference. For example, while working as a staff education beat reporter for The Chicago Sun-Times, I conceived and wrote "The Shame of Being Smart," about gifted children dumbing down their academic talents and hiding their books from gangs to get home safely. The story received national attention.
After working on both sides of the aisle as a print and TV journalist then as a public relations manager for organizations for more than 20 years, I came up with the idea for the business. I realized that many organizations did not know how to effectively tell their own stories though they were having great impact in their communities. They were either frustrated with the lack of media attention to add credibility to their causes or draining resources to pay exorbitant fees for promotion by big public relations agencies. A socially conscious entrepreneur was born.
When you call our business, you will usually get me on the line. I want to bring a personal touch, get to know you and listen with an empathetic ear to understand your needs. Our team is made up of top writers, video editors who have covered high-profile celebs, graphic designers and communication management experts. Services include fully grasping the nuances and coming up with a strategy to best brand and position the story or initiative. We draft and execute communication plans, handle media relations, create digital social media campaigns, video stories, talking points and media collateral, annual reports, case studies and can be on-site to oversee press coverage.
You get the guidance, expertise and professionalism to help achieve the social impact PR you deserve. You also get a diverse and fearless group of experts committed to using their talents to help create positive change like me. For a free consultation, contact me then sign up to join our community of influencers.