The Connect Fall Iss_11-02-2016 hi-res



Director of Business Development








Dawn brings far more than 20 years’ worth of experience in strategic

planning, negotiating, and project management with an ability to weigh

risk vs. reward to her role as Director of Business Development for The

Connect Magazine (TCM). She brings professionalism and leadership, a

mindset of service and advocacy, an exceptional business acumen, and a

passion for empowering others to realize their purpose.

As a strategic thinker with a client focus, Dawn’s contribution to the

magazine aligns her personal goals with the core objective of TCM. With

a focus on tactical alliances and business development, she will prospect

and identify opportunities for partnership, assist in building new business

relationships, evaluate operational issues to determine effectiveness, and

evaluate the competitive landscape to continually enhance TCM’s impact

on its readership.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Dawn graduated from Hampton

University in VA. After moving to Nashville as a young adult, she pursued

an MBA from Middle Tennessee State University and began a career in

contract management. With a love for leadership and managing people,

she found her way into Supply Management where she has managed

teams from 2 to 20 people throughout her career. She has spent more than

20 years in supply management and has held positions such as adjunct

professor, eComm erce Director and National Director of Purchasing. Now,

as the Director of Diversity Business Development for a Nashville based

organization, she ensures small businesses are afforded the opportunity to

compete with large corporations for substantial contracts.

In addition to satisfying her love for writing as a contributing writer

for The Connect Magazine, Dawn recently ventured into the world of

blogging. Her Website,, chronicles her

and her husband William Mason Jr.’s journey into a blended family of

seven. In early 2017, Dawn and William will launch an exciting new task

management endeavor where they will offer small business development,

back office management, research, business plan preparation, management,

and similar services.

Dawn leverages business relationships and resources through her

avid support of a variety of professional organizations including: The

International Virtual Assistants Association, The Institute for Supply

Management (ISM), The American Management Association (AMA),

The Tristate Minority Supplier Development Council, Women’s Business

Enterprises Council – South, The US Business Leadership Network and

The National Veteran Owned Business Association. She serves on the

certification committee and is a co-facilitator for Centers of Excellence for

The Tristate Minority Supplier Development Council. Dawn is a newlywed,

a mom to Elijah and Jacob and a bonus mom to Tre, Miles, and Brennon.


























Help Wanted






If you would like to place an AD or write an article for our next issue,

please contact ERIC JORDAN at

“Putting your business in Clients’ Hands”



Should Religion and Propaganda be considered before Voting?

The religion of a leader can never express

his thoughts towards society or towards

a particular community. The Bible says

“righteousness exalteth a nation” (Proverbs

14:34). For a nation to be righteous, the

people of such nation must be righteous, and especially,

the leaders. The righteousness of the citizens and the

leaders make the righteousness of the whole nation. In this

manner, the leaders of the nation must be carefully selected

or in another instance, be carefully voted into power.

Leadership has a lot of influence in the well-being of the

people, as stated in Proverbs 29:2, “When the righteous

are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked

beareth rule, the people mourn”. In the present world

where leaders emerge through election, the voting process

must be controlled to produce the best leader who is keen

to move the nation forward and with great and unequaled

leadership qualities and skills.

The process of voting nowadays is a complex one,

with a lot of factors being put into consideration. It is

now a practice that the majority of our politicians rely on

propaganda to get votes from their people. Aspirants try to

identify with their base to get their mandates. But looking at

this from a wider view, a quality candidate will not bank on

propaganda or religious identity to win a referendum. The

credibility of an aspirant is put to test on a leveled playing

ground, with their manifestos, philosophies, leadership

qualities and skills, and personalities are being put into


The main aim of a political system is to provide allround

growth in a society which in turn will lead to rise in

status of each individual and providing a strong foundation

for the nation. Hence, when voting, only an aspirant

with such attribute should be considered. Voting with

propaganda consideration will be biased and may produce

an incompetent leader, which will consequently lead to an

uneven growth in the nation. It may also lead to a rise in

communal tension between different ethnic groups which

can be a threat to the nation’s peace. Another negative

effect of such practices is that it may cause loss to humanity

and people may get discriminated on the basis of religion

or ethnicity in the time of need. Moreover, such kind of

politics is raised by only the weak political parties/aspirants

whose first agenda is to meet their hunger for power and

not in the improvement of society.

On the above basis, I want to conclude that propaganda

should not be mixed with politics. Intellectual youths and

adults should understand that those politicians who demand

votes in the name of rhetoric are simply fooling them and

should discard them. Voting should only be on the basis

of their thoughts and ideas towards the development of

the nation. Let us unanimously cast an unbiased vote for

th e right and credible leaders to assume offices, regardless

of religious or ethnic background, to ensure growth and

sustainability of our nation.

Eric Jordan





Fall 2016

Features 38





Columns 12




Departments 16







The Connect Magazine visits the original

QUEEN OF HOT CHICKEN for a conversation



Greg Mankis


Beverly K Carmichael gives us 3 KEYS to

how you too,can BE A PEOPLE PERSON









Dr. Ming Wang offers words of wisdom for a




Bishop Jerry L. Maynard Sr.





22 26


The Connect Magazine is a quarterly lifestyle publication committed to

engaging our audience through inspirational stories of entrepreneurs, young

professionals, and other individuals in the community committed to making

a positive difference in their lives and in the lives of others. The tenets and

principles associated with entrepreneurship and the value of living with

purpose transcend race, creed, and class, so from the corporate level, to the

community, we seek to inform and inspire by exploring the hearts, minds,

and stories beyond the bottom line.

34 48 14




At Cracker Barrel Old Country Store ® , we think a key to our success

is welcoming diversity in our company, our country stores,

our restaurants, and our communities. • © 2016 CBOCS Properties, Inc.



From Darkness to Sight chronicles the remarkable life journey of Dr. Ming Wang,

a world-renowned laser eye surgeon and philanthropist.

As a teenager, Ming fought valiantly to escape one of history’s darkest

eras – China’s Cultural Revolution – during which millions of innocent youth

were deported to remote areas to face a life sentence of poverty and hard labor.

Through his own tenacity and his parents’ tireless efforts to provide a chance of

freedom for their son, Ming eventually made his way to America with $50 in his

pocket and an American dream in his heart. It is in America where, against all

odds Ming would earn a PhD in laser physics and graduate magna cum laude

with the highest honors from Harvard Medical School and MIT. He embraced his

Christian faith and tackled one of the most important questions of our time – Are

faith and science friends or foes? The contemplation of this question led to his

invention of a breakthrough biotechnology to restore sight.

To date, Dr. Wang has performed over 55,000 eye procedures and has

treated patients from nearly every state in the U.S. and from over 55 countries

worldwide. He is considered the “doctor’s doctor,” as he has operated on over

4,000 physicians. Dr. Wang has published 8 textbooks, holds several U.S.

patents and performed the world’s first laser artificial cornea implantation. He

established a non-profit foundation which provides sight restoration surgeries

for indigent patients who otherwise would never have the opportunity to receive

the complimentary procedures.

This is a story of one man’s inspirational journey, of turning fear, poverty,

persecution and prejudice into healing and love for others. It demonstrates how

focus, determination, humility and profound faith can inspire a life that has

beautifully impacted thecountless lives of others.

“Dr. Wa ng is not only a dear friend and the very best eye surgeon, he is also

one of the greatest people I have ever known.” -- Dolly Parton







“People who believe they deserve anything more than an opportunity

are ungrateful for what they already have.”

During a recent pre-game speech, a Vanderbilt football

player marched through the locker room, challenging

teammates and coaches to reflect on this message.

“What will you do with your opportunity?” he shouted.

This prompted me to think about all the opportunities

I have been blessed to receive. Did I seize those moments or make

excuses for why I didn’t? In truth, I answered yes to both questions. I

have seized opportunities and squandered them because... [insert any list

of irrelevant excuses].

At times, although opportunities were right in front of me, I believed

I needed more resources to capitalize on them. Sure, I was grateful for

these opportunities (so I thought), but if I had more time, more money,

more connections, more this, more that; then I could really be in position

to make the most of them.

As I reflect on my past, I am confronted with the uncomfortable truth

that I have not always been grateful for my opportunities because they

weren’t packaged and presented to me the way I expected.

There is a concept called locus of control that assesses how we perceive

the factors that contribute to the events that have occurred or are

occurring in our lives.

Those with an external locus of control believe their successes and failures

are determined by external factors such as their family background,

the biases of the decision-makers around them, bad luck, etc. For example,

individuals with this mindset may attribute a promotion or demotion

to their boss’ favoritism or prejudice toward them or others. Even if they

arrived to work late every day, they would attribute a demotion to the

belief that their boss is sexist, racist or simply incapable of recognizing

talent. While all of those things may be true, an external locus of control

may influence these individuals to remain in roles in which they are dissatisfied,

and simply complain about the circumstances that hold them

back in their careers. They become jaded to the possibility that they can

achieve more in life. They become victims of their circumstances and

prisoners to their problems, rather than catalysts for change. They become

ungrateful for the opportunities that are available to them.

Conversely, those with an internal locus of control believe internal

factors determine their outcomes. They believe they are responsible for

both the successes and failures in their lives. For example, individuals

with this mindset would attribute a job promotion or demotion to the

quantity and quality of their performance (or lack there of). In fact, if

these people believed they had earned a promotion, and were denied,

they would not wait until someone decided to promote them, they would

seek out other opportunities for advancement in other departments or

other companies. They might even choose to launch their own businesses.

Earlier in my career, I expected opportunities to be presented in a

positive and simplistic format, so I could easily recognize and capitalize

on them. As I gained more experience, I realized that life-changing opportunities

are often disguised as unpleasant or inconvenient chores, and are,

just as often, inconsistent with my existing plans. At that point, it became

evident I was in need of a change. I needed to shift my locus of control.

The end of a relationship may be an opportunity. The loss of a job may

be an opportunity. A physical or mental disability may be an opportunity.

A failure in any part of your life can be an opportunity to refocus and position

yourself in a way that helps you advance. Have you ever been fired

or passed over for a promotion? Maybe that was an opportunity to start

your own business. Perhaps you needed to remove the distraction of your

job to have the freedom and courage to do something greater.

These moments help create the unique stories that shape and define

our personal brands, work ethic and sources of motivation.

As I reflect on the multitude of opportunities I have before me now,

the words of that Vanderbilt football player echo in my head, “People

who believe they deserve anything more than an opportunity are ungrateful

for what they already have.”

To what extent are you grateful for the opportunities in your life? I

challenge you to honestly assess your locus of control and find the opportunities

embedded within your obstacles. You have the power to use life’s

stumbling blocks as stepping stones and unleash your potential.





Is this you?...


The children need to go to soccer and basketball practice... check.

I need to swing by the store and pick up juice and raspberries for a

meeting in the morning... Yikes! I didn’t respond to that email from

my client. I really need to do that, but wait the light is green. Is that

my phone ringing??? Errr, I’ll call her back after I pick up my prescriptions

from the pharmacy. Where’s that list?”

Does this scenario sound familiar? This illustration of

scatter-brained “doing”, unfortunately, for many,

has become the new normal. More tasks to complete

than time to complete them, has become the script

to which most of us now adhere. No longer just

keeping up and keeping on, we’re attempting to mechanize our lives

and “get ahead”. It’s like we’re robots programmed for increased

production, and our self-worth and net worth are perilously cuffed

to “getting it done”. What’s our response? Multitasking! But does it


There was a time when there were not as many responsibilities as

there are today. A person had the time, within the 24 hours allotted,

to complete the tasks in front of them, and in many cases, even had

time for themselves. As the pace of life has spiraled into warp speed,

multitasking has become a go-to option for squeezing as much as

can be accomplished into any given time-frame; however, science

reports that this glorified remedy is notnecessarily the super saver

that many think it is.

Multitasking initially afforded an evolutionary advantage, but

as reported by Stanford Psychologist and author, Clifford Nass, it’s

causing the human brain to struggle. The human brain is formed

with its “executive system”, or the frontal lobe that deteriorates over

time; it decreases in volume as a person ages. So as the skilled multitasker

is able to swiftly check items off of his/her to-do list today,

his/her brain mass is deteriorating in a fashion that will make

completing tasks increasingly more difficult tomorrow. Frontal lobe

degeneration only may be slowed with considerate preservation (or

LACK of multitasking). Also, the reality is that the act is not even the

completion of multiple tasks at once; it’s the ability to switch the

limited attention from task to task in a fast manner... like juggling.

Without question, human brains are exceptional, yet they have

flaws. Much like a juggler, occasionally they drop things. In his book,

THE MAN WHO LIED TO HIS LAPTOP, Mr. Nass also shares that

multitasking actually kills concentration and creativity. It is a mortal

foe to productivity as well! The social science presented within his

studies shows that chronic multitaskers are terrible at cognitive tasks

such as learning and retaining (AKA remembering) information, discernment

of situations, and the application of “common sense”. In

reflection, the next time you accuse the younger generation of having

abbreviated attention spans and poor judgment, consider the fact

that their behaviors may be attributed to overexposure to multitasking,

and then ask yourself where they might have learned that “talent”?

Let’s do better. Better organization, better time-management,

and an improved sense of prioritization are all great places to start.





Post-election America and Our Country’s Future

This election season is coming to an end. It has been one of

the most contentious elections in recent U.S. history, characterized

by an unprecedented number of negative ads and

personal attacks. Now our nation needs to heal and move

forward, beyond the candidates themselves, and refocus our

attention on the issues that are important for our country. It may have been a

messy election, but it presented a valuable opportunity for many Americans to

express views that they had not fully expressed previously. I believe America

now has a great opportunity to turn the negative attitude of this election into

a positive one. We can do this by examining, discussing and debating all the

issues exposed and all the viewpoints expressed in this election. This will help

us know where we stand and how we feel.

Two things happened in this election that surprised most of us - the unexpected

popularity of Donald Trump and similarly, that of Bernie Sanders as

well. Even though they represented two opposite ends of the political spectrum,

they nonetheless shared one thing in common - neither of them was

expected to do as well as they did. Why did we believe they wouldn’t succeed?

The answer is that most of us thought their viewpoints would not be

popular. So why did they end up becoming so widely supported? It is because

large sectors of our society do, in fact, share their viewpoints.

Donald Trump wants to return our country to the America of the ‘50s

and ‘60s, when our border was secure and our country was the undisputed,

dominant power internationally, and there was much less cultural, racial and

ethnic diversity domestically. Many people who voted for Trump are nostalgic

about that period of time in our nation’s history. They are fed-up with the

current system of government and believe that it is rigged against the middle

class. As debt soars, healthcare diminishes, incomes stay stagnant and jobs

leave the U.S. Trump’s popularity shows that many of us, indeed, do not like

the changes that have taken place in our country and in the world in the last

several decades. But can the clock be turned back? If it cannot, how can we

adjust to the changes? How can we help America maintain its leadership in a

world that has seen the rise of emerging economies and a shift in the center

of gravity away from the U.S.? Domestically, like it or not, America is no

longer the country that she was in the ‘50s and ‘60s. We are now much more

diverse, with Hispanic Americans, African Americans and Asian Americans

accounting for 20%, 18% and 6% of our population, respectively. In the next

10-15 years, these three groups are projected to become the majority. So how

can we harness strength from our increasing diversity and move our country


Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, wants to move our nation towards socialism.

He has gained strong support, especially from the younger generation

who have not experienced the disasters of communism in the last century.

Bernie provides a voice to a generation that feels the government should do

more for those of us who are less fortunate by imposing greater sacrifices for

the wealthy. They feel that America, as a society today, no longer cares for the

down-trodden and unfortunate. But how can we as a nation strike the proper

balance between the emphasis of individual responsibility and the societal

duty to help the poor? How can we maintain strong social programs to help

those who are truly in need, while still avoiding complacency, a sense of

entitlement and a lack of motivation? How can we rekindle the hard-working

spirit characterized by our forefathers who laid the foundation of this great

country? Let’s reignite curiosity and drive, especially in our youth, who often

lack motivation because they are now living in a country with so much material


Let’s look beyond the candidates and political parties! Let’s begin these

positive and productive discussions of the important issues that were exposed

during this election season. Let’s start listening because better listening leads to

better understanding, and better understanding leads to better solutions. We

want to find solutions that will make our country stronger by embracing our

diversity and improving the standard of living for all Americans.

Dr. Ming Wang, MD, PhD is the director of Wang Vision 3D Cataract

& LASIK Center, Nashville, TN, founder of Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration,

co-founder of Tennessee Immigrant and Minority Business Group,

president of Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce and honorary president

of Tennessee American-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. He can be

reached at







Climate change is real and many are still denying it or

refuse to consider the evidence. Business is always at

the forefront of social and economic change. We do

not have to look too far into history to see this fact. The

Montgomery Bus boycott in the late 1950’s and the lunch

counter sit ins of the 1960’s show how the business community are aware

of the changing conditions of the world. They are now at the forefront of

the climate change issue. So much so, the business community is seeing

how to profit from the realm of sustainability. Companies are always

looking for a sustainable competitive advantage. If they don’t, they won’t

be in business for long. Business leaders are now employing sustainability

consultants and creating sustainability departments in order to cut waste

and mitigate risks. They are now aware of the issue of climate change and

looking for opportunities to be at the forefront to combat this issue.

The one constant for the planet earth is change. We are often faced

with challenges dealing with the changes in weather patterns, winds,

temperatures, seasons, currents and tides. As the earth moves throughout

space, orbits the sun and turns on its axis, conditions continue to change.

The earth’s climate has always changed as well. In the last 650,000 years,

there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat. The last ice age

ended about 7,000 years ago. So, yes, climate change is real and not just

a figment of the imagination derived from scientist and political leaders.

According to, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate

warming trends over the past 100 years are very likely due to human


Yes the earth’s climate does change. However, we should not

contribute to the acceleration or deceleration of the change. Let’s look at

some evidence. Records show the earth has warmed overall since 1880.

Most of the warming has occurred since 1981 with 10 of the warmest

years occurring in the past 12 years. The global sea level rose about 6.7

inches in the last century. The rate in the last decade is nearly double

that. Data from NASA show Antarctica lost about 36 cubic miles of ice

between 2002 and 2005. The U.S. has witnessed increasing numbers of

intense rainfall events. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution,

the acidity of the surface ocean waters has increased by 30 percent.

The effects of global warming should be clear. There have been

stronger storms in many areas of the country. The northeastern parts of

the country just had record setting snowfalls. Storms in cities like Buffalo

and Boston have caused damage to property and have cost cities major

parts of their budget to clean. Droughts are deeper and longer and have

caused the state of California to ration water and require some creative

ways to clean and reuse water. Wildfires are larger and more wide spread

and more severe which affectwildlife, homes and businesses. Floods in big

cities like Houston are happening more often. These disasters continue to

cost more and take longer to recover from. The recovery is taking even

longer for the old, young, and people of color. Ten years after Hurricane

Katrina, New Orleans has yet to fully recover.

Helping to combat climate change seems like a huge task. However,

there are ways you can make a difference. It all is up to us to make better

decisions. First, we should encourage our churches and schools to teach

good environmental stewardship. Secondly, we can choose to support and

make purchases from businesses that are environmentally friendly. If we

put pressure on the business community to become better stewards of

the environment, change will happen faster. Next, we can encourage our

friends and families to buy local products. Buying local is sustainable and

helps to cut the carbon footprint. Transportation accounts for 26 percent

of greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, we can choose to elect political

leaders who acknowledge we have an effect on climate change. Exercising

our right to vote is sustainable. Sustainability is based on the idea to create

and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in

productive harmony for present and future generations. We must elect

political leaders that are the voice of the people and represent our best


Please feel free to contact me

Or you can follow me on Twitter @tcsheff. I have also created a new

facebook pa ge WordsactionChange Initiative. Please share and follow.








B-Boy in Blue


Ariel Carrillo, 23 year-old Latino B-boy and Law

Enforcement Officer in Lebanon, Tenn., has a relevant

message for his community: Regardless of the occupation

you choose, dare to do it authentically.

So often we mentally place ourselves and others into

boxes - experiencing discomfort when those boxes are outgrown. We

carve one another into neatly-defined shapes, offering ourselves a reference

point for the totality of what we can expect from them. But, this mindset

does a disservice to all parties because, the truth is, we do not become the

greatest versions of ourselves until we permit our most beloved passions

to authentically align with our professional responsibilities.

Only then do we unlock the buried treasures within ourselves and

others. Only then do we lay a foundation for authentic connection.

Carrillo is a glowing example of this. In fact, he garnered headlines

earlier this year when a video of him breaking at an organized event -

while suited in uniform - rocketed to viral-status on the Internet.

He perfectly explained his motivation for allowing himself to

be caught in the act: “If I can use my love for hip-hop to positively

influence the people I serve and protect, then I’ll gladly put that on my

duty belt.”

Carrillo is relatively new to law enforcement, having stepped into

such career mere months ago. From day one, however, he committed that

he would never resort to dancing in the shadows. He understands there is

no permission slip needed to exist in the light of both worlds. In fact, he

believes they are the same world, and looks forward to the day when the

fictitious lines between them are blurred.

Prior to every shift, Carrillo zips himself into his uniform and prepares

to risk his life for people he will never know. However, as important of

a role as that is, this impassioned B-boy-turned-cop understands he is

not limited to being only one thing. Through the example of his life, a

resounding message can be heard: Neither are you.

Continue reading for an invitation to bring the best of yourself to your

every endeavor...

Carrillo’s love for breaking was born when he was a 15 year-old in

the throes of a most discomforting low. Artistic, bright and capable, his

potential was steadily wasting away by time spent on cheap thrills - until

a pivotal moment in a park one afternoon. Carrillo was caught in the

act of illegally tagging a bridge as his seven year-old brother observed



nearby. Riddled with shame and in need of a lifeboat - Carrillo was aching

to come alive for something which would offer a remedy for his lack of

direction and sense of purpose.

A lifeboat was approaching, indeed - nearly crashing into him as he

rounded his next corner.

“Not long after getting into trouble, a friend of mine told me about

this club in downtown Nashville called Rocketown. I thought little of it at

the time, but agreed to join him.”

Carrillo arrived at the door of the venue having no inclination that his

life was about to take an unexpected turn - one which would serve as a

rescue. Decisions which led to dead-end roads were no longer permitted,

for his next turn would journey him to a newfound world of fulfillment.

“I remember arriving at the door of the venue and hearing old school

hip-hop music playing. I could feel it vibrating under my feet as I was

standing on the concrete outside of the venue. As I made my way down

the stairs to the underground club, the music was pulling me to it like a


The hair on his neck stood at attention and saluted as his arms were

overtaken with goosebumps. As Carrillo observed the B-boys spinning on

their heads and dancing, he became entranced. That moment marked a

new era of his life; one commanding that he divorce the poor decisions of

his past and move into a realm of discovery and possibility.

“My life was never the same after that night because, from that point

on, breaking was all I wanted to do. It saved my life because, even though

I had great parents, I didn’t have anything positive to passionately direct

my energy toward. B-boying gave me a training mindset.”

I asked Carrillo what he would say if he were presented with the

opportunity to stretch backward in time - to rewind to the days leading

up to that night, look himself in the eye and speak truth and wisdom into

his15 year-old naiveté. Or, perhaps, what would he say to a 15 year-old

of today’s generation - one similarly aligned with his former attitude and


He announced without hesitation, as though he had wrestled through

the same question thousands of times: “Being known for drugs and

violence is not a reputation you want. Instead, channel your energy into

finding what makes you come alive, and then pursue it passionately.

Stop investing your energy into rebelling against the system and, instead,

consider being the change you want to see.”

Carrillo loomed over this topic for a moment, as if to express that

he was not yet ready to depart from it. After a thoughtful pause, he

added, “I want my actions to convey that the false sense of belonging and

brotherhood created while existing in a culture of crime actually offers

them no benefit at all. I’ve been on both sides, and I know the truth. I

want kids to know that they can do anything they choose - anything they

love - regardless of their background and history.”

Carrillo is aware that, due to the immense number of misconceptions

about B-boying, observers may not understand how its lifestyle saved him

from sinking into further realms of trouble and, eventually, leading him

to join law enforcement. He is eager to debunk every misconception,


“Breaking is a part of hip-hop culture, which is grossly misrepresented

by popular media outlets in general. Hip-hop actually originated in the

early 1970s by gang members who wanted to leave the gangs and channel

their energy toward something better. Even the term itself originated

from combining the words ‘knowledge’ and ‘movement’ together. It was

a positive movement created by people who were not from a positive


What people don’t know is that true hip-hop is not like what you see

in the movies and rap videos. It does not promote a culture of crime and



violence. Rather, it was started to ‘move’ people from a negative mentality

to a positive mentality.”

Considering his zoomed-lense perspective of the contrasting sides

of law enforcement, I expressed that the natural progression of our

conversation had led us to discussing the most common and stubbornly

held misconceptions in regard to police officers.

Carrillo chimed in with vigor, responding, “That we are ticket writers,

money-driven and corrupt - just to name a few. But, I think we should

all ask ourselves: Should we generalize and package an entire profession

based on a comparably small fraction of bad examples in it?

It is common knowledge that cops do not make great money so, why

then, do they become cops? The truth is that most cops do so because they

truly care. We truly desire to have a positive impact on our communities.”

When Carrillo was a teen, his aversion to cops was as staunch as his

pride for being one would become. To say he disliked law enforcement

was an understatement. But, as he entered his twenties, he shed such

mindset and began to see the prodigious opportunities it presented to

him. He now wears his uniform with an unwavering sense of honor and

pride for his profession.

“A couple of years ago, I began to see law enforcement as an outlet

for making a positive difference within my community. I have the

perspective of getting into trouble and then later coming to understand

how detrimental it was to myself and others.”

Carrillo’s future plans for continuing to marry his two passions are a

long and winding list.










“I will continue growing with law enforcement as well as B-boying

for as long as I’m physically able. This fall, a couple of other officers and

I will be visiting local schools. My role will be to perform for the kids. I

definitely plan on many of those types of engagements.”

With so much evidence in the media of law enforcement officers

and members of communities being at odds, Carrillo offers a refreshing

testimony that, although such instances are tragic and must be brought

to light, there is also tremendous evidence to the contrary. It is clear that

Carrillo wants to shatter the polarized perspective often held, and assist

individuals in understanding that the law enforcement community is not


He explains, “Although entertaining people is not a part of my job,

I feel that police officers often have to go the extra mile to show the

community that we are one of them - that we care about them. I’m hoping

to convey that message by doing what I love most.”

As mentioned previously, his attempts have already earned him

a memorable achievement by way of an Internet-viral video - a video

documenting his effortless knack for delighting onlookers with his

bravery, fun-loving spirit and talent.

As our conversation drew nearer to its conclusion, Carrillo openly

contemplated the impact of the aforementioned experience. He likely had

no idea, however, that his thoughts would linger in my mind for days -

later gifting me with a glimmer of comfort and hope as I tearfully poured

over media coverage of a candlelight vigil held in honor of Tyre King - the

Ohio 13-year-old who was fatally shot by police officers mere days prior

to the time of this writing.

“Hopefully people will begin to understand that just because pleasant

interactions between cops and communities are not often documented on

camera doesn’t mean they don’t happen every day. I hope my example

will serve as proof of this and play a role in creating further genuine

connection between community and law enforcement.”







No human endeavor is without evidence of creativity.

Whether a business concept, a marketing strategy, a

musical composition or a screenplay, the lure to create

is as primitive to humans as are our inclinations to

inhale and exhale.

But, if we forge only from the well of ourselves, we never contribute

to the human progression. Rather, we will only recycle, reclip and

redesign the puzzle pieces already existing within us. So, instead, we

must surrender to the possibility that we - the commissioned creators

inhabiting this earth - are instruments. We are the vessels by which the

wonders of life flow through.

Greg Mankis - Internet-viral artist and widely sought after ‘Artepreneur’

based in Cleveland, Ohio, is convinced of this. In fact, he has recently

published a body of work - available for purchase as either an e-book or

coffee table book - delivering captivating evidence of adhering to such


Nearly 20 years after completing his first piece of art at 23 years

old, Mankis reflects fondly on the experience: “From the first line, I

immediately knew that the curvature and direction of it came from

something beyond me - similar to how an athlete gets into a ‘zone’ where

everything flows perfectly.”

Eleven years would pass before he would grasp the magnitude of

tapping into such artistic ‘zone,’ however.


The year was 2007. On a day most ordinary, Mankis was taken hostage

by an encounter of a divine nature - forever altering his perspective as an


On this day, he was approached by Laura, a friend of a friend. Laura’s

son Ian, a bright and kind-spirited teen, had recently committed suicide

after an exhaustive struggle of trying to keep his head above the dark

waters of emotional and mental distress.

Laura was grieving and, thus, sought comfort in Mankis’ artistic

services. “She initially showed me a hundred pictures of Ian, but I didn’t

feel a pull to any of them,” said Mankis.

Until the hands of fate revealed their almighty agenda.

Among Laura’s stash was a handwritten card Ian had given to his

mother on her birthday. For Mankis, the card began to take on a life of

its own.

“Without me consciously trying, that card was glowing at me - yelling

my name. Suddenly, the handwritten letters in his card began rearranging

themselves in my head. They changed from ‘Happy Birthday Mom, Ian’

to ‘I’m Happy Now Mom, Ian.’ There was absolutely nothing I could do

to stop it.”

Mankis retreated home that evening, unable to rest until he fulfilled

the task he was sure he had been assigned. He projected Ian’s words onto

his canvas and proceeded to deliver - in the boy’s own handwriting - the

message he had been shown. The finished product was something even

he - its creator - gazed in awe of.

Not only did Laura now have a beautiful painting of her son, but she

had been given an even more beautiful sentiment, perhaps from beyond.

And, for free.

Rather than gloat in his own generosity and greatness, Mankis felt

he owed her for giving him this once-in-a-lifetime experience. “I’m the

lucky one here. I’m so blessed to be in this position of using my gift to do

nice things for people.”

This event marked a new era in Mankis’ life. “That is when the lightbulb

went off for me. I knew there was something to this - this tapping into

inspiration, creating art from it and giving it away to people.”


In the years that followed, the artist learned that his best work flowed

from him only when he allowed each painting “to reveal itself.”

In our hour-long discussion, Mankis and I exchanged stories about

exploring the wonders and vagaries of creativity through our individual


Like Mankis, I am well-acquainted with the difference between

straining to create a piece of work versus gliding along weightlessly in the

arms of something far more fruitful, magical and powerful than I am. I’ve

come to wonder if there isn’t so much ‘talent’ as there is the reality that

some of us are more finely-tuned and willing ‘receptors.’

What if life is a dance of creativity, and humans are never meant to

take the lead? Perhaps we most thrive when we quiet the chatter of our

own ideas - when we put ourselves into a state of receiving so that we can

hear when Inspiration asks, Would you like to dance?

Upon presenting my thoughts to Mankis, he responded by articulating

most eloquently, “The best part of the work is the blank canvas - when

I sit and wait for the ‘zone.’ And, when that miracle comes, I often look

at my finished work as though I’m seeing it for the first time - the way a

stranger would.”

And, his art has proven to teach him valuable lessons about living a

richer life in general.

“Through my art, I’ve learned that the key to a successful life is not

about working oneself to death; It’s working inspired. It’s about pausing

and listening. This is when life-changing inspiration comes.”





When music icon Prince died in April 2016, fans immersed themselves

in celebration of his life. Mankis, although never an impassioned fan, felt

inspired to participate by putting paint to canvas.

“I had watched my friend Ricky Smith, who started the RAKE

movement, perform random acts of kindness for people - anything

from free lunches to hugs. Ricky’s work was very instrumental in my

next move, which was to make a painting of Prince for a fan who would

appreciate it.”

Once the final stroke was complete, Mankis snapped a picture of the

work and shared it on his Facebook page, captioned with the announcement

that he planned to give it away to a person of his spontaneous choosing.

“Within one day, the post had over 10 million views and I was

receiving tens of thousands of messages. It completely changed my life.”

Prior to this unexpected frenzy of exposure, Mankis had approximately

1,000 Facebook followers. But, at the time of this writing, he has an

impressive 37,000. “It was funny because, not only did that experience

invite interest in the Prince painting; I was suddenly receiving recognition

for work that had gone unnoticed for years.”

But, the artist soon learned that things were only beginning to get


Following the Prince whirlwind, Mankis launched a dog project. He

painted a dog, then posted an image of such painting, along with an

invitation for Facebook users to pitch their dog for him to paint.

“I received about 10,000 emails of some of the most beautiful

dogs imaginable,” said Mankis. “But, I was waiting for ‘the one’ which

would call to me. I shuffled through many messages, but wasn’t getting


Until, lo and behold, a message from Kelley landed in his inbox.

“When Kelley reached out, she only told me that her dog, Charlie,

had passed away recently, and that her son, Evan - a boy of elementary

school age, had considered the dog his best friend. I immediately knew

this project was the one I had been waiting for.”

When Mankis reached out to Kelley, informing her that she had been

chosen, he was gifted with a backstory which put even the most arresting

Hollywood storylines to shame.

“Charlie was a dog that Kelley and her husband rescued after struggling

with infertility for years. Almost immediately after rescuing Charlie, the

dog wouldn’t leave Kelley’s stomach area.”

The couple was astonished to learn that, after years of unsuccessful

attempts, Kelley was pregnant. But, this story took an even more poignant


“After Evan was born, she and her husband realized he had minor

developmental problems which affected his social interactions. Charlie

was a godsend because their bond was so primal and unique. I could

actually feel it through the images of them together.”

With the emotional impact from the experience still evident in his

voice, Mankis shared with me what happened next: “I mailed the painting

to Kelley, and soon realized how life-changing it was for her family. She

responded with a picture Evan had drawn for me, along with a tearjerking


Playing a role in the story of Evan and Charlie has gone down in

history as one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences of Mankis’

artistic life. But, again, his perspective is even more awe-inspiring than his

talent is extraordinary.

“Again, I’m the lucky one here. I don’t care what your race, religion,

beliefs or dreams are. There is nothing more rewarding than using your

gifts to spread kindness.”



As our interview began to conclude, I asked what was next for this

generous and talented human being.

“I’ve just released my e-book and hardcover coffee table photo book,

which are the same in terms of content. I see this as being a powerful tool

for years to come.”

The books contain Mankis’ most compelling stories, various methods

he uses to channel creativity as weIl as the sources of inspiration which

have most impacted his artistry.

“All of the proceeds will go directly to my mission, which is to

continue listening to inspiration so that I can use my gift for the purpose

of blessing others.”

To learn more about Mankis’ noble mission, go to:





Beverly Carmichael is responsible for leading more than 72,000

employees across the country every time her shadow darkens the

door of her office located on the 98-acre campus headquarters

of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. in Lebanon, Tenn. As

Chief People Officer and Senior Vice President of the organization

since 2014, her career is comprised of 25 successful years serving as a leader

in human resources and as a labor and employment attorney.

During our hour-long discussion, it became transparently clear

that, while Carmichael’s credentials may be extensive and scholastically

impressive, she has mastered the art of something quite simple, yet

oftentimes elusive and unpredictable: Effectively connecting with people.

As she spoke with fondness for her experiences, she organically brought

forth tokens of wisdom from the vault of her career. I identified three

fundamental principles - each crafted from the well of her most compelling

trials and victories - and now thread through the fabric of her every undertaking.

1 Be Authentic

If she is preaching the importance of it, she is well-acquainted with the

value of it. In fact, she is already adhering to it.

The most essential trait in leadership is being authentic,” said

Carmichael. “You must lead by example if you wish to be effective. You’re

not judged by what you say, you’re judged by what you do.”

2 Never Be Too Busy to Make Time For People.

Carmichael has spent the vast majority of her life rooted in an intimate

understanding of this concept. When she was seven years old, her mother

died of a sudden illness - leaving behind a grieving husband and three small

children. In the aftermath of such tragedy, she became schooled on the

importance of people “showing up” for other people as demonstrated by

the outpouring of support she and her family were shown.


“A People Person”

Having tucked such experience securely inside, Carmichael now draws

upon it each time a fellow employee needs her. “One of the greatest gifts

we can give to others is the gift of our time. By either doing so or not doing

so, we communicate their value.”

3 Empower People by Expanding

Their View of Themselves.

Prior to joining Cracker Barrel, she spent ten years employed by

Southwest Airlines - the first six serving as legal counsel. It was not until her

boss mentioned the possibility of Carmichael as a possible successor to lead

the human resources department at Southwest that she began feeding and

watering such idea. A seed was planted during that conversation and, when

the ideal opportunity presented itself, she boldly stepped into that role in a




new profession, a profession in which she continues to flourish.

She is now paying it forward - committed to expanding the vision of

every individual who looks to her for guidance.

“I never would have considered a career in human resources had the

idea not been presented to me. I pride myself on helping others consider

opportunities they would not have considered on their own - by showing

them strengths they are unable to identify in themselves. In doing so, new

doors open and lives can be forever changed.”




At Cracker Barrel Old Country Store ® , we think a key to our success

is welcoming diversity in our company, our country stores,

our restaurants, and our communities. • ©

2012 CBOCS Properties, Inc.



Old School vs. New School


Get out there. Put yourself out there. Go on, and just jump out

there... and network. You know you’ve heard this advice

before, and if you have been in any sort of professional

or group based position, (secretly admit) you fully realize

the significance of networking. The blatant truth is that in

order to expand your circle and knowledge base... you have to do it.

If you haven’t actively or consciously networked in awhile, you may

be used to the traditional means of mixing it up at (hence the word)

“mixers” or “get-together” functions, conventions, or other forms of

networking where a person meets others and discusses information face-toface.

This conventional format of meeting others has now been seemingly

steamrolled and ostensibly diminished by the onset and domination of

the technological/digital platform of social media websites and forums.

Personal profile pages, video chat services, email, interactive webinars, and

telephone availability are all now a touchscreen tap away from the diligent

and avid networker--which is amazingly magical for some, yet terrifyingly

overwhelming to others. The battle between these two techniques has

become the professional conundrum of the day. Is the old school mode of

networking outdated, or is the new school option the only way to go from

here? Let’s visit the pros and cons of networking, compare traditional means

to newer options, and see which method packs the strongest punch overall!

Contenders, to your corners, and let the battle begin!



The personal connection of actually meeting someone is significant in

helping the brain to retain a name and remember the relevance of a contact.

Scientific research commissioned by Cornell University and the sales and

business institute Maritz found that “stimuli from face-to-face meetings

creates novelty which helps the memory form a stronger connection for

retention.” Author of the research study’s analysis, Mary Beth McEuen,

further contests that personal connection produces a “level of engagement

needed to unlock the potential within [people].”

• Face-to-face encounters help to nurture and improve universal social

skills which are inevitably needed once a connection has been established.

• Chemistry is real. Deals, partnerships, mentorships, and even longterm

business friendships have all been formed over whether or not

people have hit it off (or not). Never underestimate the power of scientific

attraction and compatibility!

• Trust may be built over a conversation. Intuition plays a major role

in meeting and endorsing a contact. People tend to refer others to people

whom they trust or have met in some sort of personal capacity.

• Old school networking may actually produce faster results than

waiting on forging an online connection. Face-to-face interaction does not

have to contend with buffering, wait time, acceptance of contact request,

or delayed feedback.

• Free food.


• Preparing for face-to-face functions can sometimes be time consuming...

Adequate scheduling to accommodate the time spent is a must, and it is one

more thing to accomplish on the to-do list.

• Unfortunately, professional image is everything; attire, hygiene,

disposition--overall appearance--should be high priorities when networking

at a function. The best foot better arrive first, or the other one will be


The face-to-face process of meeting others may sometimes be limited

in scope and potential diversity if you have not taken the initiative to

research and invite new contacts beforehand. Certain fields and areas of

expertise are small and close-knit, so contact overlap is likely to happen.

There is an art to meeting others. The great thing is that the art may be

taught and learned; the not-so-good thing is that one has to be willing to

practice in order to hone the skill.



• This format is a solid support player. It is a fantastic tool to use in

conjunction with face-to-face networking as a follow-up supplement.

Reinforcement of the connection is how loyalty is established.

• Although social networking can sometimes be a prevalent and everlooming

force, it is an excellent platform for introverts!

• Technology and its advancements have made networking more

convenient and accessible to the masses despite time and location.

There is a greater access to a larger range of initial connections. Internet

searches allow most contact information to be located, and persistence can

frequently ensure that the connection is eventually established.


The personal element of networking is lost in translation. While video

communications are becoming more common and most social media

platforms now offer some capacity for video, they are void of the intimacy

that comes from face-to-face interaction. Likewise, typed words lack the

tone, emotion, and physical posturing within their delivery; networking is

not the time to have an initial impression misconstrued.

• Social networking forums constantly foster competition instead of

compatibility and conduct with “followers”, “friends”, and “likes”. There’s

already plenty of demand to perform in the actual work arena, and social

networking formats may add a layer of unwanted additional pressure to



keep up with or exceed their peers’ contact counts across multiple platforms.

There is a lack of privacy to being available to the open public at any

time or place via constant connection to social forums and the influx of

various notifications.


The referee weighs in... old school networking wins! Virtual reality

is just that--virtual--and nothing beats the real thing. Networking expert,

Sunny Bray, is a “Connector” well-versed in the practice of effectively

connecting individuals. As the Nashville Director for Network Under 40,

Ms. Bray manages a wide variety of networking components everyday,

and she admits that there are several pitfalls to solely relying upon new

school methods of networking. The old school capacity of face-to-face

networking is tried and true, and Ms. Bray attests to the fact that “It’s

essential in everyone’s life.” According to Ms. Bray, the strength of the initial

personal connection is vital in building relationships, which ironically, are

paramount for professional survival. It’s important to fortify your network

by surrounding yourself with strong individuals. However, if old school

networking is not your preference, there are a couple of practices that Ms.

Bray suggests incorporating into your bag of face-to-face tricks. Use the

buddy system to overcome nervousness during functions; take a friend or

colleague to introduce to others. Introductions break the ice and are surefire

ways of sparking conversation. Another practice is to make others feel

comfortable as you attempt to comfort yourself. Kindness goes a long way,

so engage others as you hope and wish others to engage you. The gloves are

off, and ultimately, our referee definitively asserts that people shortchange

themselves if they fail to integrate authentic, face-to-face networking.

In step with the “work smarter, not harder” movement, allow your skills

of networking to work for you. At the end of the day, there really should be

no conflict of methods—in fact, it’s adv antageous to employ some mix of

BOTH schools of thought. It’s up to you to successfully grow your resources,

and you are your best asset. So, mix; go forth, and mingle... and stow a

breath mint in your pocket just in case you need it! Okay... You’ve got this!













This question is one of utmost interest to me; in that it

focuses on where we were, where we are, and where

we will be ultimately. The Unites States of America is

confronted with trying times. Most of our trials come

from the political climate wherein we see ourselves

today. Our greatness as a nation has not paled. We are strong in

economics, military, education, refinement, engineering science,

religious, commercial enterprise and industry. It has been stated by one

of the individuals running for president, “Let us make America great

again.” That thought presupposes that we are weak. Truth is, when we

see the economy of other so called great nations, the position is not as

great as ours. So the question arises, what happened to the great America

of our forefathers? I submit again that those who have made politics

their lifestyle and their method by which they achieve their goals, have

walked away from our core values, core beliefs, and core competencies.

The things that made us great are yet with us. The things that make

us weak are creeping into our mindset. We have a black president

who was elected by our diverse population. Unfortunately, we have a

congress, predominately white, that refuses to respect and/or work with

him. Bigotry, racism, gender discrimination, and economic deprivation

have forced people to align themselves with those who have little or

no regard for the truth that will free us and empower our nation to

maintain its place in our world. We must return to the ways of the Holy

Writ. We must honor and respect our Constitution. We must adhere to

the laws of our land and make sure that every segment of our society

obeys and is willing to enforce the laws that we have.

People are better today than they were eight years ago, yet there is

tension in America. There is some sense of uncertainty and there is a

lack of community. Where we are now is not a great deal different than

where we were when Governor Otto Kerner (Illinois) wrote about a

country of two societies moving further apart; racial isolation in public

schools and the disparate treatment of some of our citizens. Throughout

the sixties to the present, we rise in stature and we still rise, but we have

these problems that we are unwilling to address and solve. We hide our

heads in the sand and pretend that problems don’t exist; they do. The

obvious question, then, is why? I believe that we have replaced God and

the love for him with our social and sexual desires. We have become

a nation that our worship on Sunday is in a stadium, arenas or field

houses, while we watch our favorite sports.

I love sports, and enjoy going to games. I don’t believe that our love

for anything should ever replace and /or diminish our love for God.

There is a scripture in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that informs us how to affect

positive change. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall

humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their

wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin,

and will heal their land.”

America, we are great, but we can become greater. Our forefathers

started it. Let us not end it; rather let us make it better for all people.

With God in us and with our love for Him and His principles, we can

go forward spiritually in a placement in this world never reached before.

Where is the great America we ask? It is in our Constitution; our

laws; our industry; education; business; healthcare; arts; culture; etc.

We need to invite the Lord into all facets of our nation; especially our

churches. Let Him reign in our hearts, our churches, and in the areas of

the aforementioned, and we will remain the America, the land of the

free and the home of the brave.





Shan Foster is

Committed to

Changing our

Attitudes toward

Women and

Stopping the Violence

Before It Starts.


“Statistically across our country, 1 of every 4 women experience

domestic violence in their lifetime, and 1 of every 5 experience sexual

assault or rape before the age of 18. Three women die daily at the hands of

a man who says he loves her and 15.5 million children witness domestic

violence in the United States.”

From the Vanderbilt rape trials and the recent convictions of

ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner and ex-NFL player Darren

Sharperto the controversy surrounding Nate Parker, the

writer, director, and star of the 2016 Sundance Grand Jury

Prize and Audience Award winner, The Birth of a Nation, the

list of incidents involving or related to sexual assault goes on and on.

Through it all, it has become glaringly apparent that society as a whole has

neglected to address something very important: our relationship to and

our treatment of women.

With that being said, one man is taking the initiative and making it his

business to challenge us all to do better.

Shan Foster, a former professional basketball player,2008 SEC Player

of the Year, and all-time leading scorer at Vanderbilt University, chose to

leave his playing days behind in search of “purpose”, and found it in the

spring of 2015. When he became the director of Mend, an organization

whose name is a combination of the words “men” and “end”, the

proverbial stars had aligned. With their objective being to combat the

increasingly widespread epidemic of violence against women and girls

by engaging and empowering their counterparts, young men and boys,

to actively be a part of the solution. For Shan, this was a mission close to

his heart.

Shan was raised by both his grandmotherand hismother, a single


woman, who for a period of time, went to school while working two jobs

to sustain him and his siblings. He watched his mom persevere, sacrifice,

and even deal with abuse in her own life. Whether it was a life lesson or

learning how to shoot hoops, a woman was there. From an early age, he

has held women in the highest regard.

“We were not wealthy. We didn’t have a lot, but I had an opportunity

to see my mother struggle, and I had the opportunity to share in that

struggle, to help in that struggle and to grow up in that struggle.”

Shan’s personal mission to increase awareness and accountability

begins with challenging the cultural norms perpetuated in our society as

well as the sometimes mixed, and often blatantly, misogynistic influences

that permeate the media and popular culture. He suggests that part of

the problem is that we live in a society where this type of violence takes

place, and most people stay quiet about it. They continue to support the

artists, buy the music, books, and art of those who perpetrate violence or

participate in the wide range of behaviors that constitute abuse towards

women; our culture supports it. Adamant about changing our thinking

in these regards, Shan challenges us to ask ourselves why pornographic

content and in some cases suggestive or misogynistic videos may get over

a million views on YouTube, but a conversation about ending violence

and engaging men to teach our boys and sons differently is an inherently

difficult topic.

“We believe violence against girls cannot end unless men become a

part of the solution.“

Whether it’s accusations of failure to investigate rape allegations

at Baylor University(, or the case of the University of

Tennessee (Knoxville) football team accused of assaulting one of their

own teammates for assisting an alleged rape victim in filing a complaint,

Shan is deeply troubled. However, he knows the work he is doing with

Mend will ultimately save lives.

Mend has regular programming for young men of middle school and

high school ages. They also recognize a specific need for engaging athletes

of the same age, as all too often, locker room culture can be a dangerous

breeding ground for cavalier attitudes towards women and could easily

result in violence over time. However, with that, they know that if they

can reach these impressionable young men at an early age, they can

effectively educate them on their roles and responsibilities, producing a

positive impact, and in effect, lead the charge for change.

In this way, Shan utilizes his skill and influence as a successful athlete

to make a difference in the community, and extends the message of Mend

to the young athletes he trains and coaches by constantly encouraging

them to be successful both personally and professionally.

“One thing I always share with my kids is that a very small percentage

of them have a chance of being professional athletes, but 100% of them

have a chance to be good men.”

As communities and companies become more aware of the gender

inequalities existing in both private and professional settings, the call for

a fundamental cultural shift is increasingly necessary. Whether it’s the

enforcement of employee conduct codes, such as sexual harassment, or

addressing wage disparities as they apply to gender, it’s important the next

generation of male leaders be equipped with the sensitivity and courage to

create a more just and equitable society alongside their female counterparts.

Shan and Mend are radically changing the way boys and men view

domestic violence and sexual assault against girls and women in our

communities. For more information, please visit, and

watch the Spoken Cinema.






little girl colors and waits

patiently for her food, while

the heavyset man beside her

fights a losing battle with

the sandman. He wakes up,

mumbles something to her, she nods and

within seconds, he drifts back into his slumber.

This happens over and over again, like a ritual.

Another man wipes sweat from his brow as

he devours what looks to be chicken from the

hotter end of the menu’s spectrum. Then there

are two men (both from Austin, Texas) visiting

Music City for the first time, one on business

and the other for pleasure. These two men don’t

know each other but had both searched some

variation of “best place to eat in Nashville” and

Google lead them to East Nashville – 123 Ewing

Dr. – Prince’s, the Mecca of hot chicken.

Standing in Nashville’s historic Prince’s

Hot Chicken Shack, you can’t help but notice

customers from all walks of life. They are

young, old, black, white, Asian, Hispanic,

neighborhood residents and tourists. Some of

them are first-timers and others stop in multiple

times a week. They’re different but one thing

they have in common is, they are hungry for

some tasty, legendary hot chicken.

The space is small. There are more hungry

customers than seats so some people are

forcedto stand as they wait in anticipation. The

atmosphere is down home and familial. The

floor and tablecloths are checkered. There are

metal chickens placed about the room. The

walls are adorned with a written history of

the monumental establishment – publication


articles (the New York Times and the Nashville

Scene), certificates (one for “Excellence,”

bestowed upon the restaurant by Trip Advisor)

and other accolades such as a banner from Steve

Harvey’s 2009 Hoodie Awards.

There are two black, flat screen televisions

mounted on the wall. One of them is off and

the other is playing CBS News. A segment on

the dissolution of Brangelina plays but no one

is paying attention. Four gray-haired, black

women sit in a booth, too busy talking, laughing

and licking their fingers to be concerned with

yet another Hollywood divorce. A teenage

girl smiles into her Iphone, likely at a text or a

video message she received on Snapchat from

her bestie. It’s about 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday

evening and business is booming. Many of the

customers seem to be stopping in after their

shifts at their respective jobs. There’s a woman

who appears to be a CNA, a construction

worker, a Vanderbilt employee and a barber

from a couple of doors down.

A young man in his 20’s, dressed in a white

T-shirt and a tan hat, comes out of the kitchen every

few seconds and calls out the winning numbers.

“Thirty-eight,” he says. “Ticket number

thirty-eight.” It’s like the lotto, only the prize

is world-renowned hot chicken and everyone

with a ticket in hand is a winner.

I originally start my interview with owner

Ms. André Prince Jeffries in the kitchen, sitting

on two black milk crates in front of the ice

machine, watching the magic happen. Above

the ice machine is a collage of what looks to

be old family photos, all covered with a thin

layerof chicken grease that permeates the air.

Before I get to my first question, Ms. André,

a sweet, humble soul who has seen 70 years of

life (almost 40 of which has been spent running

Prince’s), asks about me. I tell her about my small

town Kentucky upbringing and my undergraduate

days as a Music Business-turned-Sociology student

at Middle Tennessee State University.

The sound of chicken frying, busy cooks

bustling about and a cashier taking orders proved

to be too much so we move the conversation

into the customer seating area.

Though quieter, the room is still filled with

the sound of friends laughing and strangers

making small talk as they wait for their numbers

to be called.

“Number 45,” the young man calls out.

Though the family name is Prince, Ms.

André is the queen of hot chicken. Started by her

great-uncle Thorton Prince over 80 years ago to

supplement family income, the restaurant was

originally called the Barbecue Chicken Shack.

It was open from 6 p.m. to midnight, after

Thorton got off from his day job.

As rumor or speculation would have it,

Thorton had a girlfriend who was angry with

him and put hot spices on his chicken to get

back at him for his infidelity. The alleged

intentions of a woman scorned backfired and

proved to be just what the restaurant needed.

Ms. André credits this nameless woman for

helping the restaurant find its niche.

After Thorton’s passing, the business was

passed around in the family for years before

unexpectedly landing in Ms. André’s lap, at her


mother’s behest. “She wanted me to able to pay

more than one bill,” she chuckles.

At the time, Ms. André, who holds a degree

in Biology from Tennessee State University,

wasn’t looking to get into the family business,

but she gave it a shot. She changed the name to

Prince’s and kept up the tradition of opening

it at 6 p.m. while still working for Metro

during the day. Maintaining both jobs became

too overbearing, so Ms. André had to make a

decision. Taste buds all over the world are

grateful she chose hot chicken.

When asked about the current hot chicken

craze, Ms. André seems proud of the impact she

and her family’s small business has had locally

and globally. She’s been asked to open stores

in Dubai, Europe, and Italy, “among other

places”. Hot chicken restaurants like Hattie B’s

and others before it have spread like wildfire.

Even restaurant chains like KFC serve their own

brands of hot chicken.

Ms. An dré doesn’t appear to be at all

threatened by the ever-increasing competition

and seems to talk about them all with a sense

of pride and appreciation. She welcomes hot

chicken’s widespread popularity.

The competition doesn’t seem to be

affecting business.

They might go and try it, but they’re

coming back to the best,” she laughs. “We are

the original.”

And she’s not just saying that. According

to Ms. André, there was a study conducted at

Harvard that determined her family was the first

in the country to sell hot chicken.

She also doesn’t seem to be worried about

gentrification, noting that mom-and-pops,

which she refers to as “the foundation of

America,” have always had it harder. Though

she’s fully aware of how big business can

swoop in and steal the life of a mom and pop,

she isn’t concerned about the future of her

establishment. Her objective was always to “pay

at least one bill” and “keep something in the

family,” which she is still successfully doing.

“Number 71,” calls out the young man

from behind the counter.

“I think people like smaller places. It’s

more intimate. When you start franchising,

something is going to be left out of the recipe.

It’s not going to be as passionate as it once was.

It’s not as hands-on,” she says.

When asked how she’s been able to sustain,

she doesn’t take any credit. “Just Jesus,” she says

with a smile, “Just Jesus and not me myself,

because I stand on the shoulders of all those

who have gone before me.”

One thing Ms. André credits herself for

is adding variety to the hot chicken recipe to

appeal to more people. When her uncle was

running the business, the hot chicken only

came one way, which is now known as the

restaurant’s mild flavor. Now she also has Plain,

Medium, Hot, XXHot and XXXHot.

Although she prefers what she likes to calls

her “pothole hot chicken shack,” business

has recently expanded to include a second,

larger location on the corner of Old Hickory

Boulevard and Nolensville Road, which is run

by her godson Mario Hambrick and her first

cook Michael Alexander.

She mentions that people come from all

over the world, including Africa and Europe. A

man who owns a restaurant in California flew

his staff there to eat. Even after 40 years in the

business, these things still amaze her.

“I had no idea I would be in it this long. I

didn’t even cook at home,” she later adds with

a laugh. “I can’t believe I’m still here.”

Ms. André says she’s noticed that more

women tend to eat hot chicken than men, and

pregnant woman who are overdue often use it

to induce labor. She says these babies typically

come the next day, if not within hours.

She says her hot chicken is also used to clear

up sinuses and as an aphrodisiac.

“It affects people in different ways,” she

says before adding, “I’ve got some very faithful

customers. Some of them come everyday.”

Ms. André gets to know many of her regulars

and hears some rather interesting stories. There’s

the man who eats his hot chicken in a tub full

of cold water, the woman who comes by nearly

everyday to get hot chicken for her three dogs

and claims it makes their coats shiny and pretty,

or even the woman who has a car seat exclusively

for her bag of chicken. She even buckles it up.

With such popularity, the future seems bright

for Prince’s and I don’t

think she’s going have to

worry about “trying to

pay at least one bill.”





Those of us born in the U.S. often marvel at stories of individuals

who have travelled from far and wide to stake their claim

in the “American Dream”. In many cases, immigrants to

this country have accepted and endured what many natives

would consider unimaginable. From leaving their families

behind to surviving the often-cramped living quarters and eighty-hour

workweeks they endure, immigrants are forced to explore many existential

queries early in their passages. The knowledge and confidence acquired

from surmounting these hardships seemingly equip them with a viewpoint

that benefits them in whatever endeavor they choose to engage.

Abdul Qaiyum, CEO and Co-Owner of Merz Apothecary in Chicago,

Illinois, is a living testament to the opportunity that is America. Born in

India in 1946, Abdul’s family moved to Pakistan when he was a young boy.

He was a good student and after finishing school there, he was permitted

to continue his studies in the U.S. The day he departed was filled with

uncertainty (as were many other days), as he so vividly recalls, “I had never

been away from home. I lived a very sheltered life. I was a protected kid.”

When he boarded the Alitalia airliner headed to his final destination of

Chicago, IL, he admits, it hit him hard and still does to this day. “On the

plane, I’m crying. I’m missing my mom. I could cry right now. I was in

tears. I’m going somewhere, I don’t know where.” Arriving in Chicago, he

was greeted by a place far different than any he had previously encountered.

“I had never seen an escalator. I had never seen tall buildings. I had never

seen revolving doors. I had never seen snow. I had never seen… I just

never felt the cold that I was going to experience.” It was December 1965.

“Life wasn’t that great, it was a trying time.”

Prior to his departure, it had been agreed that his family would provide

three months’ worth of living expenses, and so the proverbial clock was

ticking. Having completed the journey and with school arrangements

made, Abdul shifted his focus to how he would sustain himself at the

end of the agreed upon period. He found a job that allowed him to work

a few hours each week. However, upon arrival, Abdul discovered that

his student status legally prohibited him from working. Unfortunately,

for reasons unknown, one of his peers had reported him as “working”.

He would need a letter from a student advisor to make him eligible to

work. With three months coming to an end, he visited the immigration

office with his letter in hand. They stamped his passport and gave him

ninety days to leave the country unless their stipulations were met.

Ultimately, after acquiring additional documentation (including

a letter from his father in which he committed to covering Abdul’s

expenses for the rest of his education), Abdul was cleared to stay. He

admits knowing his parents couldn’t afford the expenditure at the

time, but he had to get the letter, and he did. The immigration office

determined that he could remain and continue his schooling, but with

work no longer being an option, this period of his life was particularly

demanding. “There were nights when I didn’t eat. I had no food.” He

admits that, at the time, he wasn’t sure how or if he would make it.

Although, upon further reflection, he so wisely summarizes these trials,

“Time flies. I don’t think I would ever change anything.”

Invariably, that first year passed; on the strength of his good grades,

he was now permitted to work, and work he did. Abdul continues, “They

gave me permission to work up to twenty hours a week. Things became


etter for me.” This was only the beginning. As he was granted more

and more liberty to work, he took full advantage of the opportunity,

working as many as thirty hours a week on weekends while going to

school full time; he oftentimes worked two additional full-time jobs

during the summer as well. “Yes, at times it seemed like it was going to

kill me,” but he goes on, “I persevered.” The struggle gave him strength.

By 1972, Abdul was a certified pharmacist and had come a long

way from his humble beginnings. His hard work had afforded him a

more comfortable lifestyle. He had met and married the love of his life,

Rita, and they were planning to make additions to their family, but

something was missing. Abdul had grown weary and unfulfilled by the

culture of traditional pharmaceuticals, as he stated in a 2013 interview

with SmallFlowerTV, “All you ended up doing was pouring pills from a

big bottle, putting them in a little bottle, and the talk was, when we got

together with other pharmacists was, ‘How many ‘scripts’ can you fill in

a day?’” Again, he was at a crossroads. He wanted out.


Founded in 1875, Merz Apothecary had earned a tremendous

reputation for servicing the European community on Chicago’s North

Side. It was a charming neighborhood drug store, similar to those still

common across the country at the time, almost all of which have now

been replaced by chain stores or national brands. Ralph Merz, the last

in a line of Merzes to own the store since its inception, had reached

retirement age with no family successors, and he was looking for a

buyer. By now, Abdul had resolved to leave the pharmaceutical industry

behind, so this business was of little interest; however, he reluctantly

agreed to pay Mr. Merz a visit, out of respect to an elder adviser.

He recalls, “It was a majestic sight.”

To his surprise, the apothecary was no ordinary drug store. It was

extremely aromatic with herbs and tinctures lining the walls. In the back,

there were large drums where the herbs would be mixed. While the

store was a legitimate pharmacy where prescriptions were filled, they

also espoused old world remedies, and for Abdul, this was familiar and

refreshing. As he toured the store, he saw many products he recognized

from his childhood in Pakistan (a credit to his brother’s chemistry shop).

He was also intimately familiar with the use of herbs to both soothe and

cure maladies. “I was brought up with my mother giving us herbs.”

While business at the store was steady, Abdul was already making

more money as a conventional pharmacist. On top of that, Mr. Merz

told him that he could expect to lose as much as forty percent of his

business by simply not being German, as many of their customers were

of German descent and still only used the language. By most people’s

logic, Abdul should have dealt himself out. However, as the story goes,

approximately twenty minutes later, he had met with Merz’s accountant,

and agreed to purchase both the business and the building. That was

December, and he would take over the business in January.

Mr. Merz stayed on the following year to train Abdul, and Abdul

would take crash courses in German. By the end of the year, he estimates

that they had done one hundred and fifty percent of what they had done

the previous year. Abdul and Merz Apothecary never looked back.

The flagship store, Merz Apothecary, is an experience in and of itself as

many of the items Abdul describes upon entering that first day can still be

found in the store. Over the years, however, the business has grown from

two employees, to an estimated fifty at last count, and covers a range of

brands and locations including: Merz Apothecary, Merz Downtown at The

Palmer House Hotel,, and most recently Q Brothers. They

were even one of the first health and beauty merchants during the early

days of Amazon, and their brand now offer a range of products on both

Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Now. Their influence and service now

reach around the world, but their commitment to personal service, quality

products, and the complete wellbeing of their customers remains the same.

He humbly admits that the business has blossomed far beyond anything

he could have imagined as a boy on that runway in Karachi, or even on

that fateful day in 1972, when he first visited Merz Apothecary. “People

come here, spend so much money and then at the end, they thank me for

being here and allowing them to have a place to shop. I have always told

the boys, you have to work hard, but your intentions have to be good. You

can’t just do it for the sake of money.” To this day, this advice holds true.


“What keeps a lot of people from taking a leap of faith? Often people

say, ‘I can’t do it.’ They ask, ‘How am I going to pay health insurance?

My job comes with health insurance.’ I always say, ‘My god, it doesn’t

make sense because of the cost of health insurance for most people! Five

hundred dollars a month? Six hundred dollars a month? A thousand

dollars a month? Look at the upside. Look at how much you can make

if you went into business for yourself! The sky is the limit!’ My favorite

saying has been, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’” This is a question

he continues to raise when in personal and business deliberations.

Abdul has achieved what many would consider to be the “American

Dream”. To some, the prosperity of his family and success of his

businesses may appear to be out of reach, but the trials and triumphs

communicated here aren’t merely to exalt Mr. Qaiyum. He simply

provides perspective as to how individuals (with odds so certainly

stacked against them) may use a variety of experiences to catapult

themselves to success (regardless of background or personal history).

It’s arguable that the combined comfort and convenience afforded to

us by being born in this country is as much a hindrance as it is a propellant;

Abdul’s story, the story of the Qaiyum family, and Merz Apothecary, are

all reminders of the opportunity that lies within our borders, and what

one can achieve when their “willing” matches their “able”.

For more information about the rich history of Merz Apothecary and it’s

various brands, please visit to start your quest.






Savvy Success


turkey sandwiches—I’ll never forget it!” After sitting down, her friend

got a call. Her friend received a call from her engineer then-boyfriend

(they’re married now) and he said, ‘We’re working on this project called

The Music City Center in Nashville, and we need somebody who is very

organized.’ Susan laughed, recalling her friend’s reaction, “She was just

looking across this table, smiling at me, and I heard her say,‘I think I may

have someone for you!’”










esearch, done; interview questions, written; prepared

for that energy—not even close! I opened with some

general questions, and Susan’s zeal was evident from the

beginning as she talked about her business, her love for

her family, books, and hot yoga among other things. I

was told of her exuberance before making the call, nevertheless, nothing

could have readied me for the powerhouse entrepreneur that is Susan

Vanderbilt and her story of savvy success...

Raised by a single mother (due to the passing of her father) Susan

emphasized the fact that her family made sure she and her older brother

stayed connected with their cousins and remained close as a “family

unit.” It is no surprise that she has incorporated the idea of connectivity

into her business development and diversity inclusion firm, Entrée Savvy.

“Being very connected with my family throughout my life has influenced

how I connect with people now. Business is about building relationships

and that’s what I do; I make connections all day, it’s a very important part

of what I do.” Susan’s family life has also impacted the way she pushes her

clients to be greater and to do greater things; her mom—who put herself

through Vanderbilt University twice, earning a Master’s Degree—clearly

passed her determination on to Susan and her older brother: both of

whom have degrees and are married with families of their own. Speaking

about her mom, she told me “My mom pushed us to do everything we

could do, regardless of what that was. She pushed us to chase our dreams

and I take that with me in working with other people; I just try to push

them to help them get where they’re going.”

When asked about how Entrée Savvy started, Susan explained that a

simple dinner night with a friend led to her working on huge projects.

“It’s kind of an interesting story” she started, describing how she had a

degree in Speech and Hearing Science, but was feeling burned-out. “The

field of Speech Pathology is so broad and while I was very interested in

Corporate Speech Pathology, I decide to take a break and refocus.” She

went on to explain how she got involved in a major project soon after

her decision. “I had a good friend who stopped by with Bar-B-Cutie and

Susan went to interview for the position and impressed by her resume,

her experience as a Speech Pathologist, and her diverse skill set, they hired

her. Her new job was working on diversity inclusion at the Music City

Center, and while she’d never heard of “diversity inclusion”, she quickly

made it her business to learn as much as she could. The project required

20% participation, and she helped it to achieve 30% diversity inclusion:

something that had never been done before in the city of Nashville.

“Coming from a Speech Pathologist background and not a construction

one, I didn’t realize how huge it was to achieve that.”

After working on the Music City Center project, people that knew of

her success encouraged Susan to continue doing similar work for other

businesses. Mentioning one of many, she recalled, “Kevin Keller—Bell

Construction—said, ‘Just go do it!’ I said, “Okay Kevin. If I start this

business and you all get work... you better call on me, because this is a big

jump!” She did a massive amount of research and soon after, she officially

launched Entrée Savvy: doing everything from helping people who may

not understand the aspects of a contract, finding employees who meet the

minority requirements for certain jobs, guiding clients through various

policies, and even giving free consultation on minor inquiries. As Susan’s

own success has increased, so has her love of helping others to succeed. “I

don’t need to charge you a gazillion dollars for providing you with a little

information that you need to start things off: in being this way, I have

gained several clients as a result.”

When asked about her personal and professional growth, she described

how it all goes hand in hand and how she has used her own experiences

to better relate and be of service in assisting others with their journey to

do the same. “You can’t do one without the other, they go hand in hand.

I had a friend and she remembers me saying, ‘Don’t say the word ‘can’t’:

If you say you can’t, you never will’ and she told me she’d never heard

that before and that she applies that to her life in a huge way now.” Susan

continued by saying, “Hearing things like this is what I call success. When

I hear ‘Your words have really inspired me’ or a ‘Hey, I got the job!’, that

is what I call success.”

Equipped with extreme attention to detail, candid communication,

and a tremendous zest for elevating others, it is easy to see why businesses

flock to Entrée Savvy and why Susan is the go-to person when a client

needs to know the real deal. Unapologetically genuine, Susan Vanderbilt

is the epitome of savvy success.


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