Sunday, December 20, 2015

Food Stamps to CEO Billionaire

She started on foodstamps, and now leverages a $24 billion economic powerhouse

by: Financial Juneteenth

If you haven’t heard about Gloria Johnson-Cusack, then you might be missing something. Gloria was named CEO of the National Human Services Assembly.The company, according to CNN Financial, leverages roughly $24 billion dollars in purchasing power, giving her a great deal of influence on the economy around her.
The company is in partnership with HeathTrust Purchasing Group, with NHSA directing purchasing activity for 80 non-profits, including the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, and United Way.
Johnson-Cusack was raised in Washington DC and struggled economically in her upbringing.
“I grew up in D.C. with three siblings. We looked like the “Cosby” family on TV (literally, in our house with a white picket fence) but – financially – we were more like the lower income inhabitants in Bill Cosby’s cartoon creation, ‘Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,’” she said.
Johnson-Cusack says that her father ran a watch repair shop and her mother was a government worker. When her parents went through an ugly divorce battle, she says that she ended up on foodstamps with no dental or medical care and no savings whatsoever.
“Students from my junior high school were famous for ransacking buses that transported kids from three public housing projects. Our students were in the news for tearing out the paper ads inside the buses and throwing them out the windows; that’s in addition to the typical graffiti works,” she told CNN.
Johnson-Cusack’s life changed when she was given the opportunity to attend the same prep school that President Obama’s children attend today. It seems that no one wants to send their kids to public schools, even the politicians who ask us to send our children to those same institutions.
“In retrospect, I was saved by my zip code. Even though our family finances were awful, I still spent my formative years in a safe neighborhood with intact families. We had high expectations from Dad’s stories about being a Morehouse classmate of Dr. King and from Mom’s stories about escaping sharecropping,” she said.
Johnson Cusack says that her experience let her know that a person’s zip code was the greatest indicator of whether or not they were poor. She says, however, that many people from impoverished communities have the same work ethic as anyone else, and are only in need of the opportunity to get ahead. So, it appears that she hasn’t forgotten where she comes from.
Johnson-Cusack is also wise enough to know that if we don’t start using some of our best human resources, the entire nation is going to suffer because of it.
“When I work with business and philanthropic partners, I aim for more equality of opportunity, irrespective of zip codes. It’s that outcome, or else our workforce and our country will stagnate amidst enormous potential,” she said
Read more at:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

BHM Showcase Auditions

Black History Month Showcase


Its almost time for the BHM Showcase to take place 2/20/16 at Valley Harvest Church in Rogers.


Sunday December 6, at 2-4pm at St. James Baptist Church 763 W. North St, Fayetteville, AR 72701
Saturday, December 19 at 1-3pm at OMNI, 3274 N. Lee Ave Fayetteville, AR 72703


SKIT 1: Women of Wisdom
21 African American Females are needed for the roles of historical Black Women. Each female will recite a quote, monologue or act out the role of the Historical Black Woman 

(10 females ages 10-25), (6 females ages 26-40), (4 females ages 41-70), (1 girl age 4-7)

1.  Sojourner Truth
2. Harriet Tubman
3. Ida B. Wells
4. Mary McLeod Bethune
5. Maya Angelou
6. Fannie Lou Hamer
7. Shirley Chisholm
8. Oprah Winfrey
9. Nina Simone
10. Angela Davis
11. Assata Shakur
12. Marian Anderson
13. Madame C.J. Walker
14. Rosa Parks
15. Zora Neale Hurston
16. Toni Morrison
17. Daisy Bates
18. Alice Walker
19. Josephine Baker
20. Mae Jemison
21: Little Girl (Recital of Hey Black Child)


SKIT 2: Joints of Knowledge

Two friends are chatting and one is smoking a joint and tries to influence the other. The other friend, however, has a different joint called the Joint of Knowledge, Wisdom & Understanding.

2 African American Male Rappers: ages 18-30


                      SKIT 3: Vivian's Freedom Song

A slave master’s son is known to be vicious, and brutal to slave women until he meets Vivian who sings a way into his heart! He is forever changed and starts a mission to free slaves up North!

6 African American Women; (2 women ages 16-25), (2 women ages 26-50), (2 women ages 51 and up)
4 African American Men: (2 men ages 16-25), (2 men ages 26-50)
2 Caucasian Men: (1 age 18-25, (1 age 40-60)

Because of Them, WE Can Fashion Show

Children of all races and ages (4 and up) will dress up as diverse characters such as George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, President Barack Obama, President Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson,  Selma Marchers, Freedom Riders and more. 

Participants will walk to the mic and say a quote and then end with, Because of ______, I Can!
Ages: 4 and up

Children of all races and ages will dress up as diverse characters such as George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, President Barack Obama, President Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson,  Selma Marchers, Freedom Riders and more. 

Participants will walk to the mic and say a quote and then end with, Because of ______, I Can!

1.  Barack Obama
2.   Maya Angelou
3.   Rosa Parks
4.   Martin Luther King
5.   Freedom Riders (6)
6.   George Washington Carver
7.   Langston Hughes
8.    Nelson Mandela
9.    Frederick Douglass
10.   Harriet Tubman
11.   Thurgood Marshall
12.   Angela Davis
13.   Stuart Scott
14.   Doug Williams
15.   Oprah Winfrey
16.   Michael Jordan
17.   Whoopi Goldberg
18.   Shirley Chisolm
19.   Muhammad Ali
20.    Michelle Obama
21.   Zeta Phi Beta Sorority (5)
22.   Sigma Gamma Rho(5)
23.   Alpha Kappa Alpha(5)
24.   Delta Sigma Theta(5)
25.   Alpha Phi Alpha(5)
26.   Phi Beta Sigma(5)
27.   Omega Psi Phi(5)
28.   Kappa Alpha Psi(5)
29.   Tuskegee Airman (4)
30.   Phyliss Wheatley
31.   Trayvon Martin
32.   Peter Norman
33.   Carter G. Woodson
34.   Sojourner Truth
35.   William Lloyd Garrison
36.   Abraham Lincoln
37.   Assata Shakur
38.   Malcolm X
39.   Stevie Wonder
40.   Madam C. J. Walker
41.   Michael Jackson
42.   Whitney Houston
43.   Desmond Tutu
44.   Spike Lee
45.  Little Rock 9
46.  Wilt Chamberlain
47.   Daisey Bates
48.   Emmitt Till
49.   Memphis Sanitation Workers(4)
50.   4 Little Girls (4)
51.   Black Panther Party(4)
52.   Althea Gibson
53.   Serena and Venus Williams (2)
54.   Bob Marley
55.   MC Hammer
56.   Jackson 5 (5)
57.   TLC (3)
58.   Jackie Robinson
59.   Selma Marchers(10)
60.   Dizzy Gillespie
61. Other

Individuals for Fashion Show do not have to come to the auditions. They can email the person they select to the email below with a picture to match the outfit they plan to model. Fashion Models will come to rehearsals in January and February.  For more information, please email: 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Poetic Justice V

By Tony E. Boyd

Pam DeRossitte wears the Hoodie

Host Jared Carter -Be Sweet
The Groove continued in Fayetteville Friday night. Poetic Justice again graced the stage at Common Grounds. In its fifth incarnation, we the audience  were treated to heartfelt sentiments, raw emotion and the strength of courage. Poetic Justice 5 did not have the quantity of Poetic Justice 4 but it did have the quality.  The MCs for the night, Leora Jackson and Jared Carter, are stalwarts of the Poetic Justice stage.  Familiar faces in familiar places.

The whole idea behind the Poetic Justice open mic nights, according to founder Leora Jackson, is to give people a platform to discuss important issues that matter. Whether that discussion comes out in poetry, song, monologues, readings of something relevant, or just speaking off the cuff. Participants that grace the stage discuss a wide range of subjects from very personal matters to issues that affect society’s outsiders to issues of the 99%. Some comments are direct. Some make great use of metaphor. Clever wordplay is the order of the night.

Pam DeRossitte, our first brave soul, came to the stage to perform “A Time To Learn”. It was an original piece about racism and the ignorance surrounding it. She relates a tale of self-discovery that begins at a very early age and progresses with innocence (and stupidity) until the proverbial wool is pulled from her eyes. She had no real concept of racism, segregation, racial turmoil, etc. til then. One personal take-away from her piece is that people should realize that just because something has always been doesn’t mean it should always be.

Roslyn Imrie
Jared Carter returned to the stage as a performer bringing his perspective to the issues of the day. He started with an untitled piece that touched on the dangers of just being Black in the wrong place, at the wrong time, dressed contrary to what you’re supposed to. Through the night, he entertained, educated and intrigued us with various other original works. One called “Be Sweet” was an ode to his daughters. Another piece lamented the evils of technology. In between all of that, he also found time to encourage the crowd to join in and participate.

Next to the stage came poetess, Roslyn Imrie. Her piece was called “Totem”. Self-described as an autobiographical piece, “Totem” was wave after wave of vocal ups and downs. Intermittent pace. Emphasize and de-emphasis. The power of her words reached out to the audience in both tone and cadence.

As Roslyn left the stage, there was a ruckus in the crowd. 

Granny Jones-Pull your Pants up

We all turned to see an elderly lady making her way through the audience to the stage.  Escorted by L.I.F.E. – Life In Front of Everything, our intrepid mystery woman stepped gingerly on they stage and introduced herself. Call her Granny Jones, she said. She told us she was sent by Leora Jackson to “say a few words”. Kind of reminds me of quite a few grandmas that I’ve seen over my lifetime. Granny Jones used her stage time to point out what I consider to be one of the great tragedies of our day. She spoke of how much was sacrificed by so many for freedom, education and equality of black people yet the benefits are not being taken advantage of. Yes there are still battles to be fought but by using the gains already made we can keep moving forward. Leora’s second stage incarnation, Granny Jones, offered the audience a reminder and a call to action.  We must not squander what was so painfully won.

L.I.F.E. (Stacy Harper) brought her considerable talent to the stage next. Her experience as a life coach has given her a wealth of fodder for her enlightening prose. This new piece was titled “Midnight Moments”. We all listened intently as she read and sang her encouraging message. There are times in our life when things are not going well. Our positivity is low. Its too easy to fall into that trap. We are all special and significant. It’s best not to forget that.

Stacy "LIFE" Harper
Newcomers were a big part of Poetic Justice 5. Another one of those newcomers, Julie, came to the stage next. She read an original piece called “Playing Hooky”. It was a tale about teen angst and their need for support/unconditional love. That support may not always come from biological family but people we choose to be our family.

Pam came back to the stage to share more of her heart with us. This time it was to remind and challenge us about the tragedy of Trayvon Martin. In her pink hoodie of solidarity, she spoke of the injustice that was done, the effects on those Trayvon left behind and how so little has changed since. She invoked the #BlackLivesMatter mantra. Vigilance and action are key. Ignoring and inaction are deadly.

Cherokee Lann
After another piece from our fearless leader, Cherokee Lann came to the stage to perform his original work, “Expiration Date”. Cherokee is a very expressive performer. His vocal range and intensity adds a lot to his written word. He brings you more and more into his frantic, tortured world with each successive line. His cadence and pitch were on point to the point of hypnotism. You felt his pain, lamented his plight. It’s one example of what writing from the heart can accomplish.

Danette Simmons, reluctant newcomer, found the courage to grace the stage. Thankfully so because she read a poignant piece about a person growing up in a tragic situation, seeing the worse that life has to offer. However, somehow, that same person is able to grow up to be a very loving, caring and helpful. We have no control over where we are born or to whom. We have no control over those around us. We can only try to be the best person that we can be.

What’s a night of Poetic Justice without song? Thankfully, we didn’t have to find out. Two new brave souls came to the stage to entertain us with song, Amanda and Tia. Amanda had made an announcement earlier about a showing of a documentary about an African American composer from Arkansas name Florence B. Price (look her up) that will be shown on AETN on Nov. 16. Tia chose to perform India Arie’s “I Am Ready For Love” in acapella.

Tia Ade

Amanda did a selection from the works of Florence B. Price on which she collaborated with the famous poet, columnist, dramatist, essayist, novelist and songwriter Langston Hughes. Both ladies were talented and brought the audience to their feet.

All in all, another successful night for Poetic Justice. If you keep missing it, stop. Get yourself to the next one. Come have your soul stirred, your spirit lifted, your views challenged or confirmed, your mind entertained, your heart touched. It’s a time and place for learning, self-discovery, sharing and community. Even if you don’t want to actually get on stage, there’s room for you in the audience. See you there. Peace.

by Tony E. Boyd

Pictures of PJOM5:

Monday, August 31, 2015

The INSPIRATIONAL Groove!! by Tony E. Boyd

Experiencing Poetic Justice IV 
by Tony E. Boyd
Hostess Stacy "LIFE" Harper
I missed the last Poetic Justice due to the loss of a beloved family member. Poetic Justice IV made up for it. The night was filled with performances that could not help but to uplift hearts, tickle funny bones, and stir one’s soul. If you weren’t able to attend, to put it bluntly, you missed out.

Poetry slams are usually laid back affairs in my experience. They start slow and gain momentum. Our talented MCs for the evening, Leora Jackson (stage name: F.L. Jones) and Stacy Harper (stage name L.I.F.E. – Life In Front of Everything) directed a smooth flow that started as a babbling brook and ended as rolling river. Powerful. That’s a word that came to mind a lot during the slam. From start to finish, I in awe of the talent assembled.

F. L. Jones

Doug Shields
F.L. Jones started off the festivities with a work of her own called “Teacher Behold This Child”. I would describe it as an ode to teachers espousing the virtues of being an educator. 

Next up, she welcomed to the stage Doug Shields, a personable instructor with an uncommon wit. His piece “Let’s Do That. Let’s Look At It From The Cop’s Point of View”, was a very powerful, insightful examination of what happened between Sandra Bland and the Texas justice system. His dramatic reading style and animated presentation added to the impact of his words. 

Doug was a tough act to follow but Steve Holst stepped up to the challenge and regaled us with a set of entertaining, and thought-provoking limericks. Steve’s limericks tackled the sometimes confusing, seemingly contradictory and unfair nature of religion, bibles and deities delivered with humorous intent. In order of reading, they were “Love Poem To My Species”, “So Go Ahead Then”, “Statutory Immaculate Conception”, “Second Coming, Slow Down Darling”, “Busy Being”, “Angry Young Poets”, “Sound of One Frigging Slipping”, “God’s Good Lawyers”, and “Popcorn Colors”. It seems like a lot but they were short and poignant. 
Steve Holst

Next up, F.L. Jones returned to the stage and channeled James Weldon Johnson by reading his piece, “The Creation”. If you’ve never heard of it, look it up. It’s worth your reading time.

Our other charismatic MC, L.I.F.E. returned to the stage to perform her ever-evolving piece with interchangeable parts called, “I Will Sing”, a mixture of song and prose. The way it’s structured, she can perform the same piece over and over and it never has to be exactly the same every time. Within it, she plucks bits from the headlines, stories that need to be heard, highlighted and interweaves it into “I Will Sing”. That’s one of the things about the Poetic Justice slams. They serve as a venue of expression of emotions that one might not have otherwise. It’s a place to reflect on the things going on around you in the world, a place to share your frustration, pain, sadness, joy, hope, and happiness. 

That freedom to express how you feel is exemplified by Tina Gaston's choice to read (via smart phone recording) a poem entitled “An Overreaction: Words on #BlackLivesMatter and MLK” by Sarah O’Neal. It’s a rousing push back against efforts to trivialize our community’s right to be outraged and to show rage about injustices against our community. Said piece is available to watch on YouTube at

Leora Jackon has a piece called “Oh Valentine” which she performs with a singer (in this case, L.I.F.E.) that never fails to cause my heart to weep. It’s about domestic violence, a somber topic that has touched so many of our lives.

Rosalyn Laurie
Heaviness was not all there was to be had by the packed house. Levity was interwoven to lighten the mood, add a little chuckle here and there. Rosalyn Laurie provided the house with two humorous, anecdotal pieces that brought smiles to people’s faces. Her first, entitled “Good or Bad” discussed the world through the eyes of a child considered handicapped but in more ways than one may be more able than those around him. The second piece was more of a fun little ditty about a man and his roadkill possum called “I Wouldn’t Recommend The Ice Water”. 

Comedienne Kaia first performed a piece, a sort of ode to Michelle Duggar, entitled “Live In Fiction. She later returned to do a bit of stand-up for the appreciative crowd.

There were singers and songs with original lyrics. Wavy J. stepped to the mike to perform “My People Dying” (pretty self-explanatory). Afterwards, he was followed on stage by another singer, Michael. He sang his original song “Not The Hustle”, a poignant ballad reporting the tragic death of a sleeping 7 year old Ayiana Jones. 
Michael (left) and Wavy J

Later on they both returned to the stage to do a duet about police brutality entitled “Black Male”. It was important to them to get across that the police personified in their song were not all police but the select few who go beyond the scope of their job description and rules to take the law into their own hands. 

Michael earned an “Awwwwwww” and applause from the assembled crowd for the love song he performed for the love of his life standing in the audience. Poetic Justice is spontaneous and unpredictable like that. Good for them.

Lakeesha Shaw
Poetic Thoughts
As the “river” continued to flow, we were blessed with more clever wordplay, grownfolk prose, entertaining analogies. Brandon Poetic Thoughts’ “I Am Drunk In Love Off of Poetry” and LaKeesha Thomas Shaw’s “Forget The G Spot, Hit The B Spot” both used witty juxtaposition of terms to convey their respective messages. Just the titles get your attention, right? Brandon’s vivid description of his relationship with his poetry was both humorous and profound. We all had an “Oh?” moment listening to LaKeesha educate us on the merits of concentrating on the B spot rather than the G spot. If you don get it, go listen to her perform it sometime. All will be made clear.

 Brandon later returned to the stage to perform “Who Should Really Be Scared”, an older piece of his referring to racist perceptions.

So many exceptional performances, all deserve to be mentioned. Here is a list of the rest of the performers and the name of their pieces:
Jim Dudley
Sam Nguyen
J – “Music Appreciation Through The Years” and “I Wish I Was Dreaming Instead”
Jim Dudley – “Perseus”
Luka – “The H Word”
Cherokee – “Jesus, I Heard You Knocking”
Sam Nguyen – “Misplaced Feeling”
Anna – “Fumble”
Kim – “Slave Trade Out of Ghana”
T – “Boxes”
Serif – “Obliquity”



Some performances were calm, deliberate and demure. Others were intense, physical, and in your face. Not the type of stuff you could just ignore. If you get a chance to see any of these talented performers, poets, singers, comedians perform, do it. You will be the better for it.

Stay tuned for the next Poetic Justice in October.


Story and photos by Tony E. Boyd

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

#SayHerName NWA Candlelight Vigil

A Community Gathers Together to Say Their Names
by Leora Jackson

Fayetteville, AR  There were over 20 names of Black Women shown on the SayHerName NWA Candlelight Vigil presentation Saturday, August 15 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, however those names were just a tiny fraction of the total representation of women of color who were killed by law enforcement in the past decade, and the recent death of Sandra Bland has created an awareness that #SayHerName need to be in the forefront of Social Justice.

Tina Gaston of HandsUpNWA and Leora Jackson of Umoja Soul NWA came together to host a local candlelight vigil called “SayHerName in honor of many black women who were killed in the hands of law enforcement. What turned out to be a simple Facebook dialogue between a Facebook friend about protests that are happening across the U.S. in relationship to the death of Sandra Bland, turned into an event that welcomed different Peace Organizations such as OMNI Center for Peace, Justice & Ecology, The Other Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas Chapter of the NAACP, Dept of Social Work and more.

 A lot of people were upset about things happening and wanted to join in to see what NWA would do locally in recognition of Sandra Bland and other women of color who have been reported as committing suicide. Bland's family and majority of the African American community have suspected foul play, and have demanded the Department of Justice to intervene.

“We are working on issues of injustices in the local, state, and National level to ensure that local voices would be heard. We will make sure to take this forward and address these issues in Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus, and in the National Urban League, said D’Andre Jones.

With the lack of publicity of Black women of color in main stream media, Jackson and Gatson knew that discussions on this issue were needed.

Dr. Valandra, Associate Professor of Social Work and African and African American Studies, stated she was concerned about the misrepresentation of black girls in the educational system as well.

“Black girls are now involved in more school suspensions than ever before”, she said,  and this leads to a disproportionate number of black girls being referred to law enforcement and some of the reasons for referrals is non-violent offenses which leads to the pipeline to prison epidemic."

Jackson, co-organizer of the event said in her speech that the media gives a lot of recognition to the black men who have died due to police violence, and when a black woman dies, it doesn’t get as much respect and very little attention.  She read a poem entitled, Why can’t we say her name.

“Why can’t we say her Name? Yes we have names of Black Men who were killed, shot, and beat on street. So, we hear their names, Repeat, Repeat and Repeat! But what about Her Name?? What about the mother, who had a son,  and he was the age of 1, when she was killed under the gun, while holding her son, in her arms. This mother had a name. Her Name was Tarika Wilson, Please say her name," Jackson asked the audience.

And the audience repeated, “Tarika Wilson!”

Gatson then showed a Power Point presentation acknowledging 20 women of color during the candlelight vigil. Some names were Miriam Carey (Washington, D.C.) – 34 years old, Shereese Francis (Queens, New York) – 30 years old, Shauntel Davis (Brooklyn, New York) – 23 years old Sharmel Edwards (Las Vegas, Nevada) – 49 years old, Rekia Boyd (Chicago, Illinois) – 22 years old, Tyisha Miller (Riverside, California) – 19 years old, Yvette Smith (Bastrop, Texas) – 47 years old, and Tanisha Anderson, age 37, Cleveland

J’onnelle Colbert-Diaz, NAACP Representative and member a Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, wanted to make sure the audience understood that while this was a Say Her Name vigil, we should replace her name with OUR name and understand the significance.

“Think of your son’s name, your daughter’s names, or replace HER name with YOUR name. The names would mean a whole lot more if it were someone we knew or if it was one of us. But this can happen to any of us. We could be THAT name,” she said.

Colbert-Diaz also asked the audience if they remembered the 1991 beating of Rodney King and everyone raised their hands. When asked if they remember the hate crime murder of Latarsha Harlins, no one raised their hands.  She was killed by an Asian store owner 15 days after Rodney King.

Black women disputes such as domestic violence, and hate crime assaults are not reported to the media as much. More recently, there have been incidences of hate crimes targeted toward transgender women.

Gaston read a story from a Black woman in Little Rock, Tiommi Luckette who was brutalized by Little Rock Police Department. The woman happened to be Transgender and ending up being harassed, bullied, degraded and surviving the most antagonizing ordeal she had ever faced.

“I constantly pray for the day that I can repress my experiences with the criminal justice system here in Little Rock, Arkansas,” said Gaston, 

Many people were very well pleased with the event. A lot of support and contacts were made. This was a very pleasant event that portrayed UNITY in the CommUNITY.

Umoja Soul NWA and HandsUpNWA will host Poetic Justice Open Mic on August 28, from 8pm-11pm. 
See the Facebook Event Invite for more information: Poetic Justice Open Mic Event Invite

Photos by Irvin Camacho of Natural Dreamers
More Photos by Irvin Camacho

An overreaction to #BlackLivesMatter -