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Conversations Magazine Aug./Sept. Issue

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Monday, August 11, 2014

[To You, From Me] Becoming New From the Inside Out

I tell everyone that I am a work in progress.

When I see the way my life has evolved over the past decade I have many reasons to be thankful and to feel blessed, but that doesn't mean the work is over.

I, like many of you, began 2014 with a list of goals that I wanted to be able to achieve. Have i accomplished them all? No, but I choose to focus on the strides that I have made, the people I have inspired and the impact that I am able to make in my corner of the world. The same should be true for you. If you haven't achieved what you have wanted to up to this point, don't let that get you down. If you are reading this that means that you have been given another day to make some amazing strides. The choice is totally up to you.

In this issue of Conversations Magazine we hope to inspire you to become new from the inside out. What does that mean? Well, I believe the articles will get you to thinking not just about the individuals profiled but about yourself and what you are able to do beginning right now. It all begins with the decision.

For those who read scripture Roman 12: 2 says in part: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..." That shows us that anything that we want to manifest on the outside must begin within. The three individuals on the cover of this issue (Michael Cory Davis, Glenda L. Hunter and Branden Nicholson) have all realized that. No matter what their professions they have been able to 'renew their minds', activating their gifts and seeing how they are being used in the world.

That is my challenge for you. No matter what you want to do (pursue a career, perfect a craft or improve things on the homefront), you can do it, but you have to approach it with the right attitude. As I mentioned I haven't been able to do everything I started out to this year---but that doesn't mean I am going to stop trying. Neither should you.

What is it that you are striving to do? What steps are you taking right now to do it? I want to know! Drop me a line at Would love to be able to encourage you along the way to not just think about it but start doing it!

Until next time, happy reading!

Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine

Tony Lindsay Presents... Ralph Waldo Ellison

In American literature, there was a period between the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement; the Black writers of this period are referred to by the historian Lawrence P. Jackson as the “Indignant Generation.” One of the leading writers of the era was Ralph Waldo Ellison.

Largely respected for his 1952 novel Invisible Man, Ellison wrote other fiction during the period as well; his short stories were gathered and edited by John F. Callahan in a posthumous collection titled Flying Home. The thirteen stories of the work reflect the development of Ellison’s literary style along with his use of themed stories, and any student of literary technique will be well served by the collection.

Ellison experiments with point of view in the four warm hearted coming of age and friendship stories with the protagonists, Riley and Buster, two young Black boys who: brag of the conquest of Mister Toussan (Toussaint Louverture), survive the Depression with creative pastimes and diligent parents and sports heroes, learn that all actions have consequence, and that one man’s witch could be another’s vixen.

In the story, “A Party Down at the Square,” Ellison creates another boy protagonist. This time the youth is white, and he is enticed into witnessing a killing, the burning alive of a Black man. The town gathered in the square for the “party.” Ellison reduced the victim, the Black man, to what the crowd and the boy saw; the Black man was no more than “a barbecued hog.” However, Ellison interrupts the celebration with a cyclone that causes a plane to crash, and a woman to be electrocuted, but despite the catastrophes the boy and the town’s people returned to the “party.” The boy did manage to generate a simulant of respect for the Black man when he broke free of the burning ropes with his last breath, “That Bacote nigger was some nigger.”

Ellison employed another boy child character in “The Black Ball.” John, the protagonist and the loving father of the boy works as a maintenance man. Ellison expertly built tension around the father and son love while juxtaposing Jim Crow restrictions with unions; causing John to understand that working without a union was working behind the blackball.

The titled story of the collection, “Flying Home” is the lengthiest story in the work; dealing with Jim Crow, classism among Blacks, self-worth, and community belonging are some of the apparent themes covered in this multi layered story. The protagonist can be easily interrupted as a Tuskegee Airman who felt he had elevated himself above Jim Crow restrictions and the more ignorant of his brethren. Ellison used reality as a sounding board for the character and the reader by having the character in out of consciousness pulling empathy from the reader, and at the same time reducing the character’s pompousness by having him depend on those he viewed as less than himself.  

  The stories in Ralph Ellison’s Flying Home exemplify the artistry of the writer and the pain of the era he wrote in. The stories are a must read for any serious student and writer, and a pleasurable read for anyone who enjoys good stories.      

 Tony Lindsay is an award-winning author and adjunct professor at Chicago State University. His book ONE DEAD DOCTOR was chosen by Conversations Book Club as one of its Top 100 Books of 2012. Lindsay was named Conversations Author of the Year 2012-2013.  His new book EMOTIONAL DRIPPINGS is available now on He can be reached at or on Facebook

[Mary's Motivational Message] Celebrating Fatherhood

Who says Father's Day is something to be celebrated once a year?

With fatherhood everyday is an opportunity to be exposed to millions of valuable life lessons/challenges and teachings that provide insight. I would like to set aside this time to share a few examples that have inspired me.

Example 1: The reality of Dads and who they are:
So often we hear and read about the men who are not being good providers, good role models and leaders for their children and families. We have all heard the reports of those men who have walked away from their families and have just detached from their responsibilities. Well I’m here this morning to tell you that the painting is not a true reflection of the entire portraits depth.  The reality is that those who do step up outweigh those who don’t. The majority of fathers are proudly standing on the front line each and every day for their families, while being the constant protector.
- They are working extremely hard to ensure that shelter is provided and warm food is on the table
- They are inspiring their daughters, encouraging their sons while being emotionally supportive of their wife or significant other
- So many of you beautiful DADS make sacrifices so that your families will have.

My mom once shared with me how my maternal grandfather, who was a proud City Employee,  so often to prolong the purchasing of new work boots, would wrap his torn work boots with duck tape because he felt that the money would be better utilized within the family home.

So many Dads are the constant protector. Many times when we think their reading the news paper or guarding the remote control, numerous DADS are actually thinking about, “Is my wife ok? Are my children alright? Will the bills be paid this month? Are there enough groceries in the cupboards? Am I doing all that I need to do? Am I being the husband and provider GOD has ordered me to be?" Not the minority but the majority of men love, cherish and adore their children beyond what we could ever imagine.

Example 2: Pertains to never giving up on your relationship with your children:
One year ago, a dad was sharing with me, his frustration with his daughter.  Years prior there had been words pertaining to him being absent from her life when she was a young child. And as a result, they had not spoken in some time. Whatever advice or suggestions I provided, he remained hopeless and bitter. How many of you DADS are filling a void because there is a rift with your child?  How many know a DAD who is facing various challenges with their child and is consumed with guilt.  Well, I’m here to say that:
- It’s never to late to transform your relationship with your child
- There are some things you can give up on but never give up on cultivating a positive relationship with your child
- God has the power  with blink of an eye lid to  bring about a healing and a understanding
- Fight for renewal in your relationship with your child and remember that through GOD all things are possible

Example 3: Pertains to Having No Regrets:
 Many of you like myself, had to say good-by to our DAD much too soon. At least you feel that it was too soon. Five years ago my father went in for an outpatient surgery and passed away on the operating table. We had shared a conversation the day before laughing, gossiping, just having a great time. His last words to me were, “sweetie, Daddy will talk to you tomorrow” but that never came.

I find it difficult searching for Father’s Day cards and not purchasing one for my dad. I miss him so much. I’m so thrilled that whatever we needed to address we did. He knew how I felt and I knew his heart as it pertained to me.

A reminder for you: this journey called life is so very short and because we are only here for moment, you don’t have a life time to re event your child. And children you don’t have a lifetime to re-invent your DAD. All you have is this moment. Enjoy your DAD, love your DAD, and cherish your DAD.

When was the last time you said Dad I love you, Dad I appreciate you, thank you Dad just because. Well, no better time than today, to get some pep in your step and spoil your daddy.  And as you journey through your life spread the love around, extending appreciation to the various Dads that you come into contact with.

And to all of you Dads out there standing on the front line 24/7 for your families, we see you, we honor you, we love you and we want you to know, that even though we set aside this day to treat you like a king and shower you with love, within our hearts we know, and acknowledge that Father’s Day is every day.

In closing, Happy Father’s day to the Father’s, God Fathers, Grandfathers, Uncles, Brothers, and Mentors. Many of you wear many hats and we love you for it, never forget that.
Love, Peace and Joy,                                                                                                                                        Mary

Mary E. Gilder is the author of the award winning novel, A Misrepresentation of Myself. And her soon to be sophomore release, Even a Man Can Have a Broken Heart. In addition Mary is available for speaking engagements. She can be contacted at or 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

[Review] HELP by Grammy Award-winnning Artist Erica Campbell

We've all been there: felt as though our backs were against the wall and not able to see how we are going to be able to move forward.

For individuals of Faith we know that God is able to do all things, and when things are looking their worse that is when we need him the most. Sometimes we don't know what to say, but thankfully He gives us just what we need at the right time. HELP, the debut album from Mary Mary's Erica Campbell, offers us the words we need in such a time as this.

The project offers not just words of encouragement but praise for all of us when it seems all hope is lost. I had a chance to talk with Erica during her promo tour about the lead single and the way it was affecting the lives of others. "It let's me know that what I'm singing about or talking about is needed right now," she told me during our phone interview. "I don't think it's ever inappropriate for anybody to call on help, especially the help of God... I feel honored to be used in that way, to sing a song that is reaching people, helping people, touching people."

For over a decade Erica and her sister Tina have been a blessing to others, sharing their gift of ministry through song with the world. In HELP Erica is able to show that being a Christian doesn't make you immune from life's trouble, but it does give you help. "I choose to live for God, and I do it proudly," she told me.

Featuring Hip Hop artist Lecrae the single HELP touches on many areas of our life that we might struggle with. I asked Erica if she went into the single knowing she was going to be that transparent about her own life. "Not necessarily," she said. "I thought I was just writing a song, and then 2013 happened with all it's fury...And all you can really say is help."

No matter who you are there comes a time when you have to surrender, knowing you can't go any further on your own. That is what Erica sings about, and it is that message that resonates through every verse of the single.

Other stand-outs on the album are LOOKING LIKE which through faith speaks that "I'm going to make it through this" and the single NOBODY ELSE which reminds us that He (God) did it for us when nobody else could.

Stay in touch with Erica on Twitter at album HELP is available wherever music is available in stores and online.

[Review] Kristen Moeller's WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

What I am waiting for?

It is a question we have all undoubtedly asked ourselves at some point.

Maybe it has to do with going after something that we say we want or moving to a new level in pursuing our passion. For Kristen Moeller the question forced her to do a self-examination of the good, the bad and the unknown, and what she has learned is now being shared with us in the book WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

After losing her dream home and all her worldly possessions to a raging and sudden wildfire that killed three people and demolished twenty-one homes, Moeller dove into an exploration of our cultural discomfort with grief, the existence of God, finding humor in the midst of tragedy - and what it means to be a human being with all our fabulousness as well as frailties.

I approached this book with some nervous excitement, mainly because I like others want to know the answer but then realize this will force upon me the need to do the work necessary to get what I want. Kristen went through degrees of loss in her life and afterwards found herself wondering what was really important. Sometimes we have to go through the fire (literally for some) in order to realize what is left behind, what have we chosen to carry with us and more importantly what are we going to do with ourselves now. Kristen helps us to understand the importance of not just being in the moment but embracing all the little things that it brings because those times and experiences will never come again.

This doesn't mean that we should live life in wait of the 'other shoe to drop', but we should always be mindful that what we have right now---this very moment---is unique and special, and so is what we choose to do with it.

Kristen encourages the reader to stop looking for the "perfect" time and instead focus on making the most of the time and moment we have right now. Using her own experiences and "Gentle Knocks" through the book for us to do self-reflections, she gives us everything we will need to move forward, making the leap that can result in our being present every day of our life.

Poignant and powerful, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? prepares us for the work necessary to rise to the occasion of our lives.

Stay connected with Kristen Moeller at

Actor Jonathan Chase: Living In the Moment, Loving the Process

by Cyrus Webb

Living your life with purpose and passion is more than just words. It's about action. Just ask Jonathan Chase. In the past decade he has gone from being a supporting actor on hit shows such as Monk and Veronica Mars to one of the bright stars on the runaway comedy LOVE THY NEIGHBOR on the Oprah Winfrey Network. I had a chance to talk with him about the experience and what this journey has been like for him, and the conversation was nothing short of inspiring.

"As soon as I take a breath and realize we shot 26 episodes of a sitcom in such a short amount of time (about a couple of months), something that takes Hollywood 10 1/2 months to do... I can't believe it. I truly appreciate the speed that Tyler Perry is able to perform and function. It's a feat beyond itself. When I got to LA and worked on another job I couldn't believe how slow it was compared to what we did in Atlanta."

"I was actually going to be a sports agent. I took a semester off and traveled abroad to London for 6 months and saw a play a week. That's when I fell in love. So many musicals I saw that changed my focus. After that I did some off Broadway and got my first gig in TV for a little show called Oliver Beene playing a tennis pro. They flew me to LA from NY in 2003, and I never went back. Seeing people perform live is what got me hooked. That is what I love about Tyler. He comes from that world (of live performances), and his live audience has translated and been his devoted fan-base for television and film. Take Love Thy Neighbor for instance. It was a play, and Tyler Perry created the show around them. He's like King Midas."

"I believe that at some level you have to be able to push yourself beyond what you can even imagine. You have to be willing to never give up and never surrender and not listen to the noise that comes from outside of yourself. You're the only one that can tell you what you can and cannot do."

"I know what it's like to struggle. I was doing what I could to pay for class and coaching and wardrobe. There have been so many ups and downs. Right now I'm on a huge high. It's a dream come true. That is my truth. I've also had the lowest lows. It's all about the work. I do it for the work. I try to make everything I do look effortless. People ask me what I do,  and I tell them I'm in the pursuit of a career of an actor."

"It's like a digital blind date with 10k people at once. I feel like I'm blessed to have them. The support from fans means getting up and making it to a meeting and doing the best I can. Knowing my work has affected someone helps me."

"I take it one step at a time and try not to 'future' myself too much. As long as I'm right here right now I give you everything I got. I have no regrets. I can just focus on the work that way. That's my best approach to acting and all aspects of my life, living in the now."

Want to keep in touch with what's going on with Jonathan Chase next? Follow him on Twitter at and like his Facebook page at

Actress Renee Lawless: Enjoying the Success That Comes From Loving What You Do

by Cyrus Webb

She may have become known to many through her work on stage, but since 2013 actress Renee Lawless has solidified herself as one of the unforgettable stars of the runaway hit The Haves and the Have Nots.

In the first 10 minutes of the first episode we saw her character Katheryn Cryer as the strong matriarch of her family, however, the show has also revealed another side of the woman whose cutting retorts and strength masks a world of hurt and pain. Now three seasons in millions have made the show must-see television and Renee couldn't be happier.

I asked about her thoughts of the first episode. Her answer? "This is going to be a hit, and I'm a part of it." Renee went on to tell me that they expected high numbers on the first one and as we have continued to grow that's what has really been more overwhelming. The drama is groundbreaking as the Oprah Winfrey Network's first scripted drama and the first of three projects created by Tyler Perry that appear on the channel. The importance of the moment is not lost. "Not too many people get to be at the start of something great," Renee said to me.

Renee Lawless' place in the spotlight is something that has been in the works for quite some time. "Even as a young child I was singing the loudest in church plays," she told me. "I always dreamed of being a movie star." When she began in theater, it just felt right to her. "This is my home," she said of the experience. "This is where I want to be." She knew in high school that no matter where she went that performing would be a part of her life. "I've been on stage many years, but my ultimate goal was always TV and eventually film." The Haves and the Have Nots has made that dream come true. She said that to not only have achieved her ultimate goal of being a series regular and a star of a series is an experience she is loving.

It was really intriguing to talk with Renee about how she has brought Katheryn to life. "I knew all these layers before you all did," she told me. "With any new television drama everyone is brought in in the middle. It's up to the characters to bring you in. The one thing that I love about Katheryn is that she's a very multi-layered person, it's like peeling back layers of an onion. She's like a hollow oak tree: outside she's a strong pillar of strength but on the inside she's rotting and hollow. What her husband and children and life have given her has made her a very lonely person. It's basically what it means to have and to have not."

Renee then gave an example that I think resonates with everyone. "Even though she's worth 50 million dollars she's a woman who's over a certain age, who doesn't like getting old, who is dealing with cancer and problems with her kids. Not many can relate to being worth 50 million dollars, but 50 million people can relate to what she's going through. She in many ways is one of the most relatable characters because she has all of these layers. She's just like me."

Though things are going well for Renee and she is doing what she loves, it hasn't happened without a real commitment to her craft. "I worked very hard and long and got many more rejections than I've had successes," she told me. "I do this because I love it, not for the award or the paycheck that it affords me." Speaking of the world that actors live in she adds: "Our career is very unsure. If you're just doing it for the fame and glory you're not going to go very far or last." Her next words are great reminders for all of us with a dream. "You have to love what you do in order to truly be successful at it."

May those words resonate with us as we identify our passion in life and vow to pursue it.

Renee's website is and you can follow her online at