Click the cover below to order Conversations Magazine's Anniversary Issue

Click the cover below to order Conversations Magazine's Anniversary Issue
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Monday, May 11, 2020

[AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT] Calogero Bradley, author of VENGEANCE IS MINE

by Cyrus Webb

Talent comes in many forms and ages. Conversations is excited to introduce you to 16 year old Calogero Bradley, author of VENGEANCE IS MINE. I first interviewed him on Conversations LIVE the radio show in 2019 along with his mother Kneika Robbins, author of SPEECHLESS and THE POWER OF PAIN. Now we are glad to share a bit of Calogero's story in the pages of the magazine.

Calogero, first of all congrats on the book VENGEANCE IS MINE: The Reaping. How does it feel to be in high school and to have published your first book? 
It was a good feeling; I felt like it was a major accomplishment.

We’re able to take the journey of your main character Cody Morgan in the book. Where did the idea for the book come from?
Some of my ideas came from the Alex Rider series that I used to read. Then I added my own twist to it and changed some things around to create my own story-line.

What was it like for you to think of what it would be like to have a parent killed and what would you do?
It was pretty depressing to have the book begin that way. My feelings of the character are my actual feelings. I would have made the same choice Cody did.

Outside of dealing with his father’s death. Cody is also dealing with regular things that young people do. Why was it important for you to show the different sides of him?
I did it to help readers get to know the character and to maintain the reality of life.

I know your classmates and teachers must really be proud of you. What’s been the response from the book?
They have congratulated me on my accomplishment. One of my classmates purchased a copy and gave me a five star review on Amazon!

We can tell by the ending that there will definitely be more from Cody. Did you know when you created him that it was going to be a series? 
No, I was originally creating a single story-line. I never considered it was going to continue to grow, but it has.

Your mother, Kneika Robbins is also an author. What has it been like to have her support? 
It’s been very helpful and motivating. It is one of the many major keys to getting me to where I am today; along with the support from my father.

What advice would you give to young authors out there about sharing their own work and getting published?
I would tell them to pursue their talents and believe in themselves. It is very important to have motivation and support from their loved ones. If you don’t have that, though, still pursue your dreams.

Thanks again for the time, Calogero. How can our audience stay connected with you?
They can find me at www.calogerobradley77.wixsite.com/mysite






[To You, From Me] The Importance of Starting Where You Are

As Conversations Magazine celebrates 14 years in operation, I have to begin this letter by saying Thank You.

Thank you to Chris Ervin and Dominique Wilkins who have worked with us over the years to present amazing covers for our readers to enjoy. Thanks to bestselling author Brandon Massey who was the first cover feature for Conversations and all of those who came after him. Most importantly, thanks to YOU the reader for your support over the years as we evolved and grew.

When I began Conversations Magazine in April 2006 in my mother's living room, I never could have imagined we would grow to a point where we have some of the biggest names in the entertainment and literary worlds joining us on its pages and on our covers. I never would have thought we'd have over 17k print subscribers getting our publication all over the world, but that is where we are!

As I reflect on our growth and success it all goes back to something I talk about repeatedly: Starting where you are.

As I said,this is not where I thought we would be, but the fact that we are here is a direct result of what we did in the beginning: Setting up an account on Blogger to publish the articles. Using disposable cameras to take pictures, because I didn't have a digital camera or smartphone. Going to Office Depot to print the magazine, helping to staple them and then mailing them out.

It was hard work, but it was so satisfying. Now when I see where we are with a magazine that is published and distributed through Amazon it makes all the hard work and long days worthwhile.

The message for you? Start where you are. Some are waiting until they get the perfect website built, have an amazing line-up of guests and topics or even the best studio setup. At the end of the day none of that matters. What people care about is your message. You will evolve, but only once you start.

This issue celebrates those 14 years and those who have made it possible, as well as some amazing individuals that I'm glad to introduce and in some instances re-introduce to you. All of those you read about got where they are by starting. Today may you realize the importance of doing the same.

Happy reading!




Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine
www.conversationsmag.com

[CELEBRITY SPOTLIGHT] Actor Philip K. Boyd: Building His Success Step by Step

by Cyrus Webb

Over the years the humbling thing about what I have been able to do with Conversations would be the relationships I have formed. One that stands out is with actor/producer Philip K. Boyd. I had the pleasure of interviewing him on Conversations LIVE the radio show several times over the past 4 years and meeting him in person in Los Angeles for tapings of my series Cyrus Webb Presents,.

Each time he was gracious, engaging and someone that was aware that his hard work was definitely paying off. When I published my book POWER YOUR LIFE WITH THE POSITIVE I made sure that he was included, because his journey definitely highlights what I want my audience to realize they can do if they don't give up.

Since he was 5 years old Philip knew he wanted to entertain. Now as an actor,writer,producer and director he is able to do just that, and the world is able to come along for the ride. For over 20 years he has been working hard, honing his craft and seeing it all come together over time in the television shows and movies he's been able to be a part of. Recently, though, millions around the world were introduced to his character Oscar on the hit show written, directed and produced by Tyler Perry called THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS.

Though he stays constantly on the go, Boyd says about his career: "I look back on it and say I have been able to live my dream and do things I wanted to do in my life." What a great thing to reflect on! When it comes to acting he says "Being able to create anything in life is what it's all about. Being an actor and being able to be different characters is very fulfilling for me."

At a young age he knew he wanted to "be a lot of different things" in his life. He says that influenced him to "create different personalities and characters", and set the stage for where he is today.

The career as a working actor is not something that Boyd takes lightly. "It creates a level of responsibility that you have to own," he says. "When you're creating characters you want to give the fans what they want." That sense of responsibility is also part of the gratitude that he has. "Anytime I get a phone call that I've booked a job it makes you want to work harder and be better than you were before. I'm still climbing up the ladder. It's about constantly working, constantly creating and trying to be better and make it to the next level."

Being a part of the successful series The Haves and the Have Nots has definitely part of that next level. "Tyler Perry is a very special person," Boyd says. "He is a great storyteller. He has an energy about him that is infectious. The people that are surrounded by him make it their own personal journey to be better. I feel honored and blessed to be a part of this show and to be around the amount of talent that is on it."

For fans of the show part of the fun of Oscar's character was trying to figure out what was his motive towards Candace (played by Tika Sumpter) and the other cast members. Season after season we got to see the character evolve, then Oscar met his demise, adding to the drama of what is  a much-watch show on Tuesday nights. "I kinda had an idea of where the character was going throughout the show," Philip told me. The response to his character definitely made him feel good about his run on the popular series.

His fans have since seen him on television shows and movies such as MY LITTLE GIRL IS GONE, FEUD, SHATTERED MEMORIES, THE EX NEXT DOOR and even GENERAL HOSPITAL.

Outside of the entertainment industry, Boyd says he just wants to be able to use his life and path as an example for others. "If I can inspire one person in the world to chase their dream, then I feel as though my job is done.." He also adds that when it comes to the future: "One of the greatest things about being an actor is that you really don't know what's next. It might change from day to day. It's really exciting,"

At the end of the day he says he just wants to be the best Philip Boyd that he can be, wherever that might take him, and fans of his work are invited to stay along for the ride.

Lots more to come from this talented actor. Tweet along with Philip at @PhilipKBoyd. He can also be found on Instagram at www.instagram.com/philipkboyd.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

[MODEL SPOTLIGHT] Jah Saint Akano

by Cyrus Webb

One of the things that Conversations has been able to do over the years is not just spotlight those who are already household names but shine a spotlight on new talent. That is true in this Model Spotlight with model and recording artist Jah Saint Akano of Nigeria.

I had the pleasure of giving him his first radio interview on Conversations LIVE and now we are excited to give him his first international feature through Conversations Magazine.

At 27 he is able to not just pursue his passion but show others around the world what they can do if they are willing to do the work, regardless of where you live.

Jah Saint, glad to be able to share your story with the readers of Conversations. When did you realize you wanted to do music and model?
It was in 2009 that I started doing music. I enjoyed it, but wanted to do more. It was in 2018 that I switched and started to do modeling. That is what I have been spending my time on now.

Who have been some of your inspirations in music?
I like a lot of different type of music. I am fans of everyone from Kirk Franklin, Chris brown to 2Pac.

Who are some of your inspirations with modeling?
When it comes to model I would say guys like Justin Bieber and Denola Grey.

How has social media helped you to make connections?
It has really helped me a lot, especially Facebook. We live in a digital world. I have met with people who have helped my career most especially, you, Cyrus and people who are of good criticisms too. Without a doubt my highest fan base are on social media.

A lot is going on right now, Jah Saint. What are you looking forward to doing this year with your career?
I’m looking forward to work with some products/brands and maybe appear in a musical video.

What advice would you have for others pursuing their dreams and goals?
We all should keep pushing through. The sky is big enough for every bird to fly at the same time. Never give up on yourself or your dreams.

Thank you for your time, Jah Saint. How can our audience stay connected with you.
Thank you for the opportunity, Cyrus. you can reach me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jahsaint.akano and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/jahsaint1.

Actor/Producer Isaiah Washington Use Life’s Lessons to Keep Growing

by Cyrus Webb

Whether we recognize it or not each one of us is heading towards something. It can be the fulfillment of a dream or if we choose to be apathetic, it will be the result of failure. No matter what position we hold or what we assume about ourselves, there is a journey we are on that will take us wherever we want to go.The question becomes this: Will you be a better individual because of it?

I'm not a huge television person, and though I knew that actor Isaiah Washington had been on the hit tv series Grey's Anatomy and starred in several movies I wasn't that familiar with him and his body of work---that is until 2011. It was late that year that I saw a write-up about his book A Man from Another Land: How Finding My Roots Changed My Life.

Isaiah Washington showed me and I think will demonstrate it for you as well the power of our individual platforms. He knows what it's like to succeed and to face challenges, but he is not one to quit. As Conversations Magazine celebrates this milestone I thought this was a great chat to share with you this year.

We’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few conversations over the years, the first time was when he was preparing for the release of his project Blue Caprice at the Sundance Film Festival.
So how does Mr. Washington feel about the love his fans around the world continually have for him? "I'm still humbled by it and pleasantly surprised," he told me. "I'm still learning how fans are in the television world.  It's a powerful connection they develop with you. They don't let you go."

The gift that is his ability to bring characters to life and draw you in as a viewer in the process is something he realized through a mentor early in his career. "He said to me 'If you knew what you had you would mess it up.' I never really knew I had this gift until I started to have this dream about it." Whatever brought about the dream it proved to Isaiah that he could make this happen for himself---and that is exactly what he did.

Ever the professional but someone who knows what it's like to be in the spotlight and to have all eyes on him, I was curious as to how he kept the glare of celebrity from blinding him. His answer was real and more than I could have imagined he would share. "I made a huge mistake and forgot my place in the world and forgot that the world was looking at me and that I had this particular power and gift," he said, referencing the incident that occurred at the 2007 Golden Globes. "I was only thinking about myself in that moment. When you are in pain and in trauma you respond... In hindsight I realize that if I knew the power I had when I was on that hit show then things would have been amazingly different---but I wouldn't be able to have this conversation with you now."

That to me was a profound statement for him to make, but I think it is a great reminder for all of us. Bad things might be the doorway to the unbelievable blessings that are meant to be a part of your journey.

"Unfortunately for me in my ignorance," Washington continued, "I refused to accept my position as a role model. I know now that was a mistake. Anyone who is afforded to live the lifestyle I have lived has the responsibility to share that. You always have to be cognizant of how you show up. Now I am aligned with that."

This revelation that Isaiah Washington has had, however, is not an excuse for us to forget that he is still just a man. "I believe this is true for all of us," he says. "It is the understanding how to play your position at any given moment in time. It's important to know that I'm a human being just like you, but I never want to lose sight of that part of my humanity. As long as you remain humble and connected to the idea that each of us are what I call perfect imperfection I can continue to do the things I say I want to do and leave a legacy that my family and friends can be proud of."

The biggest lesson for us is that you don't have to be a celebrity to have this type of epiphany about yourself and who you are in the world. "I have been given an extraordinary privilege," Washington told me, "but we all have been given a gift. We have to understand that each and every one of us has a divine purpose."

ONE ON ONE w/ Patrice Tanaka, Founder of Joyful Planet

by Cyrus Webb

My friend Patrice Tanaka is an amazing individual who has been spreading joy and positivity for years. She is also one of Conversations' 25 Women Changing the World and for good reason. Through social media and her work as Founder of Joyful Planet she is reminding people of what is possible. 

In this conversation she talks about finding joy in the face of a pandemic, how she is continuing to spread her message and what's to come. 



Patrice, it is so good to catch back up with you again. The last time I spoke to you was in New York during my visit for the show Cyrus Webb Presents. So much has happened to us and the world since then. How have you been finding joy in the middle of everything?

Things have certainly changed dramatically in the U.S. and the world since I last saw you!  Covid-19 has become the unwanted focus of all our lives and, for many, it has been a high-stress and even crippling time.  Although I live in New York City, which has been hardest hit by Covid-19, I am grateful that I can work from home and self-isolate in the comfort of my apartment.  I am in a pretty good place because my focus before and, still, during Covid-19 is simply to live my purpose:  “To choose joy in my life every day, to be mindful of that joy, and to share that joy with others.”  My life purpose serves to focus me on joy and drives me to create more joy. 

Living my purpose has kept me sane and centered during Covid-19.  “Choosing joy” for me means focusing on gratitude, helping others discover and actively live their purpose, and creating opportunities to share my joy with others.  To that end, I’ve created a ZOOM Meetup series called, “Joy in a Time of Coronavirus,” to showcase artists and healers – the people who can provide us with comfort, community and joy during this challenging time. 

I’ve also been busy supporting nonprofits that are near and dear to my heart.  As you know, nonprofits have been hit especially hard because of Covid-19 and trustees like me must do even more to support these organizations, including strategizing innovative ways to help them survive and thrive during and beyond this pandemic.  The work I do with Dancing Classrooms and the Girls Scouts of Greater New York is bringing me immense fulfillment and joy at this time. 

You have achieved so much in your life, including being a published author and speaker. Where does the courage come from to follow your goals and dreams?

I’ve learned that I’m happiest when living my purpose and pursuing my goals and dreams so this is the mode I try to remain in always.  I think it takes less courage to pursue what you love because you’re being self-propelled by your own passion and energy rather than forcing yourself to do something you don’t love.  That’s a much harder slog.

My preference always is to go through life with as much grace as I can and to do so as easily and as effortlessly as possible.  Of course, everything I choose to do may not be easy and effortless, but if it’s what I dearly want to do, I’ll do it with a joyful heart.
The Joyful Planet is a big part of your work today. Tell our readers about it. 

Joyful Planet is both the name of my consultancy and my “vision” of 7.7 billion people living their life purpose and leveraging their talents, expertise and passion in service of others.  This is how, together, we can create a more joyful life for ourselves and a more joyful planet for all. 

My work, which is my joy, is to help individuals and organizations discover and actively live their purpose so they can contribute to creating a more joyful planet for all. 

Fear is something all of us have to confront and fight back. What helps you keep from giving in to it? With us almost halfway through 2020 there is still so many possibilities ahead. What should we be on the lookout for from you?

The wonderful thing about discovering and living our life purpose is that it can focus and drive us to accomplish what matters most.  I’m focused so strongly on living my purpose that it is very “centering” and “calming” for me.  If we’re focused on something that is life affirming and brings us joy, it crowds out the fear.  We don’t have the time or energy to focus much on fear. 

This is why I am trying to help as many people as I can now to discover and live their purpose because I know it is the best way to avoid tuning in to the Covid-19 news channel 24/7 and feeding our fears and anxiety.

What message do you have for our readers about the importance and power of joy?

It’s really about the “power of purpose” and how actively living our purpose can UNLEASH the joy that is within all of us.  We can experience “moments of joy” by taking a walk in nature or having soul-satisfying conversations with loved ones, but I think the best way to create “sustainable joy” for ourselves involves leveraging our talents, our expertise and our passion in service of others. 

Thanks for the time, Patrice. How can we stay connected with you?

Thank you Cyrus!  It’s always a pleasure connecting with you even virtually.  People can visit my website JoyfulPlanet.com or connect with me on social media:

Twitter:  @sambagal
Facebook:  Patrice Tanaka
Instagram:  patricetanaka
LinkedIn:  Patrice Tanaka

TAKE TEN with author Chental Song Bembry

by Cyrus Webb

I was first introduced to author and motivational speaker Chental Song Bembry some 8 years ago with her HONEY BUNCH KIDS series. Since then it's been great to watch her grow and shine as well as have her support for Conversations over the years. 

In 2020 she released her newest book DESIREE DAVENPORT: Welcome to Treeless Park. In it she tackles timely issues like bullying, dealing with separation in the family and embracing one's personal power. 

Chental, congratulations to you on the publishing of the new book DESIREE DAVENPORT: Welcome to Treeless Park. What has it been like for you to see the response to the characters and the story?
a. The response has been tremendous. I’ve already heard from readers of diverse age groups and career backgrounds about how much they love the story, especially the characters, because the characters feel so real to them. Those who have already started reading my book feel like they can identify with the characters. I’ve had an educator in New York tell me how much she loves the strong community bond and family dynamics, and although the characters face obstacles, everyone comes together to face their challenges and elevate from them.

In addition, this educator said that the characters are learning how to look at themselves and overcome their own insecurities and doubts. They are going through their own problems and personal dilemmas and eventually learn to deal and interact by building their social skills and self-esteem. Another one of my readers who is a lawyer told me that although she is 29 and my book is geared towards 8 to 14-year-olds, she is still very engaged with it and sees her younger self in my main character, Desiree. She also enjoys how I bring in the culture of today with social media, but I add older culture by highlighting Motown music.

You have been in the public for quite some time, writing books for a younger audience and now this new title. When did you realize that you wanted to tell stories in books?
I’ve been a storyteller since I was little. I used to play with dolls and figurines and make up stories for them. As an only child, I had to do something to keep myself busy. I also loved reading books and watching cartoons. This passion for storytelling and cartooning stayed with me as I grew older, and when I turned 13, I published a children’s book series called “The Honey Bunch Kids,” which followed a group of sixth graders who miss the bus, walk to school in the rain, and work to become friends.

 I spent three years writing “The Honey Bunch Kids” series and even developed a literacy campaign. As time passed, I finished high school and began my collegiate education at Hampton University, where I graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in Leadership Studies. During my time at Hampton, I began writing a more comprehensive middle grade novel, which is now Desiree Davenport: Welcome to Treeless Park. Desiree Davenport was published on March 2, 2020 and tackles bullying using youth football and cheerleading. I chose football, because I really wanted to engage both boys and girls in my story. Additionally, I wrote Desiree Davenport to provide readers with an alternative to mainstream books, which often push negative topics on African-American middle grade children. These topics include guns, drugs, police brutality, and self-hatred. I wanted to write a normal story that highlights the very best of people in a community who care about each other; a story that allows children to see a positive representation of themselves, their families and their friends in each of my characters.

It’s been great to see your support over the years. Who have been some of those who have inspired you along the way?
My biggest inspiration is definitely my mother. She has worked so hard to provide me with unconditional love, support and guidance to build my dreams into a reality. Through my mother, I am learning every day how to be a smart and responsible decision-maker who never gives up.

In the new book we meet Desiree, a young girl who is dealing with issues at home while trying to navigate the rest of her life. How did she come to you?
Desiree is me. Her character is based on many aspects of my life – specifically dealing with divorce at a young age. Although I never lived above a store, I did move from a large house into a smaller apartment for a while. This was definitely an adjustment I had to deal with.

In the book, readers will see that Desiree has a very close relationship with her mother, which is 100 percent true in real life. The du Bois family is based on a particular set of family friends, who have always supported me in real life. While writing Desiree Davenport, I drew on my own childhood memories and experiences. In addition, Desiree’s love for the du Bois family mirrors my current dreams. The du Bois family is the family I wish I had growing up, and the type of family I want to have in the near future.

Bullying is just one of the issues you deal with in the new book, but you come at it in a different way. How important was it for you to get to the reason WHY some become bullies?
When I started writing Desiree Davenport, I knew that I wanted to explore bullying in a unique way. My book tackles bullying by having my main character, Desiree, not only getting to know the bullies, but becoming friends with them and even growing attached to their family. This causes the main conflict in the story – how can Desiree stand up against bullying while maintaining the sense of family she’s gained since her parents’ divorce?

By allowing Desiree to become close to the bullies, I am able to make the readers fall in love with them as characters, too, and really dig into the WHY. What readers will find out is that even though the du Bois twins are bullies, they have good qualities about them and have insecurities, just like the person they bully. Desiree recognizes their good qualities early on, which is why she tries so hard to help them become better people. I believe that the answer to anti-bullying starts with the bully. If we take the time to understand the bully and why he or she behaves a certain way, we can determine the root of the problem and put a stop to it much quicker.

The book is written in first person. What was that like for you to become your characters and experience the world through their eyes?
Throughout this writing process becoming my characters was so much fun. My book is written from the point of views of three characters: Desiree Davenport, Rashad du Bois, and Phil du Bois. They each have their own thought processes and personalities, so it was a bit challenging, yet exciting, to jump between the three to create the most compelling story. As Desiree, I was able to experience a world in which I was welcomed into the family I’d always wanted and had the courage to stand up for what I believed in. As Rashad and Phil, I was able to experience a world in which I was actually part of the family I’d always wanted. I really enjoyed writing their scenes, and I believe that my love for the du Bois family will really come across to readers as they progress through the story.

You did a lot of promotion for this book through social media. Did you know that was going to be an important part of your marketing?
Yes. Prior to my launch, I’d been studying other authors to see the unique and creative ways they promoted their books. I knew that if I wanted to get the word out about Desiree Davenport, I’d have to be my book’s biggest cheerleader! So far, my hard work has definitely paid off. I’ve connected with several youth football organizations, coaches, and young athletes, who have all shown their love and support of Desiree Davenport. I am even more inspired to continue the work I’ve started on social media to promote Desiree Davenport!

What has it been like for you to be recognized as a role model and leader because of the work you have done as an author and speaker?
I am so grateful for all of the recognition I’ve received. To know that so many people and organizations support my platform and my passion for literacy means the world to me. I remain inspired to continue the work I’ve started and serve as an inspiration to children!

Any advice for others about the importance of pursuing their goals and dreams?
Absolutely. My biggest piece of advice is to never give up and to never let anyone silence your voice. Once you start something, don’t stop until you’ve seen it through to the very end. Find a mentor – a parent, relative, teacher, coach, or friend to encourage you and guide you through the hoops. Don’t blend in with the crowd; be different. Be a change-maker. When you recognize something is wrong, come up with a solution to fix it. When you determine this solution, always stand strong in what you believe in.

Thanks again, Chental, for the time. How can our audience stay connected with you and keep up with what’s to come?
Thank you, Cyrus, for this opportunity! Readers can learn more about my background by visiting my website at www.chentalsong.com. I am active on Instagram and Twitter @chentalsong, and I’m also active on Facebook and LinkedIn via Chental Song Bembry.