Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Radio Association Formed To Recognize Independent and Established Artists

Nebo Publishing (publisher of along with Stewart Communications introduces The Gospel Blue M.I.C. Radio Association. This organization is set up to form a reputable chart designed for internet and terrestrial radio stations not associated with the Broadcast Data System.

"We're excited about this partnership and the network it will create across the country to promote great Gospel music," says Charles Clark, President of Nebo Publishing.

The Gospel Blue M.I.C. Radio association will give Non BDS stations the long awaited charting system they have been longing for, creating an industry environment where they are able to play more of a variety of music particularly music by independents.

Here are the stations already on board with the Association:
Christian Jukebox Radio ~ Baltimore, MD
Freedem Radio ~ Oakland, CA
Bonnerfide Radio ~ Virginia Beach. VA
Synergy 1 Radio ~ Chicago, IL
Rejoice America Radio ~ Charlotte, NC
Spiritco1 Christian Radio ~ Washington, DC
Star Radio ~ Buffalo, NY

Radio stations looking to join this free association should send their request along with their station name, logo, and telephone number to Participating stations are asked beginning September 20, 2012 to render its Top 20 Playlist on the 30th of each month. This date ensures that we produce an accurate and timely chart on the 2nd Tuesday of each month.

This monthly chart will be averaged by chart position and on the 2nd Tuesday of each month a national independent radio chart will be sent out to each radio station and media outlets.
For more information about the association contact Fred Stewart at 1.888.671.4467. You can also email

About Gospel Blue M.I.C. Achievement Awards:
The Annual Gospel Blue M.I.C. Achievement Awards is presented by a subsidiary of Nebo Publishing. This ceremony celebrates Independent Artists in Ministry, Industry, and Creativity, who made great accomplishments within the year. The show also features live performances from up and coming Independent Artists. This event has been held in association with The Independent Gospel Artist Alliance Conference. The Gospel Blue M.I.C. Radio Association will also serve as a nomination aid for The Gospel Blue M.I.C. Achievement Awards.

Monday, July 23, 2012

TO YOU, FROM ME: Embrace Your Inner Greatness

Today is your day.

No matter how you might have felt about yourself yesterday or the day before that, I am convinced that you can become the person you want to be beginning right now.

Why am I so confident? Because you were born with that ability inside of yourself! Each of us, no matter where we are from or what we have gone through, have the opportunity to rise up and move forward in our lives and create a real transformation that will affect not just our lives but those around us as well.

I have been looking forward to sharing this issue of Conversations Magazine with you for weeks now, because I believe the profiles it contains are going to help you look at yourself differently and realize just how special you are.

Around the world people are looking forward to the 2012 Olympic Games, and I am honored to bring you two amazing stories of individuals who know what it's like to be on the world stage and what it took to get that. Tony Volpentest and Angelo Taylor will definitely give you some motivation as you read their stories, and I hope you will join me in rooting for Angelo this year as he competes once again.

You will also meet Vikki Hankins, a woman that could have allowed her past to stop her in her tracks. She chose, however, to use her life and personal triumphs as the basis for a business and a mission of helping others benefit from the power of a second chance.

Want to make changes in your life or look into a new direction but never seem to have the time? There's a great article called CREATING TIME that I think you will benefit from.

In the end when you finish this issue I hope you will realize that none of the individuals profiled here are any different than yourself. The only thing that is stopping you from doing more and achieving the impossible is YOU. When you get out of your own way and accept the responsibility that comes with greatness, then you will be able to really see a change in yourself and what comes your way.

Want to share your own story of embracing your inner greatness? I would love to hear it. If you're reading us online feel free to leave your comments below this post. Those reading the print publication can email me at with "Embracing Your Inner Greatness" in the subject line. Together we can move forward and show others how they can be the change they say they want in the world.

Happy reading!

Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine

TONY VOLPENTEST: Walking In Faith, Making Dreams A Reality

by Cyrus Webb

There are few people that I have met in my life like four-time Paralympic Gold Medalist Tony Volpentest.

Born without hands and feet, he grew up with the dream of becoming the fastest man in the world---and that is exactly what he did.

He has been an inspiration to people around the world because he never gave up on himself or his dream. Through every challenge and victory he has been a man of conviction and faith, realizing that nothing was ever really impossible.

Discussing how Tony was able to participate in baton passing while running track in high school, his coach says this: "How do you show a kid without hands how to pass a baton? I had no idea. I didn't know what to do. I showed him the basics, but it was up t him to figure out how to do it. He never backed down from anything. That's the most amazing thing about Tony. He never backed down from anything!"

That was the Tony Volpentest I had the privilege of interviewing for this feature. "When I first decided to get involved in athletics, I never had the intention to inspire or motivate anyone other than myself," he told me. As time went on, though, he realized the responsibility that came with his life and he has embraced that as he has moved forward to new goals and achievements.

He credits his parents with the way he was raised. "Even if they had doubts they never told me that they had that doubt," he told me. Like they did with his other brothers and sisters, they would just let him try to figure out how he was going to make things work.  "My parents taught us that we were all unique and had our own gifts and abilities that made us all special. Understanding that at a young age helped me a great deal." Among his accolades is being nominated for the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2009 and again in 2012, something that he proudly shares on the cover of his autobiography FASTEST MAN IN THE WORLD: The Tony Volpentest Story (published by Bettie Youngs Books, July 2012).

So what is it about Tony that keeps him motivated even in the face of what some would see as insurmountable odds? If you ask him like I did, this is the answer you will get: "The biggest thing people need to realize is that everyone has greatness within them. It's all about overcoming their perceived limitations and bringing that greatness out."

One of the ways Tony is helping others to bring out their inner greatness is his new foundation for amputees. Helping Others Live Determined. In his book he describes it this way: "The organization could offer assistance, aid or grants to those individuals who show a love of life and determination to take control of their fate and pursue their dreams... My vision is to eventually expand this foundation to be able to provide an elite, state-of-the-art training facility to both established Paralympians and promising hopefuls."

The life of Tony Volpentest should not only spur us on in our own lives but give us pause when we try to put similar limitations on others. In my conversation with Tony he shared with me what he hopes all of us are able to take away from what he has accomplished: "Recognize that you don't have to wait until one huge life-changing event occurs. Take those baby steps to greatness. Understand that it's going to be hard but taking it one day at a time will get you there. We're only limited by ourselves. There's 100% greatness within all of us." 

May we all tap into that inner greatness and live our lives with passion and purpose! Stay in contact wit Tony and his projects at You can get his book FASTEST MAN IN THE WORLD: The Tony Volpentest Story from the publisher at or 

Conversations Book Club will be discussing Tony's books FASTEST MAN IN THE WORLD in person and online on Sat. August 25, 2012. For details visit


by Cyrus Webb

No matter how hard you try in life there will always be situations that arise that are out of your control and that threaten your joy. For some the compounding of problems is enough to cause them to become disheartened and lose faith.

Others, though, are able to use the challenges they experience as lessons for themselves and others. Gospel music singing sensation Vickie Winans is that kind of individual.

I first interviewed her some three years ago, and I have to say that catching up with her again this year was like visiting an old friend. Not only has she enjoyed an amazing career in music but she has branded herself to include merchandise, a Gospel comedy store and selfless work to assist those less fortunate. You might know her for that beaming smile, but there is a testimony that goes with it that will not only inspire you in your own life but encourage you to uplift someone else as well.

Through her newest album HOW I GOT OVER, Ms. Winans has shared her own personal testimony and rallied people of all ages around the world through her upbeat message and music. "I like to give people what I get," she told me. "I believe in hope. I've been through a lot, but I have been able to be triumphant. I've been able to cry and then turn around and laugh. It's been tough. Life brings about a lot of down sides, but there is a greater upside that I am enjoying because of some things that I have released and let go."

At almost 60 years old Vickie Winans has embraced all forms of communicating with her fans, including Facebook and Twitter. "It is all about sharing a testimony," she says. "I want other people to be able to say 'If she can go through it than I can do it too.'"

When I asked about her decision to share so much of her own experiences in her music, Vickie told me that it adds to the realness of the message. "There are some people who like to come off as perfect," she explained. "I'm not that. There is no way you can be effective without telling people what you have really been through. With that attitude it's great when people can relate to what you've been through and what you've conquered."

This has not always been easy for Ms. Winans, though. Like all of us, she has had to struggle with some of the same difficulties that we experience. She described her life to me as if it was a school. "It took me 54 years to pass one class," she says. "That was the class of crying, stressing, worrying about what people thought about me and said about me. I would try to buy people and please them, and make them like me. I know now you can't please people all the time. I had to let all that go. 

"One day in my own mind I got up, put on my cap and gown of my life's situation and walked across the stage of this class. I got my diploma. When I opened it, it said this: 'You have finally passed the class of what people think about you.' Every since then I have been the happiest person. I don't care what people think. I have released it and let it go."

What does Vickie say to all of us about the challenges we face that try to overwhelm us? "There's another side," she says. "I know somebody greater than all that you're going through. To get relief you start on your knees, and then you continue pushing. Get motivated. Find yourself within yourself. Don't stop. You have to keep going. You just don't quit."

To stay in contact with everything Vickie Winans, visit You can also find her on Twitter at

Sunday, July 22, 2012

PROFILE: Olympic Medalist Angelo Taylor

by Cyrus Webb

I think we have all experienced that feeling at one time or another that maybe we are not in the right place. It can come from those around us or an stem from an insecurity that we might have about ourselves. What all of us need to remember, however, is that we were created to be the greatest expression of ourselves.

Take Angelo Taylor.

He knows what it's like to come from humble beginnings and to rise not only above his surroundings but to the top of his game, earning not only Olympic Gold Medals but the respect of individuals around the world.

I got a chance to talk with Taylor before he headed off to the 2012 games, and the conversation ranged from not just what he has done but what has inspired him along the way. In speaking about this year's games, he wrote this statement on his website: "I want to make history. I want this more than anything in the world. It's going to be hard work, but I'm up for the challenge."

If you are wondering what a champion looks like, you have no further to go than this young man.

"It was during my high school years that I made up my mind what I wanted to do. I came from humble beginnings like a lot of other people. I was on the track team and had a lot of last place finishes, but I never gave up. It had always been my dream to be an athlete when I was growing up."

"Being an Olympic Gold Medalist has definitely been a humbling experience for me. I grew up watching the Olympic Games, so I had those who inspired me like Carl Lewis. Four years after the Olympics visited my city (Atlanta, GA) I was on that same stage. I don't say that getting the big head, though. I took it all in stride, but I believe it was my time to step up and show what I could do."

"After the 2000 Olympic games, critics counted me out. Some said that I was washed up, but then I came back. This time around (2012) I knew it was going to be a challenge, but it's something I want more than anything else in the world. At the end of the day I am going to do my very best. I know it takes to be a champion."

"It's hard. In life you're going to have obstacles as well as trials and tribulations. I have been through struggles. I know what it's like to be up and be down. You have to weather the storm. You have to keep the faith. If you really stick with it and continue to work towards your goal you will succeed."  

"I have always been a spiritual person. I believe you have to believe in something. You're not down here doing it by yourself. There have been many times I didn't know how I've made it through struggles, but I know I haven't done it alone. With my strong faith and believing in myself I'm confident when I step out on the track."

"I love being a role model and inspiration to other athletes and young people. I know what I've come from and what I've been through. I also have kids myself, and I want to be their role model and the one they look up to."

Talk about a great example of someone who has their eye on the prize! Conversations wishes Angelo Taylor well in the 2012 Olympic Games. He ended the conversation with me saying this for our audience: "If you keep the faith and keep a positive attitude that is going to get you through." When it came to those who will doubt you, he reminded us of this: "Naysayers are just motivation to do what I'm trying to accomplish. Let them motivate you as well."

Stay in touch with Angelo at You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter at

Derty Rockstar: Sharing Greatness One Snap At A Time

by Cyrus Webb

If there is one thing I have learned over the years it is the importance of feeling free to go outside the line. In school we are told that we should write a certain way, color a certain way and conduct ourselves a certain way in order to "make it." When it comes to pursuing passing and embracing your inner greatness, however, that sometimes entails being able and willing to push the envelope from time to time.

Consider photographer Derty Rockstar. I was introduced to his work a few months ago, and it was obvious from the very first photo I saw of his "Gas Mask Series 2012" that he was a force to be reckoned with. After communicating by email a few times, I invited him to be a guest on Conversations LIVE and joined by a few thousand online listeners he shared his journey from concept to creation.

Derty is not someone who is going to follow anyone else's rules. He is willing to do what he feels and share it with the world, knowing that there will be someone out there who will "get it" and share it with others. He's definitely not a one-note. Derty has been able to photograph whatever he pleases, and the great thing is that he does it all so well.

He started 2 projects this year called "Gas Mask Series 2012" & "Self Portrait of a Gas Man". These projects helped raised the bar for his creativity and passion for photography. 
Courtesy of Derty Rockstar Media

To stay abreast of what's next for him and his work visit and find him on Facebook and Twitter under "Derty Rockstar". 

(Review) KAPTAIN VAMP by author Joanne Lecuyer

by Cyrus Webb

There is something about being able to feel as though you have the power to change things around you. 

On television and comic books we see superheroes emerge that are able to change the day, but what about ordinary people like you and me? Can we really make a difference? Yes we can!

In KAPTAIN VAMP by Joanne Lecuyer we are able to see how a young vampire named Allistaire is able to look past what others might think of him and what he is able to do and make a decision that he is going to change the world around him. With the help of his best friend Rich, we see them devise a plan that will turn him into just another vampire to someone who is ready to be a force for good!

This story is great for those young and old for several reasons. One is it shows that you can't judge a book by its cover when it comes to people. Though Alistaire and his family are vampires, they don't fit into the mold of what others might think of them. They are different. More importantly, they are INDIVIDUALS, not defined by the actions of others. There is also the point of what one person (or in this case vampire) can do. You might not think that as "one" you can change much, but Allistaire proves that it all begins somewhere! You can do much to help others around you just by being aware of your surroundings and being willing to help others.

The way KAPTAIN VAMP ends definitely leaves room for interpretation on what actually happened with the young vampire or what his next adventure will be, but that is exactly what readers will be wondering as they anticipate what the author has in store for them next.

Definitely a book that should be on your reading list, KAPTAIN VAMP shows that we can all be heroes.

BOOKS ARE SEXY: Author Mateo Tabatabai

by Cyrus Webb

Some might take a look at this photo of Denmark's own Mateo Tabatabai and automatically make assumptions about who he is or what he does. I would venture to say that most would be wrong.

Some ladies might be attracted to what he looks like more than what he does, but I can tell you that Mateo has written probably one of the most powerful books on embracing your inner greatness that I have read this year. THE MIND-MADE PRISON helps us to see the importance of not just thinking outside the box, but escaping the box altogether. 

Thanks to modern technology I was able to catch up with Mateo to discuss what led him to write the book, what he hopes readers take away from it and what being sexy means to him.


Mateo, thanks for taking the time to speak with our readers here at Conversations. I want to talk with you about your book THE MIND-MADE PRISON in a moment, but I want to begin by your outlook on life. It seems like to me at a time when some have given up on the future, you have remained optimistic. What do you attribute that optimism to? Has it always been easy for you to look at what we call "the bright side"?

This is a great question. I definitely haven't always been optimistic about life or the opportunities that it presents. As a matter of fact I used to be quite negative and could always find something that wasn't good enough as it was. I remember going on a vacation when I was 17 years old and all I could do was find problems about the place, and I even tried paying extra money so that I could return back home a week earlier than originally planned. Looking back on this experience now, I know that there was nothing wrong with the place I had travelled to and the real problem was my mindset and general outlook on life. 

I attribute my outlook on life on a lot of different factors, but the main reason behind my optimism is that I have fully realized that negativity doesn't help anything at all. I am very aware of my thoughts and emotions and simply will not accept any whining, complaining or negativity from my mind. I see existence itself as the greatest blessing and feel that being ungrateful (no matter how good or bad your life situation might be) is a slap in the face of my Creator. 

What has it been like for you to share not only your outlook with the world but see how it is making a difference in the lives of others as well?

Well, it has been one of the greatest feelings ever. I have worked with people for the last 6 years and it is an absolute pleasure to help someone overcome a challenge that used to seem insurmountable. However, I am very aware of the fact that helping people starts with helping yourself. We have enough preachers who want to shove their beliefs into your life and give you the "truth" and what we really need are more people who strive to create peace in the world through the practice of self-peace. If I am arrogant, ego based, unable to feel empathy, angry, fearful and so on, there is no way that I can help others and this drives me to work on improving myself every single day of my life. 

The book THE MIND-MADE PRISON is really fascinating to me because it helps me to appreciate how much we play a direct role in our own success and failure. Talk with us about what led you to write the book, and what you hope readers will take away from it?

I finally wrote the book because my friends and social circle kept telling me that this information needed to get out there. I knew that the information shared in the Mind-Made Prison was very potent because it had already helped the lives of hundreds of people I had worked with. Therefore it seemed like the natural solution to share this information with a larger audience, help more people and even be able to make an additional income from doing what I love the most. I hope people go away with a clear understanding of the step by step system on how they can completely change their life, thoughts and emotions after reading the book. 

Like with any prison, there is a way out. Sometimes we just have to wake up to the fact that we have the key already. How has that knowledge helped you in overcoming fear and living your life with purpose?

It has been absolutely invaluable, but I also understand that a happy and fulfilled life is not a destination but rather something that you strive for in every second of your life. You can always feel more bliss, peace and fulfillment and therefore it is important to keep letting go of energy wasters life fear, low self-esteem, lying etc. 

Your feature, Mateo, is under our BOOKS ARE SEXY column. We are also using this issue of the magazine to talk about the sexiness that comes with confidence, intelligence and self-love. What is sexy to you?

Sexy to me is being able to put yourself out there and let the world see 100% of who you truly are. There is nothing more attractive than someone who is willing to put themselves on the line and shine as a star, with no regard to fear, insecurities etc. This is easier said than done and in order to be able to do this, you first need to go inside and figure out who you really are. 

Thanks again for this time. How can our readers find out more information about you and get their copy of the book?

It is my pleasure! Readers who are interested in more information can simply go to and search for my book title "The Mind-Made Prison". You can also add me on facebook "Mateo Tabatabai". 

Creating Time: Lessons From Marney Makridakis

by Cyrus Webb

24 hours.

That's all any of us have each day that we are on this life. The question becomes how are you using that time? Are you really doing all you can to make it count?

These are all questions that I considered as I read CREATING TIME by Marney Makridakis. The book takes you into not only how many of us might be wasting the precious moments we have but how we can also change our perception about what is really worthy of our time.

As with many of the features in this magazine I was able to interview Marney on Conversations LIVE radio show and was instantly struck by not only her love of life but what she was doing to help others better enjoy their own! She uses not just her personal experiences but her observations from others to shape what is one of the most fascinating looks at what we can do with our lives, even when we feel we might not be able to really achieve anything. It all begins with what we choose to focus on, and what it really means to live. Marney shows that we are worthy of a life full of blessings and gratitude, and that can be our lot in life if we are willing to accept it.

"It is the challenges in our life that provide us with the richest opportunities to come alive, to be alive ultimately means to be moving in time," Marney writes in CREATING TIME. "We can meet our challenging times with fierce courage and sometimes even fierce stillness and joy, as we face them with a truly brace heart and a child's spirit of wonder. We can boldly meet our our hard time head-on and walk away from them even more alive, ever more vivid in time."

It's not easy, even though you would think it would be. It means shutting out all of the clutter that can fall along our way. This will require work, but we can see that the end result if more than worth it.  Marney calls the process giving ourselves PERMISSION to "set our time right." She writes on page 200: "To make time our own, the first step is to give ourselves permission to liberate ourselves from the perceived pressures that control our time. When we do this, we open ourselves up to freedom." 

Enjoyable to read and explore from beginning to end, CREATING TIME reminds us of what is really important. "This book represents my journey from time management to time metamorphosis," says Marney. "Now you (the reader) can control your perception of time and experience it in a way that truly supports you and the highest vision of your life. Believe it or not, time is in your hands, and you can mold, craft, and create time to be just about anything you would like it to be."

To find out more about Marney and her book CREATING TIME visit

Mary's Motivational Message: Celebrating Girl Friends

GIRL FRIENDS MONTH: Very few things annoy me, however, when I hear women speak in negativity about our inability as women to have healthy and loving friendships I cringe. How many times have you heard these perspectives stated as facts: "You can't trust any women, you are just better off keeping to yourself, all women do is gossip and keep up foolishness, if they are being nice they must want something, women=drama, drama and more drama."

Well, let me tell you about the beautiful women GOD has placed within my life: They represent various cultures and ethnicity's and they are extremely positive. Even when they did not have children, they provided mine two girls with love, encouragement and support. They love me and I them, they encourage me, they motivate me and they extend to me their wisdom. As a collective force we hold each other up, we have learned valuable life lessons from each other, we display the utmost respect for each other, we don't always agree but we agree to disagree and they have integrity.

Many of the wonderful women within my circle have been in my life for over twenty years; several sense high school. And when we met there was one common denominator, there was this instant connection. There was no doubt or fear. There was this level of comfort. Have you ever met someone and immediately you felt as though you had known them for a lifetime?...I believe in "SOUL MATE FRIENDS". What I'm saying to you is, there has been no conflict, no drama and no disrespect..just LOVE. If you and the women in your life constantly: Argue, gossip, fight, disrespect each other, lack trust, dwell in utter confusion, envy each other and display jealousy and this is reflected in all of your relationships; stop blaming and ask yourself, "why am I attracting such dysfunction" and why am I maintaining it within my life." Time to start issuing pink slips because life is just too short for non-sense.

For those of you blessed with beautiful friends, let them know how much you LOVE and APPRECIATE them. For it is GOD'S expectation that we  treat each other with LOVE, KINDNESS and RESPECT. I believe that we learn our greatest life lessons from each other while being an example of GOD'S LOVE.

 As you journey through yet another month, set aside time to reflect on the special women GOD has placed within your life and how their presence energizes your SOUL. Enjoy this very special month as you celebrate your girls!!!

Love, Peace and Joy,

Mary E. Gilder-author of, A Misrepresentation of Myself
Visit her website at:

BOOKS ARE SEXY: Author J'son M. Lee

by Cyrus Webb

Authors like J'son M. Lee are not always easy to find nor do they normally get the credit and attention they deserve.

I first heard of him in 2011, but it wasn't until this year that I had a chance to interview him on Conversations LIVE and share his literary journey with our audience. As CEO of Foresight Publishing, he has taken full control of his destiny and published the kind of work that not only he wanted to share but what so many want to read. As someone who can read and appreciate work of all genres, I welcomed the opportunity to spotlight Mr. Lee, not only because of his passion for the craft but his courage as well.

Discussing issues like same-sex relationships is not always easy to do, but I found that what J'son has done through work like JUST TRYIN' TO BE LOVED is not just talk about sexuality. He has gotten to the core of the real desire for all of us: to feel appreciated, wanted and respected for who we are and what we bring to the world. It is for that reason that J'son M. Lee's book made my Summer Reading List this year.

Now I give you, our readers of Conversations Magazine, a taste of what Lee has to offer...

Excerpt from J’son M. Lee’s JUST TRYIN’ TO BE LOVED

Tony and I finished dessert and found ourselves on the living room floor listening to some of my favorite artists – Ann Nesby, Rachelle Ferrell, Regina Belle and Shirley Murdock.  They kept me company many lonely nights.  When Tony and I were dating, I listened to them all the time around the house.  I remember one day Tony sarcastically asked if I knew there were other singers in the world.  Funny that he now had a compilation CD with some of the same favorites.  When Shirley Murdock’s “Stay With Me Tonight” came on and Tony snuggled in closer to me, I immediately knew my ass was in trouble.
“Little One, why don’t you spend the night with me?  It’s kinda’ late and I can just take you back to your car early in the morning.”

“Tony…I…uhhh…I’m not ready for all this.”
“I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do or anything you’re not ready for.  Yes, I would love to be able to hold you all night, but I’m really just making the offer because it’s so late.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It’s up to you.  No pressure.”

I was extremely tired and Tony’s offer was very tempting.  I think I was more afraid of myself than I was of him.  I had not slept with anyone since Tony and as one-sided as our love making was, I yearned for him.  But I needed to remain strong.  Sleeping with him without knowing his true intent could prove devastating.  I finally felt like I had some of my control back and it would be so easy to give him that control back.  This man still had so much power over me and I knew he could tell.

As if knowing how I’d answer Tony said, “Let’s go to bed. I’ll set the alarm to wake up early and take you to the train station.”  Without a word, he grabbed me by the hand and I followed him to the bedroom.

All I could think about was being in Tony’s arms.  I really had no expectations.  I remembered how his embrace used to comfort me and that’s what I wanted.  Tony’s hands moved down to my thighs and my body jerked with confusion.  I still loved Tony, but I remembered all the pain he caused me.  I desired him sexually, but a true commitment was what I wanted.  I wanted to embrace him, but my head was fighting with my heart.

        I remembered his arrogance oh so well.  He told me I loved him.  He didn’t ask.  “I do love you Tony, but I don’t know what that means anymore.  When you left, I had a very hard time picking up the pieces.  I gave you all of me and when it didn’t work, I didn’t know how to go on.  I’m still not sure that I do.  A year and a half is not a long time in the overall scheme of things, but it’s a long time to lose yourself.”  “Shhh,” Tony said pressing his fingers against my lips.  “Go to sleep.  We can talk about this later.”

I rolled over onto my side and like he used to do, Tony held me as I drifted off to sleep.  The alarm went off at five o’clock.  While it was a short sleep, it was the best sleep that I had in a long time.  It felt good to be held by him again.

        Oddly, my thoughts went to Jared.  Jared was the only man that I allowed to hold me since my breakup with Tony.  He had accomplished something that no one else had been able to do.  He was cracking the wall that I had erected to protect my heart.  It felt good being in his arms that day at his condo and it was not because he was familiar.  It’s because it was what I wanted.  Why did life have to be so complicated?  I was comfortable living my life without a man.  In a few months’ time, I now had two men in my life.  I didn’t invite anyone into my world.  Why did they both have to come knocking now?  

Enjoyed this excerpt from JUST TRYIN’ TO BE LOVED? Purchase your copy today at, or by visiting the author’s site at

Tony Lindsay Presents... "A Look At James Baldwin"

At the pinnacle of his career, and during the height of The Civil Rights Movement, James Arthur Baldwin's 'The Fire Next Time' was published. The book arrived after the success of Go tell on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, and Giovanni's Room. Baldwin had established himself as an essayist, novelist, playwright, and columnist . . . a writer. 'The Fire next Time' had been published in parts in both The New Yorker and the Progressive in 1962. At this point in his career, James Baldwin had America's ear and what he chose to tell her made history.

The work, 'The Fire Next Time' is divided into two parts; the first being a letter of advice to Baldwin's nephew, also named James his namesake, on how to survive within the racist climate of America in 1962. He titled the letter "My Dungeon: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation." What was startling about the letter is that during a period of proposed integration and assimilation Baldwin advises:

If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration. There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand: and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shining and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one's sense of one's reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man's world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations. (8)

One should remember the "letter" was written in 1962. Here Baldwin speaks to the equality of men based on knowing themselves; if his nephew knows from whence he came the lies of white superiority would be of little affect on his development and survival; not bad advice for any man during any time.

Tony Lindsay is an award-winning author and adjunct professor at Chicago State University. His new book ONE DEAD DOCTOR is available now on Amazon. He can be reached at or on Facebook at

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vikki Hankins: An Advocate 4 Justice

by Cyrus Webb

In a political year you can look for people of various interest groups to be out and about not only campaigning for their choice but pushing an agenda that matters to them. Along the way, however, you meet individuals like Vikki Hankins who want nothing more but to truly raise the consciousness of the world to injustices that she sees around her.

Looking at her you wouldn't imagine her to be an individual that at one point found herself with a gun being pointed at her head and her asking the assailant to pull the trigger. Some would say that Vikki doesn't look like a woman who has dealt with her mother committing suicide and her brother being murdered. Spending some time with her you definitely wouldn't guess that she spent almost 20 years in prison because of some wrong choices that she made.

You would probably say to yourself "She looks like me". You would be right, and that is the point.

What Vikki Hankins has done with her life since her release from prison is a testament to how much all of us can channel our inner greatness, no matter what we have been through. Today she is a published author, motivational speaker, CEO of A4J Publishing as well as an advocate for those who might feel as though they have no voice.

When I had the opportunity to speak with Vikki about her experiences and how they have directed her path she shared that working on the behalf of others is what she sees as her calling. She doesn't wear her past as a badge of honor, but she allows others to see what she has done with her life and what is possible for them as well. She also shows that what she has endured could be any of our lot in life.

When so many are looking to score political points and prove their side is right, Vikki is more concerned about helping others realize that what matters is not what they did yesterday but how they are using the time and opportunity they have now.

Through her own book she was able to share a part of her journey so that others could get a personal account of not just someone who has been incarcerated but what each of us can accomplish if we dedicate our lives to change. Vikki is also using A4J Publishing as a platform for others to share their own voices with the world.

This is the kind of example we have when we feel like giving up or think that our lives don't matter. Vikki Hankins is proof positive that you are not only worthy of success and happiness but you can help others to reach it for themselves as well.

Find out more information about Vikki and her work at and her publishing company at

BOOKS ARE SEXY: Author Jodi Ambrose

by Cyrus Webb

Are you ready to talk about sex and relationships? Well, Sex-pert and author Jodi Ambrose is just the person you want to have a conversation with!

Now before you turn the page of this magazine or click on another article in the issue, let me explain why this is a profile you will benefit from. Anyone who has been in a relationship knows how important it is to feel validated or understood. It was during a conversation with a friend on Facebook that Jodi Ambrose shared some tips with a male friend on how he could help improve his relationship with women. After trying some of the tips---and seeing the results---he encouraged her to write a book. Since then she has written two: SEX: How To Get More Of It (for men) and INTIMACY: How To Get More Of It (for women).

Jodi was gracious enough to be a guest of my on Conversations LIVE and shared where her desire to help others originated. "When I was growing up I tended to be friends with alot of guys," she told my listeners. This led her to listening and absorbing a great deal of what was being said. She now uses her tips to assist others in their relationships and provide a platform for growth and new beginnings among couples.

I was curious if she had any reservations about writing about sex. She told me the answer was Yes and No. There was a part of her that knew the information needed to get out there and she was the one to do it. Then there was the other part that thought about her family, co-workers and friends. At the end of the day, however, she made the decision that all individuals who embrace their inner greatness do: "Sometimes you have to step up and get out of your comfort zone and do what you know needs to be done," she said. Though she acknowledges that it's not always easy, she knows it is "worth the battle."

Don't let the titles of the books fool you. I realized pretty quickly that sex was only a part of what Jodi was conveying. The important element was really communication. "I want people to know that it's not only okay to talk about how you feel but that their feelings have validity." Jodi also says that the information in her books help to create a healthy, safe environment where both parties know that they matter." A great story that she shared on the air was about a friend who felt like their twenty-plus year marriage was over. Jodi gave her a book and the end result was the husband was able to acknowledge over time that he had forgotten about his wife. Needless to say, there was no divorce, and the two are experiencing a resurgence in their relationship.

Want to see if Jodi can help you as well? Get more information about her and either SEX or INTIMACY on her website at or  

(Review) FIND THE UPSIDE OF THE DOWN TIMES by Dr. Rob Pennington

by Cyrus Webb

We have all heard people around us say the saying that if something could go wrong in their lives it probably would. For Dr. Rob Pennington he saw himself as an individual who experienced a downpour of negativity and hardship in his life with seemingly no way out. Here is man that in his life has been shot, lost his job, audited and dealt with the death of his wife. For some of us just one of those things would have been enough to push us over the edge, throwing up our hands and admitting defeat. 

There was times when Rob didn't know how he was going to get through challenges. That is until he realized the power he personally had to change the way he perceived his circumstances and how that in effect brought about a whole new attitude.

In the book FIND THE UPSIDE OF THE DOWN TIMES, Pennington takes us into his personal experiences, what worked for him and how we can do the same in our own lives. This is a book that not only tells you what to do. It allows you to see from someone who has done it what can happen when you decide to live life differently.

The other thing that is so great about Pennington's book is the reminder we get that there will always be someone who has it worse off than we do. We sometimes get so into feeling sorry for ourselves and what we are experiencing that we lose sight of how others need to be encouraged and uplifted through their own dark chapters. This is why THE UPSIDE OF THE DOWN TIMES is critical for all of us. The author let's us see that we can make a difference and use our experiences both good and bad to not only help ourselves but others as well.

FIND THE UPSIDE OF THE TIME TIMES made my list of Summer Reads for 2012. I recommend this book not just because of the practical value it offers the reader but the effect it is sure to have on all that hear about it. If you want to experience the bright side of life then get ready to realize that it all begins with you.

Get your copy on and discover more about the author at

PROFILE: Authors Anthony Barrow and Tracey "Big Tray Deee" Davis

by Cyrus Webb

California natives Anthony Barrow and Tracey "Big Tray Deee" Davis could have just been two individuals sitting in prison feeling sorry for themselves, but that was not their way. Driven by unending passion and a determination to be heard, the two have partnered together to pen a gritty yet explosive urban thriller called STREETZ GON CRY.

Published by LeNoir Publications, the book not only shares the literary skills of these two men but a story that is definitely resonating with readers and getting people to take notice.

Through the publisher I was able to send an email interview to both Barrow and Big Tray Deee about the literary experience for them, what they hope you as readers get from the book and what being published authors mean for them and what they might do in the future.

Thank you Anthony and Tracey for allowing readers of Conversations Magazine to learn more about you and your new book STREETZ GON CRY. Let's go back. What originally led you to begin writing?
A. B.: What lead me to writing was a simple challenge I endured by creating a story that is West Coast based; which lead to a passion and a desire to fill a void in the urban genre by writing novels with a West Coast feel. After I read many novels that were based on the East Coast, I felt compelled to write as an outlet by expressing realistic issues that represents the West Coast in the form of fiction.

T. D.: I began penning my autobiography when I was about four years into my present incarceration. I soon realize that I had not yet accomplished enough of my long-term goals, so I backed up from that project. I’ve certainly read enough books and have a decent enough command of the English language to believe that I have the ability to write professionally. In my younger teenage years, I enjoyed Donald Goines, Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon, among other authors. Eventually, Robert Ludlum became my favorite author, as espionage was my preferred genre. Which is ironic because many of the foreign locations and landmarks written of in those stories, I wound up visiting on world tours that I attended with Snoop Dogg back in the mid 1990’s, such as London, Germany and Switzerland.

Most stories that I have read have an agenda right from the beginning, be it fiction or non-fiction. What did you want readers to take away from STREETZ GON CRY?
A. B.: True, most stories do have agendas right from the beginning and this is why I feel Streetz Gon’ Cry is unique, because my co-author and myself chose to express the characters agendas first; from Johnté’s wanting to play professional ball to S-Mack’s desire of power and wealth. We did this in order to show how one could get thrown off their path at any given moment. The storyline was created through a course of events that’s relevant today in real life, while sustaining a fictional plot that we used to entertain our readers. My aim for the reader to take from Streetz Gon’ Cry is that everything in life has a price that can’t always be brought with money; rather it be negative or positive.

T. D.: That life in Los Angeles, known widely as both The City of Angels as well as the Capital of Gang-Bangin’ has its own style, its own vibe and its own modus operandi. There are certain ways about us that outsiders consider to be crazy, or at the very least extreme. However, those of us who are products of the lifestyle and the adherents of the rules and regulations which govern us, in what is basically still the Wild West, view what we do as normal, routine and par for the course. The common American, African-American included, has no social comprehension of the chasm created amidst a people by mere colors and words (i.e. “cuz” and “Blood”). The wrong hue or wrong vocal address in the wrong environment could be the cause of someone, or several someone’s lying dead in the street. Regardless whether it makes any sense to you or anyone else or not, such activities and mind states do exist amongst our particular subculture. Yet, instead of perpetuating the stereotypical separation and enmity of Crips vs. Bloods, Mr. Barrow and I chose to expose the reality that two sets within the same fraction could also possess that same sense and degree of opposition. So, pardon the grandiloquent, yet actually just in fact roundabout manner in my answering your question, but I hoped that readers would enjoy “Streetz Gon’ Cry” as a jewel that reflect a few of the many prisms that makes Black life so interesting, attractive (Whether for reasons positive or negative) and marketable.

One of the things that struck me about the novel was that loyalty could sometimes be misplaced. Is that something you have experienced personally, and what do you hope especially young readers take away from that lesson?
T. D.: I pray that we are fortunate enough to attract a young readership. For the more experienced and mature reader “Streetz Gon’ Cry” will likely be found interesting, entertaining and hopefully well written. For the youth, it can enlighten them to the perils of engaging in the criminal lifestyle, allow them to consider the possible consequences of pledging allegiance to a gang or encourage them to pursue the opportunity that Johnté had in school, if they possess any particular athletic ability, and to not become sidetracked by the allure of the streets or from the influence of someone they look up to. Include a family member. That is also one of the pitfalls of loyalty; misplaced or otherwise. That being our proclivity to invest so much of ourselves, time and attention-wise, to supporting many individuals who don’t respect, but definitely appreciate as well as benefit from what we individually bring to the table. You know that term we use, “buster” or “busta” when we speak of those we perceive to be in violation of the unwritten G-code? Well, I think perfect example is someone, especially a man, who leeches off the strength of someone else and pretends that it’s their own. Have I experienced it personally? Umm, let me think about that one… (laughs)

A. B. : Yes I have experienced misplaced loyalty and what I hope young readers take away from that lesson is to let their loyalty be earned, not given. And let your loyalty be based on loyalty and let your bond be based on a bond and not to confuse the two; and to always be loyal to yourself first.

Your book proves that words can have an impact. What would you want others to think of when they hear your name mentioned in the literary world?
T. D.: Although it seems to be an innate reaction to resent an individual who transaction from one field into another and has equal success, if I could receive the same or even similar accolades from both my peers (other authors) and readers alike as I do within the music industry, that would be gigantic to and for me. Allahu Akbar, (God is the Greatest). Honestly, if when my name is mentioned the congratulators say “Big Tray Deee does his damn thang,” then I’m good.

A. B. : What I would want readers to think of when my name is mentioned in the literary world is that they are appreciated and that my gratitude is expressed by my giving them the best book I can write by putting time and thought in my novel and that after reading a book written by me you’ll finish it with something to take with you. My goal as an author is to contribute to the urban genre with literature that’s not only for entertainment but also thought provoking and to grasp substance, giving understanding in the world where I originate from.

Everyone has their own idea of what success is. Have you thought about what success would look like for you as an author? 
T. D.: Of course I have! A distinguished, curved tobacco pipe dangling from the left corner of my mouth and a snifter of brandy-flavored fruit juice. (I don’t drink) in front of me leaning in my favorite recliner, scratching my golden retriever, “Muffy”, behind her ears. Seriously though, if I could put out one good book every year that received a fair degree of critical acclaim, and one day have author become equal to rap artist when my name gets mentioned, I would regard that as being a success. Indeed.

A. B.: Success to me as an author is me being acknowledged as an author with mu consistency to continue to keep giving my readers new material.

I finished the book with the thought that it shows that all of our actions have consequences but not always futures that have hope. Would you agree with that, and if there is a bigger lesson to be learned, what would you say it is? 
T. D.: I agree. That is a very accurate assessment and break down. Like you stated, all of our actions have consequences attached to them. It is the same as saying every action causes a reaction. On the other interpretation you posed of futures not having hope, yes, on one hand one’s lifestyle choice can certainly lower their expectation of a trouble-free and extended age future but regardless of that even there is always hope in life. That right there might be the biggest lesson.

A.B.: I disagree, because I believe all futures have hope, but it’s up to the individual to determine is the future they desire worth manifesting. If not, to have the courage and strength to switch paths. I feel the biggest lesson to be learned is that you don’t have to settle nor expect what’s given. Circumstances and obstacles are only permanent if you accept them. Maintain your lesson and learn from them.

When it comes to writing, any advice you would like to share with aspiring writers based on your own experiences?
A. B.: Yes, get your story on paper out your mind, write and rewrite, until you story is told how you vision it.

T. D.: Please don’t undertake writing like everybody and they mama have all tried their hand at rapping! This is a craft that requires imagination, ingenuity and a demand on one’s time. Be committed to giving it your all if you decide to pursue it. If you are not a good speller, you may be able to get by if you have a good editor. If you’re a horrible speller, find help immediately because you’re too damned old to be spelling like the dumbest kid in school. Always write about something that you have a respectable degree of knowledge about. If the most you’ve sold is a five dollar bag of weed, your story about flying in kilos of cocaine from Columbia and partying on 65 ft. yachts in Floridian waters probably won’t be detailed enough to be convincing.

Thank you for your time guys. How can our readers stay in contact with you and keep up with what's coming up next? 
T.D.:  You’re welcome. And thank you for the shine. You might catch me sneaking on Twitter at  @BigTrayDeee or you can look up Ave Money Publishing on Twitter at @AveMoneyLLC or visit my website at Stay watching for our next novel, “Los Angeles Tymez, coming very soon. That will be followed by a solo offering by both myself and Mr. Anthony Barrow. I wish you and all of your readers peach and prosperity. Also, be listening for the bangin’ rap single, “Streetz Gon’ Cry”, featuring artist (and fellow co-author of “Los Angeles Tymez”) J Dee, of Ice Cube’s legendary group, Da Lench Mob, which has already been recorded, mixed and mastered. 

A. B.: Readers can stay connected by following me on Twitter at @BarrowAnthony and @AveMoneyLLC. Also visit online @ Also be on the look out for Los Angeles Tymez – Urban Tales, the new novel by me and my co-author Big Tray Deee.

Get your copy of STREETZ GON CRY at and at

SuperChef Darnell Ferguson: Building A Business with Breakfast on Faith

by Cyrus Webb

There are so many people who look at the current economic situation and think that building a business should be the last thing on your mind. Not Darnell Ferguson. The 25 year old Columbus, OH native is doing just that and finding success along the way.

Living in Louisville, KY since 2008, Darnell "Super Chef" Ferguson opened Super Chef's Breakfast with good friend Ryan Bryson in May 2012 and since then has expanded to a second location with plans for a third already in the works.

"I was admittedly nervous at first," says Ferguson. "Like with any business I wondered whether or not anyone would show up. Now that I see that people are not only coming out but loving the food it only confirms that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing."

The premise of Super Chef's Breakfast is to make breakfast fun and exciting again, drawing attention to it being the most important meal of the day. Though it began just a few months ago, Ferguson has been laying the framework for the current success for quite some time.

It began with his website "Cooking In 10" where he shared with others how to feel more comfortable in the kitchen. Ferguson believes this is also where he found his comfort level not only on camera but with the press as well. "Everywhere I have had the privilege of working and the attention I have gotten because of my cooking has all led to this point," he says. There is also another element to the equation that Super Chef is quick to mention and that is his faith. "Every step of the way I have tried to keep God first. That is a big part of my confidence. I know that as long as I stay in the place God wants for me that things are going to work out."

What Super Chef's Breakfast has already done surpasses what Ferguson wanted for the business and himself. "I'm still just taking it all in," he says. "We are giving people a new feel of breakfast, showing them what is possible. It's just a great feeling to know that people are enjoying the food and the way it is prepared."

There is also the added benefit of being a tangible example for those young and old when it comes to what is possible in their own lives. "I definitely believe that this business shows what is possible with hard work and dedication. It shows the importance of having good people around you." Thanks to the growth in the business, Ferguson has even been able to put some good people to work.

When I asked him what advice he has for others who look at what he has achieved at such a young age, Ferguson says this: "That's easy. Stay consistent, stay prayerful and stay focused."

For more information about Super Chef's Breakfast's locations, menus and hours of operation visit

Conversations Book Club's 25 Summer Reads, 2012

by Cyrus Webb

It is no secret that reading is one of the greatest pleasures of my life. I have been a fan of books for as long as I can remember, a passion that was fed by my family and continued in my adult years. It was because of this passion that I founded Conversations Book Club in November 2006. I wanted a place where men and women alike could come together and discuss books, sharing lessons and a form of entertainment that can be found no where else. Since then I have had the privilege of hosting book discussions in my home state of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee: all of them have been focused on titles that I personally loved and wanted to share.

With Summer here it is once again time for me to not only reveal my picks for the season but share with you probably one of the best collection of books I've had the privilege of reading. I literally devour hundreds of books a year, and that insatiable appetite makes these kind of lists extremely difficult, however, I think I have done right by you as readers with my choices. As with all of my lists, you will find books by established authors as well as those who are rising stars in the industry. It is my hope that you will find the pleasure in them that I did, and share them with others that will surely enjoy them as well.

Without further ado, here are this year's Summer picks...

Conversations Book Club's Non-Fiction Summer Reads, 2012  (In no particular order)

  1. "Dear Marcus" by Jerry McGill (Spiegel & Grau/Random House)
  2. "Find The Upside of the Down Times" by Dr. Rob Pennington (Resource International)
  3. "Chicken Soup For The Soul: Find Your Happiness" (Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing)
  4. "Single, Black, and Government Owned" by O. Keeys (Passionate Writer Publishing)
  5. "Creating Time" by Marney K. Makridakis (New World Library)
  6. "This Is How" by Augusten Burroughs (St. Martin's Press)
  7. "Drunken Angel" by Alan Kaufman (Viva Editions)
Conversations Book Club's Fiction Summer Reads, 2012 (In no particular order)
  1. "Watch Me Die" by Erica Spindler (St. Martin's Paperbacks)
  2. "The Collectibles" by James J. Kaufman (Downstream Publishing)
  3. "Payback Ain't Enough" by Wahida Clark (Cash Money Content)
  4. "The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D." by Nichole Bernier (Crown/Random House)
  5. "One Dead Doctor" by Tony Lindsay (Penknife Press)
  6. "The Lost Daughter" by Lucy Ferriss (Berkley Publishing/Penguin)
  7. "Aloha"/"Adios!" by Stephen A. Enna & Dennis J. Wootten (Authorhouse)
  8. "Sea Change" by Karen White (New American Library/Penguin)
  9. "Tony's Tiffany" by John Mobley (Freedom Ink)
  10. "Just Tryin' To Be Loved" by J'son M. Lee (Foresight Publishing)
  11. "California Girl Chronicles: Brea & the City of Plastic" by Michelle Gamble Risley (3L Publishing)
  12. "The Safehouse" by T. Thomas Ackerman (Outskirts Press)
  13. "Married in the Nick of Nine" by Alretha Thomas (Diverse Arts Collective)
  14. "The Hum and the Shiver" by Alex Bledsoe (Tor)
  15. "When Rain Falls" by Tyora Moody (Urban Christian/Kensington)
  16. "By The Light of the Silvery Moon" by Tricia Goyer (Barbour Publishing)
  17. "Coming Home" by Stacy Hawkins Adams (Zondervan)
  18. "Alligator Lake" by Lynne Bryant (New American Library/Penguin)
Want to share your thoughts about some of the titles I've picked this year? Feel free to do so online at or or you can drop me an email at Have a great summer!