Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Saturday, October 30, 2021

One-On-One with Actress/Content Creator Nadege August

by Cyrus Webb

Nadege, people have gotten to know you most recently because of the Tyler Perry hit show RUTHLESS, but you've been able to do some great work even before this. What has it been like for you, especially over the past five years to be able to reflect on your work and how you got to where you are today?

I must say it's a little surreal. You get into this work because it's something that you love. You must've heard people say quite often when you're starting out, if there's something else you can do, please go do that instead. It is a very, very challenging life. But when you are driven and you know your why, and you stick to it, the work speaks for itself. 

I've done everything from stage work, and I still do that, television series where I've been a guest quite often, pilots that didn't get picked up... And now seeing this, where it came from of all places, it's just amazing. I'm still a little bit shocked. You mentioned the show RUTHLESS, that's where I'm seeing a response that's outrageous.

I love the fact that you have not been afraid to trust your own voice. When did you realize that you had something that you wanted to share?

I think I got a few glimpses of it when I was 14 and realized this is something I wanted to do. I just didn't have a name for it. Just seeing the impact your performance has on an audience. Their reaction is usually genuine, because people are pretty honest in their nonverbal cues. I also have a podcast . That is where I started to realize that I do have opinions, what I say matters, and I have a responsibility. It's a part of my plan to use my platform that I'm gifted with and to have it be impactful in a way that is about compassion and empathy. 

I'm curious, Nadege, what was that like for you to not only be able to find some fulfillment for yourself, but to find that other people were also enjoying what you were doing?

You know what's funny for me is that you never quite know when you're in the work, After you do the work and you see the feedback, the results, the stranger who takes the time to either leave a review or find your email and send you an email. It takes my breath away. 

Sometimes I pause and I go wow. Those small gestures somehow keeps you going. I'm not going to lie. I don't wake up every day gung-ho and ready to take on the world. I have my highs and my lows, and there are times where I've thought of giving up. During those times I kid you not, I get a whisper from an angel in the form of a human who says something that is so encouraging and completely genuine that gives me this perk that I need to keep going. And it also is a cautionary tale as to when you think to say something nice to someone, you have to say it. It's always so easy for us to criticize and to point out what doesn't work, when in fact, when something does work, take the time and let someone know. You never know what that might mean to them.

Stay connected with Nadege on Instagram at and on Twitter at

Actor/Producer Reggie Currelley: Enjoying the Marathon Towards His Goals and Dreams

 by Cyrus Webb

No matter what your career true success only comes with hard work, dedication and faith. Just ask actor/producer Reggie Currelley. I caught up with him earlier this year as we were celebrating our 10,000th guest on Conversations LIVE radio show. He was also celebrating being a part of a commercial that was broadcast around the world thanks to the Super Bowl. 

Many have gotten to know Reggie as Victor from the famed State Farm commercial, but one thing is for sure: that was only another milestone on his journey towards personal and professional success.

We talked about the journey and the focus it takes to make it in this inspiring conversation. 

Reggie, you've been on quite a journey for yourself.  Teamwork is very important, but bringing your own personal best is also important. How do you feel like bringing your best to everything that you do has helped your career?

Thank you for that. I think for me if I don't bring my best, I won't put out the best product; and I'll be cheating the world of the gifts that God gives me. So what I do is I put my best foot forward, everything else is going to fall into place. And when you do the work before you actually get the job, the job becomes easier. So that's the work that I do. I try to put in as much work as possible before I even get to set or wherever I'm going.

Have you gotten used to the, 'Hey you are that guy'? 

It's still fun and it's still amazing. You walk into a supermarket and someone goes, 'Hey, are you Victor from the she-shed commercial?'  And I say 'Yes, that's me.' It's still weird to get used to, but it's fun because people tell me I make their day. I'll keep going for the rest of my life if that's the case. I love it.

Did you always know it was going to be a marathon and not a sprint that this was not a, a success story that was going to happen overnight? 

I had an idea. I remember when I decided to come to Los Angeles to become an actor, some people in my neighborhood were like 'You're not going to get a job for 10 years.' So I prepared myself for that. When I got here, I noticed that it didn't come easy. I prepared myself for marathon. I was a sprinter in high school, so I'm used to running. So I just said to myself, 'You know what? I'm in it for the long haul.' I got some good shoes, and I was ready to go. 

Keep up with Reggie on Instagram at

* Photo by Cameron Radice Photography

Michael Jai White: Fulfilling His Life's Assignment with Every Role

by Cyrus Webb

For many the path of Michael Jai White* is definitely that of a man who is larger than life. 

He has been able to make a name for himself as an actor, producer and Martial Arts expert with fans around the world. You can find him in roles that are as diverse and entertaining as his own passion for life, but at his core he is an individual who is just appreciative for the opportunities to do what he loves. Like the rest of us he has not been unscathed by the pandemic that has enveloped so much of our lives, but he presses onward, channeling all that he is into his art. 

In 2021 I had a chance to catch up with Michael to discuss his career, his success and what's to come. 

You've been in this unique position, Michael, of being able to do what you love, not only in front of the camera, but also in Martial Arts. What has that been like for you to take your passions and to be able to share them with all of us?

I'm blessed behind it, because I get a chance to do what what's in my heart. I felt blessed early on, because there was a time where I learned that I was following my dream. Once I learned that piece of information, I felt like I've already won. Everything else to me is just gravy. That's my attitude going forward, and no matter what, I'm gonna continue to try to just do my best.

You've been able to amass a following. I think that it's not only inspiring for other creators like yourself, Michael, but also shows people what's possible. You've been able to reach people who enjoy the drama, the comedies and enjoy the action. How does that feel to have this cross section of support from so many different arenas?

It feels great. I just keep moving forward. I don't really reflect too much on it. I know it's a good thing, but there is so much that I want to accomplish that I'm not very reflective a lot of the time.

In 2020 WELCOME TO SUDDEN DEATH was just one of the projects you starred in that had people talking. It has to do with something that means a lot to you, Michael, that being family. What was it like for you to see the way that even through the pandemic people were responding to it. 

I'm finally getting the chance to play characters that are closer to myself. I understand you have to pay the dues and play characters that sometimes paint you a certain way. There were people that used to be frightened of me because I played a lot of rough characters. Friends of friends would say, 'Oh, I saw Mike. but I didn't want to go up to him because, you know, I'm kind of scared.' My friends are like 'No, he's a nice guy,' but I understand that sometimes you play a character that's pretty menacing or whatever, and they kind of define you by that. 

Well, [Welcome to Sudden Death] was a great opportunity, because I can really show the real me in a lot of those situations. I am a husband and a father, and my family is like a sitcom. We don't bicker. It's no drama. There's a lot of laughs. I was able to bring that into my movie.

You have fans literally around the world, Michael. Has it become a comfortable thing to look at yourself as an example for others in your industry?

We're always going to be examples, no matter what. Again, I don't really think too much about it. I'm one that is very uncomfortable with accolades and compliments. I enjoy lifting other people up more so than receiving anything myself. I'm painfully shy when it comes to that. 

I've been put on the earth as an entertainer. It's about service, right? So I'm entertaining people, and people are responding to it. That is a great thing for me. Even though I'm at the forefront of it, it's so not all about me. It's really all about what I'm providing.

Stay connected with Michael on Instagram at

*     Photo Courtesy Jaigantic Studios

Thursday, October 28, 2021

12 Social Media Tips to Help Build Your Business and Brand


by Cyrus Webb

In 2021 it is impossible to NOT to see the impact and influence that social media has in connecting audiences and for networking. However, if you find it difficult to reach your potential customers or those in your niche it might be time to reevaluate your strategy for using social media. 

Over the past year I have hosted several classes where I have addressed my own social media strategy and success and how I have been able to grow my customer base as well as my rolodex throughout the pandemic. You can do the same!  

Here are 12 tips for building your brand and your business using social media to keep in mind: 

  1. Strategize. What is your goal? Is it to grow your audience and find potential clients and customers or to just establish yourself as an authority in your industry. Being clear of your plan will help you realize the best way to approach social media. 

  2. Who is your audience? This is connected closely to #1. In order for you to get the desired result you have to make sure you are speaking to your preferred audience. As an example, for authors you want to reach readers not necessarily fill your page with other authors who are also trying to get the word out about their books and programs. Unless your goal is just to use social media for networking, you have to be clear about who you are trying to attract with your posts.

  3. Decide on the right platforms for you. This is definitely a tip that has to be personal for you as an individual---and should be based on your comfort level. Depending on what kind of content you plan on sharing, make sure the platform is right for that and you can best use your strengths there. That will make sure that you don't see it as a burden to post. It will come more naturally. Which leads to the next couple of steps that are interconnected. 

  4. Stay updated and informed. Over the past year the main platforms that I use (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube) have all gone through updates. Staying informed of the changes, tweaks and new features will allow you to maximize your time and get the best results. Make sure you keep your apps updated and following their social media pages so you stay in the loop.

  5. Provide value. Become a resource. Of course you want to sell whatever your product or service is. I get that. However, social media is meant to be SOCIAL. That means you have to have more to say then "buy my product", "click here to sign up for my newsletter," etc. Share what your know. That will let your audience know who you are, what you do and want to come back for me. 

  6. Consistency. It's great to start your journey to introducing yourself and connecting, but the mistake lots of individuals make is they don't continue! Yes, social media is something that takes time, especially if you're being thoughtful about the other steps. This doesn't mean, however, it has to be overwhelming. The important thing is to pick a general schedule that works for you and stick with it! Not only will your followers appreciate it, but new ones who might stumble over your page will know that you're someone who shows up on a regular basis. 

  7. Communicate. On social media the like, know and trust factors are even more important. That means the communication can't be one-sided. If someone leaves you a comment on your posts, acknowledge. Check your messages daily on your social media, including the spam folders just to make sure you don't miss anything. As you are trying to connect and grow you want to make sure your followers don't feel as though you are just talking at them and not to them. 

  8. Repurpose content. Wondering what to share on social media? Take advantage of the opportunity to repurpose your content. That means sharing posts across other platforms and shortening videos so that certain points or messages are made to stand out. Also just re-sharing content through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and help it get fresh eyes and more engagement. 

  9. Sale without being salesy. This one might seen difficult and even counter-productive, but it is so important. Do we want others to know what products and services we offer? Yes. Do we want to take advantage of opportunities to share discounts and opportunities we're offering? Of course. The important thing is to use that like, know and trust factor to connect with your audience and the benefit to THEM for what you have to offer.

  10. Don't leave the room: This tip is one that you really have to work on daily and is tied to consistency. You are building an audience. You are providing value. You are doing all the right things. The key, however, is to make sure you don't leave those who are following you stranded. I liken it to inviting people into your home and then leaving. Pretty soon they will stop relying on you, and you have lost the trust you worked hard to build. As you are navigating social media make sure you stay in the room and take care of those who have joined you. 

  11. Build (don't burn) bridges. I can't tell you how many times I have ran across some posts on social media and thought to myself the person was going to regret what they said or shared later. We have to remember the internet is written in INK, not pencil. Even if you delete a post there is no guarantee what you said hasn't been screenshot and shared already. The lesson is to realize that social media is for you to build bridges with your brand, not burn bridges. Be mindful of what you say and how you say it. 

  12. Be yourself. Of all the tips this one is the most important. Authenticity is key to your success, both online and offline. If you are able to let your audience see you and get to know you then I know you are going to win. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Wendy Watkins: Celebrate You's WOMAN OF THE YEAR

by Cyrus Webb

With everything going on in the world we all need something to celebrate. The organization Celebrate You decided in 2020 to honor a women who were making a difference with their platforms and shining a light for all of us. In 2021 they crowned their Woman of the Year: Wendy Watkins. 

As part of the recognition Conversations had a chance to talk with Wendy on all of its platforms including now the magazine. After a delay due to the magazine's uncertain direction we are excited to share my one-on-one with Celebrate You's Woman of the Year Wendy Watkins. 

Wendy, 2021 started off pretty good for you, being recognized as Celebrate You’s Woman of the Year. How does it feel to have your work being noticed and appreciated?

I feel like a 20-year overnight success, and that is amazing! My life’s work is ‘to be the spark that lights your fire for positive impact’, so to be recognized by my peers for contributions in the area of mental wellness is over the top exciting. This experience has fired up my passion to share the importance of mental wellness, even if you do not have a mental illness. 

 The timing is ideal to step through the doors this opportunity is opening up to create more awareness  and  eradicate the stigma of mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety.  I feel honored, grateful and blessed to be on this path.

Have you always known that you had something that was meant to be shared?

That could be the only reason I’ve lived a life of extreme highs and lows. These experiences made me the woman I am today, and the ideal person to share this message. 

I’ve always wanted to be a ‘rock star’. When I was a young girl and my family was together for the holidays, I’d want to be put on a talent show for the adults. I have never met a camera or microphone I do not like. 

 Unfortunately, my grandparent’s belief was that children should be seen and not heard. That stifled my desire, but my passion and commitment never went away.

How did you get to a place where fear didn’t stop you when it came to pursuing your goals and dreams?

Who said that fear did not stop me? Fear has stopped me in my tracks a multitude of times. It is having resilience and tenacity that allowed me to embrace faith and desire to make a positive impact for others. This allowed me to put fear to the side and get on with my purpose and passion. I see fear as Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real.  Our thoughts are all made up. I have an MSU, and so do you.  We all Make Stuff Up, so why not make up the good stuff?

The first large event I hosted in Atlanta, I was terrified that no one would attend. When those thoughts appeared, I would reach out to my coach or mentor to remind me of what I forgot; that I did not have to be perfect to make a positive impact. I forgot that if I mess up on stage, no one but me knows. I forgot that when I come from my heart with pure intention to inspire people to create their best life, there is less room for fear to show up. 

When I remember that it is not about me, that I am the spark that lights people’s fire and that they will take the information and use it accordingly, the fear subsides and resilience kicks into overdrive. 

Remembering that pursuing ones goals and dreams is a marathon and not a sprint is essential to  staying focused on the impact.  

I love that! As a speaker, coach and author you are continually pouring into others. Where do you go to be refreshed?

Upstairs and outside! My day begins with Wendy time to increase mindfulness.  This includes yoga, meditation and journaling – some days just one of those rituals, other days all three.

 I walk my dog, Eli daily and we enjoy the beauty and promise that being in nature provides. When the weather is good, I move my office outside. I just purchased an electric bike, so I can ride these hills in Atlanta, with a lot more ease! When I’m in nature, I am replenished. 

Another essential piece of my self-care is talking and laughing with my girlfriends regularly.

I mentioned Celebrate You in the beginning of this conversation. How did you find out about the online group, and what has been the benefits for you?

I met LaWanna Bradford when she was the chapter leader at the Womens Prosperity Network.  I walked into that room and felt like I was with family. The CY’s group and their message of women celebrating women and wellness so resonated with me, especially because it was not just about physical health and financial success. That was refreshing.  CY is a holistic and diverse group that is aligned with my values, so being with these ladies brings me joy and fulfillment. 

Each month I have the opportunity to share information to support  mental wellness on a panel with LaWanna and other CY ladies. The variety of information that is available for all of us to be our best selves, is priceless. And, who does not love being a Queen amongst other Queens?

As someone who has found success herself, what advice do you have for others about pursuing their own goals?

Your first step is to gain clarify your definition of success. Once you know where you’re going, it’s essential to find ways to enjoy and celebrate the experiences you have on your way to your destination. We love to travel, and I’ve found that talking and dreaming about the trip is often as fun as the trip itself. 

Along this journey, you’ll get to make many decisions. Having a Values Compass to guide you is most beneficial.  When you honor your values, you’ll experience the most fulfillment. It is that satisfaction that’s the fuel in your tank. You may get lost, i.e., experience setbacks and perceived failures. These can be deeply disappointing. Once you get pass the disappointment, you can use this fertile time to uncover the lesson learned. Failures are opportunities for us to grow and shift something on our journey. 

Be easy on yourself , especially with your self-talk. Instead of beating yourself up for not getting it “right”, talk to yourself as you would your best friend or child. The way you explain things to yourself matters!

 Life is more than just making money. Yes, money does provide safety and security, but it does not provide sustainable happiness. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. Ask for help! Hire a coach (shameless plug) and other professionals that are good at the things you are not proficient in. increase your Success Karma by hiring others to do what they are good at, so more people hire you for what you are good at.  Last but not, least, share your success with others either through your time, money or wisdom. M&M’s are so much more fun to share, so is your sweet success. 

Congratulations again, Wendy. How can our audience stay connected with you?

If you like gifts, visit to receive my latest edition of 10 Succes s Hacks for a Flourishing Life. 

As for Social Media: 

IG @WendybWatkins

Sunday, October 17, 2021

[Business Spotlight] Marquis Cooper, author/speaker/educator

Marquis Cooper, Author/Speaker/Educator

Hometown (city/state): Marianna, Arkansas


* Currently serve as the Senior Pastor of the Otter Creek Community Church in Little Rock, Arkansas

* The JV Educational Leadership Award

* Omega Psi Phi Citizen of the Year Award

* Moton Strong-Lee Hall of Fame Inductee,

* Character Education Partnership as a National Promising Practice in Washington, D.C.

* SRS Community Leader of the Year. 

Who were some of your mentors? 

It is not surprising that all of my mentors were positive male role models in their respective communities. They are Robert Sims, James McCoy, Michael Rodriguez, James Banks, Dr. William Bill Thomas, and Donnelle Parker.

How does it feel to now be looked up to as a mentor to others? 

It is an honor to be considered a mentor. It feels good to be able to pour back into others in the same manner that others poured into me. It is so encouraging to watch individuals grow and blossom right before your eyes. The greatest joy of mentoring is when someone approaches me and says, “Mr. Cooper, thank you for never giving up on me.” These words give me the reassurance that my labor was not in vain.    

When did you know that you wanted to go into business or build a brand? 

As a growing young adult, it was my dream to build my very own brand. In fact, I had enough faith to believe that I would build my brand. In 2007, God revealed the vision for me to write my first book. By 2008 that vision had become a reality. The publication of my first book led me on the journey to becoming a nationally renowned motivational speaker. My goal in life is to leave a legacy that my family will be proud of.    

How did you identify your audience? 

I am an educator. I interact with many teachers, administrators, counselors, parents, and K-12 students. All of those relationships and connections have helped me to be an approachable Pastor. It has allowed me to gain tools and resources to help me to relate to a vast majority of people.

What role has social media played in your marketing and networking? 

Social Media has given me the opportunity to network and meet people from all walks of life and from different parts of the world. I feel that it played a huge factor in my notoriety and success.  

Offline life has changed due to Covid-19. How have you adapted? 

This has not been an easy transition, but it has forced me to become a better individual on so many different levels. I was forced to enhance my method of communicating with people. I had to find creative ways to share the word of God with the members of my church. In addition, I had to change my strategy of providing counseling services to the students I work with every day. Covid-19 allowed me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of using all forms of technology more efficiently and effectively.  I have built a website, utilized Zoom, Facebook Live, Instagram, and started a YouTube channel to stream my church services. As a church, we have been forced to make the necessary changes to keep up with our ever changing “new normal”.

Challenges come to us all. What helps you to fight through them and keep moving forward through the challenges? 

My faith in God is what allows me to face difficult seasons in life when they arise. My family experienced great losses in 2020. We lost two brothers and a nephew was murdered all in the span of six months. Our faith in God is what sustained us through all of 2020.  Even through the challenges, God’s grace kept us. He still blessed our family. My wife and I purchased a new home. We started new jobs during the pandemic. I believe our faithfulness and willingness to continue serving others kept us going. We had to remember that just because the world stopped, we did not have to. All of those factors allowed me to keep moving. 

What are you excited about moving forward? 

I am excited about all the new opportunities God has in store for my family. I am excited about growing in all arenas of my life, both professionally and personally. I am looking forward to meeting new people and walking into unchartered territory.   

What advice you want to share with other entrepreneurs? 

The only advice I would share with other entrepreneurs is to stay humble, stay teachable, and stay focused on the plan for your life.  Do not give up. Do not give up. DO NOT GIVE UP. Keep going and trust the process.

Thank you, Marquis. How can readers stay connected with you and follow the journey? 


[ENTREPRENEUR SPOTLIGHT] Nancy Matthews, Author/Speaker/Coach

by Cyrus Webb

Over the past few years it's been great to watch the way that Author/Speaker and Coach Nancy Matthews has been able to build her impact and inspire her audience. 

This year she released the new edition of her book THE ONE PHILOSOPHY. We talked about that and what's to come in this profile. 

Nancy, it was great to catch up with you on Conversations LIVE the radio show. I’m glad we can continue our conversation in Conversations Magazine. Looking back over your professional career, what has it been like for you to find something you love and pursue it?

Thank you, Cyrus. Having a career that’s built upon what I love is pure joy! We often hear, “Do what you love, and the money will follow,” and I believe that is the true secret to a successful, fulfilling, and happy life. The key is to be able to trust the process and move through fears and obstacles with fervor and faith – which, isn’t always easy.

We met through a mutual friend and entrepreneur, LaWanna Bradford. How have friendships like that helped to keep you encouraged and motivated on your journey?

Friendships, in fact all relationships, give us the opportunity to see and express ourselves through those relationships. Whether as a daughter, mother, sister, or friend our relationships form the fabric of our lives. The beauty of having close friends, like LaWanna, is that in a relationship built on trust, love, and mutual respect there is freedom for those friends to see the best in you, during times of celebration as well as challenge and provide insight and encouragement. We are not meant to do this journey alone and having trusted friends and mentors is essential. 

Speaking of journey, that was a great part of our radio conversation. When did you know that being an entrepreneur was something you wanted to do?

I’ve actually been an entrepreneur since I was six years old when my best friend and I made perfume from her mother’s rose garden. (Her Mom wasn’t too happy about it!) I didn’t know it at the time, but that entrepreneurial spirit has always been a driving force for me. Throughout my life I’ve always had a job as well as some kind of side-gig both to earn additional money and as an outlet for my creativity and fulfillment. Being an entrepreneur is about taking ownership of the work you’re doing, whether in a job working for someone else or in your own business.

Challenges come to us in different ways. How have your own challenges helped you get to where you are today?

Each of the challenges I’ve experienced have molded me into the woman I am today. For example, when I was 24 and found myself single and pregnant – that was a challenge that turned into a huge turning point for me. At the time I was on a path of way too much partying and reckless behavior. In the face of that challenge, I was given a choice, do I have this baby or not? As I struggled with what to do, a clear message came through, “Nancy, you can give this child a good life.” I know that this challenge saved my life, as I gave life to another. 

You are part of the Celebrate You community. What has that experience been like to be with other like-minded entrepreneurs?

Community is key! As I shared earlier, we are not meant to do this journey alone. What I love about the Celebrate You community is the blend of celebrating others and being reminded to also celebrate myself. This community is filled with ordinary women being extraordinary and each of their stories inspires and encourages me on my journey.  

Your book THE ONE PHILOSOPHY has been impacting the lives of others, but it began with you. You’re celebrating the 3rd edition this year. What has it been like to see the way the message has resonated with so many?

Actually, Cyrus, it’s because of the way this message has resonated with so many that keeps me inspired to do the work and share it even more. This little message with a big impact has brought families closer, has helped people grow in their careers and businesses and has saved lives. As people share their stories of how THE ONE PHILOSOPHY has changed and shaped their lives, I know that this is my work to do as this is the path to a better life for each of us and for humanity.

Finding success for yourself is great, but why is it so important to make sure that we are doing something that benefits others?

I can think of lots of reasons for that one, Cyrus, and I’ve talked about some of this earlier when I said we’re not meant to do this journey alone. We are here to work, grow and play together in this human family. Plus, it feels good to benefit others and celebrate successes together.

Other than spreading the message of THE ONE PHILOSOPHY, what are you looking forward to this year?

My sisters and I, (yes, real blood sisters), founded Women’s Prosperity Network in 2008 as a continuing community of support, resources, and connections for impact-focused women. I am looking forward to bringing more women together so that our combined gifts, talents, and skills contribute to making a positive difference in the world.

You have such an amazing resume. Based on your experiences what would you say to our readers about the importance of staying focused on the road to their goals and dreams?

Remember that a seed of greatness was placed in you upon birth and staying focused on your goals and dreams is the way to have that seed fully blossom. As you blossom you will produce seeds that are meant to be sprinkled into the lives of others which then supports them in blossoming. The best way to move beyond your fears and obstacles is to surround yourself with a community of like-spirited people who will believe in and encourage you at those times you may feel like giving up. We are #better together.

Thanks again for the time, Nancy, and congrats on all the great things coming your way. How can our readers stay connected with you? 

Thank you, Cyrus. You can find me on social media or email 

[To You, From Me] Navigating the New Normal

If  the last 18 months have taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected. 

For many people it's included a loss in employment and security. For others even a loss in life. We all know someone who has been impacted by the events of this year, but the question remains: What will it all mean?

There are those who are using this as a reset for themselves, an opportunity to realize what they want to do and may be able to do moving forward. For others they are picking up the pieces and trying to make sense of where they are and what to do next. This is even true for myself. 

Believe it or not, I actually thought this might be my last letter to you as Editor-In-Chief. After being presented with an offer to sell the magazine I began in my mother's living room in 2006, I eventually made the decision that I could not give up something that meant so much to me. Even in the face of uncertainty I knew I had to continue to guide this ship. 

In this issue of Conversations Magazine we wanted to remind you of one thing: No matter what this 'new normal' has done to you don't allow it to stop you! Those profiled in this issue could have allowed their lives to be paralyzed by the uncertainty of it all. The truth is, though, they have realized how to use what is at their disposal and keep going.

Whether we are talking about the Coronavirus pandemic or the racial unrest and conversations about inequality, what all of us have in common is the ability to put one foot in front of the other and keep making strides in the right direction. It doesn't mean you are going to move as quickly as you would like or even in the direction you initially thought was right for you. What it does mean is that you are determined to figure it out.

Want to share with me how you are navigating the new normal? Feel free to reach out to me at Would love to hear your stories.

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine

[SPECIAL] The Long Journey by Tina Siemens

 In 1922, my ancestors left Canada. Some 5,000 Mennonites left for Mexico in six long trains, bringing with them animals, furniture, tools, and grain. The journey ended at a massive piece of land in the Bustillos Valley near CuauhtĂ©moc. Like the countries before, the President of Mexico signed a document guaranteeing Mennonites religious freedom and our own monetary system. For us, being left alone in our sealed society was as close to heaven on Earth as we could get.

Or was it?

It took many years to turn the rocky desert into a land that could sustain us. Starvation and death were ever-present. Eventually, we turned a corner. But this was a hard place. Success meant not going hungry. There was little money for extravagances, which was perfect because the church leaders said that suffering brings us closer to God.

Over the years, the population exploded. Forbidden the use of birth control, many women had twelve to eighteen children.

With more living children came more adult marriages. This brought more children. Soon, we needed more land. Unfortunately, the local citizens weren’t selling any. And the government wasn’t willing to sell more land either. This led to friction between the Mexicans and Mennonites. For us, our entire life was in this land. We had little savings. Something had to give.

One man saw a different way out of all this: escape. His name was Jacob Rempel—my great-grandfather. He silently questioned everything, including the thin educational system we attended.
Jacob knew he lacked knowledge. The Mennonites had no way of understanding the outside world or negotiating complex contracts. Instead, we shook hands and hoped for the best. Yet Jacob was determined.

When his first grandson was born, Jacob secretly lifted David, the newborn, to his lips and whispered, “You will leave this place. I will help you find a way.”

Yet leaving a Mennonite colony is not easy.

First, family ties are strong. Pressure from relatives intensifies as soon as they catch wind of any discontent. If a family ever returns, they face a rough life of isolation and disdain. Excommunication is always a possibility.

Next, raising the money to leave is almost impossible. Every penny goes into food, clothing, or shelter. The only way to raise a large sum is to sell everything. Yet this move tips off the relatives and colony. And that triggers the pressure.

Finally, where can isolated Low German-speaking Mennonites go? To another Mennonite colony? Or brave the big wide world and try an Englander city?

So many hurdles, yet Jacob pushed his grandson hard. Finally, in 1974, David Rempel decided he and his family had to leave.

They tried Paraguay, but were rejected by the Mennonites living there. Then they went to Canada, but their guide threw away the citizenship application papers at the airport. They had to leave the country after six months.

Back in Mexico, David tried to rebuild his savings. He next targeted another place—Seminole, Texas. Mennonites bought tractors and parts from dealers there. A few Mennonites had even traveled to the town. David decided to check it out himself.

When he returned to Mexico, he was full of incredible stories. The clothes washed and dried themselves in magical machines. And the country was so wealthy, the citizens built small houses for their dogs. David couldn’t stop gushing about this land of milk and honey. He just had to find a way to escape to Seminole.

In 1976, David learned that U.S. citizenship was guaranteed to anyone who owned at least one acre of land. It wasn’t long before he and several men put together a large group to buy a tract of land in Seminole. They raised a staggering $295,000. This was enough to make a down payment on 1,200 acres. Suddenly, hundreds of Mennonites were leaving Mexico, each one owning at least one acre of land. After all these years of failure, David finally saw a way out.

In early 1977, a large mass of people reached the U.S. border excited about their new home. Yet they soon discovered that the lawyer with their papers wasn’t there to meet them. For five long days, the Mennonite men stood vigil in and around the immigration center while their families stayed at a cheap motel in Juarez.

On the last day, near closing time, one of the border agents found a way to communicate. David explained the situation. He had several chances to lie. But he decided that the truth was more important. If he told the truth and couldn’t get into the country, then he could still live with a conscience.

The agent miraculously decided to grant a six-month visitor’s visa. They would have 180 days to sort out their problems.

As they crossed the border, David was both excited and scared. When he crested a rise and showed his family the lights of Seminole, he told them in a voice dripping with emotion, “We’re home. Now, we’re home!”

But could they stay?

The Mennonites who came with David pooled their funds to hire the best legal talent. Yet the lawyer they hired needed money all the time.

And there was the land. Because they lacked an understanding of the ways of the world, they had not obtained water rights. Planting crops in a desert without water was a foolish proposition. The real estate agent who handled the transaction assured everyone that the Mennonites had understood they weren’t getting the water rights when they signed the complicated papers in English. And the same agent promised that he never told them owning one acre granted automatic citizenship, which turned out to be false. Acreage has nothing to do with citizenship.

Seeing his money drain from his pockets, David needed a job. Speaking Low German was not an asset when seeking employment in West Texas. But somehow, God smiled on David, granting him both a day and night job.

He made money by wading into a small lake of raw sewage and setting pipes. The idea was to capture the dirty water and use it for irrigating cotton fields. He also found work hoeing weeds in the hot Texas sun—not for himself, but his three young children. Even though they should’ve been in school, the family needed the money. Each dawn, young Tina Rempel, along with her older brother David and sister Elizabeth, trudged out to the fields for ten solid hours of hoeing endless rows of cotton.

When it was time to get paid, their father collected the wages. They understood.

As the seasons changed, Border Patrol buses arrived to collect the Mennonites and send them back to Mexico. This would mean forfeiture of their land. And there was a second group of Mennonites. They had come from Canada and plunked down $445,000 for 6,400 acres just outside Seminole. Once again, water rights were not provided. All these religious people would be deported, kissing their hard-earned money goodbye.

One man saw this up close: Mayor Bob Clark. Each day, he watched the Mennonites gather around the real estate agent’s office. He decided to investigate.

After learning all he could about the situation, he contacted a very important person in our nation’s capital named George H. Mahon. As the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he was the point man for spending any of the government’s money. And his district just happened to include Seminole, Texas.

Eventually, the press got wind of this story. Seemingly overnight, reporters and cameramen combed the streets, interviewing witnesses and probing every detail.

One fact they uncovered was the Mennonites’ refusal to accept charity. Even the tiny church they set up, which by law could avoid paying property taxes, didn’t take advantage of this welcoming land. Instead, the Mennonites prayed to God for help. And it came in the form of one photo.

There they were—eight-year-old girls sitting on benches, leaning forward over a slab of wood, praying to God for help. With their blonde hair braided over their shoulders and blue eyes peering over tented hands, this image exploded off the front pages of the country’s major newspapers. When Americans read how the Mennonites simply wanted to worship God, work hard, and be left alone, and how they had been ripped off in the land deals, their outrage spread to senators and congressmen. It was overwhelming.

Both Senators from Texas—Tower and Bentsen—sprung into action. With Mayor Clark holding a local vigil, guiding the press as they snapped more photos for the continuing string of news articles, the Mennonites’ prospects looked good. But then their visas ran out. They would have to leave.
Once again, God would provide a miracle. They received an extension on the deportation date.
On October 19, 1980, after many long years of this uncertain existence, both houses passed a private law, 96-63, granting a pathway to citizenship to more than 500 Mennonites. Each person’s name was meticulously spelled out in the bill. When President Jimmy Carter signed it, the Mennonites were granted green cards.

Five years after this monumental event, I stood next to David Rempel, my father, as we were sworn in as U.S. citizens. Never would there be a group of more grateful immigrants.

Since that time, the ranks of the Texas Mennonites have expanded. God blessed them and their desert land. The land has produced an abundance. So much that Gaines County has been continually labeled number one or close to it as the most productive county in the U.S. And not a day goes by that I don’t find a way to thank this great country for taking me in.

John Siemens, my husband, and I have built a thriving construction business out of nothing. It’s another blessing from God.

Once I was able to catch my breath, I sat down and wrote a book about this story. Like the barren land we cultivated, God has blessed the book too. Even President Jimmy Carter, a former farmer himself, recently found time between hospital stays to pose with me and my book. On November 3, 2019, I was invited to be the guest at President Jimmy Carter’s home church services.From his passage of the bill granting us citizenship to making time for me at his church, for some reason, he loves the Mennonites. As of this writing, it was the last time he taught the Sunday School lesson himself.

Decades later, Jacob’s great-granddaughter, Tina Siemens, records the story of her family’s journey from country to country in a sweeping tale of determination and faith. The book is Seminole: Some People Never Give Up. This debut novel is available on Amazon for purchase. You can also visit

[Empowerment Spotlight] Jozie Edwards, Celebrate You Honoree

by Cyrus Webb

Things have definitely changed in the world over the past 2 years, however, one thing that has remained the same is there are amazing indivdiuals that are making a difference. One such example is Jozie Edwards. 

I met her through the online community Celebrate You that has rallied women around the world to encourage and empower them along their journey. 

Earlier this year Jozie and I connected for a chat to discuss her journey.

Jozie, it’s great to connect with you. What has it been like for you to see all of your hard work paying off?

Thank you, Cyrus. It is my pleasure.  Yes!  It sincerely warms my heart to see the fruits of my labor coming to fruition. I never doubted that the seeds I planted would come forth. I just did not know when they would.  

I connected with you through the organization Celebrate You. How did you discover them? 

LaWanna Bradford and I had been friends through Facebook for a while.  Every now and then, she would reach out and check my pulse. In doing so, she invited me to participate in her Embracing You Women’s Conference as a vendor.  I graciously accepted. In addition, they had donors offering tickets.  I won a ticket for the weekend.  It was fabulous!  Shortly after COVID-19 started, the world shut down.  So we were not able to have the conference last year, but I stayed in contact with the ladies through the group by offering healthy information on #WellnessWednesday. I go in and post smoothie recipes, health tips, and information to heal oneself.

You have been able to be a source of encouragement and motivation for others. How does that feel to see the impact you have been able to have?

It is funny you mention that.  My life has been a whirlwind since 2021 began.  With the loss of three family members within a two-week span, I searched for inspiration to stay encouraged.  I spoke with LaWanna Bradford, and she mentioned how much of an impact my posts are to other people.  I honestly had not thought about it.  I post what resonates with me.  If it just happens to help others, that is a double win. As I process these losses, I have found comfort in helping others process their lives too.

Being an entrepreneur is not easy. When did you discover that is what you were meant to be?

I worked at a natural gas transmission company in Birmingham, AL years ago.  I remember the day of company lay-offs. I was the last one hired, and the first one escorted out. I was followed to my car, carrying my personal belongings from my desk, by a reporter. The humiliation I felt changed my mind about wanting to work for ANY company for 30 years to get a gold watch. I set out to find something I could do that would change the trajectory of my life forever.  I can buy my own gold watch now.  Besides, you cannot leave your children your job, but you can leave them a legacy of a business.

Success means different things to different people. What does success look like for you today?

Success for me is not about money.  It is about freedom of time.  When you can reclaim your time, stay up all night, sleep as long as you want, do what you want, work when you want, vacation when you want…you have success.  The more people you help, the more that help comes back to you.  Do not chase money. Chase your dreams. The money will come.

When I started this business, I was two weeks away from a lay-off.  I started it with fear, but I had to do something. I was afraid to spend the money to join. A friend was kind enough to help me.  When my kit arrived, I took it to work that Monday.  The jewelry in it was valued at $175. In less than 10 minutes, no lie, the women gathered around my desk and handed me $5, $10, and $20 bills to the tune of $110.  Tuesday, one of the ladies who was not there on Monday visited my desk. She bought a few pieces and asked for my website.  A few minutes later, I had my first team member. She joined. I had not even told anyone what I was doing yet.  At that moment, I knew I was on to something good that would help me build a legacy for my family.

Taking the leap to pursue your passion is not easy. What advice would you give our audience about going for it?

At the time of this article, I am working a full-time job; but it is my goal, a very short-term goal, to work full-time in my business.  I do not want to quit without the proper measures in place; therefore, I will not make an emotional decision. 

My advice is if you are working full-time, use your job to fund your dream.  Do not work all day on your job and spend no time building your dream when your work day ends. Create goal posters and hang them throughout your house so you have a visual representation of what you desire.

Stay humble. Work on your business daily. Be consistent. Create a to-do list at night.  Always remain grateful by writing in a journal nightly or creating a Blessing Jar that you drop notes in weekly.  Go back in a year and read about the wonderful things you accomplished. Be the biggest you that you can be, authentically.  Get a mentor to show you the ropes and an accountability partner to pull you back or lift you up when you need it.

Create SMART Goals:  

Specific - Write down the end goal, what you want to accomplish. 

Measurable - Write down a road map of what needs to be done. 

Action - Execute the list you just wrote down.

Realistic - Though I believe in swinging for the fence, make sure what you want to do is realistic.  If you work all day and your time does not permit you speak to 30 people a night, speak to 10 or 5 instead. You want to be consistent, not burned out. 

Time - Give your goals a deadline. Even if you do not hit them, keep them there to use as a barometer of what you need to accomplish the next month. Being an entrepreneur requires time. If you are not willing to sacrifice the parties, dates, and fun now…you will pay for it later by helping someone else build their dream.

What are you looking forward to with your business and brand?

Cyrus, I want to change as many lives as I can.  We truly believe that we can change the world with our affordable jewelry. The price point is not expensive. It is very nice jewelry. It is trendy so we stay ahead of what is happening in fashion. I personally believe that the more people you help, the more help comes back to you.  This business is life changing.

People have paid off school loans, paid of cars, built homes from the ground, bought groceries, can pay for health insurance, and have risen out of debt. Because of this business, I was able to pay it forward by helping a homeless man sleeping in his car with his children. This business changes lives.

Appreciate your time, Jozie. How can our audience stay connected with you?

I appreciate yours as well, Cyrus.  They can follow me on Facebook at  Connect with me on Instagram @pjblings. I can be found on Pinterest as @PJ Blings.  My website is

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Business Spotlight: Serial Entrepreneur and Global Leader LaWanna Bradford Celebrates 15 Year Journey

by Cyrus Webb

The two of us have never met in person, but over the past decade it has been great to call serial entrepreneur and global leader LaWanna Bradford a colleague and friend. Though she has experienced highs and lows along the journey, she has emerged as not just a respected professional but an example of what hard work, dedication and faith can do in your life and career. 

This year as we are still dealing with a worldwide pandemic and uncertainty LaWanna is celebrating 15 years of success and longevity with The Bradford Group. In this conversation we talk about its beginnings, lessons learned and what she is doing to pay it forward to others. 

LaWanna, what has it been like for you to reflect on what you have achieved with The Bradford Group? 

It has been a bit surreal to think about where we were when we started and how green I was in the mortgage industry to where we are today. This year we are celebrating 15 years in the mortgage industry, which is truly a feat for a small mortgage brokerage. When I reflect on The Bradford Group overcoming the 2007-2008 mortgage crisis and staying afloat during the pandemic, I am so very thankful and humbled. So many of my contemporaries are no longer in business and were unable to keep their doors open during that very turbulent time. Grace and favor were and are shining on us. Our journey also causes me to acknowledge the brilliant team of loan advisors and consultants that we have had over the years and the guidance we received from our mentor because without them we would not be here celebrating today. 

We have had some amazing highs and some dark and troubling lows, but through it all, we never lost sight of our vision. The Bradford Group found creative and innovative ways to remain relevant in an ever-changing environment and in the eyes of our clients and prospective clients.

How did the initial idea for the business come about? 

The idea of The Bradford Group (TBG) came from my brother, Harlan L. Bradford, Jr, who was already in the mortgage industry. He wanted to create changes that he felt that could best unfold by opening his own mortgage brokerage.  The pain points that he aimed to address included client concerns of feeling unheard and being treated only as a number.  From there evolved our tag line of “Making a Difference” and our Customer Reconciliation System, which is a systemized method of evaluating concerns and developing processes to mitigate those concerns and provide solutions to create win-win scenarios for our clients and for The Bradford Group.

Is where The Bradford Group is today what you expected when you first started?  

No…not even close.  When we first began, our goal was to dominate the residential market as mortgage brokers in the southeast.  However, with rapid economic changes and needing to make radical decisions to create opportunity for sustainability, we are now largely in the investor and commercial market space. What has remained the same is our brand promise and commitment to our customers which speaks to our corporate values and culture. 

For those that are just discovering The Bradford Group, who is the target audience and what services do you primarily offer? 

Our primary target audience are investors and business owners. Our product sweet spot are investment and commercial mortgages. On the investment properties we provide mortgages on properties that that are 1-4 units or commercial properties that are considered Tier I and Tier II (i.e., multi-family, mixed-use property, retail, light industrial, office, self-storage, and warehouse). We also do loans for special properties like churches and daycare centers. Our church loan program is very hot right now as so many churches were closed during the pandemic and many are looking to restructure existing loans to make up for shortfalls in plate offerings.  We do provide advisory services for residential borrowers – the homeowner, and these loans are facilitated through our mortgage-lender partner, Malibu Funding, LLC.

Longevity is truly the name of the game when it comes to business. What do you think has been the key to your still being here when so many have come and gone? 

I believe one of the things that has contributed to our survival is applying the art of strategic planning. During our times of crises and change, we have remained agile and quickly apply a strategic lens to our decision-making model to enable us to assess the environment from all fronts.  The one thing that we can acknowledge is change is constant.  Therefore, we are always seeking to identify opportunities to navigate the industry changes while remaining relevant to our clients. We also ensure that our customer communication is ongoing. Rather than always pitching a sale, our focus is to educate first and create a more aware and informed client first, and then offer the sell second.  We have never looked at our clients as one-time transactions, but rather as an long-term relationships.

We believe we are making a difference by creating this level of client exchange because whether they opt to do business with us or not, we are confident that they will be more informed in their decision-making. We are confident that they will tell others about us because of the unique experience that we provide. For us, that is the short-term win-win. We are educators first and mortgage providers second.

2020 brought about changes for all of us. How did The Bradford Group and you meet the changes in the world?  

Yes, there were definitely unexpected changes in 2020. I think everyone, The Bradford Group and I included, felt optimistic and hopeful as 2020 rolled around. Many compared the concept of 20/20 vision with having heightened clarity and focus. For us, the shutdown…the pause if you will, did caused us to gain clarity on our direction. We quickly determined what path was not going to work for us and began to explore a new path for our business and partner relationships, particularly with how we were going to remain relevant and enhance intentional communication with our clients.  

As for me, I became very focused on my passion to encourage women in business elevate to their best and highest self.  I found myself on numerous virtual stages, countless interviews and completed two collaborative books speaking about the importance of strategic insight and remaining relevant in an ever-changing world. 2020 became a year of increased visibility and exposure for me and the work that I am doing. It also became a year where The Bradford Group began to strategically build a platform to take us to the next level.

Social media is important in any line of work. How has it helped you in sharing your message? 

Social media has become my friend. I have, with the guidance of a great coach, learned how to leverage our messages and brand though social media in an integrative way that increases my reach and overall impact. It has made me even more cognizant about what I am saying and how frequently those messages are getting out there and through what channels to my clients, partners, and prospective clients. I am still learning the art of social media navigation and how to tier it with traditional lanes of marketing and promotion to create more depth and consistency. I would not say that I am a social media superstar yet, but I am well on my way as I continue to learn, grow, and challenge myself to push the envelop to the next level. 

Now that the world is embracing the new normal how is The Bradford Group doing the same? The new normal is one that is ever changing. I think normal today is about fluidity, agility, and adaptability because we know the one thing that is constant is change. In saying that, what is next for The Bradford Group is developing online training modules for women who are seeking to better understand real estate investment and how it can supplement retirement income. We want to increase our footprint in the investment and commercial mortgage space and become widely known as a company that serves to educate first and sell second. We believe that if we can influence and empower an individual with knowledge to make informed decisions that are best for them and their family, then we are impacting lives in a most profound and lasting way.

Are you finding that some of what you learned in 2020 is remaining as part of your business moving forward? 

Yes, I think we have incorporated many lessons learned to strengthen how we do business, particularly with leveraging technology to increase our overall operating efficiency and enhance our customer relationships. The virtual world, as we all know, is here to stay. I think 2020 gave us a taste of what is in store for us in the upcoming years. I believe it is up to each one in business to be ready to embrace the fast-tracking virtual world that we have found ourselves to not only survive but thrive.

Outside of the work you do with The Bradford Group you have been taking the stage so to speak as hosting your own shows. Talk with us about that.  

Yes, that was quite fortuitous. A show owner on the Black House Channel, which is part of the Xperience On Demand TV Network, saw the work that I was doing to promote awareness around women’ issues during Women’s History Month.  I was using the international #ChooseToChallenge as a title of my interview series. This series, which was only intended to be 5 interviews of women in the U.S, turned out to be 21 interviews of women from the US, Ghana, UK, Canda, and Jamaica. It was the international reach that caught the attention of the network and I was asked if I would consider hosting a Choose to Challenge show. I agreed and now the variety platform is one that addresses global issues facing women called Choose to Challenge, the second is promoting awareness around mental health and that is called Let’s Get Loud About Mental Health, the third is an extension of my Business & Financial Raw Talk show where we discuss business and financial tips, tools and strategies. Lastly, I just added a new series entitled The Power of the Pen where I am interviewing 21 women who have published business or self-development books in 2021.  This has been a whirlwind of an adventure, but I am enjoying the new waters and the growth and education that I am gaining from this experience.

Fear is one of the things that stop so many from pursuing new projects or new ideas. How have you not allowed that to stop you? Years ago I opened my first business which was a brick and mortar licensed sporting apparel store. One of the brands that we carried was a t-shirt line entitled NO FEAR. There was a t-shirt that I wore (and still have) that shifted my paradigm when it came to following your dreams and venturing into the unknown.  The t-shirt read, “No FEAR…feel the fear and do it anyway.”  So that has been my mantra for over 30 years. I recognize that I may experience feelings of fear, but I realize that’s only false evidence appearing real, and I honor my feelings and then trust that God is ordering my steps and I press forward in total faith and surrender.

What advice do you have for others when it comes to starting a business and staying consistent in business? 

The most important thing is to clearly know your “why.” By identifying “why” you are in business, your motivating factor, this is going to keep you pressing forward when times are challenging, when customers are not buying, when partnerships fail, or when the naysayers come knocking. Your why is that resounding knowing within you that wakes you up early each day with excitement and ignites those creative juices. Anyone can say that they want to start a business, but it is that person with a clearly defined why that will begin to build a business that is tied to a purpose that is greater than themselves. When you have found your why and your passion, I believe that is when you realize that you love what you do so much that you would be willing to do it for free.  I believe that is when your impression becomes indelible and impact begins to happen.

Congratulations to you again, LaWanna. How can our audience stay connected with The Bradford Group and what is next for you?  

What is next for me is to increase our brand recognition as trusted advisors and educators in the mortgage space, and to be known as the provider of an excellent experience to our mortgage customers.  We also want to expand what we are doing in special markets and become an advocate for real estate acquisition as a wealth building strategy for populations of color. Lastly, we want to continue to beat the drum that calls to individuals who have mortgages to get their annual mortgage wellness check-ups. It often baffles me as to how many people are unaware that such a thing exists. As we take care of our physical bodies by getting our preventative annual check-ups, so should we insulate our financial well-being by getting mortgage wellness check-ups, which are no cost.

Anyone who is interested in connecting with us, learning about our products and service, or signing up for a FREE mortgage check-up, can reach us on our website at, or call 404-618-2824.  We can also be found on FB, and they can always stay connected directly with me via social media under LaWanna Bradford. For those reading this article, I have a special FREE gift for them. Please text BRADFORD to 888-111 and download your FREE gift as a special thank you for pausing to take time to learn a bit about The Bradford Group and our 15 year journey.

Minding Your Business with Author Larry Wilson aka DaPharoah69

Name: Larry Wilson aka Dapharoah69 


* Three books on the Top 100 Bestseller's List at the same time in February of 2009, making him one of the first self-published authors to achieve that feat. 

* The Men of Integrity Award in 2016

* The Certificate of Recognition from The New York State Senate in 2016. 

* Featured in the late Stephen Maglott's Ubuntu Biography Project three years in a row

* Sixty- three 1st, 2nd, 3rd and honorary nods for my ten book “The Law of Beasts” Vampire series from the writing communities on Wattpad in Oct 2020 through December of 2020, including The Trendsetter Award and The Originator Award for completing ten books in an all-black literary vampire series.

Who are some of your mentors? My Heavenly Father. My husband John Wilson, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Janet Jackson, E. Lynn Harris, my mother, my grandfather and retired Master Sergeant Luther McCray. 

How does it feel to now be looked up to as a mentor to others? It feels a bit other-worldly. I never expected it. It means growth and evolution. It’s a testament to what one can achieve no matter how the odds weren’t in your favor or to your benefit. 

Its a means to know that my life serves a purpose and with that comes accountability and responsibility. 

When did you know that you wanted to go into business or build a brand? The day I wound up homeless and had a dream to publish a book. Ninety-eight percent of the people in my life laughed at the idea and said that I wasn’t smart enough to write a book. They were right. I was smart enough to write one hundred of them. My brand was built in less than a year.

How did you identify your audience? By accepting constructive criticism. By being fearless. By knowing your value and your worth. By being steadfast with your gift and breaking all the rules of what is considered normal or the status quo. By writing to express yourself, not to impress. Big difference. By using social media platforms to showcase my writing. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my work would be loved by all races and age groups. My diverse audience found me.

What role has social media played in your marketing and networking? It played a vital part. To reach people in all four corners of the world with just the click of a button. You build relationships with like-minded individuals that aids your growth. Its how I met Mr. Cyrus Webb.

Offline life has changed due to Covid-19. How have you adapted? It actually returned me back to basics.  It gave me more time to write, edit and create. I was so focused on working a 9-5 that I neglected my books. If it wasn't for Covid-19 I wouldn’t have pulled my Vampire series out of my vault, a series I wrote 21 years ago in prison at age 22 years old. A series that was only intended to be a forty page short story.

Challenges come to us all. What helps you to fight through them and keep moving forward through the challenges? The love of prosperity, prayer and my firm belief that the Lord grants me what I ask for. Ask and you shall receive. I speak things into existence. I have an incredible support system. My husband John Wilson, my siblings, a close knit circle of friends, my grandfather. They keep me grounded. I treat people the way I want to be treated. 

What are you excited about next? I wrote 87 books during Quarantine. I’m looking forward to not only building my brand and releasing my now 11 book all-black vampire series, but I’m also looking forward to being fearless in everything I do.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs: If you have a dream, pursue it. To whom much is given, much is required. Get out there and make it happen. You have to be willing to do the work. You are what you put into your art. Never give up. Surround yourself around successful people in order to succeed. The phrase “I can’t” should never be your reality. Own your creations, don’t change your voice for commercialism. Be true to you, and everything will conform to you.

How can readers stay connected with you and follow the journey?

[Inspiration] "Become Aware" by Mary Ellen Ciganovich

“Becoming Aware of yourself is painful. It is the first and most important step you must take to become who God intends you to be.” - Mary Ellen Ciganovich

If today were my last day on Earth this is one of the most important “life lessons” I would pass along. 

Before you achieve peace or happiness in your life you must become aware of yourself. This is never an easy task, as it is much easier to recognize the errors of others rather than take responsibility for your own errors. 

You must become aware of what you say and how you say it. The words you choose, your tone of voice, the expression in your face and eyes.

 You must become aware of what you do and how you do it. Always pay attention to details as these are the little things that will make a big difference. 

Honor your word and the promises you make by always keeping them. Be on time as this shows respect to others and it shows others you respect yourself. Learn proper manners and language as these are important parts of a civilized society. 

At the same time, stand up for yourself. Say, “yes” when you mean “yes” and “no” when you mean “no”. Never pay  attention to gossip as this type of talk is far away from the peace you seek.

 Honor yourself by taking time for yourself every day. It can be in a quiet setting of mediation, a walk, reading, exercise, going for a run, a massage, a manicure a pedicure or a gentle bubble bath while listening to music. Whatever works for you!

 Become aware of your motives, judgments and assumptions. Question anything you do with a motive behind it. Do things for others simply because it is the right thing to do and you want to do it. When you judge someone else, you are judging yourself. Ninety-nine percent all assumptions are false.

Become Aware of your fears because as The Bible says, “your fears will come to pass”, unless you drop them. This is not to hurt you; God works His plan to help you learn. So, learn and “let go” allowing God to work His plan.

Become Aware of what you focus on because, “what you focus on expands and what you think about happens “! Put your thoughts, choices and your focus on the life you want as if you already have it. Concentrate all your energies and choices toward creating the life you see in your mind. 

Become Aware of the goodness and love you have in your life. No one ever knows how long we have to be here on this beautiful planet. Appreciate everyone and everything in your life. The good and the bad because without rain we would never have the flowers. 

Most importantly help someone else to “Become Aware”. Do this gently and with kindness. It is always easier to see someone else’s faults. It is difficult to see your own! 

Wouldn’t it be a fantastic world if everyone would “Become Aware” of what they need to learn instead of projecting it on others! It truly is a wonderful world and we can ALL come together to Become Aware and make everything better. The view, your view, is how you perceive it ! 

Sincerely with love, 

Mary Ellen Ciganovich 

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Kneika Robbins, co-author of THE POWER OF PAIN

by Cyrus Webb

As part of our Author Spotlight series I had the opportunity to catch up with Kneika Robbins, co-author in the anthology called THE POWER OF PAIN. Enjoy the conversation. 

Kneika, glad to have you back with Conversations. How did you decide to come up with the idea for the project THE POWER OF PAIN?

I decided to create this book because so many people are dealing with pain and have no idea how to survive it. Many are waking up breathing everyday, but do not know how it feels to live. Living is more than breathing; it is being peaceful and happy. The question is always asked “What is wrong with you?”, when it should be “What happened to you?” I wanted the authors to discuss what happened to them that caused the pain and toxic choices in their life, and show them that there is nothing wrong with us except we need to free ourselves from pain. Rather it be through forgiveness or etc.

Your collaborators are also included in this feature with Conversations in 2021.  How has knowing you’re not alone helped you in getting through the difficult times in life?

Dealing with so many hurt souls besides my own I knew I was not alone, but I also knew that being human we struggle to face our reality and when you don’t admit to your reality there is no room for change or to make things better.

It’s not easy to share your personal story with the world. What made you want to do it?

I’m not afraid to say that I was broken. Too many people want to pretend like they are happy and not hurting. Yet they are hurting themselves and the ones they say they love everyday. I use the word say, because how can you love someone else and you don’t love yourself. When you begin to love yourself, other people’s perception of you don’t matter.

 Have you always known that writing was something you wanted to do?

Yes, I have been writing since the sixth grade. I never thought my words would go past the notebooks  that I collected of empowering words that were hidden from the world.

What has been the response from your part of the book?

“Wow” is what a lot of people say. They are speechless. Many want to know how I’m still standing and my response is “If you don’t fall down, you will never learn how to get back up.” Life is about experiences and trial and error. My trials and errors led me to where I am today.

 For aspiring authors that are reading this what advice do you have for them with it comes to pursuing their goal of publishing?

No matter what you are going through or how hard the struggle is, let that be your motivation to keep pushing and don’t stop until you get what you want. Life is like a boxing ring: you are going to get knocked down or out, backed up against the rope, not mentally strong enough to win the beginning rounds. As time goes on, you master the skills that are needed to fight, and no matter how hard the blow, you can’t be stopped.

Love that! Social media is a big part of marketing these days. How has it benefited you?

It has allowed me to share with other people in the world.

When people finish reading THE POWER OF PAIN what do you hope they take away from it?

If you are not living your life in peace and happiness and for you, then you are not living. You are just breathing. Stop waking up everyday just to live by the perceptions of others. No matter how hard you try to hide the pain, it is steadily eating you up inside. Take the steps of change: (1) Diagnose the pain that is hurting you mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually (2) Dig through that pain and find you and get to know that person (3) Once you get to know who you are start loving that person and (4) Love will allow you to gain control over your own mind, body, and soul. Let The Power of Pain give you THE POWER TO CHANGE!

Thanks so much for the time, Kneika. How can our readers stay connected with you?

Linked In: Kneika Robbins

Instagram: Kneika Robbins

Facebook: Empowering Words


AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Janice Blue Washington

by Cyrus Webb

Janice, Conversations is glad to have you as part of our Author Spotlight series. Congratulations on your first children's book. When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

I think I have known for the majority of my life. To put an actual time frame, it would have been in middle school.  I started writing poems about things that were going on in the world.  I gradually started writing short stories and stage plays.  It wasn’t until after retirement, that I decided to make a dream come true and become an author.  So, I put it on my bucket list and that is where we are today.  

That's amazing. When did you decide to write the book PRINCESS ALYSSA’S BIG BIRTHDAY PARTY?

In 2016, Alyssa was playing princess dress-up.  We talked about her being a princess and all the beautiful things she could do as a princess.  We started referring to her as Princess Alyssa and the idea grew from there.  

Our readers can see you with the book with this feature. What was it like for you to hold the finished book in your hands?

I was overcome with gratitude.  I was so thankful to God, because it was a dream come true.  Publishing my first book was on my bucket list, so there was also a sense of accomplishment. 

As you mentioned you have a granddaughter named Alyssa. What did she think of the book?

Actually, Alyssa is the main character, but my other granddaughter’s, Jamya and Airea, are characters in the book also.  They all loved the book and were pleased with the finished product and how they were portrayed in the book.   Jamya said that it was an inspiration for her, and Airea thought it was wonderful.  Alyssa held the book up and said, “I love it!”  

What has been the response from your family and friends about the book?

I have three sons, and they constantly tell me how proud they are of me.  My family and friends are and have always been very supportive.  

You told me, Janice, you have plans for other books featuring Alyssa. What can we expect in the future?

 Princes Alyssa is going to be a series of different adventures for Princess Alyssa with her sisters and friends.  I will also introduce her mother and father in future books.  I am hoping to have the next book by the end of 2021. 

What advice do you have for those out there with a story inside of them?

Never give up and always pursue your dreams.  I have a saying that keeps me motivated, “dreams without actions are just dreams”.   You need to make your dreams come true by doing the necessary work.  We often use our age as an excuse, but as long as you are living, you can make a difference.   Don’t ever give up, God has a plan and purpose for your life.  All you need to do is trust him and get to work.  

Make sure to follow Janice on Facebook at