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I have SOMETHING to say!
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I have SOMETHING to say!

Author: Sami Haiman-Marrero

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Welcome to “I have SOMETHING to say,” where subject matter experts are unafraid and unapologetic about sharing their perspectives regarding issues that impact our lives. They speak up because they give a shit. If you’re tired of canned answers and want to FINALLY hear real people cut through the B.S. and talk about real issues, this podcast is for you.
104 Episodes
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Remember this name: Patrick Meniboon “The Courage Hacker”. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, Meniboon shares his personal story of triumph as he overcame childhood insecurities. From a kid who struggled with stuttering, he became the high school class valedictorian and continued his journey to mastering his fears achieving recognition as district finalist in the 2015 Toastmaster World Championship of Public Speaking. Meniboon challenged himself with what seemed like an impossible goal: overcome his insecurities around stuttering and become a professional speaker. His self-mastery strategy has led to authoring the upcoming book “Becoming Unmesswithable”, which intends to guide organizations and legacy-driven individuals to activate courage so that they can disarm their insecurities “on-demand” and catapult their growth, fulfillment, and impact. And there’s also Meniboon’s Courage Hacking Institute, focused on providing people the tools to tap into and command exercising their COURAGE.
If any industry is built with a glass ceiling, it is the Fashion Industry. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, my guest Sophia Batson, Founder and Publisher of ORCHID MAGAZINE, shares why she decided to launch a high fashion publication with a focus on women of color. We discuss the many snafus (i.e., most recently Gucci and H&M), and behind-the-scenes anecdotes that support her decision to feature editorials mainly featuring women of color and articles on ethnic designers globally, as well as ensuring that the production teams and professionals hired to develop the fashion content are from diverse backgrounds. She stresses, however, that nobody is excluded. Born in London, raised in Jamaica, and currently living in New York, Sophia has extensive international experience as a Stylist and Fashion consultant and a unique lens. The next editorial section she’s developing is going to focus on social justice issues of particular concern to people of color that can also serve as an educational platform for others on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Cultural Competency in the Fashion industry. Bravo to Sophia for taking it upon herself to break a glass ceiling.
AMÉRICA, a Hispanic-led magazine with a distinct lens is the work of Marisol Medina, a journalist and entrepreneur, and Felipe Robayo, writer-editor-producer, who decided to launch their own publication as a sustainable means to live by the pen.  In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, they share the challenges of entrepreneurship, and we celebrate their growth in Central Florida in large part due to their unique coverage of world events and bilingual approach. Felipe and Marisol denounce the oppressive state of their beloved Colombia, a Latin American country rich in a wide variety of resources but also affected by a wide variety of violations to basic human rights, censorship, and disinformation driven by political ideologies. From missing persons to increased taxes, sexual assaults to police brutality, there is no peace or compromise in Colombia, bringing angst to this Colombo-American couple determined to deliver the voice of a new generation of Latinos in the pages of AMÉRICA.
I now call him Daddy-O because he became a father just a few weeks ago. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY our Producer Chris Majocha and I celebrate this past Father’s Day discussing the experience of welcoming his firstborn into the world, and how his perspective of life has shifted now that he and his wife Ashley have a daughter to care for and raise. As an entrepreneur, he draws similarities between starting your own business and having a baby – like thinking you’re prepared to tackle a new type of project, only to find out that you don’t know what you don’t know. And when someone asks how things are going, you just say everything is great, but you are not 100% sure what to do next. It’s endearing to hear Chris express how he now wants to film more documentaries around the world with baby in tow, so Ms. Hazel Mae can learn to love hearing people’s stories like her Daddy-O does.
BRAVO!!! It’s our 100th episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY and we decided to do a special Roundtable Edition to celebrate and reminisce about this crazy journey. Our team looks back at how this adventure started with behind-the-scenes never-before-told anecdotes that bring chuckles and make us ponder about what’s next. From the many AHA! moments to the poignant historical events we have lived through and captured through this podcast turned videocast, the last two years we have provided an avenue for diverse narratives to be presented in a safe, uncensored space (well, all but hateful views and we talk about that, too). Thank you to our guests for saying YES to our invitations to share your perspectives, and more importantly for gifting us with many learnings that stem from your experiences. The biggest realization we landed on is that these 100 episodes have created a sense of togetherness and connectedness in our team that is rooted in brutal transparency and is reflected in our playful banter.
In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, Julian and Ash Perera, owners of Central Park Puppies, share their story of transition from being employees into becoming entrepreneurs by ideating and implementing a better way to do business in the well-established and highly competitive pet industry. After the initial impact of COVID-19 threw a wrench into how they engaged with their customers in the Tri-State area of New York, who were used to visiting their brick and mortar storefront, they quickly decided to take a leap of faith and transform their entire business model. Central Park Puppies went 100% online in 2020 with a carefully crafted strategy that worked. Focused on ensuring puppies are safe and establishing FREE home delivery to fur-ever homes that are aware of the responsibility of getting a pet, they were able to expand to 30 states on the East Coast. Their mission to bring puppies and families together to foster happy memories took on a whole new meaning during the pandemic when many people relied on fur-babies for companionship.
Young Americans are standing up for and actually acting on the high values we profess to hold dear in the United States. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY we talk to the inbound and outbound presidents of the Young Democrats of Orange County (FL), Alexander Weeden and Connor Darwish about how they became civically engaged and committed to causes that are above and beyond the realm of politics. But they are also very much in-tune with how things work at the legislative level and are steadfast in calling out their own party’s leadership on their shortcomings. It’s awesome to hear them speak of social justice, and what role they see themselves having in affecting real change. Let’s start with their board…only 3 of its 9 members are White males. They are also doing a pretty good job of connecting and engaging with people with opposing views, especially other young people who may have grown up in households where diversity, equity, and inclusion were not encouraged.
The ultimate OG power couple, Will and Gwen Covington share how they met and achieved Grammy success in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. They started dating while Gwen was pursuing her Masters, but it wasn’t until Will started jamming on the drums “for old time sake” in a childhood friend’s garage that Gwen realized her scuba-diver boyfriend was also an accomplished musician.  That’s when they began working with legends like The Commodores, James Brown Gladys Knight & The Pips, and BB King. They also started providing professional consulting services in music publishing, special events planning, and concert productions for up-and-coming recording artists. This summer, Will and Gwen are conducting their third Summer Youth Mentoring Program “So You Want Your Name In Lights”, an arts-focused project that encourages under-served youth to make good choices while developing character, confidence, leadership, and positive life skills. Through music-related activities, youth learn audio digital tech, basic piano, songwriting composition, music recording production, and talent performance along with instruction on financial literacy, wellness, entrepreneurship, and positive life-social skills.
Why do people run for elected office? In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, Brittany Ramos DeBarros tells me her why. A proud Afro-Latina Staten Islander, community organizer, and combat veteran, she’s running for Congress in New York’s 11th District. Growing up in a deeply patriotic military family, she entered the Army in order to help pay for college. Her time in Afghanistan changed her mind about war, making her feel betrayed by a system that covered up greed and corruption with the veneer of freedom. “When I deployed, I believed I was going to fight for freedom and protect vulnerable communities overseas, but as I got to know the Afghan people, I saw with my own eyes that wasn’t true. I watched some officers care more about role-playing Call of Duty and collecting medals than the needs of regular people or even the mission. I came home hurt and angry because it was clear that I had only caused more harm to the very people I wanted to protect. I felt betrayed by those who were entrusted with my life and who exploited my service – military leaders and politicians alike.”  DeBarros is determined to help lead the fight to build a better, more just world; the world that we all deserve.
Meet my friend Tisse Mallon, who I invited to I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY to talk about the Science of Connection. As the founder of Elar Institute, Tisse develops and implements programming that lies at the intersection of emotional intelligence, applied neuroscience, and mindfulness to transform how people treat people. While I think I’m a pretty good communicator most of the time, sometimes I fail miserably. That’s why I’m going to attend Elar Institute’s 4-day Connective Communication Leadership Program to learn how to hear what lies beyond the words another is saying, to de-escalate sticky situations,  to navigate difficult conversations, and revitalize my sense of curiosity, wonder, and playfulness. This enlightening conversation serves as a sneak peek at what I should expect to “unlearn” as well. Tisse says that we are taught from a young age that competition is good and that for one person to win another one has to lose. However, Tisse adds, if one person is losing the other person is as well – NO ONE WINS – because we are all connected.
In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY my friend Amir M. Sadeh, Ph.D., and I talk for the first time after he became a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Political Science department at the University of Notre Dame. With a degree in American Politics and Constitutional Studies, his research emphases are in Latino Politics, Immigration/Migration, and Race and Ethnic Politics. When we met for the first time 2 years ago, I asked him why the interest in Latinos. He replied: “I feel this special affinity with the Latino community because my family also migrated to this country. As people, we have this shared experience.” His dissertation, “Mobilization and Maria: Demographic Change in Florida and the Future of American Politics,” focuses on the growing Puerto Rican migrant population in Central Florida, pre-and post-Hurricane Maria, and sheds light on the impact of this demographic shift on electoral politics in the state during the 2016 and 2018 elections. Hold on to your seat people…Latinos are key players in the future of the USA!
Entrepreneurship is booming. The global pandemic has made American workers who got laid off seriously consider being their “own boss” as a viable option to put food on the table. This includes tens of thousands of women who also had to face the hard decision of whether to stay in the workforce or care for their families. I experienced this in 2008 when I lost my job during the Recession and started my own business. I needed help and didn’t know where to go. But now I know better, and so I invited my lawyer Kye Walker to share some valuable insights in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY about important aspects in setting up a business for success for the benefit of my fellow business owners.  We discuss the different needs entrepreneurs may have based on the various stages of the business ownership journey: ideation, start-up, growth, expansion, and maturity. An entrepreneur herself, as Managing Partner of The Walker Legal Group, Kye has first-hand lived experiences that have allowed her to provide me with sound legal counsel as I navigate URBANDER’s expansion. I’m confident many will find this discussion to be very enlightening and helpful, regardless of where they are within the entrepreneurship spectrum.
“We need to start working on ‘human being’ as opposed to ‘human doing’”, says Carole Burton, Principal of Radiance Resources in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. “The systems are failing because they no longer serve us! That’s what’s happening and it’s impacting everyone”. She elaborates on how ‘human doing’ is about competing which leads to the scarcity mindset, while ‘human being’ is about sharing and having an abundance mindset. “People are so focused on getting an apple and holding on to that one apple, and I say, you need to let go of that apple so you can see the orchard that surrounds you”, Carole offers. She also encourages people to start exercising vulnerable and committed leadership, allowing leaders to say: I DON’T KNOW ALL THE ANSWERS, I NEED HELP. “When you let go of that apple, to me, that’s where equity lies”, she adds. “Equity in its essence about being fair and impartial. And when we have equity we move from an opt-in choice to an opt-in commitment to true change for ourselves and everyone around us – and that’s where abundance hangs out.”
The inequities that have always existed in the U.S. have been exacerbated. It’s no secret that the gap is most palpable in Silicon Valley, because of the blatant inequitable access to resources and opportunities for people of color.  In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, I talk to Jesús Flores, President of Latino Business Foundation of Silicon Valley and fierce advocate for the interests of the small business community of Santa Clara County. When I was invited to participate in virtual Bay Area recovery discussions last Fall as Co-Chair of Equity + Entrepreneurship, it was evident after just a few interactions that a deeper conversation was needed with Jesús to truly understand the pain points of the immigrant and undocumented small businesses he represents: eviction, displacement, navigating rental moratoriums, limited English proficiency, access to capital, technology, technical assistance, legal counsel, transportation, meeting basic human needs. With a group of committed partners, Jesús is determined to ensure these small businesses that employ over 68,000 people not only survive but THRIVE.
“I don’t know if other people who teach entrepreneurial programs would describe their programs as magical experiences, but I do,” says Blanca Catalina García in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. We discuss how she went from being an interpreter and educator helping Spanish speakers navigate information and spaces that could help them succeed, to launching her own business teaching entrepreneurs of color how to access opportunities, resources, mentorship, and capital to scale their businesses. She explains that she works mostly with entrepreneurs who identify as women of color because they struggle the most to find the right support to grow their businesses, while they are also entering entrepreneurship at the highest rates. Blanca’s determined to help BIPOC women entrepreneurs in all stages – from ideation to maturity – to show up in their FULL POWER. She adds that many of the businesses created by women of color stem from solving a problem rooted in their lived experiences and that all too often they are asked to shrink and conform to be able to be accepted in spaces where they have been told they don’t belong.
This week our podcast is two days early. There’s a sense of urgency. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, my dear friend, sister and comrade Thali Sugisawa revisits what she felt when she heard about the violent and tragic attack against Asian women in Atlanta last week. She shares very disturbing and poignant experiences growing up in her native Brazil as the daughter of a biracial parents, and living here in the U.S. Listen as she shares cultural insights and how she candidly expresses her frustrations, concerns, hope, and determination to do what she can to make things better. Please listen to her truth and the simple solution she presents: “We just need to care more about others.”   If you live in the Orlando area join the Asian Pacific American Coalition and the Social Justice and Advocacy Department TODAY, TUESDAY, MARCH 23 at 6:30 PM at the University of Central Florida (UCF) Reflecting Pond as they host a vigil in honor of the 8 Atlanta victims, and all victims of anti-Asian hate crimes. The event will take place in accordance with COVID-19 protocol but will allow for participants to take part in a spoken word and a lantern ceremony, following University and community speakers. For event details: https://www.facebook.com/events/816104985647740
I’ve never met a person that works in a corporate environment, runs a nonprofit and is also an activist, let alone two…until now.  In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY my co-host Chris and I talk to his good friends Emily and Joshua Walker two technology professionals who are advocates for creating equitable pathways for Black and Brown people to work in STEM-based jobs. A Digital Marketing expert, Emily is helping spearhead change in the organizational culture of the company she works for, alongside her colleagues. She explains that there is usually a lot of Diversity at the bottom of the org chart, but it’s important to have everyone in the company be part of creating solutions to the lack of diverse representation in the higher rankings. Joshua who is an Honorable Army Vet turned techie, shares why he wrote his book “Venti Fried Chicken” to inspire real (and diverse) people to get into technology after he went through the experience of becoming a self-taught technician. As an active Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion leader in the company he works for, he told them “You know I’m going to continue to be myself, right?”, before he accepted to take on this responsibility. For a deep-dive into the Walker experience visit: www.VentiFriedChicken.com
Claudia Rivas channels her grandmother Trinidad’s grit.  In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY we celebrate her recent promotion to Senior Vice President at the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management firm in the Bay area that she’s been at for over a decade. Claudia self-identifies as an immigrant and person of color who is proud of her Latino heritage, and this accomplishment is epic because her career started with a simple dream to provide a better life for her family. She shares how she defied all low expectations society tried to impose on her as a teenage mom, and how finding mentors that looked like her helped her stay true to her passion – economics. “I had to honor the sacrifice my abuela Trinidad made to bring us here.”, she says. The face of wealth is changing, and Claudia is helping write the playbook for the next generation. As she sees it, a brighter future is a possibility for so many communities that have been disenfranchised: she’s living proof of it.
When a career trajectory is at the intersection of Corporate Procurement, Business Development, Minority Business Enterprises (MBE), Government Contracts, and Hispanic Publishing, it delivers Evelyn Lebrón. I invited my dear friend and colleague to I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY to celebrate that she FINALLY decided to dedicate herself full-time to what she loves doing the most: helping entrepreneurs of color enhance their capabilities to land big projects and big money. As the Founder & Chief Procurement Officer of MBE Connection, Evelyn is yet another Black & Brown business owner that is influencing how business gets done in the U.S. However, we still need to know how to navigate the current system and align with processes, requirements, and criteria the government and corporate sectors have outlined as ‘must-haves’ to become qualified suppliers or vendors. And that’s where Evelyn steps in to guide. She shares practical advice for emerging businesses who want to experience positive outcomes sooner rather than later, while we continue to work on changing the system.
“It was love at first sight”, says Le’Kiesha French-Merritt, CEO of PRENEURology Global to describe the first time we met in person after a long-distance friendship was sparked by an intentional impromptu introduction over the phone. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY we publicly thank our dear sister Dr. Kelly Burton for ensuring our explosive encounter (the good kind) took place, and we share a behind-the-scenes play-by-play on how we wound up working on a major pilot program focused on creating equitable pathways for entrepreneurs of color to connect to the resources they need to scale and build generational wealth for their families. We both believe that entrepreneurship, collaboration, and activism are essential to attaining social justice. Led by the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Business Growth Hub is a two-year collaboration between the Atlanta MBDA Centers, Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Morehouse Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (MIEC), and PRENEURology Global. It will impact BIPOC entrepreneurs across eight states in the Southeast region of the U.S., and URBANDER is delighted to be part of Le’Keisha’s team.
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