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Grammy-nominated and Latin Grammy Award-winning flutist Nestor Torres is our special guest in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. We have become friends over the course of the last year, and as a fellow Puerto Rican, I’m stoked that he’ll be performing for the first time ever with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra this coming Fall.  Born in Puerto Rico to a musical family, Nestor shares how he was drawn to the flute because it was different. Being exposed to various instruments from a young age, predominantly drums and piano, at age 12 he had to choose one to study formally with his father’s encouragement and decided on a new challenge. In New York City, Nestor studied at Mannes School of Music, Jazz at Berklee College of Music, and Classical and Jazz at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.  The rest is history. Nestor is globally renowned as a Jazz Flautist and, importantly, for his original compositions and performances that honor the multidimensional aspects of humanity and world cultures. As an exceptional and generous musician and composer, he shares insights regarding the legacy of the Figueroa Family, who are at the heart of the beginnings of Puerto Rican classical music centuries ago. A documentary about the history of the family will be screening in Orlando as well, and Nestor will share the stage with violinist and conductor Maestro Guillermo Figueroa Salon alongside the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.  This recognition and acknowledgment of Puerto Rican talent and heritage is part of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s continued dedication throughout the years to highlighting diverse talent and delivering equitable musical experiences. Although not planned, the presentations align with the Five-Year Remembrance of Hurricane María’s devastation of the island of Puerto Rico on September 20th, 2017, providing the large contingency of Puerto Rican (18%) and Hispanic (32%) persons in the Orlando Metro area with an inclusive space to reflect on our past, present and future surrounded by community and delightful music. Reserve your seat!  All deets below.    Sunday Live! with Nestor Torres and the OPO September 18 at 3pm Lutheran Towers – FREE – Register Here: https://orlandophil.org/event/sunday-live-at-lutheran-towers/   La familia Figueroa: una dinastía musical Documentary Viewing September 18 at 6pm The Plaza Live – FREE – Register Here: https://orlandophil.org/event/la-familia-figueroa-una-dinastia-musical-documentary-screening/   Nestor Torres and Guillermo Figueroa Salon Focus Series: Celebrating Puerto Rican Heritage October 24 at 7pm The Plaza Live - Tickets for Purchase Here: https://orlandophil.org/event/celebrating-puerto-rican-heritage/
Here’s some math for today. When you add Grit + Honesty + Intelligence + Leadership you get Johanna López. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, I invite our new Human Impact Strategist at URBANDER to share her experience transitioning from having a career working 100% in the public service and nonprofit sectors to now also embarking into business since she’s joined our team a few months ago. Key takeaways include that her experience as an educator, Orange County Public School board member and former Executive Director of a nonprofit has value (like she needs to get paid – no more freebies) and all the knowledge she’s gained is transferrable to business. We talk about how advocacy work in whatever space (corporate, government, community) requires boldness and brutally honest conversations which oftentimes gets criticized and minimized when it’s done by women, even worse for women of color, and worst yet for women of color with an accent like Johanna’s. Chances are that if we are too outspoken, we will be tagged a “bitch” or angry woman. Johanna has enjoyed her #internbitch with me these past three months learning to navigate different spaces now as a businesswoman. It has afforded her certain freedoms she hasn’t experienced before, and she’s come to realize the value she brings to the table, helping her set healthy boundaries for her to grow professionally, personally, and as a leader. Johanna López is now running for House Representative of the Florida State Legislature (District 43), and she shares the “what’s next” of her advocacy work for social justice causes when she’s in Tallahassee: https://www.votejohannalopez.com
White supremacy continues to be perpetuated in the U.S. because the knowledge producers that are amplified are predominantly White. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, I talk with Dr. Maribel Morey, a historian of U.S. philanthropy, the social sciences, and racial equality. She is the founding executive director of the Miami Institute for the Social Sciences, a nonprofit that is amplifying and centering the work of BIPOC/Global Majority scholars in the social sciences to improve the integrity of these fields and to build more inclusive national and international political economies.  After her undergrad, law, grad, and Ph.D. studies and eventually reaching faculty status, Maribel realized, “It doesn't matter how brilliant my ideas are, if a man had those same ideas and translated those ideas into his own networks, he might be cited more and celebrated more. So, how do ideas work depending on how ideas are transported, the body, the person, and their own network? And so, I became very interested in that space, in the politics and the power structures of how ideas are created, and which ones and why ultimately went in the marketplace of ideas.” Maribel had a choice, either assimilate to the power structure as it's designed or push back and disrupt it so it's equitable. She decided to launch the Miami Institute for the Social Sciences (https://www.miamisocialsciences.org) to counter the dominance of ideas of certain groups over others based on the United States’ long history of White Anglo-American supremacy at the expense of everyone else. “At the core, is anti-Black discrimination. So, we all have to come together as a Global Majority to amplify all of us, because those structures are affecting all of us. We have to collaborate in the knowledge production, which influences action, and collaborative action.”  Maribel’s debut book, “White Philanthropy: Carnegie Corporation’s An American Dilemma and the Making of a White World Order”, reveals it was commissioned by Carnegie Corporation president Frederick Keppel, and researched and written by Swedish economist and sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, with the intent of solidifying white rule over Black people in the United States. She shares that Philanthropy as we know it is not designed to be revolutionary or to bring forth real change. “The elite foundations in the U.S. are comfortable with the status quo so they will continue to fund the knowledge producers in elite universities over and over again,” she explains.
It’s apparently time to break out the maracas, guitars, drums, and red lipstick. In this “Monthly Musings” episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY my dear co-Producer Chris Majocha weighs in on my rant about how Hispanic Heritage Month is clearly around the corner because Latina/Latino/Latine/Hispanic/Latinx artists, performers, book authors, and leaders are visibly busy securing gigs and answering the calls of corporations, government officials and nonprofit giants. I call them “gigs” because by definition they are job opportunities that last a specified period of time – only some compensated with money, most bartered for “exposure”. For a total of four weeks weirdly nestled between two months (September 15 through October 15) we have a chance to highlight Hispanic Heritage, under the historical context that celebrations of the independence of several Latin American countries occur during this timeframe. And after this, there’s much of nada going on. In this episode, we go over the 2020 Census numbers that demonstrate that we don’t need exposure and access to opportunities ONLY during four weeks. People who identify as Latina/Latino/Latine/Hispanic/Latinx are one-fifth of the U.S. population (all of these terms are confusing, I know, it’s by design – the labeling of humans). The non-White population data also reflects that we are having more babies (U.S. Census) within and outside our culture (Pew Research), leading the next wave of workers (U.S. Dept of Labor), boosting the economy through entrepreneurship (Latino Business Action Network), and figuring out how to build generational wealth through homeownership (NAHREP). Data don’t lie. We just need to start exercising our power, influence, and advocacy muscle, and build relationships of trust, everywhere, every day with everybody. That’s the missing ingredient – TRUST – we don’t trust each other or anyone…it’s by design.
Take out pen and paper if you own a home and are sitting on some equity. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY I talk to my dear friend Liliana Pickens, Co-Founder of Pro Coaching Infinite, a firm dedicated to training real estate professionals in culturally sensitive best practices to serve an increasingly diverse community.  After leaving her employer of 20 years, Liliana began her career in real estate five years ago and says this decision changed her life, not just financially, but because of the people, she’s met. “Real estate agents get a bad rap because of the shark mentality – they always want to sell you something – however, my approach has been more about having a guided conversation, especially with the Hispanic community, because we are not great at the money conversation,” Liliana explains. She has been challenging the mindset that you go to school, find a job, and work for someone else for financial stability by presenting real estate as a conduit to build wealth, including Spanish-speaking individuals. “It’s not about selling a house, that’s the least of my concerns. So, I want to train English-speaking and bilingual real estate agents, so they understand that they are here as a guide and as a resource,” Liliana adds. With 75% of the wealth created in the U.S. coming from real estate, it has become imperative to learn how to navigate buying property for the first time or tapping into the equity you have accumulated to make it work for you financially through investments. With hedge funds just recently starting to look at purchasing entire rental communities, the threat of not having access to buying a home is not yet a problem. However, affordability for individuals to invest in real estate is linked to many factors such as the ability to earn higher wages, spending habits, and amount of savings, to name a few. We must prevent people from getting shut out of opportunities to buy property. It’s critical for people to learn to crunch their numbers and determine when they can start buying to build equity and reinvest. Liliana shares how consumer behavior, the government, and global factors (like the war in Ukraine) affect the real estate marketplace, and with consumers becoming more diverse with each passing day, she is determined to train the next generation of real estate agents that have the cultural competency and know-how to help them attain economic mobility through home ownership and investment properties.
Time is unforgiving. It passes swiftly and with each day we age, becoming part of one of the fastest-growing population segments in the U.S. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, I talk with my dear friend Vimarie Monopoli, Director of Development at Age Matters in Brevard, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping mitigate the challenges faced by people 60+ in Brevard County (Florida) with the goal of supporting independence, health, safety and quality of life. As a fierce advocate for all things good, Vimarie points out that in the next 20 years close to one-third of our population will be seniors and that among the many issues that come along with aging, two standouts are hunger and isolation. “One in five senior adults say that they feel lonely,” she states adding that we are having fewer children and we don’t necessarily live close to them once they leave home. This poses serious challenges that require all-hands-on deck to address. Following are some key takeaways from our conversation: Plan ahead of time with your family what living as an older adult looks like for you and your loved ones – the who, when, what, where, and how of caregiving. Expose children/youth to opportunities to visit and help elders in the community to create a better support system as a collective and inclusive society. Developing understanding, empathy, and a realization at a young age that we are all heading to becoming seniors might help us in the future. Donate money at the local level to organizations that are directly impacting the lives of people who are aging and are homebound suffering from hunger and loneliness. If you don’t have time to volunteer, support people who can. Volunteer once a week to deliver one meal to an older adult. Aside from bringing much-needed nutritious food, this may be the only contact the person will have with another human being that day. Start learning now how to put aside your pride and ask for help. You’re gonna need it eventually. While we all want to be independent as long as we can, at some point there will be areas of your life you will need assistance with.
Persistence, determination, and passion for what you do can push you across the finish line. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TON SAY, my dear sister Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel, Chief Passion Seeker and Co-Founder of XauSky Group shares the angst and rewards of pursuing audacious career goals – all at once within a span of a few years! As an Industrial/Organizational Psychology Ph.D. Candidate researching the prediction of work passion, and entrepreneur with over 25+ years in leadership, business administration, and consulting, Xaulanda has experienced it all – from assuming a C-level role to relocating to accept a new and exciting job opportunity. Xaulanda has also navigated the rigors of raising a child, empty nesting, and committing to investing time, energy, and a lot of money into furthering her academic achievements while starting a new business. “I was at a point of my life where I didn’t know what I was going to do after my daughter left. I was a master prepared Black woman in Corporate America who had the educational background to take on more leadership roles, but for some reason, I felt like I was not getting the opportunities to be in leadership positions within the organizations I was trying to break into. And I think that a lot of Black women and women of color can understand that plight. You’ve done what you can do professionally, working your way up that ladder, investing in your education, and for some reason, there seems to be this invisible barrier for you to be able to move forward. So, I thought, ‘well, if I have a Ph.D., that should open more doors for me’,” Xaulanda shares. Through purposeful planning, intentional implementation, living creatively, and working passionately, she has learned how to inject clarity, confidence, and calm into the chaos of life and work, becoming a valuable resource to individuals, groups, and organizations that need help gaining clarity of their current state and future direction.
“We live in a capitalist society where money moves people: you pay to play,” states Dr. Val Torres in our latest episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, where he shares his Coming to America story that began with coming to terms with inequities he had to deal with to build a life here in the U.S. Val was able to fast-track his medical degree debt-free, graduating from St. Mary's College in Trinidad with an associate's degree equivalent in alignment with the country’s British Education System, and being admitted to St. George's University School of Medicine in Grenada on a full-ride scholarship. After graduating with a medical doctorate, Val came to the U.S. and found it challenging to adjust to a U.S. Healthcare system that is for-profit and predatory if you don’t have the financial means to gain access to quality care.   “Contrary to popular belief, doctors and hospitals can’t do much to fix it because it’s the insurance companies that have all the power,” Val shares. Disgusted, in realizing that “your well is your health and vice versa”, he opted out of clinical medicine, in favor of entrepreneurship. As the President and CEO at Armada BusinessMD, Val operates in the financial services and business consulting space, serving clients in all 50 states. His focus is on reducing disparities in access to healthcare, housing, education, and economic opportunity via business development and financial education, serving as the de facto resource broker for the companies and organizations he collaborates with in eliminating the issue of inequitable access for people of color and immigrants like him. “People turn a blind eye to disparities in Healthcare, Housing, Education, and Economic Opportunities, mainly because they don't belong to the underserved groups that are impacted most. But the truth is, as a U.S. taxpayer, it does affect you,” Val adds.
Art can connect and heal communities. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY I talk with Michael Pilato, a globally recognized mural artist known for portrait murals and humanitarian efforts, and Nancy Rosado, a beloved community leader in Orlando, about the stories behind the images reflected in the mural entitled “Inspiration Orlando United”. Six years ago, after having learned of the death of 49 people and wounding of 53 others at the Pulse nightclub, Michael Pilato and fellow muralist Yuri Karabash moved to Orlando and began painting the mural, which currently measures a span of approximately 40 feet horizontally, in tribute to the victims, survivors, and families impacted by the events of that morning of June 12, 2022. Michael’s goal was to create a personal, visual representation of the people that were part of the Pulse story and their loved ones. To achieve this, he networked with as many friends and families of both victims and survivors as he could locate, clearly understanding that it would take time to gain the trust of this now wounded community, a community that sat at the intersection of all that is LGBTQ+ and Latinx. Having tragically lost his own daughter a year prior, and feeling the need to help begin the healing process for those impacted by Pulse, he decided to use his daughter’s college fund to create this project to honor the 49 lives lost. To complete the mural, Michael needs an estimated $15,000 for materials, a space to work in, and to transport additional panels which remain to be completed for the mural. These additional panels will include survivors who are in a better emotional space to share their story to be included in the mural, as well as the first responders and medical staff who worked tirelessly to save lives during that fateful day and in its aftermath. Your support will help Michael complete the mural by this upcoming October in time for Orlando’s “Come Out With Pride” event. Please make your tax-exempt donation to SOS Orlando using the following link and we will make sure that it goes towards the completion and preservation of the “Inspiration Orlando United” mural: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=QUXTFLP82ML3A Your support will help preserve this important piece of art that is part of the collective memory and the pain of a community under attack – at the intersection of diversity, Hispanic heritage, LGBTQ+ identity, and the Puerto Rican diaspora – who demonstrated resilience by coming together in a moment of crisis, tragedy, and insurmountable loss. Learn about Michael's labor of love.
This past week was the anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia case of 1967 where the Supreme Court unanimously voted to make interracial marriages legal in the U.S. It was only 55 years ago that LOVE prevailed. In this “Monthly Musings” episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, my Co-Producer Chris Majocha and I go over some 2020 Census data that supports how we are becoming an ethnically diverse nation, where soon we will experience the shift to a majority non-White population (according to Census forecasts – don’t shoot the messenger!). Why? Because LOVE is conquering hate, and people who identify as Latino/Latinx/Latine/Hispanic (let’s please not get distracted with semantics) have been a key driver of this demographic transformation. So, if you are unaware of the “hard to digest for some” 2020 Census data that speaks to what’s going on (the good, bad, and the ugly) here we share some highlights. Enhorabuena.
We couldn’t help ourselves. This is what a conversation between Latinas sounds like: a mishmash of English AND Spanish (subtitles provided). My dear friend Rosalía Ortiz-Luquis, President of ROL Marketing Studio, who I have known for over three decades since we first laid eyes on each other on the first day of our freshman year at the University of Puerto Rico, joins me in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. It’s crazy how we have been living parallel lives, first working in the corporate sector for Spanish-language media outlets (me in NYC and her in Puerto Rico), and both of us eventually transitioning into entrepreneurship with a focus on social impact. Rosalía is THE leading expert in Puerto Rico with regards to representing, amplifying, and advocating for the arts and culture community, helping creators in all art forms and the nonprofit organizations that host their works secure funding and promote their cultural events. A master communicator, graphic designer, and producer herself, Rosalía supports a huge, underserved community of musicians, dancers, performers, actors, and visual artists with her exceptional business and marketing expertise coupled with her storytelling prowess. “At one point of my professional career, as you know the corporate world and the media can be very hostile spaces, very aggressive, and I decided I didn’t want that in my life anymore, to feel that constant stress that you feel that your heart is going to explode every day at work. The day arrived that I said, ENOUGH. I want to work on projects that are close to my heart, projects I believe in, that I’m passionate about, that I feel like every day I wake up, and that I’m contributing to something important,” she shares. “My day is filled with art. I believe in art. I believe in the power of art and culture in people’s lives and the development of our country’s youth. So, it’s something that I firmly believe in and really love.”
WAY OVERDUE. I met Oscar R. García, President and CEO of Need2Say on LinkedIn right before the pandemic hit and put a huge wedge into life and everyone’s follow-up plans. He had created an extraordinary app inspired by the plight of immigrant construction workers who every single day face perilous situations at work because of language barriers. He knows what they go through because his dad was an immigrant construction worker who came to the U.S. six months out of each year to provide for his family, and young Oscar didn’t understand growing up, why his father tried to dissuade him from moving to the U.S. to pursue educational and work opportunities. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY Oscar and I have our second conversation – this time recorded – about his family’s story of sacrifice, perseverance, and his commitment to improving the construction industry, by improving the safety of the person who is doing most of the grueling work in it: the construction worker. Oscar is a Linguist and English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher turned entrepreneur who has leveraged technology to develop the Need2Say app designed to provide construction workers with second language skills, OSHA awareness training, and tools for their tracking progress. The goal of the app is to eliminate language barriers that cause inefficiencies on construction job sites and it’s fascinating to actually see Oscar demonstrate some of its features. When we talk about innovation and technology, we are sometimes hard-pressed to think about how technology can help solve a “people problem” some might not consider important such as many employers’ dismissal of language barriers faced by immigrant workers who are a driver of our economy. These language barriers prevent them from exercising their talents and leadership fully in the workplace and from attaining social mobility more rapidly. Oscar shares a play-by-play of why and how the app came to be, culminating with his recent first-time participation in Eureka Fest last month where Need2Say won the prized Pitch Competition during this event that brings together creators and innovators at one of the biggest startup festivals in California. Congrats, my friend…this is just the beginning. Your story will be a box-office hit and award-winning movie one day.
I have a new word to describe marginalized, underserved, and underrepresented individuals, and I’ve started using it since my friend and fellow entrepreneur and community advocate Rose LeJiste said it during a recent meeting we were at. The word is ‘underestimated’. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, Rose shares how she planned her exit from the corporate sector after excelling as an Industrial Engineer on the Space Coast (FL) for well over a decade. You see, Rose is a problem-solver and an agent of change that is best left to exercise her leadership free of any established (oftentimes limiting) systems that underestimate the knowledge, ingenuity, expertise, and competencies of diverse people, specifically Black and Brown people. “Innovation emerges out of necessity,” Rose states, “and communities that do not have access to basic resources will come up with innovative solutions to address or mitigate their needs.” However, she adds that many times we underestimate ourselves because we don’t receive enough encouragement or opportunities to demonstrate what we can do. As the CEO of RL Engineering and Tech Solutions, Rose utilizes data analytics, data science, business intelligence, optimization, process improvement, and performance management techniques to yield efficiencies and profits for her clients. As the Executive Director of Black Orlando Tech (BOT), a nonprofit organization committed to accelerating minority economic advancement through the workforce, small business, and socioeconomic development she dedicates a lot of her time to increasing the awareness, activities, network, and resources for local minorities who pursue careers or entrepreneurship in technology because their goals are grand. BOT is determined to train and inspire 10,000 minorities in Central Florida to enter tech by 2025. “The things that are happening in Tech are so new, that we have an opportunity to be at the forefront of something that is taking off and leading the way on some of these innovations that are coming out.” Rose’s advocacy for better access to good-paying tech jobs and her laser-sharp focus on building her tech business empire includes finding ways to help minority entrepreneurs and professionals understand that Tech is NOT coding and that it’s imperative that they integrate Tech into the way they navigate the business ecosystems they operate in. I listened closely and felt encouraged. You should, too!
Perspective is a powerful thing. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, Jorge Cruz, President and CEO of Marketing Innovations Group a fellow business owner who ran a successful business in Puerto Rico while in his 20s and lost everything during the economic downturn of the 2008 Recession that affected most Americans. In Puerto Rico we have a saying that goes, “when the U.S. mainland gets a cold, we get pneumonia”, and it was so bad for Jorge that he wound up filing for bankruptcy. Being an expert in traditional media, Jorge’s nemesis was digital media. He resisted learning about it and practicing the “new way to market” to his clients. Although Jorge absolutely hated the digital marketing world, upon realizing it just might be a pathway to generating new business, he decided to immerse himself in understanding the inner workings of social media becoming proficient at it along the way. With three kids in tow and one on the way, he and his wife took the courageous decision to try living and setting up business in Orlando, Florida. Jorge says that one day he realized that being able to overcome the challenges of being away from his family for many months while he attempted to start anew in unfamiliar territory, the failures, and setbacks he experienced, surviving an accident where he almost lost his life, all these things have given him a unique perspective. “All of a sudden it hit me, God was not testing me, he was training me to get to the next level,” he shares excitedly. Today, as a successful entrepreneur, Jorge supports Hispanic-owned medical practices looking to establish themselves properly in the U.S. and non-Hispanic-owned ones looking to expand into the Latino market. Digital media has become his playground and he also mentors other entrepreneurs so they avoid the mistakes he made. “People still resist looking at the Hispanic market as a viable customer base to generate revenues, and you can’t ignore us anymore.” And he should know a thing or two about resisting what’s evidently a smart business strategy.
The recent global social justice movement has compelled large corporations to throw millions of dollars to Black organizations following the same-o-same-o processes that amount to monies not necessarily getting to where they need to be to have an impact on underserved communities and Black-owned businesses. Dr. Kelly Burton, President of Founders of Color developed a 10-step roadmap for the Corporate sector to stop spinning their wheels and perpetuating cycles of funding that don’t lead to sustainable growth and social mobility in communities of color. We asked Kelly to expand on this topic in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY and to tell us why she had to address the shortcomings of knee-jerk investments to “fix” the inequity problem. Kelly and a group of leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs from across the U.S. launched the Black Innovation Alliance, a united front that will leverage their power and use capital, education, public policy, research, and media as their change agents. They will ensure that Black people may participate in the innovation economy as builders, owners, and creators, not just as source material, workers, and consumers, rejecting the mining of the Black community for labor and ideas.
My Co-Producer Chris Majocha and I regularly talk and ponder about all kinds of stuff. One of our most recent “musings” was about transitions. Many people have experienced a sudden and unexpected change in the last couple of years, and many others have intentionally pursued change. We decided it was time to share some of our very own personal and business-related transitions for this year, so far.  In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY we candidly go over how we are managing current pain points, warding off “paralysis by analysis”, and why we have invested this first quarter of the year learning, strategizing, collaborating, planning, rebranding, and focusing on doing the type of work that moves us the most because of its social impact. When you are experiencing a transition, it can feel like you are stuck, not moving, and that you are going through a major setback – whether it’s in the personal or professional realm. It can be extremely scary! However, as we muse on this topic, Chris and I realize that transitions help build resiliency and can lead to your metamorphosis into a more beautiful existence. Like a growing butterfly inside a cocoon – nothing seems to really be happening, but when it’s time to bust out of that shell…BAM, it’s time to fly, and HIGH! Transitions are not about busywork. They are about mindful work and about finding the right support. And so, as we enter this second quarter of the year, we are thankful to each person that has helped us through our most recent transitions, and we join forces in manifesting and claiming where we will be this time next year… LET’S GO!  Now I ask you – what has been your most recent transition and what did you learn? PLEASE SHARE!
I just HAD TO talk with Erika Jefferson, Founder of BWISE - Black Women in Science and Engineering. This episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY was prompted by the need to get the word out about big-time “No-No’s” when the corporate sector and other White-led entities want to engage with leaders and talent that identify as people of color. After months and months of Erika and I hopping on brainstorming calls with fellow entrepreneurs and advocates for equity, following and supporting each other’s work via LinkedIn, and navigating our busy schedules, we FINALLY made it happen. Erika’s work encompasses making BWISE a leading forum for Black Women in Science and Engineering to connect with others who also have backgrounds in Science and Engineering. It’s a safe space to share lived experiences with current employers or in the current positions they have with the intention of being encouraged by their sister engineers (Mama, you are NOT imagining things…how you are being mistreated, judged, pigeonholed, and overlooked is REAL). What started as an audacious idea in 2015, is now a strong and healthy network of Black and Brown women in Science and Engineering that are focused on advancing their careers. Erika’s very own experiences as an Engineer in the corporate sector and throughout her life as an entrepreneur affords her first-hand knowledge of the key issues faced by women of color working in STEM. A recent observation we discuss is the interest and investments being made to find role models for girls in STEM when nothing has been done for women who have been working and performing in STEM industries for years. Underrepresentation, dead-end jobs, and menial levels of responsibilities continue to negatively impact many women with 10+ years of experience who want and expect more from their employers. Erika shares that as professional women of color, we need to stop accepting the added role of office party planner – something she has seen regularly in organizational settings, and which distracts us from the type of work that will lead to career advancement. We simply need to learn how to say “No, I can’t.” She also takes this approach to set healthy boundaries with leaders from entities that BWISE has been trying to engage with for the past 7+ years with no response. Now, suddenly, requests are coming in for her to “share” available jobs with her network. “Organizations pay for what they value”, Erika states. “I don’t see people asking for FREE help in accounting, finance, safety, or sales.” So, I learned from Erika that we need to start saying “No, I can’t help you identify diverse talent for free.”
In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY I talk to Bob Rivera, a serial entrepreneur who also founded Future Dreamers & Achievers, NOT an ordinary nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the resources they need to pursue their most ambitious aspirations. He has curated a series of “Concerts for Scholarships” that will be celebrated throughout the year featuring artists with a multigenerational appeal, and where they award and reward young people for their demonstrated perseverance and tenacity. The coolest part is that the students who receive the scholarships don’t necessarily have to excel academically in terms of their grades (no 4.0 averages are required here). They simply need to be nominated by a school representative who knows first-hand about the young person’s determination, boldness, plans for the future, and values so that Bob and his team can pair them up with mentors while also awarding a scholarship to help them achieve their goals, whether it’s to pursue music or become a scientist. Future Dreamers & Achievers’ next concert is April 27, 2022, at Mango’s Tropical Café featuring DJs playing 80’s & 90’s music and beloved artists from this era who will perform LIVE on stage, including 18-time award-winning international superstar CeCe Peniston, Crystal Waters, Comedian Tommy Davidson (In Living Color) and Turbo B of the group SNAP. Scholarships up to $10,000 per student will be awarded between sets during this “I Want My Old School” themed concert. If you can join us in Orlando later this month, buy your ticket today at: https://iwantmyoldschool.eventbrite.com
“School doesn’t prepare you for the real-life of business ownership,” says Coach Servola Frazier in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY.  With over 20 years of training and coaching individuals in communication, business leadership, and organizational development, Servola has identified four key factors that cause businesses to fall apart: poor leadership, poor communication, poor cultural engagement, and poor performance. Through her business consulting firm, Motivate Enterprises, she guides entrepreneurs as they navigate leveraging their strengths and mitigating gaps so they can level up, scale and thrive. “I believe that to have strong and thriving communities, we need to have strong and thriving businesses that exist within those communities,” she states. Having worked with DoD agencies, federal contractors, major hotel chains, International NGOs, public and private school systems, and more, helping clients to save and generate millions, she seamlessly taps into her business acumen to help entrepreneurs create strategic plans to launch and/or grow their businesses. As one of my instructors at the Center for Micro-Entrepreneurial Training (I was a student in the first cohort this year), I was blown away by the concepts and learnings she imparted. We discuss the practicality and applicability of defining your “Best Client Ever” to hyper-focus on building relationships of trust that yield consistent and meaningful outcomes with regard to revenue and experience. “It’s a two-way relationship. As an entrepreneur, go and look at those people that you are already working with and identify the key things that you love about working with them, and find more people that meet those characteristics. These are your “Best Clients Ever” because they become part of your tribe, and you need to find more of them.” And she instructs us on how to do that…take a listen! Thank you Coach Servola!
Latina-by-proxy. Yes, that’s a thing. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY I talk to Lisa Cavalli, Founder and Publisher of BELatina, a premium digital magazine that features daily ambitious articles written by Latinas to bring awareness of authentic Hispanic stories that for way too long went untold…until now. Lisa grew up under the loving embrace of the extended family of her Latina stepmother. Looking back, she realizes she must have stuck out as the little White girl surrounded by her loved ones during family gatherings. However, she never felt like an outsider. On the contrary, she very much identifies with Latino culture, although she is fully aware that it’s “Heart Heritage”. As an ambitious and accomplished entrepreneur in media and marketing, Lisa saw a void in Hispanic media. What was missing was dedicated journalism to tell authentic stories about Latinas in the U.S. (and Latinos, too). She launched BELatina to unpack and celebrate the monumental cultural shift that is currently unfolding, and to create even more space for the evolution of Latina/Afro-Latinx empowerment across multiple themes and channels. Most women-centric publications and Hispanic media outlets lack stories of brave, intellectual, like-minded women and bold ideas that matter. So, BELatina is a disruptive cultural lifestyle destination that disrupts the status quo. Their entire team is inspired to go deeper and change the conversation. It’s an alternative to telenovelas that perpetuate stereotypes, colorism, classism, ageism, and sexism. BELatina’s content reflects all the yummy layers of the contributions of Hispanics to all aspects of life in the U.S. in real-time, and more importantly, through the voices of Hispanic female storytellers.
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