Securing Online Payment Gateways

If you are like me, you take technology as it comes and you just make adjustments accordingly. I have made the jump from 8 track tapes to cassette tapes to CDs to live-streaming, all in just the past 40 years. I took shorthand in high school and learned to type on a typewriter—I used Wite Out correction fluid and those thin, plastic correction tabs to fix my errors—and this was cutting edge stuff back in the day. I now live in a time where people walk around with small computers in their hands all day and communication with someone half a planet away is possible within seconds. As technology constantly changes, we must adapt and even plan ahead, to ensure these “undiscovered roads” don’t take us down the wrong path. I mean, initially, when we first starting using the Internet, there were all types of potential threats many of us did not anticipate. New threats await us as our use of computers and hand held devices rule the day. To protect yourself, and your information on the internet, it is important to understand the newest technological advancements and how they affect our lives.

With online purchases becoming more and more prevalent in today’s world, the threat of hacking is very real. When you send your information out into the vast internet, whether it be your driver’s license number, your bank account number, or other personal material, the fact remains that it is susceptible to crooks—crooks who know how to hack information you thought was protected. What safeguards do we have when making online purchases or filling out personal forms on websites? Thankfully, revolutionary advancements in shielding sensitive details are protecting you, even if you aren’t aware they’re there.

Take, for example, encryption. Encryption takes an algorithm to transform plain text, like your credit card number, and convert it into a non-readable format called cipher text. To decipher the encrypted information, the party receiving the material must have the algorithm and an encryption key to return it to its original plain text. Built in encryption systems protect the millions of people from sensitive data breaches.

The drawback with encryption is that data can be breached on either end. The security of the data relies on the strength of the encryption. Encryption is also time consuming and somewhat expensive. The trouble is, you just never know how strong the encryption data is at your bank, your local store, or your kid’s school, so your information may be vulnerable to attack, even when you believe it has been safeguarded.

Since encryption has its detractors, tokenization has become a welcome alternative to protection of personal details. Tokenization works differently from encryption, even though they are widely mentioned together. Tokenization requires taking the sensitive data and replacing it with a token, or placeholder. This token is randomly generated and is swapped for the plain text and then it is stored in an offsite database. Essentially, the tokenization process is taking data and turning it into random, meaningless information so that if it is somehow compromised, it cannot be deciphered by criminals looking for raw data. With encryption, if they break the code, they have the desired information. Unlike encryption, tokenization does not use an algorithm to make its replacement token. Instead, data is stored in a secured token vault which stores the link between the actual data and the token. The great part about tokenization is there is no key to change the tokens back to real data, so information is safer in the long run. Tokens can be set up to reflect the actual number, or at least a portion of it, which is why your bank may ask for the last four digits of your social security number or account number. The actual numbers are saved offsite, but the token number might reflect a portion of the real data. So, say you are online and purchasing something from a company from which you have previously purchased something—your data should be saved. In this case, the token is submitted to the token vault when you request to use the card and the index retrieves the real data for use in the authorization process. The company receiving the data feels no lag time—they are given the real data immediately, yet the “switch” was made in the cloud token vault.

Tokenization is now widely used by vendors because the real data is kept off site. With encryption, it is still within their database, even if it is encrypted. The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council holds merchants to compliance standards to ensure clients’ information is protected. Both encryption and tokenization are accepted under these standards, but the encryption method leaves the merchant more at risk of a breach than tokenization does.

Some key vendors use tokenization for payment, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express. These big three are looking to standardize tokenization in the payment industry’s sector. Their push for tokenization stated this new standard would “help provide the payments community with a consistent, secure and interoperable environment to make digital payments” according to The Motley Fool, an online source. As a matter of fact, MasterCard has teamed with has teamed with Synchrony Financial and Citi Retail Services to use tokenization in their transactions, making it the first payments network to do so. Through MasterCard’s Digital Enablement Services, or MDES, MasterCard can offer tokenization services that can ensure purchases can be made from any internet connected device while also delivering the safety customers expect. Not only does this new technology give consumers the opportunity to make their selections online, revolutionizing the way we shop, but it also alleviates the lingering worry that your credit card information will be stolen online. Since there are more ways to purchase items, including through phone apps, ecommerce, and reoccurring payments, having the information stored in an off-site token vault makes the transactions even safer than ever before.

Consumers today can rest assured their information is protected to its fullest extent when tokenization is used. It’s the wave of the cyber-future, making online purchasing the most practical and convenient way to shop.

Difference Between Your General Dentist And An Orthodontist

Your dentist keeps your mouth clean and your teeth shiny, but what can you do about dental abnormalities like crooked teeth? Seeing a qualified orthodontist may be the answer for you!

An orthodontist is a specialist who focuses on the straightening of teeth and can treat problems pertaining to the upper and lower jaws, gums, and facial muscles. While many people see an orthodontist for purely aesthetic purposes, it is important to know that there are sound medical reasons to straightening your teeth. First of all, crooked teeth can impede your ability to properly bite, chew and even speak! Additionally, crowded or crooked teeth can cause jaw pain, uneven tooth wear and difficulties with oral hygiene, like flossing. To accurately assess your need for orthodontic work, the doctor will work in conjunction with your regular dentist. Once a need for orthodontia has been determined, it is then a matter of selecting the best method to properly align the teeth. Orthodontists have many different options to help you achieve your desired result and make your teeth functional for a lifetime.

So is there a real difference between your general dentist and an orthodontist? While both are dental professionals, they have different specialties, much like your family doctor is different from a foot doctor. After acquiring a doctor of dentistry degree, an orthodontist must complete an additional two to three years of specialized training. Orthodontists invest this additional time into learning how to treat misaligned teeth as well as other dental and orthodontic procedures. They can also treat abnormalities of the jaw, with the assistance of medical prosthetic equipment. The most common procedure that orthodontists perform is the straightening of teeth, generally through various types of braces. For an orthodontist to know how to reposition your teeth, they study the movement of teeth. At times, teeth may require spacers, usually either rubber bands or thin, metal pieces placed to separate or at times, join teeth that are either too close or too far apart. Braces can be used to fix overbites, under bites, cross bites, and open bites. After a patient is finished wearing braces, they usually graduate to a plastic retainer to ensure teeth do not shift back into their original places after the braces are removed. While many people believe that the retainer step is a nuisance or unnecessary, it is a key element is maintaining the straightened smile. In extreme cases, a patient may need the assistance of headgear, which can be worn just at night or all the time, depending upon the doctor’s recommendation. The use of headgear is not as prevalent as it once was, possibly due to the fact it is cumbersome for the patient.

Many orthodontic professionals will not start working on children until all of their baby teeth have fallen out. Orthodontics can also be challenging if an adult patient does not have all of his or her teeth, or a patient’s mouth is too crowded to start the process. You may need to have additional dental services before your orthodontia can begin, like dental implants to replace missing teeth or the extraction of wisdom teeth to reduce overcrowding. Your orthodontist will discuss the necessary options and answer any questions you may have. He or she will also discuss your medical history and any pre-existing conditions that may impede your progress. Once the treatment plan is finalized, the braces and a retainer will be used to align the teeth.

The first step in developing your orthodontic treatment is to have the doctor take x-rays of your teeth and gums and take impressions of your teeth. The orthodontist can view the mouth from every angle to put together the best course of action. The overall process to straighten the teeth is not a quick one; it can take months and in some instances, years before the teeth have moved into proper alignment. An orthodontist will see a patient every few weeks to determine the patient’s progress and to adjust the treatment as needed. Sometimes this is as easy as tightening braces and sometimes it is as complicated as taking an entirely new approach.

Taking care of your teeth while wearing braces is an important element in your treatment. Brushing twice a day or preferably, after each meal is of vital importance. Any trapped food left in between your braces or in the brackets can turn into decalcification spots—little white spots on your teeth where the brackets once were. Alignment can be delayed if your teeth and gums are not kept clean, resulting in a longer treatment plan. Flossing is paramount as well and some orthodontists may have you use a fluoride rinse to protect your teeth.

Your orthodontist will keep you apprised of your progression and make adjustments along the way. He or she may have you close gaps by wearing tight rubber bands in your mouth or may surprise you with the news that your teeth have aligned much faster than anticipated. When the braces are removed, you will find yourself licking your teeth and you may want to eat foods that you couldn’t eat while wearing traditional braces. The orthodontist will take another impression of your teeth to compare the before and after. You will probably examine your teeth often in the mirror; it’s hard to picture how great they look while you are wearing braces for so long! Your orthodontist will also give you your retainer with explicit instructions on how to wear it and care for it. Retainers are expensive to replace, so don’t let your dog get it and don’t drop it down the sink and most importantly, remember to wear it! By skipping the retainer step of the orthodontia process, you may find your teeth shifting back into their previous places and you may have to endure braces again to get them to straighten!

Choosing to have your teeth aligned may be a purely aesthetic choice or it may be a medical one. Whichever it is, you will want to follow the instructions of your orthodontist to ensure you achieve a picture-perfect smile.

Hearing Aid Care and Maintenance

Millions of Americans deal every day with some type of hearing loss. Although this this product is tiny, is can be expensive, therefore requiring information to correctly preserve its function and situation. Millions of Americans still depend on these gadgets that are little to create a difference in their own life.

Within the years, some key improvements have been created by hearing products. In reality, it is often noted time, the unit have been created to be smaller and more successful over that the digital hearing-aid was stated in in the 1950s and the littlest one to-day can create outcomes that are huge. To the device, directional microphones were put in the starting in their design to enable the wearer to concentrate on one-on-one conversation as well as the capacity to converse in places. As you can suppose, these versions weren’t as helpful as suppliers and those to day discontinued their production till about the 1990s where engineering actually took a flip for the better.

Hearing-aid technologies provide a range of possibilities, meeting the requirements of variety of folks, today. Some are more complicated or more costly than the others, but these digital or gadgets nonetheless need the assist of an experienced audiologist to select the correct item and proper-fitting. The price of the gadget can surpass $5 and can commence below $2,000. Combined with the installation comes good care, which may help keep it operating precisely and extend the life span of the hearing-aid. They’re an expense for particular.

As an expense, care makes your funds go quite a distance. Understanding repair, clear and the way to store your hearing aids in Oklahoma City will keep it working as it absolutely was meant to and might avoid the need for recurring repairs over time. First, in regards to the shell, the the top of hearing aid ought to be stored clear. Aids typically have particles from oil or dirt in the grooves. Using an absence of treatment, possibly are functioning precisely or perhaps not fitting precisely. Chemical and water cleaners needs to be avoided in your hearing aid. Tissue or a moist fabric needs to be watchfully utilized to wipe down the hearing aid. Many kits contain a brush that will be of good use for earwax buildup. The microphone is acutely fragile also it’s essential never to poke the port. During cleansing, the microphone should constantly be facing the ground as well as the brush that is provided ought to be used. Wax buildup could be prevented by daily cleansing together with the brush .

In the event you have any queries or need further help on the appropriate cleansing techniques, it’s recommended that you simply ask your audiologist. They are the specialists in this area and will gladly evaluate these procedures along with one to ensure effective hearing aid performance. As it pertains to moisture, a hearing aid can lengthen their life and drying container or a support package will assist keep dampness from building-up inside the hearing aids. Be certain before putting them in a great spot so that you can help them as long as they possibly can to consider the batteries from the hearing-aid. This, also, will extend battery life. Signs of batteries are scratchy sounds output, distortion, improved suggestions, intermittence or odd and uncommon sounds like static. As some batteries might only last a week or two proper battery treatment demands program everyday or weekly screening. It’s recommended that a spare battery that ought to also be stored in a great location is usually carried by a person using a hearing aid.

Although batteries nowadays are made to last considerably longer lengthier than in the immediate past, drying is advised with all the use of possibly a forced-air blower (no, maybe not a blow dryer) or a can of compressed-air such as the kinds employed to clear a key pad. Moisture can occur from even sweat or rain. Climatic circumstances and your activity level are a couple of the most frequent identified variables impacting dampness buildup. People with people who sweat or high ranges of bodily physical exercise are susceptible to moisture problems as it pertains with their hearing devices. Likewise, residing in locations of large humidity can also irritate its performance. Whether from external or internal sources, moisture ought to be averted as most useful you are able to. Some aids will stand as much as moisture than the others. Consult your audiologist to determine whether they advise drying containers or particular dry help kits and also discuss your particular lifestyle together. Your audiologist can assist you pick the correct aid that’ll support your present lifestyle in the event that you are a bodily individual and danger more perspiration than the others. This, subsequently, will assist you get the most from the hearing aid.

Many folks are interested in the common whole life of a hearing system. Their longevity depends on the sort of help in addition to good care they’ve gotten. Problem fixing care and methods can aid prolong the life span of course, of the gadget. For the most portion, the hearing aids of today’s are excessively trustworthy, long-lasting and powerful. Things might go incorrect, but it is possible to save time plus money in the end by avoiding pricey and serious repairs, when you care for them properly. Information on appropriate treatment is a potent device in this circumstance. Not only are hearing aids heading to boost the standard of life, however they’re worth the additional treatment which they require.

 

Healthy Eating In Oklahoma City

Restaurants Offer Healthy Alternatives

More and more Oklahoma restaurants are offering healthy alternatives to “Oklahoma comfort food“. As people become more health conscious in this day and age, they are becoming more picky about what they put into their bodies. We traveled to Oklahoma City this past month and ventured out on a foodie excursion to experience the local dishes first hand. I was not disappointed at all, plenty of “stick to your ribs” items on the menus and friendly faces serving. There was a highlight to our trip though that I wanted to share in this post. We found a gem, a place that took as much pride in their food as the Sooners do in their football team.

The Healthy Hearth

healthy hearth chefWe had asked some locals for a hole in the wall gem where we could eat healthy and enjoy Oklahoma cuisine at the same time. The Healthy Heart showed up on our radar and it did not disappoint. In addition to their healthy lunch options, they also had a desert menu to die for. I am not a fan of super sweet desserts, and I am not a fan of processed sugars in general, so I was hesitant to order any dessert. When I spoke to the Chef he said that they only used natural sweeteners in their desserts and stayed clear of anything that rots out the teeth. It was interesting to talk further about the menu because even the sauces were limited on sugars, which is a difficult thing to pull off. The Chef went on to say that with rotten teeth and cavities how can anyone enjoy their meals? I agreed, and I was pleased to taste such an amazing meal without all the sugar. I didn’t finish my dinner and want to rush home to brush my teeth, there just wasn’t that over abundance of sugar in any of the items I enjoyed. The Chef joked that if we ate dessert over at the Dairy Queen down the street that we might have to find an excellent orthodontist in the Oklahoma City metro area to straighten us out like a rotten set of teeth (haha). We laughed at his humor, our teeth were straight and our stomachs were full.

We Will Return

Next time we are out in Oklahoma City we will definitely be returning to indulge in the great food and company. Chef also suggested that we visit Shawnee Oklahoma for  bite to eat at a local caffe where they serve a healthy brunch for a fair price. He suggested that we try the roasted veal bone broth, but again joked that there is  a new orthodontist in Shawnee, Oklahoma if we needed to get a tooth repaired from biting into a bone. I hope he was kidding (haha).

 

Kevin Hart Talks Diversity in Hollywood at ‘Night School’ Premiere

Comedy wasn’t the only thing taking center stage during the premiere of Kevin Hart’s new movie, Night School. The star, and members of the all-star team behind the film, kicked off the 22nd Urbanworld Film Festival with messages about the importance of continuing the push for diversity in Hollywood.

“This is yet another labor of love that is produced, directed, written, and starring folks that look just like you and me and I’m very proud,” producer Will Packer said as he introduced the film.

“I’m so honored to be here. I’m somebody that has been supported by festivals like this and people like you. You’re my peers, you are the next generation of filmmakers that are coming up,” Packer said to the audience packing the SVA Theater on opening night of the festival.

“I win because you win; when you win, I win. I want to thank you so much for being here, for being in the room. If we’re not in the room, we can’t influence what happens and help take things to the next level.”

The importance of black film festivals to the careers of black filmmakers and to the effort to advance diversity in Hollywood was underscored by the movie’s director, Malcolm Lee. It was a homecoming of sorts for Lee, who got his start at Urbanworld almost two decades ago.

“Nineteen years ago at this festival I launched my first movie, The Best Man,” Lee said. “And it was the word of mouth of this festival that propelled us to a No. 1 ranking at the box office—a whopping $9 million. That’s what was success back in 1999.”

Packer and Lee were joined onstage by some of the Night School cast: comedian Tiffany Haddish, rapper Fat Joe, and Hart, who produced, wrote, and stars in the film.

“As he told you this is our seventh movie,” the star said of frequent collaborator Packer. “We’ve had a lot of success together. Four number ones, two number twos. We’re hoping to have another No. 1.”

‘Night School’ producer Will Packer, director Malcolm D. Lee and stars Tiffany Haddish, Fat Joe and Kevin Hart at UrbanWorld promoting their new film ‘Night School.’
(photo: NuBuzz Photography)

Hart also gave credit to Lee, a “new addition to my entertainment career, but a very valuable one,” calling him “an amazing director, a guy who understands comedy at a very high level and understands an ensemble cast and brings the best out of everybody.”

Haddish not only received praise from her co-star, but a standing ovation from the crowd. “I’m very fortunate to get this woman in this movie, especially when we got her—as the star continues to rise. I just want to take time to celebrate this woman the way she should be celebrated because success is earned, it’s not given. And the opportunities that she now has have been earned.”

“I know where you came from and I know the work that you put into your craft and I know what you have coming,” Hart told Haddish, congratulating her on her recent Emmy award.

But Hart saved his most passionate commentary for last, as he spoke of the work that’s being done to solve the problem of diversity in Hollywood.

“We’re in a business where people of color have asked for opportunity. We’re now in a position where people of color are not only getting these opportunities, but we’re getting recognized. I can say that this road to equality is a long road that we’re fighting for but, that we’re seeing progress.”

“When you see people in a position where they’re winning, and they’re one of us, celebrate those people and don’t choose to tear them down, because you become a part of the problem,” Hart continued. “Celebrate us when we see us winning. We can’t win as people if we don’t allow us to open up the doors for more of us. It’s that simple.”

Haddish, with her perfect comedic timing, then chimed in to add “And if you ain’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all.”

For more on the premiere, check out Urbanworld’s video recap:

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Twitter Sounds Off On High-Fashion Homeless-Looking Sneakers

New sneakers are a luxury not frequently afforded to many people living below the poverty line. As a result, taping, stitching, and wearing old, holey shoes is an unfortunate norm, not a fashion statement, for those struggling to make ends meet and afford basic life necessities. While poverty is an epidemic that many try to escape, it also appears to be a source of inspiration for some fashion designers selling high-end derelict-looking items.

Social media users blasted Golden Goose Deluxe Brand, an Italian high fashion sneaker brand, for its new $530 “Superstar Taped” sneakers, which are covered with duct tape across the toe and heel. Nordstrom’s website describes the “distressed leather sneaker” as having “crumply, hold-it-all-together tape” and a “grungy rubber cupsole.” Twitter users, however, said the scuffed, battered-looking shoes are offensive and make a mockery of the poor.

There are people in the world wearing plastic bags as shoes because they can’t afford any but these HIDEOUS things are selling for $500, one person wrote in a profanity-laced tweet that’s been liked more than 49,000 times.

Others tweeted that the shoes are distasteful and represent the epitome of capitalism.

One user said paying hundreds of dollars for worn-looking shoes is a waste of money.

Another user said that the sneaker, which is part of Golden Goose’s new fall ’18 collection, is glorifying poverty.

On the other hand, some defended Golden Goose, noting that the Venice-based brand is known for selling vintage clothing since its launch in 2000. “Why are people acting like Golden Goose making beat-up sneakers is new? They’ve BEEN around. People in Italy actually enjoy that distressed look in everything,” wrote a private Twitter account user, according to The Independent.

Profiting Off The Poor

This is not the first time that Golden Goose has come under fire for its shabby-looking merchandise—nor is it the only luxury designer selling products like this. Back in 2016, the brand was blasted for a similar style shoe that included ripped laces and silver duct tape. In response to critics, Golden released a statement, calling itself a pioneer in pre-distressed footwear and clothing.

“[Our] company is proud to highlight its pioneering role in the booming of the distressed look, one of the current biggest trends in fashion,” the Venetian label said in a statement to Us magazine. “The duct-tape reinforcements appearing on the [Superstar sneaker] style pay homage to the West Coast’s skater culture — professional skaters, who have inspired the brand’s shoe collections from the beginning, repair their shoes with the same kind of tape,” reads the statement, reports FootwearNews.com.

Maison Margiela, a French luxury fashion house, also currently has scruffy-styled sneakers on the market. The brands leather “Fusion Sneakers” are decorated with glue, duct tape, and stitches. They’re being sold for over $1,600.

(www.neimanmarcus.com)

Likewise, hip-hop star and fashion designer Kanye West caught a lot of flak with the release of Yeezy fashion collection, which featured dilapidated merch that he, himself, described as “ripped homeless sweaters.” It was priced at over $2,000.

Meanwhile, a Canadian restaurant owner was slammed last summer for opening a bar in Brooklyn, New York, that featured a wall decorated with bullet holes. Critics accused the owner of glamorizing the violence and poverty that existed in the Crown Heights neighborhood back when it was largely populated by working-class people of color, before being gentrified.

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Member of First All-Black Group to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro Recounts Feat in Fascinating Blog Post

In June, a group of black travelers scaled 19,341 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The adventure was organized by Outdoor Afro, a “network that celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature,” according to its website.

One of the hikers, Leandra Taylor, provides an account of the experience to wellandgood.com. Here is an excerpt:

“We were headed to the Lava Tower [15,000 feet] that day, and the hike was finally catching up to me. This was one of our longer hikes and the distance that we were planning on going should have taken us 4-6 hours, but at the 7 hour mark, we were only about half way. I was on my period, so I felt cramp-y and emotional during our lunch break, but I was also just physically exhausted.

Eventually, we had to descend a rock wall, and it was a worst-case scenario for me because of my fear of heights. When I tried to get down, I could feel a panic attack brewing: I thought, ‘I could lose my footing and fall down.’ All of my teammates were well aware of my anxiety by this point, and they were just behind me and supporting me. But as the light started to die down, I was getting more and more panicked. I just kept repeating to myself, ‘I am strong. My body’s strong. My legs are strong.’ I ended up making it to camp, and setting up my tent with the help of my troop.”

The team’s rigorous expedition schedule is on Outdoor Afro’s site:

Day 1:  Pick up from the Kilimanjaro Airport and drive to hotel in Arusha.

Day 2: Set off climbing gently through the south-western slopes of the mountain. This is old growth montane forest, carpeted with unique “busy lizzie” flowers, begonias and ferns. First camp among the giant heather at 9840 feet. A 3,936 foot ascent and six hours walking.

Day 3: Emerge from the forest into the giant heather zone and onto fine open moorland. There are fascinating geological features in the old volcanic caldera. After 3,000 foot ascent and 4-6 hours walking, the team will arrive at camp 2 by the Shira Cave at 12,500 feet.

Day 4: On this day, the team will climb to almost 16,000 feet, but will end the day around the same elevation they started. This helps with acclimatization.  They will climb towards the main peak Kibo, with the western glaciers clearly visible across the rugged high-altitude desert of volcanic rocks and boulders.

Day 5: Climb steep to the Barranco wall with some sections of very easy scrambling and then drop down again to the Karanga Valley.

Day 6: Climb above Barafu Hut perched high on a rocky bluff at 15,580 feet. There will be fantastic views of Mawenzi peak in the distance.

Day 7: An early 2-3 a.m. alpine start to climb the steep frozen scree. They will aim to reach Stella point at 18,600 feet, on the crater rim for a rest and hopefully sunrise, then continue another hour to the highest point on the continent at 19,345 feet; usually in warm sunshine.

Day 8: A descent of approximately 4,600 feet  and 4-5 hours through the forest to Mweka Gate.

One of the hikers spoke with ABC News about how he prepared for the daunting climb. “I would go on 6.5 to 10.5-mile hikes carrying packs with weights on my back once per week,” said Olatunde (Ola) Gholahan.

The number of black people traveling has steadily increased the last several years. Millennials of color are particularly interested in exploring the farthest reaches of the globe. Several travel startups have emerged; many of them catering to Millennial wanderlust.

Evita Turquoise Robinson is the the 34-year-old founder of Nomadness, an organization with the purpose to “show the world that travel has no racial, gender, religious, economic, or interest limitations.” The Nomadness community is 20,000 members strong across social media.

Sister Traveling Solo is a company founded by Coleitha Banks to assist and encourage women of color to travel solo. Haywire Weekend is a luxury travel site targeted to diverse Millennials.

Read Leandra Taylor’s entire blog post at WellandGood.com.

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Mississippi Politician to Black People: Stop ‘Begging for Federal Government Scraps’ [VIDEO]

Mississippi Republican Senate candidate Chris McDaniel put his foot in his mouth—or, perhaps, exposed his true colors—when he characterized African Americans as beggars who exploit government entitlement programs on live television.

McDaniel, a conservative who’s served in the Mississippi state senate since 2008 and is now running in the state’s U.S. Senate special election race, perpetuated an age-old stereotype that a gross number of African Americans depend on government assistance, despite the fact that 52% of white Americans have benefited from the federal safety net. His comments were made Friday during his appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, which was recorded at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.

At one point in the segment, Eddie S. Glaude Jr., the chairman of the African-American Studies Department at Princeton University, cited racially insensitive remarks that McDaniel has made in the past and questioned his commitment to helping black Mississippians.

“Thirty-eight percent of Mississippi is black,” said Glaude, a native of Moss Point, Mississippi. He went on to reference McDaniel’s remarks linking hip-hop to violence and his support for both the Confederate flag and Robert E. Lee. “How do you convince black folks in this state that you’re not a danger to them?” asked Glaude.

McDaniel justified his viewpoints on hip-hop and violence arguing that it is based on “a study from Berkeley,” he said. “Berkeley is not exactly a conservative institution.” He then said that the majority of Mississippians voted to keep the state flag, which includes a photo of the Confederate battle flag, and that flags “are subject to different interpretations.”

Glaude then asked McDaniel again, “how would you speak to the 38% [of black folks living in Mississippi]?”

McDaniel answered, saying, “I’m gonna ask them after 100 years, after 100 years of relying on big government to save you, where are you today? After 100 years of begging for federal government scraps, where are you today?”

His clumsy response triggered loud boos from the show’s audience. “I mean the State of Mississippi. I’m talking about the State of Mississippi. We’ve been dead last for 100 years. And what happens is, if we keep dependent on that economic model, we’re always going to stay last,” said McDaniel in an effort to clean up his gaffe.

In response to the backlash over his comments, McDaniel reportedly doubled down on his statements, blamed the news media, and argued that he meant to make a point about the impact of free markets on the economy, reports Clarion-Ledger.

Watch McDaniel’s remarks about African Americans in the video below, starting around the 7-minute mark.

 



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What You Wear on Social Media Matters: An Expert’s Advice

While over the years there has been plenty of notable advice for dressing for success (I even have an entire chapter dedicated to it in my book Lucky Code), I have not seen the distinction made specifically for posts on social media. Times are changing swiftly, however, and what we wear online not only matters but needs to be brought to the forefront of our minds. It’s time to ask ourselves if our Instagram clothing choices are working for or against us.

Why What You Wear On Social Media Matters 

Unlike the brief moment when you make a quick run to the grocery store in wrinkled attire coupled with a hoodie and shades hoping to hide from the world, social media wardrobe choices are etched into the minds of viewers. Even if removed shortly after posting, there is a chance that a screenshot was taken, solidifying the moment in history. Employers, potential clients, contractors, romantic interests, and other concerned parties usually seek to view your social media pages in the first instance, prior to meeting you in person or giving you a call to organize an important meeting. In a brief moment of scrolling through your page, viewers have obtained a solid impression of who you are and what they believe you represent.

Ultimately, how we are presenting ourselves online could be the deciding factor for whether or not an opportunity comes to fruition. You see, what we wear speaks for us in moments that we cannot. We live in a world where everything is instantaneous, including someone’s opinion of us, before even formally meeting. Successful millennials get this and ensure that they dress the part both off and online. If we do not value our appearance, the unfortunate reality is that we are often devalued by society. We cannot speak to every single person that we cross paths with in daily life (or on the interwebs), because of this, we must make a conscious effort to present the best version of ourselves whenever we can.

Of course, with the aforementioned, this does not mean you shouldn’t be authentic in your social media interactions. Be real, but do it while highlighting your personal style in the best light.

Meet The Expert

To solidify my point as well as get some helpful tips, I sought the advice of a trusted style expert, Perri Furbert. Furbert is an award-winning fashion icon, published art director, wardrobe stylist, “Halfway Bougie Podcast” co-host and designer behind Gold, The Label. Furbert’s marketing degree helps her to knit business principles with a unique style, which has afforded her multiple speaking engagements as well as her sought-after style advice.

When I asked if she believes millennials, and people in general, should be more aware of their clothing selection online, and what it says about them, Furbert replied:

“Most definitely! Your wardrobe is a form of non-verbal communication and usually acts as a deciding interaction factor. People will, unfortunately, judge you based on what they see. It’s very important to express what you want to say to the world in your apparel.”

This is brilliant advice. While most people tend to take clothing choices more seriously as it relates to business settings, it’s important to represent who you are as an individual at all times. In Furbert’s opinion, shoe choices say a lot about a person’s character. “I believe shoes anchor a look and tie it all together. Flashy shoes and shabby shoes speak volumes of a personality before you even engage.”

Now What?

Now that you know just how important it is that you put your best foot forward online, here are three simple things to consider:

1) Get Clear on Your Personal Style

Furbert suggests doing what feels right for you. “Personal style is just that—personal. It’s a self-expression of what you want to say to the world about you. Far too often people confuse style with fashion and what’s trendy. Style is what others can especially tie to you and your character. Usually, when you wear what you personally love, your confidence is piqued.”  Confidence can make or break an interaction, so I was all ears. She went on to say, “Be yourself at all times. It’ll reflect in your clothing and what you deem as post-worthy. You won’t have to fumble to explain why you’ve posted what you’ve posted if you’re true to yourself. Have fun with it and remember there are no rules to personal style.”

2) You needn’t max out your budget to look great.

When I asked Furbert for a tip for individuals without a huge budget to spend on wardrobe she suggested investing in staple pieces.

“Staple wardrobe items are inclusive of crisp white collared shirts; a good pair of jeans, that can be worn in any setting; quality T-shirts, which can, again, be dressed up or down depending on the setting; and a well-fitting blazer. All four of these items can be worn in professional settings as well as casual. One keyword to note is “invest.” Purchasing fast fashion is very convenient but many times the items can’t weather many years. If you budget correctly, you can buy quality items that are timeless, which ultimately saves you more in the long run.”

3) Post with Intention

Remember that what you put up online will be there for quite some time. Ensure that it is the best representation of you. While, at first, this may take some getting used to, once you make it a habit to thoughtfully post, it will become second nature.

Furbert is now a pro at this, stating that she puts very little thought into posting as it’s a lifestyle for her. She did, however, advise that people should be intentional about what they post, adding that it’s important to be able to stand by your posted clothing choices in any scenario, be it business or social.

I believe once you get the hang of your personal style and message you’d like to share with the world, it’s much easier. Furbert notes, “I think very little thought has to go into it if you’re being authentic.”

social media

Perri Furbert Instagram (@TheGoldLabel)

 

The post What You Wear on Social Media Matters: An Expert’s Advice appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Quality Marijuana Seeds

Marijuana has always been big business, but with the legalization of marijuana in several states and the use of medicinal pot on the rise, it is now a bigger business than ever before. Now that pot has lost a lot of its stigma in various states, many choose to grow their own marijuana at home for personal use. If you live in a state where marijuana is legalized and you decide to grow your own, where can you get seeds and how can you be sure that the seeds you obtain are quality?

Growing your own is an economical way to ensure that your marijuana is to your liking, since there are so many different strains. However, if you are a novice grower, you can run into problems, and it might discourage you into giving up. It could be as simple as finding the most suitable seeds and learning how they grow, in which soils and at which rate. Some seed strains are more resilient than others, others produce better yields than others and there are others that grow quickly. There are many different types of strains available but you want to be sure to pick one that can grow in the climate in which you live.  Research the characteristics of the particular strain and the amount of time you will need to grow the plant. Finding what suits your needs might be the difference in the type you chose to grow and its success rate.

There are four main qualities to look for when selecting marijuana seeds: you will want something that grows quickly, is easy to cultivate, produces large crop amounts and produces high potency cannabis. While you may not be able to locate seeds that provide all these qualities, you will want to investigate what factors are most important to you as a grower. Starting with healthy, viable marijuana seeds is the first place to start.

The first factor, having a kind that grows quickly, will help to reduce the amount of time you will have to devote to its care, which also means you will have the marijuana store in boulder buds sooner. If you are impatient and just want to get to results, finding a lower quality seed that grows quickly might be just what you need to get started. Once you have experience producing a few batches of quickly grown weed, you may want to move up to a better quality that may take more time to cultivate.

The genetics of the marijuana seeds will determine its ease of cultivation. The better the quality, the easier to tend, and generally, the better the product. The biggest problem with getting the highest grade grass tends to be that since it is not legal in all the states, there is not proper regulation, making it difficult to know if you are buying good seeds. You can’t tell anything about their genetics just by looking at them, which is why buying seeds online from a reputable seed bank is generally the easiest way to obtain them, unless you know a knowledgeable local grower willing to sell you some seeds. A seed bank may also offer some troubleshooting advice to help you grow your plant, while a local grower may not. The seed dealer wants you to be successful; if you are, you are more likely to buy their seeds again. Oftentimes, commercial growers will freeze the seeds, especially growers from colder climates. You won’t be able to tell if the seeds you have received have been frozen, but the likelihood that they will produce healthy plants is greatly reduced. Also, if you purchase seeds that are damaged, are immature or have suffered extreme weather factors, like being frozen, they are less likely to sprout. Old seeds are not particularly productive, either. If you do receive favorable seeds, you can anticipate that every one out of three seeds will actually bear plants. How can you determine if the ones you have invested in are worth their buds in the long run? Look for seeds that are hard and dark brown, or marbled with lighter shadesbecause these are the most mature seeds. Fat, large seeds with a rounded shape are also best for planting. Immature seeds will be smaller and may be light green or white. The younger seeds are protected by an outer barrier that dies and falls off as the seed matures, but you can gently remove this cover. Recognize that once you have started the growing process, it is a time investment. You may not get a viable batch the first time, so you may have to suffer through some trial and error to get it right. Once you have some experience with various strains and several years of successful batches, you may decide to grow both male and female plants. The male plants yield the most seeds; the unfertilized female plants garner the biggest and best crops. If you accidently mix the two, your product will be a lot smaller and contain a lot of seeds. While this make work for your next batch of plants, it is a complicated process. Novice growers should buy unfertilized feminine seeds to simplify the process. You will, however, only produce feminine plants, and they will yield very few seeds. It makes it much more difficult to duplicate a strain of marijuana, unless you can purchase the same seeds from the same seed bank.

Make sure you store your seeds properly to ensure they germinate. You will want to store them in a cool, dry, dark spot with some rice or silica gel to absorb the moisture. They need to be stored in an air tight container; this will ensure the longevity of the seeds’ growth period. If they are not stored properly, they could become compromised and lose their growth potential.

With any major undertaking, it is imperative to do your research first. The legality issue should be addressed first; growing pot is not legal in many states and in not advised. Once you have determined you are able to grow marijuana dispensary boulder co in your state, you will want to know how many plants you can legally cultivate. Where to grow them and how to maintain them are also key factors but most importantly, you need to know what you want and then to investigate the many strains of marijuana to see what suits your needs. It all starts with the seeds, of course. If you are growing your own, the seeds will make all the difference, so ensure the seed bank from which you make your purchase is a reputable one. Be patient; it may take a few tries to get the perfect pot.

Black Photographer In New York City Is Creating Buzz and Challenging Stereotypes

Ceres “Diaja” Henry merged her love for fashion, painting, and photography to create a brand driven by storytelling. Through a series of photographic work, she’s captured current events, social disparities, and black and African culture. RAW Artists, a global network featuring over 100K artists in visual art, music, fashion, film, and photography, scouted and highlighted her as an artist for their 2017 NYC show—this was her first showcase as a photographer. Recently, she hosted her first solo exhibition that sold out. Plus Vogue Italia, Huffington Post, and many other fashion publications have recognized her work to challenge stereotypes and change the conversation about black culture.

But there’s a business side to the creative industry that’s often exploited and undervalued. Sometimes when people think of creative professions like photographer, artist, or filmmaker, the stereotypical phrase “starving artist” comes to mind. Henry used to sell her work for $20–$30, but now her prices start at $500. I interviewed her to learn about her journey and tips for beating the starving artist mindset.

Black Enterprise: Tell us about the work you are most proud of.

Henry: Recently, my work was publicly installed in two locations in New York. It’s every artist dream to have their work displayed for the world to see. The piece was from My ‘Adam Series’. This photographic series has opened so many doors for me.

Black Photographer In New York City

(Photo: Ceres “Diaja” Henry, at 117th St., Lenox and Frederick Douglass Blvd, NYC.)

 

Black Photographer In New York City

(Photo: Ceres “Diaja” Henry/diaja.com)

This is my 6-year-old niece Autumn. I used her as my muse for my ‘Eve Series’ (the ‘Adam Series’ being the other half of this). My concept was to create black/African men, women, and children as fine art for people to celebrate and marvel at. I wanted to portray my people positively despite the stereotypes and negative narratives the media perpetrates against us. Each muse is body painted by me then photographed.

This is from my ‘Black History Series.’ Each year I create a new body of work around this theme. I always make sure I uplift black/African women within this series and include images of unity. I also include images to get a conversation going like this capture of a woman breaking down because she’s constantly bombarded with European standards of beauty.

black photographer in New York City

Ceres “Diaja” Henry

What’s the change that you’d like to see in your field of work? 

There’s definitely a lack of female representation within this field. Most photographers are men and before there were photos of me on my social platforms, people who booked me assumed I was a man. The saying ‘Representation Matters’ is key. I make sure I speak into the lives of aspiring female photographers any chance I can get. I remember encouraging and sharing my story with a young girl about 12/13 years old.  She wants to be a photojournalist, which is a genre that’s extremely male-dominated. I had to let her know that she’s more than capable of accomplishing her dreams and to not allow outside forces to dictate what she can and cannot do.

Many artists adopt the struggling artist mentality, what’s your best advice or tips for succeeding at a creative life? 

I don’t believe artists adopt the mentality of the “starving artist” as people say. I feel that’s a label artist get slapped with once they decide that art will be how they make a living. Creatives don’t wake up and say “I’m an artist and I’m ready to struggle so let me brace myself for the rough road ahead” We’re actually extremely optimistic and excited about our choice of career, and we’re passionate about what we do. Like any other profession, we simply say ‘I want to be a [insert creative genre:]. That negative saying stems from outside forces, projecting their fears upon that creative because in their eyes the arts aren’t profitable. For me, having a positive support system plays a major part in being successful coupled with a passion for what you’re doing. The encouragement of my parents and siblings carries me along this journey. I’ve had my share of negativity but I’m still here, in love with art more than ever, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just refuse to let anything/anyone stop me.

You used to sell your work for $20–$30, but now you price your work starting at $500. What inspired you to charge more for your work?

Recently, I had my first solo exhibition that sold out. I recall giving myself a pep talk and telling myself that this is the big leagues, no more selling art for cheap, I’m worth more and years down the line my work will be coveted among art enthusiasts and collectors. When I announced the price at my exhibition my heart skipped a beat but I didn’t bat an eye. I even said that $500 was the introductory price. I was not playing! I plan on adding zeros to my work in the years to come. Things got real during my next exhibition at X Gallery, it was like the floodgates were opened. I finally came across my ideal client who saw the value in my art and purchased my pieces with no questions asked (at this point my work was priced a little higher). Currently, my work from my Adam & Eve series has been in demand so I continue to build on it to have more options for potential buyers.

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Slay for a Change Uses Fashion To Spread Police Brutality, Cultural Appropriation Awareness

Shayla Janel is an entrepreneur, fashion activist and creator of “Slay for a Change” a bold initiative using fashion to spread awareness about police brutality as well as cultural appropriation. “After the untimely and unjustly death of Sandra Bland I felt sadness and frustration, so I conceived the idea for Slay For A Change,” said Shayla Janel. “Then it was the horrendous murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile that gave birth to my vision. At the time, the whole world seemed to be in shock and in mourning. As a fashion lover, I was following most of the major fashion designers, publications, and influencers on social media and I noticed an eerie silence from the fashion community. I thought to myself, “wow…this is an industry that profits so much from the culture but can’t even acknowledge this tragedy. “In music, sports, television, and etc., people were seemingly taking a stand, she said. But the fashion industry seemed to care less. So, I took our police brutality issues to their front door—Fashion Week. It was a very passive aggressive way of being an activist.”

Cultural Appropriation

Shayla Janel, along with her team of fashion industry disruptors, has also hit the streets of Houston, New York City, Paris, and a few more places in between. Donning a variety of strong statement-making pieces such as a sequin dress, a hoody, a bomber style jacket and penguin-slim-fitted blazer, the team has been featured in MSN China, Elle Brasil, Women’s Wear Daily, Fashion Bomb Daily, and more.

“For the past four years, I’ve attended Fashion Week. While I never made it into the major shows, I learned quickly by just loitering around the streets that you could potentially capture the attention of the press from all over the world, she said. We were silent but the clothes made a very boisterous statement. The first reaction from people was “Are y’all a singing group?” Then we would turn around and we were greeted with “Yaasssss” left and right—especially from people of color. We were also bombarded by photographers and it was insane for a second. There were a few Caucasian photographers who mocked us and condescendingly shouted out “Black Lives Matter” but overall it was all love!

cultural appropriation

(Instagram/@randomandchic)

Slay for a Change launched on 9/11. I wanted to let people know that I will never forget the victims of 9/11. I will also never forget about the deaths of the ones who were killed unjustly. Using #SlayForAChange fashion pieces to amplify her voice, she documented her journey from Texas to New York Fashion Week (NYFW) and produced her very first documentary Fashion Weak with a budget of less than a $1,000. “During filming, we ran into my icon, June Ambrose, who makes an appearance in our documentary. Because June reposted our photo on her Instagram account, Slay For a Change went viral.

#StayWoke: More Than a Hashtag

cultural appropriation

“I chose to use the names of victims of police brutality and injustices because I noticed after the death of Sandra Bland, everyone was up in arms but a month later people moved on, including myself, which is why I didn’t go through with my vision the first time I came up with it,” she said. It’s also important for me to note that Sandra Bland and I are both alumni from Prairie View A&M University. Her death was my official wake up call. Initially, I thought if I could get some pictures taken with Sandra Bland’s name during NYFW,  the media would photograph me and continue to spread awareness.

cultural appropriation

(Instagram/@randomandchic )

Two years later, the fashion activist has no plans of slowing down. “I’m most proud of my first documentary, Fashion Weak, which was directed by my sister, April Joi. She is also part of the SFAC team. It’s raw and imperfect with a very small budget, but the story is so powerful. It not only follows us throughout NYFW, it tracks my journey through fashion and brings the issue of racism within the Industry to the forefront. With the help of my dream team—Sr. Fashion Editor Kaye Washington; Web Director Chloe Moore, and Senior Editor Gabriella Layne; SlayforaChange.com is a digital safe space where African American millennial women can share their voice through articles and uplift people from all over the world. I’m also proud of my ever-growing business which is an online vintage store called Randomandchic.com.

 

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Millennial Moves: Calvin Quallis On Building Men’s Grooming Brand, Scotch Porter

Scotch Porter is a New Jersey-based men’s grooming brand and part of the #beardgang culture. The company is the brainchild of millennial founder Calvin Quallis who took his idea from the barbershop to the shelves and online after noticing his clientele’s need for products that catered to their hair type.

Named after his favorite liquor (Scotch) and favorite jazz singer (Gregory Porter) Quallis created the brand with the everyday man in mind. What began as a targeted brand has expanded beyond products solely for the beard and face. Last fall, the company launched “Fresh Meat” masculine wipes and now the Mineral Enriched Body Collection comprised of a botanically-enriched body bar, exfoliating body scrub, body wash, and hydro-defense body lotion.

We interviewed Quallis and Aleesha Smalls-Worthington, Scotch Porter’s senior marketing manager, to discuss the business of grooming, building a brand, and tips every millennial needs for success.

Black Enterprise: You have created a grooming trifecta: face, hair, and body. What was the importance of positioning Scotch Porter as a one-stop-shop for men? 

Calvin Quallis: With Scotch Porter, I wanted to create a platform that catered to today’s busy man by offering a full selection of quality products conveniently at one destination. Also, we’re more than just a grooming brand, we’re selling more than what’s in a bottle or jar. We’re creating a lifestyle and providing our customers with something that they feel they can aspire to be.
How does your brand manage to stay on narrative in a culture of ever-changing trends?
Quallis: Our brand stays the course by focusing on delivering on the needs of our customers. By keeping a two-way dialogue at the forefront of our product development, we listen to what he wants and needs. Based on how those preferences align with SP’s mission, we release products and messaging that provides a solution. While a trend is key when it comes to certain products and services, our collections will continue to be rooted in pushing our customers to be great.
men's grooming
Marketing and social media have been paramount for most brands on the market. How has this style of branding aided in reaching your target audience?
Smalls-Worthington: When it comes to marketing, our approach is multi-touch. It’s critical to meet “him”— where he consumes content—and deliver on his needs through product and information. No matter the medium, we focus on educating and entertaining men. Whether it’s talking about the benefits of using our products or highlighting interesting lifestyle hacks, our goal is for Scotch Porter to be a touch point in his life that makes him look, feel, and smell his best.
 
How has the barbershop; the church played a part in helping to build Scotch Porter?
Quallis: The barbershop is why Scotch Porter exists. Before the launch of Scotch Porter, I owned a barbershop called Center Stage Cuts. My mom also owned a barbershop/salon when I was a kid. Scotch Porter was born out of a barbershop that served predominately black and Hispanic men. Two months after opening the shop I noticed this recurring grooming issue that many of our customers had: very dry, damaged frizzy beards and hair. I put my problem solver hat on and from home, I researched natural products, ingredients and their effectiveness to treat my customer’s concerns. With feedback from our customers over the course of one-and-a-half years, I developed Scotch Porter’s first line of products with botanical infusions. 
 
What are 5 core values every entrepreneur should follow to build a business in a millennial society?
Quallis: [1] Every entrepreneur must be a great problem solver. It’s almost impossible to build a great business if you’re not a good problem solver. There are big and small problems that arise daily when building a business
[2] Being resilient is another one. There’s some days where you’ll feel completely defeated, tired, and at the point where you want to give up, but on the other side of all of those dark thoughts is success. When I feel overwhelmed or defeated, I always remind myself that the bigger the goal that I’m trying to accomplish, and the greater the impact I want to have, the more resistance and frustration I’m going to face, but I owe it to myself and my loved ones to keep going. You have to keep going.
[3] You have to be passionate about this thing that you’re building. You might have no idea how to monetize whatever this thing is that you love to do, but passion will drive you to figure it out. When you’re exhausted, broke, and utterly frustrated, passion will make you jump out of the bed and work late into the evening, because no dream can become a reality until it becomes an obsession.
[4] Figure out your true “Why.” There’s so many reasons to quit or not start a business. Business is risky and has so many unknowns. You could destroy your credibility. You could get punished by debt. You could even lose everything. However, your “why” is much more powerful than every reason to quit or not to start, and it’s what you need to go back to when you start feeling lost.
[5] Every entrepreneur must have a vision. Vision helps you with the process of planning, understanding the opportunity, and establishing goals for the business. It also permits you to see past where you are currently and ahead of your limited resources.
What is the future of men’s grooming?
Quallis: Men over the past 3 to 5 years have become much more interested in personal care and grooming. More men are now comfortably exploring products and services that were traditionally seen as more female-oriented. As we, and others in the industry, continue to educate men on the importance of grooming and how it can impact their appearance and how they feel about themselves, I think we’ll see a lot more new product offerings for men and growth in the men’s personal care space.

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The Unsung Story of How the ‘Little Rock Nine’ Came To The Stage

In September 1957, nine African American high school students faced the fury and intimidation from an angry white mob of hundreds as they sought to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. These students came to be known as the “Little Rock Nine.” The reaction to the first class to desegregate an institution considered one of the top schools in the South became so raw in its intensity that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was forced to order U.S. Army paratroopers to serve as escorts. In the face of death threats, bullying, and countless acts of humiliation, that determined cadre of pupils would not be denied their right to a quality education.

The world watched their display of courage and resilience against a campaign of massive resistance incited by the state’s chief executive: white supremacist Gov. Orval Faubus. It was clear that Little Rock would be among the first big tests of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared school segregation unconstitutional.

That seminal moment in civil rights history has been re-created in the spirited performances of an off-Broadway play. Aptly titled Little Rock, this musical drama has been seen throughout the summer at Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in downtown New York. The production, which runs through Sept. 8, is not only a powerful re-enactment for multicultural and multigenerational audiences but it also denotes the entrepreneurial journey of Harvey Butler, global head of Supplier Diversity at Barclays, who invested close to a decade of sweat equity and roughly $2 million over that same period to bring Little Rock to the stage.

little rock nine

(Photo: Russ Rowland)

“It’s been a labor of love for sure. Quite the experience,” he enthuses. “Little Rock was a hard story to tell. It was a hard story to stage. It was one if not given the oxygen to breathe it would not have been birthed the way that it was.”

At a time of digital storytelling, Butler decided to give audiences “a three-dimensional immersion in which you are not only an observer but living the moment like its 1957.”

SHARING THE INTEGRATION CRISIS TO A NEW GENERATION

“It’s hard to watch what those children went through but it’s equally important to recognize that no community is a monolith. We had folks that were opposed to integration on both sides, black and white,” says Butler.  “At the same time, we wanted to show them as human beings trying to be kids. Some were boy crazy; others loved music or dreamt about being Shakespearean actors. They faced evil forces that sought to keep them from achieving something that would create a paradigm shift in the way in which black people thought about themselves, being able to compete on par with white students to achieve the same end result of matriculating into a college environment and pursuing a professional career. It was important to draw audiences, regardless of race, by creating more empathy to their challenge.”

little rock nine

Harvey Butler (far right) with Ernest Green and some of the actual Little Rock Nine. (Photo: Russ Rowland)

No one knew the sacrifices made by the Little Rock Nine like Ernest Green, a member of that group Butler and his team consulted to ensure an authentic and accurate portrayal. Green, 76, who went on to become Assistant Labor Secretary during President Carter’s administration and one of BLACK ENTRPRISE’s Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street during his stints in public finance, maintains that the play offers vital lessons in today’s “Living While Black” era.

“I think the value of telling the story is that the next generations understand that the struggle is still in front of us. They watch the news to find out the president’s quips about figures like LeBron James and others, and it is hard for this generation to understand the resentment about black achievement,” he told BE in an exclusive interview. “I’m part of a generation that wanted to fight to open up these doors so that you have achievers. The reason for the Nine to go to Central due to the fact that it had better facilities, better equipment and a better connection to the future which is what the African American community has always had to fight for.”

little rock nine

(Photo: Russ Rowland)

As a youngster in the 1950s, the Eagle Scout was inspired to act by the example of his parents as well as figures such as emerging civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., groundbreaking baseball legend Jackie Robinson, civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall, and Daisy Bates, head of the local NAACP branch who guided and advised Green and his classmates through their harrowing ordeal. “The play goes to the heart of the issue … to go against the resistance you have to fight it at all points. I find this generation gets confused sometimes that you have to continue to fight. Simply because we got to the point that we had an African American president; that was unthinkable when I grew up. That was as far as going to the moon, and now we have done both. But that’s not enough regarding the individual achievement and that of us as a group.”

For those reasons, Butler was driven to create—and complete—the production. “It was the perfect project to get involved with. I benefitted from the integration crisis. I was among those who integrated New York Public Schools through busing and at times, being pummeled. It was tough but not anywhere near to the degree of the Little Rock Nine,” asserts the Brooklyn-raised executive, recalling the challenges of meeting his parents’ mandate during the late 1960s and 1970s to attend the best schools in the borough. “Gaining an understanding of my right to a quality education, I knew I had to tell this story.”

WHAT IT TOOK TO PRODUCE LITTLE ROCK

It took well over a decade to prepare Little Rock for off-Broadway. At the same time, Butler’s unyielding dedication and strategic process can serve as a primer for those who seek to develop their own theatrical production.

A corporate veteran who had worked in finance and supplier diversity for JPMorgan Chase, Nabisco Foods Group, and Eastman Kodak, among other firms, he was initially reluctant to become a producer. “Being engaged in the theater was not something that I sought,” he says. In fact, he recalls the event in which he first met Little Rock’s writer and director Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj at a ceremony in which he was accepting an award on behalf of Chase— his employer at the time—for its support of the arts.

At that event, he was struck by the young talent’s brilliant presentation of the reading of the Broadway classic, Damn Yankees, in which the author deftly reset the play in The Negro Leagues. During a conversation after the performance, Butler shared his ideas with him and others on the financing of black-oriented productions through business investors instead of non-profit foundations, which he had had been told was the common practice. He offered that more commercially viable productions may gain the interest of African American executives and entrepreneurs, including CEOs of the BE 100sthe nation’s largest black-owned businesses.

A year later, Maharaj invited Butler to dinner to share his next project—you guessed it, Little Rock. The eager writer-director said he sought to take the production to Broadway and wanted him to serve as its producer. At first, Butler bluntly told Maharaj, “No…that’s not my world.” After much persistence and his growing interest in the medium, Butler eventually agreed to help him get the production off the ground.

Butler drew on his background in financial analysis, product marketing, and enterprise building to bring new business sensibilities to theater production. First, he incorporated his production company, Rebel Theatrical Management L.L.C. Next, he learned as much as he could about the business. As such, he joined the intensive program at the Commercial Theater Institute, which is usually reserved for industry professionals but Butler gained entry by convincing its administrators to allow him to participate, in part, due to the fact that “he wanted to bring more blacks to the theater” and that his relationships with executives and business owners could attract new funding sources for productions. As he gained training from veteran producers, the self-proclaimed “theater nerd” would spend hours immersing himself into the income statements of theatrical productions and learning the lingo. He even conducted a competitive analysis of the box office performance of plays with themes—including Fences and Radio Golf, two dramas by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson—that could potentially draw similar audiences to Little Rock. He used all his research to develop a comprehensive business plan for the production. Butler was also an investor in the 2011 production of Stick Fly, which was presented to Broadway by songstress-producer Alicia Keys.

little rock nine

(Photo: Russ Rowland)

Among his revolutionary approaches was leveraging his corporate contacts to create a series of readings of the play. Beginning in 2012, he convinced corporations such as Chase and Morgan Stanley to pay $40,000 to $50,000 for such performances as part of corporate Black History Month programs and the like. Over the past few years, Butler says that his ensemble has engaged in roughly 15 such productions. “My objective was to create data points and lay the groundwork through proper preparation to attract investors,” Butler says of his detailed process.

Another aspect of the groundwork was perfecting the script and gaining feedback through workshops at Palo Alto, California-based TheatreWorks, which paid for performances presented to Silicon Valley audiences. “It was a great proving ground to develop the piece,” says Harvey, who used some of his own funds for incremental expenses.

Understanding the value of relationships and access, Butler became a member of Princeton, New Jersey-based McCarter Theater Center, which had a reputation for bringing new works to the stage. Through a contact and the strength of the work, the innovative producer was able to successfully get Little Rock placed on the 2014-2015 schedule at Passage Theater in Trenton, New Jersey. Under that arrangement, Butler licensed the book to the theater’s management team which, in turn, placed them “in the driver’s seat” related to control of the production.

It was another step, Butler said, in building momentum for future investment. And it proved to be one of his most valuable moves. In 2015, Little Rock received The Barrymore Award—the highest theatrical honor in the Philadelphia market—for “Outstanding Ensemble Cast”—the production’s single category nomination.

“After that win, we engaged in more readings through 2015 ad 2017. [A representative from] The Sheen Center fell in love with the script,” says Butler, whose company licensed the theater for the most recent summer production.

ONE BE 100s CEO’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE OFF-BROADWAY PRODUCTION

Among Butler’s toughest challenge was raising funds for the production, tapping his array of corporate and business contacts. Although many were “earnest in making verbal commitments,” he maintains that conservative investors became “gun shy” when it eventually came time to pony up dollars.

Butler, however, found major financial support from a leader among the BE 100s: David Steward, CEO of St. Louis-based World Wide Technology Inc. (No. 1 on the Top 100 with revenue of $10.7 billion): “Steward shouldered the underwriting of the show. He knew the importance of the show, having gone through a similar experience [as the Little Rock Nine]. He also followed my journey in getting the play made.”

Now as the play enters its final performances at the Sheen Center, Butler asserts the journey of Little Rock is far from over. His destination remains the same: The Great White Way. “Broadway is on the continuum,” he says. “Before we do that I want the playwright to mature the piece. We will sign other theaters to help us get it ready for Broadway. In fact, we are looking at the West End in London. There could be an appetite there. We will do all of this to attract Broadway investors and come back to New York.”

But one aspect of the off-Broadway performance that will be etched in the memories of both Butler and Green: Assembling and acknowledging the Little Rock Nine during opening night. Says Green, the oldest of the Nine who became the first black graduate of Central High in 1958, “I am very proud to be part of the group and what Harvey Butler and the rest of the staff did with this great production. But most importantly, the play will indicate to young people our role and our struggle.”

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