With the new year in full swing, emPower Magazine is enhancing its old and excited to bring in some new.
Along with new content, writers, web shows and events, emPower has also added an editorial advisory board. This board was designed to guide content, reach and advocacy for the magazine.
The board members—selected by emPower Publisher DeShuna Spencer—are made up of a diverse group of socially-conscious professionals from various disciplines. They will serve for two years. The inaugural board members are: Rictor Craig Jr., Muriel Hairston-Cooper, Jonelle Henry, Janaye Ingram, Amatullah Rid, Tisa Silver and Rae Trotman.
Rictor Craig Jr., Principal at Friendship Woodridge Elementary and Middle School
For Rictor Craig Jr., principal at Woodridge Elementary and Middle School in D.C., going to school was never a drag. He knew early on that both giving and receiving an education would be major passions of his. He knew so much so, that he began taking college courses in the 11th grade.
From there, Craig went on to pursue his undergraduate and graduate degrees, and is currently pursuing a second master’s.
Craig attributes his love of learning to his parents, who didn’t have the same opportunities as he had when it came to education.
“My biggest inspiration within my sphere of influence are my parents,” Craig said. “Although they did not finish college, they stressed to me the importance of going and finishing. They have always supported my endeavors and constantly tell me how proud they are of me. This has made a huge difference in my life choices and life trajectory.”
For Craig, encouraging and overseeing students, similarly to how his parents did for him, are important in guaranteeing a quality education and a hope for a better future, especially for minorities.
“My mission as a principal within the Friendship Public Charter School District is to provide a Tier 1 education to students of color,” Craig said. “It is my goal to ensure that all students, no matter the socio-economic background or race, receive an exceptional education to ensure they are prepared to get TO and THROUGH college.”
Despite his busy schedule at Woodridge, which is a part of Friendship Public Charter Schools, Craig said he chose to partner with emPower, because the magazine is a catalyst for informing and empowering the African-American community on all issues.
I share a similar mission to the magazine; to provide access to resources that strengthen our community,” Craig said.
In honor of that mission, Craig also began the Kappa Leadership League during his time as a teacher at Friendship Collegiate Academy. Under this program, throughout six years, Craig mentored more than 60 young men to ensure that they graduated from high school and continued their education through college.
No matter the method through which Craig reaches out to young people, he always tries to have their best futures in mind.
To young African-Americans, he suggests they work hard, stay humble, never give up, be vulnerable to growth and continue learning in their respective fields.
A motto he uses as personal inspiration is to never rest until a task is done and to do it well or not at all, no matter the task’s size.
Muriel Hairston-Cooper, Senior Communications Manager for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
Muriel Hairston-Cooper, senior communications manager for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), is a native New Yorker, who dedicated much of her career to moving up the ranks in the world of communications and finally landing in D.C.
Although she didn’t always dabble solely into journalism, she took dance through middle school and originally wanted to become a teacher; she always liked writing.
Still, it wasn’t until she started having confidence in her work that she pushed harder and stronger to hone her craft.
That push helped her start the first Howard University chapter of the Association for Women in Communications (AWC), become the first African-American sports reporter for the Macon Telegraph and News, pitch a four-part series to Good Morning America and create a research journal for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) during her time with AARP.
That push also led to her current position with the CBCF, a nonprofit institute aiming to help improve the socioeconomic circumstances for African-Americans and other underserved communities. As senior communications manager, Cooper takes care of the public relations aspects, such as writing, pitching story ideas and initiating partnerships with other organizations.
She chose to work with emPower because of how it addresses a certain audience.
“[emPower] has its own kind of niche marketing that’s on a global level,” Cooper said.
She also likes how emPower presents points and their respective counterpoints. Cooper said that although technology today has made journalism too easy and accessible and has strayed away from investigative reporting, emPower still upholds the standards for great journalism.
Still, she warns aspiring writers.
“I would caution people who are in school now to always be sure to check facts,” Cooper said. She said for writers to always ask questions and to be able to tell a story.
Cooper also encourages people in general to volunteer.
“I really look at civic involvement … as something everyone should take part in,” she said.
She said whether it’s through volunteering or writing, she always tries to do and write things that positively expose and bring valuable information to African-Americans.
She also is never afraid to try things and suggests young people do the same.
“Don’t be afraid to try,” Cooper said. She said if you don’t try, regrets will follow.
Jonelle Henry, International Producer for C-SPAN
Jonelle Henry, international producer for C-SPAN, moved to the United States from Jamaica when she was a toddler. Her family started out in Brooklyn, N.Y. and eventually ended up in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Although Henry now lives in D.C., she still acknowledges her heritage.
“My culture’s very strong, so it’s a huge part of my everyday life,” Henry said. She said her history with Jamaica is what sparked her interest in international news, leading to her current position with C-SPAN.
She said she likes to show how other countries and their leaders handle government and policy and how that impacts U.S. policy.
Her favorite parts of her work include learning and gaining new appreciation of other cultures and their policies and communicating and sharing video with other international producers.
Henry might not be where she is today as a producer if it weren’t for a local television reporter who visited her high school once. Henry said the reporter was the first person to encourage her to pursue journalism and to compliment her voice and reporting abilities. Although Henry can’t recall the reporter’s name, she remembers what she took away from that three-to-four minute conversation that jump-started her career.
Growing up in a loving, two-parent home with a strong mother and politically active father also inspired Henry as a journalist, as well as a person of color.
African-Americans with humble beginnings like Oprah and Michelle Obama also inspire her.
But Henry makes sure she doesn’t confuse inspiration with idolization.
“You should have a sober look at who influences you,” she said. She said people’s influences are not perfect, despite the great things they do.
Still, Henry likes to serve as an influence to others, especially when it comes to joining organizations or acting as a voice, particularly for African-Americans.
“I try to be really honest,” she said. “I have no problem being a spokesperson.”
She also likes to serve as an example of someone who defies stereotypes. For instance, many people are surprised she lives in such an urban neighborhood, when she is such a professional.
No matter where people live, work or play, Henry said they should have a balanced view of the world. She also said that they should have a balanced view of themselves and understand how to genuinely interact with others.
“Be prepared, but also be very natural when dealing with people,” Henry said.
Janaye Ingram, D.C. Bureau Chief of the National Action Network
In 1991, the Rev. Al Sharpton founded the National Action Network (NAN) as a way to carry on the civil rights teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Since its creation, NAN has worked tirelessly to promote justice and equal opportunities for people of all colors, religions, nationalities and genders.
Such effort made Janaye Ingram, D.C. Bureau Chief of the NAN, the perfect choice for her staff position, as she has worked for years to improve the conditions of, promote justice for and encourage activism among people of color.
“I was probably born an activist,” Ingram said. Her early surroundings catalyzed her into activism.
Ingram grew up in Camden, N.J., where she was exposed to death, violence, arrests and other negative situations.
“Growing up in that type of environment made me want to see more and do more and do better,” Ingram said.
She came from a family of activists and educators, but didn’t experience her own true call to activism until organizing a walkout, during which she was the only participant. The walkout’s purpose was to challenge her Catholic high school to extend its week-long celebration of Black History Month.
“To me, that was a moment when I had power,” Ingram said.
After that point, she digressed from activism and worked in journalism, public relations, Medicaid, modeling and pageantry. Feeling unfulfilled, she entered the nonprofit sector.
She also received a B.A. in psychology from Clark Atlanta University and an M.S. in nonprofit management from Milano, the New School for Management and Urban Policy.
According to a biography on the NAN official site, Ingram received the Women’s History Month Awards for Community Service from New Jersey State Assembly, was named one of “New Jersey’s 25 People to Watch” by South Jersey Magazine, founded the Ambassadors of Hope Scholarship and served as the senior development officer for Project Enterprise in New York and the development and events coordinator for EducationWorks in New Jersey.
Ingram is currently a board member for the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network and a member of the D.C. chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professionals.
Although Ingram, who’s also an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. member, has worn and still wears many hats, she tries to always stay positive and energized. Watching Al Sharpton helps her.
“There’s no time to rest,” Ingram said. “The second that I think that I’m getting tired, I just look over at him and what he’s done.”
To other young people pursuing dreams, nonprofit or not, Ingram said to be humble, go the extra mile and knock it out of the park every day.
Amatullah Rid, Chief Executive Officer of jHuane International
Amatullah Rid found her interest in environmental awareness while growing up in West Oakland, Ca.
Rid’s sister, the only person in her family to be born in West Oakland, had asthma. In school, Rid came across the fact that West Oakland has some of the highest air pollution due to particulate matter from diesel trucks that pass through the city. She read up more on that fact and began connecting the air quality to her sister’s asthma, sparking her desire to learn more about the environment and how to improve it.
She said one of her biggest accomplishments in environmental awareness was starting jHuane International, an organization designed to help other small and medium-sized organizations improve their impact on society and the environment.
Rid also helped a school in Baltimore get an energy grant, which helped replace a leaky roof, as well as an energy audit.
Since working with jHuane, Rid’s also seen some clients, both past and present, grow and push for environmental justice within and outside of their organizations even without her help,
Stories highlighting actions people are taking in the arena of environmental justice inspired Rid to work with emPower.
Still, she said that it’s important that to extend message of protecting the environment beyond emPower readers and the usual green or environmental-friendly organizations.
“I really feel like the greatest change will come from the corporate forefront,” Rid said.
That feeling, her love for the environment and drive are what led her to creating jHuane and continuing her work with it. She encourages other people who have something they’re passionate about to do the same.
“If you want to do something, you have to do it yourself,” Rid said. “Don’t expect the organization you’re working for to subscribe to your personal mission.”
That mission can also extend to civic engagement, which Rid and her organization have practiced through several activities, such as feeding the homeless, doing other community service projects and helping MPACCT, an organization that informs, mobilizes and serves communities in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area and that works on critical global issues.
Once again, no matter the activity or organization with which one participates, Rid said to not sit passively and to block out the possibility of failure.
Tisa Silver, Assistant Director of Financial Education and Wellness at the University of Maryland
For years Tisa Silver, assistant director of financial education and wellness at the University of Maryland, has worked in the areas of financial stability and keeping money issues from devouring one’s life. She even wrote a book about it entitled, “The Time Value of Life: Why Time is More Valuable than Money.”
Nowadays, she said she spends much of her time working with the Good Works Coalition, which promotes growth within communities in the spirit of charity, wisdom and independence, and at the University of Maryland talking to students about loans and repayments, planning educational programs and interacting with financial aid.
Silver got her knack for numbers while growing up in Mitchellville, Md., with her mother, who was an accountant, and her father. She said her parents were two people that came from difficult situations but still made things work.
“I learned about how you can sacrifice early to benefit from reward later,” Silver said.
Silver was also inspired by Dr. Phyllis Keys, her former finance professor at the University of Delaware. Seeing an African-American woman teach in a field that was uncommon to both African-American and female professors ignited her interest.
“It showed me that there was someone who was different but just as good as, if not better than, the norm,” Silver said.
Although today, Silver is one of few African-American women nationally recognized for her work in financial education, she said she has learned humility.
“You’re a person just like everyone else,” she said. “You never get to a point where you’re truly better than anyone else.”
In saying that, it’s no surprise that Silver is an advocate for community service. She also likes to emphasize to young people the importance of taking on fiscal responsibility.
“We all have to deal with it,” Silver said. “Learn the language of money as early as possible to avoid difficulties later on.”
Silver has also given many scholarships and speeches.
“I am all up in the churches and schools and even correctional facilities,” Silver said.
She said her appearance at speaking engagements shows African-American students that someone like them can do it and shows her that it could’ve been her in their situation.
She chose to work with emPower because of its lack of bias.
“What I appreciate about emPower is that it allows people to unite their opinions without bias and influence from outside parties,” Silver said.
Written by Larisa Robinson for emPower magazine.