CAST OF BETTER DAYS

Pat Smith, Actress, Author & Producer

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Producer and actress Patricia "Pat" Annette Smith is the wife of former Dallas Cowboys running back and Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. The Smith family’s special, chronicling Pat’s journey, “Mrs. And Mr. Smith” recently aired on OWN and her first book, “Second Chances,” published by Bethany House released on May 17th. She addresses all size groups with her inspirational messages including being a featured speaker for women’s groups through the Women of Faith tour, The Potter’s House in Dallas and Lakewood Church in Houston. Her non-profit, “Treasure You”, inspires women to pursue their second chance in life despite circumstances or setbacks.


Yancey Arias, Actor & Producer

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Yancey Arias is an American producer and film and television actor, perhaps most noted for his work on television crime dramas, particularly his roles as Miguel Cadena in the NBC series “Kingpin”, as Gabriel Williams in the FX series “Thief”, General Cortez in USA Network’s “Queen of the South” and Mayor Hector Ramos on Amazon’s “Bosch

1K Phew, Actor & Rapper

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Christian rapper 1K Phew hails from Stone Mountain, Georgia, a city right outside of Atlanta. By his mid-teens, he was already interested in rap but was spending a lot of time getting in trouble on the streets. After an incident when he and his friends were shot at and narrowly escaped death, the teen shifted gears, turning to a life devoted to faith and reflecting that faith in his music. By the mid-2010s, 1K Phew was issuing mixtapes such as 2015's Sunday Night and 2016's Life, gaining attention both regionally and nationally for his confident style and technical abilities. In

2017, the rapper signed with Reach Records and toured constantly. That year he released his Never Too Late mixtape and guested on the Metro Boomin-produced single "Hammer Time" by Lecrae. Following the 2018 singles "Zoo Atlanta" and "We Did It," 1K Phew returned with the 2019 mixtape What's Understood.

Rhyan LaMarr

Writer, Director & Producer

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Rhyan LaMarr, a graduate of Columbia University, has a wealth of tangible experience in the Music and Film business world, as well as being a consultant to major corporations and record labels such as Universal, Igloo Music, Gravitas Ventures, Clear

Channel and Masters Media Group LLC. Having a strong belief system has enabled him stay committed and grounded all while engaging the world with thought provoking visual art and musical media.


In summer of 2003 Rhyan LaMarr got his first big break with only one year of instruction from Columbia Film School under his belt, when he found himself on the set of Mr. 3000 with the late comedic great Bernie Mac. This opportunity led to securing a vast variety of positions with shows such as The Bernie Mac Show, That 70’s Show, The Apprentice

Season 6 and America’s Got Talent to name a few. Since then he has created, produced and marketed multiple long form music videos, Feature films, short films, reality television

and programming that contributed to over $40 million of revenue for such companies as Sony, Universal Music Group, RCA Records, Concord Music Group and Bunim and Murray Productions. Throughout his career, he has worked with the likes of Bernie Mac, George Clooney, Ashton Kutcher, Wayne Brady, Malcom-Jamal Warner, Eddie Murphy, Tom Hanks, Bill Cosby, Ryan Seacrest, Charles Stone, Cederic “The Entertainer”, Malik Yoba, Topher Grace, Shane Sparks, Hi-Hat, Kelsey Grammer, Yancey Arrias, Eric Roberts, Stevie Wonder, Chuck Maldonado, Baby Face, MicoWave, Bootsy Collins, Bill Duke, Common,

and All-4-One to name a few…


Over the past 13 years, Rhyan has honed his general business and film skills as a creative and business savvy filmmaker and lead producer maneuvering and climbing the ranks all while maintaining a level head and Christ centered mentality all the way. Rhyan’s zeal and impeccable motivation has allowed him to grow and maintain a tight ship all while delivering success.


In 2013 he formed Red Guerrilla Productions and Say Something Music independently. Since then his company has written, produced and directed several films including the critically acclaimed theatrically ran Motion Picture “Restored Me”. With an experienced and

award-winning production and writing team, Red Guerilla Productions/Reel Stories Entertainment has worked with artists, producers, and executives on projects that have topped Billboard’s Charts and earned Film & TV nominations for The Chicago

and Illinois Film Festival, The Memphis Film and Music Festival, Written Image Awards, Elevate Films Honors, Primetime Emmy Nominations, Columbia Deans Honors , BET Awards, Grammy and Stellar Awards.


Rhyan’s commitment to his faith and love for story has allowed him to minister through art in ways the faith community has yet to experience. He continues to work on projects that have purpose and furthers the faith conversation.

Jesse Lynn Madera

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Singer & Songwriter

Jesse Lynn Madera blends her poetic country/folk/Americana infused music with her poetic words of wisdom. The Nashville based musician is hoping to catch the attention of country, soul, and jazz loving individuals around the globe with her new daring EP Come Visit Soon,”which is now available on all major music streaming platforms. Having performed this year at The Key West Songwriter’s Festival, the fresh-faced, bright-eye songstress has built a strong reputation for herself in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles, due to her soulful live performances. 


Hailing from the rolling hills of West Virginia, Madera’s love for music grew out of a family affinity for all things harmonious. With household garherings often centering around song and expression, her unique musical upbringing aided in driving her passion for performance. Mentored in piano by renowned father of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Johnnie (“B. Goode”) Johnson, Madera takes pride in the instrument having remained a constant in her journey as an artist and in her music. The stunning creative took up a fascination with poetry around the same time, and it is this love for the written word which led her first to theater and then to music. Following her musical education at NYU, Jesse Lynn Madera has gone on to release three breathtaking albums to date. 


Championed by husband and versatile actor Hemky Madera (“Queen of the South”), Jesse’s charismatic songs have attracted a diverse group of people who continue to seek music from the up-and-coming artist. With tracks smoothly intertwining the deep emotion of jazz with the cool, humble songwriting of American soul, Jesse’s folk-tinged country melodies in “Come Visit Soon” stand as an impressive addition to a profoundly eloquent musical catalogue.


IG: jesselynnmadera


Nicholas May

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Hip Hop Artist & Entrepreneur

Drawing influence from the greats like Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas, with the entrepreneurial spirit of a young P. Diddy, Nicholas May is definitely one to watch in the Chicago hip-hop scene. His smooth vocals and seamless beat fusion serve as a unique, melodic overlay to his succinct flow. With a focus on sophisticated songwriting and lyrics “deep like Chicago potholes,” May sets himself apart from other emerging indie rap artists. His latest single, “Kill Bill” featuring Sir Michael Rocks of The Cool Kids is indicative of a foray into a wider range of sounds and introspective lyrics as he continues to diversify his craft. 


In addition to his musical ventures, May takes his fans along with him on his personal journey into the entrepreneurial realm by way of vlog installments. As an artist who puts together his own shows and events, May knows what it truly means to grind hard for your dreams and hopes to guide the next aspiring generation through what it takes to make a name for yourself as an indie artist. May’s vlogs also encourage viewers to see the beauty in his hometown, the world-class city of Chicago, a refreshing way to combat the media-fueled misrepresentations to which it falls victim every day. 


Nicholas May has been featured on various platforms, such as Real Late with Peter Rosenberg on Hot 97, where big names like Action Bronson and Vince Staples have made appearances;  Team BackPack; DJ Booth; and other music blogs. He has collaborated with notable artists, such as Brooklyn-based songwriting guru Skyzoo and Interscope Records’ Jared Evan and Sir Michael Rocks of The Cool Kids. May’s music and vlogs can be found on his YouTube channel and you can follow him on Instagram @musicbymay. 

Max Simon

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CEO, Green Flower Media

Max Simon founded Green Flower Media in 2014 with the goal of creating a mission-driven media company focused on providing trusted cannabis educational content to the public. GFM has since become an industry leader, boasting a staff of collaborative team members from various creative industries, and a network of over 700 top cannabis experts. Together, they have produced the largest library of cannabis educational content in the world—material that is actively changing negative perceptions of cannabis held by millions of previously misinformed/under-informed individuals who now leverage GFM as thedefinitive source for factual and inspirational knowledge around all things Cannabis and CBD.


Max’s mission to inform—and discredit misinformation—abound the truly amazing power of the cannabis, reflects his work in bringing meditation and mind-body wellness out of the shadows in the early 2000s, while serving as Director of Consumer Products for the Chopra Center. For seven years, Max built and ran world-renowned self-help guru Deepak Chopra’s products business, where he re-branded the company, developed and launched 49 signature products, created their digital marketing strategy, and impacted hundreds of millions of people on and offline.

 

Today, meditation and yoga are mainstream practices thanks in part to Max’s efforts at the Chopra Center, and it’s this same blueprint for creating and distributing credible content to empower the public that Max brings to cannabis through Green Flower Media. It’s also a personal mission for Max, who has successfully used cannabis for over two decades as part of his wellness regime and to aid in the treatment of his own ADHD.


IG: greenflowermedia

www.green-flower.com

Marcell Fitzgerald

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Motivational Speaker & Host of Food For Thought w/ Marcell Podcast

Marcell Fitzgerald was Born and raised on the west side of Chicago in ( K-town). He was raised in a 2 flat, 2 bedroom apartment along with 6 brothers,1 sister Mom and Dad. Growing up was a struggle living in one of the toughest neighborhoods on Chicago’s west side. Thankfully, he had a praying and loving mom who kept all of  her kids in church and away from all the gangs and violence that surrounded her family. Marcell quickly gravitated to Basketball which taught him discipline and kept him busy. He became very good  while growing up and eventually got popular in high school from his athletic abilities. 


His talents eventually earned him a scholarship to college. Being one of the first in his family to go to college made his Mother very proud. After his second year in college he soon learned that he had a son to be on the way. This changed his life immediately. Although, His father was at home during his childhood, he did not have a good relationship with him. This motivated him to want to be the opposite of his Father. 


This was a traumatic period in Marcell’s life. Not having the help and support to stay in school, play ball and raise a child, quickly made him reflect on all the struggles that he had been through. This caused resentment towards his Father and quickly strayed him away from Basketball.  Although he finished college, he was very unsure on what he wanted to do with his life. Turning to music as an alternative, he started to record with his brothers and friends, selling CDs around Chicago’s Westside. Although he enjoyed doing Music, it still didn’t fill the voids and heal the scars that he was dealing with.


After getting married and settling down, he soon realized that he wasn’t at peace with himself. He started reading and listening to audiobooks about, mental health, self discipline, financial literacy, and setting goals that changed his life for good.


He Started a group in 2015 on Facebook entitled Food for thought to give back to others. The inspiration was driven from overcoming all the pain and scars that he suffered as child growing into a young man. He uses quotes and records live videos speaking on goal setting, overcoming challenges, financial literacy,and maintaining healthy relationships.


Now he will tap into Podcast to broaden his audience with hopes to help and share the knowledge that he has acquired over the years.


IG: foodforthoughtwith

facebook: https://m.facebook.com/groups/558961457587817?group_view_referrer=profile_browser


Suzanne Baker Brown

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Executive Director, Stepping Stones Network

Suzanne is currently serving as Executive Director of Stepping Stones Network. Her passion is to help people find whole life health (body, soul and spirit), so they can step into the life they were created to live.  Suzanne’s background includes corporate leadership, management consulting, not-for-profit board experience, and extensive work in women’s ministry since 2000.  She has been an advocate for women and women’s issues in all of these contexts.    


 As founder of Spiritual SpaLeadership RefreshThe Reflection, and The Life You Were Created to Live, she has brought teaching, healing and encouragement to individuals and groups throughout the US and in Asia.  And, she has walked alongside many who have come out of abusive and destructive situations helping them to rebuild their lives.  Suzanne also previously helped launch and served on the Advisory Board of The White Rainbow Project that serves India’s outcast widows. She holds an undergrad in Business from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Master’s from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  


Suzanne resides in Chicago with her husband, Steve, who is the Director of Preventive Emergency Medicine at University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center and a nationally known advocate for the chronically homeless.  Suzanne and Steve serve as a Safe Family for at-risk young adults and kids.  


Contact Suzanne at suzanneb@steppingstonesnetwork.org

IG: stepping_stones_network

www.steppingstonesnetwork.org

Sam Ingraffia

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Actor, Writer & Director

A veteran film and television star, known to audiences for THE INCREDIBLE HULK, BARNEY MILLER and PUSHING DAISES, the Chicago-native is winning praise for his memorable turn opposite Bill Hader on the series.

Over 100 film and television performances have afforded Ingraffia with the opportunity to work with such acclaimed directors as John Schlesinger, Ron Howard, Mike Newell, Oliver Stone, Danny DeVito and Robert Zemeckis. 

His many credits include THE INCREDIBLE HULK, THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN, WALL STREET, FLASHFORWARD and 12/12/12.  He also recently shot the new pilot QUEEN B with Alicia Silverstone. 


IG: samingraffia 

IG: salandjuniorofficial 

www.samingraffia.com

https://m.imdb.com/name/nm0408925/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQV8jk_Ni-I1d9RAIFB04gw

JL Ruiz

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Mexican-American Novelist

JL Ruiz (www.jlruizbooks.com), a new Mexican-American novelist, has been named a three-time finalist for the prestigious International Latino Book Awards. His novel, "Irreversible Damage: The Katie Suarez Social Justice Series," received recognition in these categories: Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book; Best Latino Focused Fiction Book; and Best Novel - Adventure or Drama – English. The book's cover has also been recognized in the Best Cover Illustration category for the cover artwork by artist Ignacio Gomez. The book was releasedJune 12.


IG: jlruizbooks

Roll Red Roll, Interview w/ Director Nancy Schwartzman

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About the Filmmaker:

Nancy Schwartzman, Director/Producer

Nancy Schwartzman is a director, producer, and tech founder who uses storytelling and technology to create safer communities for women and girls.  Her debut feature, Roll Red Roll, world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018, had its international premiere at Hot Docs, is the winner of seven feature documentary awards and played over 40 international festivals. ForRoll Red Roll, Nancy received the Adrienne Shelly Foundation’s Excellence in Filmmaking Award. The film was nominated for a Cinema Eye Spotlight Award, and is the winner of Best Documentary at the Florida Film Festival, Best in Show at Bend Film Festival, Best Documentary at Monmouth Film Festival, Best Social Impact Doc at Chagrin Falls Festival, and Visualizing History at Middlebury Film Festival. She is the creator of the Circle of 6 mobile app, winner of Vice President Biden’s “App Against Abuse” challenge, an anti-violence tool used by over 350,000 in 36 countries to link users safely to a trusted circle of friends to promote bystander intervention and vetted safety resources. The app has been recognized by the United Nations, Good Morning America, Wired, Cosmopolitan, NPR and more.         


Her first film, The Line, a short documentary examining consent was used by the White House for a campaign around sexuality, and her follow-up short, xoxosms, was on PBS/POV and BBC exploring love between two teenagers, bridged by technology.

Universal Hip Hop Museum

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Rocky Bucano, Executive Director

Rocky Bucano is Executive Director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum which is set to break ground in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx December 2019. As the museum’s Director he is responsible for overseeing all of the museum’s operating activities including strategic planning, collections management, government relations, exhibit design, event planning, cultural program development, fundraising and corporate partnerships.   

 

Rocky is a lifelong resident of the Northeast Bronx except for a short stint when he moved to Texas in 1979 as a first year college student accepting a position as an FCC licensed television engineer first for ABC affiliate KBMT in Beaumont Texas and then a year later as technical director for KRIV TV in Houston Texas. 

 

Rocky’s passion and desire to work in the music industry brought him back to New York in 1981 where he worked for WWOR TV as technical director for many of the network’s top rated programs including New York Mets Baseball, The Morton Downey Jr. Show, and Primetime 9 News. Rocky’s work behind the scenes was influential to the network’s success from being known as a local channel to becoming a national Super Station. 

 

In 1987, Rocky Bucano left his television career behind to launch StrongCity Records with Hip Hop icon DJ Jazzy Jay. In 1991, Rocky founded 3rd Rail Entertainment an independent marketing and artist development firm to provide sales and marketing support to major recording companies such as MCA, Virgin, Atlantic, Warner Bros and Sony. The success of 3rd Rail caught the attention of Grammy award winning producers LA Reid and Kenny “Baby Face” Edmund who hired him to manage Rowdy Records. Rocky became the company’s Executive Vice President and helped the company establish national roots with hits from artists Monica and Illegal. Monica would become the label’s first platinum selling artist and Illegal would achieve Billboard Music Award recognition for Best New Rap Artist in 1992.  In 1993, Rocky joined producer Teddy Riley’s New Jack Swing Production Company as Executive Vice President and General Manager. Rocky oversaw the company’s production work with artists such as Michael Jackson, Patti Labelle, BlackStreet, Bobby Brown, Today, Men of Vision and many others. In 1994 Rocky negotiated a multi-million-dollar deal with Interscope Records that would later garner another platinum album for the company with the group BlackStreet. 

 

IG: uhhmuseum

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Amber Rochelle

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Health & Wellness Influencer

 Amber Rochelle, known online as ‘nineteenpercent’, is a burgeoning, and accidental, Instagram Health and Wellness influencer who gained a following by sharing her dramatic fitness journey.
 

In January 2018 she began logging the day to day struggles and victories as she shed 180 pounds over that year. Often raw and transparent, she also shares her experiences with depression, anxiety, and Binge Eating Disorder in the hopes of combating the stigma surrounding mental illness.
 

Understanding that wellness is more than weight loss, her aim is to offer encouragement to women of all sizes in embracing their bodies, practicing self-compassion, and making small daily efforts to nurture their own wellbeing.
 

She is a Cleveland native who moved to Chicago in 2014 after completing her graduate studies. She practices full time as a Physician Assistant.
 

Her transformation has been featured in Women’s Health Magazine online.
 

Instagram: nineteenpercent
YouTube: nineteenpercent
Twitter: nineteenpercent
https://www.facebook.com/realnineteenpercent/ 

Jawan M. Jackson

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Broadway Actor- “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life & Times of the Temptations”

Born and raised in the heart of Motown, Jawan M. Jackson is a proud native of Detroit, Michigan. An actor, singer, radio personality and voiceover artist, Jawan made his professional debut in Broadway’s Record-Breaking Smash Hit: Motown the Musical. A theatre arts graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Jawan began his career as a radio personality for Detroit’s top radio station WGPR Hot 107.5 FM. Upon graduation, he successfully helped develop and execute a program for high school students with a passion for pursuing a career in the arts.


For the 2018/2019 Broadway season, Jawan is starring as Melvin Franklin in the Temptations bio-musical, “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations.” This hit show follows the Temptations’ journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The musical features the group’s hits, including “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Get Ready,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and more.  Jawan transforms into Melvin Franklin in a poignant and unforgettable performance.  

On television, Jawan has appeared on the 2013 Tony Awards, Netflix’s “The Get Down”, “Good Morning America”, “Live with Kelly and Michael”, July 4th PBS Special, Aretha Franklin’s Birthday Extravaganza & Ebony Magazine’s Hall-of-Fame Honoring Berry Gordy, to name a few. His film credits include “Sparkle” and “Love Thyself.” Jawan’s theatre credits also include “Motown the Musical,” “Bud, Not Buddy,” “The Role Model” and “The Transformation.”


Once approached by the late-great Whitney Houston, Jawan was given advice that he has carried throughout his career: “Put God first, stand on the foundation that was set for you and love everyone.”

Just as he did in Detroit, he is becoming involved with charities that expose young people to the beauty of the performing arts and theimportance of music education, such as Rosie’s Theater Kids and the PS22 Chorus, where he will continue to pay it forward. 


IG: jawanjackson4

Twitter" Jawanjackson4

Oliv Blu

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Singer & NBC-The Voice Contestant

  

Oliv Blu originates from Olympia Fields, IL which is a suburb south of Chicago. As part of the Freesole collective, she gained inspiration from her peers and found her voice in the process. She credits artists such as Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Nancy Wilson and Stevie Wonder as key components to her development as an artist. Inspired by genres such as Jazz, Neo-Soul and House music, Oliv Blu has combined her musical influences into a style of her own. As a singer-songwriter she relies on messages of self-love, confidence, and self-awareness to deliver an empowering, loving and fruitful sound. Being a contestant on season 16 of NBC’s The Voice has been one of her most meaningful accolades to date. Oliv is determined to not only provide music for your soul, but also has been proactive in educating others on natural hair and health consciousness. She strongly believes we give the love we receive, but it all starts with loving ourselves. Expect amazing contributions to our culture from Oliv Blu in the near future.


IG: olivblu

Twitter: OlivBlu

Victoria Rowell

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Actress, Producer, Director & Author

Victoria Rowell is an award-winning actress, international lecturer, N.Y. Times Best Selling Author and holds two doctorates. Rowell began her career as a ballet dancer and model before making her acting debut in the 1987 comedy film, Leonard Part 6. Then, in 1990, Rowell joined the cast of the CBS daytime soap opera, The Young and the Restless, as Drucilla Winters. This signature and long role on television earned her three Daytime Emmy Awards nominations and 11-time NAACP Image Awards. Additionally, Victoria is known for her role as Dr. Amanda Bentley in the CBS medical crime drama, Diagnosis Murder. Rowell has had a number of roles in critically acclaimed feature films.  She starred alongside Eddie Murphy in The Distinguished Gentleman, and had roles in films Dumb and Dumber, Barb Wire, Eve’s Bayou, etc.

Rowell created, executive produced, directed and co-wrote Emmy nominated and most watched Original drama series, The Rich and The Ruthless which is streaming on BET Networks. Recently, Rowell released the much anticipated drama, Jacqueline and Jilly, series that addresses the Opioid addiction crisis.


Her New York Times bestseller, “The Women Who Raised Me” was published by HarperCollins. Rowell has been recognized by hundreds of members of Congress for advocacy on behalf of education, arts, foster and adoptive youth, parent social workers and volunteers. She founded the Rowell Foster Children’s Positive plan which has lasted over twenty years raising awareness and funds for the arts with scholarships and college stipends. Rowell has two adult children.  Her production office, Days Ferry Productions LLC is located in Los Angeles, California.


IG: VictoriaRowell

Twitter: victoriarowell

www.therichandtheruthless.com

Kayla Hayes

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Founder of Rise Above

Born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina! At 17 years old, she fell one in three. That is what After a brutal assault, and now 20 years old, she is breaking her silence and speaking out about the abuse she endured at the hands of the one she loved. 

 
 

After becoming known as the girl that had her lip bit off and being the girl with the scar wrapping cheek to cheek - she knew she had to do something. She has created a Facebook page called Rise Above to make others aware of the signs of abuse and in hopes to prevent others from falling to a statistic like she did. Although, it is not about the fall it is about the rise! Kayla hopes to show people that they can wear their scars as wings and take these bad experiences to soar and help not only themselves but others! 

 

Ig: kaylahayes101

Facebook: Rise Above

Ananda Lewis, TV Host & Business Owner

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A combination of deep compassion, true intelligence, striking beauty and a vibrant personality has helped award winning television host Ananda Lewis garner a wealth of achievements.  Ananda (Sanskrit for "bliss”), attended Howard University where she continued her work as a youth activist.  At the Youth Leadership and Development Institute she was a trainer in personal power, leadership skills, parenting, nutrition, and conflict resolution for at-risk youth.  She graduated Cum Laude and eventually auditioned for Teen Summit on Black Entertainment Television network (BET) and landed her first job as an on air host.

Teen Summit’s episode entitled It Takes a Village earned an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Youth Series because of Ananda's interview of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Teen Summit was also nominated for a Cable Ace Award for its special on homeless teens, co-hosted by Ananda. As her popularity grew, MTV came knocking and one month later Ananda was launching the Time Square studios live, as its first African American woman VJ. Lewis's style was recognized for bringing live celebrity interviewing to a new level on two regularly aired MTV shows: Total Request Live (a daily Top 10 video-countdown show) and The Hot Zone. For almost five years she hosted a slew of specials, daily, seasonal and core shows for the network, becoming one of its most recognizable and favorite faces.  Lewis hosted other, topical programs, as well including two MTV forums on violence in schools, which aired after the massacre at Columbine High School. Her hosting work garnered another NAACP Image Award, for the network’s special True Life: I Am Driving While Black.


Ananda became a familiar presence at celebrity events in New York City and was dubbed an “It Girl”.  People Magazine included her in the pages of its The World's 50 Most Beautiful People edition.  Shortly after, the producers of The Oprah Winfrey Show, King World, tapped Ananda to host her own talk show.  The Ananda Lewis Show targeted women between the ages of 18 and 34 and addressed important issues such as domestic violence and breast cancer.  The talk show continues to run in syndication around the globe.  Ananda co-hosted CBS’ On the Red Carpet (the official Oscars pre-show), and was present in the audience of the new Kodak Theater for the historic occasion when both Halle Berry and Denzel Washington won Academy Awards. Next, Ananda became a correspondent for the nightly entertainment program The Insider and also added many other television as well as movie credits to her name.


In 2002, living her truth of dedicating herself to what is truly important to her, Ananda made a conscious decision to step away from the camera in order to dedicate herself to caring for her ailing grandmother during the final two years of her life. In 2008, she pursued her true passion for building and earned an AS in Carpentry, honing her skills in furniture artistry and construction.  She is currently the host of While You Were Out, the TLC hit from 2001 that is being re-booted. She also continues working on her non-profit Love Builds that helps single women, single moms and the elderly with home renovations and necessary improvements at no cost, and is currently in the planning stages for her passion project of building innovative housing villages for single moms and their children. Ananda’s first priority, and favorite job EVER, remains being a doting mother to her 7 year old son. 

Carmen Luna

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Mortgage Banker & Finance Professional

 Carmen Luna graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Science in business with a major in Accounting. She has been in the mortgage business for over 17 years. Carmen is an accomplished finance professional with experience and knowledge from processing, underwriting and training. She has had many roles in the mortgage industry that has given her the key skills in providing all her clients the very best options for their new home financing needs.
 

Over her years as a mortgage banker, Carmen has enjoyed helping her clients understand the loan process and assisting them in achieving the American Dream. Because of her extensive knowledge of the available programs, problem solving skills, and commitment to excellence, Carmen ensures her clients receive superior guidance as they pursue one of the most personal investments of their lifetime. She strives to provide a seamless loan process that is driven by customer service to each of her clients.
 

Carlos Torres

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Writer, Director & Filmmaker , Carlos Torres Films

  

Carlos Torres is no stranger to suspense. Which is why he loves writing and creating it so much. Born in the island of San Juan Puerto Rico and raised in Chicago, Carlos' love for writing and creating films came from the love of writing music and wanted to see if he had what it takes to tell his story visually on screen. Once he felt that he had what it took to write movies, he then went on created his independent film company "Carlos Torres Films"! There he's written and produced film titles such as, "Game of Redemption", "The Warrant" and "The Murder Report" to name a few. He's also gearing up to release season one of his first crime drama web series titled, "Meet Karma" which will be coming in the summer of 2019. Carlos is also in the process of working on new films to release later this year as well.


IG: torresthewriter

S. Lee Merritt, Esq

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Civil Rights Attorney

S. Lee Merritt, Esq., commonly known as “the people’s lawyer, is emerging as an influential

new voice in the fight for social justice. As a Civil Rights lawyer, Merritt

has represented several high-profile clients in issues of police brutality,

hate crimes and corporate discrimination. As an activist Merritt has

championed police and judicial reform while helping to create avenues

of self-empowerment for communities to begin to serve their own needs

and respond to crisis internally.


Merritt represents clients all over the country through his federal based

civil rights practice and holds licenses in the Commonwealth of

Pennsylvania, the State of New Jersey, federally in Eastern District of

Pennsylvania, the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, and

US District Court of the Northern District of Texas. 


Merritt is a Cum Laude graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended law school in

Philadelphia, PA at Temple University’s James Beasley School of Law where he received several

commendations for trial advocacy as part of the National Trial Team. He was also recognized for his

acumen in persuasive writing as an inductee to the Temple Inn of Courts.


He began his legal career as an associate of the Cochran Firm before going into private practice.

Attorney Merritt cases have gained international notoriety and include advocacy on behalf of the family

of Jordan Edwards, a fifteen-year-old murdered by police officer in a suburb of Dallas, TX, DeAndre

Harris, a teacher’s assistant targeted in a brutal assault by White supremacist in Charlottesville, VA and

Jacqueline Craig, a Fort Worth, Texas mother brutalized and arrested along with her daughters after

she called police for help when her son was attacked by her neighbor. Attorney Merritt enjoys a

reputation for dogmatic determination and ensuring a just outcome for his clients beyond mere

monetary compensation. He has led the way in reform in Texas, a state notorious for its failure to

prosecute police officer, advocating for the first officer indictments in the state in over 40 years.

Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, Merritt helped launch the American Black

Cross, a disaster relief organization geared to reach the most vulnerable and underserved communities

while providing direct relief to disaster victims with minimal overhead.


In 2017 Merritt was recognized by the African American Publication “The Root” as one of the top 10

most influential African Americans in the country ages 18 to 45. The National Black Caucasus of State

Legislators awarded Merritt the prestigious “Nation Builder” award adding him to an elite list of

recipients including President Barrack Obama, Shirley Chisholm and Vernon Jordan.

Merritt is also a spoken word artist, public speaker, mentor and proud father. His commitment to social

justice is born out of his own experiences and inner-city upbringing. Merritt is committed to the reform

of the justice system in America and is using his practice to effect lasting change for underserved and

underrepresented communities