Study: Women of color underrepresented in corporate America, but also more ambitious and entrepreneurial Black women are especially more likely to desire to start their own businesses

A new study, Women in the Workplace 2017, gets straight to the point: “Women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for thirty years and counting.” The gap stretches from entry-level to C-suite executive jobs. It’s more pronounced for women of color generally, and is particularly acute for black women, the study finds.

“Women of color are the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline. They experience the greatest challenges. Yet they receive the least support — and efforts to increase diversity are not adequately addressing the magnitude of the issues they face,” the study found. “Compared to white women, things are worse for women of color, and they are particularly difficult for black women.”

The third annual report was released Tuesday. A partnership between McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org, it surveyed human resources practices for 222 companies and 70,000 employees, detailing their experiences regarding gender, career and work-life issues.

Rachel Thomas, president of LeanIn.org, called this year’s numbers “sadly, a very similar story to what we’ve seen for the last three years,” with progress possibly stalling. The 2015 report said it would take 100 years to reach gender parity in the workforce. In 2017, “1 in 5 C-level executives are women and, really sadly, 1 in 30 are women of color,” Thomas said.

This year’s report detailed the ways gender and race/ethnicity intersect.“It’s double discrimination,” Thomas said. “And it’s why women of color are having a worse experience.”

Here’s part of that experience by the numbers: 31 percent of black women say their managers advocate for them for opportunity, compared with 34 percent of Latina women, 40 percent of Asian women and 41 percent of white women. Black women feel less likely to interact with senior leaders, get advice or get stretch assignments from managers, and only 29 percent of black women believe the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees. That number is 34 percent for Latina women and 40 percent of Asian and white women.

Despite these findings, the study says, women of color have higher ambitions to be top executives than white women. And black women are significantly more likely to want to skip the corporate dance altogether and start their own businesses.

It’s heartening that despite their difficulties, “women of color are more ambitious than white women on average, and that black women in particular, who are having a particularly challenging experience in the workplace, lean more entrepreneurial,” Thomas said.

Sherry Sims, a former human resources professional, corporate recruiter and founder of the national Black Career Women’s Network, a community of online mentoring and coaching, said the findings track with stories that black women have shared with her. One of the most common complaints “is the overlooking when it comes to promotions and how they have felt defeated or deflated after that has happened,” Sims said. “How they’ve hit a wall because they didn’t get the position.”

Sometimes these women want to know how to be better prepared the next time a position comes open. But sometimes, Sims said, they’re battling bias, unconscious or otherwise.

“That story typically is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she said. “I think that what happens with the entrepreneurship piece, some naturally have talents and skills to be that, and they desire that naturally, and then some use it as an opportunity to create the freedom they’re looking for in terms of being able to use their skill sets.”

Thomas said the companies surveyed get customized reports comparing their diversity efforts against others in their industries. “Because the real is that if you don’t fully see the problem and you don’t understand the problem, you can’t drive change.”

Sims said black women need to mentor each other and find people, sometimes outside of their managers, willing and able to groom them. And they have to recognize that sometimes, “all that preparation and being strategic doesn’t pay off. Navigating the workplace culture is more complex than people think,” and the specific ways that race and gender can play out, often “makes it a tough culture to crack.”

 100 Black Men of Atlanta welcomes students back to school Organization has been mentoring boys at B.E.S.T. Academy for 30 years

The first day of school took on new meaning at one Atlanta school, thanks to the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Emerging 100 of Atlanta, The Collegiate 100 and leadership from 100 Black Men of America.

Members from across the organizations surprised students of the B.E.S.T. (Business, Engineering, Science and Technology) Academy by showing up on the school’s campus and dishing out handshakes, high-fives and encouraging words as the students entered their new facility.

“100 has been mentoring kids at this school for over 30 years,” said Curley Dossman, chairman of the 100 Black Men of America. “We are delighted to be able to be here and support these young men as they kind of get themselves back together in school.”

B.E.S.T. Academy educates boys from sixth through 12th grades. The welcome was an annual tradition for the men of the organization to carry out their motto, “What They See Is Who They’ll Be.”

According to the organization’s press release, The 100 Black Men of Atlanta and Emerging 100’s year-round mentorship and leadership program at The B.E.S.T. Academy includes one-on-one conversations, large- and small-group work sessions, and panel discussions with community stakeholders.

With help from the mentorship program, suspension rates at B.E.S.T. have declined by 30 percent and in-school suspensions by 36 percent.

Derrick Rose donates $7K to man walking from Chicago to D.C. to raise awareness of gun violence The Cavs guard showed his support on Demetrius Nash’s GoFundMe page

Chicago native Derrick Rose, who recently signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, stepped up when he heard that Chicago resident Demetrius “DNash” Nash had set out Aug. 4 to walk from Chicago to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about the epidemic of gun violence in his city.

Rose donated $7,000 to help Nash and left a heartfelt message on his GoFundMe campaign page.

“We’re proud of all the great work you’re doing to save the youth of Chicago and providing a framework for at-risk youth for sustainability by providing training for a trade and mentoring via positive & successful mentors. God bless you with safe travels on your journey. From Derrick Rose & the Blackman-Reese Family.”

Nash’s goal is to get support for programs that will help youths find alternatives to street life. Nash founded Replace Guns With Hammers, which aims to provide training and mentors to those in at-risk situations. His fundraising goal for the walk is $50,000.

“It’s 672 miles from Chicago to the White House,” Nash wrote on his campaign page. “Walking will take 223 hours. Walking 10 hours a day will approximately take 22.3 days, at roughly about 10-12 hours a day.”

Nash was incarcerated for drug trafficking when he was 26.

“I’m very serious about giving back to my community and using my own life as a testimony,” Nash wrote. “I was incarcerated for eight years and recently completed four years of successful probation. Thank God! That’s right 12 years of bondage!!! I was inspired by a book written by Nelson Mandela, A Long Walk to Freedom, in which he writes about his 27 years of imprisonment.”

Rose, formerly with the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, has paid for funerals of victims of gun violence and has donated $1 million to After School Matters, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization devoted to providing out-of-school programs for teenagers.

Including Rose’s donation, Nash has raised more than $23,000 for his efforts.

Tiffany Haddish steals all her scenes in ‘Girls Trip’ She’s gone from homeless in South Central to movie star — and there’s a comedy special and new TV show on the way

Here’s the thing: Tiffany Haddish has been here. For a while. “In every character I play,” she says, “I try to infuse a little bit of myself. I always try to find the places where I can put Tiffany in it.”

It works. Haddish “made it” a bit ago when she was knighted by Arsenio Hall on the short-lived reboot of his talk show four years ago. It was a huge moment for a woman from South Central Los Angeles to do her stand-up thing for a studio audience — and before a man who co-starred in 1988’s acclaimed blockbuster Coming to America.

Today, she’s the breakout star of the successful Girls Trip — and stands out on a screen filled with marquee names like Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah. The film also stars Regina Hall, who first came of notice in 1999’s The Best Man. In addition to finishing second behind Christopher Nolan’s lauded Dunkirk in the weekend box office numbers, Girls Trip, produced by Will Packer and directed by Malcolm Lee, also arrived with a number of favorable reviews. And, almost unanimously, critics marveled at the introduction of Haddish.

The movie features four 40-something black women as sexual, funny beings enveloped in a sometimes complicated friendship. “This role,” she says, “I’d say it’s 85 percent me and 15 percent some stuff I would never do personally!”

And if you want to toast her now because you’ve just now noticed how hilarious she is, go for it. She’ll take it. During her struggle years, she sometimes lived out of her car, wondering whether she could ever escape a scary childhood that included, at the age of 9, being a mother to her own mother. At 12, Haddish became a foster child and was separated from her siblings. At 15, at the insistence of a social worker, she enrolled in the Laugh Factory’s Comedy Camp for at-risk kids and found a mentor in Richard Pryor, who gave her some advice: People don’t want to hear about the woes of her life. They want to laugh and have fun, so have fun.

“This role … I’d say it’s 85 percent me and 15 percent some stuff I would never do personally!”

She’s having the time of her life and, at 37, is ready for it. “I’m so grateful that I’m at this level of my career now at this age. I can appreciate everything. My maturity level is way better. My comprehension level … is better,” Haddish said. “Had I achieved this at 24, it probably would have been all bad. I might not have been able to handle it all very well emotionally or mentally. I feel like everything is given to you when you can deal with it best.”

There’s a great deal more coming. Later this summer is the premiere of her Showtime comedy special, Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From The Hood to Hollywood! (Aug. 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT). This fall, she co-stars with Tracy Morgan in a new TBS show called The Last O.G. “My slogan is ‘She ready,’ ” says Haddish. “I feel like God and the universe only puts on me what I’m ready for.”

And she’s been putting in the work. Since the beginning of NBC’s The Carmichael Show, she appeared as Nekeisha, the wisecracking ex of LilRel Howery’s Bobby Carmichael. She also voiced a character in Comedy Central’s animated Legends of Chamberlain Heights and played an around-the-way-girl love interest in Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s 2016 Keanu. She’s also appeared in Tyler Perry’s OWN soap opera, If Loving You Is Wrong, and in Kevin Hart and BET’s Real Husbands of Hollywood. “I always perform like I have nothing to lose,” Haddish says. “I don’t know if I’m going to make it to tomorrow. I try to enjoy every moment and give 110 percent of me, every single time.”

And in the comedy community, it’s been all love. “I talk to Jada [and her other castmates] all the time,” she says. And she often references the role Kevin Hart has played in her journey. She met him years ago during one of her rougher moments, and he helped her develop goals and inspired her to have the confidence to execute them.

“Comedy saved my life,” she says. “If I wasn’t in a comedy camp as a teenager, I probably would be a baby mama. Doing customer service. Hating life. Cussing out men. An angry person.

“But luckily I got to be in that camp, and there were [people] there that gave me confidence and communication skills. That was all I needed to start making that push in that direction.”

“Comedy saved my life. If I wasn’t in a comedy camp as a teenager, I probably would be a baby mama. Doing customer service. Hating life. Cussing out men. An angry person.”

Here, perhaps, is Haddish’s real gift: a refreshing candor. She openly talks about her life as a homeless woman, her mother’s schizophrenia and how she herself regularly sees a psychiatrist. She’s all about mental wellness.

“I remember being that kid … in a youth mentoring group, and adults would come in and talk about their experiences,” she says. “That … gave me fuel. If I share my story, who knows who can relate to it? If she can do it, I can do it. God gave me this life, and it’s not for me to be greedy or stingy. Maybe it’ll help somebody navigate through their experience.”

Isiah Warner’s inspirational teaching at LSU never stops pushing STEM careers The 2016 SEC Professor of the Year holds the highest professorial rank in the LSU system

Louisiana State University (LSU) professor Isiah Warner laughed as he recounted the many hats he’s worn throughout his 25 years at the school. Warner serves as vice president for strategic initiatives, Boyd Professor (the highest professorial rank in the LSU system) and Philip W. West Professor of analytical and environmental chemistry and as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor who works to develop, apply and solve fundamental problems through research.

Although Warner battles a murderous schedule, the professor has no plans to slow down. The goal? Helping as many students as he can achieve their goals in a field that chose him long ago. Warner’s dedication to students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has earned him many accolades throughout his career and most recently allowed him to add SEC Professor of the Year to his résumé in 2016 — which is quite the ironic turn for a man who nearly walked away from his calling before his career even began.


Born in Bunkie, Louisiana, a small, one-exit town with a population of less than 5,000, Warner was an audacious child who was eager to learn how the world around him worked. Though he can’t pinpoint when his love for science evolved, Warner does recall a time when his earliest science experiment gave his parents a scare and landed him in the hospital.

“There was just something about science that I always loved,” Warner said. “When I was 2 years old, my parents would use a kerosene lamp to light up the room, and I was curious about this liquid that would light up the room. So I creeped into the cabinet when they forgot to lock it one day and drank some kerosene and ended up in the hospital. I tell everyone that was my first chemistry experiment. But I craved chemistry, and they bought me a chemistry set when I was 11 or 12 years old.”

As Warner grew, so did his passion for science. After graduating from high school, Warner headed to Southern University without any real direction.

“I certainly didn’t have any role models,” Warner said. “In fact, when I went to Southern University to major in chemistry, I was kind of discouraged and I went in to talk to the chair. He said, ‘Mr. Warner, you’ll have a Ph.D. before you’re 30.’ And I said, ‘What’s a Ph.D.?’ I had no idea what that was. You can’t aspire for something if you don’t know what it is. But I knew that I loved science, I loved math, and it was just something inside of me that loved these things.”

Despite having to figure out college on the fly, Warner earned his chemistry degree before working as a technician for a prime contractor with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Over his five years on the job, Warner began to question whether he had entered the right field.

“I hated my job so much so that I thought I was not meant to be a chemist, that I’d obviously picked the wrong field, that I was wrong about my love for chemistry,” Warner said. “In the industry I encountered lots of bias, and that was difficult for me. I wasn’t as confident as I am now, so it was difficult for me to accept. And that was part of the rationale about me thinking that I wasn’t suited for being a chemist, because I wasn’t treated very well. But my wife worked for a psychiatrist, and I went to them and asked them to run an aptitude test on me to see what it is I loved. He ran the test, and it said I was best suited to be a chemist.”

The psychiatrist suggested what would be a simple fix: an advanced degree. Warner took his advice and went on to get his doctorate in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington. There, Warner also discovered how much he enjoyed working with students and others around him.

“I love students, and I spend a lot of time with students,” Warner said. “It is an active way for me to work with students and do things with them outside of the research realm, so I’ve created educational programs and written grants to support students and all of those sorts of things I do through this office.”

His time at LSU has made a notable difference to students, faculty and staff alike. Before his arrival in 1992, according to Warner, there had never been more than three African-Americans in the chemistry graduate program at one time, with only six African-Americans earning doctorates. Since then, the number has increased to more than 80 African-Americans entering the graduate program over the past 10 years and around 30 working toward doctorates in chemistry.

Although the increase in African-American students does coincide with Warner’s arrival, the professor refuses to take full credit for the rising number of students joining the science program.

“Those students don’t just work for me, so it has to work where the entire department is interested in these students and not just me,” Warner said. “I have some good people around me, supporting me, and that helps a lot.”

His devotion to his career, nurturing spirit and investment in the growth and mentorship of students were noted during his nomination for SEC Professor of the Year in April. The award is presented annually to one SEC faculty member whose work ethic, teaching and research have gone above and beyond the call of duty. The honoree is selected by the SEC provosts from among the 14 SEC Faculty Achievement Award recipients.

After the announcement was made, Warner became a hometown hero in Bunkie. On May 17, the mayor declared it Isiah Warner Day, and city officials, residents and old friends gathered at a celebratory reception in Warner’s honor.

“I had never received those types of accolades from my hometown before,” Warner said. “Everyone was there. I brought in about 20 of my students to interact with any students who were there. Students got to see where I was born and raised.”

Although the year has been filled with exciting moments for Warner, the professor knows his work is far from over. Besides his jobs at LSU, Warner also plans to give back to the community and help spark an interest in STEM-related studies in young children. On July 10, Warner will be back in Bunkie helping to host a daylong science event in which 50 students from Avoyelles Parish will experiment with different projects for a hands-on learning experience.

Warner vows to continue to help students in any way he can, but he also encourages them to find others around them who may be suited to guide them throughout their destined career paths.

“Students need to find mentors and find a niche,” Warner said. “I spend a lot of time mentoring young people because there were people there along the way for me who pointed the way for me, and I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for people who pointed the way for me. I try to be there for other people.”

La La Anthony wants everyone to know she’s still standing The truth about the mom, actor, author and fashionista’s professional — and personal — star power

La La Anthony breezes into the atrium of Washington, D.C.’s, Mandarin Oriental hotel in curve-accenting fitness gear, fresh from a studio cycle workout. With her hair pulled back in a smart ponytail, scarf tied around her head, sunglasses covering her eyes and not a stitch of makeup on, she’s easily the most beautiful — and the most composed — woman in the space.

Take a deep breath.

And exhale.

Because La La is back. And she’s standing — perhaps — in the best professional place she’s ever been. In the midst of one of the most challenging personal moments of her life, good things are happening for her creatively. The kinds of things for which La La Anthony has spent years laying down a foundation, and things for which she has been fighting.

“I love acting,” she says between sips of an iced tea. “It’s my passion. I’m aligning myself with some great people … and [I’m] continuing to work on my craft and to audition … showing people that not only is it something I’m doing, it’s something I’m good at. It excites me that it feels like it’s just getting started.”

FYI, from here on, this story contains mild spoilers from Starz’s upcoming season four premiere. But we continue:

Anthony has a number of projects on deck. She just wrapped Furlough with Tessa Thompson and Oscar winners Whoopi Goldberg and Melissa Leo. She shot Double Play with Ernest Dickerson, who, among other things, directed Tupac Shakur in the 1992 classic Juice. And Queen Latifah and Anthony have plans to turn her No. 1 New York Times best-seller, 2014’s The Love Playbook, into a film. Lastly, the season four premiere of Starz’s much-watched Power lands June 25, and LaKeisha Grant, as portrayed by Anthony, went missing last season. As many have smartly guessed, she’s back.

La La Anthony (as LaKeisha Graham), Naturi Naughton (as Tasha St. Patrick)

Courtesy of Starz

That all of this is happening for her as her marriage to star New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is in turmoil is unfortunate, but what Anthony wants everyone to know is, she’s still standing. “It’s a different space for me right now, but a great moment for me, and a powerful one at that. I’m still here. I’m still successful. I’ve been thrown a bad hand at different times in my life, and I’ve never let that stop me from … persevering. And if that’s what I can lend to another woman, then I feel like that’s the success,” she said. “I’ve found the power in that.”

“It’s a different space for me right now, but a great moment for me, and a powerful one, at that. I’m still here. I’m still successful.”

Page Six reports that Anthony recently contacted famed divorce attorney Laura Wasser, who has represented Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. But there’s been no word on when — or if — such action will happen between the two, whose love story and nuptials were documented by VH1 in 2010 for the docuseries La La’s Full Court Wedding. High-profile guests such as LeBron James, Ludacris and Serena Williams were in attendance. A spinoff series, La La’s Full Court Life, premiered in 2011 and concluded in 2014. What is known is that the couple have separated — she moved out of their New York apartment on The High Line and now resides in Tribeca.

She also still resides on Power. In the first five minutes of the new season, which last year was the second-highest-rated series on premium pay television, Anthony’s character is revealed from behind a bedroom curtain. She slides it over, showing the world that Keisha, the Keisha who just about everyone had written off, the best friend of Naturi Naughton’s Tasha, is alive and quite well — for now.

So is the actual La La Anthony.

“I learned from Keisha to be careful what you wish for,” said Anthony, “because you just might get it. She wanted the life so bad, and now she’s getting pieces of [it] and realizing, ‘Oh s—, this isn’t what I thought it was!’ But now you’re in so deep, you can’t really get out. Or if you get out, there’s going to be repercussions.”

Anthony says that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. “We’re always looking at her saying, I want that. Why can’t I have that? But you don’t know the prices [those things] come with. You don’t know the struggles that [people are] going home with every day just because on the ’Gram it looks good. People are going home, feeling depressed, popping pills, doing all kinds of s—. You don’t know! So my thing is being satisfied with what you have, because what you have is meant for you. That’s what I’ve been learning in life, and that’s what I’m learning from my character.”

In May at the celebrity-filled Met Gala, a black-tie extravaganza that raises funds for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, Anthony shut the entire place down. Wearing a Thai Nguyen Atelier gown with a high neck and Lorraine Schwartz jewels, Anthony stepped out solo and stunted on everyone.

Everyone.

Instagram Photo

She captioned her Instagram photo with one word: Unbreakable. “The Met Gala was a moment for me. I didn’t expect it to be all that big of a moment, but it was such an amazing feeling, just being there,” she said. “I went alone this year … and to have such love, and such great feedback … I loved it.”


Alani Nicole Vazquez was born in Brooklyn, New York, almost 38 years ago. She started out as a popular radio DJ, and in 2001 she became one of MTV’s go-to veejays as co-host of two of their most popular shows: Direct Effect and Total Request Live. That same year she had her first film cameo, in Two Can Play That Game, which starred Vivica A. Fox and Morris Chestnut. She also portrayed herself in a 2003 episode of HBO’s Sex and the City. Eventually, she dove headfirst into an acting career, determined to make Hollywood see her as more than a dope interviewer.

She met Carmelo Anthony through their mutual friend, DJ Clue, and the NBA star proposed on Christmas in 2004. Married in 2010 after being in a relationship for seven years, their son, Kiyan, is 10 years old.

Outside looking in, she has a charmed life. Anthony’s friendship circle is mighty, and filled with powerful women: Ciara, Kelly Rowland, Kim Kardashian West and tennis superstar Williams are all close friends. But the truth is, many people count Anthony as a close and trusted go-to friend.

“The Met Gala was a moment for me. I went alone this year … and to have such love and such great feedback … I loved it.”

“I had a friend yesterday, we kind of had a back-and-forth. I was like, ‘I just want you to know that I really appreciate you doing this for me.’ And they’re like, ‘Of course I’m going to do it for you!’ ”

Anthony says she has a need to make sure people understand that she doesn’t expect anything. “I’m so appreciative of anything that He does for me,” she says of her relationship with God. “My mom grew up in [Brooklyn’s] Marcy Projects — this life? The Mandarin, Oriental? This is not supposed to be my life, and for this to be what it is? I never lose sight of that, no matter how long I’ve been in business, no matter how successful I’ve been, no matter how much money I’ve made. I never lose sight of that, because this wasn’t the plan. And because of that, I’m so grateful for anything in my life that I work really hard for.”

On her birthday this year, June 25, Power premieres. The coincidence isn’t lost on her that on the date she was born her career enters a new phase. She now is a principal character on the series, and this season LaKeisha’s arc is essential to the story. This is the first time Anthony has been a principal member of any cast. She’s an actor, not a vanity thrill-seeker who wants to do side projects when simply being famous isn’t enough. This is who she really is. It’s who she’s aspired to be for so long. And finally, she says, people are getting it.

Anthony is also invested in producing great work. She co-produced 2015’s Eclipsed, an all-black, all-female play that was penned by actress and playwright Danai Gurira and ran off-Broadway at New York City’s Public Theater. It featured Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and was that theater’s fastest-selling new production in recent history. It later moved to Broadway at the John Golden Theatre in 2016.

Anthony also has an overall deal with iTV, one of the largest production companies in the U.S., and she’s gearing up to produce a bunch of nonscripted television, including a show on VH1 she’s doing with music producer Timbaland called Goal Diggers, which centers on women becoming entrepreneurs. “The purpose of a show like that is female empowerment,” she says between nibbles of eggs, avocado and turkey bacon. “You can start somewhere and become something else. You can be an Instagram model who seems [a certain] way, and now you’ve got a business. It goes back to … not putting people in boxes. If I’d continued to be put in a box, I’d still be La La from MTV, or La La who’s on the radio with Ludacris. And that would still be who I am, but I broke out of that. I can do other things.”

And one of those things is to inspire other women — that’s important to her. In spite of everything. Perhaps because of everything.

“We have to learn how to focus on putting us first. In my life, I spent so much time putting everyone else before me that I didn’t realize how much I was lacking in things that I needed for myself. And when you have a child, that is a very hard thing to do, because my son is my world. When you’re in relationships or marriage, it’s hard to do,” she says. “I’m learning to put my needs first. Because if I’m great, then I can be great for everyone else in my life. That’s a hard thing to do. When you’re a nurturer, you’re always worried about taking care of everyone else. ‘I don’t care about how I’m doing. I want to make sure you’re OK. Are you OK? Do you need anything?’ It’s something I want women to continue to work on, to learn.”

And don’t think the tweets and Instagram comments are being missed by her. She sees them, and the supportive ones warm her heart. “I feel the love in a time when I do need it, and that’s appreciated,” says Anthony. “ It doesn’t go unnoticed. It keeps me going, through tough times. It means a lot to me.”

Rodney Walker went from foster care to Yale Author reveals his inspirational journey of trauma and grace

The hard-knock life for author, entrepreneur and inspirational speaker Rodney Walker started when he was 5 years old. He spent the next 12 years in Chicago’s foster care system, until he ran away and ended up homeless for several months.

For much of that time, he was failing in school. But he says education saved his life. He attributes the turnaround to two teachers he met along the way.

Walker, now 27, holds degrees from Morehouse College and Yale University and speaks at schools, corporations and conferences about the importance of education, entrepreneurship, mentoring and philanthropy for nonprofit organizations supporting at-risk youth. His 2016 book, A New Day One, is his story on trauma, grace and his journey from foster care to Yale. Walker told his story to The Undefeated’s Kelley Evans.


Education saved my life

I graduated from Morehouse in 2012. I graduated from Yale Divinity School in 2014 with a master’s degree in ethics.

As a result of leaving the foster care system, I lost benefits of independent living. I lost benefits to get college scholarships through the foster care system. I lost all those privileges because of my actions.

When I moved back in with my parents, thinking it was going to be kind of a fairy-tale situation, I realized that my parents were deeply struggling with drug abuse, substance abuse, to the point where they would steal money from me and they would wake me up out my sleep and ask me all these things, and I couldn’t concentrate or focus on school. So I literally had to leave my parents’ house and just basically couch surf at friends’ places, and ended up at a homeless shelter for about three months of my life.

The turning point that transformed my life was when I was in detention. I was in detention like probably once or twice every week. We had a new dean in our high school [ACE Technical Charter High School in Chicago], Michael McGrone Sr., and he was the person that literally focused on the social-emotional aspect of my life experience.

We focused on homework, we focused on studying, we focused on just getting our life together, our academics together, so we can figure it out. But in that detention, he focused on none of that. His main objective was to focus on the social aspect, the post-traumatic stress disorder. He believed that by taking the time and energy to do that we would perform at our greatest. He wanted to hear nothing about excuses and about how I came from homelessness and foster care and things like that. He wanted to focus on how this affected me on an emotional level and on a social level.

He believed that by getting me to that breaking point to forgive and let that stuff go, then I would actually focus on myself and my lifelong learning so it would transform my life. The sacrifice that he made to really put that time and attention into me and these other kids in detention, it came at an incredible price. And most people don’t understand that, and that’s why I hate using the word ‘mentorship’ because it’s so watered down, because mentorship sounds like profession. He sacrificed in his marriage; I mean, he got divorced about a year after the program was over. … He had a wife and two children at the time at home that he, literally, not neglected intentionally but neglected by default because he was so passionate about his work.

The second person before that was a math teacher, Melanie Vaughn. And she took on the mother role that my mother couldn’t be for me because my mother was a struggling drug addict. … My math teacher was the first teacher that ever really gave me the time and attention and the energy and the support that I needed outside of school. So she was my math teacher from 9 to 10:30, whenever my class period was, but after school we would sit in our classroom, we would just talk about things I really wish I would have talked about with my own mother. She was my advisory teacher as well as my math teacher, so I had her at 14 until I graduated high school.

I think what’s overlooked so much is that when people succeed, they always look at the work that they’ve put in without looking on the back end, about the people who put in that honest investment to them, who gave them that love and that time and that energy and that support to get to where they are. I never really emphasize the hard work because hard work is just … I could be working towards anything, but somebody somewhere, and I always remind myself of this, somebody somewhere changed my mind to do what I do today. And when I look back and think back, I think about those people.

The struggle was real

I was struggling all through grade school. I was diagnosed with mild autism in the first grade. And thankfully my mother didn’t allow me to take psychotropic drugs because she didn’t believe in that, so I didn’t. But all throughout my grade school I struggled with reading. … When I was a freshman I had made a 1.3 GPA, then in my sophomore year I had made a 1.6. And that was half the result of just not being able to master the high school material, but the other half of it was because of social-emotional trauma. It was really because I was distracted, because I was coming to school every day, I was walking like a mile and a half to school because I didn’t have bus fare to get to the school from home, despite the fact that I had a foster parent making money from foster care who didn’t invest in transportation for me to get to school.

But the fact also that I went some 10, 11 years without my parents, without my eight brothers and sisters, and I was really sort of devastated by that. And every day when I went to school I was so distracted I didn’t care about the work. So my fail grades were the result of both of those things, not being prepared and not actually caring enough to do the work because I had so many other distractions. My junior year I had a 2.4, so it was the first time in a long time I actually had made over a 2.0 GPA. … And then in my senior year when I met my dean, who did a lot of that social-emotional counseling and trauma recovery kind of work with me, that’s when I was able to literally steel myself, let all that stuff go, let the baggage go, really focus on my learning.

Getting into Morehouse

I earned a couple of scholarships to college, but Morehouse at that time was about a $40,000-a-year institution. I got about $10,000 in scholarship money, and the rest of it I had to get a loan. So I took out a huge loan in my first year. Also, the problem was that I came into Morehouse on academic probation because my grades were so low that I wasn’t eligible for regular admission.

That first year I would say was my hardest year of any academic semester I’ve ever had in school because I came in on a huge learning curve. At that time I don’t know what reading level I was reading at, but I couldn’t master the college material, so I had to take all remedial classes that first semester. And every week I would get calls from my teacher and my dean. They would call me every week, see how I was doing. One time my dean took a trip down to Atlanta to check on me and things like that, and whenever I needed help and support they would call me and make sure I was in the library, or make sure I was with a tutor, and kind of getting myself back together.

Road to Yale

I wasn’t even sure if I would get into Yale. … I kind of put myself out there to take the risk and to just believe that I can do something I wasn’t sure I can do. So that really came as a result of that mentorship piece. Just that breakthrough moment and instilling in me that I can be my best self and I don’t have to live as a byproduct of my post-traumatic stress. I can actually live and triumph in spite of that, and I think that’s really what his biggest goal was in trying to help me through my circumstances.

Chicago then and now

I have a love-hate relationship with Chicago. Actually, I did return back to Chicago to partner with the former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on a jobs program for at-risk youth in the city. I’ve been here in Chicago for several months now.

… I love the city for what it can do. Like, what it has the potential to do for young people. But the problems that we have, there is literally a deep sense of hopelessness. … The social and the political climate of this city has taken a toll on the black community in a way that I think most people can’t articulate.

I work in public schools every single day, and I see the toll that it takes when teachers don’t have the materials that they need and when the infrastructure and buildings are being broken down, when kids are not coming to school because of truancy and they’re getting locked up for being truant to class. And child abuse cases are happening at our schools everywhere as a result of single parents who are going through that post-traumatic stress disorder that is unmet, unneeded, because they don’t have the money or the resources to do it, and the kids are literally walking from school back to home, where they’re dealing with all these social systemic elements, for poverty, gang element, drugs, that literally the city refuses to address. But instead they reinvest in our neighborhoods in a way that is counterproductive to hopes and the restoration that young people in these communities need.

Instead, they’ll build facilities that literally can entertain an international market when there’s a huge deficit at home in these neighborhoods that is going unmet and unaddressed. So really I love Chicago with a passion, but I understand that those who are less fortunate are not having their needs met in a very severe way.

Family life

I have eight siblings. I am the fourth youngest; I have a younger brother and two younger sisters.

… My parents were together, and literally their life was kind of just all over the place. I think the main thing that made their life so dysfunctional was obviously their substance abuse and addiction. When we were born, my parents were just making the shift from public housing and they got a place on the West Side of Chicago, which is where I was born. And then they moved from the West Side to the South Side, and they were still dealing with this drug addiction, drug abuse and addiction. And at 5 years old, my father was incarcerated for selling drugs in Chicago, and then that really spiraled into me and my siblings going into foster care at that age. My parents fought in court, but my mother was so emotionally torn that she couldn’t get to the court proceedings, she couldn’t get through the parental classes and the substance abuse classes.

That early half of my experience in foster care was actually with siblings, with relatives of my parents. A combination of their social-emotional trauma, my father’s a byproduct of the Vietnam war, so he was never able to get over his heroin addiction and his post-traumatic stress disorder.

My book – A New Day One

I really wanted to write the book for a couple of reasons. The first reason is because I have been telling my story to young people in schools as early as my sophomore year at Morehouse College. And every time I told my story, people would come up to me and say, “My God, that was really great what you said, I wonder if you have a book.” So that’s really what encouraged me to write the book, because I had been journaling before that, but I’d never had a book. And then I met a publisher a few years later after that, worked with me to write the book.

Jimmy Butler receives NBA Cares Community Assist Award for April The Chicago Bulls star is also in the running for the season-long award

As Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler and his team look to force a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, fans are congratulating him for receiving April’s NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser Permanente and the NBA will donate $10,000 on Butler’s behalf to Youth Guidance.

Fans can cast their vote for Butler or nine other players for the season-long award through May 5 via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #NBACommunityAssist and #PlayerFirstNameLastName (e.g., #JimmyButler). An NBA committee of judges will join fans in selecting the winner.

The 10 nominees include monthly winners Butler, Tobias Harris, Jrue Holiday, C.J. McCollum, Elfrid Payton, Zach Randolph and Isaiah Thomas, and three additional players nominated for their exceptional community work: DeMarre Carroll, Mike Conley and Dwyane Wade. The season-long winner will be announced at the inaugural NBA Awards, which will be televised live by TNT on June 26 in New York. The NBA and Kaiser Permanente will donate $25,000 to the winner’s charity of choice.

The NBA Cares Community Assist Award honors the standard set by NBA legend David Robinson. The award recognizes an NBA player each month who best reflects the passion that the league and its players share for giving back to their communities. The April award that Butler received was the final regular Community Assist Award of the 2016-17 season. Butler was recognized for his efforts to empower and uplift at-risk youth throughout Chicago.

According to a release, “Kaiser Permanente and the NBA are honoring Butler for making the one-on-one support and mentorship of Chicago’s youth a top priority. Working with one of the Bulls’ longtime community partners, Youth Guidance (local mentoring organization), Butler recently participated in its Becoming a Man (BAM) conversation circle at Kelvyn Park High School, where he discussed ways to improve the city with students. During two Bulls basketball tournaments with Youth Guidance and the Chicago Police Department, where officers and students played side-by-side, Butler and his teammates led conversation circles about trust, integrity and issues facing their community. Expanding his community outreach this year, Butler also provides regular dinners to homeless men and women at Pacific Garden Mission, doing so almost every month of the 2016-17 season.”

“Spending time with these kids is as impactful for me as it is for them,” Butler said. “Hearing their stories and learning about what they go through motivates me to do even more for Chicago. Their desire to change the world is inspiring, and I’m proud to help them achieve any way I can.”

Youth Guidance serves more than 8,000 students in Chicago’s schools. Pacific Garden Mission meets physical, emotional and spiritual needs of homeless and hurting men, women and children through transformational counseling programs, food and clothing from donations, shelter and prayer. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. It is recognized as one of America’s leading providers of health care and not-for-profit health plans.

  • More information about the nominees:
  • Wade – for his many efforts to create peace in Chicago through his Spotlight On initiative.
  • Butler – for making the one-on-one support and mentorship of Chicago’s youth a top priority with the help of community partners in Chicago such as Youth Guidance.
  • Thomas – for his numerous efforts to give back to youths living in cities he calls home, including service to our military members and by participating in the MENTOR In Real Life campaign.
  • Harris – for his widespread efforts to positively affect the lives and health of youth through active mentorship, and to strengthen bonds between law enforcement and communities.
  • McCollum – for his work to encourage youth in their education and career development, with a particular focus on improving literacy.
  • Randolph – for his generosity and commitment to aiding kids and families in need throughout Memphis, particularly around MLK Day and the holiday season.

This survivor overcame domestic violence and sex trafficking and is helping others do the same Author Toshia Shaw inspires at-risk girls to find a meaningful life’s purpose through Purple W.I.N.G.S.

Sex trafficking continues to plague communities worldwide. The underground organized crime epidemic claims the innocence of young girls and boys every year. One survivor made a pact with God that if she were able to reclaim her life, she’d help others do the same.

Meet author, writer and motivational speaker Toshia Shaw.

She is a survivor who uses a hands-on approach to help women deal with traumatic events. She also advocates for women and girls through her Las Vegas nonprofit organization, Purple W.I.N.G.S. (Women Inspiring Noble Girls Successfully), which she launched in 2010.

“I give a voice to the voiceless because there are women who weren’t able to survive what I survived,” Shaw said. “They’re unable to tell their stories.”

According to the International Labour Organization, 20.9 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking and forced labor. Twenty-two percent of individuals are forcibly exploited for sex, 68 percent for private labor and 10 percent for state-imposed work, state military or rebel armed forces.

The 43-year-old activist identified a need and has worked tirelessly by lending a helping hand to her community. She believes she speaks for those who have died because of the trauma, the women who are incarcerated and those who have developed mental illness as a result.

Purple W.I.N.G.S. helps at-risk girls through mentoring and leadership development. The program mainly works with girls and teens of color who are living in poverty. According to its website, the organization’s victim services Angel program is deeply committed to mentoring women and girls who have been identified as victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse, human trafficking, domestic violence and stalking. Through this program, victims receive intense case management for at least one year. Girls participate in weekly two-hour supportive conversation circles, goal-setting programs, peer and adult one-on-one mentoring, and a variety of community-based activities.

Shaw herself is a victim of sex trafficking, but it doesn’t define her as the woman she is today.

“Having survived trauma myself, I made a promise to God that if I survive, then I will help other people,” Shaw said. “I believe that we’re placed on Earth to help someone else. I don’t believe that we’re here just to be selfish, to get all we can and forget our fellow man.”

At age 26, Shaw had two failed marriages, was a single mother and survived domestic violence. She was living in Memphis, Tennessee, with hopes and dreams of starting a new life for her and her son. The worst trauma in her life began one night when she met two men outside a nightclub.

“The driver urged me to skip the club and meet them for breakfast at a nearby restaurant,” she recounted. “Against better judgment, I agreed, and I jumped in my car and followed them.

“Once there, the conversation flowed. I told the driver, who I thought I had a connection with, all about how I had just arrived in Memphis, was looking forward to starting college and was looking for a job. He listened intently, and it was easy for me to open up to. I left the two men to excuse myself to the bathroom, but on my way back to the table I knew something was off. I ignored my intuition.

“When I returned to the table, the driver’s friend was nowhere to be found, and I became nervous. My new friend asked me to sit down. I was hesitant, and that hesitation quickly turned into panic when I realized I left my purse at the table. He sensed my worry and held up my purse in a sort of mocking gesture to insinuate that yes, I indeed had f—ed up and left it.

“This time he didn’t ask me to sit down — he demanded that I sit down. He scooted in so close to me I could feel his breath on the back of my neck, and the steel from the gun he had pressed on my thigh. He proceeded to tell me that I had found the new job I was looking for. I had walked into that restaurant a free woman, but I left as a sex slave. The cloak of victimization became heavier than ever before, and now I had taken victimization to a whole new level.”

Shaw escaped, but she doesn’t dwell on the specifics. “I made the choice to stand up for myself and refuse to continue with risking him making good on his promise that he would kill me or my family.”

Although her experiences caused her to contemplate suicide, she knew she had to be there for her young son. It took her years to get her life back together. She sought counseling and tried different avenues to help her cope.

Now she takes pride in her advocacy for women. She started Purple W.I.N.G.S. because there was a void in the Las Vegas area for mentorship to at-risk girls. Shaw went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in human services and an MBA from the University of Phoenix and is now an experienced human services professional who has gained vast knowledge working with at-risk youth, battered women and girls.

While interning at a local runaway shelter, which serves runaway and homeless youths, she noticed the staggering number of homeless and runaway girls entering the program. After extensive conversations with these young girls she noticed a pattern that involved the lack of communication and involvement in the lives of these young women by parents and responsible adults. The girls longed for direction, communication and something to do after school.

Thus, Purple W.I.N.G.S. was born. Shaw started out on a quest to fulfill most of the desires of girls like those at the runaway shelter. She enlisted the help of other professional individuals desiring to make a change in the community, including the Las Vegas Police Department.

“The effects of living in a hypersexual city can’t be ignored,” Shaw wrote on Purple W.I.N.G.S.’ website. “Girls see their likeness on billboards, in city newspapers, magazines, leaflets and pamphlets being portrayed as sex objects. They grow up knowing prostitution is legal in brothels only 90 minutes away from here; they understand that while prostitution is illegal within the city limits, there is an allowance of the conduct on the Strip.”

Purple W.I.N.G.S. has affected the life of 18-year-old Jasmine Williams, who was exploited at the age of 14.

“Purple W.I.N.G.S. has impacted it [in] so many different ways,” Williams said. “The main way my life was affected was just being able to speak out and have a voice. Women in the sex industry have their voices taken away from them. Purple W.I.N.G.S. gave me a platform to be able to speak my mind, gave me a place to be completely comfortable and open up about my past experiences and what I’ve been through, which allowed me to become more expressive and comfortable with talking about my past and helping me heal and move forward.”

Williams credits Purple W.I.N.G.S. for giving her the strength and courage to talk about her experience in the sex trafficking industry. She plans to open a group home to help young women and victims of the sex industry have a place to stay and feel safe, as Purple W.I.N.G.S. did for her.

“My life has changed tremendously,” Williams said. “I’m so grateful to be a part of an organization that really cares about me and my spirit. Toshia [Shaw] really cares where I end up in life, and it shows. She often checks on me and my family just to make sure I’m on track mentally and emotionally, and my goals she helped me set are being met.

“It really is a blessing to have her and other counselors from Purple W.I.N.G.S. a part of my life and available for me to reach out to and call. I don’t know where I would be without the positive impact [it] has had on my life. I am forever grateful.”

Shaw said that in the age of social media, it has become easier for others to be victimized. She said it has become extremely easy for pimps to recruit and find their victims.

“We have to fix it and realize it’s not just girls, women, who are victimized in human trafficking. Boys are victims too,” she said.

Shaw, a Memphis native, said she sacrifices herself for others to have courage to tell their own truths. She provides trauma life coaching for individuals through her program, The Pact. The author of three previous books, Shaw is currently working on her fourth book, titled The Pact, A Workbook to Get Unstuck and Awaken to Your Life’s Purpose, which will be released via Kindle and paperback on Amazon this summer.

For National Women’s History Month, stories of Undefeated black women From athletes and actresses to soldiers and writers, here are some of the amazing women we’ve written about

To kick off National Women’s History Month, we’re sharing stories about the most Undefeated women who we’ve written about since we launched in May 2016.

They include athletes, actresses, soldiers, musicians, educators, activists and journalists.

According to the National Women’s History Project, “recognizing the achievements of women in all facets of life – science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine – has a huge impact on the development of self-respect and new opportunities for girls and young women.”

Here are stories about special women who are truly Undefeated:


  1. LUPITA NYONG’O is always on the queenside
  2. MARY J. BLIGE opens up about her message, her music and yes — her marriage
  3. SERENA WILLIAMS sits down with Common to talk about race and identity
  4. CANDACE PARKER leads Sparks to WNBA championship
  5. The UNDEFEATED 44: African-Americans who shook up the world
  6. STACYE HARRIS — The first black woman to become an Air Force lieutenant general
  7. CHRISTINA HOPPER – The first black female fighter pilot to fly in wartime
  8. ISSA RAE and Insecure
  9. The world of AVA DUVERNAY
  10. SKYLAR DIGGINS and her game preparation
  11. White House reporter APRIL RYAN ON her family, her new book and dealing with Trump
  12. LAILA ALI on new mentoring campaign