Rapper 21 Savage is helping Atlanta youth learn financial literacy ‘I didn’t really learn about that type of stuff until I got older’

ATLANTA — In the midst of his annual back-to-school drive on Sunday, rapper 21 Savage was in awe at the 2,500 kids who showed up for free haircuts/hairstyles, shoes, school uniforms, backpacks and school supplies.

The turnout wasn’t a shock, as he’s experienced that same energy for the past four years in which he has hosted “Issa Back 2 School Drive” for the kids who live in the Glenwood Road neighborhood where he grew up in Atlanta.

“Doing this every year feels good,” 21 Savage told The Undefeated.

This year, in partnership with Amazon Music and Momma Flystyle, the outdoor event also offered free health screenings, mobile video game arcades, resources on mental health awareness and insurance, tips on eco-friendly sustainability efforts, local vendors, hot dogs, ice cream and fun park activities.

On Aug. 4, Rapper 21 Savage hosted his annual “Issa Back 2 School Drive” for the kids in the Glenwood Road neighborhood where he grew up in Atlanta, Georgia.

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But his giving spans far beyond his school drive.

21 Savage’s passion is in educating youth from underserved communities about the power of the dollar and the value of hard work. The throaty Grammy nominee’s nonprofit organization, Leading by Example Foundation, launched its Bank Account campaign, named after his double-platinum single, to teach young people about financial health and wellness.

“A lot of kids don’t know what to do when they get older,” 21 Savage said. “Financial literacy is an important tool they need to get through life successfully.”

A successful trap music artist known for his grim lyrics depicting poverty, street life and post-traumatic stress, 21 Savage said his efforts to promote youth and economic development are deeply rooted in his own lack of exposure and access to commerce as a kid.

“I didn’t really learn about that type of stuff until I got older and became an artist and entertainer,” he said.

The 26-year-old chart-topping performer, born Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, has a job program, and he offers monthly financial literacy webinars for youth.

He partnered with education-themed nonprofits JUMA Ventures and Get Schooled to offer summer employment to 60 Atlanta-area high school and college students. Their duties include light custodial and concessions jobs.

“We want to work with these young people particularly to give them opportunities,” said Robert Lewis Jr., JUMA’s Atlanta site manager. “You want to give these young folks help. They may have had issues with the law or go to a nontraditional school, and we want to give them a job. It gives them a sense of dignity when they’re working.”

“This is monumental,” said Courage Higdon, a 22-year-old Georgia Southern University student and program participant. “The program keeps us focused. It’s more than a job — it teaches us actual life skills that we can use in other places in our lives. They help us become more financially literate. As an African American community, we need to get better at it.”

The Savage Mode rapper presented JUMA with a $15,000 check to help 150 young people open their own bank accounts.

“21 Savage tries to tell us that he wants us to bring everybody around this neighborhood together to support black-owned businesses and black people in the community,” said participant Khaleege Watts, 20.

21 Savage is set to spend a day shadowing the student participants later this year.

The “No Heart” and “A Lot” rapper hosted his monthly webinars on Get Schooled’s website, where he concentrated on teaching money management habits, budgeting/saving, investments and distinguishing between credit and debit.

But his passion for giving to youth doesn’t stop there.

When he released his sophomore LP I Am > I Was in December 2018, he gifted $16,000 in Amazon gift cards to youngsters who attended the album’s companion interactive Motel 21 activation in Decatur, Georgia. He also visited several colleges and STEM schools in metro Atlanta, along with U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), to lead 21st Century Banking Workshops, cross-topic fireside chats featuring discussions on financial capabilities, career opportunities in the music business, gang violence and gun control.

“21 Savage is putting action behind his money,” Lewis said. “He actually tells people how to start their business and how to save money. He’s turned his life around and is a great spokesperson for young people. Young people were glad that JUMA partnered with 21 Savage because they said he speaks for them.”

21 Savage was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this year on Super Bowl Sunday for overstaying in the United States on a visa that expired in 2006. The MTV Video Music Award winner, who was born in the U.K. and came to the U.S. with his mother at age 7, was detained for nine days and is still awaiting a deportation hearing. The former troubled teen and high school dropout donated $25,000 to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group that assisted with his naturalization issues, in June.

“A lot of people need help that’s in bad situations,” 21 Savage said. “They don’t have the funds to get legal representation, so I just made the donation. The organization does the work for free anyway, so I just thought it was necessary to contribute.”

Alona Stays, 21, received a $1,000 mini-grant from 21 Savage to invest in production equipment for her home studio. The YouTuber and aspiring filmmaker echoes her peers, calling the rapper’s philanthropic gifts and outreach efforts “amazing.”

“Not a lot of artists like him are doing something,” Stays said. “It’s a blessing for him to do this for us, and I’m very grateful. This plays a big role in anybody’s life. People like 21 Savage [are] trying to make things better. It’s not all about guns and drugs; it’s about the community and these kids.”

Know Your Girls campaign encourages black women to understand breast cancer risks Actress and breast cancer survivor Vanessa Bell Calloway lends her voice to public service announcements

Actress and breast cancer survivor Vanessa Bell Calloway knows how important it is to get the word out about breast health.

In 2016, she shared her story of survival on Ebony.com. She caught the disease early, opted for a mastectomy and she’s been cancer-free since.

Now Calloway has teamed up with the Susan G. Komen organization and the Ad Council for a national campaign, Know Your Girls. Her role includes a voice-over for the campaign’s video public service announcements.

“I’m so happy to be a part of this important campaign because as a breast cancer survivor, I understand firsthand how important it is to know your girls literally and figuratively. Being in tuned with your girls can save your life. Know Your Girls can also mean know your real-life girlfriends and as a community of women help remind each other about the importance of breast health,” said Calloway.

The Know Your Girls announcements include singer Alicia Keys’ hit song “You Don’t Know My Name.” Other featured celebrities include celebrity stylist June Ambrose, actress and comedian Regina Hall, E! News co-anchor Zuri Hall, 2 Dope Queens co-creator and actress Jessica Williams, singer-songwriter, producer and actress Michelle Williams, and comedian and actress Kym Whitley; as well as digital creators Black Moms Blog, Ebony from Team2Moms, Glamtwinz: Kelsey and Kendra Murrell, Jade Kendle, Tianne King, Megan “Megz” Lytle and Jayla Watson.

The campaign is a response to dismal numbers concerning black women. Black women in the U.S. are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, according to the Ad Council. A recent study found that while 92 percent of black women agree breast health is important, only 25 percent have recently discussed breast health with their family, friends, or colleagues and only 17 percent have taken steps to understand their risk for breast cancer.

Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age, at later stages of the disease, and with more aggressive forms of the disease, which limits the options for treatment. The Know Your Girls campaign encourages black women between the ages of 30 and 55 to treat their breasts with the same attentiveness and understanding they share with the women in their lives.

“The Know Your Girls campaign introduces breast cancer education through a celebration of the powerful sisterhood between black women,” said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “Instead of focusing on fear, the campaign provides tools and information that can help black women feel ownership around their breast health and encourages the sharing of those resources and messages with the women who support them throughout their lives.”

Besides the digital announcements, the campaign includes TV, radio, print and out-of-home ads that direct women to KnowYourGirls.org. The website features resources that help women navigate breast cancer risk factors, recognize changes in their breasts, and how to prepare to have a conversation with a doctor.

The introductory campaign video, created by creative agency Translation, features vignettes of a woman at key moments throughout her life. At each occasion, she is surrounded by her girls, the friends and family who have been a source of support and strength. At the end, the woman reveals that the “girls” who have been with her in every single moment of her life, her breasts, are the ones she might know the least.

“The staggering breast cancer mortality rates amongst women of color — amongst black women — is unacceptable,” said Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of Translation. “Breast cancer has touched so many of our loved ones, our peers, and our neighbors, including my wife, who lost her dear sister to this crippling disease. Creating a healthy dialogue between women of color, their fears, and their breasts is a critical step towards eradication.”

Komen has set a “Bold Goal” to reduce the current 40,000 annual breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2026. Closing the gap in health disparities is crucial to achieving that goal.

Through its African American Health Equity Initiative, Komen is aiming to reduce the mortality gap between black women and white women by 25 percent by focusing first on the 10 metro areas where mortality rates and late-stage diagnosis of black women are highest. The Know Your Girls campaign will target: Memphis, Tennessee; St. Louis; Long Beach/Los Angeles Metro Area; Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington Metro Area; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Atlanta; Chicago; Houston; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia. In some cities, the disparity in breast cancer mortality rate between black and white women is as high as 74 percent.

“As a breast cancer survivor who lost her mother to breast cancer, I understand all too well the pain and heartbreak of this disease,” said Paula Schneider, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen. “We hope this campaign empowers black women to learn about breast cancer risk and the resources available to take action.”

Thunder’s Josh Huestis knew when it was time to talk ‘It’s OK to not be OK. Talk to somebody.’

On Feb. 1, 2017, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Josh Huestis began sharing his innermost thoughts with the world. He started his blog, Through the Lens and began writing about an array of topics – life, growing up in Montana, the last game of his college career, marriage and depression. Inspired by Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan, who recently revealed their struggles with anxiety and depression, the 26-year-old decided to share his story. A solid basketball career at Stanford University led him to the spotlight. He was drafted 29th in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Out of the 69 games Huestis played this season, he started in 10.

Huestis talked to The Undefeated about his balancing act, marriage, basketball and his own mental wellness.


My mom is a psychotherapist, so I always was pretty well-educated and understood mental health and its impact on people. Then I studied psychology in college because of the fact that I wanted to follow in her footsteps. Mental health – one of the things I dealt with in my life, I wanted to learn more about that.

Over the last few months, mental illness has become less stigmatized with Kevin Love and DeMar [DeRozan] coming out and talking about their struggles. I just thought it was important to add to that. It is changing into a positive direction – the exposure is.

For most of my life I’ve had certain issues. The earliest memories I have when it became more of an issue for me was probably like my freshman or my sophomore year in high school. I just remember I became obsessed with trying to understand what the point and what the meaning of life was, like an existential search. I remember multiple times a week going to bookstores, trying to find books that could help me understand what the point of life was. I just felt kind of lost and empty, like everything I was doing didn’t have a whole lot of meaning. So I was trying to find answers from 15 years old.

My bouts with depression used to be heavy. As I’ve gotten older and I’ve talked to people, they’ve gotten more mild.

My first couple of years in the NBA as well as my years in college, they got very heavy and took me to some low lows. It became really tough. There were many times where I questioned myself. Many times I can remember when I really didn’t want to continue and the idea of giving up crossed my mind on definitely more than one occasion.

I think a major issue that I have and a lot of professional athletes and a lot of people have is that my whole life I have been categorized as basketball player and that has been how I identified my self-worth. My self-worth has been wrapped up in my existence as an athlete, as a basketball player. There have been so many times that my struggles on the basketball court caused it be a lot harder. I’m sure a lot of players can agree that after a bad game you walk off the court and your self-worth just drops dramatically and it’s not a healthy thing because everybody has bad games. I was kind of on this wild up-and-down thing where I played well and I loved myself and I felt great and when I played badly I hated myself and I felt worthless and I wanted to give up.

For the past few years I was bad at combating those feelings. I would internalize. I wouldn’t talk to anybody. I’m not naturally someone who is good at talking about my feelings and my struggles because I didn’t want pity and I didn’t want to be judged by people or people to feel sorry for me. That’s the last thing that I wanted. But as I got older and I’ve seen more people dealing with it, I recognize that a lot of people do deal with it and it’s OK to talk about it.

I got married in August and having my wife [Haley] to talk to every day and someone who is with me every day, someone who loves me regardless if I never play another game in the NBA. I work with a psychologist, someone who I can talk to about basketball and about life and helps me deal with the perspectives and helps me deal with the ups and downs that go with this depression.

I think in communities of color there is this idea that you handle things in-house. Whatever you deal with, you deal with yourself. You just get it done – the independence. You don’t ask for help with things like that. You handle them within yourself. You don’t bother others with it. You just put your nose to the grindstone mentality and you just get it figured out on your own. I think that’s a major problem. I think everybody needs help. And I think with myself and high-profile guys talking about it helps. On the outside looking in, you see these guys having everything they could ever want. They have money in excess and they still struggle. You see someone like that ask for help, then it’s OK for the rest of us to ask for help too. I think it goes even to another level when you talk about men. For instance, there is this whole thing about “be a man” or “man up” mentality. I think men are just taught to internalize and don’t ask for help and to always be tough and always be OK. That needs to be changed. That needs to be fixed.

I want to become more familiar because it could be beneficial to myself and beneficial to others. I think that’s a huge thing. Within the Thunder organization, they make sure we have what we need as far as mental support.

The hardest part is job security. Now that I’ve gotten married, I’ve got family that I want to support. A goal of mine is to always be able to provide for them and give to them and give them everything they need, so that adds an extra layer of stress because I don’t want to lose the ability to do that and having basketball as a method to make money is great and the best job in the world. It’s the stress of the chance of losing that. That stress has been tough and if we work our whole lives to get to this level and the idea of it coming to end or if we feel we’re losing a grip on things can feel like failure or you’re letting your family or your hometown people down. For me that’s been the hardest thing. Carrying the weights of expectations from others and the weights of being able to provide for my family.

I started my blog because I just got to the point where I wanted to open up and be real about my life – not only the good in it, but the struggles. I recognize that there’s a lot of people out there struggling with stuff and there are a lot of people going through things where they feel like it’s not OK and you can’t talk to anybody about it. I wanted to show that someone in my position, a lot of people may look at me and think I’m enjoying my life, I’m making a lot of money and I’m living my dream in what millions and millions people want to be a part of, but I still have that struggle. I wanted to shed light to show everyone has struggles and you’re not alone.

Exposure and just removing the stigma of mental illness is a huge step that needs to be taken and I think once we do that, it’s going to help so many people.

The first thing I would say to others if they ever seek my advice is there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong you. It’s OK to not be OK. Talk to somebody. Open up. Find someone you trust that you can talk to. Just verbalizing what’s on your mind can help so much. Don’t try internalize it, because that makes it worse.

DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love appear in PSA encouraging people to seek help for mental health issues Both players have been public about their struggles

When DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love let the world know about their mental health struggles earlier this year, they sparked a national conversation.

On the eve of Mental Health Awareness Month, the NBA released a public service announcement featuring Love and DeRozan encouraging people to ask for help. It also launched a website where fans can learn about mental health and resiliency and access a variety of resources.

“Everyone walks around with something that you can’t see. The best thing that I did was to come out and say, ‘Hey, look, I need some help,’ ” Love said.

“Never be ashamed of wanting to be a better you, period,” said DeRozan.

The PSA debuts Tuesday night on TNT and will run on ABC, ESPN and NBA TV throughout the playoffs. It is part of a leaguewide effort to offer free training for league and team employees and new mental wellness programming for thousands of youths through Jr. NBA and NBA FIT. The NBA will also host events to help communities view emotional well-being as equally important as physical wellness.

DeRozan revealed during this year’s All-Star Weekend that he’s had bouts of depression. He also posted this tweet with lyrics from the song “Tomorrow” by Kevin Gates:

Love opened up about the panic attack he suffered during a Nov. 5 game in an article in The Players’ Tribune in March.

Middleweight Danny Jacobs’ passion for Brooklyn helps him prepare for his fight against undefeated Sulecki Cancer survivor notes: ‘I’m a little different’

“Typically boxers like to get up early in the morning and go for a nice run,” said former WBA middleweight world champion Danny Jacobs.

“They like to beat all the craziness before people get outside and just get a nice run, whether it’s 4 or 5 miles, 6 miles, whatever the case may be. Then go home, eat breakfast, you rest, and then you prepare for an afternoon workout at the gym, whether that’s sparring, boxing in the ring, or whether that’s doing what we call floor work. That’s hitting the bag, hitting the pads, jump rope and a lot of other routine workouts that we have inside the gym.”

Right now, Jacobs, who will face undefeated Polish contender Maciej Sulecki on Saturday in his sixth appearance at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, is past that.

“All the hard work is already put in, and all of the strenuous activity that I do to prep myself and make sure that I’m in shape is already in the books,” Jacobs said. “At this point right now, it’s just a mental focus, it’s just making sure the little things are fine-tuned, and it’s just making sure that I can put together the ultimate plan for the big day.”

If Jacobs wins, he will become the WBA mandatory challenger to unified world champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Jacobs, with a career record of 33-2 with 29 knockouts, lost his title to Golovkin in March 2017 at Madison Square Garden despite being the first fighter to take “Triple G” to all 12 rounds. In a unanimous decision, two judges scored the fight 115-112 and one 114-113 for Golovkin.

“I’m a little different,” Jacobs noted. In 2014, he became the first cancer survivor to win a boxing world championship (WBA).

Jacobs’ symptoms started during a 2011 USO tour of Iraq. He was experiencing weakness in his legs and was diagnosed with a pinched nerve. Two weeks later he was paralyzed from the waist down, and doctors found a tumor wrapped around his spine. After removal, Jacobs learned the tumor was cancerous.

On Oct. 20, 2012, he returned to the ring and delivered a knockout over Josh Luteran 73 seconds into the fight at Barclays.

Raising his 9-year-old son, Nathaniel, he is focused on family and helping others. The Brooklyn native says his second chance at life has inspired him to give back. While recovering from surgery and cancer treatment, he launched the Get In The Ring Foundation. The organization raises awareness for early detection and prevention and helps kids with cancer and their families.

“I help out kids in the community, children with cancer and different projects …,” Jacobs said. “I know a lot of my fans know that I’m a survivor, but I don’t know if they understand just what I’m doing with the second opportunity.”

Saturday’s bout will be broadcast on HBO.


What are you looking forward to in Saturday’s fight?

Just the atmosphere in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is a very cultural place. The fans are incredible when it comes to sports, in boxing, in all … different types of things. Brooklyn is very passionate about its own, so I’m looking forward to getting some of that Brooklyn love and having the fans being around. I haven’t been in the Barclays Center for, I would say, two years now, so I’m really looking forward to getting back.

How do you mentally prepare for your opponent?

Some people like to actually get mad. I’m not one of those guys. I’m one of those guys who understand that boxing is just a sport. I can’t really get mad and frustrate my mind and frustrate my body and my spirit. I have to make sure that it’s calm, that it’s focused and that it’s preparing itself for a task.

What did you learn from overcoming cancer?

I really learned that I am as strong [as], if not stronger than, I thought I was. When you’re faced with death, you have to have this different mind point once you overcome it, because I wasn’t supposed to be here, let alone have another career, a second shot at being a champion.

So it allows me to have this chip on my shoulder to know that, hey, you’ve overcome some of the biggest things in your life, and anything else after that it preps you and lets you know that you can overcome just about anything that you put your mind to because there were times when I really had to challenge myself. Challenge my spirit. Challenge my mind, and I had a lot of questions and back-and-forth of whether or not I could do it.

I was able to allow myself to win the race, and it gave me a mental confidence I don’t think anyone inside that ring who had to go through my obstacles has.

Where does your courage come from?

Wow. That’s a great question. I think my courage comes from growing up in Brooklyn, not really having a silver spoon in my mouth growing up, always appreciating the little things because I never really had much. Courage comes from my family. Courage comes from the belief in the Creator and allowing me to stay humble. Courage comes from so many different avenues when it comes to my life.

I just think that the more that I live my life, the more that God put me through certain situations, I’m able to build that courage up. But, ultimately, I think it started just from a little boy growing up in a rough neighborhood and having a family to teach him right and wrong and allowing me to believe in myself. Ultimately, my grandmother was the one who really allowed me to, from the very first time that I had issues in my life or challenges as a teenager, my grandmother was allowing me to believe in myself, to have that courage to fight back.

What makes you cry?

Failing my son. My son is my everything, and I live for him. I think all that I do I want to represent him in the right way. My grandmother always told me when you go outside, you’re not just representing yourself but you’re representing you, your family and all of your loved ones. So, in all that I do, I know it’s documented, and one day my son will be able to go back and look at all my life. I want him to be 100 percent proud of his dad, and I want to try to do right by him. So, failing him and not giving him the best life or not allowing him to be proud of his dad, that’s probably one of my biggest fears.

What was your hardest battle in the ring?

It came in a sparring match when I was a teenager. … I remember going through a cycle, a cycle full of bad guys. Brooklyn guys loved me, but they just wanted to make sure that I got that Brooklyn whupping in order to make me great. I remember going through this one cycle this one weekend. Every day I would have my heinie torn up, and it was the greatest thing ever because it made me realize that nothing is easy. That Brooklyn legacy, I try my best to keep that going and let the kids know coming up after me that it’s not easy. It’s not cotton candy. Life is hard. Boxing or whatever you do in life is hard.

Motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles on why he left the 9-to-5 grind ‘My goal is and always has been to influence the influencers’

People refer to him as Dr. Sprinkles. But he’s no doctor. He’s a man with a gift for helping other people see themselves.

“I don’t know where they get that from. My mom is Dr. Sprinkles,” said author and motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles. “That was actually part of my journey. I went from my father to my mother, and during all four years of my high school my mom was studying to get her doctorate. I have a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Texas.”

The 41-year-old’s personal journey includes overcoming a childhood of humble beginnings, his parents’ divorce, and the loss of his father to cancer when he was just 15.

“He always said he … wished for one thing in life: ‘That I can live long enough to see you be a great father, because I know that you will be.’ He said this when I was maybe 11 years old. I look back at it as the best worst thing that ever happened to me. It was painful, it still is. There are so many things that I still wish that he was around to witness.”

This experience led him into thinking about human connection.

“I was living the big disconnect,” he said. “But I was too afraid to open up and be vulnerable because I believed that there was a relationship between love and loss. The reason why I lean in so hard on connection is because that’s what I had been searching for in various phases of my whole life.”

Now the author of 13 books, including two best-sellers, Sprinkles coaches individuals and organizations on how to create a sense of engagement, loyalty and profitability. For Sprinkles, connection is key to prevailing over life’s obstacles, and his mission is “to help people find what they are truly connected to and use it to passionately serve people in business and life.” He often uses sports analogies to introduce the principles of “making a champion.”

Sprinkles lives in Houston now, but his sports loyalties reflect his youth in Los Angeles.

“I do support the Texans, although my heart is with all the L.A. teams. I’m a Lakers fan till I die. Dodgers fan till I die. Even Oakland Raiders, even when they become the Las Vegas Raiders, I’m going to love them. I bleed silver and black, but I also love the Texans as well.”

Sprinkles wakes up at 6:50 every morning in time for his 7 a.m. group prayer call. He takes his 7-year-old son, Jaxson, to school every morning. When he’s not traveling, he handles coaching calls or training people and companies. Sprinkles spoke to The Undefeated about motivational speaking, finding balance and his future goals.


How did you transition into motivational speaking?

I kind of found it and it kind of found me. I started off as a raving introvert. I have incredible stage fright, but I did a Black History Month presentation in the fifth grade and I got third place. Then I tried again the next year and got first place.

What that evolved into was in the University of Texas, this is a school of 53,000 students and it was only, unfortunately, less than 1 percent African-American. So we had to really fight hard to make a name for ourselves, and at that time there was a lot of racial justice issues. Blacks really had to speak up. African-American students had to really represent, so I was like a leader on campus.

I called on those skills from long ago to be able to persuade people. I ended up working at Dell Computers next. I was making decent money. I made more money than either of my parents did very quickly into my career. … It turned out I loved doing that more than I loved my 9-to-5 job.

When did you leave that job?

Just after 9/11 I realized that I was going to make a choice. I was either going to chase a paycheck or I was going to chase my purpose. I remember, it was in April of 2002. I prayed that special prayer. I said, ‘When is it that I’m supposed to go? When is my time?’ That still, small voice said back to me, ‘May.’ I was scared to death because I couldn’t believe that everything that I’ve worked so hard for to build it, I had already moved up in the shortest amount of time possible. I was one of the senior sales reps. They had me tapped for management. I was one of the bright shining stars in their fastest-growing division.

I remember I went in and talked to my boss and I said, ‘Hey, I have something to tell you. I’m going to leave and I’m going to go out and speak.’ I did one free talk for a friend of mine that ended up creating a contract that gave me enough money to keep going.

How did you overcome your fears?

The only way to overcome fear is with experience. We all have a level of fear. We have fear of things that we’re not familiar with.

How do you replenish yourself?

Self-care is the best care. I’m not going to front. I’m the classic giver, entrepreneur, big-dream chaser. I’m not the best at always making sure that my glass is full. But what I do know is that I have to look at what does it for me. One thing I have had to do is become very self-aware. I need to give. So when I’m down, I write thank-you notes for people. That does it for me.

What’s been the hardest part of your journey?

It’s the trade-offs. In principle, I understand because you can’t be two places at the same time. So sometimes you may want to be with your family but you have to work. Or sometimes you may really want to get some work done but you’re with your family.

How do you balance those?

Although I may not always have quantity time, I make sure I always put in the quality. For example, I coach his [Jaxson’s] basketball. During his track practice, I was there. So I’m always there. I’m the one yelling in the stands all the time. I’m the parent who won’t shut up.

What are your personal goals?

My goal is and always has been to influence the influencers. I’ve always wanted to be the one who can speak to the powerful people and help to influence what they’re doing, and help them to be better at that. That means the athletes, I can see myself doing television. I can see myself being a best-selling author many times over. I’ve got a lot of books in me.

Briana Owens’ Spiked Spin isn’t just the new wave in wellness — it’s the new standard The hip-hop-heavy spin class has become a haven for women and men of color

Want to make health and wellness guru Briana Owens laugh? It’s simple. Ask her how many times she’s heard the phrase, “I’ll be damned if I go to SoulCycle while Briana’s got Spiked.” The line is a flip of Jay-Z’s I’ll be damned if I drink Belvedere while Puff got Ciroc, from 2017’s “Family Feud.”

Spiked Spin is Owens’ creation — a hip-hop inspired soul-cleansing physical sermon moonlighting as a high-intensity spin class. Her target: wellness issues in the black community. Owens’ is about “generational health.” It’s what wakes her up at 6:30 every morning. But in the nearly two years since Spiked got off the ground in New York City, the paranoia of the days, weeks, hours and minutes leading into her inaugural event stay with her.

“Treat everything like your first project” is advice Biggie Smalls offered with regard to staying humble — and it’s advice Owens, born in Queens, New York, follows daily. Before Spiked, many knew her as an interactive and detail-oriented part-time spin instructor at a private gym in Columbus Circle in Manhattan. That Owens embarked on her own path in came as no shock to friends and family who knew of her ambitions as a rider.

The then-marketing specialist at CBS reached out to every one of her New York e-mail contacts, telling them of her first event. That took place at the lower Manhattan gym 10 Hanover Square. These days she can laugh about her early days, but it was so funny two years ago before her first solo class under the brand she created. “I was just so anxious, so freaked out. [But the class] was actually amazing. Once I did the first one, I kinda was like, ‘OK, I think I’m on to something.’ ”

That “something” continues to evolve in the $3.7 trillion global wellness industry, according to figures from the Global Wellness Institute. Fitness and mind-body, which Owens specializes in, accounts for $532 billion. Yet it’s an industry where black women are traditionally underrepresented, though awareness of the problem has inspired a new wave of women of color to punch their way in via avenues such as fitness, spin classes, yoga and more. Spiked Spin still takes place at 10 Hanover Square — her home base until the brand’s flagship, permanent headquarters open, “very soon.” In the past year and a half, Owens said, Spiked has opened its New York doors to at least 1,600 women and men — many who look just like her. The numbers don’t include the pop-ups Spiked has held in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Having already been featured in several outlets, the 2011 Hampton University alum is humbled by the continued growth of her class, her brand and, most importantly, her as a woman. She credits the omission she saw in the industry as inspiration, but she’s equally as complimentary to her longtime boyfriend Zach, whom she frequently features both on her personal and work Instagram pages. What’s next for Owens, Spiked Spin and the health and wellness industry? One thing’s for certain. Owens has something to say.

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Music is obviously an integral aspect of working out in general. But why is particularly important with Spiked?

Full transparency — the whole idea for Spiked came from music. Before I even thought of this as a business … I was teaching classes and having to download music that would never be on my iTunes. I was having to talk to co-workers or look up Top 40 and look up all these songs that I would never listen to in my personal life. I loved my classes and I loved the students who came to my classes, but I realized this is the kind of music they like and if I want us to have a good workout … that’s where I got my first idea saying I’m going to teach a class with hip-hop. Instead of playing Taylor Swift, I just wanna hear Future. I don’t even wanna do the Beyoncé vs. Jay Z. I wanna hear ’93 Ice Cube. I wanna go in! You can come to Spiked Spin and hear Eazy-E or you could hear Drake or Luther Vandross. It is always gonna be hip-hop, R&B and soul, because that’s who I am. I think of it like when you go to the club. If the music isn’t poppin’, you don’t wanna go. Before we go somewhere in New York or Atlanta, we always ask, ‘What’s the music?’ That’s how I approach the class. The vibe has to be right.

But how do you find time for balance in your life with CBS, Spiked, your personal and social lives? Especially in a city like New York.

It’s definitely a challenge! As Spiked is growing, I’m learning how to be more creative and fluid with my time. As much as people think I’m doing so much socially, there are a lot of things I don’t get to do socially because I’m usually, if I’m not at work, I’m teaching class. If I’m not teaching class, then I’m usually doing something relevant with Spiked.

Don’t even talk about what your body looks like. What is your heart doing?

I wake up early. That’s something I’ve had to commit myself to because, trust me, I love to sleep! But I don’t have that luxury as much now. I usually try to get my day started around 6:30 a.m. so I still have time to work out for myself. Then I go to work. Then I go teach. And after teaching, I focus on anything that I have to do for Spiked. I’m extremely organized. I think that’s something that has helped me for a long time.

The issue of women of color in the health and wellness space has become a necessary topic of conversation. But since you’ve really been immersed in this field, what have you seen as the biggest example of progress?

When it comes to those … who are not as educated on the field, or live in lower-income areas, they have the least amount of awareness. That’s where, for me, there’s trouble. And there’s trouble [where] people who are aware of wellness and enjoy it … they deserve to have an experience that keeps them in mind. They shouldn’t have to go to a class that only plays a certain type of music or only have a certain type of instructor. And then there’s also that set of demographics who no one even thinks about. No one’s talking to. They [can be] unaware of just the basic things, like moving for your heart. Don’t even talk about what your body looks like. What is your heart doing? Do you know you’re at a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure? All these things. Those are the conversations that are not even being had. Before we even get to body image, foundationally there’s a miseducation. Within our community, there are levels. And with those levels, look up health statistics. There’s a direct correlation with income and health.

There are definitely strides being made. There is some representation. Is there opportunity for more? Of course. One person can’t do it. How many more people can be inspired to be part of this conversation, and figure out how to reach the people? So we can have a larger effect on what I call #generationalhealth.

Courtesy of DJ Akisanya

What was the moment when you realized this passion of yours was becoming your new reality?

It’s something that’s been happening over time. Spiked Spin started as a ‘business’ because people paid for my service. I didn’t even realize the passion that I had for the conversation element of it. And for the importance of it beyond the class. It literally just started as a class. Like, here’s a cool workout that’s hip-hop. It’s fun. I am my No. 1 target audience. That’s where it started.

Since then I have met so many people, men and women, who have literally cried and said, ‘I needed this. Beyond the classes, I needed to feel like I’m important. I needed to feel like I can do more than whatever I thought I could do.’ That’s when I started to say this is bigger than the class. This is a conversation. This is empowerment. These are people who have not felt like they mattered in the space. My one-on-one conversations with people are where I really find the drive to keep going.

Pursuing your passion as a woman of color in this space … how important is it to have a partner [her boyfriend of seven years and college classmate Zach Thompson] by your side in this journey? It’s something that gets overlooked when we hear success stories.

It’s actually one of the best things. We’ve been together since I was 21 years old. I’ve been about 20 different people in these seven years. He’s seen the evolution to this point … little things that most people probably don’t pay attention to, but when I take a second to reflect, I realize how much of who I am is directly correlated with … things that he has seen in me before I even saw them in myself.

Him just being supportive like when I come home and say, ‘I wanna start this business.’ He doesn’t say is this a crazy phase. He’s like, ‘Aight, let’s do this.’ He’s always, always, always been supportive. It feels good because in this process there are people who support me wholeheartedly and there are people who don’t. It’s just nice to see he’s remained consistent all the way through my hardest days when I’m probably just yelling at him over something that has nothing to do with him. He gets me. It’s nice to have someone who isn’t a business partner. He has no skin in the game aside from wanting to see me win. But he’s still 100 percent in as if it were his baby, too.

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How much of a blessing has it been to really see the support of your community? The classes are inclusive to everybody, but what does it make you feel when you see a room full of carefree black women really getting something out of your classes?

In real time, it’s (pauses) literally the best feeling. That’s because I realize I’m not the only one getting something out of it. Whatever they’re getting from it, they consistently get it and they feel good about it. The room is filled with electric energy. Just so much love and support. It’s not only just women. It’s women and men. We end every single class with what we call ‘The Spiked Way.’ It’s a few moments of reflection, of support, of love, self-acceptance. You can tell those are the things the room is filled with the entire time. It’s an overwhelming feeling of excellence. It feels so, so great.

Fitness fuels how Jean Titus tailored and customized his own way ‘The gym is just part of what I do. It’s my process.’

At one point in his life, Jean Titus was much larger than his current chiseled frame. The latter propelled him to create his own clothing line, Black by Jean LeVere, because of a lack of choice choices available “off the rack.” Dubbed the “Ripped Grandpa,” without any grandchildren, the personal trainer developed his brand in the Washington, D.C., metro area to include fashion consultation and words of encouragement from social broadcasts posted to his Facebook page. In anticipation of maintaining this year’s resolutions, The Undefeated spoke with Jean about his wellness journey.


BEST WAY FOR SOMEONE TO GET INTO FITNESS

Be realistic with yourself, start slowly. Find something you can do. Focus on
bettering each day’s effort so the only person you have to compete with is yourself.

HEALTHY ROUTINE

I’ve maintained a regimen for a while. I got more serious about fitness and my workouts after watching a lot of people I know die, get sick and lose their health. You can do as much as you want and make as much money as you want, but there is nothing in this world more valuable than your health.

STAYING IN SHAPE AFTER 50

There’s a decision you have to make, and then there’s information. Most people fail because mentally they don’t commit. I’m not Superman. There’s nothing particularly different about me other than I made a commitment. If you change your diet and habits and actually diligently work and work and work towards it, you will get better, period.

Fall in love with the process, learn the process. A lot of people want to focus on the results but they don’t want to focus on the process. The results will take care of itself.

KILL ONE HABIT AND DEVELOP A HEALTHY ONE

Stop talking about all the foods you’re going to be missing and actually look forward to your success. Our society right now is being overrun by sugar. We are killing ourselves with our choices. Right next to the unhealthy choice is the healthy choice; it’s usually one pace away. Kicking those habits are very difficult. Your body literally goes through withdrawal when you kick the habit.

What you’re going to save in eating healthy today is a fraction of what you’re going to spend for high blood pressure and diabetes medicine, especially for people who are predisposed to it already.

FINDING TIME TO WORK OUT

You make the time. It’s important. If you go into it thinking this might be futile, you’re already defeating yourself.

CUSTOM-MADE SUITS OR WORKOUT GEAR

I’m comfortable both ways. It depends on what the occasion calls for. All of the things you see me do [on social media] are actually reflections of my natural personality. I’ve worn a suit for a long time, so I’m extremely comfortable with that as well.

#RIPPEDGRANDPA
I am not a grandpa [he says with a smile.] But my daughter is old enough for me to be a grandpa. “Ripped Grandpa” was a headline used in an article.

MOTIVATED BY PEARLS OF WISDOM FROM A REGGAE LEGEND

I had the fortune of watching my father die. My father was a doctor, and for many years he was affluent with cars, houses and a lot of stuff. Watching the parade of people coming in the house, the weeks before he died, and seeing how he affected their lives. Everybody talked about how he made them feel and how he treated them. When people tried to pray for him to live longer he would say, “Pray for me to die faster ’cause I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do.” That, in itself, put life into perspective for me. So truly Bob Marley was right when he said, “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” That is what motivates me. To have a positive impact on the people that come around me.

Team LeBron and Team Stephen select charities for the NBA All-Star Game This year’s festivities will result in donations to L.A. community organizations

After players participating in this year’s NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 18 leave the hardwood and the swarms of visitors to the Los Angeles area flee the city, hopefully a lasting impression on the community will be the final result.

As part of the NBA’s revamped All-Star format, the 2018 NBA All-Star teams will play for charity, a decision the league and players association crafted to enhance the All-Star Game and make an impact on the local community.

On Wednesday morning, captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry revealed their charities in videos shared on social media. Team LeBron selected After School All-Stars of Los Angeles, while Team Stephen chose Brotherhood Crusade. The winning team will donate $350,000 and the losing team will donate $150,000 to their selected organizations.

Team LeBron

Team Stephen

After-School All-Stars Los Angeles provides out-of-school services for more than 13,000 students across 52 schools, and Brotherhood Crusade works to support underserved youths in South Los Angeles through mentoring, education, health and wellness, and leadership programs.

After School All-Stars was founded in 1992 by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The organization’s mission is to keep children safe and help them succeed in school and in life. Every school day, students in low-income communities have access to free programs that offer academic support, enrichment opportunities, and health and fitness activities. Brotherhood Crusade has been working in the community for 50 years, improving the quality of life of low-income, underserved and disenfranchised individuals.

In a joint statement, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) revealed the revamped format in October. The new structure will mark the NBA’s first All-Star Game without a matchup between the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference.

The team captains were the players who received the most votes in each conference. The NBA now uses a draft-style system similar to those used by the NHL All-Star Game (2011–15) and the NFL Pro Bowl (2014–16) to select starters and reserves.

“I’m thrilled with what the players and the league have done to improve the All-Star Game, which has been a priority for all of us,” said NBPA president Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets. “We’re looking forward to putting on an entertaining show in L.A.”

The All-Star Game’s coaches are usually the head coaches whose teams have the best record in their respective conferences. The Golden State Warriors’ Steve Kerr and the Boston Celtics’ Brad Stevens are ineligible because they coached last year’s All-Star Game. The Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni will coach Team Stephen, and Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey will coach Team LeBron.

More to Super Bowl: NFL wants to leave lasting legacies in communities through outreach Check out a few highlights that positively impacted the Minneapolis-St. Paul area

Beyond the chilly Minneapolis temperatures, the highly anticipated gridiron showdown, the electrifying halftime performance and the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy, there were a plethora of community service events surrounding Super Bowl LII, as is the case each year.

Sunday’s season-ending celebration closed with a 41-33 win for the Philadelphia Eagles over the New England Patriots. Meanwhile, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area saw 32 activities and community outreach events throughout the city, which was part of the NFL’s plan to leave a lasting legacy.

For example, Special Olympics Minnesota partnered with the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee to host a Polar Plunge, a signature winter event centered on participants jumping into a body of icy water and raising funds to support more than 8,200 people with intellectual disabilities across the state.

But there’s more.

Out of the 32 announced events that took place in Minneapolis during Super Bowl LII weekend and the weeks leading up to the big day, here are a few community outreach events of note.


AN INTERFAITH GATHERING

Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee partnered with the Downtown Congregations to kick off Super Bowl week with an interfaith gathering to celebrate unity and shared purpose. The gathering was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church. The celebration showcased Minnesota’s national leadership in multifaith dialogue and cooperation and will raise money to prevent homelessness. The event is the work of the Twin Cities faith community — rabbis, priests, pastors, imams and other leaders — coming together to send a message about unity in the Twin Cities.

CREATING A CULTURE OF CARE: AN INSIDEOUT INITIATIVE EVENT

The NFL Foundation and Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund hosted a special character development event for local Minnesota High School athletic directors and their respective head football coach and female coach of influence at the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine.

SPECIAL OLYMPICS UNIFIED FLAG FOOTBALL GAME and POLAR PLUNGE

The NFL and Special Olympics Minnesota hosted a Special Olympics Unified Flag Football game.

PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME ARTIFACTS

The Pro Football Hall of Fame showcased more than 130 artifacts during the week. The one-of-a-kind treasures allowed the Hall to convey the NFL’s 98-year history since the league’s birth in Canton, Ohio, in 1920.

SUPER BOWL LIVE CONCERT SERIES

Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis was the site of Super Bowl LIVE, a 10-day fan festival leading up to Super Bowl LII curated by Grammy-winning producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The event, free and open to the public, encompassed six blocks on Nicollet Mall and featured food and fun. Highlights included an evening of music honoring Prince.

‘TESTIFY: AMERICANA FROM SLAVERY TO TODAY’ EXHIBIT

Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, along with Diane Sims Page, executive director of the Page Education Foundation, presented TESTIFY, a preview of their collection of Americana from slavery to today. The wide-ranging exhibit features art and artifacts from pivotal eras in American history while providing a platform for visitors to share their thoughts, feelings and personal experiences.

NFL PLAY 60 CHARACTER CAMP

The NFL hosted NFL PLAY 60 Character Camp, a free event on the field at Super Bowl Experience Driven by Genesis at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The event included 300 predominantly Hispanic youths from the Minnesota area. The noncontact football camp was led by Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Munoz.

SALUTE TO SERVICE MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY

As part of Salute to Service, the NFL invited veterans, active-duty servicemen and women and their families to Military Appreciation Day. The NFL is working with its military nonprofit partners, including Wounded Warrior Project, to invite attendees. The event included football-themed activities, meet-and-greets and a special “Thank You” moment for all service members.

NFL PLAY 60 KIDS’ DAY AT SUPER BOWL EXPERIENCE

Children from the Minneapolis area participated and learned more about the importance of healthy living at the NFL PLAY 60 Kids’ Day, which gives more than 1,000 local children the opportunity to spend time with NFL players.

SUPER BOWL LII BUSINESS CONNECT CELEBRATION

The NFL and the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee hosted the Super Bowl LII Business Connect: Celebrating Opportunities, Teamwork & Success, spotlighting the accomplishments of Super Bowl LII Business Connect suppliers and local businesses that have grown and thrived under the tutelage of the program’s professional development initiatives and, acknowledging NFL event contractors who’ve aggressively used the program, awarding contract opportunities to the vendors in the program. More than 350 Minnesota businesses in 40 vendor categories participated in the 18-month Business Connect program, which identifies Super Bowl LII contracting opportunities and matches those contracts with experienced, local diverse business owners in the program. To qualify for participation in Business Connect, businesses must be 51 percent owned by a minority, woman, veteran, lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender individual. The Business Connect Celebration is a ticketed event for participating business owners.

NFL PLAYER CARE FOUNDATION SCREENINGS

The NFL Player Care Foundation (PCF) and the NFL Alumni Association (NFLA) partnered to conduct their annual Super Bowl Healthy Body and Mind Screening program. This complimentary national program is open to all former NFL players and includes cardiovascular and prostate screenings and mental health resources and education. Comprehensive blood testing will be offered to the wives and significant others who accompany former player screening participants and are being provided by NFLA free of charge.

SUPER BOWL LEGACY GRANT EVENT

The NFL seeks to improve the surrounding communities of the Super Bowl host city with the Super Bowl Legacy Grant Program, made possible each year by a $1 million contribution from the NFL Foundation and matched by the Super Bowl Host Committee. This year, the NFL and Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee’s grants are focused on improving access and creating healthy behaviors for a lifetime, whether it’s access to physical activity or nutritious food. To build a healthier, more active, life-changing future for all of Minnesota’s children, the Super Bowl Legacy Fund’s strategic areas of giving are fun, fuel and fundamentals.

As a culmination of their 52 Weeks of Giving Campaign, the yearlong effort to award 52 Minnesota communities with grants leading up to the big game, NFL and Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee executives awarded the 52nd and final Super Bowl Legacy Grant to Anwatin Middle School.

MINNESOTA SUPER BOWL HOST COMMITTEE LEGACY FUND 52 WEEKS OF GIVING CAMPAIGN

Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund 52 Weeks of Giving Campaign 52 Weeks of Giving is a yearlong community giving campaign to ensure that hosting the big game will leave a lasting legacy for Minnesota’s children.

Each week, for 52 weeks, the Legacy Fund provides a capital grant to a community organization in Minnesota that is committed to improving the health and wellness of children. The grants help improve access to nutritious food and physical activity and create healthy behaviors in Minnesota’s youths.

23rd ANNUAL REBUILDING TOGETHER KICKOFF TO REBUILD

For the past 23 years, Rebuilding Together has partnered with the NFL to host community revitalization projects in Super Bowl cities across the country. These NFL-sanctioned events provide critical home repairs for people in need and their communities.

Rebuilding Together Twin Cities hosted a community revitalization project to rehabilitate six homes and develop a community garden in the Bryant neighborhood of South Minneapolis. The community garden will give neighbors access to fresh produce, which is extremely limited in the area, and offer residents opportunities to connect with their neighborhood.