Friday, April 11, 2014

PHREAdom Leader: Alison Parson embarks on "Journey 2 the Crown"

Alison Parson
In life, we all experience different journeys that shapes the person we are and aspire to be in the future. The journey may be moving to another state. It could be graduating from college and preparing for adulthood. Or it could be similar to our new PHREAdom Leader’s holistic journey to the crown at the second Miss Plus Size Charleston pageant.
In 2012, the Miss Plus Size Charleston crowned their first winner Nowa Fludd. Alison Parson, 27, heard about the contest from her hairstylist, but had no real desire to participate in it initially. However, it all changed after winner Fludd and event planner Delhman Drayton revived the pageant in 2014.
“Miss Plus Size Charleston is an opportunity to give plus size women the chance to celebrate themselves,” Parson, a member of Delta Sigma Theta said.
Let God groom the Journey

Although still apprehensive at first, she originally said no to participating because she wasn’t in the financial or emotional place to take on the challenge. However, with only 16 days away from the event, she feels like the journey helped to develop her character and make her a better person.
“God is using this to groom me and bring some things out of me,” the contestant said. “I learned accountability, perseverance, and discipline.”
Similar to many other pageants, Parson who is from Summerville, S.C., needed to raise funds to support the pageant. She reached out to her family and friends for support as well as ventured into crowd funding. One of her sponsors told her about GoFundMe. She set an overall goal of $2000. Collectively, she is only $475 away from her goal. She received abundant support from her family.
“My family is amazing,” she said.
On April 27, she expects for her family to pack the place.
“Everybody is excited,” she said including herself along with a mixture of other emotions including nervousness, anxiety yet extreme excitement.
Every Journey has a Platform
The issue of mental health is important especially in the black community. Therefore, she made chose this as her platform. As a student at Allen University, Parson received her bachelor’s degree in social science and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional counseling. She also works in the mental health field at Medical University of South Carolina’s Institute of Psychology. She is very passionate about it because African-Americans suffer from those issues a lot because they aren’t knowledgeable on how different situations or circumstances relate to mental health.
“I want to teach and empower those with the signs,” she said. “And save lives.”
Although her platform is primarily for the black community, she shares the same concerns for everyone.
“Journey to the Crown”
Contestant #7 wants the crown.
“If I win, it will be another testimony in my journey,” she said. “I want a voice to inspire, encourage and motivate people.”
The idea of winning Miss Plus Size Charleston is beyond a self-discovery for Parson, but rather an opportunity to let others know that they can persevere and overcome any obstacles as long as they put their minds to it.
Passion to Fight
As a product of a single parent home, Parson battled childhood depression as a pre-teen and teenager. However, she fought her way to overcome it because she knew it could be done. Parson fought the obstacles she faced to keep pushing to the next level.
“We all have a fight in us,” she said.
Hopes to Leave a Mark
The social science major hopes to make a difference in someone’s life every day. Individual have no idea how much of a difference someone’s life could be impact because of a positive encounter, she explained. It’s those impacts and marks that she hopes to leave behind.
Respect is Simple
In its simplest form, she described respect as a foundation.
“It’s like building a house with no foundation,” she said because without respect, everything else isn’t supported and will fall.
Respect was something Parson learned as a child. However, she doesn’t feel like we respect enough.
“Respect is simple common courtesy,” she said. “(Yet) We don’t give reverence to it enough.”
Empowered by the Trailblazers
“(God) is the source of my strength,” Parson said.
She is also empowered by her destiny. “I don’t know what it is, but I know my destiny’s around the corner especially since the pageant,” she said.
Lastly, she is empowered by other trailblazers especially the women in her family. Parson’s grandmother Hazel Parson-Starkes is her number #1 trailblazer. Parson-Starkes served as the second black mayor of Ridgeville, S.C. She served as mayor for 18 years until she retired. Raising Parson and her three sisters, who were dubbed as the “A Team,” her mother is another positive role model.
Ambitions to Do It
“Whatever you’re passionate about, you do it,” the contestant said. “Do all of it, and why not be a diva while you’re doing it.”
She aspires to become a counselor of her own private practice where she also offers workshops, tours, conferences and speaking engagements. The pageant is an opportunity for her to use her platform and do it.
The pageant is April 27 at Burke High School. If you would like to support Parson, visit her Go Fund Me site at to learn more about her “Journey 2 the Crown.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

PHREAdom Leader: Garry S Bailey, Founder & CEO of The Royal Occasions

Garry Bailey
Courtesy of Facebook
What happens when the Queen City meets Garry Bailey? The Royal Occasions is born. Founder of the new high service event planning company was always fascinated with royalty and the history of Queen Charlotte, which is how the city in North Carolina received its name.
Bailey adopted the philosophies, concepts and history of Great Britain. His room is flourished with London's flag and memorabilia from the country. He knew his business needed to be regal like the golden history of Queen Elizabeth and Marie Antoinette. 
"I studied her (Queen Elizabeth)," Bailey said. "I want everyone to be treated like royalty when they use the service."
Since creating The Royal Occasions in January, he has hosted several events including a birthday celebration for his mother and a 50th birthday for Lynette Shelton. He also "supported Charlotte Seen with a variety events to grow experience and to learn the seniority of Charlotte."
Bailey said he learned how to communicate and interact with different social classes.
Despite how rosy and glamorous, Bailey's story appears. It was no cakewalk to get to where he is today. 
Growing up in South Carolina, Bailey was taught the necessity of obtaining an education by his late father, who was a pastor and Family Dollar Regional Vice President. The importance of education was instilled in his two siblings and himself as children and continued into their young adulthood. 
Following the advice of his father, Bailey went to Winthrop University to receive his bachelors of science in international business. His original plan was to become a fashion buyer in London, but he lost himself during the process. 
"I went astray and wasn't happy," he said.
Bailey left the Rock Hill university in 2009. He dabbled in different programs, but none were fulfilling to him and what he really wanted to do. 
He dreamed of owning a business called Bailey Enterprise, which featured various components including real estate, event planning, and others. Instead of taking steps to achieve it, he worked different jobs and stopped taking care of himself.
The South Carolina native developed a fascination for the fabulous life, the premier entrepreneur said. In the meantime, he lost sight of his dreams and Bailey Enterprise.
His father, who worked more than 30 years at his job, went from a cashier to a leadership position.
"He believed that things can be better if you have faith and put God first," Bailey said. "Determination, hard work and support will be added onto you."
Bailey carry those lessons of life from his late father. Those principles came full circle after life discussions with some of his close friends and drinks.
He explained that he was off work from his last job. His friends and him were out talking about goals and ambitions. The 26-year-old shared with them his passion for hosting and planning events, but he never looked at it as a career. However, he loved hearing the raving comments about an event.
"I feed off people's enjoyment of the things that I do," Bailey continued and he did it.
He quit his full-time position to focus on his passion. The Royal Occasions became official in November 2013.
Passion to Create
The entrepreneurial spirit male is passionate about creatively building his company. He strategically planned and executed his plans to start the business. He wanted everything to be right. 
Hope for Success
Similar to others, the Charlotte resident hopes to be successful. After taking a whelm to follow his dreams, he wants success with self to create a peace of mind.
Respect is Due
As royal as it may seem, Bailey believes that respect is due in a honorable way. 
"Everyone should be respected," he said. "by thoughts and actions."
However, it's not anything that is given. He explained that individuals must learn the concept of respect. 
Empowered to be More
Bailey receives his empowerment by wanting more for himself. When a great moment or achievement happens in his life, it moves him to keep pushing. He is empowered by the people that he associates himself with because of the overall positive and support for each other. 
Ambitious to Support Family
While Bailey's father worked, his mother stayed at home taking care of their three children. As an adult, his ambition is to give it all back to her. 
"I want to be able to support my family," Bailey said. "And to be the person that I am supposed to be."
Find Garry Bailey and The Royal Occasions visit the following:
Twitter: @AROEvents

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Have you heard the Good News? It's the Ides!

Happy Birthday Starkey!
Have you heard, it’s the Ides of March? The Ides of March and no I’m not referring to the death of Julius Caesar, but rather the celebration of my 29th birthday! The Ides of March is the day that I was born to Anna B. and Daniel. The Ides of March meaning the day that I reflect on all that I ha
ve accomplished and things that are still on my vision board.
This year’s birthday, I decided to do things a little different. I wanted to focus on the things that bring joy to my life-writing and serving the community. This memorable day is the perfect opportunity.
Opportunities happen all of the time. It can be a possibility to work on a project or to meet the next big thing. The beauty about it is the fact that they happen all of the time. For instance, I had a vision of creating a group for writers to congregate together to fellowship and write. I talked about for months, but no action. However, after my original birthday plans changed, I chose to actually implement it. I can’t believe it’s actually happening. My fellow Winthrop writing buddies are together typing on the keys and touching the screens making magic happen with words. Now this is an unbelievable opportunity because I haven’t seen some of these ladies in years, but our interest and purpose in writing brought us back together. Opportunities occur just that simple and easily! It doesn’t take a lot of effort because it just happens.

I also decided to give my time to the community in one way or another. My sorority hosted our annual youth symposium this morning. We had youth from different walks of life learning great information and participating in hands-on activities. I also requested handbags and unused toiletry donations for Endless Dreams Foundation’s DreamHER Campaign. This is a memorable and meaningful day! I am so thankful for everyone who took part in making it a great day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Catawba Care observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black people account for 44% of the new infections. As a way to educate blacks about the disease and promote testing, the nation recognized the annual Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7. Community organizations and groups gathered to share information with the community about the disease, the importance of early testing and safe sex practices.
In Rock Hill, Catawba Care hosted an annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day event in observation of the national initiative to encourage Blacks to “get educated, get tested, get involved, and get treated” ( This year’s free event featured food, door prizes, entertainment, health screenings and HIV testing for the Rock Hill and surrounding area communities.
Catawba Care serves a little over 500 patients, the executive director Anita Case, LMSW said.
Case explained the importance to get tested regularly.
The earlier individuals are tested, the more likely they are to live a healthy life, she said.
The event featured various community organizations who shared educational information to the attendees. One of the organizations attending the event was StatusBoiz, in collaboration with StatusGurlz, is an organization that provides “HIV prevention and education program in North and South Carolina for Black men and Transgender Women.” The organization’s goal is “to work together to find effective ways to HIV prevention” (
The project director Darrin Johnson said their main purpose is to reduce the infection rates in the community. This is similar to Catawba Care’s purpose, who the organization has partnered with in the past.
Back in July, Always PHREA featured Catawba Care Prevention Specialist Alton Murray, who is one of the planners of the program, held last Saturday.
Murray explained during his PHREAdom Leader interview that the reality is people are having sex which makes safe sex education necessary. Therefore, it is important to reach out into the community and educate black people.

For more information about Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day or Catawba Care, please visit and
Always PHREA founder Crystal Starkes, left, with her soror supporting the event.
Sigma Gamma Rho has a national HIV/AIDS initiative called A3 for Life.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Burr, it's Cold Outside: Tips to Enjoy a Snow/Ice Day

Burr, it’s cold outside and I’m not going outside unless it’s necessary. I have a free day off from work, and I don’t have to use my vacation time (grown up issues) so I’m going to enjoy every bit of it. Unless you are an extreme outdoors person, you can do so much in your home during a time like this. If you are twiddling your thumbs trying to figure out how to spend your snow/ice day, here are some ideas:
1)      Make it a Movie Day.
Pop some popcorn, pour a glass of your favorite wine, and watch all of your favorite movies. When was the last time you’ve seen the unedited version of Love Jones or Love & Basketball, this is the perfect day to watch it.

2)      Read a Book.
Have you read a good book lately? I personally have at least four books that I purchased from Goodwill a few months ago to read and now is a great time to do so. As a matter of fact, if you want a quick yet great read, you should check out my sorority sister Britni Danielle’s novella called Turn It Loose.

3)      Chat with some old friends.
When’s the last time you talked to old so and so from years ago? This is a great time to reconnect with friends or even talk to your close friends.

4)      Write it out.
This is for my fellow writers. If you are trying to find the time to write your latest masterpiece or even think about it, why not use the time that you are stuck in the house composing your latest work. I’m definitely taking advantage of it.

5)      Do absolutey nothing.
We all need a day to just do nothing. Turn off your phones, tv, computers and just relax. There’s nothing wrong with it either.
Be safe out there friends!


Friday, January 17, 2014

PHREAdom Leader: Brandon Thomas

Brandon Thomas
It’s your birthday, the day you celebrate another year of life and existence in this world. You receive Facebook notifications, text messages, phone calls and gifts from 12:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Your birthday is the time to commemorate you. However, the first PHREAdom Leader of 2014 chose otherwise.

On January 8, Winthrop University alum Brandon Thomas celebrated his 28th birthday. When people asked him what he wanted, he said he felt like a jerk because he didn’t need anything and knew there were people who were without clothes, shelter, and food. It was then when he realized what he wanted for his special day.

Thomas, an academic advisor at the University of New Hampshire, decided he was going to raise awareness for the homeless veterans of the United States. He remembered attending a conference two years ago when one of the speakers shared information about the number of homeless United States veterans.

“The stats were amazing because these are the people who fought for us and [we] kind of swaddled them. They get out of the military and struggle to get back into society,” he said.

The current New Market, New Hampshire resident always knew he wanted to do something different. He wanted explore new places and meet new people. He wanted to challenge himself.

GoFundMe birthday for the homeless

With the help of social media and crowd funding, Thomas created a challenge to fast for 24 hours and raise $300 on his birthday. The member of Omega Psi Phi shared his challenge with his thousands of social media friends and network to join in on the cause.

His last meal was at 10 p.m. on January 7, and he didn’t eat again until 8 a.m. the following morning, he said.

He told himself that if he was going to create the challenge then he was going to go all in. He wanted to experience what it felt like to not be able to eat.

Around 5 or 6, he experienced the hunger struggle and knew he had access to food. He felt bad because there were some people who don't have a meal to eat, he said. 

While Thomas fasted, many supporters were making donations towards the cause.  He reached the goal by 12:45 p.m. the next day.  A total of $502 was raised for the Homeless Veterans of Dallas, which has one of the highest numbers of vets living on the streets.

“I was really impressed,” he said. “Some people shared with their friends and I receive donations by people who don’t know me.”

Thomas’ initiative wasn't about the money. 
"It was about raising awareness," Thomas said. 

The purpose of the challenge did not end after his birthday. He wants people to feel the impact of his work and dedication towards making a difference.

“Because of me, 20 people are able to eat another day,” Thomas explained. “If I can be selfless for 24 hours to give to someone else…on a day special to me…[his birthday] meant more.”

Passion to help others

The academic advisor is passionate about helping others through different facets including his service and meeting new people.

You never know someone’s struggle, but just by interacting with them can make a difference, he said.

The smallest thing that someone does change another person's day, he said. “I want to change the world one day at a time.”

Hope to spread care to the next man

Oftentimes, individuals get caught in the moment, but fail to care about the next man, the 28-year-old explained.

“I can think of 1000 people, I owe a lot of what I do to them,” Thomas said. “They were hard on me, but it prepared me for today.”

Respect is culturally different

Thomas believes that respect is culturally different depending on the person. Respect is about paying homage to those that came before you, he said.

Growing up, the Winthrop graduate’s family always told him to make sure he made them proud. Everything he does is a reflection of that message instilled in him at a young age growing up in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“Respect is not really about you, but those around you,” he said.

Empowered to teach young people

Thomas, who received his bachelors’ degree in English and masters’ in Sports & Fitness Administration, became empowered to teach young individuals. While obtaining his graduate degree, he served as a graduate assistant at Winthrop University for two years. He loves the university atmosphere and connecting with people. This led to his current role as a advisor and ultimately a role model to young people.

“I gotta be a good role model,” Thomas said. “I need to be a walking example.”

He was empowered by the people who impacted his life because they actually care.

“I realized that people actually gave a shit and they didn’t have to,” he said.

Emptying pocket of ambitions

Everyone has some type of ambitions, and Thomas is no different. Although he tries not to think too far ahead, he wants to make a difference in the world and keep a smile on his face. He wants to eventually start his doctorate program and go from there.

“I got a list of goals in my pocket,” he said.

One of his favorite quote is “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it,” Thomas said meaning that “no matter what happens you can overcome it and see the brighter side.”

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Happy Birthday Zora!

In a subdivision of New York City called Harlem, Blacks migrated to the North from the South in 1919. They sought a place to settle and develop self-identity as the New Negro ( Through art and creative expression individuals birthed the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance introduced many writers, poets, singers and leaders who would leave a mark in today’s society. These individuals include: Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Madame C. J. Walker, Marcus Garvey and my favorite Zora Neale Hurston.
Today is her birthday. I decided to recognize her and her great works like Their Eyes Were Watching God. According to an article by Noah Rayman, the novel is recognized as one of the top novels of the 20th century (
Hurston faced many adversities as a young black writer who moved from Eatonville, Fla. to Harlem in 1925. It didn’t stop her. My favorite quote is “My eyes and my mind keep taking me where my old legs can’t keep up.” My depiction of this quote is that her thoughts moving a thousand miles per hour. Although she died in poverty, I truly admire this woman because regardless of her struggle, she didn’t let anything hold her down. She left home at 14. She worked odds and ends jobs until she was able to find something that worked for her. In an article by Amy Hubbard, she referenced Carla Kaplan from a piece on the Los Angeles Times who said, “Hurston was, in her own terms, ‘bodacious’ – bold, pioneering, and always brave about stepping into the public sphere.” Boldness takes strength, and Hurston was that. She didn’t give up on her dream, and neither can I.
I thank women like Hurston who helped paved the way for writers like myself to continue fulfilling the dream of creative expression through words. Happy Birthday Zora!