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Porsha Williams on Atlanta’s legacy and her beautiful generational success story

ROLLINGOUT.COM — Porsha Williams understood the importance of living in a Black mecca at a young age.

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By A.R. Shaw

Porsha Williams understood the importance of living in a Black mecca at a young age. At 5 years old, Williams spent Thanksgiving feeding the homeless alongside her grandfather, the late great civil rights leader Hosea Williams. The icon marched alongside Atlanta luminaries such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, Xernona Clayton and Joseph Lowery. Each legend helped to build the foundation for Atlanta to become the Black mecca.

Williams’ experience with such legendary figures allowed her to understand how service, civil rights and business leadership helped to shape Atlanta.

“I knew Atlanta was special from a very young age, just through charity work,” Williams told rolling out. “My grandfather, Hosea Williams, created the charity Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless. I worked in it, and it was right in the heart of Atlanta. All of my life I’ve been very close to the community and have known the people. We like to work together, we like to build each other up, we like to network; it’s a very [forward-looking city].”

With her family’s legacy intact, Williams gained notoriety in her own right in 2008 after joining the cast of Bravo’s vibrant reality TV show, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” She also became a national voice in entertainment television after being named as a permanent host of the syndicated show “Dish Nation” in 2014. Williams is the only Black woman in Hollywood to currently star in a reality TV show and a nationally syndicated talk show.

She also appeared on the first season of “The New Celebrity Apprentice” and did voice work in the animated movie CarGo.

Along with becoming a household name, Williams continued to pursue her entrepreneurial goals when she was not in front of the camera. She owns a virgin hair line called Go Naked Hair and a line of women’s intimate apparel known as Naked Lingerie.

“Being an entrepreneur just came naturally,” Williams said. “My father was an entrepreneur. He owns his own chemical company. My mother is also an entrepreneur, owning numerous childcare centers throughout Atlanta. I started out working in the family business, which was childcare. I ended up starting my own childcare center [at] 24 years old. Being an entrepreneur gives me the power to come up with a product that is close to my heart, and [a chance to] offer something to inspire other women and help them express themselves.”

She also sees Atlanta as a place where Black businesses can thrive. Georgia is second in the nation when it comes to the number of Black-owned businesses, trailing only the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Atlanta is definitely a place where you can make a great living for yourself being African American,” Williams said. “We do support each other a lot. A lot of people definitely try to network with each other to keep that going.”

This week, the world will be watching the city of Atlanta as it hosts Super Bowl LIII. Williams hopes that the festivities serve as an opportunity for people to experience the Black mecca up close and personal.

“I want people to experience the Atlanta that they’ve always heard about,” she shared. “I think that Atlanta has a great reputation for being very warm, Southern and with great hospitality. I just want them to be able to experience everything that they would expect from the South, which is to be embraced by us and to know that they always have a home. A lot of people from different states end up moving to Georgia because it’s a great place to raise a family. We have probably the best dynamic here because you can really find a place that you want to hang with your family during the day, and we also have a great nightlife. I think that the Atlanta pride is going to show through, and it’s going to be a great opportunity for us to be able to have so many people from everywhere here.”

In the midst of running a business, starring on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and bringing viewers celebrity news on “Dish Nation,” Williams found love with her fiancé Dennis McKinley. The two are expecting their first child together.

“Mommy entrepreneurs must be sure to have a great support system,” she said. “And you have to make sure that the type of business that you want to start will be good for you and your family. I wouldn’t get into just anything. If you don’t have someone to keep your kids and the best support, you may want to start a business that’s online, where you could be working from home. Start a business that’ll be practical for your real lifestyle. Research it and just go for it. Dream big and put in the hard work. Always use your kids as the focus and the purpose and the drive for what you’re going to do.”

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.

This article originally appeared in Rollingout.com.

Art

Poet Laureates Provides Poetry That Heals the Soul

The City of Richmond’s 2021– 2023 Poet Laureate, David Flores was joined by fellow poet laureates including Eevelyn Mitchell of El Cerrito, Jeremy Snyder of Vallejo, Ayodele Nzinga of Oakland and Tongo Eisen-Martin of San Francisco to celebrate Flores’ installation. Each poet shared some of their work with the audience. A laureate is a person who has been honored for achieving distinction in a particular field.

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The poet laureates are not connected as a group but are part of a community that supports each other with our craft.
The poet laureates are not connected as a group but are part of a community that supports each other with our craft.

By Clifford L. Williams

Poetry is a universal language…it’s the song of the heart that feeds the soul.

That was the message shared by five poet laureates from the Bay Area last week at a gathering to introduce the City of Richmond’s 2021– 2023 Poet Laureate, David Flores, during an Open Mic event at CoBiz Richmond, in collaboration with Richmond’s Arts and Cultural Commission.

Flores was joined by fellow poet laureates including Eevelyn Mitchell of El Cerrito, Jeremy Snyder of Vallejo, Ayodele Nzinga of Oakland and Tongo Eisen-Martin of San Francisco to celebrate Flores’ installation. Each poet shared some of their work with the audience. A laureate is a person who has been honored for achieving distinction in a particular field.

Flores, an 11-year former schoolteacher for the Richmond Unified School District, submitted a few poems and some of his writings to a panel of commissioners last May, who reviewed his work and eventually selected him as the city’s newest poet laureate.

“To me, this is an opportunity to really highlight poetry as an art form accessible to everyone in our city,” said Flores. “I will use this appointment to actively engage young people and adults to allow them the opportunity to not only hear art but to also inspire them to share their work.”

Flores said that since COVID 19, people have been disconnected and now need community bonding to express themselves through art and poetry. “As a poet laureate, I want to grow as an artist and share my work,” said Flores. “It’s fulfilling as a shared humanity to connect and inspire people and a way to spark communication with one another. Once you have that experience, you feel confidence and there’s no going back.”

The poet laureates are not connected as a group but are part of a community that supports each other with our craft. Laureates help to bring awareness of poetry and literacy through the arts to their respective communities during their two-year appointments. Each laureate goes through a process involving several steps, outlined by a panel of commissioners, who make the final selections.

“One of the main things we do as poet laureates is to encourage unity within our community through the arts,” said Mitchell. “Our specific responsibilities are to highlight poetry as an outlet to allow people to express themselves.

“As poet laureate, we put on events to encourage our community to become more involved and aware, and to be more unified in bringing awareness, unity, respect and love within the community. Because of the pandemic, we are all trying to figure out our new norm.

“With everything that has been going on for the past two years, I firmly believe it’s important that we as a community, and I as a poet laureate, need to bring harmony back into our lives,” she said. “It is my quest and priority to promote that. We are neighbors, we are friends, we are a community, and we need each other to survive.”

The general public can learn more about their city’s poet laureate events and activities by contacting their Arts and Cultural Commission.

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Bay Area

Skyline High Girls Volleyball Team Makes History

The team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match.

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The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team
The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team.

As the season comes to a close for the Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team, the members are celebrating that they went farther than any Skyline or OUSD/OAL volleyball team ever has. On the final day, November 19, the team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match. Skyline fell short 3 games to 1, coming in as runner-up. The photo above shows the team posing with their trophy after the match.

 

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Activism

Samba Funk! to Hold Annual ‘Funkraiser’ in Honor of Founding Member Monica Hastings-Smith

Called MoniCarnival in memory of our beloved sister and founding member Monica Hastings-Smith, JOY 11 will feature live performances, DJs, vegan food, a youth zone, and a community bateria-style jam in a comfortable, indoor-outdoor space convenient for social-distancing.  

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Monica Hastings-Smith. Photo courtesy of SambaFunk!
Monica Hastings-Smith. Photo courtesy of SambaFunk!

By Daktari Shari, PsyD & Theo Aytchan Williams

SambaFunk! will present JOY 11, MoniCarnival, a funkraiser, celebration and party on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, on the island located at 809 50th Ave. in Oakland. This year’s event is family friendly, starting at 2:00 p.m. with youth-specific programming.

Called MoniCarnival in memory of our beloved sister and founding member Monica Hastings-Smith, JOY 11 will feature live performances, DJs, vegan food, a youth zone, and a community bateria-style jam in a comfortable, indoor-outdoor space convenient for social-distancing.

Monica was an Oakland native born on Jan. 22, 1965. After a year-long battle with cancer, she took flight to the realm of the ‘Ancestars’ at the tender age of 56. Also raised in Oakland, Monica served as an artist, activist, educator, mother, mentor, trailblazer, guiding light, and contributor to local and far-reaching creative communities of and throughout the Afro-Diaspora.

A graduate of Bishop O’Dowd and the University of California, Berkeley, she was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and a co-founder of the Soul of Oakland. Monica participated in, partnered and collaborated with countless community organizations and schools including but not limited to Fogo Na Roupa, SambaFunk!, BoomShake, Manzanita SEED, and Urban Promise Academy.

SambaFunk!’s 11th Annual JOY Party, MoniCarnival will be a day party with live performances by Everyday Party, a musical duo Monica co-founded with Iwalani Venerable (@thesunflowerlioness) that offers music for young audiences; the soulful sounds of Kah Liberation (@kahliberationofficial); and the SambaFunk! performance ensemble including dancers, FunkTyme bateria and Funkternal band playing some longtime favorites also penned by Monica.

MoniCarnival will open with native son DJ Henroc spinning world rhythms and culminating with world-renowned Soul House DJ Patrick Wilson immersing the attendees in deep, soulful house music, inviting us all to take flight under the stars. Rounding out the evening will be a moving and grooving Community Drum Jam for Monica’s many percussion and drum friends to join together in harmony. All drummers are invited.

JOY 11, MoniCarnival also serves as the official launch for the 2022 Carnival season. “This is our biggest fundraising event of the year and largest family event since the COVID lockdown,” said SambaFunk! Artistic Director Theo Aytchan Williams. “I’m personally asking all supporters and well-wishers of SambaFunk! to show their support with their attendance and make a generous donation. Our goal is to raise $25,000.”

A portion of the proceeds from JOY 11, MoniCarnival will be donated to the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, which offers affordable music lessons and learning experiences centered around African American musical culture to youth and adults of all ages.

Pandemic protocols will be observed with onsite PPE and sanitizing stations. Masks are required.

To purchase tickets and make donations for JOY 11, Monicarnival, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/joy-11-monicarnival-funkraiser-day-party-tickets-204311028787.

For additional details, contact us at sambafunky@gmail.com, visit our SambaFunk.com website, or give us a call at 510-451-6100.

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