Genma Speaks

Entrepreneur/ Writer/ Radio-Host

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Christmas Connections: Santa You Look Like Me


"Santa You Look Like Me" featured is featured in the in Christmas Connections Winter 2019.    
Ms. Santa photo by C-Suite Photography Pics





 As a little girl growing up in rural Mississippi, my grandparents were the ultimate lovers of Christmas and I inherited their love for the season, year round. Their spirit of giving to and serving others were their calling cards in my small community. On merger means, my grandparents taught their grandchildren how special the most wonderful time of the year is by the lives they lived daily. When I became a young adult, I ventured off to New Orleans where I fell in love with the sights, sounds and palates of a city rich in cultural at every turn. It is in Crescent City where I had my very first Christmas experience away from my rural upbringing. I encountered the Christmas legend, the Seventh Ward Santa, Fred Parker; an experience that left me filled with awe and wonderment!

Seventh Ward's Chocolate Santa, Fred Parker.
 Fred Parker, ‘Nawlins’ world famous "Chocolate Santa," took my breathe away when I stumbled upon him at an event. Even now, I can visually recall his beautiful brown skin and silvery silky beard in a red Santa suit as if it was yesterday. I stared at him for hours it seemed watching one young child after another sit on his lap and smile for a photo with the Seventh Ward’s Chocolate Santa. I literally wanted to get in line as well but I was all too aware that most of the children were not much more than seven years old. With me standing at 5’10, I would never be able to explain myself to the mother and her children behind me I thought to myself. As I continued to stare from my perch, I wanted to touch his suit and tell him how much he reminded me of my grandfather with his kind words and sincere laughter. My world view of Christmas and Santa Claus had just expanded several galaxies at the point. I could not wait to tell my grandparents about the man in the red suit who looked like me.  

The heart stopping exhilaration I felt that momentous day is how I feel each time I don my red Christmas suit in the timeless tradition set by thousands of Santas who have helped usher in Christmas with countless children as they pose for photos and hear their wishes worldwide. As Ms. Santa, I live for each opportunity to share the goodness of mankind that can be seen during the most wonderful time of year. And beyond. 

Santa Larry (North Texas Larry Jefferson) with Marines.
Santa Larry leading a Christmas Parade.

Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza's Santa a.k.a Langston Patterson
Like many children who have sat on my lap for nearly two decades and stared at me in amazement, I, even as Ms. Santa, swell with pride and get goose bumps whenever I see Texas’ Larry Jefferson, California’s Langston Patterson and several others in the news for being Santa Claus. I know the story is about being a Santa Claus but the focus is on the rarity of being a person of color in the high profile role. I share often with my media friends what I have learned from my travels as Ms. Santa...there are diverse Santas throughout communities visiting schools and churches sharing the joy of Christmas with children; they just may not be on the evening news. Thankfully, through the lens of social media, the national narrative of who is portrayed in the red suit (or green, blue,and even pink) in the media is beginning to change because we are visually seeing Santas from various backgrounds in the spotlight for doing good deeds in and out of their red suits. 

8th Guest Appearance on Urban Outlook with April Eaton.
 Whenever the spotlight is on me, I am usually asked what is it like to portray Ms. Santa. I always share there is nothing like trying to make a difference in someone’s life at Christmastime. Uplifting the spirits of a family of a deployed member of the Armed Forces or creating a memory for a family that will have more meaning in years to come is truly soul stirring. It IS a blessing to be a blessing. And, I cherish the experience of a melanin child looking into my eyes while touching my red suit and breathlessly saying, “You look like me Ms. Santa.” I know all too well what that child is experiencing especially when it is a first photo with me. 


"I am Santa Too" Christmas Photos 2016.
I also love to encourage little girls that they too can grow up and wear a red suit whenever I am asked if she can be a Ms. Santa or a Mrs. Claus one day. “You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up. As a matter of fact, I cannot wait for you to apply for my job as Ms. Santa. I am going to retire when you get your red suit,” was my response to a little blonde blue eyed five-year-old with a pony tail who could not stop hugging me at one of my school visits in December. After our photos were taken, she whispered with glee to her grandmother, “I am going to be Mrs. Santa Claus when I get real old.” Children really do say the darnedest things!

Breakfast with Ms. Santa 2015.
Ms. Santa @ Tulip Grove Elementary 2017.
5th Annual Holiday Visit to Nia House Montessori School 2018.

I can hardly wait to see where she will be in a few years and I look forward to the next generation of Santa Clauses, Mrs. Clauses, and Ms. Santas in their red suits with great expectation. I know they will come from diverse communities from around the globe so every child will be able to say with awe and wonderment, “Hey Santa, you look like me!”
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Saturday, March 9, 2019

HERstory: Dr. Sylvia Whitlock, UN Global Citizen and Humanitarian



Photo by Alyce Henson

Dr. Sylvia Whitlock was born in New York City but was educated, through high school, in Kingston, Jamaica. After returning to New York City she earned a B.A. in Psychology from Hunter College. Sylvia worked for the United Nations, as a Statistical Clerk, at the Secretariat Building in New York, before moving to California to start a career in Education. In California she went on to earn a Masters Degree, cum laude, in Education from Cal Poly, Pomona, and a Ph.D., cum laude, in Education, from Claremont Graduate School. Subsequently, she earned another Masters Degree, in Marriage and Family Therapy, from Azusa Pacific University, and began a second career as a therapist. She is licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences in California.

In 1982, while an Elementary School Principal in Duarte, CA., she was invited to join the history-making Ex-Rotary Club of Duarte. Dr. Whitlock became President of that club in 1987, the year the United States Supreme Court ruled that the club be reinstated, thus making her the first woman in Rotary International to head a club as President. She has served as President twice, Secretary, Treasurer, and Foundation Representative. At district level, she chaired the Four Way Test Speech committee for six years, the Ambassadorial Scholarship Committee for six years, receiving a Service Award from DG Don Aikin, and Simplified Grants for two years. She has been an assistant governor, presenter in Governors Institutes, and speaker in Rotary Clubs conventions and meetings, here and overseas, including South Africa, Jamaica.

Other community activities have included being a member of the Board of the Spanish Trails Girl Scout Council, volunteer at Pomona Valley Hospital, Recorder for the Blind and Dyslexic, and Commissioner at TriCity Mental Health Agency. In 2000, she was named Woman of the Year by NAACP and in 1998 she was named Distinguished Alumna by Cal Poly, Pomona. She chaired Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation teams and was, for eight years, a member of the Committee on Credentialing for California State Department of Education. She attends Trinity United Methodist Church where she is often a lay reader.

 Dr. Whitlock considers Rotary to be the best vehicle she knows for humanitarian ventures in service to mankind. Some favorite club projects, while in Duarte, have included sinking water wells in Nigeria, setting up an AIDS Center in Jamaica, supporting an orphanage in Mexico, and raised almost $90,000 for Education for Girls in India. She received the Global Citizen Award from United Nations Association. She continues to be inspired by the many Rotarians who have taken the organization to the edge of tomorrow and is committed to using the opportunity she has been given to further the cause of Rotary, in her community, in her country, and in the world.

Dr.Whitlock is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow and benefactor. She is the mother of three children - Meredith - a Paul Harris Fellow, BG is a deputy county counsel in San Mateo County, and Arlan (deceased).  She considers raising her children the most satisfying and enjoyable job she has ever had. She is now a proud grandmother of three who bring her much delight.

The 1989 Council on Legislation vote to admit women into Rotary clubs worldwide remains a watershed moment in the history of Rotary. Dr. Whitlock chronicled her journey as the first woman President in Rotary International in the world in her book titled WOMEN ALSO SERVE, PDG Sylvia Whitlock, USA. 9 March 2015.

Filled with facts and personal anecdotes, the first woman president in Rotary International shares a fascinating glimpse into the journey of the Duarte club. Dr. Sylvia Whitlock, who was present as the club enlisted help from the American Civil Liberties Union and took the case through the California court system until a landmark decision in May 1987, details the circumstances of the case as women struggled to attain equal rights, her role in the process, conversations with participants and onlookers, and the benefits she has gained personally through her own membership.

Proceeds from the sale of the book supports the Rotary Foundation. Dr. Whitlock supports schools for girls in Nigeria, Mexico, India and Jamaica.
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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Genma Holmes returns to Inside Her Story with Jacque Reid on XM Channel 127





Genma Stringer Holmes will return to Inside Her Story with Jacque Reid on Friday, December 20, 2018 to talk all things Christmas on XM Channel 127 from 2-3!





This segment has become a tradition for Ms. Santa who believes in helping others not only at Christmas but year round. We will talk  family and faith and how Christmas 2017 changed her after the loss of her grandmother. In 2018, she has been helping make Christmas memories for the elderly members of our community. Genma aka Ms. Santa has been more inclusive of our aging populations and being as attentive to them during the holidays as she is with young children.




She talks last minute gifts ideas for children that includes hot toys that will not break the bank. Ms. Santa also encourages ways to give back, building traditions by serving others, especially our military families, and supporting non-profits that have proven track records for making a difference in our community!
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Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Smiths and Watkins Families Updates

In the early years of social media, it was a tool used to share stories that were under reported in mainstream media. Now, social media is where mainstream media looks first for great stories, especially stories that uplift and motivate us. Our sisterhood had a social media encounter that was not only inspiring, but was informative and continues to give hope to the multitudes who are waiting to receive an organ transplant. Our social media inspiration gave the world a glimpse into the lives of two families who are truly living out the meaning of friendships for life!

Life long friends,  Sheryl Sutton Smith and Angela Watkins, are not only members of several civic organizations but they are also sorority sisters as well as Spellman College sisters. Their husbands, Clint Smith, Jr. and Judge David Watkins, are Morehouse Men.  All who love them know the depth of their friendship. But a post on social media made their friendship known around the world and help energized many registration drives during November and ignited hundreds to participate in Donor Sabbath. The media highlighted their friendships and how their collective impactful has change lives in their communities and beyond.


On March 9, 2016, The New York Times featured Clint Smith, Jr.  on the front page educating the world about a new transplant procedure that saved his life. The link to the story was posted on several social media pages and went viral throughout many national volunteer organizations within days. Mass media outlets picked up the story which led to thousands hearing for the first time from, Judge David Watkins, Clint’s donor. He shared his powerful story on Living Your Best Life Radio.
Judge David Watkins
Fueled by the number of shares on social media, several media outlets dug deeper into not only the history of the Smith-Watkins close bond but the importance of having advocates give testimony to life changing medical breakthrough in layman terms. The powerful interviews of the donor and the recipient also gave many families and close friends an opportunity to have open and honest conversations about organ donation, healthcare, and wellness. The collective interviews also revealed the power of faith in action.

The story of the Smith-Watkins families friendship has inspired our many to be proactive on social media sharing positive stories about organ donation. Since the first reporting of their story, there has been a steady increase in online sharing of organ donor-recipient relationships in the communities of color that engage, inform and educate readers around the world!

Since my initial writing about the Smith and Watkins families in 2016, there has been several weddings and grandchildren have joined the journey! Look at the power of love! Phil 1:3
After nearly two years of calls, emails, and texts, Clint, Jr. Genma, and Sheryl met for the first time in person in New Orleans on August 4, 2017.
 Photo credits: New York Times, FaceBook, and Genma Holmes

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Cerese D's Fall Must Haves with Genma Holmes


Genma Stringer Holmes graces the November cover of Cerese D! What a way to usher in the colors and fashions of Fall and the season of gratitude and giving! To read more about a serial entrepreneur and to shop the new bright colors click HERE.


Jewelry: Cerese D. (Of Course!)
Photo: Ms. Dig Photography
Suede Wrap Top: Berdorf Goodman
Hair: Salon Olivia 


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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

TNJ's The 25 Influential Black Women in Business Class of 2018



On Friday, March 16, 2018, The Network Journal, New York's leading Black professional and small-business magazine, presented it’s annual Influential Black Women in Business Awards at the New York Marriott Marquis. TNJ's 25 Influential Black Women in Business Awards is one of New York City's most prestigious events. For the 20th consecutive year, this Luncheon event has been recognizing most successful Black women.
 
This year's 25 deserving women were chosen from hundreds of nominations from the ranks of professionals and entrepreneurs. They were honored at an exciting program. Multi-Emmy Award winning journalist, Brenda Blackmon, was the Mistress of Ceremonies. TNJ celebrated women who are redefining excellence. As always, there was plenty of humor, anecdotes and the opportunity to renew acquaintances and network. It was an afternoon many won't soon forget!



“The women we honored in the 20th year of the awards span occupations, industries and expertise, and they share the same traits when it comes to their career and community service: passion, drive and focus. We salute them for achieving significant levels of success in their businesses and professional careers and for their myriad contributions to their community,” states TNJ Publisher and CEO Aziz Gueye Adetimirin. 



Former TNJ  40 under Forty honoree and longtime supporter of  TNJ, Genma Stringer Holmes, owner of Holmes Pest Control and GSH Media, was in the class of  2018 honorees. "When my friend Azia contacted me to share the news, I could only think of my grandmother. I dedicated the honor to her and received it knowing she was there with me in spirit. I was deeply humbled by the recognition and was extremely grateful to be included in this year's class. You could feel the positive energy that flowed between us! I have was in awe of our collective network and how dedicated each one was in their community. I am so thankful to the committee and TNJ for such a wonderful experience," stated Holmes in a recent interview.



The 25 Influential Black Women in Business Class of 2018 are:
Jan M. Adams
President/CEO
JMA Solutions

Vicki R. Brackens, ChFC
President & Financial Planner
Brackens Financial Solutions Network, LLC

Michele Bryant
Senior Managing Director, Global Chief Procurement Officer
Deloitte Global

Gabrielle Bullock
Director of Global Diversity, Principal
Perkins+Will

Kimberly Y. Chainey
Associate General Counsel, Global M&A, Strategy & Innovation
Avis Budget Group, Inc.

Roxann Thomas Chargois
Co-Owner
JMC Auto Group

Yolanda Conyers
Vice President Global HR and Chief Diversity Officer
Lenovo

Camille Chang Gilmore
VP of HR & Global Chief Diversity Officer
Boston Scientific Corporation

Michelle D. Greene
Vice President , IT Business Partner – Global Functions
Johnson Controls

Genma Stringer Holmes
Owner
Holmes Pest Control

Lesleigh Irish-Underwood
SVP & Chief Marketing Officer
United Way of New York City

Marachel L. Knight
Senior Vice President-Technology Planning & Engineering
AT&T Services, Inc.

Dee C. Marshall
President & CEO
Raise the Bar, LLC 

Ghillaine Reid Melbourne
Partner
McGuireWoods LLP

Gail D. Morales
SVP, US Project Efficiency Executive
TD America's Most Convenient Bank 

Trina Parks, MHA, FACHE
Senior Vice President, Corporate Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
RWJ Barnabas Health

Joy Profet
General Manager
ESSENCE Communications, Inc.

Carla Hunter Ramsey
Global Director Corporate Social Responsibility
Global Procurement

Denella Ri'chard
Sr. Director, Trade Communications & Engagement
Holland America Line

Sandra L. Richards
Managing Director
Head of Segment Sales & Engagement Group, Wealth Management 

Morgan Stanley
Nneka Rimmer
SVP, Strategy & Global Enablement
McCormick & Company

Nzinga Shaw
Sr. VP of Community & Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer
Atlanta Hawks & Philips Arena

Tamika Curry Smith
Head of Diversity & Inclusion
Mercedes-Benz USA

Alicia Thompson, APR
Managing Director
Porter Novelli

Cassandra Carter Wheeler
Regional Director
Georgia Power Company

This select group was profiled in the Spring 2018 issue of the magazine, and was formally honored during Women’s History Month at the 20th Annual 25 Influential Black Women in Business Awards Luncheon, presented by Morgan Stanley, on Friday, March 16, 2018. This highly anticipated signature TNJ event was held at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, located at 1535 Broadway in New York City.

This year’s sponsors include Presenting Sponsor Morgan Stanley. Additional sponsors include AT&T and Bronner Brothers. 


About the 25 Influential Black Women in Business Awards
Launched in March 1999, The Network Journal's 25 Influential Black Women in Business Awards honors women whose professional achievements have significantly impacted an industry or profession, and who also have made an important contribution to her community. A "TNJ25" honoree typically is a business owner, or a partner, president, CEO, board chair, or other senior-management executive with significant decision-making authority in the corporate, nonprofit (including academia and medicine), or government sector.

About The Network Journal
Founded in 1993, The Network Journal (TNJ) is an award-winning magazine published quarterly. It provides news and commentaries on issues that affect the growth of business and the advancement of professionals in the workplace for an audience of predominantly African-American professionals, corporate executives and small-business owners. Engaging more than 98,325 readers per issue, TNJ is distributed nationwide, with a focus on the New York tri-state area, while its daily digital edition at tnj.com reaches a global audience. 

Visit web site at http://www.tnj.com.
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IABC Nashville Announces Music City Gold Pen Awards 2018 Winners



The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Nashville Chapter presented the 2018 Music City Gold Pen Awards on Sept. 20, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. Pete Weber, the Voice of the Predators who is beginning his 21st season as part of the Nashville Predators broadcast crew, presented 28 awards in categories ranging from internal communications to social media programs. Photos from the event are posted on Nashville.IABC.com.


Genma Stringer Holmes and Pete Weber, the voice of the Nashville Predators.
Lysa Rigo and Genma Stringer Holmes
Pete Weber
Gene Boulware, IABC Nashville Chapter President and Genma Stringer Holmes

Award winners at this year’s event, which was sponsored by Exhibits South, StagePost, Vincit Group, and Sollie Studios, represented a range of industries, including strategic communications, education and healthcare. 2018 year’s award winners are:



  • Angela Argiro, MP&F Strategic Communications
  • Michelle Fowler, MP&F Strategic Communications
  • Amanda Gambill, MP&F Strategic Communications
  • Laura Haynes, FirstBank
  • Genma Holmes, The Ohio State University
  • Mich Michaud, M*Modal
  • Mich Michaud, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Cole Miracle, MP&F Strategic Communications
  • Misty Moore & Mignonne Blair, HCA Physician Services Group Communications
  • Ameerah Palacios, APR, MBAMetro Nashville Public Schools
  • Rosemary Plorin, Lovell Communications Inc.
  • Jan Read, Vanderbilt University
  • Rob Scobey, World Christian Broadcasting
  • Javier Solano, MP&F Strategic Communications
  • Millie Wert, MP&F Strategic Communications
“It’s a great joy to recognize the most talented communicators in middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky with the Music City Gold Pen Awards,” said IABC President Gene Boulware. “The annual awards ceremony not only recognizes great work, but also provides attendees with the opportunity to connect with top professionals who are raising the bar for excellence in communications.”


Genma Stringer Holmes, the owner of Holmes Pest Control and GSH Media, won three Gold Pen Awards for Excellence in Communications for her work with The Ohio State University. She won in the division of communications research, digital communication, and social media.  Genma shared later, "It was an honor and privilege to work with the researchers at the Martha S. Pitzer Center for Women, Children, and Youth at The Ohio State University College of Nursing. I am so thankful for Dr. Karen Patricia Williams and her guidance throughout the project with the university and beyond. To receive recognition by IABC who sets the global standards for communicators is more than I ever hoped or imagined. It was a beautiful day and to have so many friends from near and far to be in attendance to show their support will always be cherished by me."



Visit Nashville.IABC.com to learn more about the Music City Gold Pen Awards, IABC Nashville, and our professional development luncheons and networking mixers. Connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.


ABOUT IABC NASHVILLE
IABC Nashville is one of more than 100 chapters in 70 countries providing learning opportunities for its members and professional development sessions that offer new insights into the latest communication trends, technology and issues facing the industry. The chapter is diverse, with members representing area agencies, broadcast stations, corporations, universities, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. IABC Nashville also offers ties to job bank services and the annual Music City Gold Pen Awards program. IABC is the only place to connect with communicators globally.

"Connect here. Go anywhere!"

Photos by Earl Flippen
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GirlTrek's Stress Protest


On a visit home to spend time with my grandmother last summer, she lovingly took my hand after looking at me for what seemed like an eternity and said, "Baaaaby, that stress is gonna kill ya. You are looking like a worn out shoe. That stress gonna turn ya ugly from the inside out. You hear me." My vanity kicked in immediately and I replied back with a laugh, "Mother, well I need to make some changes quickly because we don't do ugly, right? Our playful banter stayed with me long after I left my hometown. If my grandmother was bothered, it was not good!
My son at his graduation before being deployed.
At that time, my family was in the middle of two deployments a few weeks apart and we had a college graduation right in the middle. My youngest son, USMC, and my nephew, Army, were headed overseas and I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. The aching in my heart had penetrated my bones. My baby boy was "chosen" for a special mission and he needed his family support. I needed to be upbeat because he did not need to see me falling apart.
I spent weeks wrestling with fear and worry and tried not to show it. I would lock myself in my closet praying for his protection and safety. It was during this time, fellow Marine moms called me up to tell me to "walk it out." "You got to shake this and be strong," I was told. I took my stress levels seriously and took inventory of what was bringing me joy and what in my life that was throwing me out of sorts beyond my son's deployment. I also went for my annual check-up. After my exam, my doctor voiced sternly what I knew, "Stress and high blood pressure can led to a stroke or heart attack. You must do better." She was right!
I immediately started corrective actions.  I stepped up my game and began walking with bolder, more  determined steps to help decrease my stress levels and to rid myself of the extra baggage in head. My extra baggage came from many factors and I addressed them one by one. I put my volunteering life on a diet and started managing who and what entered my sacred space. I even paid attention to my media consumption. I could only watch #Maddow twice a week!
In my attempts to be very radical about my stress, on Labor Day Weekend in 2017, I joined hundreds of Black women in the mountains of Colorado to stage a #stressprotest. Members of GirlTrek flew to the Rocky Mountains from all over the world! There are no words to describe accurately the magic that happened on that mountaintop.
  



We spent the four day weekend reflecting, being nurtured, resting our weary souls, rejoicing at the breathtaking views, absorbing the serenity of the mountainside and relishing in the peace and tranquility found at Estes Park'sYMCA. We vowed to take care of ourselves and to put health first. Since my weekend in the mountain, I have traveled to meetup with several members of GirlTrek who have staged #stressprotest weekends on hiking trails and mountains to reclaim their minds and health.  For those who did not attend the event in the mountains, they had hundreds of  #stressprotests in their own neighborhoods. The #stressprotest was covered by nation media outlets, online, print, and radio, and thousands on social media cheering for women, Black women, wanting to take care of the themselves by dumping stress! 
At Living Your Best Life Radio Studio.
Saturday after the show walk with Grand Prince.
In the spring of 2018, I joined 100,000+ Black women who took the GirlTrek's Harriet Hall of Fame: 100 Mile Challenge to take charge of our health by addressing issues that maybe self-inflicted, environmental, work related or relational that can take a toll on our physical and mental health.
My Marine cheering me on after a walk!
 I made 2018 my year to advocate for my mind, body, and soul, first, and to partner with others who are determined to be change agents in our community for our sisters' health and well being. #stressprotest 

This story was previously published in February 2018. 
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