Genma Speaks

Entrepreneur/ Writer/ Radio-Host

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
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

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

Roxann Thomas Chargois
JMC Auto Group

Yolanda Conyers
Vice President Global HR and Chief Diversity Officer

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
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
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 reaches a global audience. 

Visit web site at

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

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 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.

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

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. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Change Agents are Inspiring Millions to Vote Early

I have had the opportunity to meet and interview several amazing women who are change agents through the years. Here are a few who are political trailblazers who are making us skip, hop, run or drive to the polls to vote early like never before to exercise our most precious civic!

Stacey Abrams, a native Mississippian who was raised in Georgia, is seeking to lead the state of Georgia as Governor. Her willingness to fight a political system that has been exposed as bias at every turn has many of us wondering what shoe will drop next. She has been fierce and steadfast through it all. And, she has inspired millions of to go to polls to vote early in Georgia and around the nation.

Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams and her five siblings grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi with three tenets: go to school, go to church, and take care of each other. Despite struggling to make ends meet for their family, her parents made service a way of life for their children – if someone was less fortunate, it was their job to serve that person. This ethic – and her parents’ unwavering commitment to providing educational opportunity for their children – led the family to Georgia.

Stacey’s parents attended Emory University to pursue graduate studies in Divinity and become United Methodist ministers. Stacey and her younger siblings attended DeKalb County Schools, and she graduated from Avondale High School. Stacey received degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School.

She put her education to work to better the lives of Georgians through the government, nonprofit, and business sectors. Dedicated to civic engagement, she founded the New Georgia Project, which submitted more than 200,000 registrations for voters of color between 2014 and 2016. Under the pen name Selena Montgomery, Stacey is the award-winning author of eight romantic suspense novels, which have sold more than 100,000 copies. As co-founder of NOW Account – a financial services firm that helps small businesses grow – Stacey has helped create and retain jobs in Georgia. And through her various business ventures, Stacey has helped employ even more Georgians, including hundreds of young people starting out.

When many women groups said 'no' when Tamika Mallory called in late 2016 to organize a women's march for early 2017, their "no, not now," did not deter her. She went to become part of the largest protest movement that was held in U.S. and around the world. Her vision and determination to stay focus has been an inspiration to women of all ages and backgrounds.  

 Tamika D. Mallory

Tamika D. Mallory is a mother to her teenage son, an esteemed social justice leader, advocate, activist and a member of The Metro-Manhattan (NY) Chapter. A New York City native, this fiery, outspoken advocate for human rights and liberty has remained a consistent fixture in the civil rights movement throughout the years. The 36 yr old has been applauded as an advocate for civil rights issues, equal rights for women, health care, gun violence, and police misconduct. Tamika has been applauded as “a leader of tomorrow” by Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Valerie B. Jarrett and was selected to serve on the transition committee of New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio. Her astounding, integrity driven leadership and campaign for equality and judicial reform has deemed Tamika a significant force amongst government officers, policy makers and other community advocates.

From her position as the former Executive Director of the National Action Network to her instrumental role in creating New York City’s Crisis Management System, an official gun violence prevention program that awards nearly $27 million to violence prevention organizations annually; Tamika is stitched into the fabric of the new revolution for civil rights. However, it was when Ms. Mallory stepped onto the public stage as one of four co-chairs for the Women’s March on Washington that she became internationally recognized as an integral voice for civil rights, social justice and the new wave of feminism. The Women’s March was recorded as having participation from 5 million people worldwide, thus landing Tamika on the 2017 Time 100 Pioneers list as well as Fortune’s 2017 list of the World’s Greatest Leaders.

Speaking truth to power in an era that has many of our seasoned leaders stating, “We have been here before and we are not going back.” Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, D. 24th District has been that voice. Many know of her work not only to her Floridian constituents but she has proven to be a fierce supporter of military families, a difference maker and a role model who gives voice to the voiceless.

Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson with Daughters of Destiny

Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson proudly represents one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse districts in the nation and includes parts of northwest Miami-Dade and southern Broward counties. 

Recognizing her record of service and productivity, in 2010 voters overwhelmingly elected her to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. As a former educator, elementary school principal, community leader, school board member, state legislator, and founder of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, Congresswoman Wilson earned a reputation as a “Voice for the Voiceless.”  Her tenure in Congress, now in its fourth term, also has been marked by her signature spirit of unrelenting advocacy on behalf of the less fortunate.

The Florida lawmaker has continued her mission to improve the quality of life for her constituency by creating jobs with dignity, improving education, stopping home foreclosures, safeguarding Medicare and Social Security, and strengthening ties with Haiti and the Caribbean.

As the Ranking Democrat on the Education and Workforce Protections Subcommittee in the 114th Congress, Congresswoman Wilson introduced the American Jobs Act of 2013.  This innovative bill that promotes full employment and boosts workforce development opportunities; the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights, which would provide vital relief to overburdened student loan borrowers; and the Youth Corp Act of 2013, which reconnects youth with education, the workforce and their communities. She has also sponsored legislation to reduce homeowners’ insurance premiums, protect foster children, and defend Haitian women against gender-based violence. In addition, the lawmaker, whose mantra is “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” hosted one of the state’s largest job fairs, which connected thousands of Floridians to more than 100 local and national employers.

Congresswoman Wilson is the founder of the Florida Ports Caucus, a bipartisan coalition formed to help pass the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. After being stalled for 12 years, the GOP-led Congress in a bipartisan vote passed the bill in 2014. As a result, her district was awarded billions of dollars in capital funding for major projects like the Port Miami Tunnel, which created thousands of jobs. It also highlighted the lawmaker’s ability to successfully work across party lines.

Congresswoman Wilson has consistently secured resources for various projects in her district, including a $1 million grant in 2014 to help reduce crime in Miami-Dade County’s highest crime area, the Northside District. The Department of Justice grant will bolster the Miami-Dade Police Department’s ability to combat crime and violence and make the area a safer place to live, work, and raise families. During her tenure, the district has received $3.1 billion in grants, contracts, and other assistance. In May 2015, Congresswoman Wilson was appointed to the advisory council of President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Alliance, a public acknowledgement of the life-changing results for boys and young men of color that she has achieved through the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. President Obama often cites this program, which she created nearly a quarter century ago, as an example of the kinds of projects that his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative is designed to emulate and support. Congresswoman Wilson also is founder and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Task Force.

Congresswoman Wilson understands Congress’ role as a global leader in human and civil rights and has led its efforts to fight for the safe return of the 219 Nigerian schoolgirls still missing since their June 2014 abduction by Boko Haram and to aid in the defeat of the terrorist group. In addition to participating in two fact-finding missions to Nigeria and passing two resolutions, she has been a leading voice in a daily, international Twitter campaign to #BringBackOurGirls. The Florida lawmaker also created “Wear Something Red Wednesdays,” a weekly photo opportunity and press event with congressional leaders and lawmakers. The initiative helps to ensure the girls are not forgotten by maintaining media attention and pressure on U.S. and Nigerian officials to honor their pledge to do all they can to rescue them. A leading political newspaper has dubbed her relentless attention to this human rights crisis “Frederica Wilson’s War.”

The Florida lawmaker has worked tirelessly to recognize Americans who have made significant contributions to our nation. She ushered through legislation in record time to memorialize a new Federal Bureau of Investigation building in honor of Special Agents Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove, who were killed in what is considered the “bloodiest shootout” in FBI history. Most recently, she passed legislation to rename a Miami post office in honor of Father Richard Marquess-Barry, a pillar of the community and one of South Florida’s most influential and unifying faith-based leaders.
After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Fisk University and a Master of Science degree in elementary education from the University of Miami, Congresswoman Wilson worked as a teacher and assistant educational coordinator for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Head Start program. She quickly rose to become principal of Skyway Elementary School, which was recognized as one of the best schools in America in President George H. W. Bush’s “America 2000” plan to upgrade national education standards.

In addition to raising academic standards and expectations, Congresswoman Wilson taught her students the power of advocacy. Their target was a compost plant built across the street from Skyway that emitted odors that posed a major health and environmental hazard and distracted the children from their studies. She and her students mobilized their community and lobbied government and school board officials until they achieved their goal. The compost plant closed its doors just short of two years after its opening.

The experience highlighted the need for stronger local leadership and led Congresswoman Wilson to successfully campaign for a seat on the Miami-Dade County School Board in 1992. Her first legislative achievement was the establishment of the 500 Role Models of Excellence Project as a district-sanctioned program. The innovative mentoring program was inspired by the extraordinary impact of positive male influence on the attitudes and performance of the boys at Skyway Elementary during her tenure as principal. Now known as the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, the program has flourished and earned much-deserved national acclaim.

The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project has awarded millions of dollars in college scholarships to help hundreds of young men achieve their dream of earning a college degree or post-secondary certification.  In 1997, President Bill Clinton honored the program, which today serves more than 8,000 students each year, with the Teaching Example for the Nation Award at the Summit for America’s Future.

As a state legislator, she worked with Governor Jeb Bush to remove the Confederate flag from the State Capitol and passed a bill mandating HIV/AIDS testing for prisoners upon their release and linking them to care in the counties where they relocated. She also passed a bill that made rape in prison a felony crime. Other legislative achievements and priorities included relocating women in Florida prisons to facilities that would enable them to be closer to their children while serving out their sentences; opposing high-stakes testing; pushing for a ban of the term “illegal alien” in state public records; and partnering with Governor Charlie Crist to restore voting rights for ex-felons. 

We could not shine a spotlight on women leading movements and speaking truth to power and not share the historic and sheroic efforts of Black women in Alabama in 2017. They said no to institutional racism, sexism, classism, pedophilia, homophobia, xenophobia and God knows what else, by challenging the living and those who were spiritually dying to wake up and hold elected officials accountable for their actions, past and present. Black women in Alabama showed our country that the clap back to systemic racial discord will be addressed in the voting booth and our votes will not be taken for granted. Our sisters’ voting power revealed that going forward, the Black community and people of African descent are at the table not on the menu in 2018.

Black Women Voters in Alabama (Past and Present)
by Kerra Bolton

When Doug Jones won Alabama’s hotly contested Senate special election on December 12, 2017, observers on Twitter were quick to point one thing out: Jones’s victory was most likely due to high black turnout, particularly among black women.

Despite fears of the reduced turnout often seen in an off-cycle elections, belief that the Jones campaign made missteps in its black outreach, and concerns that voter suppression tactics in the state could reduce the number of black voters able to cast ballots, black voters made a commanding display of political power on Tuesday night, according to preliminary exit polls. In a state where African Americans usually make up one-fourth of the electorate, the initial exit polls suggested that they exceeded that turnout rate, with early numbers putting them at 30 percent of Tuesday’s electorate.

The numbers will be in flux for a while, as Dara Lind writes for Vox, but an exit poll from CNN found that 96 percent of black voters went for Jones in the election. And a demographic breakdown of exit polls published by the Washington Post went viral on Twitter, showing that black women, an estimated 17 percent of the Tuesday night electorate, supported Jones by a 98-2 margin.
Observers noted that the result was a powerful reminder of the power of black women’s votes. The results also come months after the Democratic Party engaged in a highly public debate about the significance of “identity politics,” with some arguing that the party was taking black women for granted as it pursued the votes of working-class white voters.

Alabama’s Senate race isn’t the first election this year where a strong turnout among black voters, led by black women, helped determine an election. In a performance that closely matched their 2013 behavior in the state, black women in Virginia helped keep the governor’s mansion in Democratic hands, with 91 percent of their vote going to Ralph Northam last month. They also showed the strongest support for the winning Democratic gubernatorial candidate in New Jersey. And while Hillary Clinton did not win the 2016 election, black women overwhelmingly supported her, backing her by a 94-6 margin over Donald Trump and other candidates.

On social media on election night, some observers noted that black women were voting for Doug Jones in an effort to “save America,” which some critics argued puts too much of a burden on black women.

But in a state where a disproportionate level of African-Americans face rampant poverty, poor education systems, and unequal access to healthcare, the votes of black women were not about some altruistic mission to save America from itself. Their votes were a very real attempt to make a change that would help themselves and their families.

They were also counteracting a candidate who argued that America was last “great” when slavery was in place, responded affirmatively when asked if constitutional amendments after the 10th should be abolished, and was backed by a president who has engaged in vitriolic attacks against prominent black women while pursuing legislation that would harm them. The results outline why they were such a powerful political force that should be focused on beyond election season.

Alabama’s Senate race is only the latest election in which black women made the difference. If their high levels of turnout remain surprising, it is because we are not looking to them in the first place.

Photos: supplied
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