Monday, March 10, 2014

GSULYP Member Spotlight: Kevin Griffin


Born on a navy base in Agana, Guam and raised in Oakland, California, today Kevin appraises commercial real estate for a living. Growing up in various parts of the expansive and diverse city of Oakland gave Kevin exposure to a variety of culturally and ethnically diverse people from a young age. As a result of seeing and experiencing the many adverse effects of poverty on urban youth of color in Oakland, Kevin decided that he would commit to helping boys and girls whose experience growing up mirrored his own and many other minority youth growing up in many of Oakland's indigent communities. After attending college at the University of California, Davis, Kevin decided that volunteering for groups like the Urban League would be a great way to do just that. 
What impact do you want to have on your community?
I want to truly help people (especially boys and girls of color) realize their full potential as individuals and collectively as a community. 

What brought you to YP?
I found out about YP through a friend, attended a YP social event and really connected with the great people and mission of YP and decided that it was something that fit my personal personal goals and passions.

What do you enjoy about being a YP member?
Among other things, what I enjoy most about being a member of YP is the satisfaction that comes from knowing that I am giving back to the same community that has and continues to give me so much inspiration and purpose in my life.

What is your dream job (a fun one)?
My dream job (in another life) is to be a CIA agent who goes on critical missions around the world to save masses of people from natural and man-made  disasters.

What else can you tell us about yourself?
One embarrassing fact about me is that at age 27 I still don't know how


Monday, February 17, 2014

Member Spotlight: Jordan Duckens

Jordan Duckens is a 22-year-old native of Sacramento, California. In May 2013, she graduated with honors from Howard University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism. She currently works for the California State Legislature in the Speaker’s Office. Jordan became a member of GSULYP in November 2013 and now serves as the Chair of Marketing for the Young Professionals. Jordan is active member of her church and has held several leadership positions within the youth organization.

What impact do you want to have on your community?

I want to help empower people professionally, economically, and politically. I have been exposed to a lot and I want to help others access resources and knowledge to make themselves and others in their community better. Feeling powerless is the worst feeling. I want others to realize the power they have to change themselves and their communities.

What brought you to YP?

I was born and raised in Sacramento. When I returned home after I graduated from college and realized I no longer had a social or professional network in Sacramento. In college, I was surrounded by intelligent, talented, ambitious, young, black men and women who were interested in social justice and making a real impact in the community. I joined YP to find that same community at home.

What do you enjoy about being a YP member?

I’ve only been a member for a few months but I really enjoy how dedicated and dynamic this group is. I like the fact that we do meaningful programs as well as social events where we can all have a good time.

What is your dream job (a fun one)?

I would love to be a wedding planner and run a wedding planning company someday. I have always been obsessed with weddings. They are such sacred, beautiful events. “Whose Wedding is it Anyway?” used to be my favorite show. I adore David Tutera. I feel like it would be a challenging job that would allow me to combine logic/reasoning with my creativity while working with a variety of people.

What else can you tell us about yourself?

I love sports. I played volleyball and basketball up until college. I would really like to join an adult sports league because I miss playing a lot.  I’ve also recently become a big college basketball fan (Go Kansas!). I can’t wait to spend every weekend in March watching basketball all day.

I am also a PROUD alumna of Howard University. I love my HBCU!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

GSULYP Wine Trip Experience

On a hot September day, 14 YPs packed up few cars and embarked on a journey to wine county.  Yes you read that correct, wine county. When you think about wine tasting, the first thing that comes to mind is Napa.  But Napa was not the destination for this trip, this trip was to the closer, quieter but just as beautiful underdog wine tasting place called Amador County, right down Highway 16.  We first stopped at Montevina, then went to Vino Noceto.  We then stopped to get lunch at Amador Vintage Market for some tasty sandwiches.  After lunch we continued on to the most aesthetically scenic winery called Karmere.  The last winery that the group tasted at was Dobra Zemlja Winery.  This was a memorable experience that we visited for the fact that the tasting was done in a cool cave on the side on a hill.  We congratulated the 2 raffle winners (Janneh and Keisha) and drove safely back to Sacramento, with the wine purchased in tow.  It was a wonderful time in Amador County.

By Zeke Ivey, VP of GSULYP

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August YP Member Spotlight: Carmela Smith

The August YP Member Spotlight goes to Carmela Smith!  Author, and Information Technology Specialist.  In 2010, Sacramento Cultural Hub honored her with an “Exceptional Woman of Color” award for community service.  Her Public Relation skills have recently placed her in position to interview Legendary Director/Actor Bill Duke about his documentary “Dark Girls”, which premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network in June 2013.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Black Business Month Spotlight: D2O Dental

1816 L Street
Sacramento, CA 95811
Phone: 916.442.7000 

In honor of Black Business Month we are profiling owner of D2O Dental, Dr. Edward Wiggins

Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Grew up in South central Los Angeles and Inglewood.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: I play tennis, run with my dog Bruce along the river, travel, and scuba dive.

Q: How long have you lived in Sacramento?
A: I've been here in Sacramento since 2008.

Q: Are you married, do you have children?
A: I have been married going on 6 years and we just had twins in February, boy and girl, Austin and Presley.

Q: When did you know you wanted to own your own business?
A: I never took directions that well even when I was younger so I think I've always wanted to be independent and control my own destiny through my own business.

Q: What made you choose your profession?
A: I had a great orthodontist and dentist growing up and we had a fantastic relationship so I looked up to them. Then I met my mentor, another dentist from Inglewood who was giving a talk while I was at Morehouse, I started working in his office during the summers and haven't looked back since.

Q: What were some challenges you faced starting your business? 
A: Finding great employees was the most difficult challenge I faced. It took a while to get our A team together as well as get everybody on the same page.

Q: How did you fund your business initially?
A: Funding was totally secured through financing
If you have employees, how did you find them?
All of my current employees come directly from colleagues that I trust or past relationships. Craigslist and like sites haven't worked for me.

Q: How do you find your customers and clients?
A: Clients find me through referrals on the internet such as (presently the highest ranked provider in our area), visibility of my location, and direct patient referrals although initially I did have a magazine ad and did some direct mailers which I think helped in the beginning.

Q: What is the worst business advice you have ever received?
A: Worst business advice I had was don't start a business at the height of the worst recession since the great depression.

Q: What advice would you offer aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: Listen to your inner voice, it’s usually right. Don't procrastinate, if nothing else, get started with a business plan, it can help you discover challenges you may not have thought about and give you a good starting point.

Dr. Wiggin's 5 Pillars to business success 
1) Market disruption. What makes your product different? Whether it’s keeping your prices low with the same or better quality, or offering a new or better service, there needs to be something that distinguishes your business from others.

2) Visibility. There’s no point having an outstanding product or service that no one knows about. Whether its location, networking, or the internet, visibility and marketing is key.

3)  Employees. A major key in any great company is putting the right people in the right places. Then keep you staff happy. Employees need to be rewarded and share in the growth and profitability of the business and be appreciated.

4) Learn from the best. Look to the leaders in your industry and other industries to help refine your ideas and systems. Good to Great, Any of John Wooden's leadership books are good places for anybody to start with.

5) Believe in yourself. Your team and customers have got to believe in your message, and so you have to believe first. Then you can come up with a ever evolving mission statement that will guide your business for the future. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

GSULYP Review: Fruitvale Station

Sitting in adjacent seats at Century 14 Sacramento on July 23rd, Flojaune Griffin and TaureenCofer and other members of GSULYP attended an advance screening of "Fruitvale Station"; a film written and directed by 2007 Sacramento State Alumnus, Ryan Coogler. The film chronicles the last day of Oscar Grant III -- a 22-year-old black man who was killed by a police officer in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009 at the Fruitvale BART station. Much of the film we saw through a similar vantage point, yet there was some departure in what captured our attention. Some of which evoked a visceral response. Here we present the synergy and distinctions in those perspectives.

Review #1 by Taureen Cofer:

I learned about the incident that took place at Fruitvale Station when it happened. I knew all of the details: the day of the shooting, the time of the shooting, the events that precipitated the shooting and even the so-called “accidental motive” of the shooting. I walked into the theater with my emotions already in hand. I took my seat in the movie theater ready to expect the only thing that could be expected from this film: a senseless murder which a director would manage to drag out long enough to keep an average box office run time. I knew there would be tears, anger and frustration in the theater--as well as the brief moments of judgment of anyone who took a bathroom break during the film. I sat down in that movie theater and knew exactly what to expect from this film….or so I thought. It was the unexpected that caused my hands to come together in applause when the final credits rolled. This film went in every direction that I felt it would, but also turned in others that I couldn’t fully prepare myself for.

This wasn’t a movie about a murder. It played a part in the end of our adventure. However, this was really a film about a young man trying to cope with society and struggling. Not failing, but struggling. During the film, we learn that Oscar lost his job; however, he kept his composure and continued to focus on the well-being of his family. He even decided to make smarter life choices even as his circumstances grew tougher, such as ditching his drugs (when they had now become his only source of income). He cheated on Sophina, his girlfriend and was caught, yet steered us to feel confident throughout the film that he was sincere about keeping his new found faithfulness. The same could be said about his time in prison. Despite all that he had done previously, he never gave us a sense that he was willing to repeat the same mistakes. These were the parts of the film that unexpectedly touched my heart.

His breakdown in the room with Sophina really affected me. In the scene, he admits to losing his job weeks earlier and putting on a charade to avoid disclosing the truth. He knew that there was a chance that he would lose her, but he also knew that his path to becoming a better man had to start today no matter the consequences. He painfully admits a deep seeded truth that he is tired of being a “screw up.” As a young black man I have had to admit to being a “screw up” at times, and it hurts all the same to watch such a familiar scene. I praise the absolute moment of impact where you make the change for the better, but with that comes accepting the worst for an unknown period of time. I also felt the tension of conflicting pressures in the flashback scene depicting him in prison on visiting day one year before his death. Prison is one place where you must remain tough to survive, yet his mother’s visit made him extremely vulnerable. Imagine trying to keep your tough face on as you pass on “I love you” to friends and family through your mother, all the while inmates listen in and mock every word you say. In that scene, the conflict between who he was and his defense mechanism came to a head in a split second and temporarily it cost him the only real support he had; a visit from his mother to get a glimpse of the outside world awaiting him, a world that held his hopes for freedom, redemption and joy for his family.

This was an excellent film about decisions, consequences, salvation, and circumstance. We all know how it ends, but the best part of the journey is all of the things we learn along the way.

Review #2 by Flojaune Griffin:

I didn’t realize how raw the emotions were until I found myself weeping loudly and inconsolably in the theatre Tuesday night. Not the cry of being simply feeling moved, this was the back arched, gasping cry of a deep sorrow. A sorrow that I didn’t know I held within me until it erupted during the screening.

The movie was complex; grappling delicately with the human circumstances of relationships, parenting, mistakes, goals, friendships, responsibility and maturity, while also looking at the systemic effects of poverty, drugs, violence, perception and profiling. Oscar wasn’t portrayed as perfect. He had a temper, he was unfaithful to his girlfriend and mother of his daughter, he had an affinity for marijuana, he’d been to prison, and he couldn’t get to work on time. Yet, despite these flaws he was also equally easy going, caring, helpful, loving, hopeful, creative, and responsible. Very rarely are black characters portrayed with as much of the real human nuance of contradiction as Oscar.

The post-viewing discussion with Mr. Coogler mostly centered on cinematic elements of the film; the process of capturing the sounds of Oakland to make the soundtrack subtle and organic, the difficulty blocking the unscripted scenes compared to the relative ease of blocking the police encounter at the station because of how well it was documented on cell phone video, and the actor’s emotions as they filmed in the real settings Oscar was in on his last day. However, at one point Mr. Coogler mentioned that every institution that Oscar encountered in the film failed him: the grocery store, the prison, and eventually the fatal encounter with the BART police. As Young Professional, two thoughts immediately came to mind. First, beyond the Urban League, what are we doing to make our institutions more accepting of Oscar (and his girlfriend Sophina and their daughter Tatiana)? The Youth workforce development program is attempting to help prepare young men and women like Oscar and Sophina for careers, but how are we using our capital to transform institutions without a social focus that we interact with to increase job prospects for previously incarcerated men like Oscar? Or women with young children like Sophina? Or children whose fathers were incarcerated and now deceased like Tatiana? Second, what can we do at the Urban League in our current programs to address these issues? How can we make sure we have the capacity to serve Oscar, Sophina and Tatiana in our Handshakes and Ties, Workforce Development, and Reading Day Programs? And by serve, I mean having a lasting and ongoing role in their lives as a transformative force.

My final thought came later and was a reflection of this case and harkening back to the first case that I followed regarding police battery, the death of Jonny Gammage -- a 31-year-old black motorist who was killed by the police during a stop and frisk in Brentwood, PA when I was 12 years old. Even if we transform our programs and our institutions to be powerful change agents, how to we address the root causes of this brand of violence that sometimes feels inescapable? There is a part in the film where Oscar makes a decision to be truthful and do the honorable thing. Given the timing of the film (New Year’s Eve and his mother’s birthday) it is not hard for me to believe that Oscar, like most of us, was trying to start his year with a clean slate. That this coincided with his last day of life was particularly heartbreaking. But how do we—after reducing the standard risks facing black men and women—make it so that they’re still safe? After overcoming the other odds, how do we prevent men—even law abiding men—from indiscriminately being killed while driving in the suburbs, partying the night before their wedding, walking home from the store, or riding public transportation on New Year’s Eve?

Fruitvale Station opens in theatres nationwide on Friday, July 26, 2013. The film stars Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, and Academy Award Winner, Octavia Spencer and was produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker. The film won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Closing the Divide in the Black Community

By Whittney McPherson

GSULYP recently held its second Pizza & Politics event to discuss the socioeconomic divide within the black community and possible solutions to bridge this chasm. The discussion included a viewing of the PBS documentary, "Two Nations of Black America" which highlights this gap in depth with narration by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This commentary is from one of the event's attendees.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech during the largest civil rights demonstration in history. Dr. Kings’ powerful dialect, coupled with the delivery in his dynamic voice, ignited a nation in racial turmoil to act. So why then, forty years after Dr. Kings’ powerful call-to-action for equality, is the black community being faced with internal separation?

This is a question posed by Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in his 1998 documentary “Two Nations of Black America.” In this documentary, Gates chronicles his life as a Harvard scholar in comparison to lower socioeconomic blacks to demonstrate the social disparities amongst blacks. Gates also uses testimonies from prominent black figures such as: Julian Bond, Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Christopher Edley, Jesse Jackson, Quincy Jones, Maulana Karenga, Cornel West, and William Julius Wilson to explore the depths of the Civil Rights Movement and current situations for African-Americans.

Despite the fact that the Civil Rights Movement united a nation towards a common goal of equal opportunities to all Americans, it may have created a divide within the black community. During the Civil Rights Movement, blacks had something to stand for – their common goal for equality. However, many blacks determined to make a violent, public stance for equality, gave little to no room for Dr. Kings’ peaceful movement creating a chasm in the community. Now, decades later, many blacks have reaped the benefits of civil rights laws that have been implemented, while others are sadly being left behind.

“Thirty years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, how have we reached this point where we have both the largest black middle class and the largest underclass in our history?” ~ Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Last month, GSULYP held its second Pizza & Politics event to view “Two Nations of Black America” and to discuss this poignant question. GSULYP members and community members conversed about their reactions to the documentary as well as current and next steps being utilized to eliminate the separation between lower socioeconomic and middle class blacks in Sacramento.

Attendees brainstormed various causes for this divide, and more importantly, multiple solutions. The class divide can, in many ways, be attributed to the disparity in the educational system that we, as a nation, are currently being faced with. This disparity affects lower socioeconomic areas and creates an unfair disadvantage in terms of advancement in society for lower class blacks. Furthermore, the educational achievements of other blacks is making it easier for them to relate to their educated white peers rather than lower class blacks, creating a gap in the black community.

So, how do we lessen the cultural divide amongst blacks? It is going to take the support of blacks who have reached certain levels of accomplishment to contribute back to the black community. It is also going to depend on the willingness of lower socioeconomic families to be involved with their children’s success. Through volunteering at schools, and other civic duties, middle class blacks can give disadvantaged blacks a better opportunity towards attainment.