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Best Detailed Walkaround 2019 BMW X5 xDrive50i

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Best Detailed Walkaround 2019 BMW X5 xDrive50i.
4.4L TwinPower Turbo V8
456 HP @479 lb-ft Torque
8 Speed Automatic Transmission w/Paddle Shifters
Exterior Color: Phytonic Blue Metallic
Interior Color: Canberra Beige Vernasca Leather
17 MPG City, 22 MPG Highway, 19 MPG Combined
MSRP: $91,005.00

PROS
* Powerful Engine
* 5 Driving Modes
* Comfortable Seating
* Superior Sound System
* Very Responsive Handling
* M Sport Exhaust System

CONS
* Touch Lock Drivers Door Did Not Work Each Time
* Lower Tailgate Did Not Open Automatically Each Time

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Roosevelt Gist

Roosevelt Gist, President


AutoNetwork.com


Roosevelt sold cars, leased autos and wrote numerous articles on buying, leasing and financing autos for several African American Newspapers. AutoNetwork.com began in 1986 as a car buying service for credit unions in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. AutoNetwork.com evolved over the years to the largest and most focused website for video of car company new product introductions, live weekly auto talk show and detailed video walk arounds of new cars.  Roosevelt conducted last interview of JFK, Jr. on camera before his untimely death. 

Roosevelt Gist, President

AutoNetwork.com

Roosevelt sold cars, leased autos and wrote numerous articles on buying, leasing and financing autos for several African American Newspapers. AutoNetwork.com began in 1986 as a car buying service for credit unions in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. AutoNetwork.com evolved over the years to the largest and most focused website for video of car company new product introductions, live weekly auto talk show and detailed video walk arounds of new cars.  Roosevelt conducted last interview of JFK, Jr. on camera before his untimely death. 

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Gunshot Medley Brings Black Theatre to the Electric Lodge

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — “Gunshot Medley: Part I” is the latest play to hit the stage at the Electric Lodge on Abbot Kinney Boulevard near Venice Beach. Running until August 19, the play tells the story of American history through the eyes of three slaves.

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Donathan Walters (left) as George, Mildred Langford (middle) as Betty, and Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (right) as High Priestess in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Kreckler)
Donathan Walters (left) as George, Mildred Langford (middle) as Betty, and Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (right) as High Priestess in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Kreckler)

A play with a Black cast, director, and playwright tells a story of pain, racism, and hope at the Electric Lodge.

By Shaquille Woods

“Gunshot Medley: Part I” is the latest play to hit the stage at the Electric Lodge on Abbot Kinney Boulevard near Venice Beach. Running until August 19, the play tells the story of American history through the eyes of three slaves.

The playwright, Dionna Michelle Daniel, was inspired to write this play in 2015, after the Charleston Church shooting. While in North Carolina, she visited a graveyard where she found the graves of Betty, Alvis, and George who would eventually become the characters for “Gunshot Medley: Part I.” All that was left on the graves were their names and the dates that they died, each before the Emancipation Proclamation. Daniel also found something unsettling in the graveyard — newly placed Confederate flags.

“At the time that I wrote ‘Gunshot Medley,’ there was so much going on with killings and discourse over the Confederate flag,” said Daniel. “For me the play is an awakening. It is so vital for Black people to tell our stories because we have lived through these experiences and the pain is real.”

Set in a haunted graveyard in North Carolina, audiences see the connections of racism through past and present. Betty, Alvis, and George are not able to rest their souls. They want to believe that things are better, and cover up the pain, but what they see in the present takes them back to their own past hurt. They see happy moments in Black culture as well, referencing famous songs and dances, but they are reminded of pain with each gunshot that they hear.

Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (left) as High Preistess looks on as Derek Jackson (middle) and Mildred Langford (right) dance as Alvis and Betty in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Krekcler)

Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (left) as High Preistess looks on as Derek Jackson (middle) and Mildred Langford (right) dance as Alvis and Betty in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Krekcler)

Betty represents a mother figure, constantly cleaning to cover up her pain. Alvis takes on a more playful role, looking for the beauty in everything, and George represents revolutionaries fighting and dying for change. The fourth character is High Priestess Oya. When Daniel originally wrote the play, she made a lot of reference to the wind and the rustle of leaves and treetops. One of her friends told her about Orisha Oya, an African goddess who is the ruler of storms and winds, and the protector of cemeteries.  From that comes the majestic character garbed in elegant reds and an expression of pain upon her face.

“The play was very powerful and moving,” said Tenille Jones, one of the audience members. “I think that it will open people’s eyes and make change for the better. I like how the main character, Betty, thought that she had to clean something up to solve the problems, but in the end, it showed that racism is more of a comprehensive problem. It’s not just a one-person problem, it’s a worldwide problem. I was very entertained. It’s a great way to spend an hour and support Black theatre.”

“Gunshot Medley: Part I” started as a project for a program at California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts, where Daniel graduated. She presented it in their 2016 New Works Festival and won the chance to go to New York to have a reading of the play and get it published. One of the readers from New York put Daniel in contact with Desean Terry of Collaborative Artists Bloc, a production team that produces performances that explore of cultural identity and promote social change. Terry became the director of “Gunshot Medley: Part I,” giving the play a Black cast, Black director, and Black playwright.

In 2018, Rogue Machine Theatre joined in and brought the production to the stage at the MET Theatre in Santa Monica for a two-week run. “Gun Shot Medley: Part I” also did a two-week run at the Watts Village Theater Company, where tickets were based on a donation of any amount and audience members could register to vote. Rogue Machine Theatre has brought the play back this year to the Electric Lodge. “Gunshot Medley: Part I” runs through August 19. Student tickets are $25.99 and general admission is $39.99. For more information and reservations, call (855) 585-5185 or visit www.collaborativeartistsbloc.org.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Birmingham Promise Education program exceeded expectations, city officials say

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — The Birmingham Promise Initiative, launched this summer to build pathways into quality jobs for Birmingham City School (BCS) students, came to a successful conclusion last week, said city officials. Last week, 23 BCS students finished their apprenticeships at companies across the metro area and the program had an impact, said Mayor Randall Woodfin and Councilors on Tuesday.

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Birmingham City Council (Photo by: birminghamtimes.com)
Birmingham City Council (Photo by: birminghamtimes.com)

By Erica Wight

The Birmingham Promise Initiative, launched this summer to build pathways into quality jobs for Birmingham City School (BCS) students, came to a successful conclusion last week, said city officials.

Last week, 23 BCS students finished their apprenticeships at companies across the metro area and the program had an impact, said Mayor Randall Woodfin and Councilors on Tuesday.

“There’s now more work to do to make sure that many more high school students can participate in this program, so I’m proud of the success of the pilot but . . . I’m looking forward to engaging parents directly, students directly and employers about these opportunities and so to employers,” Woodfin said.

“Our economy is changing and you all talk about your gaps in workforce, here’s an opportunity to close that workforce gap . . . our parents need to know these options exist before their children walk across the stage and to our children who have the passion, as a city we’re here to support your dreams and make them come true before you walk across the stage.”

Councilor John Hilliard said during Tuesday’s council meeting, “We must change our direction of how we deal with education . . . we have to meet the demand the corporate community is asking. A four-year education is important but it’s not the only way to go . . . I think it’s important we instill in our young people a different type of work ethic and give them the opportunity on the front end rather than the back end to make things happen.”

The seven-week summer pilot is part of the larger Birmingham Promise Initiative, which will offer multiple pathways for Birmingham students to “earn and learn” as they develop skills to prepare for jobs in industries that are growing in the regional economy.

The inaugural apprenticeships involved a vocational education component and work-based learning opportunities that were guided by a mentor. The pilot was complemented by the City of Birmingham’s partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, a national leader in delivering digital education to youth, the Jefferson County Commission on Economic Opportunity (JCCEO) and the city’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity.

Councilor Wardine Alexander said the Birmingham Promise prepares students to be college and career ready.

“When I served on the Board of Education, I had the pleasure to shake the hands of every student who graduated from the City of Birmingham… I think the mayor will remember we had one board member who would always ask the students as they were going through the line, ‘what’s your next goal’ and often students were not able to tell us what their goal was or what they were going to do,” said Alexander.

Birmingham Promise gave students the opportunity to work with Fortune 500 companies, earn a salary and have an idea of what they were going to do, Alexander said.

Council President Valerie Abbott, who attended graduation ceremony for the students along with Mayor Randall Woodfin, Alexander and Hilliard, said she was inspired by the students.

“Just to see those young people, they were full grown adults and doing those jobs, it was very impressive,” said Abbott. “We do need more people in the corporate community, but businesses of any kind can use an intern. It doesn’t have to be a corporation… we have so many students to benefit from that opportunity and only a handful got to participate in this pilot. We need hundreds of businesses to take on these young people so they can learn. I was just inspired by the quality of the young people and how inspired they were and their level of enthusiasm was just wonderful. I think we all need to encourage as many businesses as we can to participate.”

The following employers participated in the Birmingham Promise pilot program this summer:

  • Alabama Futures Fund
  • Alabama Power Company
  • Altec
  • Baptist Princeton
  • BIG Communications
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Brasfield & Gorrie
  • Encompass Health
  • HOAR Construction
  • Mayer
  • Pack Health
  • Protective
  • Renasant Bank
  • Regions
  • Shipt
  • Spire
  • Vincent’s
  • Theranest
  • UAB
  • Vulcan Materials

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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Meet Birmingham’s Felicia Johnson, President of American Business Women’s Association

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — As national president of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), Birmingham’s Felicia Johnson helps women grow through leadership, education, networking support, and national recognition. Johnson was elected last fall, and said her journey to the presidency has a lot to do with her service in the Magic City.

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Felicia Johnson (Photo by: birminghamtimes.com)
Felicia Johnson (Photo by: birminghamtimes.com)

By Ameera Steward

As national president of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), Birmingham’s Felicia Johnson helps women grow through leadership, education, networking support, and national recognition. Johnson was elected last fall, and said her journey to the presidency has a lot to do with her service in the Magic City.

“For me to be able to win, it’s phenomenal,” said Johnson, who joined the ABWA in 2003. “It’s awesome to know that people have that much confidence in me to [elect me] to lead this association.

“I’ve served in every leadership role on the local level. … When you do that, you get to interact with people, and people watch you over the years. When you look at where I came from and [see that] our chapter is not a large chapter, it’s special to get the [national vote].”

Johnson has served as president of the ABWA’s Birmingham chapter three times, beginning in 2006, and she was recently voted president for a fourth time this year.

“I’ve been in the association for more than 16 years, so over the course of that time people have watched me grow … [and] watched me at different events,” she said. “I think a lot of it has to do with personality, leadership skills, how well you get along with others.”

In addition to working on the local level, Johnson was instrumental in forming the ABWA’s Alabama Council in 2014, which is made up of chapters from Montgomery, Huntsville, Birmingham, and Anniston. She served as committee chair of the statewide council for 2014 and 2016, attending regional and national meetings to become more involved. Eventually, women on the national board asked if Johnson would consider a leadership position.

“After interacting with different people, I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can do something,’” she said. “So, I decided I would try.”

Johnson was elected ABWA president during the group’s 69th National Women’s Leadership Conference in Augusta, Ga., in October 2018. She also serves as the trustee for a foundation through which the association provides scholarships for women.

As national president of the Kansas City-based ABWA, Johnson oversees a nine-member executive board and six districts, each of which is represented by a vice president: “All of us together govern … all of the women across the U.S.,” she said.

Musically Inclined

Johnson, 58, was born and raised on the east side of Birmingham, where W.C. Patton Park is now located. She graduated from Carol W. Hayes High School in 1979. She attended Tennessee State University (TSU) in Nashville, where she was a biology major with a minor in chemistry; she graduated in 1983. During her time in college, she played baritone saxophone in the jazz and concert bands, in addition to playing tenor sax in the marching band—where she made history as TSU’s first female drum major in 1981.

“I love music: I sing, and I play. Music is a very important part of my life,” said Johnson, who is a lead singer and an alto with the W.J. Nickols Gospel Ensemble, a community choir in Birmingham that she’s been with for about 15 years, as well as with the Bernard Bowden Voices of Faith, a group she’s been part of for the past four years.

She also plays piano at her church, Mt. Sinai Baptist Church on 14th Avenue North in Birmingham, where her husband of eight years, James Johnson, is the pastor.

“If you’re ever around me for long, I’ll be singing,” she said. “I’ve always got a song in my head. … Music is ingrained in me.”

In fact, Johnson grew up in a musical family. Her father, John Carter, who passed away two years ago, was a musician and singer who played trombone and sang at Ullman High School and at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in East Lake on Kentucky Avenue. And her mother, Hattie Carter, sings at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

Johnson’s siblings, two sisters and one brother, are musically inclined, as well. Her brother, John G. Carter, is the leader of and a singer with the Bernard Bowden Voices of Faith and also plays trombone, which he’s played since high school. Her older sister plays “any woodwind or reed instrument, such as the bassoon, oboe, and clarinet,” but she doesn’t sing. Her youngest sister, who sings and plays the piano and clarinet, sometimes serves as a backup musician at her church in Chicago.

“Music has been in our household throughout my life,” Johnson said. “All my life, when I sing, especially when I do gospel, it’s freeing and allows me to let the spirit of God that’s in me hopefully minister to other people.”

Her love of music goes beyond family and church, too. Johnson, who has been a business manager for AT&T Corp. since 1985, is also part of the Connie Carson AT&T Pioneer Singers, which is part of the AT&T Pioneers volunteer network. The group performs at company events, Christmas celebrations, and veteran’s parades, in addition to visiting and performing at nursing homes.

Joy of Reading

Johnson is also an avid reader. No matter what it the subject matter, “I love to read,” she said, adding that she is currently reading the ABWA’s two publications: Women in Business magazine and the Achieve newsletter.

She and her younger sister share their book lists, which they did recently, so Johnson is in the process of choosing something from her sister’s list. The last book Johnson read was Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.”

“I love that book. … It was a good read,” she said, adding that she recently finished “An American Marriage,” as a light read.

Johnson loves reading so much that she also works with Better Basics, a program that provides literacy intervention and enrichment activities for students in area schools. She reads to second graders through the “Ready to Read” initiative “… just [to] give students a love for reading,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You can go anywhere in your mind when you read.’”

Providing Service

In all areas of her life—whether through her work with the AWBA or her love of music and reading—Johnson has a passion for service. She is a board member with the James Lewis Tennis Scholarship Foundation, which gives “children from the inner city a love for tennis” and has an educational component. She has been with the foundation for nine years and currently serves as its vice president.

Johnson has been a mentor with the Dannon Project, a mentorship program and nonprofit organization that helps unemployed or underemployed at-risk youth and nonviolent offenders reentering society, for six years. She has served as scholarship brunch chair for the TSU Alumni Association for the last two years. She is president of the South Cahaba Council of the AT&T Pioneers volunteer network that works in the community. She’s a professional clown, too.

Johnson is known as FeFe Felicity the clown, and she appears at the children’s parade during Mardi Gras in Mobile, visits nursing homes, and participates in Veteran’s Day parades. She has been a clown for 10 years and is part of a clown alley, a term used to describe a group of clowns. She is a member of the Magic City Town Clowns, as well as an AT&T Pioneer clown.

“A lot of my volunteer work is done in association with AT&T Pioneers, but … I am owner of the name and business [of] FeFe Felicity, so I can do paid events [and] volunteer,” Johnson said, adding that FeFe is for anyone that wants to have a good time, not just children.

“FeFe gives you fun, honey. … Just a bundle of fun.”

Speaking of children, they are a big part of Johnson’s life. She and her husband have a total of 11 children from previous marriages, 17 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

“We’re a blended family,” she said. “We take [the grandchildren] as they come. … We still have five children that haven’t had any children, so there’s potential to grow.”

Johnson said service “gives her a fulfillment that she is able to give back.”

“I feel like I’m helping people, especially around education,” she said. “I think education is the only thing that will allow you to move forward. Once you get it in [your mind], nobody can take it from you.

“Being able to give back and help other people see the importance of education helps [them] grow. I think we ought to be able to bring somebody up … and send them on to go farther than [we’ve gone].”

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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D.C. Activist Leads Search for Solutions to Shootings

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Most of the nation’s attention continues to rest on the cities of El Paso and Dayton where families, friends and local officials struggle to make sense of last weekend’s two mass shootings that left a collective and rising death toll of 31 with dozens injured and still hospitalized.

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A little girl holds a candle during a vigil in southeast D.C. for Karon Brown, 11, who was killed by an adult after a dispute with other children. (Courtesy of Ward 8C07 Commissioner Salim Adofo)
A little girl holds a candle during a vigil in southeast D.C. for Karon Brown, 11, who was killed by an adult after a dispute with other children. (Courtesy of Ward 8C07 Commissioner Salim Adofo)

By D. Kevin McNeir

Most of the nation’s attention continues to rest on the cities of El Paso and Dayton where families, friends and local officials struggle to make sense of last weekend’s two mass shootings that left a collective and rising death toll of 31 with dozens injured and still hospitalized.

But closer to home, community activists like D.C.’s Roach Brown, known for his zeal and commitment on behalf of returning citizens, has taken on another mission: finding solutions to the District’s rising gun violence.

On August 6 during Brown’s monthly “Crossroads Radio Show” (WPFW, 89.3 FM), which airs live every first Tuesday from Ben’s Chili Bowl in Northwest, he facilitated two panel discussions in a room filled with interested local residents for a lively two-hour conversation about the impact that escalating shootings have had throughout the District.

But his most ardent concern, he says, remains the rise of injuries and deaths among children.

“We have reached a point where our children are being shot and killed in our streets before our very eyes,” he said. “We can no longer sit by idly as the death toll rises. If you can ignore what’s happening in the Black community to our babies, then there’s something terribly wrong with you. We can stop this – we must stop this.”

“And it doesn’t matter what color these babies are. Nor do I care if they’re the children of Black folks or children whose parents are members of the Ku Klux Klan. Children deserve being protected and having the chance to grow up and go after their dreams. It’s our job to keep them safe,” Brown exclaimed.

Before turning the conversation over to his first panel, Brown pointed to poverty which disproportionately lays claim over Blacks in America as a significant reason for the frustration and disillusionment that have led to numerous examples of misdirected violence erupting in recent months in his hometown of D.C. as well as other mostly-Black urban cities including Baltimore and Philadelphia.

“Since the 40s when the U.S. government began to develop the projects where they ushered Black families in and forced us to live on top of one another, we’ve had to live like crabs in the bucket,” he said. “Each time the fire has been turned on, we’ve crawled over one another desperately trying to get out.”

Panelists for the first session, whose reflections mirrored the passionate pleas of the talk show host, included: co-host, Kymone Freeman, We ACT Radio; Tyrone Parker, director, The Alliance of Concerned Men; Minister Abdul Khadir Muhammad, Nation of Islam; and the Rev. Tony Lee, founder and senior pastor, Community of Hope AME Church.

“We have far too many guns on our streets and many of those weapons have been illegally acquired,” Parker said. “And while there are organizations like ours that are out in the community doing everything we can, we still haven’t received the full support of District government, particularly in terms of the kinds of resources that the City could but has yet to provide.”

“In addition, we are in short supply of men who are willing to join us. The numbers are simply inadequate given the challenges before us. Thirty percent of District youth are currently living in poverty. That’s something that city officials must address.”

“When an 11-year-old child was recently shot and killed in D.C. by another youth, the police found that the fight and shooting that subsequently occurred happened because the children were fighting for the right to control a street corner where they could make a few dollars selling legal goods to people in the community. They were trying to make a few dollars so they could make ends meet,” Parker said, adding that his organized has compiled a conflict resolution manual that many believe could positively change the mindset of youth if placed in the hands of the District’s public school leaders and utilized in classrooms.

Muhammad, a man who admits having once lived a life dominated by negative forces, agreed with Parker’s notion that changing the way youth think and often react when they feel threatened, remains the first step in reducing violence.

“Before our communities can be changed for the better, individuals have to regain control over their own minds,” he said. “Too many within the Black community have chosen to embrace a Satanic-led existence and have turned away from the Creator. It’s easy to understand why our children are in so much turmoil – in their homes they can easily pick up drugs, alcohol and guns all of which are just laying around on their parents’ kitchen tables.”

“Further, it’s imperative that we begin to agree to disagree in love. Even this panel illustrates the diversity within the Black community. But bickering among ourselves won’t get us anywhere. Even if those who are already out on the streets trying to bring peace in the hood don’t always see eye-to-eye, we can still work together,” Muhammad added.

Lee noted that viable solutions already exist but without financial support and a concerted effort to more effectively direct those resources, gun violence will inevitably continue to plague the city and its residents.

“Many activists are already on the scene, even before the police arrive, attempting to provide solace and some form of understanding when gunfire erupts – we often get there while the smoke from guns is still in the air,” he said.

“We don’t need to create strategies or look for answers – we already have them. But in the District, the vast majority of financial resources is going to building buildings rather than building people. Our City’s leaders don’t want to disrupt their program. Gentrification benefits those leaders who have found that it’s easy to paint our residents as barbarians so they can dismantle communities and move people so they can make way for business opportunities.”

“We must hold our leaders accountable and force them to transform people before transforming physical properties – a current policy that rarely benefits Blacks and more often bodes well for people who don’t have our welfare in mind and who don’t like anything like us,” Lee said.

This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.

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Grizzlies make Niele Ivey NBA’s 9th female assistant coach

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — The Memphis Grizzlies have hired former Notre Dame women’s associate head coach Niele (knee-L) Ivey among the new assistants on Taylor Jenkins’ staff. There are now nine women coaches in the NBA.

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Niele Ivey is now an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. Photo: Notre Dame Athletics)

By Los Angeles Sentinel

The Memphis Grizzlies have hired former Notre Dame women’s associate head coach Niele (knee-L) Ivey among the new assistants on Taylor Jenkins’ staff.

There are now nine women coaches in the NBA.

The Grizzlies also announced Monday the hiring of Brad Jones, David McClure, James “Scoonie” Penn, Vitaly Potapenko and Neven Spahija.

Jenkins says he’s thrilled to work with an experienced group of coaches with success at all levels as both players and coaches.

Ivey spent the past 12 seasons at her alma mater with the last four as Notre Dame’s associate head coach and recruiting coordinator. She helped the Fighting Irish go 385-55 with seven Final Four berths, six appearances in the NCAA title game and the 2018 national championship.

Notre Dame congratulated Ivey on Twitter, saying the Grizzlies hired a good one.

Ivey played in two Final Fours with Notre Dame, including winning the 2001 national championship. She played five seasons in the WNBA before starting her coaching career as an administrative assistant at Xavier in 2005.

Jenkins kept Potapenko (po-TAH-pen-ko) who was an assistant with the Grizzlies last season. He also has worked for Cleveland and Indiana in the NBA and in the G League. Jones was head coach of Memphis’ G League team last season and also spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz.

McClure, who played at Duke, spent the past three seasons as assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers and started his coaching career in 2014 as a player development quality assurance assistant for the Spurs. Penn spent the past two seasons as director of player development at Ohio State. Spahija was an assistant with Jenkins in Atlanta between 2014 and 2017.

The Grizzlies also named Jason March head coach of their G League team.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Youth Candle Business Expands to Macy’s

THE AFRO — When three of Celena Gill’s sons asked her to buy them a Nerf gun and more than $500 in video games, she told them to get a job or start a business.  She was only kidding. 

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Young entrepreneurs Ryan Gill, Collin Gill and Austin Gill with their candles. (Courtesy Photo)

By Lenore T. Adkins

When three of Celena Gill’s sons asked her to buy them a Nerf gun and more than $500 in video games, she told them to get a job or start a business.

She was only kidding.

But her sons, Collin, 14, Ryan, 11, and Austin, 8, they took her words to heart and launched Frères Branchiaux Candle Co. in October 2017 to make soy and vegetable wax candles, room sprays, diffusers, soaps and bath bombs out of the home they share with their parents in Prince George’s County.

Frères Branchiaux means “Gill Brothers” in French — Collin is already fluent in the language while his younger brothers are studying it.

“We wanted to do Gill Brothers Candle Company, but there’s Gill Brothers’ Trucking, Gill Brothers Air Support,” Ryan Gill explains.

In the 22 months since they started their company, the boys have sold more than 10,000 units — candles are their top-selling product and range between $18 and $36.

“It’s really all word of mouth,” Celena Gill told the AFRO. “Like, I rarely reach out to people.”

They’re already selling their products in more than 30 stores and they’re looking to expand.

Starting in November, their products will be sold on The Workshop at Macy’s alumni e-commerce site, confirms Katelyn Yannie, Macy’s manager of Northeast Relations.

And the brothers are raising $20,000 on gofundme.com to buy a truck that’ll serve as a mobile store for their business. This will make it easier for them to sell their wares at various events.

“It’s easier than a van and we … don’t have to pack the candle stuff in it,” Ryan Gill explained.

The truck would also double as a mobile training center where the boys could help coordinate job training for homeless trying to get back on their feet or as a hub for the brothers to pass on their entrepreneurial skills to various youth groups and schools.

As it is, they donate 10 percent of their profits to the homeless.

The boys settled on making candles not only because their mother loves burning in the house, but also because her research found candles are the most successful kiddie business, Celena Gill said.

They started out experimenting with candle making using formulas their mother brought back from a candle class that her friend and soror Danita Nikki Brooks, founder of Zen in a Jar, a home and body care line, ran. Then Celena Gill went to a pro candle maker workshop to learn more techniques that helped her boys learn little tweaks.

“Making candles is purely science,” Celena Gill said. “Everything matters, whether your candle cannot burn or (if) it’ll blow up. It’s a very deliberate product because you can burn someone’s house down.”

The boys made candles as a lesson in school — Celena Gill homeschools her younger sons and Collin Gill will soon begin his freshman year at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C.

After about two weeks, they were ready to start selling, Celena Gill said. The boys have made more than enough to buy all the things they wanted and then some.

They earned six figures for their work last year and are on pace to double that in 2019, their mother says.

At the time the boys launched their business, their mother was already selling inspirational T-shirts, mugs, lapel pins and pillows through her website, Celena Gill Design and she did pop-ups as well. Meanwhile, her husband, Patrick Gill sells personal care and beard products for men through his company, Black Oak Grooming.

“All of us do something,” she told the AFRO.

In those early days, the boys relied on their family members, as well as their parents’ friends, school and business contacts, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters.

Looking to the future, the boys plan to focus more on the retail end of their business and training other kids to become entrepreneurs.

“If they don’t want to do it, you can’t make them if the effort isn’t there,” Celena Gill said of kids thinking about opening their own business. “Some people love working nine to five and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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