My Famous Friends: Sachkia Barnes

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After looking over my list to see which one of my friends would be my next feature, I realized that I had only featured men up to this point. I had already thought about doing Sachkia as my next feature, but I made the decision that at least the next four features would highlight some of the awesome women I call my friends.

So let’s get to Sachkia (pronounced Sas-KIA)….whew…this chick! I don’t even know where to begin with her! The best way to start off is saying that she is a big ball of life. Public relations guru, blogger, foodie, soon-to-be half marathoner, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and a whole gang of other things. She has the biggest personality ever and she fits it into this teeny, tiny body. (I affectionately called her Skinny Chick in college.

Sachkia and I met the summer before my sophomore year at Norfolk State University. We were both resident assistants and had reported to school early to prepare for the arrival of the new students. During the two weeks of training and preparation, we forged a friendship with each other – and another awesome chica, Marilyn – that has lasted for 12 years.

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Sachkia on the beat interviewing a local farmer.

Sachkia was a busy-body in school. She was in the band, was the president of the international students organization, a member of the student government, was on the student newspaper staff, and even found time to join a sorority. And not much has changed since she left school. The Guyanese native went back to Tortola where she grew up and worked for the government for a few years. Wanting to make a bigger difference in the public relations world, she let go of the comfortable and the familiar and branched out on her own, founding Barnes PR in 2009. And she has not looked back since.

She has done very well as an entrepreneur and was even hired by the Minister of Education and Culture (the equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of Education) to be his communications strategist. Her main focus now is working in politics. She admires the work of Judy Smith (the real-life lady who Scandal’s fictional character Olivia Pope is based on) and is one of the biggest Scandal fans I know. In my mind, Sachkia and Olivia are similar in that they always get their tasks accomplished regardless of what obstacles they are faced with.

In our lifetime, I’m pretty sure Sachkia will become her own awesome version of Katie Couric or Oprah Winfrey. She’s just that amazing and focused. She takes her craft very seriously and probably won’t stop until the entire world knows her name (and pronounces it correctly). She’s also serious about helping others live up to their full potential. I can attribute my entrance into the blogging world to her when she let me write this piece for her blog back in 2010. Basically, you are reading this right now because Sachkia gave me the chance to let the world hear my voice.

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Mrs. Half Marathoner kicking back after a morning run.

It’s a joy to follow her on Facebook because she’s always doing or saying something so cool. Whether she’s running some ungodly amount of miles before the sun comes up or she’s laying on a pristine beach somewhere in the Caribbean, I love to try to keep up with her.

Like Barnes PR on Facebook so that you can try to keep up with her too! Follow her on Twitter and Instagram to make sure you don’t miss out on a minute of her awesomeness.

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Published in: on October 28, 2013 at 11:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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My Famous Friends: Larry Rubama

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Larry with NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith

My next Famous Friend is another media professional that I’ve had the pleasure of working with for several years. Larry Rubama is a sports writer for The Virginian-Pilot, one of the local newspapers in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. I met Larry when he covered either men’s basketball or football (or both) for Norfolk State University.

It was always so much fun to work with Larry because he was so unbelievably nice. As I’ve mentioned before, some reporters and media professionals can be, ummmm, how do you say it…not so nice. But definitely not Larry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him mad or not smiling. I loved reading his stories about us because even when we got dragged through the dirt and lost by lots of points, he always found a bright spot in the performance. And if there were no bright spots, he just simply gave a synopsis of the game without beating the dead horse.

A young Larry getting his run on at the All City Sports Day in Syracuse, N.Y. (1982)

A young Larry getting his run on at the All City Sports Day in Syracuse, N.Y. (1982)

When he was switched to cover high school sports, I got sad because he wouldn’t be around us anymore. But then I realized that the high school athletes would get the coverage they deserved with Larry on the beat. He does an awesome job covering football, track and field and any other sports he’s assigned. Larry is no stranger to track and field – he was a track star at Ohio University in the late 80’s.

Another thing that makes Larry an exceptionally awesome person is that he has great faith in God. We attend the same church, Gethsemane Community Fellowship Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va. where he is very active and loved by everyone. There is no doubt in my mind that his faith got him through the loss of his wife Connie to cancer in 2008. I didn’t get to meet her, but from the way people still talk about her, it sounds like she was pretty extraordinary.

After Connie’s passing, Larry was then faced with the task of raising their two sons, Jordan and Robbie, without her and balancing all the other life responsibilities he had. I know it probably wasn’t easy and he more than likely got tons of help from family and friends, but on the outside, Larry didn’t seem to miss a beat.

Larry and his lovely new wife, Wanda.

Larry and his lovely new wife, Wanda.

Jordan is now attending Averett University in Danville, Va. where he earned a football scholarship and Robbie is a senior in high school. Larry was also bold enough to love again and got married this past summer to an awesome lady from church named Wanda. It’s so great to see him even happier now.

I know Larry will continue to succeed in life because of his faith and because he’s just that cool! I’m so glad I can call him my friend.

Keep up with his coverage of Hampton Roads high school sports here.

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Published in: on October 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My Famous Friends: Cletus Kassady

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Cletus Kassady being the comedian that he is.

This next Famous Friend of mine is someone who is doing what I believe he was born to do. Cletus Kassady is a naturally hilarious guy who obeyed his calling and used his talents to become one of the best “clean” comedians in the entertainment business. Even when he’s trying to be serious, his unique view points on everything make whatever he is saying quite funny.

I met Nick (I call him by his non-stage name) when he used to do color commentary during basketball games for the Norfolk State University Sports Network. I worked with the statistics crew and it was our job to make sure that the radio folks had up-to-date information at all times. During breaks and after games we would talk about the games and whatever other random things that came to mind. We formed a friendship based around sports and the other similarities we shared.

Our friendship was solidified one day when he claims I saved his life. It was a hot summer day in 2008 and Nick was recovering from knee surgery after he tore his meniscus playing basketball. He was on campus heading to the athletic training room for his physical therapy. But he wasn’t driving…he was walking…in the sun…with an operated-on leg in a brace.

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Us at the 2012 NSU Homecoming Tailgate.

I just happened to be driving by and stopped to pick him up. Only when he got in the car and saw how long of a drive it was, he realized that he really wouldn’t have made it walking. I was very mad at him for trying to walk it, but I was more thankful that I was in the right place at the right time.

It’s been great watching his career grow and hearing about all the shows he does all over the country. I love the fact that I can go to his shows and be fully entertained for over an hour without hearing any cuss words.

We’ve committed to having quarterly lunch meetings to catch up on life and to make sure we keep our friendship strong. Anytime we get together, all the random things he loves come up in conversation: The Denver Broncos, the state of our beloved Norfolk State Spartans, playing kickball (yes, there are adults out there who play in a LEAGUE!!!), and his unnatural love of bacon.

Told you he loves bacon.....

Told you he loves bacon…..

I can’t even begin to describe how serious he is about loving bacon. It’s just plain scary how much he loves bacon.

Regardless of any of his quirks, he’s a dear friend and I’m thankful for him!

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on October 4, 2013 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Making the Most of the Gifts You Have

spiritual_giftsAs many of you know, I’m a writer. What you may not know is that I have a deep love for many of the other arts like music, paintings, dance, and just about any other type of artistic expressions.

Sometimes I listen to some of my favorite music artists and just wish I could sing with the same sound and amount of emotion. I’m actually not that good of a singer and the only places I sing are at home (by myself) and in church…while everyone else is singing. (I follow the biblical directive of “making a joyful noise”…lol).

Then, there are times when I wish I was a double threat – singer and instrument player. I took piano lessons as a kid and failed horribly at it because no one could figure out that I couldn’t read music. I faked it by writing out the notes on the sheets. I even wrote the notes on the keys on my mom’s piano…in permanent marker. I always thought it would be so cool to entertain guests at a house party by singing some soulful tune while playing my own backup music.

And don’t even get me started on playing the drums. I can’t begin to wrap my mind on how to have both hands and feet operating independently of each other AND keeping a rhythm. Way too much for me!

One other art form that I’ve always wanted to be great at was painting. I have the most awesome ideas that would transfer so well to canvas or paper, but the talent is definitely not there. I can’t draw for the life of me either. I get these visions of cool paintings that I would like to do when I see blank canvases, but there is a Grand Canyon-sized gap between the vision in my head and actually seeing the painting come to life.

Of course, not being able to draw or paint did not stop me from trying my hand at painting. I painted a bible verse (Joshua 24:15) on a canvas with what was supposed to be a mosaic background. It did not live up to the idea I had in mind, but it was my artwork and I was proud of it. When my mom saw it, she wanted one for her house. The second time around, my “mosaic background” looked a lot better than the first one, but it was still far from awesome.

When I finished her painting, I got frustrated that I couldn’t translate what was in my head onto the canvas. It was upsetting that I could come up with these vibrant ideas and fully describe them to a painter so that he or she would be able to clearly paint them, but I couldn’t do it myself. But then is when it hit me…my gift was the use of words. Not painting or drawing, but writing and using words to make the world more colorful. I could relay the vision clearly and in great detail, and someone with the gift of painting could make it into a reality.

I know there are many of you like me who wish you could be super awesome at something you’ve seen someone else do. But you have to remember that God has given each of us unique gifts and talents that we are to use to the max while we exist on this place called Earth.

If you haven’t figured out what your gifts and talents are, take the time to do so NOW! When you figure it out, use them (for good of course) until you can’t use them anymore. My plan is to write and write and write until the words stop coming to me.

Go find your gifts and talents my friends!

 

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Published in: on October 3, 2013 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My Famous Friends: Cuthbert “Cuffy” Victor

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This week’s famous friend would have made the list even if he wasn’t legitimately famous, mainly because he is my best friend. Cuthbert “Cuffy” Victor and I have been inseparable for the last 16 years.  I’m not even sure how we became friends, but when he transferred to our high school in 10th grade, it wasn’t long before we were always together. If he got in trouble, it was usually for something I did and if he tried to blame anything on me, no one would believe him and he’d get in trouble anyway.

We took all the same electives in high school because we were a good team. In our electronics class, he did all the tech work and I handled the presentations. No wonder I failed miserably when we had to split up and build radios on our own for the class final. He was always ridiculously shy (and still is) so I usually did most of the talking on his behalf, in and out of school. Let’s just say I’m an awesome wingman. LOL!

We didn’t miss a beat when we each went away to college. He attended Murray State University in Kentucky, while I went to Norfolk State University in Virginia. We kept in touch on a weekly basis during the school year and we’d meet up at home in the Virgin Islands every summer.

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My brother from another mother. My mother thought it would be cool to cut his head off in this pic! Thanks mom!

We hang out every chance we get now. He even crashed my family vacation last year and we all had a blast. People actually think we are related, and more times than not, we don’t correct them. To most people, I’m Cuffy’s little sister. And it doesn’t help that we call each other’s mothers “mom”.

Cuffy really solidified his place in my life as “family” two years ago when some public legal claims were made against my mom back at home. I hadn’t told anyone about it, but Cuffy called me from Spain within minutes of hearing about it and wanted to know “what the heck was going on with mommy”. He was the ONLY one of my friends to call. If that doesn’t say real friend, I don’t know what does.

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Cuffy getting his dunk on.

Oh…let’s get to the reason why Cuffy is famous. I almost got lost remembering the other cool things about him. Cuffy has been a professional basketball player for the last nine years, playing overseas in Spain, Russia and, most recently, France. He’s been playing basketball since he was an itty bitty kid and is an awesome player. He was heavily awarded in high school and attended MSU on an athletic scholarship. Cuffy’s college playing career was also very successful and as a senior, he was named the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Player of the Year. (Best player in the whole conference…pretty big deal!)  My only regret during his college years was not making it to one of his games. But I did wear one of his jerseys to a basketball game at my school as a sign of support one time.

Cuffy has also represented the Virgin Islands on its national team for many years. I was finally able to see him rep the VI at the Caribbean Basketball Championship in 2011 in the Bahamas. Great place to catch some basketball and hang with the bestie. He has fans all over the world and is very popular at home. Hopefully, I’ll get to see him wherever he plays this coming season. I’m due for another international basketball trip!

All in all, he’s an awesome friend to have and I wouldn’t trade him for the world!

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Published in: on June 4, 2013 at 11:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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My Famous Friends: Kemit-Amon Lewis

Kemit Profile

Photo supplied by Kemit-Amon Lewis

My next famous friend is someone I’ve been friends with for the last 21 years. (I seriously can’t believe I’ve been friends with anyone THAT long!!) Kemit-Amon Lewis, who usually answers to just Kemit, has been a close friend of mine since we met in the 5th grade. The two of us, along with a group of other friends, attended St. Patrick’s School together in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the early 90’s. Most of us continued our catholic school education at St. Joseph High School, but Kemit left us and went to public school. (We never forgave him for leaving us!)

We all remained close friends through our high school and college careers and now, we hang out whenever we are all in the same place at the same time. I get to go back home about twice a year and when I’m there, Kemit is one of the friends I always call to hang out with. You can usually find us together during carnival at Christmas time when he hangs out at my mom’s booth while I work. He’s the reason why I’m able to make it through those long nights because he usually goes to buy food for me when I can’t get away from working. He’s also my official sushi order-er. After all these years, I still can’t order sushi on my own.

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Underwater promotion!!!

Kemit is famous because of the outstanding work he does for a living. He’s a marine biologist who works for the Nature Conservancy in St. Croix where he spearheaded a program to restore coral reefs in the Virgin Islands. The restoration program has been extremely successful and he’s traveled the world helping other countries save their reefs. You can even say that he’s saving the (underwater) world!

I’m slightly jealous (or a bit more than slightly) that he gets to go to the beach for “work” every day! And he gets to go to the best beaches in the world…the BEST! In addition to diving his life away to save the underwater ecosystem, he teaches marine biology at the University of the Virgin Islands, teaches dance at one of the local dance schools, is a photographer who sells his work during fancy gallery showings, and he’s an ace at tennis (pun intended!). Oh, and on top of all of that, he also swims with sharks!

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Kemit swimming with the sharks in the Bahamas on his 30th birthday.

Kemit is a busy guy, but he’s pretty awesome at everything he does. Check out this article he was featured in recently.

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Published in: on March 15, 2013 at 10:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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My Famous Friends: Brian Smith

Brian Smith

Photo courtesy of Facebook.com

My first subject is the friend who inspired me to do this “Famous Friends” series. I was at a basketball game a few weeks ago, momentarily shooting the breeze with my dear friend Brian Smith when somebody in the stands behind me said, “Oh my gosh! That’s the sports guy from channel 13!!” This made me laugh because the person was correct; Brian is the weekend sports anchor at Hampton Roads ABC affiliate, WVEC Channel 13. But to me, he’s just Brian, a really cool, down-to-earth guy who I absolutely love talking to.

After Brian left to get game footage for that night’s broadcast, I started to think about what had just happened. It dawned on me that I personally knew a lot of people who are famous in one aspect of life or another. What I loved about the encounter, though, was that I saw Brian for who he really was and not for what he did for a living.

I met Brian when I worked in the Sports Information Office at Norfolk State University. It was always a pleasure to have him cover our games, not only because he always did great work, but because he was so friendly and easy to deal with. Some media professionals are pains in the butt, so it’s definitely a break from the norm when you come across a delightful one! I left NSU about three years ago, but I still run into Brian several times a year because we frequent the same athletic events.

Now to the good stuff….the reasons why Brian is famous. Well the most obvious one is that he’s a sports anchor on one of the most popular T V stations in the area. Add to that the facts that he’s been in the TV business since 1984, WVEC has a viewership of about 350,000 people, and he’s an award-winning anchor/reporter and you have all the makings of a really famous fellow! And he’s apparently found the secret to staying young because he surely doesn’t look like he’s old enough to have been working that long! To top it all off, Brian has solidified his fame by creating a Facebook Fan Page. You know you’re big time when you have one of those! LOL!

All in all, he’s a pretty awesome guy and I’m very privileged to call him my friend.

Check out Brian’s report from that night’s game here. Oh, and look him up on Facebook and like his fan page!

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Published in: on March 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My Famous Friends Blog Project

paparazziI was at a basketball game at my alma mater and former place of employment the other day when it hit me that I know a lot of people who have – in one way or another – achieved some level of fame. From people who are known by the masses to those who are awesome at what they do and positively affect the lives of other. Plain and simple, I know some pretty remarkable folks.

The idea came to me to share my “famous friends” with you, my beloved readers, so that you too could appreciate the amazing people I know. Besides, it gives me something to write about consistently for the next few months. You’ll get to “meet” my friends and find out the who, what, where, and why to their fame. So stay tuned and be prepared to rub elbows with my famous friends.

 

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Published in: on January 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sneaker Crazy

Photo courtesy of www.soleawesome.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.soleawesome.com

With one of the biggest sneaker releases of the year coming up tomorrow, I figured I’d get on my soapbox for a few minutes to fuss about some things. The red and black Retro Jordan 11’s return to stores on Friday and even though retailers have instituted “draft” processes for customers to purchase the shoes, I still think there will be news reports of people being hurt while trying to buy them.

A lot of sneaker releases have made the news lately, most notably last year on December 23. The black and white Retro Jordan 11’s were released in limited quantity all across the U.S. Customers went absolutely nuts trying to get the shoes. They waited in line for days in advance, rushed stores as they opened, and trampled other customers in the process. People were shooting in Houston and California, stabbing in New Jersey, and being pepper sprayed in Washington State for being out of control.

All this over a pair of (overpriced) sneakers. People in society need to re-evaluate what is important to them in this day and age. With all the things going on in the world right now, do you think I’m gonna waste hours in line and $185 on some shoes??? Let’s go with NO! Not happening!

Admittedly, I’m not the sneaker head I used to be. In high school, and even to some extent in college, I always had to have the flyest sneakers around. Paying upwards of $150 for a pair of shoes was common to me. Fast-forward almost 10 years and I stick to the $80 rule: If a sneaker costs more than $80, I’m not buying it! If I really want it, I’m waiting until it goes on sale. What helps this is the fact that I do get free sneakers from work. Since most of them are usually cool, I rarely need to buy my own sneakers anymore.

But this Jordan release struck a nerve with me because I wanted the red and black Concords for the last 10 years. I remember spring break 2002, my best friend came to visit and she had a pair. They were two sizes too small, but that didn’t stop me from borrowing them for an outing. But seeing all the madness that ensued after the release of last year’s shoes, I want nothing to do with any sneaker that put someone’s life in jeopardy.

I studied marketing in undergrad, so I get the hype about limited edition releases of products and all that. But why can’t Nike do an unlimited release for, perhaps, a limited amount of time??? The demand for those shoes is off the charts, so Nike stands to make tons of money if they release 100,000 pairs or a million pairs. Making $ 18.5 million with a 100K release and having people act like uncivilized animals somehow makes more sense to Nike than to earn $185 million with a million-pair release and have happy customers everywhere. My logic is that if everyone is wearing them, it lessens my chances of being shot or robbed.

I wish everyone luck who entered the draft or lottery to get a CHANCE to buy the shoes. And I hope none of you, my dear readers, will be out acting uncivilized tomorrow. Be safe people!

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Published in: on December 20, 2012 at 11:34 am  Comments (2)  
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30-Day Writing Challenge Reflection

Well this writing challenge has been just that: a challenge. It took a bit more than 30 days to complete because life got in the way a few times. I’m glad it has come to an end, though, because now it’s time to focus on a much bigger writing project. The challenge served as a bit of a warm-up for the upcoming assignment. But since so many of you have enjoyed reading me posts, I will try to post something at least once a week.

Time is one of the most precious assets we have in this life and I am honored that so many of you took the time out to read my words every day. Thank you so very much for your time and support! Stay tuned!

 

Published in: on November 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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