Memphian Kaye Davis celebrates September 11 birthdays of son, older brother

DREAM FULFILLED --- Though Jackson State was dealt a lopsided 35-7 loss to Tennessee State in Saturday's Southern Heritage Classic, Memphian Kaye Davis still was left smiling and gazing into the blue skies as her son, JSU's Maurio Batts, took part in what was an exuberant performance during the halftime’s “Battle of the Bands.”

DREAM FULFILLED — Though Jackson State was dealt a lopsided 35-7 loss to Tennessee State in Saturday’s Southern Heritage Classic, Memphian Kaye Davis still was left smiling and gazing into the blue skies as her son, JSU’s Maurio Batts, took part in what was an exuberant performance during the halftime’s “Battle of the Bands.”

No doubt, the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City will forever be labeled a day of infamy in United States history.

But for Memphian Kaye Davis, that day also is one she will cherish for the rest of her life.

As Davis tells it, anytime someone brings of the terrorist attacks that transpired 13 years ago, she quickly enlightens them that such a tumultuous event unfolded on the birthdays of her son, Maurio Batts and her older brother, Kevin Whitmore.

For Davis, a Whitehaven High graduate, arguably the most identifiable day in American history essentially brings her to smiles, considering it affords her the opportunity to pay homage to two individuals whom she describes as two of her most favorite.

“In my eyes, 9/11 has to be a special day because it created two very special people in two very different times, in 1964 and 1996, in the same family on September 18 years ago,” Davis told MemphiSport during a recent interview.

Looking back, Davis can recall exactly where she was at the time news spread of the attacks on New York.

“I was picking up my son from daycare,” Davis explained. “Now I have not been to New York, but I would say that we have come a long way because we are aware of terrorism and the cover-ups in Washington.”

Nowadays, however, Davis often becomes the beneficiary of an array of jokes and punch-lines surrounding September 11.

“Well I get a lot of jokes about 9/11” said Davis, “because so many people died. But the way I look at it is God created some good people on that day also.”

Among those “good people” is Batts, Davis’ 18-year-old son who, to his credit, continues to bring joy to the life of his mother.

A 2014 graduate of East High, Batts is currently a member of Jackson State University’s band that is has been famously deemed “The Sonic Boom Of The South.”

During Saturday’s 25th annual Southern Heritage Classic, Davis and a host of family members were was among the estimated 50,000 spectators on hand to watch Jackson State square off against Tennessee State.

A 2014 graduate of East High, Batts is currently a member of Jackson State University’s band that is has been famously deemed “The Sonic Boom Of The South.” During Saturday’s 25th annual Southern Heritage Classic, Davis and a host of family members were was among the estimated 50,000 spectators on hand to watch Jackson State square off against Tennessee State.

A 2014 graduate of East High, Batts is currently a member of Jackson State University’s band that is has been famously deemed “The Sonic Boom Of The South.”
During Saturday’s 25th annual Southern Heritage Classic, Davis and a host of family members were was among the estimated 50,000 spectators on hand to watch Jackson State square off against Tennessee State.

Though JSU was dealt a lopsided 35-7 loss to their arch rivals, Davis still was left smiling and gazing into the blue skies as her son took part in what was an exuberant performance during the halftime’s “Battle of the Bands.”

“I was proud of him for making the band,” Davis said of her son, who was named a member of the JSU band in early August. “I knew he could do it because that is all he ever did. I was there and cheering him on when he came to the Liberty Bowl. I couldn’t wait because we haven’t heard the trumpet since he left (for school). He has been through some changes these past 30 days and he overcame every problem that came his way. We got our tickets as soon as we found out he made it.”

Following Batts on-field display, Davis bolted the stadium and joined the rest of her family for a joyous, festive occasion for her brother, a Hamilton High and Morehouse College graduate who turned 50 on September 11.

By all accounts, that she got to savor the best of both worlds — watching her son fulfill his dream of performing as part of a college band and celebrating her brother’s 50th birthday — days after arguably the most historic day in American history gave way to what was a memorable weekend.

Never mind that her son’s school wound up on the losing end of Saturday’s game.

“It was my first time celebrating with a new family,” Batts said of the halftime performance.

Though he was five years old at the time the terrorist attacks transpired, Batts said that hasn’t in any shape or form overshadowed the splendor surrounding his birthday.

“I was only five,” Batts said. “I remember seeing it all over the news for a while. But my main focus (weeks leading to the Southern Heritage Classic) was outplaying TSU.”

As far as his mother is concerned, he did just that.

Next up for Batts: A Battle of the Bands showdown Saturday versus Grambling State at 6 p.m. CDT.

No doubt, his mother will be all smiles once again.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NFL and the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, email him atandre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

 

 

Dallas couple moved by DeAngelo Williams’ unique tribute to his late mother

IRVING, Texas — On the afternoon of September 7, LaTisha Jarrett figured she’d watch an NFL game with her husband, Otis.

What she witnessed shortly thereafter brought her to tears.

While watching the Carolina Panthers’ season-opening game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, LaTisha noticed Panthers star running back DeAngelo Williams sporting pink dreadlocks.

DeAngelo Williams, the Carolina Panthers’ all-time leading rusher, dyed his signature dreadlocks and painted his toenails pink in the season-opener against Tampa Bay in honor of his late mother, who in May lost her battle with breast cancer.  Williams also had four aunts to die of this dreaded disease. (Photos by Chris Graythem/Getty Images)

DeAngelo Williams, the Carolina Panthers’ all-time leading rusher, dyed his signature dreadlocks and painted his toenails pink in the season-opener against Tampa Bay in honor of his late mother, who in May lost her battle with breast cancer.
Williams also had four aunts to die of this dreaded disease. (Photos by Chris Graythem/Getty Images)

“When I saw it, when I saw the pink dreads, I just wanted to look more into it,” LaTisha said.

What she learned during an online search was that Williams, Carolina’s all-time leading rusher, dyed his signature dreadlocks and painted his toenails pink in honor of his late mother, who in May lost her battle with breast cancer.

TRUE LEADER --- Williams, 31, has been quiet instrumental of the NFL's breast cancer awareness campaign and is credited with persuading the league to allow players to wear pink in October for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

TRUE LEADER — Williams, 31, has been quiet instrumental of the NFL’s breast cancer awareness campaign and is credited with persuading the league to allow players to wear pink in October for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Williams also had four aunts to die of this dreaded disease.

Williams, 31, has been quite instrumental of the NFL’s breast cancer awareness campaign and is credited with persuading the league to allow players to wear pink in October for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

While watching the Panthers’ outlast Tampa Bay, 20-14, LaTisha and her husband were moved by Williams’ unique gesture in paying homage to his mother, in large part because they can relate to Williams’ experience of losing a loved one to breast cancer.

In July 2002, less than two years before the couple met, Otis’ mother, Carolyn Jarrett, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She ultimately went into remission approximately eight months later after having one of her breasts removed. However, the cancer eventually spread to her other breast nearly a year later.

Carolyn died in November 2005, days after Otis proposed to LaTisha to marry him.

“We thought that she would go into remission after (having the second breast removed) and that would take care of everything because she had the first breast removed,” LaTisha said she wiped away tears Sunday afternoon at West Irving Church of God In Christ. “It was very drastic. It happened so fast. She passed three days after Thanksgiving. She could not come to (Thanksgiving) dinner because she was too weak.”

While watching Williams --- a former University of Memphis star who made his only Pro Bowl appearance in 2009 when he rushed for 1,117 yards on 216 carries and seven touchdowns on 216 carries --- play the season opener in honor of his late mother inspired the Jarretts to reflects on Carolyn’s memory, the couple hope to someday meet Williams to commend him for steadfastly promoting breast cancer awareness.

While watching Williams — a former University of Memphis star who made his only Pro Bowl appearance in 2009 when he rushed for 1,117 yards on 216 carries and seven touchdowns on 216 carries — play the season opener in honor of his late mother inspired the Jarretts to reflects on Carolyn’s memory, the couple hope to someday meet Williams to commend him for steadfastly promoting breast cancer awareness.

As LaTisha continued to wipe away tears, she couldn’t help but reflect on the memorable moments she enjoyed with her mother-in-law.

“The relationship that I built with her in that year-and-a-half was remarkable,” LaTisha said. “The way she just embraced me and brought me in was remarkable. (Her death) was hard for me because OJ (Otis) was actually taking her to chemotherapy. And seeing her and seeing how weak she would get and…and we’d put her in bed and that was painful for me.”

While watching Williams — a former University of Memphis star who made his only Pro Bowl appearance in 2009 when he rushed for 1,117 yards on 216 carries and seven touchdowns — play the season opener in honor of his late mother inspired the Jarretts to reflects on Carolyn’s memory, the couple hope to someday meet Williams to commend him for steadfastly promoting breast cancer awareness.

“I would love to tell him I appreciate everything he’s doing for breast cancer and awareness and to not let (his vision) die,” Otis Jarrett said.

As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month looms, LaTisha’s itinerary is filling up with regards to participating in various 5K activities. Among them is the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk October 18 in Plano, Texas.

After learning of Williams’ story, LaTisha said she feels compelled to pay tribute to his mother during the month of October.

“I would love to walk in his mother’s honor,” said she as she continued to fight back tears. “I would love to put his mother’s name on my back. This young man didn’t ask for his mother to get breast cancer. He’s playing the game in his mother’s honor. He needs more exposure for what he’s doing because it’s positive. People need more awareness as it relates to breast cancer.”

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NFL and the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, email him atandre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

Memphis record producer Gregory Lofton becoming a fixture among Grizz, Tiger Nation

You came from Vancouver, where you struggled to survived. Walked a road of adversity, yet you did it all in stride. When you came to Memphis, where you struggled to rebuild. Made personnel changes, it became a struggle still. But we’re getting it together, and we’re turning it around. got our act together to beat our enemies down. No more losing our battles, we’re taking a stand. We’re getting it together to get that title in our hands. With courage in our hearts we will reach the top. Now we’re on the move, and we can’t be stopped. — Memphian Gregory Lofton, on his recently released Grizzlies fight song

SILKY SMOOTH PRODUCER --- Memphian Gregory Lofton has garnered an array of attention as one of the Mid-South’s up-and-coming record producers. The founder and chief executive officer of Memphis-based Silky International Records, Lofton'S unique style of song-writing and producing have become a popular trend particularly among local female media pundits. (Photos submitted by Gregory Lofton)

SILKY SMOOTH PRODUCER — Memphian Gregory Lofton has garnered an array of attention as one of the Mid-South’s up-and-coming record producers. The founder and chief executive officer of Memphis-based Silky International Records, Lofton’S unique style of song-writing and producing have become a popular trend particularly among local female media pundits. (Photos submitted by Gregory Lofton)

As Gregory tells it, he doesn’t buy dreams.

“I sell them,” Lofton told MemphiSport during a recent interview.

What Lofton, 58, is alluding to primarily is the attention he has garnered as one of the Mid-South’s up-and-coming record producers. The founder and chief executive officer of Memphis-based Silky International Records, Lofton unique style of song-writing and producing have become a popular trend particularly among local female media pundits.

Not bad for a local rising music producer who has studied under the jurisdiction of legendary producer Kenny Gamble and his Grammy award-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame producing team, as well as alongside the O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti Labelle, Lou Rawls, and Jerry Butler, among others.

“The thing that I remember and appreciate mostly about my quest is that it gave me an opportunity to promote my beautiful city of Memphis and its attractions, especially our beautiful female newscasters,” Lofton said.

To his credit, Mid-South-area media members aren’t the only ones who have embraced Lofton’s assortment of musical projects. Arguably Memphis’ most celebrated basketball teams have come to recognized the true talent Lofton has become since he and his brother launched Silky International Records four years ago.

TRUE BLUE FAN --- Lofton's Memphis Tigers fight song was played with my by local sports radio personality Jon "The Rainman” Rainey during his afternoon show, The Southern Sports Report, on WHBQ 56 AM. The hit was played during the U of M’s men’s basketball team’s 2008 national championship run during which the Tigers were dealt an overtime defeat by Kansas in San Antonio’s Alamodome.

TRUE BLUE FAN — Lofton’s Memphis Tigers fight song was played with my by local sports radio personality Jon “The Rainman” Rainey during his afternoon show, The Southern Sports Report, on WHBQ 56 AM. The hit was played during the U of M’s men’s basketball team’s 2008 national championship run during which the Tigers were dealt an overtime defeat by Kansas in San Antonio’s Alamodome.

CHECK OUT GREGORY LOFTON’S LATEST PROJECTS AT: www.silkyinternationalrecords.com.

How to explain the ongoing buzz and hoopla surrounding the his recently-released hit dedicated solely to the Grizzlies’ organization, a song even the Grindfather himself, Grizz shooting guard Tony Allen, could very well come to enjoy.

You came from Vancouver, where you struggled to survive. Walked a road of adversity, yet you did it all in stride. When you came to Memphis, where you struggled to rebuild. Made personnel changes, it became a struggle still. But we’re getting it together, and we’re turning it around, got our acts together to beat our enemies down. No more losing our battles, we’re taking a stand. We’re getting it together to get that title in our hands. With courage in our hearts we will reach the top. Now we’re on the move, and we can’t be stopped.

And then there’s the second verse:

We’re starting a new journey, and we’re on our way back. To our foes in the game, prepare yourselves for a grizzly attack. Our house is in order, and we’re bad to the bone. Go out and fight, fight. Bring our championship home, bring it home.

According to Lofton, he sent his compelling hit via certified mail to new Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera, although he has yet to generate any feedback from front office reps. Luckily for the Vietnam Army veteran all was not lost.

That’s because the copyrighted unpublished version of his Memphis Tigers fight song was played with my by local sports radio personality Jon “The Rainman” Rainey during his afternoon show, The Southern Sports Report, on WHBQ 56 AM. The hit was played during the U of M’s men’s basketball team’s 2008 national championship run during which the Tigers were dealt an overtime defeat by Kansas in San Antonio’s Alamodome.

“They used my song to open the show and played snip-it all during the first hour of the show,” Lofton said.

Fortunately for Lofton, among those who had come to admire his work is U of M basketball coach Josh Pastner. “I thank him for his support,” Lofton said his relationship with Pastner.

Fortunately for Lofton, among those who had come to admire his work is U of M basketball coach Josh Pastner. “I thank him for his support,” Lofton said his relationship with Pastner.

Fortunately for Lofton, among those who had come to admire his work is U of M basketball coach Josh Pastner.

“I thank him for his support,” Lofton said his relationship with Pastner.

Without hesitation, Lofton, a former member of the Performing Arts Division of The Black Music Association, commenced to sharing his Tiger fight song that is starting to become popular among alumni and those with ties to the basketball program.

Weeeee got tiger fever, we’re burning up, we have fire in our eyes. We’re the Memphis Tigers, and we eat our foes alive. Weeee got tiger fever, we are the u of m. The University of Memphis. The mighty U of M. We are the mighty U of M.

Lofton relishes the fact Pastner passed his project on to university officials.

“Not only is he a great coach but he is worth his weight in gold as a coach and humanitarian,” Lofton said of Pastner. “Within one year of this release I plan to be in a position to put Memphis music back on the map and keep it there.”

No doubt, he appears well on his way, courtesy of Silky International Records.

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Sports journalist Andre Johnson pays tribute to his mother, who turns 55 August 28

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Friday, August 28, 2009, longtime sports journalist Andre Johnson paid tribute to his mother, Betty Pegues, during her 50th birthday celebration before family, friends, and a host of well-wishers. MemphiSport decided to republish Johnson’s emotional tribute he gave five years ago. Johnson’s mother turns 55 on Thursday. 

 

 

SUPER MOM --- MemphiSport NBA reporter Andre Johnson credits his mother, Betty Pegues, for helping him fulfill his dream of covering the NBA and NFL. Johnson, who resides in Dallas, covers the NBA Southwest Division and is a regular contributor for The Dallas Morning News.

SUPER MOM — MemphiSport senior writer Andre Johnson credits his mother, Betty Pegues, for helping him fulfill his dream of covering the NBA and NFL. Johnson, who resides in Dallas, covers the NBA Southwest Division and also is a regular contributor for The Dallas Morning News.

The year was 1988.

My sister, Tiffany, and I were preparing for the upcoming school year at Havenview Jr. High. Tiffany was entering junior high for the first time. I, on the other hand, was about to start eighth grade.

For years, Tiffany and I had become accustomed to mama sending us off to school on the first day in new clothes. School uniforms weren’t a requirement during those days, so basically going to school in new threads was a popular trend, especially in the ’80s.

But twenty-one years ago, something strange occurred days before school began. Mama informed me that while Tiffany would be going to school with a few new clothes, she was unable to purchase any for me, considering money was tight and that she had to reserve funds for more important things.

Granted, as an immature junior high kid who, like a number of my peers, thought mama was blessed with an unlimited flow of cash, I admittedly felt cheated and that mama had let me down. I sensed that mama had felt that way too. A couple of days before school began, she vowed to make it up to me, a promise that has impacted my life for the past two decades, a promise that I find myself reflecting upon every now and then, a promise that is worth mentioning and highlighting and embracing, especially in a setting such as the one that’s unfolding tonight.

Surely, many of you are here to pay tribute to Betty Pegues on her 50th birthday, in large part because this influential woman of God has touched your life, one way or the other. But for the past 34 years, Tiffany and I can attest to just how much of an impact she has had not just on us, but others who have come to know her.

She moved out of her parents’ home at a relatively young age, probably before she entered her twenties, and never returned even when the struggles and challenges of the real world seemed too overwhelming. Instead, mama, as Tiffany and I have known her, conducted herself as the strong woman she is.

From Frayser, to Binghampton, to Whitehaven, the results were always the same.

While often burning the candle at both ends by working two jobs so that we could live comfortably, mama made sure the house stayed cleaned and that we took part in our share of chores. Never do we recall going without a hot meal and, even though I endured what I believe was the worst beating of my life when I ripped and dismantled my bedroom nightstand on my fifteenth birthday because I didn’t get the gift I wanted, mama made it point to wash our clothes frequently. Then there were the memorable family moments, those intimate times that produced a unique relationship between a mother and her kids, times that, in a nutshell, explain why tonight’s grand occasion is so befitting.

DEFYING THE ODDS --- Despite giving birth to her children before the age of 17, Betty Pegues often worked two jobs to ensure Andre and Tiffany lived comfortably in their three-bedroom, Whitehaven-area apartment.

DEFYING THE ODDS — Despite giving birth to her children before the age of 17, Betty Pegues often worked two jobs to ensure Andre and Tiffany lived comfortably in their three-bedroom, Whitehaven-area apartment.

The silly and witty side of mama very much existed in our home. How can we forget the times mama would often play her 70s and 80s hit records and dance and laugh and poke fun at us in a joyous atmosphere she created in the first place? How can we forget the times she took us out to eat and to church, often reminding us just how special we are, even during an era in which single-parent homes had become all to familiar? How can we forget the times that, when we strolled in mama’s house with bad report cards, how she would repeatedly yell at, punish, and explain to us the importance of an education?

It was, after all, those life-changing moments and childhood lessons that made me realize why tonight’s celebration makes all of the sense in the world. You see, God gave me what I believe to be a big-hearted mother. A mother who had a wealth of patience in raising two hard-headed kids. A mother who would nurture and confront and uplift us when we were treated unfairly by the outside world.

A mother who was quick to chasten us with switches, belts, phone cords, and fisticuffs when necessary, not to mention one who was just as quick to praise, reward, and encourage us when we met or exceeded her expectations. So as we continue to reflect upon and appreciate the most celebrated woman in my life, I would be remiss if I didn’t double check my thank-you checklist.

Thank you, mama for:

Raising Tiffany and me the best way you knew how.

Thank you for every single word you uttered when you asked God cover and protect us, from the crown of our heads to the soles of our feet.

Thank you for demanding that we go to church and introducing us to Jesus Christ, even though we were brought up in communities that were stricken by drugs and crime.

MAKING HISTORY --- Johnson's mother, who turns 55 on Thursday, is responsible for putting her son through college. In May 2000, he became a first-generation college graduate when he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Memphis.

MAKING HISTORY — Johnson’s mother, who turns 55 on Thursday, is responsible for putting her son through college. In May 2000, he became a first-generation college graduate when he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Memphis.

Thank you for all of the free hot meals, utilities, toilet paper, soap, beds, cable television, clothes, and nightstands, even though we often acted unappreciatively and took those things for granted.

Thank you for putting me through college, helping me get a leg up in my journalism career by taking me to seminars and job fairs, and showing off every sports article I wrote, even though you do not have a fond interest in sports.

Thank you for sticking by me during a time in which I felt I was at the lowest point in my life, even though I had gone against your wishes and downplayed your wisdom.

Most importantly, thank you, mama, for being the true Woman of God you are. A woman of integrity. A woman of character. A woman of excellence. A woman of tremendous beauty. A woman of powerful influence, not to mention a woman who, as far as I’m concerned, has always made it a point to deliver on her promise.

Johnson's mother gave birth to him when she was 15 years old. Pictured is a photo when he was eight months.

Johnson’s mother gave birth to him when she was 15 years old. Pictured is a photo when he was eight months.

No doubt, 1988 was no exception. Sure, I sat in my classes on the first day of school, wearing clothes from the previous year and, looking back on it, there is something I should have learned from that, the lesson of gratification. But after going to school the second week of classes in new clothes, I’ve come to realize that your legacy, as far as I’m concerned, is that you simply wanted the best for us.

Even if it meant burning the candles at both ends.

That, after all, explains why tonight’s grand occasion makes all of the sense in the world. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

And, if the Lord’s will, we will see you back here in ten years.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Ex-college majorette Setra Stevenson making presence felt as insurance agency owner

DALLAS — Growth and opportunities.

Whenever Setra Stevenson is asked why she deemed in necessary two years ago to relocate to Texas from Michigan, those are among the factors that top her list.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT --- After becoming fully licensed just two months ago, Detroit native Setra Stevenson has made her presence felt as a flourishing owner/agent for Farmers Insurance in North Dallas. (Photos submitted by S. Stevenson)

IMMEDIATE IMPACT — After becoming fully licensed just two months ago, Detroit native Setra Stevenson has made her presence felt as a flourishing owner/agent for Farmers Insurance in North Dallas. (Photos submitted by S. Stevenson)

A native of Detroit, Stevenson has gone to great lengths to ensure she savors the various benefits that come with moving to what many describe as a progressive market.

After all, like many of her peers, she’s aware they do things big in Texas.

“Texas is like No. 1 (in America) as far as like low unemployment,” Stevenson told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “But actually, when I came here, I wasn’t even thinking about insurance. I was trying to get into the schools to teach.”

To her credit, Stevenson who, like many who label Dallas an attractive, thriving market, appears to be adjusting comfortable in this, a rather unfamiliar establishment.

Aside from earning a reputation as an accomplished educator who boasts a heart of youngsters of various walks of life, Stevenson nowadays has found her niche in another ever-demanding insurance industry.

Stevenson is Owner/Agent of Farmers Insurance Setra Stevenson Agency at 15851 Dallas Parkway in Addison, an endeavor that is seemingly coming full circle for this Denton, Texas resident in such a brief time.

A former dual-sport athlete who is mostly remembered for being a majorette at Detroit’s Cooley High in the early 1990s, Stevenson also starred in softball before ultimately being offered a scholarship as a majorette to Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.

According to Stevenson, the competitive drive that comes with sports is what essentially jumpstarted her desire to engage in a career in the insurance industry. A little more than two months removed from having becoming a full licensed owner/agent, it’s safe to assume the sky’s the limit for his energy-driven, thriving entrepreneur who has demonstrated time and again to conquer the toughest of life’s obstacles.

One moment, she’s studying countless hours an array of essential material on what it takes to embark upon a fruitful, efficient tenure in insurance. Weeks later, she is overseeing her own agency from a facility in the heart of North Dallas.

“You can have your own agency and have your own building or you can have your own office,” Stevenson said. “But a lot of people don’t (want their own building) right off.”

Considering she has enjoyed success as agency owner in such a brief timespan, Stevenson said she relishes the fact that even while contemplating pursuing a career in education during which she worked for the Fort Worth Independent School District, she elected not to teach on a full-time basis. Among the reasons is that even while managing and overseeing an insurance agency, she makes it home in time to spend with her children.

“My passion has always been education,” said Stevenson, a mother of three who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Management in 2007 and a master’s in Business Management in 2009 from the University of Phoenix. “My heart is there, but when I got (to Dallas), I was the only (parent) in the house. As a single parent now, I have to think about the money because I have mouths to feed.”

RAISING THE BAR --- To her credit, Stevenson who, like many who label Dallas an attractive, thriving market, appears to be adjusting comfortable in this, a rather unfamiliar establish.

RAISING THE BAR — To her credit, Stevenson who, like many who label Dallas an attractive, thriving market, appears to be adjusting comfortable in this, a rather unfamiliar establish.

Aside from running her agency and tending to the needs of her family, among the attributes Stevenson — whose daughter is enrolled at the University of North Texas and son attends  North Central Texas College — makes certain to demonstrate is having a heart for people.

In other words, part of rapid success is because her reputation is such that she establishes authentic relationships with her clients.

“I never want to come across as a salesperson,” Stevenson said. “I want my clients to feel comfortable. I want to build a relationship with them. If you get a salesperson who never met with the client, there’s no relationship. I don’t want people to be discouraged. That’s something I said I didn’t want to do. I don’t want anybody to sale me something and I don’t hear from them.”

In assessing her brief time in the Lone Star state since she left Michigan, Stevenson strongly contends delving off into the insurance business was an opportunity worth taking.

A golden opportunity, that is.

“It’s a company that has tremendous growth where you can come in and within a year, you can have your agency.”

What a difference two months have made for this former college majorette.

Thanks in large part to the growth and opportunities.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Farmers Insurance Setra Stevenson Agency, call her office at 972-726-0544, contact her via mobile at 817-995-6755, or log on to www.setrastevenson.com. Also, send email to sstevenson@farmersagent.com.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Sports journalist Andre Johnson pays homage to his grandmother as she turns 77

 

TWO PERFECT SEVENS --- On Saturday, MemphiSport NBA reporter Andre Johnson's grandmother, Vernice Johnson (center), will celebrate her 77th birthday. She was hired at as an employee at Memphis State the same year the Tigers advanced to the NCAA title game.

TWO PERFECT SEVENS — On Saturday, MemphiSport NBA reporter Andre Johnson’s grandmother, Vernice Johnson (center), will celebrate her 77th birthday. She was hired at as an employee at Memphis State the same year the Tigers advanced to the NCAA title game. Pictured also is Andre’s mother, Betty Pegues. 

COMMENTARY

DALLAS — I was weeks away from relocating to Dallas.

Besides covering the Memphis Grizzlies, I made certain to set aside time for my grandmother, Vernice B. Johnson.

Virtually every week, she’d call to ask if I can accompany her on her customary errands.

Whether it was to the bank, grocery store, or for routine doctor appointments, spending time with grandma undoubtedly was priceless moments about which I savored as I prepared to transition back to the Lone Star state.

In my estimation, arguably the most intriguing moment took place just days before I left Memphis.

While taking grandma for brunch at an East Memphis restaurant, she suddenly struck up a conversation about the best basketball player on the planet.

Never mind that she mistakenly misidentified him.

“Lamar James is playing some good ball,” Grandma said as I drove toward the restaurant displaying a slight grin.

Surely, I knew grandma meant to say LeBron James, the then-reigning back-to-back NBA MVP who was a member of the Miami Heat at the time. But witnessing her shift the dialogue to pro basketball, nonetheless, was a compliment, or sorts.

For starters, I am entering my fourth full season as an NBA writer. Not only that, my grandma — who admittedly never had a fond interest in sports unlike my late grandfather — indirectly reminded me that she had been following my work even while being avid viewer of TBN and the Church Channel, among others.

On Sunday, my grandmother will celebrate her 77th birthday. After our latest conversation, it’s safe to assume this vibrant, enthusiastic woman has hinted that she has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

“I’ve got a birthday tomorrow,” Grandma said Saturday afternoon during a telephone interview from my native hometown of Memphis.

For me, it will be a day in which even hundreds of miles away in North Texas, I deem it essential to pay homage to a woman who’s had a monumental impact on the lives of countless individuals during the course of her life.

LASTING LEGACY ---Vernice Johnson was married for 51 years to former City of Memphis employee Edward Johnson, Sr. before his death in June 2008.

LASTING LEGACY —Vernice Johnson was married for 51 years to former City of Memphis employee Edward Johnson, Sr. before his death in June 2008.

Take, for instance, how she steadfastly had gone about changing the atmosphere at Memphis State, particularly in the early 1970s during which she was hired in the housekeeping department.

Hired roughly two months before the Tiger basketball team advanced to the 1973 national championship game against UCLA, grandma said her employment at the university came with much discussion, considering Memphis was widely viewed as a segregated city in the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s horrific assassination five years prior.

“I remember,” Grandma said. “I sure do. “I tell you, at that time, it was far better than it is now. There weren’t so much killing. Of course, there were racial tensions. When I got there, they said they weren’t hiring any more (blacks). They claimed they weren’t going to hire anyone else.”

Just as she’s done virtually for the past 76 years, however, grandma’s persona was such that it was too appealing to overlook, particularly by those of the opposite race.

“A woman name Rachel Shelton hired me,” Grandma explained shortly after I interrupted her afternoon power nap. “And after she hired me, she let me stay.”

Aside from raising 15 children in the heart of North Memphis, her resilient work ethic consequently gave way to her remaining employed at the university for a little more than 29 years — a tenure that, to her credit, brought about close-knit relationships with faculty members, students, even administrators.

In a nutshell, to many with ties to the school, grandma wasn’t just the dedicated, reliable worker housekeeping needed. She was a beacon of light for practically the entire campus.

FAMILY MILESTONE --- Nearly nine months before his grandmother retired from the University of Memphis, Andre Johnson earned his degree in Journalism from the school in May 2000.

FAMILY MILESTONE — Nearly nine months before his grandmother retired from the University of Memphis, Andre Johnson earned his degree in Journalism from the school in May 2000.

“They said I was very encouraging,” said Grandma, a deaconess at the historic Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ in downtown Memphis. “From the administrators to…I can’t even think of all the folks’ names. There were so many of them. A lot of students and teachers didn’t know what to do. That would go on all day. And by the grace of God, I still got my work done. A lot of them were hurting and going through problems. Some of them went to church with me.”

Because of the colossal impact she exhibited during her days at the university, many weren’t aware that my grandmother had dropped out of high school at the age of 17 in 1954 to land work and help take care of her mother.

Surely, it doesn’t matter 60 years later.

What mattered mostly is that this woman’s temperament has always been such that everyone would hasten to her office adjacent to the university center for wisdom and advice. No doubt, I’ve been one to find my place in such a long line of those who routinely looked to grandma as a life-lesson coach, of sorts, especially during my days as a student at the University of Memphis School of Journalism.

Fortunately for me, she stuck around long enough at the college to witness me become a first-generation college graduate before calling it a career in February 2001.

No one, it seems, wanted to see her go.

Everyone, it seems, only wish she’d come back, come back to an establishment she was responsible for changing for the betterment of college life in the first place.

GOTTA LOVE GRANDMA --- During a recent sports conversation with her grandson, Vernice Johnson referred to LeBron as "Lamar James." (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSport)

GOTTA LOVE GRANDMA — During a recent sports conversation with her grandson, Vernice Johnson referred to LeBron as “Lamar James.” (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSportome back to an establishment she’s responsible for changing for the betterment of college life in the first place.

“I get letters from faculty and administrators still,” Grandma said. “I still interact with some of the people there. They didn’t want me to retire. They wanted me to stay. They said since I left, it hadn’t been the same. I was beginning to be tired. I was tired of getting up early. But I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. I never had a problem while I was there.”

Which is to say it is only befitting that as grandma raises the curtain on her 77th birthday, she is to be commended for the assortment of astounding contributions she made to the U of M, let alone to the life of a grandson who managed to graduate within months of her ceremoniously retirement.

“That was truly a joy to have a grandson to follow in my footsteps in some ways,” Grandma said. “It was a great privilege. That was a great impact to me.”

Not as great an impact she’s had on my life and sportswriting career, one that has afforded me to meet and interact several times with Lamar James.

Um, I meant to say LeBron James.

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Cakes and Cuppycakes owner Tina Moore providing delectable treats to consumers

RISING ENTREPRENEUR --- Tina Shirelle Moore is a Mississippi Valley State University graduate and owner and operator of Cake and Cuppycakes, a business she lauched just six months ago. Although her business has been in operations for such a brief time, Moore is starting to witness it flourish to immense heights, in large part because she found her niche as an avid baker nearly three decades ago. (Photos submitted my T. Moore)

RISING ENTREPRENEUR — Tina Shirelle Moore is a Mississippi Valley State University graduate and owner and operator of Cake and Cuppycakes, a business she lauched just six months ago. Although her business has been in operations for such a brief time, Moore is starting to witness it flourish to immense heights, in large part because she found her niche as an avid baker nearly three decades ago. (Photos submitted my T. Moore)

For those who don’t know Tina Shirelle Moore, allow her to introduce herself.

Moore is a native of Greenwood, Mississippi, a small, rural that is approximately two hours from Memphis.

Surprisely, Moore once played basketball for Greenwood High, from where she graduated in the mid-1990s.

As Moore recalls, occupying the point guard position enabled her to adopt what she describes as a “competitive drive” to excel in various aspects of life.

“That was so many years ago,” Moore told MemphiSport on Thursday. “I had the drive and the push in me to go forward. I knew that I could do anything if I set my mind to.”

For Moore, a 37-year-old mother of two who resides in Olive Branch, Mississippi, she has always demonstrated the keen ability to broaden her horizons, regardless of how insurrmountable challenges and obstacles appeared to have become.

The price ranges for cakes are $25 and up, for cuppycakes $8 and up.

The price ranges for cakes are $25 and up, for cuppycakes $8 and up.

RAPID SUCCESS --- Customers, as it turned out, have steadfastly bought into Moore’s unique style of baking, producing an assortment of desserts to quinch their occasional sweet tooth.

RAPID SUCCESS — Customers, as it turned out, have steadfastly bought into Moore’s unique style of baking, producing an assortment of desserts to quinch their occasional sweet tooth.

A Serology Technician for Antech Diagnostics, Moore is a little more than a year removed from having earned her doctorate degree in Environmental Science from Jackson State University. While she undoubtedly is reaping the benefits of her solid work ethic in her current endeavor, Moore is now starting to witness her business venture come full circle.

Moore is owner and operator of Cake and Cuppycakes, a business she lauched just six months ago. Although her business has been in operations for such a brief time, Moore is starting to witness it flourish to immense heights, in large part because she found her niche as an avid baker nearly three decades ago.

In a nutshell, it’s safe to assume that people embraced wholeheartedly her craft long before she gave any tought of starting her business.

“I’ve been baking since I was nine years old,” Moore said. “I started this as a business February 1, 2014. “Consumers embrace my business by being repeat customers and referring me to their friends, family, and coworkers.”

Customers, as it turned out, have steadfastly bought into Moore’s unique style of baking, producing an assortment of desserts to quinch their occasional sweettooth.
Not only that, consumers routinely have the luxury of placing orders for parties, office meetings, banquets, holiday gatherings, and birthdays, all at affordable prices.

The price ranges for cakes are $25 and up, for cuppycakes $8 and up.

GREEN PASTURES --- Given the rapid success Moore has enjoyed in such a brief time since starting her business, no doubt Cakes and Cuppycakes will continue to have a viable presence in Memphis and the surrounding areas.

GREEN PASTURES — Given the rapid success Moore has enjoyed in such a brief time since starting her business, no doubt Cakes and Cuppycakes will continue to have a viable presence in Memphis and the surrounding areas.

 

FOLLOW TINA SHIRELLE MOORE ON FACEBOOK (Tina Shirelle Moore) AND ON INSTAGRAM (@cakesandcuppycakes)

CakeRedTo her credit, Moore’s family has demonstrated immense support in the early stages of her business, most notably her husband, Alexander Moore, Sr., as well as her children, 18-year-old Alexandria and six-year-old Alexander Moore, Jr (or “Xan”).

In addition, she has enjoyed establishing closeknit bonds and business-related rapports with members of her church, Memphis’ New Growth In Christ Christian Center, as well as a host of extended family members.

Looking ahead, this Mississippi Valley State University alum boasts lofty aspirations of not only running Cakes and Cuppycakes from an actual facility in the forseeable furture, but she is aiming to convince other local businesses to stage her products on display in their respective establishments.

Given the rapid success Moore has enjoyed in such a brief time since starting her business, no doubt Cakes and Cuppycakes will continue to have a viable presence in Memphis and the surrounding areas.

“In due time, yes,” said Moore, when asked if she plans to consult other entrepreneurs with her products. “I’d love to see my products reach the stores. Within the next year, I’d love to have several employees working for me because of the growth that I anticipate. My business stands out because it my very own. I started this, I have several cake products that I’ve created. My pineapple, strawberry cake, and my caramel cake are to live for.”

Spoken like a true point guard who, although years removed from having dribbled a basketball, is still providing worthy assists.

Only this time, she’s handing them out to those who boasts a customary sweet tooth.

Not bad for a thorough introduction.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about Cakes and Cuppycakes, call Tina Shirelle Moore 901-493-8523 or email her at cakesandcuppycakes@gmail.com.

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Nickventive Web And Graphics CEO starting to have a viable presence in Mid-South

NICK DA QUICK --- Nick Howard, owner of Nickventive Web And Graphics, is starting o evolve as one of the top web and graphic designers in the Mid-South, in large part because of his affordable prices. (Photos submitted by Nick Howard)

NICK DA QUICK — Nick Howard, owner of Nickventive Web And Graphics, is starting o evolve as one of the top web and graphic designers in the Mid-South, in large part because of his affordable prices. (Photos submitted by Nick Howard)

No doubt, Nickolas Howard boasts a unique competitive nature.

Part of that comes from his fond admiration for sports.

“I’ve have always enjoyed sports,” Howard told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I believe that the competitive nature of athletes that I love is also important in staying competitive with my design.”

WELL PREPARED --- Years before entering the ranks of entrepreneurship, Howard begin studying his craft intensely while enrolled at nearby Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale. A 1999 graduate of Clarksdale High, Howard earned an Associate Degree in Fine Arts two years later.

WELL PREPARED — Years before entering the ranks of entrepreneurship, Howard begin studying his craft intensely while enrolled at nearby Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale. A 1999 graduate of Clarksdale High, Howard earned an Associate Degree in Fine Arts two years later.

The designs Howard is alluding to are those he routinely produces at his emerging place of business. A Clarksdale, Mississippi native who currently resides in Horn Lake, Howard is owner of Nickventive Web and Graphics.

While a majority of his business is done from the office of his DeSoto County residence, Howard hasn’t allowed not having an actual facility to deter him from evolving into one of the Mid-South’s most efficient web and graphic designers.

While landing a facility is in the works, Howard has proven to be accommodating to an assortment of clients throughout the Mid-South, designing everything from personal business cards, flyers, brochures, magazine ads, and logos.

That’s not all.

CHECK OUT NICKVENTIVE WEB & GRAPHICS AT: www.nickventive.com.

Nickventive Web And Graphics also assist customers with photo editing, programs, invitations of all types, books, not to mention compact disk labels and cover designs.

For Howard, he relishes the notion that consumers have bought into his rising company’s mission, which includes accommodating clients based on their budget.

“We’re very affordable,” Howard said. “If client does not have a budget, we would work with them. Nickventive stands out in that, I believe in adding a personal component with my clients. I talk directly to them as the designer. I give them professional quality and design that is on the next level of creativity but caters to the style and needs of the client.”

Nick2Years before entering the ranks of entrepreneurship, Howard begin studying his craft intensely while enrolled at nearby Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale. A 1999 graduate of Clarksdale High, Howard earned an Associate Degree in Fine Arts two years later.

Consequently, he enrolled at Delta State University, where he received two scholarships. In 2003, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphics, a milestone that further boosted his interest for erecting his own business.

Today, the 33-year-old, vibrant entrepreneur is starting to enjoy a viable presence as one of the Mid-South’s up-and-coming web and graphic designers.

“Most of my biggest supporters have been of a large variety,” Howard said. “Small business owners with established boutique shops, small restaurants, individuals who love to sale apparel and clothing. Also, churches and small ministries as well. I am marketing my business to gauge the pulse of the market and staying abreast to new design software.”

While landing a facility is in the works, Howard has proven to be accommodating to an assortment of clients throughout the Mid-South, designing everything from personal business cards, flyers, brochures, magazine ads, and logos.

While landing a facility is in the works, Howard has proven to be accommodating to an assortment of clients throughout the Mid-South, designing everything from personal business cards, flyers, brochures, magazine ads, and logos.

In addition, Nickventive Web and Graphics even offers what Howard labels as basic video editing, particularly with regards to websites, animated commercials and cartoons.

Looking head, many who have come to embrace Howard’s business venture don’t shy away from the notion that the sky’s the limit for Nickventive Web and Graphics.

“I see my business expanding nationally,” Howard said. “Even though there are many competitors and other businesses like mine, I believe I provide a style and concept that would be a niche among the rest. I give them professional quality and design that is on the next level of creativity but caters to the style and needs of the client.”

Spoken like a rising entreprenuer who boasts a unique competitive nature.

No doubt.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Nickventive Web & Graphics, call 662-902-9737 or send email to: nickventive@yahoo.com.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Memphian and avid San Antonio Spurs fan praises organization on female coaching hire

DALLAS — At approximately 12:30 p.m. on January 7, Stella Faye Adams walked inside what was an empty FedExForum.

What she witnessed shortly thereafter is something she admittedly will cherish for the rest of her life.

HISTORIC HIRE --- The San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday hired WNBA veteran point guard Becky Hammon as an assistant coach, making her the first, full-time, paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff. (Photos by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

HISTORIC HIRE — The San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday hired WNBA veteran point guard Becky Hammon as an assistant coach, making her the first, full-time, paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff. (Photos by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

An avid San Antonio Spurs fan, Adams got to meet future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, whom she deems her “favorite athlete of all time.”

As Adams recalls, meeting Duncan, a 14-time All-Star, for the first time following the team’s shootaround is something she had envisioned for quite some time. A native Memphian who has supported the Grizzlies since their move from Vancouver to Memphis, Adams has had a greater admiration for the Spurs, in large because the team has proven to be what she labels the “model organization of the NBA.”

TRADING PLACES --- Once Hammon, a 16-year veteran point guard, retires from the WNBA at season’s end, she is expected to immediately join Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s staff, working with the longtime San Antonio coach on scouting, game-planning and the day-to-day happenings in practice.

TRADING PLACES — Once Hammon, a 16-year veteran point guard, retires from the WNBA at season’s end, she is expected to immediately join Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s staff, working with the longtime San Antonio coach on scouting, game-planning and the day-to-day happenings in practice.

“When I met Tim Duncan, my favorite player of a time and the Spurs, I felt like I was on top of the world,” Adams told MemphiSport on Wednesday. “I couldn’t wait to show off my pictures. I remember saying to him that it was nice meeting you. Tim said to me that it was nice meeting you also and I couldn’t contain myself. He is such a humble person. I will never forget that moment.”

Adams became an even bigger fan of the NBA world champions when the team on Tuesday announced the hiring of 37-year-old Becky Hammon as an assistant. A veteran point guard for the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, Hammon has become the first, full-time paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff.

The news of Hammon’s hiring was inspiring to Adams, a special education teacher at Kate Bond Elementary and cheerleading coach at the nearby middle school. According to Adams, Hammon’s unprecedented hiring has provided her and other women with lofty hopes of working their way through the ranks in their respective fields.

“This is definitely a sign of things to come,” Adams after learning of Hammon’s hiring. “You will see more females stepping out and trying something different whether it be in sports or something that is not expected of a female. She has inspired me to think outside the box. I will be exploring options whether it be in administration or in the community making a difference. I am going to use my education and experience to make myself even more marketable.”

A six-time WNBA All-Star, Hammon currently ranks fourth on the league’s all-time assist list. Once the 16-year veteran point guard retires from the WNBA at season’s end, she is expected to immediately join Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s staff, working with the longtime San Antonio coach on scouting, game-planning and the day-to-day happenings in practice.

Like many women — whether sports fans or not — Adams, 42, will be among those tracking Hammon’s every move as she becomes acclimated in her new endeavor, one she believes undoubtedly has grasped the attention of other professional franchises.

TEAM SPURS --- Memphian Stella Faye Adams has been a fan of the San Antonio Spurs since Tim Duncan entered the NBA ranks. Adams, a cheerleading coach for Kate Bond Middle School, met Duncan for the first in January.

TEAM SPURS — Memphian Stella Faye Adams has been a fan of the San Antonio Spurs since Tim Duncan entered the NBA ranks. Adams, a cheerleading coach for Kate Bond Middle School, met Duncan for the first in January.

“I think that the Spurs as an organization is a trendsetter,” said Adams, when asked what was her initial reaction to Hammon’s hiring. “The things that they have done throughout the years makes them stand out. Allowing a female to come into the organization and share her expertise to males shows that it’s about the ability, not what you look like.”

As the Spurs, who open training camp in late September, look to defend their world title this upcoming season, Adams said the organization once again has given her and others a reason to support it, let alone some newfound enthusiasm, particularly with regards to the support and equality of women in corporate America.

“I was excited that they chose a female,” Adams said. “I believe she will bring some skills that will make the veteran players even better as a team. It’s makes me feel like I can step out and do something as unique as this.”

Having gone undrafted as a rookie following an All-American career at Colorado State, Hammon is in her 16th season and with her second WNBA team. She was signed by the New York Liberty in May 1999, enjoying a stellar rookie campaign while backing up starting point guard Teresa Witherspoon. Hammon spent seven seasons with the Liberty before being traded to the San Antonio Stars in April 2007.

En route to winning their fifth world championship in franchise history, the Spurs produced an NBA -best 60-20 record during the regular season and clinched the top seed in the postseason. San Antonio defeated the Miami Heat in five games in the NBA Finals.

ADreColumnndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, call him at 901-690-6587 or send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Evangelist Trelanie Johnson Willis impacting lives through her up-and-coming ministry

TRAIL BLAZER FOR GOD --- Years ago, Trelanie Willis Johnson and her family visited Memphis to attend the International Holy Convocation. Today, Johnson is the founder of Created For More Ministries, Inc. and is a fixture throughout the Body of Christ. (Photos submitted by Trelanie Willis Johnson)

TRAIL BLAZER FOR GOD — Years ago, Trelanie Johnson Willis and her family visited Memphis to attend the International Holy Convocation. Today, Johnson Willis is the founder of Created For More Ministries, Inc. and is a fixture throughout the Body of Christ. (Photos submitted by Trelanie Willis Johnson)

Considering she was brought up in a family that was involved heavily in the church, Trelanie Johnson Willis’ life was such that she wasn’t active in sports.

Still, that never stopped her from assuming a competitive drive for maximizing her potential.

Having accepted her calling in ministry in April 2001, Johnson Willis has become a fixture in the Body of Christ, in large part because she has earned a reputation as one who boasts a heart for people and, most importantly, her devout faith in God.

No doubt, this vibrant, spirit-filled vessel has proven to be one who is on fire for God, considering she has, like many of her peers, become enlightened on what it means to weather even the toughest of obstacles.

Take, for instance, the dramatic sequence of events that transpired prior to Johnson Willis becoming a full fledge licensed ministered a little more than a decade ago.

While attending college in Atlanta, Johnson Willis and her classmate were heading to grab a bite to eat but were involved in a horrific car accident. As Johnson Willis recalls, it was a disheartening, devastating event that left many wondering if she would survive what undoubtedly was a life-threatening encounter.

“We woke up from an unconscious state, finding ourselves in the hands of an Atlanta E.M.T. team, using the ‘jaws of life’ to extricate the two of us from the car,” Johnson Willis told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “The crazy thing is, I didn’t even realize I was in an accident! I could have been dead and gone just that fast. I realized the enemy attempted or intended for my life to end pre-maturely, because the enemy must’ve known what my purpose was before I did. Hence after, I became more serious about ministry work.”

Consequently, it was because God spared her life that she sensed He strategically had more assignments for her to do on earth, assignments she knew full well she had to accept, considering how much the adversary attempted time and again to rob her of her life.

Today, Johnson Willis, who currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, heads Created For More Ministries, Incorporated, an organization that, according to this Miami, Florida native, was erected on a solid foundation, one that is housed in Galatians 5:22. The passage reads: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.”

LOVING MEMORIES --- Trelanie met Elder Levi E. Willis, III in 2003 and the two would marry two years later. The former pastor passed away in March 2006 after a long battle with multiple health issues.

LOVING MEMORIES — Trelanie met Elder Levi E. Willis, III in 2003 and the two would marry two years later. The former pastor passed away in March 2006 after a long battle with multiple health issues.

For Johnson Willis — a Clark Atlanta University alum who also holds a Masters of Divinity degree from Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center — given her immense track record as a pillar to the Body of Christ, it’s safe to assume she has proven to boasts each of these pivotal attributes relative to the Apostle Paul’s familiar writing.

Among the reasons is that Johnson Willis doesn’t shy away from the notion that God strategically sanctified her which, according to Willis, is the primary reason she deemed it necessary to follow Christ.

“I chose to surrender the old me, for a better me,” said Johnson Willis, explaining how she had gone about forming her ministry. “God created me for more. He created me to give more hours towards prayer, more study of His word, more discipline, more focus, more love, more peace, more joy, more patience, more kindness, more long suffering, more meekness, more goodness, and more faithfulness more self-control.”

To her credit, it is because of these necessary commitments that she ultimately managed to connect with her vision, her lofty mission, or sorts, for organizing what she anticipates will be a life-altering ministry aimed largely at transforming lives throughout the world and the Body of Christ.

In other words, Created For More Ministries is destined to have a global presence in the coming years, a trend Johnson Willis believes will ultimately come to pass, given God, the Giver of life, spared hers 13 years ago.

Created For More Ministries is an organization that is God-inspired, according to Johnson Willis, let alone one that strives to edify, educate, and expound in the unadulterated word of God, within context for people of all ages. Also, this ministry is committed to embodying the principals of Jesus Christ, particularly with regards to how Christians should be fruit-bearers as well as encourage all believers to take their limits off and complete their divine assignment and purpose.

These components, Johnson Willis acknowledges, are achieved through the organization of workshops, seminars, conferences, ministering at worship services without denominational boundary, and more helpful services.

IMPACTING LIVES --- Having accepted her calling in ministry in April 2001, Johnson Willis has become a fixture in the Body of Christ, in large part because she has earned a reputation as one who boasts a heart for people and, most importantly, her devout faith in God.

IMPACTING LIVES — Having accepted her calling in ministry in April 2001, Johnson Willis has become a fixture in the Body of Christ, in large part because she has earned a reputation as one who boasts a heart for people and, most importantly, her devout faith in God.

“I believe the Holy Spirit gave me that scripture to remind me that I did not choose myself to be a ministry gift, but God chose me to be a fruit bearer,” Johnson Willis said. “My interpretation of this is that, bearing fruit is not just what I do for Christ or in the name of Christ, like preaching or teaching the gospel. But, in addition to that, it means who I am in Christ. Fruit is a manifestation of the Christ within.”

The daughter of an ordained deacon, Roland M. Johnson, and a licensed Missionary, Renay G. Johnson, Trelanie Johnson Willis was raised in Carol City in Miami Dade County, Florida (or, she says, the “inner city”).

Today, Johnson Willis’ old neighborhood is called Miami Gardens which, according to her, “sounds more like a pleasant area to raise children.”

“However, when I grew up there, before my parents relocated to a slightly better neighborhood and as I began middle school, it was highly drug and crime-infested,” Johnson Willis said. “It was my parents’ goal to move my two brothers and me away from the inner city to avoid the negative influences.”

Two years removed from her near-fatal car accident, Willis met the love of her life, Pastor Levi E. Willis III, while attending seminary in
Atlanta. Consequently, the couple would marry two years, a union that unfortunately was short-lived.

On March 3, 2006, Willis died after a lengthy battle with genetic-related heart disease. For Johnson Willis, losing her husband was difficult to stomach. But like her well-established ministry, God salvaged her life because she was created to activate more faith.

“We connected and our spirits were immediately drawn to one another having similar religious backgrounds and family upbringings,” said Johnson Willis, recalling her relationship to Willis. “We were best friends, inseparable and to many friends, associates and relatives, deemed as a loving, model couple. During the course of dating and courting, there were times where he’d become more ill than other times. After realizing the severity of his condition, I was faced with the decision to love him through his circumstances or leave him. After much prayer, consideration and my faith, I stuck by his side, caring for him when sick and at times hospitalized, my unconditional love led me to holy matrimony in the winter of 2005.”

Johnson Willis with renowned pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Johnson Willis with renowned pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In assessing her life and ministry, it was because of the influential impact her parents exhibited in the church coupled with the Biblical principles she was taught as a PK — or preacher’s kid — that Johnson Willis’ family steadfastly instilled in their children there is a better world outside of Carol City.

An upbringing that was comprised of tireless hours and involvement in the church alongside an array of family members, Johnson Willis and her family also have become familiar with the Mid-South, most notably as frequent attendees to the International Holy Convocation that was held for years in Memphis by the Church of God In Christ.

Today, the annual convention is held in St. Louis.

GOD'S CHILD --- No doubt, this vibrant, spirit-filled vessel has proven to be one who is on fire for God, considering she has, like many of her peers, become enlightened on what it means to weather even the toughest of obstacles.

GOD’S CHILD — No doubt, this vibrant, spirit-filled vessel has proven to be one who is on fire for God, considering she has, like many of her peers, become enlightened on what it means to weather even the toughest of obstacles.

“As a teen adolescent, my mother wanted to expose my siblings and me to the International Holy Convocation experience,” Johnson Willis said. “So, my mother saved her money so that she, my younger brother, and I could travel to Memphis. She believed and still believes that if you are a part of an organization, one should experience all that it encompasses. She afforded my brother and me a memorable experience that many have never experienced within the organization. We even stayed at the famous Peabody Hotel.”

By and large, it is because of Johnson Willis’ constant exposure and unyielding faith amid the tumultuous events she endured that have ultimately catapulted her into an immense limelight at this stage in her ministry, a sequence that figures to become recognized and embraced by countless individuals within and the outer barriers of the church.

In other words, Created For More Ministries undoubtedly will be around for quite some time, largely because Johnson Willis has become empowered to inspire others that there is more to life if they develop a commitment to seeing from beyond where they are.

Much like her parents taught her during her upbringing as a preacher’s kid.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER --- Johnson Willis has decided to further her education, given she is pursuing her doctorate degree in Leadership.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER — Johnson Willis has decided to further her education, given she is pursuing her doctorate degree in Leadership.

“There was hardly any room for many other recreational or extra-curricular activities in my life like sports,” Johnson Willis said. “Because my upbringing was so strict, with limitations as to what I was allowed to do for recreational activities, I became deeply or heavily involved in gospel music ministry at my local church, and also sang with multiple community choirs, including the Miami Music Workshop Choir, and I recorded multiple times with the (Stellar Award Winning) the Miami Mass Choir, under the leadership of my cousin, Pastor Marc Cooper, before graduating high school or right before my first year of college.”

In essence, it was the assortment of life lessons and Biblical principles she learned as a child that essentially have given way to Johnson Willis organizing a well-established ministry with an itinerary that continues to fill up by the day.

Currently, Johnson Willis’ first book is in the works, and she is starting to garner invites to share her life-changing testimonies. In addition, she has decided to further her education, given she is pursuing her doctorate degree in Leadership.

No doubt, this vibrant, spirit-filled woman who hails from the heart of inner city Carol City has been created to put on display her assortment of God-given talents.

“God told me I would preach and teach, educate, but not in the traditional way I intended,” Johnson Willis said.

Still, her competitive drive for maximizing her potential is continuing to enhance the lives of many throughout the Body of Christ.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson is the former chief adjutant to Elder Andrew Jackson, Sr. of Faith Temple Ministries COGIC in Memphis. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, call him at 901-690-6587 or send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.