Be a quitter in 2014!

Kick off the year by attending the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking® class offered by the Baltimore County Department of Health.

The Freedom From Smoking® class is a FREE seven week program that uses a positive behavior change approach, and helps participants develop their own plan on how to quit. In 60-minute sessions, participants will learn about reducing stress, cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and how to control their weight while resisting the urge to smoke.


The class will be held every Tuesday, beginning January 7 from 6 to 7 p.m., and will take place at the Baltimore County Department of Health located at the Drumcastle Government Center – 6401 York Road (First Floor Conference Room) in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Freedom From Smoking® class is free and open to the public. FREE nicotine replacement therapy (patches and gum) and Chantix are available for eligible class participants. Registration is required. To register or receive more information, call the Department of Health at 

Financial tips for the New Year

The New Year offers a fresh start, when many of us feel energized, optimistic and open to change. When you set your New Year’s resolutions, consider financial goals too. Set goals that are attainable and measurable. Break each goal into steps, write those steps down, and set deadlines for accomplishing each step. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Pay yourself first. Set a savings goal. You can start with three to five percent of your pay and work up to 10 percent. Set up automatic deposits into a separate account. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, try to at least contribute up to the match. If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k), set up an IRA. If you are already contributing to your 401(k) or IRA, consider increasing your contributions to the maximum. In 2014 the maximum amount for a 401(k) is $17,500 and if you are at least 50 you may contribute up to $5,500 more.
  2. Create a budget. This is not as hard as it sounds. If you use your bank’s on-line bill pay, a good place to start is the summary information found right on the website. Your credit card company may also provide you a year-end summary of your spending. You can’t set goals for spending and saving without understanding where your money is currently going. As you look at your spending, think about what you are spending your hard-earned money on— differentiate between wants and needs. Much of our overspending is on little things like a daily latte or eating lunch out every day. Cutting back on these seemingly minor expenditures can have a big impact on your finances.
  3. Pay off credit card debt. This is likely the highest interest rate debt you have. If you have only been paying the minimum, set a goal to pay a certain amount more each month. And through creating a budget and setting savings goals, you should be able to find ways to reduce spending on the “wants” and reduce your use of credit cards. Your ultimate goal should be to charge no more than you can pay off each month.
  4. Prepare a personal net worth statement. This is simply a list of all your assets (home, 401(k) plan, IRAs, bank accounts, life insurance, etc.) and your liabilities (mortgage, auto loans, credit card debt, etc.) Many people are surprised to discover how this simple exercise helps you focus on financial goals.
  5. Review your estate planning documents. Documents that everyone needs include a will, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, directive to physicians (living will), and a HIPPA (medical privacy) release. If you have minor children, a will is necessary for naming a guardian in the event you die. The importance of these documents cannot be overemphasized. And review with your closest family members so they know where the documents are in case they are needed in an emergency.
  6. Rebalance your investment portfolio. The asset allocation in your investment portfolio is a road map towards your financial future and should be aligned with your financial goals. Throughout the past year certain asset classes may have performed better than others and your portfolio should be rebalanced back to your target allocation. A financial planner can help you envision your future, determine your financial goals, and devise a strategy for achieving those goals including an appropriate asset allocation.
  7. Review your insurance. Life insurance policies should be reviewed annually to see if they still meet your needs. Similarly review your property and casualty coverage. Depending on your situation, consider an umbrella policy. You should also review your disability coverage, an area people often leave themselves exposed to risk as you are much more likely to become disabled than to die prematurely.
  8. Review your tax plan. Work with your financial advisor to identify opportunities for tax savings. Tax laws change frequently and you should understand how these laws affect you.

Joseph M. Jennings, Jr., CFA, Senior Vice President, Investment Director, PNC Wealth Management has 14 years of wealth management experience. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter holder and member of both the CFA Institute and the Baltimore CFA Society. He can be reached at

Beverly Johnson

Super Model, Hair Guru, Businesswoman

The first African American supermodel on the cover of American Vogue was Ms. Beverly Johnson. Beverly was attending college Northeastern University in Boston, MA when she tried her hand at modeling. She quickly landed modeling gigs and began working steadily. Johnson would go on to appear on magazine covers and fashion runways all over the world, including her groundbreaking Vogue cover in August 1974.

Johnson’s appearance on the cover changed the beauty ideal in fashion, and by 1975, every major American fashion designer began using African American models. Now Beverly is a considered a pioneer, entrepreneur, and role model for women everywhere.

She is the face and name of The Beverly Johnson Wig and Hair Extension Collection with Amekor Industries. During this period, her line of wigs, extensions and other hair products was the top selling brand in the country.

This is a true testament to Beverly Johnson’s “name recognition” and brand awareness from Multicultural clients with a deep respect for top quality hair products. Many national publications have dubbed her the “Hair Guru.” *

As her hair product line continues to flourish, Beverly will always be known as THE Super Model that paved the way for those that followed her.


Visit or Follow @BeverlyJohnson1

Eating well at any age: How to fuel your mind, body and soul

— It’s common knowledge that children should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, consuming all the nutrients needed to grow up strong. Many adults don’t know that it’s just as crucial to continue those healthy habits throughout adulthood and well into the “golden years.” Regardless of age, we should all make nutritious and sensible choices to promote peak physical and mental performance.

Build strong bones

Experts say the human body begins to lose bone mass at about age 30. That’s why it’s important to get plenty of calcium to keep bones strong, along with vitamin D, to help your body absorb calcium. Good sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, okra and collard greens. A convenient and delicious way to take in more calcium is to incorporate an Emerald Smoothie into your daily routine. Simply blend pineapple, celery and spinach with soymilk and ice in a Vitamix 7500. This quick and easy concoction will give your diet an extra boost of essential nutrients.

Sharpen the mind

Making wholesome choices helps keep your brain fit. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish like sardines and salmon, as well as flaxseed and walnuts, have been linked to improved cognitive function and reduced risk for certain diseases. Eating fish regularly is one way to get enough omega-3s. If you’re not a seafood fan, numerous types of fish oil capsules are available at drug stores. Avocados also boast omega-3s, as well as monounsaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol and improve circulation. Avocado provides a rich flavor and texture perfect for nearly any sandwich, as well as dips, smoothies and even desserts.

Antioxidant-rich blueberries are another mind-boosting addition to any diet. Considered a “super food,” these berries contain properties that have been linked to better brain health, improved motor skills and a sharper memory. To increase your berry intake, try a fruit salad for lunch or whip up a fresh berry sorbet for dessert.

Nourish your nervous system

Vitamin B12 is vital to your wellbeing. It can aid your body in producing red blood cells, properly developing nerve cells and preventing anemia. This vitamin can be found naturally in animal products, such as fish, meat and eggs. Steamed clams and lean beef are some of the best sources of Vitamin B12. Those maintaining a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle should consider a supplement or foods specially fortified with B12, including certain breakfast cereals or soy products.

Stay hydrated

Water is essential for your body. It keeps you hydrated, regulates body temperature and flushes waste. As we age, our sense of thirst may not be as effective, causing some older adults to be dehydrated but not feel thirsty. The average adult requires six to eight glasses of water each day, so a good rule of thumb is to have one glass at each meal and at least one glass in between meals.

Almond milk, soymilk and whole-food juices, made by blending whole fruits and vegetables in a high-performance blender like a Vitamix, can also keep you hydrated and satiated. When reaching for a thirst quencher, try to avoid sugary drinks such as soda and processed fruit juice, which add calories without much nutritional value.

Aging is inevitable, however, you can build a stronger body, mind and soul at any phase in life. All it takes is knowledge, motivation and follow-through to keep yourself healthy and full of energy for years to come.

Grandmaster Flash

DJ, Pioneer, Hip-Hop Legend

Square Peg Into A Round Hole

There are lots of stories about the birth of jazz and the beginning of rock n’ roll, but hip-hop has founding fathers: one of them is DJ Grandmaster Flash. In the early 70’s Joseph Saddler was living in the South Bronx and studying electrical engineering. However, Saddler, a native of the Bronx, had a much deeper passion for music; he had been experimenting with his father’s vinyl since he was an toddler. His knowledge of audio equipment led him to an idea that would revolutionize the way he played music: the turntable would become his instrument.

The career of DJ Grandmaster Flash began in the Bronx with neighborhood block parties that essentially were the start of what would become a global phenomenon — the dawn of a musical genre. He was the first DJ to physically lay his hands on the vinyl and manipulate it in a backward, forward or counterclockwise motion, when most DJs simply handled the record by the edges, put down the tone arm, and let it play. Those DJs let the tone arm guide their music, but Flash marked up the body of the vinyl with crayon, fluorescent pen, and grease pencil—and those markings became his compass.

He invented the Quick Mix Theory, which included techniques such as the double-back, back-door, back-spin, and phasing. This allowed a DJ to make music by touching the record and gauging its revolutions to make his own beat and his own music. Flash’s template grew to include cuttin’, which, in turn, spawned scratching, transforming, the Clock Theory and the like. He laid the groundwork for everything a DJ can do with a record today, other than just letting it play. What we call a DJ today is a role that Flash invented.

By the end of the 70s, Flash had started another trend that became a hallmark around the world: emcees followed flash to the various parts and parties to rap/emcee over his beats. Before long, he started his own group, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Their reputation grew up around the way the group traded off and blended their lyrics with Flash’s unrivaled skills as a DJ and his acrobatic performances—spinning and cutting vinyl with his fingers, toes, elbows, and any object at hand.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five went Platinum with their single, “The Message.” Meanwhile, the single “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” introduced DJing to a larger listening audience than it had ever known before; it became the first DJ composition to be recorded by a DJ. The group’s fame continued to grow with “Superappin,” “Freedom,” “Larry’s Dance Theme,” and “You Know What Time It Is.” Punk and new wave fans were introduced to Flash through Blondie, who immortalized him in her hit, “Rapture.”

The rock n’ roll hall of fame also recognized Flash with an honor no one else in hip hop has received: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip hop group ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Flash is the first DJ to ever receive that honor.

By the time the 90s rolled around, Flash was handpicked by Chris Rock to spend five years as the music director for his groundbreaking HBO series, The Chris Rock Show. More recently, Flash has played for audiences as large as the Super Bowl and as elite as Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

On top of his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Flash has been the recipient of many awards, including VH1 Hip Hop Honors; The Icon Award from BET in honor of his contribution to hip hop as a DJ; The Lifetime Achievement Award from the RIAA; and Bill Gates’ Vanguard Award.

Although Flash has been in the business for many years, he shows no sign of slowing down: this coming year promise, a new album, and he will began his descent from the analog vinyl world of DJing to enter the digital world of DJing. His DJ application of choice is “Traktor Scratch” by Native Instruments.

Grandmaster Flash’s memoirs, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash – My Life My Beats was released in bookstores worldwide. The book is penned by David Ritz, author of both Marvin Gaye’s and Ray Charles’ biographies. In this extraordinary book, Grandmaster Flash sets down his musical history, sharing for the first time his personal and difficult life story—along with no small amount of wisdom and experience.

The Smithsonian Museum of American History in honor of Black History Month has opened its exhibit RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture that Grandmaster Flash along with other hip hop artist such as LL Cool J, Erykah Badu and Common will be featured.

In closing, grandmaster flash continues to tour the world, in festivals, clubs and venues. He now has his eyes and ears on this new craze-dance music, which he now adds to his legendary repertoire.


Visit or Follow @DJFlash4eva

How to travel happy during the holidays

It’s that time of year again. The holiday travel season is officially underway. Arriving at the dinner table to enjoy the family feast is the final destination, but getting there can be a battle.

AAA is reporting that travelers (people traveling 50 miles or more) has decreased slightly this year. However, there will still be millions of people on the highways, railways, and the friendly skies. The key to a timely arrival is preparation and planning.

Despite your mode of travel there are several things that you can do to enhance your travel experience:

Check the Forecast: Many parts of the country are already experiencing winter weather. Snow, high winds and record rainfall can put a damper on travel plans. Stay updated and plan accordingly.

Dress Accordingly: Regarding the weather, wear extra layers. You can always peel them away if you get too warm.

Get Some Rest: Get plenty of shut-eye so that you can be at your personal best during travel.

Leave Early: To avoid traffic and long lines at ticket counters at the airport and AMTRAK.

Use Online Tools To check the status of traffic, delays and cancellations.

Specifically for those that are packing up the vehicle and considering a family road trip, make sure to take these tips into consideration:

Vehicle Maintenance Check-up: Before jumping on the highway, take your car in for service because being stranded on the side of the road is not an option.

First Aid: Place an emergency roadside assistance kit and a First Aid kit in your car; because you just never know.

Fuel: Locate the least expensive gas prices in your area and fill up.

Did you make a decision to catch a flight this year? If you haven’t purchased a ticket yet, don’t stress there is still time to get a great last minute deal.

Travel Websites: Visit different travel sites and compare pricing, baggage fees, connecting flights (if any), travel insurance options and read the small print.

Crowd Control If Possible: Travel on the holiday to avoid long lines and possibly receive a reduced fare.

Pack Light: To avoid baggage fees and to minimize time spent in the airport.

No matter how you decide to get to grandma’s house take your time and plan. Travel can be less stressful if you do your part. Setbacks will occur, prepare for them as best you can. Even if you make it to the dinner table after dinner has been served keep in mind the objectives are to arrive to your destination safely and to enjoy time with your loved ones. Blessed travels!

Stephany DeBerry is a former airline employee and author of “Plane Etiquette, Godly Wisdom for Flying.” She is also the host of Take Off With Stephany, a travel radio program coming to a network near you soon.

Is It Necessary To Celebrate Black History Month?

“We don’t have a White history month, so why is there a Black history month?” Those exact words rolled off the tongue of my White co-worker, who was oblivious to the fact that he was embarking upon the biggest history lesson of his life. Although his comment was offensive and a bit hurtful, it wasn’t time to take it personal. It was imperative that he being a White male working with Black children in the ghettoes of the South side of Chicago, completely understand why it’s very necessary to celebrate Black History Month. Allow me to school you like I schooled him.


US Department of Transportation

Garret A. Morgan

We don’t have a White history month, because White history is consciously and subconsciously celebrated all year long. Think about it. Everyday, the media inundates us with European images that inform us of the “true” standard of beauty. When asking the younger generation who invented the stoplight, they stare cluelessly. They haven’t been educated about how a Black man by the name of Garret A. Morgan, invented the stoplight, which totally transformed streets all across the globe. However, every year they are reminded to celebrate Christopher Columbus for his “discovery” of America. The faces of accomplished individuals in the media fail to fully represent African Americans. Of course media highlights the success of certain African Americans, but typically not mainstream media. And although I absolutely LOVE Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the African American historic experience is so much more than one man.

It saddens me to hear the younger generation equate Black History with slavery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware slavery plays a HUGE role in our history, but it’s so much more that isn’t being told. What about our royal history? Why isn’t mass media sharing the historic stories of Black kings and queens in Africa? Or the great contributions of African Americans in this country? Have we forgotten about the Harlem Renaissance Movement that’s responsible for today’s classic African American literature? The first open heart surgery was performed by Daniel Hale Williams, a Black man. Our history is rich, inspiring, and extremely vital to our future. Therefore, it needs to be shared and celebrated.


National Park Service, Department of the Interior, US Government

Carter G. Woodson

Black History Month began as Negro History Week in 1926. Founded by Historian Carter G. Woodson, he wanted public schools to place a huge emphasis on Black history during the second week of February. Woodson chose that week, due to the fact that it marked the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976 the U.S. government officially recognized the expansion of Negro History Week, to Black History Month. A week wasn’t sufficient enough to properly fit in the history of Blacks. And to be honest, one month isn’t enough time as well, but it’s a good starting point. It’s a great opportunity to take the family to a museum, watch a few documentaries, and truly discuss Black history in depth. However, the spirit of Black History Month shouldn’t die on February 28th. It should live all year round. To answer my White co-workers question, Black History Month should be celebrated all year, until there is no longer a need to ensure us one month. Until the true history of Black Americans is properly told in public schools. Until countries all over the entire globe recognize the beautiful struggle of Black Americans and join our celebration. Until then, this is why we celebrate Black History Month.

Do you and your family celebrate Black History Month? What are your traditions?

Louis Gossett Jr

Academy Award Winning Actor, Activist, Author

Born May 27, 1936 in Brooklyn, NY, Lou has a flair for projecting quiet authority and has scored well personally in a string of diverse and occasionally challenging roles.

The aspiring actor caught a break at his first Broadway audition for “Take A Giant Step” (1953), where, beating out 400 other candidates, the then 16-year-old landed the lead.

His acting career soon flourished and his work in the stage and film versions of the groundbreaking drama about African-American family life in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961) proved a watershed. This led to numerous appearances on network series in the 1960s and 70s culminating in 1977, when he picked up an Emmy for his eloquent portrayal of Fiddler in the landmark ABC miniseries “Roots”.

Meanwhile, his big screen reputation grew with critically acclaimed work in such comedies as “The Landlord” (1970) ”The Skin Game”(1971) with James Garner, “Travels with My Aunt” (1972) and the film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning drama “The River Niger” (1975). A riveting performance as a drug-dealing cutthroat stalking Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset in “The Deep” (1977) catapulted him to wider popularity, but the tough by-the-book drill sergeant in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) won him a Best Supporting Oscar that consolidated his place in the Hollywood hierarchy.

Following his Oscar, he made numerous big screen and television appearances ,being singled out for his work as Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in “Sadat”(1983), the sci-fi adventure “Enemy Mine” (1985) where his lizard-like makeup won kudos, and in the action adventure series “Iron Eagle” (1985,1986,1992,1995) which introduced him to a whole new generation of moviegoers.

Still going strong, Lou’s trendsetting bald head and imposing six-foot-four physique served him well in “Diggstown” (1991) where he played a down-and-out boxer, a heroic headmaster in “Toy Soldiers” (1991).

Lou’s well thought out and nuanced performances also managed to give credibility to socially themed projects such as “To Dance with Olivia” (1997), and the critically acclaimed “Jasper, Texas” (2003)

The recipient of every known acting accolade, including multiple Golden Globes, Emmys, and People’s Choice Awards, Lou’s performance has connected him with his fans on a global scale. Organizations such as the NAACP, CARE, and the United States Armed Forces have used his likeness to add validity and integrity to their causes.

Recently, Lou was the new lead on the popular science fiction series “Stargate SG-1” introducing him to a new generation of fans worldwide. Lou has also developed the Eracism Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at creating entertainment that helps bring awareness and education to issues such as racism, ignorance, and societal apathy.*



A New Era in Beauty for Black Women

About five years ago, something extremely refreshing happened. Seemingly out of nowhere, Black women were trading in their relaxers, to embrace their natural hair. Pretty soon it was the topic of most conversations in the Black community. African American women discussed who was going natural, who decided to big chop, and who was transitioning. Blogs were created to cater to the natural hair community. Women began to share their hair journeys in chatrooms and via YouTube. Major hair brands caught wind of the underground natural hair movement, and began to manufacturer products catering to our diverse curls. It wasn’t long before I joined the natural hair community.


Natural Hair

For 3 years I twisted, braided, conditioned, oiled, loved, and hated my natural hair. For the first time in my life I felt beautiful. No more hiding under perms and weaves. I gave the world all of me, naturally. The response was beautiful, and although it was a struggle at times, I was so proud of my decision to accept and nourish the hair I was born with.

I recently permed my hair. At first I was reticent about my decision, seemingly oblivious to the “Did you perm your hair” questions on my social networks. I secretly felt like a sell-out, but I knew the decision was made simply because I yearned for a sleeker style that natural hair wouldn’t allow me to achieve. It wasn’t until a friend of mine who has natural hair told me “Having natural hair isn’t a cult. Be you.” That’s when it dawned on me.

It wasn’t just a natural hair movement taking place. No. Something bigger was occurring. A new era in beauty for Black women had arrived. Tired of waiting for the world to recognize our beauty, we began to embrace ALL of us. This movement goes beyond hair. Whether you’re a Black woman who chooses to wear your natural hair, or a long Pocahontas weave, this movement is about being confident, truly loving yourself, and truly loving each other. Don’t take my words. Just look around.

Procter & Gamble’s “My Black is Beautiful” campaign is committed to celebrating & connecting with African American women. Beverly Bonds created “Black Girls Rocks” as a way to empower young African American women through the arts. Since then it has become a movement, and even an anthem for Black women everywhere, casually using the hashtag #BlackGirlsRock on social media networks as affirmation of our flyness. Black women from all walks of life with different skin tones, and a variety of hair textures, are celebrating themselves, and allowing the world to catch up if it chooses to do so. It’s so evident that it’s a new day.

Our hair, skin, eyes, noses, lips, hips, and legs, are just a glimpse into the beauty that lies within. This new era of beauty among Black women celebrates the mind. It celebrates our beautiful spirits, our beautiful struggles, and our beautiful hopes. It consists of Black women uplifting one another, loving one another, and appreciating each other’s beauty. It’s here, and it isn’t going anywhere.