DR. Lakeesha Walrond Inaugurated As The First Female & First Black Female In 119-Year History Of The New York Theological Seminary (NYTS)

On Saturday, October 26th, the Trustees of the New York Theological Seminary (NYTS) hosted the inauguration of Reverend Dr. LaKeesha Walrond at Riverside Church in New York. Among those in attendance were New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, Rev. Al Sharpton (NAN), Senator Benjamin, Hazel Dukes (NAACP), and other dignitaries, who joined the Trustees for this historical moment to inaugurate Dr. Walrond as the first female and first African-American female President in the Seminary’s 119-year history.

The three-day inauguration festivities were held from Thursday, October 24th until Saturday, October 26th, and kicked off Thursday with the George W. Webber lecture series featuring Dr. Alice W. Hunt, Executive Director of the American Academy of Religion. On Friday, attendees were invited to an evening of networking and fellowship at “NYTS Meets First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC),” hosted by FCBC.

As the 12th President, Dr. Walrond brings to the institution more than two decades of ministry and faith leadership. She intends to promote Seminary growth through fresh and creative initiatives and expanding the curriculum of urban ministry. Dr. Walrond, served as the Executive Pastor and Chief of Staff of First Corinthian Baptist Church, home to one of the largest urban ministries in New York City for the past 13 years.

Since its inception nearly 120 years ago, NYTS has remained a distinguished and progressive leader in the field. The institution is renowned for its forward-thinking initiatives, from preparing men and women for leadership roles in faith-based ministries across the country to helping incarcerated men achieve higher education degrees in Professional Studies. NYTS has transformed the lives of over 400 graduates to date, with a dozen men graduating from Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York this past June. Under Dr. Walrond’s leadership, NYTS will continue to push for diverse and groundbreaking programs that reflect the institution’s mission while maintaining its historic denominational and cultural traditions.

“Being entrusted to continue the legacy of NYTS is truly a humbling experience and as the first female president and the first African-American female president, it’s not lost upon me that this moment in history must be fueled by a collective purpose within the faith community,” said Rev. Dr. Lakeesha Walrond. “I am elated to lead the seminary into a new innovative era that will reflect the mission of the institution and continue to raise the bar for generations to come. This Inauguration is more than just a celebration. It’s about empowering the entire institution – students, faculty, staff, and board members. As we move forward together collectively, the success of NYTS will be triumphant.”

Dr. Walrond earned her Ph.D. in Special Education and Literacy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also holds a Master of School Administration with a focus in Educational Leadership and a Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus in Learning Disabilities from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her commitment to ministry and education led her back to school post-doctorate to earn a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary here in New York City. She received her undergraduate degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

MDOT Offers Light-Up Bracelets To Help Keep Trick-Or-Treaters Safe

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) and Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) want children to see and be seen this Halloween. To help increase visibility of Maryland’s youngest pedestrians, the agencies will distribute light-up bracelets Wednesday, October 30, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at participating Giant Food stores, and at select MDOT SHA Maintenance Shops and MDOT MVA branches. MDOT SHA is providing the bracelets for children to wear while trick-or-treating and is distributing bookmarks with safety tips as part of its “Light Up for Safety” walk smart initiative.

“Light Up for Safety is an opportunity to stress the importance of pedestrian safety with both walkers and drivers,” said MDOT SHA Administrator Gregory Slater. “With Halloween, and the upcoming time change that will bring dusk earlier in the day, we want to make sure drivers and pedestrians are looking out for each other.”

Parents can pick up bracelets and bookmarks at these locations while supplies last:

Allegany County – MVA, 13300 Winchester Road SW, Cumberland, 21502;

Anne Arundel County – MVA, 6601 Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie, 21062;

Baltimore City – Giant, 1020 W. 41st St., 21211;

Baltimore County – Giant, 6340-50 York Road, 21212;

Calvert County – Giant, 655 Solomon’s Island Road North, Prince Frederick, 20678;

Caroline County – SHA Denton Shop, 508 Caroline St., 21629;

Carroll County – Giant, 405 N. Center St., Westminster 21157;

Cecil County – MVA, 105 Chesapeake Blvd., Suite A, Elkton, 21921;

Charles County – Giant, 200 Rosewick Road, La Plata, 20646;

Dorchester County – SHA Cambridge Shop, 2954 Old Route 50, 21613;

Frederick County – Giant, 1700 Kingfisher Dr., Frederick, 21701;

Garrett County – MVA, Route 135 & Weber Road, Oakland, 21550;

Harford County – MVA, 501 W. MacPhail Road, Bel Air, 21014;

Howard County – Giant, 9200 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, 21043;

Kent County – SHA Chestertown Shop, 615 Morgnec Road, 21620;

Montgomery County – Giant, 13490 New Hampshire Ave., Colesville, 20904;

Prince George’s County – Giant, 3521 East-West Highway, Hyattsville, 20782;

Queen Anne’s County – MVA, 230 Hess Road, Grasonville, 21638;

Somerset County – SHA Princess Anne Shop, 10980 Market Lane, 21853;

St. Mary’s County – Giant, 45101 First Colony Way, California, 20619;

Talbot County – MVA, 9178 Centreville Road, Easton, 21601;

Washington County – MVA, 18306 Col. Henry K. Douglas Drive, Hagerstown, 21740;

Wicomico County – MVA, 251 Tilghman Road, Salisbury, 21801;

Worcester County – SHA Snow Hill Shop, 5603 Market St., 21863.

“Whether you are driving to a party or walking around the neighborhood, Halloween should be a fun evening for families and friends,” said MDOT MVA Administrator, Chrissy Nizer and Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “Pedestrians should ‘walk smart’ by always looking both ways before crossing the street, using crosswalks whenever possible and wearing something to ensure you can be seen, like our ‘Light Up for Safety’ bracelets. We ask all drivers to remember to exhibit their best driving behaviors, including slowing down, looking out for pedestrians and always designating a sober driver.”

MDOT SHA offers pedestrian and driver tips to help keep trick-or-treaters and chaperones safe.


  • Look left, right and left again before crossing the street.
  • Watch for cars turning in or leaving driveways.
  • Walk, don’t run, when crossing the street.
  • Use sidewalks and marked crosswalks whenever possible, and cross at marked intersections.
  • Be sure to see and be seen. Avoid dark clothing, wear bright colors and use reflective devices such as glow sticks, flashlights and blinking lights.
  • Avoid costumes that may impair vision.
  • Make eye contact with drivers when crossing the street.
  • Stay alert and be on the lookout for cars traveling above the speed limit.


  • Stop for pedestrians. Maryland law requires motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and intersections.
  • Stay alert, and park the mobile phone.
  • Obey the speed limit. Speeding makes it more difficult to stop unexpectedly.
  • Be extra cautious during peak trick-or-treating hours 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Enter and exit driveways slowly. Use caution when turning at intersections.
  • Expect the unexpected and be alert for children darting across the street and crossing between parked cars.
  • When driving children to and from activities, make sure all seat belts are fastened and let children out of the car on the curbside.

Never drink and drive. Designate a sober driver.

Throughout the year, MDOT SHA promotes “Look Up, Look Out” campaign, an education initiative that reminds travelers that pedestrian safety is a two-way street. The campaign urges both drivers and pedestrians to make safe, smart choices on the road. The effort includes public service announcements, billboards, community outreach, and social media efforts. For more information about “Light Up for Safety” and “Look Up, Look Out,” go to roads.maryland.gov.

Local Roofing Company Installs New Roof As Part Of Cover A Veteran Program

— Superior Design and Restoration announced that Stacia Evans, a disabled veteran in the Dundalk area, would receive a complete roof replacement at no charge.

Stacia was nominated by a local community member for her nine dedicated years of service to the United States Navy, her work with various local Baltimore animal rescue organizations, and her many achievements while working for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Employees from Superior Design & Restoration work on the roof as Stacia Evans and Keith Randlett look on.

Employees from Superior Design & Restoration work on the roof as Stacia Evans and Keith Randlett look on.

“Our company is devoted to giving back to the community and those that have served our country,” said Keith Randlett, the owner of Superior Design and Restoration. “We want this program to be something that not only brings attention to the loyal service of veterans, but also helps a community member in need by putting a new roof over their head and improving their quality of life. This is not a free roof, Ms. Evans has earned this.”

The initial announcement and interview process took place at Ms. Evans home in Dundalk the morning of Saturday, October 19, 2019. The build and unveiling took place on Friday, October 25, 2019.

Superior Design & Restoration, which was founded in 2012 is a full service General Contractor specializing in residential, commercial, and industrial roofing, siding, gutter and insulation solutions. We are family owned and operated and have a combined 30+ years’ experience and expertise in the construction industry. Providing Superior products and services to each and every customer is our top priority. We strive to establish and maintain good communication and excellent working relationships with our customers in order to ensure that we are always able to provide each customer with the best roofing, siding, gutter and insulation systems available in today’s market.

Former Rep. John Conyers Dies At 90

— Former Rep. John Conyers, a longtime Michigan Democrat who represented parts of Detroit for more than 50 years before his resignation in 2017, died Sunday at age 90, his son, John Conyers III, told CNN.

A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Conyers was known as pushing a series of liberal causes, especially from his perch on the Judiciary Committee. He at one time served as chairman of the panel.

Conyers was born in Detroit in 1929 and entered Congress in 1965 where he championed the Civil Rights Movement and pushed liberal legislation throughout his tenure.

Conyers’ longevity in Congress was punctuated by a contentious resignation in 2017 amid allegations of sexual harassment.

The Michigan Democrat faced an investigation by the House Ethics Committee into multiple allegations that he had sexually harassed women who worked with him when he told a Detroit area radio show that he’d step down from his seat in Congress.

“My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now,” he told the Mildred Gaddis’ radio show at the time. “This too shall pass.” Conyers repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

In 1983, Conyers introduced the original bill to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday and in 1994 worked on the Violence against Women Act. He became the first African American to serve as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee in 2007.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who now represents Conyers’ district, tweeted Sunday that he “never once wavered in fighting for jobs, justice and peace.”

“We always knew where he stood on issues of equality and civil rights in the fight for the people,” she said. “Thank you Congressman Conyers for fighting for us for over 50 years.”

This story has been updated.

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The Community Salute To The Late U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings

Thousands of people crowded the Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State University to pay their respects and say their final goodbyes to the late Congressman Elijah Cummings on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. Cummings sat on Morgan’s Board of Regents for 19 years. Family members said it was his desire to have a community homegoing at Morgan to give the public a chance to say goodbye.

“I was used to seeing Congressman Cummings every Sunday at New Psalmist Baptist Church, and he was always very passionate, and compassionate,” said Jeffrey Wright, fraternity brother and friend. “He was a big part of Baltimore City as far as upliftment, achievement, and hopefulness. He always had a kind word, inspiring, and a great role model for all people in Baltimore City, especially African American men in Baltimore.”

As early as 7:00 a.m., supporters, friends, students, and the community of Baltimore awaited the arrival of the late Rep. Cummings. The public filed into the auditorium to view the body during the 12-hour public salute. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young was among the mourners. After the public viewing, a memorial service was held from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. which featured tributes from fraternal organizations,

Morgan’s choir, community leaders, friends, and elected officials. Twenty-seven speakers praised Rep. Cummings’s life of service.

“Elijah Cummings was a great leader, he always had my back and he had yours too!” said former U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski during her speech. Mikulski said Cummings was not only her colleague, but also her lifelong friend.

Many spoke about Representative Cummings not just as a political figure but also as a neighborhood guy who dedicated his career to bettering Baltimore.

“Congressman Cummings was more than a congressman, more than a political figure. He was a man of the people. He was an advocate and enthusiast for our people,” said Darryl Perry, a resident of Maryland 7th Congressional District. He was an inspiration for a widespread and diversified group of people and whether you knew him directly or not, he still played an intricate role in your life given his outreach and community ties that more than likely impacted directly someone you know personally.”

Cummings was appointed to the MSU Board of Regents in July 1999. He chaired the board’s Audit and Institutional Assessment Committee for five years. He was a member of the board’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee. Students said he was a well-known figure on campus, known for his dedication to civil rights.

“Congressman Cummings was a man full of wisdom, of integrity, of courage, and of faith. Many people speak to their people but a man of his caliber was able to relate. It was always on display through his actions,” said Jayrell Cephas, a Morgan student. “That same man with his voice, found a way to still allow the concerns and potential of his people to reverberate through the masses of this country.”

Morgan’s president, Dr. David Wilson said in a statement that, “Beyond serving on the University’s Board of Regents, Rep. Cummings was not only a dear friend to Morgan, he was family. His wisdom, wise counsel and superb leadership will be greatly missed.”

Rep. Cummings passed away early Thursday, October 17, 2019 in Baltimore due to long standing health issues. The Morgan service was one of three services in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. saluting his life.

He was 68.

Afterschool Program Uses ‘Universal Language’ Of Music To Educate Students

Robert Levine III says he recognized at a young age that music could help people express themselves in a way they otherwise could not.

Levine, the founding executive director of the Baltimore nonprofit, Beyond the Natural Foundation (BTNF), says music connects emotions and fosters bonds that can strengthen and motivate young people.

“Music is a universal language. I believe that in every facet of our lives, music plays an integral role,” Levine said.

BTNF uses music education in after-school programs to engage and empower students from Edmonson-Westside, Mergenthaler Vocational Technical and Paul Laurence Dunbar high schools.

BTNF programs, which serve about 500 students each year, are also held at various recreation and community centers in and around Baltimore.

“Students are learning the art of songwriting, production, and audio engineering as a platform for positive self- expression and promoting campaigns like anti-bullying and anti-violence,” Levine said.

BTNF believes arts education is an essential part of achieving success in school, work, and life. Arts engagement has a profound impact on unlocking the creativity needed for future generations of innovators.

Levine says expressive art methods of pure skill and focused sensitivity enhance one’s capacity for sharing thoughts, feelings, and experience. In this way, youth come to know themselves on a deeper level and they also become aware of their impact on those around them and allow them to encounter their world with compassion and presence.

The overall goal is to use music therapy to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, and promote physical rehabilitation.

The students have responded, Levine said.

The lead single from one of this year’s project is a song written, recorded and produced by students called “Group Chat.”

“The song inspires peers to use technology in a positive way,” Levine said.

“I can honestly say, I had nothing to do with that.” Levine said. “They came up with that. We like to give them the autonomy to make decisions about what they create, but the song itself is about kids. You know, nowadays, they communicate primarily through social media and texting.

“It’s a song about promoting a positive environment. Making sure that kids aren’t using that platform to bully other kids, and making them feel bad in any way. They are responsible for the primary form of communication nowadays. So it’s really cool to see them take ownership and have fun with creating such a positive message.”

BTNF serves at-risk youth by engaging them in music education and performance to provide expressive therapy and inspiration for creating more significant life opportunities. As an organization, Levine says the goal is to be at the forefront of providing musical arts enrichment and music therapy for the youth of our communities.

The nonprofit provides hands-on education in the art of songwriting, producing, audio engineering, and musicianship while utilizing basic music curriculums and state-of-the-art equipment via BTNF’s flagship onsite program Music for F.U.N. — or Fundamental Understanding of Notes— and The E.A.R. Arts Institute.

“As a kid growing up, it was all about music for me, and the great music that my parents used to listen to,” Levine said. “I’ve been doing music all of my life in some way. So, if our students walk away from our program with creativity, collaboration, commitment, and community, then we will have accomplished what we set out to do.”

For more information, visit wwww.beyondthenatural.org.

Annapolis Towne Centre Hosts First Fall Fest

— As fall foliage appears, the Annapolis Towne Centre will hold its first Fall Fest on October 26, 2019 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. This fun, family-friendly event is overflowing with harvest-themed festivities. Let the kids run through a hay maze, try their hands at pumpkin decorating, take a train ride, or visit the petting zoo; all while parents enjoy a crisp drink at the Beer Garden presented by Gordon Biersch, or a range of upscale shopping options.

Lining the North East end of Towne Centre Boulevard will be Boutique Row. Here, guests can enjoy stylish, quality shopping from the many tenants at the Annapolis Towne Centre. Shop from South Moon Under, Scout & Molly, Lou Lou Boutique, J. Jill, Talbots, and more for the coziest trends this season. Stores will also be stocked up on goodies to celebrate Halloween a little early this year. Pick up a fall fest map and complete with a trick-or-treat trail at the Information Booth when you arrive.

“The Fall Fest is the perfect jumpstart event for new and familiar guests of the Towne Centre to see all of the exciting experiences we have planned at the property,” said General Manager,

Anthony Henry. “We want to bring something new to the area that the community will embrace for years to come.”

Food and beverage samplings to be provided by Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar, Bin 201 and Newk’s Eatery. Additional food trucks will line the streets to provide an additional array of food options. Live music will be provided throughout the day by David Sparrow, along with a special live production by the Maryland Performing Arts Center.

This event falls in line with the Towne Centre’s mission of being a central gathering place for locals, visitors, and business professionals alike by offering next-level entertainment and events. The Towne Centre’s ability to provide direct access, an elevated atmosphere, and a strong depth of entertainment experiences makes them the newest competitor in community-focused events in the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County region. Paired with great shopping opportunities and plenty of dining options, the Annapolis Towne Centre is a step above the rest.

The inaugural Fall Fest is free and open to the public. Parking around the Towne Centre, as always, will be available at no cost. For more information, visit us at www.visitatc.com.

The Answer To Our Psychiatrist Shortage Lies Abroad

More than 40 million American adults suffer from mental illnesses like anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. Nearly six in 10 aren’t receiving treatment.

That’s often because they can’t find a mental health professional. Sixty percent of U.S. counties lack a single psychiatrist. More than 110 million Americans live in mental health professional shortage areas.

This shortfall will likely grow worse in the years to come. More than six in 10 practicing psychiatrists are nearing retirement age. By 2024, the United States could be short between 14,000 and 31,000 psychiatrists, according to a study published in the medical journal Psychiatric Services.

Graduates of international medical schools can help plug this gap. These doctors— many of whom are U.S. citizens who chose to pursue their medical degrees abroad— already account for a significant share of our nation’s psychiatrists.

Recruiting more of them to practice stateside would greatly improve Americans’ mental health.

One in five adults in the United States lives with a mental health condition. About 16 million people struggle with major depression, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Over 6 million struggle with bipolar disorder. And many patients cope with multiple conditions simultaneously.

It’s becoming harder for them to find mental health specialists. California, Florida, and Texas— the three most populous states in the union— have less than half the number of psychiatrists they need to meet patient demand. In rural areas, 95 percent of mental health professionals say they can’t handle their communities’ needs.

International medical graduates are well equipped to fill these shortages. They already account for nearly one-third of our country’s psychiatrists— and roughly one-quarter of all physicians nationwide.

IMGs tend to minister to high-need populations. They account for more than 35 percent of the active psychiatry residents who specialize in adolescent and child treatment. Their work is crucial, given that 20 percent of kids between 13 and 18 suffer from a mental health condition. Research shows that increased access to mental health care for our nation’s youth could help reduce suicide rates, juvenile delinquency, and school dropouts.

International medical graduates also tend to practice in high-need areas. In places where three-quarters of the population is non-white, over one-third of practicing doctors graduated from international medical schools. Doctors trained abroad are “more willing than their U.S. medical graduate counterparts to practice in remote, rural areas,” according to a report from the American College of Physicians.”

Physicians trained abroad provide top-notch care— sometimes even better than their domestically trained counterparts. A 2017 study in the BMJ, a medical journal, found that patients treated by international medical graduates had lower mortality rates than those treated by U.S. medical graduates.

This year, IMGs matched to U.S. residencies at the highest rate since 1991. Many of these new doctors are U.S. citizens returning home to practice. More than 60 percent of Caribbean medical school graduates, for example, are U.S. citizens.

Forty graduates of the school I work at, St. George’s University in Grenada, matched into psychiatry residencies in March. They started working at hospitals across the country this summer, from Tennessee and New York to Kansas and California.

America needs thousands of additional psychiatrists to meet patient demand for mental health services. The nation should look abroad, to international medical schools, to find them.

Dr. Laurence Dopkin is a practicing psychiatrist and serves as Assistant Dean of Students at St. George’s University (www.sgu.edu).

Are Rude And Crude The New Norm Or Will America Bring Back Civility?

— Can we talk? Joan Rivers made that catchphrase popular decades ago but in 2019 the answer to the late comedian’s heartfelt query appears to be a resounding no. Whether it’s tweets on social media, pundits on TV, politicians in Washington or parents at a youth soccer match, much of the communication we engage in today is ill mannered, inconsiderate, vicious and sometimes downright cruel or violent.

In short, civility is taking a beating.

“Incivility occurs because we lose sight of what it means to be an ethical person,” says Dr. Steven Mintz, author of Beyond Happiness and Meaning: Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior. “Ethical people do not berate others. They certainly don’t promote violent behavior. Being willing to accept the ideas of others who may not agree with you is a sign of civil behavior. It values those with opposing views as members of humanity.”

Ellen DeGeneres made that point recently when she became the target of online outrage after she was seen enjoying a Dallas Cowboys football game with former President George W. Bush. Those taking umbrage with DeGeneres didn’t understand why she would hang out with someone whose beliefs and ideals are diametrically opposed to hers.

“When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean be kind to the people who think the same way you do,” DeGeneres told a studio audience. “I mean be kind to everyone.”

An annual poll by Weber Shandwick, a public relations firm, found that 93 percent of Americans believe there is a civility problem in the country, and Mintz says whether people realize it or not, we all pay a price.

“Incivility can negatively affect happiness and impact wellness,” he says. “It can harm mental and physical health, affect productivity in the workplace, inhibit civil engagement, and, taken to an extreme, cause violence in our streets, schools, and places of business.”

Who is at fault for the decline of courteous communication? The Weber Shandwick poll found that 57 percent of Americans lay the primary blame on social media and the Internet. Other culprits they point to include behavior in the White House (50 percent), politicians in general (47 percent), news media (40 percent), political and social commentators (38 percent) and Hollywood celebrities (30 percent).

Mintz says all is not lost, though. He offers these tips for how everyone can do their part to stem the rising tide of incivility:

  • •Think before speaking.
  • •Focus on facts rather than beliefs and opinions.
  • •Be open to others’ ideas without hostility.
  • •Disagree with others respectfully.
  • •Focus on the common good rather than one’s personal agenda.

“Finally, ask yourself how you would feel if the comments you are about to make or treatment of others went viral on social media,” Mintz says. “Would you be proud of it?”

Mintz is convinced the nation could use a good public debate on civility.

“Unfortunately, our leaders don’t seem to think it’s important enough to do,” he says. “The Democratic presidential debates haven’t touched on these issues, but what better way to address gun violence, workplace harassment and bullying than openly discuss how a lack of civility is tearing apart the basic fabric of society.”

Dr. Steven Mintz, author of “Beyond Happiness and Meaning: Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior” has frequently commented on ethical issues in society and business ethics. His Workplace Ethics Advice blog has been recognized as one of the top 30 in corporate social responsibility. He also has served as an expert witness on ethics matters. Dr. Mintz spent almost 40 years of his life in academia. He recently retired as a Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo. For more information, visit: www.stevenmintzethics.com.

Breast Cancer Survivor Making A ScRUMtious Living

This article is part of a series of articles published in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. An annual international health campaign, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is observed every October to increase awareness of the disease, and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.

Last November, Audrey Watson was invited to a holiday gathering. She recalled wanting to bring a dessert that varied from the traditional sweet potato pie. She decided to call her cousins in The Bahamas to get a recipe for rum cake.

“Everybody typically does sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving and I wanted to do something different,” she said. “I decided to do a rum cake, and it was a hit. I posted a picture of the rum cake on Facebook, and started getting messages from people asking where I got it. I made a couple more rum cakes for people, and from there, things took off.

“I also took one of my rum cakes to a Bridal Shower, and it was gone in three minutes. I knew I was onto something. I decided I would start my own rum cake business, The Rum Cake Kitchen.”

Less than a year later, business has been “sweet” for Watson.

“The rum cakes are very popular,” she said. “I travel to New York with my rum cakes quite a bit, and also sell them at various events. It’s rum cake with a twist. People love the moistness of the rum cakes. They also like the fact that the rum is not overpowering and that the cakes come in a variety of flavors. People like having options.”

Watson’s rum cakes flavors include Nutty 4U, a rum vanilla cake with walnuts, drizzled with rum vanilla glaze topped with walnuts; Chocolate Rumchata, rum triple chocolate cake drizzled with rum vanilla or chocolate icing; and Coco Cabana, rum vanilla cake drizzled with rum vanilla glaze, topped with sweet coconut. Other flavors include Rum Velvet, Rum Cherry Vanilla, Very Berry Strawberry, Orange Creamsicle, and Vanilla Caramel Kiss.

The Rum Kitchen also offers mini cupcakes in a variety of flavors and peach cobbler.

Watson says she is currently developing keto, vegan and gluten-free rum cakes.

“I didn’t think it would turn into all of this,” said Watson reflecting on how her business began. “But if you have a good product, people will support you. A chef is also going to launch my Peach Cobbler at a restaurant in Georgetown. Sometimes, I am speechless.

“I have always been a good cook, and even as a child I liked to bake cookies and cakes. My grandmother and all of my family in The Bahamas baked all the time. But I had never thought about doing it for a living. It came as quite a surprise.”

Watson, 51, is also a seven-year breast cancer survivor. She said her diagnosis also was surprising.

“I found out that I had breast cancer from my annual mammogram,” recalled Watson. “I was 44-years-old at the time. I didn’t have a lump in my breast, but the mammogram showed my breast was different than the year before. Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family. It came as such a shock. I didn’t believe it when they told me. I was going every year for my mammogram but kept rescheduling it because I was busy. I am glad I finally went.

The Rum Cake Kitchen features cakes, mini cupcakes and pies. Watson says she is currently in the process of developing keto, vegan and gluten-free rum cakes.

Ursula V. Battle

The Rum Cake Kitchen features cakes, mini cupcakes and pies. Watson says she is currently in the process of developing keto, vegan and gluten-free rum cakes.

“I tell women to make sure they get their annual mammogram, and if they feel something, go to the doctor to get it checked out. I am surprised by the number of people who feel a lump and ignore it. I ask them are they crazy. Time is of the essence because cancer spreads so quickly. I was very lucky. Mine was caught at stage one. It was treated with a lumpectomy and radiation.”

Watson, who says she regularly participates in breast cancer awareness events, is a native of Harlem, NY. She is the mother of three girls— a set of twin girls who are 30-years-of-age, and a 23-year-old daughter. She shared her “recipe” for success.

“Social media is very important for advertising and getting your ideas noticed,” she said. “People call me from New York, Texas and other places for rum cakes. You have to be consistent and engage your audience and respond back quickly. You can’t be lackadaisical because there is so much competition. Social media has taken my business to another level. It seems there are new opportunities every time I turn around.

“Never stop working towards your dreams. Stay positive and work hard. I also encourage women to make sure they get their annual mammograms.”

For more information about The Rum Cake Kitchen, visit: www.rumcakekitchen.com or call 410-530-5529