SheRises Non-Profit Helps Teen Moms during Pandemic

Sherise Holden, founder of SheRises, Inc. knows how difficult it can be for teen moms to take care of their children, especially during a pandemic. A teen mom herself, Sherise started her non-profit organization in 2019 to provide support and guidance for young mothers.

The Prince Georges County native was 17, and three months away from graduating high school when she gave birth to her daughter Autumn. She didn’t feel ready to be a mom and planned to give her baby up for adoption until her mother convinced her to keep the baby.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Sherise and her baby were homeless while she tried to make ends meet working a minimum wage job. She knew they couldn’t go on living that way, so she met with a pastor to discuss adoption options. Later that afternoon, she got a message from her boss telling her not to come into work. She was not yet aware of the terrorist attacks that occurred that morning, so she turned the news on and was flooded with emotions: sympathy, anger and the deep desire to keep her daughter.

And, she did just that! She was committed to being the best mother she could be while attending college courses at night until she earned her Associates degree in accounting. She would go on to earn her Bachelors in Business Administration, Masters in Project Management and MBA.

Sherise, now a mother of two girls, is a project manager for the IRS. She grew up poor and said “I had very little support from my family, and I was too ‘proud’ to accept government assistance.”

Sherise with boxes of Pampers at her home before the second Diaper Distribution event in May in Severn, Maryland.

Dutchess Selah

Sherise with boxes of Pampers at her home before the second Diaper Distribution event in May in Severn, Maryland.

Although her family couldn’t provide substantial monetary support, her mother gave her an excellent work ethic, which took her from a homeless single mother, to a successful mom, professional and entrepreneur.

Although disappointed that she had to cancel her Teen Career Development Workshop scheduled in April due to the shutdown of Maryland in March, she saw the opportunity to provide for moms in another way.

She immediately galvanized her team and sought donations for a diaper distribution using word of mouth and social media. Donations poured in through the non-profit’s Amazon Charity account and drop-offs. Within a week, her team was able to bless families in need.

During the first event on April 23, 2020, the SheRises team organized no contact porch deliveries in the rain in Bowie, Crofton and Glenn Dale for families who applied on their website.

Sherise handing out diapers during a She Rises Diaper Distribution event

Courtesy Photo

Sherise handing out diapers during a She Rises Diaper Distribution event

By May, SheRises had partnered with Elevation Outreach and Helping Hands of America to host diaper distributions in five different locations across the country. Diapers, wipes, formula and other items were donated through socially distanced drive up pick-ups.

To date, SheRises has held seven diaper and baby items distributions with no plans to stop.

Sherise is dedicated to “inspiring teen mothers to rise and discover that there is a beautiful and wonderful life on the other side of teen pregnancy.”

Join SheRises in reaching, inspiring, strengthening and empowering teen mothers by volunteering or donating at:

Brooke Monroe Conaway – Baltimore Area Internet Sensation Appears On NBC’s ‘Little Big Shots’

When you see the viral videos of Cornell “Chico” Conaway and his daughter Brooke Monroe Conaway, you can’t help but feel good inside. Their bond and love for each other is infectious.

You feel it when they sing old school Hip Hop and R&B songs together— with Brooke singing along with fierce emotion— and in all the hilarious moments they share online.

Conaway, a Baltimore native and owner of Gainz Sports Gear, says he has been filming his daughter since the day he and his wife brought her home from the hospital. Brooke loves being in front of the camera and it became their time to bond and have fun. He had no idea they would become Internet sensations and a positive daddy-daughter image for many.

“Black fathers get a bad rep for not being in their child’s life,” said Conaway, who loves that their videos are helping to change that narrative.

A few years ago, Cornell started sharing his love for old school music with his daughter and challenged her to learn the words to Run DMC’s ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud.” He was in awe when he saw that she had memorized the lyrics and performed it with passion.

Last year on Mother’s Day, Brooke and her Sidekick— the affectionate name for her dad on their YouTube channel— posted a video of them singing “I’m Every Woman.” Not only did it get the attention of Chaka Khan, but the Oprah Magazine, Jill Scott, Common and a host of other notable celebrities loved it and reposted it. This viral video led to her appearance on NBC’s ‘Little Big Shots,’ a show that features talented and extraordinary kids from around the world. Conaway says it was a rigorous process for her to get on the show.

Brooke  Monroe Conaway

Photo Credit: Clapp Studios

Brooke Monroe Conaway

“So many kids go viral. Brooke had to do solo Skype sessions [with the producers] to see if she had the same personality on camera by herself,” Conaway said.

And, she did. She is a natural actress and performer but her parents are making sure she is learning her craft by having her take acting lessons via Skype with a star from ‘Scandal.’ The seven-year old, second grade honor roll student says her experience on ‘Little Big Shots’ was exciting.

“I got to make everybody happy. I got to be in front of a live audience so every body can know what I can do, and I got to talk to Melissa McCarthy and make friends from all around the world,” Brooke said.

These fun moments between the daddy-daughter duo have become the start of Brooke’s journey into professional acting, singing and performing.

Brooke and her father are signed with the Stewart Talent Agency. She is currently auditioning for television and movie roles, and we can’t wait to see what this star in the making does next.

Follow Brooke’s journey @iambrookemonroe and on the Conaway’s You Tube channel “Brooke and her Sidekick.”

New Whiskey Brand Launched In Baltimore

Baltimore native and Morgan State University alum Rodney Dotson learned perseverance from his maternal grandmother who ran a daycare out of her home. Even though she did not have a car she always made sure that both her business and her home were well taken care of.

Dotson remembered her drive when he had to persevere through disappointment when his music group “Nuance” did not attain the success they had hoped for.

He attended Morgan State University from 1996 to 1998 and left to pursue his music career with the group, which included his best friend William Jennings III. When it didn’t work out, he returned to Morgan and pursued a degree in business. He graduated in 2011.

“It’s not when you start, it’s when you finish,” Dotson said with pride recalling how his education, perseverance and desire to create a legacy led to the creation of Rams and Parrots, a Black and Brown owned whiskey brand based in Baltimore.

In 2016, Rodney, Will and another childhood friend Reginald Jones, were inspired to start a business that would create a legacy and honor their roots. All three were raised by single mothers and grew up in inner city Baltimore, and all three were determined to create a brand with integrity that would bring people together.

They did their research and decided to increase the representation of Black and Brown whiskey brand owners. They chose the name for the strength of the ram and intelligence of the parrot, which incidentally were also their middle and high school mascots— Roland Park Middle Rams and Baltimore Polytechnic Parrots.

Many of their best memories were centered, around family, good food and good drinks. Specifically, Rodney’s paternal grandmother’s North Carolina corn whiskey creation, fondly known as, “Dot Dot’s punch,” being served at family reunions and get togethers.

The late Dorothy Dotson was a head bartender at the famous Hilltop Inn. With this in mind, they partnered with Jonathan Ortiz, a master distiller, and created their own bourbon recipe, which he says has “a sweet corn taste [and] packs a punch, but goes down smooth.”

The founders of Rams and Parrots want their whiskey to be the centerpiece of moments and memories, because that is how a legacy and connection is built with a brand. Rodney encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to trust the process and understand that the journey is a marathon and not a sprint. He says, “you can’t succumb to what people think of you, you can’t give up.”

His positive attitude and resilience brought him through disappointment, and ultimately led him to collaborate with friends to build a legacy.

Rams and Parrots is available for sale at Security Liquors located at 6628 Security Blvd. 21207. For more information about Rams and Parrots, visit the website:

‘Life is Full’ Author Encourages Us To Pause, Reflect And Find Our Purpose

What happens when your dream job doesn’t fulfill your spirit? When your friendships aren’t flourishing because you’re too busy to feed them? When your relationship isn’t right for you or when your vision for your life is just not coming together? Some people become depressed, isolate themselves or believe the negative thoughts in their minds align with what is manifesting in their lives. It’s real and part of the human experience but it can also be a gateway to peace, alignment and joy.

Like many other people, author, consultant and coach, Cassandra Vincent experienced a season in her life when she just did not feel fulfilled. After a bad breakup and evaluating her life and choices, she refused to let depression and self-doubt wreak havoc on her spirit and stifle her creativity. She made the choice to tap into her faith in God and powerful reflections that affirmed her purpose. Vincent describes this time of powerful reflection as “a pause.”

Life Is Full

Courtesy Photo

Life Is Full

The power of pausing, she explains as taking time to unplug, getting back to the core of who you are and embracing the beauty of all that is good.

From that pause her second book, “Life is Full: Musings on the Beauty of Life, Growth and Love,” was birthed.

The Morgan State University graduate says she was inspired to write the book because of several transitions in her life, one of which was her 40th birthday, a milestone that compelled her to reflect on the wisdom she gained from tough life lessons.

“Life is Full” is a celebratory work that that shares the wisdom gained and the upside to shifting your perspective on life, according to Vincent.

These days Vincent is experiencing a fulfilled life because she finds joy in living in alignment with God’s purpose. She realized she needed to relinquish the idea of what her life should be like based on her vision, and exchanged it for a different vision of life that God had in store for her.

In the book, Vincent explains that we are all gardeners going through seasons with the land we are responsible for— our lives. As she began to uproot the weeds— negative thoughts, self-doubt and ingratitude— she planted seeds of positivity in the form of affirmations and gratitude that filled her spiritual tank and created a harvest of abundance in her garden. Through this process, she found her purpose. She knows she is called to teach, affirm and help people through transitions with words.

Along her journey, she kept a journal, worked with mentors and served as a mentor herself to first-year students at her alma mater. Vincent is also a Personal Development

Coach committed to helping people write a new story and learn a new thought process to live their best lives.

Currently, Vincent is working on a companion journal to “Life is Full,” and is interested in partnering with organizations in an effort to get her book to individuals in transitional programs and correctional facilities.

Join Cassandra for her book launch and author discussion on Saturday, June 29, 2019, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Koba Café located at 644 E. Fort Avenue in Baltimore City. To partner with Cassandra Vincent or to purchase her book, visit:

Baltimore Author Encourages Black Men To Seek Treatment For Mental Health Challenges

Tsanonda Edwards, co-founder and director of Community Engagement for Above it All, a mental health and psychiatric rehabilitation program for Baltimore youth and their families knows all too well how difficult it is to deal with the mental health effects of trauma and loss.

So when Al Wiley, owner of Wiley Funeral Homes approached him and a group of his close friends with the charge to create an organization to help interrupt the behaviors and criminal activity that many Baltimore youth engage in which lead to their deaths, they decided to start an organization that provides therapeutic services, as well as community programs that teach life skills, promote self-love, personal values and offer positive self-talk.

These services are dear to Edwards, a Baltimore native and graduate of Morgan State University and the University of Baltimore, who says for many years he wore a mask, replete with a smile because it was what was expected, even though he was experiencing “mental and emotional obstacles” that inhibited his growth as a man. These words, from the introduction to his book, “The Extraordinary Mr. Nobody: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Healing,” capture the challenges many people face when they suppress trauma instead of addressing it.

Edwards wrote his book long before it was published. It helped him get much of what he was feeling out, but the fear of being vulnerable about his struggles with depression, anxiety and managing relationships stifled his journey to becoming an author and advocate for mental health treatment.

What he now calls a divine connection with a therapist at a middle school where he taught not only led to him getting his book published, it was also the beginning of therapeutic services that changed his life. He shared an office with the school therapist and was happy to show her the ropes and help her build relationships with students and staff. They would go out to lunch where he started sharing information about his book. These outings soon turned into sessions where she helped him uncover the trauma of losing his father to suicide when he was 12; to deal with his depression and anxiety; the way he viewed himself; and the need to work on his relationship with his mother and others close to him.

Edwards believes the stigma associated with revealing and seeking treatment for mental health issues, especially for black men, stems from the fear of appearing weak; fear of letting their parents and community down; and prevents them seeking treatment.

“[It’s] almost like, fake it until you make it. Even if you’re not okay, [you should] put your big boy or your big girl clothes on and get to work. So, I think part of it is not trying to let our parents down and wanting to appear sometimes stronger than we are in the moment.

Because a lot of times we tend to think especially in the black community that any [sign] of weakness is total weakness. There are sometimes when we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.”

Edwards says his advice for men or anyone dealing with depression, anxiety or any type of trauma is to work on scaffolding their vulnerability into a strength and to ask for help, because trying to cope alone or with drugs or alcohol only creates more problems— rather than dealing with the root of the issue.

Our stories when shared with the right mental health care professional, friend or family member, can be the impetus for healing. “The Extraordinary Mr. Nobody: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Healing,” tells readers his story, with takeaways that provoke thought and self-reflection, offers activities and resources for readers to start or continue their journey secure in the knowledge that they matter, their stories are important, and they too can find peace on the other side of trauma.

For more information about Tsanonda Edwards or to purchase his book, “The Extraordinary Mr. Nobody: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Healing,” visit:

Organization Hosts Day of Pampering for Cancer Patients, Survivors and Caregivers

Mikey’s Miracle Foundation, which is dedicated to “providing everyday miracles to families with cancer,” hosted “A Beautiful Cause,” a day of pampering at Salon Avenue in Owings Mills, Maryland, for women currently undergoing cancer treatment, caregivers and cancer survivors on February 25, 2018.

Even though this was the first time that the foundation held an event of this type, the organization will celebrate two years of service in July, this year. In addition to hosting events to benefit people fighting cancer and their caregivers, the foundation provides support in the form of sponsorship and referrals for individual and family counseling, nutrition services, meal planning, professional cleaning services and transportation to and from treatment.

Jade Merritt, founder of Mikey’s Miracle Foundation, vividly remembers the day she and her mother were shopping at a department store and she asked her mother to try on some makeup at the MAC counter. Her mother, who was undergoing treatment for colon cancer at the time, declined because she did not feel good about herself. Her mother’s skin had changed and the emotional effect of fighting cancer had taken its toll on her. Jade remembers encouraging her mother by telling her she was beautiful. She says that experience inspired her to create “A Beautiful Cause.”

Unfortunately, her mother, Michal Sharon Neverdon-Merritt succumbed to colon cancer in January 2016. Yet, through the devastating pain of losing her mother, she created the foundation, which she says has helped her through the grieving process.

“I get to talk about my mom every single day and tell others how amazing she was. What an honor and tribute to her life to be able to bless someone else,” the Randallstown, Maryland native said with pride.

Merritt expressed her gratitude for all of the beauty professionals in her network who were eager to provide services and information to participants at the event, including: Dr. Chambers-Harris, founder of Alodia Hair Care, discussed stimulating hair growth after cancer treatment and the all-natural hair care products in her line; Iyonna Woods, a medical laboratory scientist, discussed the importance of using products with natural ingredients on the hair and skin, like the aluminum-free deodorant provided in her Fancy Free Hair and Skin line of products; Susan Hopson and Paula Sieng, the owners of Nail Candy Shop created beautiful nail designs for the ladies who participated; Nicole Word and Lauren Johnson did makeup; Shanee’ Green and Sharia Cunningham provided full hair services; Akos Regal, owner of Regal Clothes, donated beautiful Ankara print head wraps; and Adrienne Munroe, creator of Fabulous Moms Rock and Danicia Ross, owner of Vanity Pink MD provided wardrobe make-overs.

This event was a blessing to many people, including Minister Valjean Gilmore of Morning Star Baptist Church, a uterine cancer survivor who along with eight members of her church’s cancer support group, were pampered at the event.

Minister Gilmore started the cancer support group a few years ago, because she realized the importance of having a connection with others who had survived or were also fighting this awful disease. The group members pray together, support and encourage one another through treatment because no one should have to endure the emotional, spiritual and mental battle that accompanies having cancer alone.

The Western High School graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with a Human Biology Concentration from Temple University and a master’s degree in biology from Towson University says that she never imagined she would be in this place in her life at this time. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Merritt was traveling around the country conducting clinical research trials and considering a move to Texas. Her plans were put on hold as she helped with her mother’s care. A few months after her mother passed away, she had the idea to start a foundation in her mother’s memory to provide support for other families out there going through the same thing.

It was clear to see the joy on the faces of the participants after having their hair, make-up and nails done. One woman, currently undergoing treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma said being pampered was a blessing. She said she felt “elegant and special” and it was needed after having to stay in the house for a long period of time because of the risk of infection.

This was the goal for Jade and Mikey’s Miracle Foundation, to uplift those battling cancer and show them that they are still beautiful despite what this disease does to their minds and bodies. A Beautiful Cause was full of love, hope, support and glam— essential elements for motivating those fighting cancer to continue doing so, with a reminder that they are not doing it alone.

For more information about Mikey’s Miracle Foundation, the support it provides or to make donation, visit:

Baltimore celebrates ‘Project Runway’ model competition winner Liris Crosse

Baltimore’s best and brightest in the fashion, entertainment and media industries, stepped out “runway ready” to celebrate the success of plus-size model Liris Crosse at the posh Tell Tale restaurant in downtown Baltimore.

It was the first Sunday in December just a few days after it was revealed that Crosse was the winning model of Season 16 “Project Runway” during the reunion show.

Crosse was ecstatic and grateful to be back in her hometown surrounded by family, friends and well-wishers, who were proud to share the joy of her noteworthy accomplishment.

Liris wearing Michael Brambila’s design depicting evil for the Good and Evil Challenge in Episode 5

Courtesy Photo

Liris wearing Michael Brambila’s design depicting evil for the Good and Evil Challenge in Episode 5

As the model competition winner, Crosse will be featured in an upcoming fashion spread for Marie Claire magazine. She is also looking forward to continuing to motivate and educate aspiring and working models through her “Life of a Working Model” boot camp, which she describes as “a safe place for people who want to get quality information from a trusted professional who has continuously broken barriers in the industry.”

Crosse, who currently resides in New York, was born and raised in Randallstown, Baltimore County just a short drive to Baltimore City, and she still feels connected to the people and area where she grew-up.

Crosse joined the cast of this season’s “Project Runway” in part, to continue her mission as a trailblazer in breaking barriers in the modeling industry. Her win is noteworthy because in its sixteen seasons, “Project Runway” has provided significant exposure, education and experiences for participating designers and models, but this season was the first time the show included models of varying sizes (0-22).

Crosse says some designers on the show experienced difficulty in creating fashionable pieces for plus-size models, but she is proud she was able to expose them to the different needs a curvy woman has when it comes to fashion.

Kenya Freeman, one of the designers this season, nailed the Avon challenge with Crosse as her model. Crosse said she felt “powerful and modern” in Kenya’s design. Crosse and Freeman are now talking about possibly creating a fashion line together.

Crosse has appeared in Essence, Vibe, and Volup2 magazines among others; she has graced runways around the world with her confident strut and has appeared in several films and television shows including “The Best Man” and “The Wire.”

She says she has always been in love with fashion and having her picture taken. When she was a little girl and her dad, Reverend St. George Crosse, was running for Congress and had a photographer come to their house to take pictures for his promotional material, she posed for some shots. That photographer told her parents she should model, which she says “planted a seed in my head that I could do it!”

So, she learned everything she could about the business until her father gave her his blessing to pursue a career in modeling after she graduated from Randallstown High School.

She is very excited about her forthcoming book, “Make the World Your Runway,” which she says will include tips and tools to help everyone exude confidence and professionalism on the “runway of life.”

Crosse is proud of her win because she believes “It’s a win for women everywhere, but especially for plus-size women. It’s a win for Baltimore; it’s a win for black women. It’s a win for change [in the fashion industry] and how we [will] be represented. The average size of a woman in America is a size 16 and she’s hardly [ever] able to see herself in media.”

Baltimore is very proud to celebrate with Crosse and will continue to follow her journey as she fights for more diverse representation in the fashion industry.

Follow Crosse’s journey as she continues to motivate, slay on the runway and break barriers in the modeling industry at: and @lirisc on IG, FB, Twitter and Snapchat.