B-360’s Brittany Young Is Making Her Mark

For most, it would be hard to correlate Baltimore’s dirt bike culture to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math). However, for Brittany Young, a connection between the two seemingly vastly different worlds made perfect sense.

“Growing up in Baltimore, the sound of summer in the city was dirt bike riding,” said Young. “Most dirt bike riders start riding dirt bikes at the age of three or four. Since they start at such a young age, they have natural ability. They also have mechanical ability. Most fix their bikes, which is mechanics. This is all a part of the engineering design process. They have a leg-up because they have a different way of thinking that would elevate them on any level.”

Young is the founder of B-360 Baltimore, an organization that utilizes dirt bike culture to end the cycle of poverty, disrupt the prison pipeline, and build bridges in communities.

“‘B’ means be the revolution, and ‘360’ means a 360-degree turn in helping people to think better,” explained Young.

Through STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education, community engagement and workforce pipelining, B-360 is changing the perception of engineers and dirt bike riders in Baltimore and beyond.

The 29-year-old engineer launched B-360 in March 2017. Since that time, the organization has provided service to more than over 2,200 students.

“Dirt bike riders are geniuses,” said the Polytechnic High School graduate. “B-360 shows them how to build dirt bikes and exposes them to different ways to express themselves. Most don’t realize they can naturally build dirt bikes.”

She added, “We are about getting people off the streets. We teach them to think and help them to realize they have a different way of looking at things to problem solve.”

Young is an instructor at Baltimore City Community College. She also teaches in the Baltimore City Public School System. She said her teaching positions provide a gateway for her to tap students for participation in B-360. She also reaches dirt bike riders through various outreach efforts.

“We go into communities and do STEM workshops,” she said. “We have done about 15 dirt bike clinics and meet them where they are. We also go to community events.”

There has been a ‘positive reaction’ to Young’s work. The brilliant engineer is the recipient of several accolades and fellowships, which include Red Bull Amaphiko Academy, a launch pad for grassroots social entrepreneurs who are making a positive difference in their communities.

“Participating in the Academy allows me to realize my potential and the potential of the city,” she said. “I really appreciate Red Bull, the students, and all of those who believe in B-360. I can see the direct impact.”

Young is also an Echoing Green Fellow. Echoing Green is an 800-strong community of America’s top social innovators. Past Fellows include former First Lady Michelle Obama. The organization provides seed funding and leadership development.

“My mom passed on April 22, and I did my interview for Echoing Green that same day,” said Young. “Being the first to win from Baltimore was great. We have so much talent in Baltimore. People here are smart. Echoing Green gives me an opportunity to elevate and show the talent we have in our city. It is wonderful to follow behind the legacy of people like Michelle Obama.”

She added, “There aren’t a lot of opportunities like this for a young black girl from Baltimore. This is the first time B-360 has received funding. The fellowship allows me to go after more funding, and more time for me to grow my vision.”

Young’s accolades also include Baltimore Corp’s Elevation Awards and the Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins.

She recalled her days as a “Young Mad Scientist”.

“I was bored in school, and had to find something to do all the time,” she recalled. “I got my first chemistry set in the first grade and started doing experiments. It kept me busy, and allowed me to be creative.

“It also got me into a lot of trouble,” she added with a laugh. “I blew up my eyebrows and glued my sister to the chair. From there, my interest in science just grew. Soon, the basement became my lab, and was outfitted with a telescope and a microscope.”

Young’s first chemistry set certainly ‘revved’ up her interest in science. She talked about the continued ‘results’ she would like to see in the future.

“People don’t understand dirt bikes and STEM,” she said. “We want to expand our programming and get more partnerships for businesses to hire dirt bike riders. We also want to expand B-360 to other cities, and continue to explore working together for the interest of students to promote positive change.”

Can Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. Really Change the Face of NASCAR?

Tiger Woods changed the face of golf. Venus and Serena Williams transformed tennis and now Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. may do the same for NASCAR.

The 24-year-old racecar driver’s Cup Series debut at the iconic Daytona 500 got the nation’s attention. As NASCAR’s first full-time black driver in its elite series since Wendell Scott in 1971, all eyes were on Wallace. Thanks to his second-place finish, the highest-ever by both a black driver and a rookie, those eyes didn’t waver. As Wallace traveled to Hampton, Ga. to race the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 February 25 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, fan attention stayed riveted on him.

Even by NASCAR’s super media and fan-friendly standards, Wallace did a lot that Friday prior to the Quicktrip 500. On top of the requisite press conference, he squeezed multiple one-on-one interviews, mostly with local Atlanta TV media. Wallace knows that the heightened interest in him is a combination of his race and his Daytona 500 performance. Instead of downplaying the attention to his race, Wallace, whose father is white, has embraced it.

“There is only one driver from an African American background at the top level of our sport. I am the one. You’re not gonna stop hearing about “the black driver” for years. Embrace it, accept it and enjoy the journey,” he tweeted November 8, 2017.

Embracing his race doesn’t mean dwelling on it though. “You can psych yourself up by reading all the history and whatnot and doing all of that but that just puts too much pressure on yourself,” he said during an interview at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. “So I’ve learned to focus on just the driving aspect of it and let everything else settle in behind.”

Wallace, who was born in Mobile, Ala. and raised in Concord, N.C., began racing go-karts at nine-yeard-old. By 16, he was competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the sport’s main developmental series for grooming its next generation, as part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity initiative.

His first race at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway, he won, becoming the youngest driver to ever win at that track. After another win, he finished third overall in the series and received the Rookie of the Year award, a first for an African-American driver.

He won three more times in 2011. Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing Team in 2012, he held his own, staying near the top and even winning one race. He had five wins in two years. In 2014, he finished third overall while driving the truck series with Kyle Busch Motorsports. He followed that up by driving with Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series from 2015 to 2017.

When Aric Almirola was injured last year, Wallace filled in by driving for the iconic Richard Petty Motorsports. His stellar performance prompted a welcome as their full-time driver of the legendary no. 43, now a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, for the 2018 season.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty, nicknamed “The King” for a career that includes seven NASCAR Championship and Daytona 500 wins each, plus over 700 Top 10 finishes in 1,184 starts, strongly believes Wallace is a future NASCAR star. When approached during the roar of practice rounds at the Atlanta Moror Speedway on February 23, 2018, the Nascar Legend said he saw Wallace as part of the sport’s future.

“NASCAR’s face, as far as driving, is changing,” Petty said. “It changes every 12 to 14 years— we’re right in the middle of that. That was one of the reasons I was looking for a younger driver. Of all the ones that we looked at, we thought Bubba was going to be as good or better than any of the rest of them, personality-wise, driver-wise, sponsor-wise, the whole deal.”

Bill Lester, the historic black NASCAR driver who raced two Cup-level races in 2006 and garnered seven top-10 finishes in the truck series from 2000 to 2007, champions Wallace but warns that the lack of major sponsorship is a huge obstacle to Wallace realizing his full potential.

“If they do not get more corporate support, they’re going to struggle,” Lester said about Wallace and his team via telephone. “I always had a good looking car but, when it came to everything that was necessary to [run] at the front, I didn’t have it and that was because I just didn’t have the resources that the top-running teams had and he is in the same position.”

NASCAR sponsorship is a revolving door, so any race week, sponsors can step up, which has given Wallace an opportunity to attract nontraditional sponsorship like the black-owned, Columbus, Ohio-based moving company E.E. Ward.

Brian Brooks, co-owner of the company founded by former Underground Railroad conductor John T. Ward in 1881 that also counts Richard Petty Motorsports as a client, shared that their support of Wallace in Atlanta, especially during Black History Month, was a very hopeful gesture.

“I think it would be a disgrace if we have to wait another 50 years for someone to come after Bubba to be a driver of color in NASCAR,” Brooks said via phone.

To be a strong contender, Lester insists that Wallace needs Fortune 500 support.

“With him not having full sponsorship, which is about an $18 million to $20 million proposition per year these days, he’s at a deficit,” Lester said.

Like many in NASCAR, Derrell Edwards, a former college basketball player turned Austin Dillon pit crew member who is believed to be the first African-American over-the-wall crew member for a Daytona 500 winner, feels that Wallace’s success is a good look for NASCAR’s future.

“I think a lot of the people are going to gravitate towards him …. and it’s going to be great for the culture,” he said.

“We’re lacking in that department when it comes to NASCAR,” Wallace said in conversation regarding the potential impact he and his team could have on increasing black representation in the sport. “For us to be able to go out and do what we do on the racetrack and try to be the best, I think it’s going to help that number grow.”

Blacks need Major League Baseball

A Chris Rock video has made the rounds in which he offers a critique of Major League baseball and its relationship to black America. The monologue is funny, sad and very profound. He attempts to explain the distance that has emerged between black America and a sport that it actually helped to build.

I have watched the Chris Rock video several times, usually showing it to someone who has yet to view it. Each time, I find myself thinking about his final comments, i.e., that black people do not need baseball, but baseball needs black people. I think that I would humbly rephrase that statement. It is without question that, over the long term, Major League Baseball needs black America as its current fan-base ages out and as younger people grow intolerant of the pace and culture of the game. On the other hand, I actually do think that black America needs baseball, though it does not necessarily need Major League Baseball, at least major league baseball, as we currently know it.

What has struck me in reading and hearing about the period of the Negro Leagues, or the period of the desegregation of baseball (roughly 1947-1975), is that baseball, and its progeny, e.g., softball; stickball, were community sports. It was not just that teams represented communities, but that the sport itself seemed to knit communities together.

In basketball, even street basketball, there is little space for mixed talent, especially when one is playing full court. The game truly is for the best and while some members of the community who are not the best— people such as me— could occasionally play, it was in baseball, softball and stickball that you always sensed that chance for excitement and greatness, even for those who were not the most talented.

Perhaps, it is that baseball truly is a team sport. Yes, you can be an outstanding hitter or pitcher, but there is no question that you cannot win the game by yourself or even you and one other person. Baseball, softball and stickball really taught me about collective action in a manner unlike any other experience during my childhood, a theme that would become central to who I became as an adult.

In this sense, I strongly believe that black America needs baseball. I don’t mean that we need the Major Leagues, as such, nor do I mean that baseball will be the route out of poverty for the bulk of black America. Rather, the baseball that we need is the culture that surrounds the actual sport. We need the sense of being a team,

including the reality of unevenness. We also need to regain the sense that the game does not end with a single play, nor necessarily when the gong sounds. Sometimes the end is drawn out, necessitating that the team is prepared for a protracted struggle in which victory is never guaranteed.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Hall of Fame stable a family affair for Leatherbury, Thorpe

— Assistant trainer Avon Thorpe has described his two and a half decades of working in several roles for recently elected Hall of Fame horseman King Leatherbury as a family affair.

Never was that more true than on January 15, when Thorpe’s 19-year-old nephew, Darius, won his first professional race aboard the Leatherbury-owned and trained Rainbowappears at Laurel Park.

Being his uncle is a mere technicality. Thorpe has raised Darius from a young age since his father died. Their relationship is clearly seen and more accurately described as father and son.

“I didn’t adopt him, but I raised him. He’s always called me ‘Pops,’” Thorpe said. “He’s my son now.”

“He’s been the biggest help that I could ever get,” Darius Thorpe said. “He exposed my face to people that he knew to give me a better shot and just show what I can do, having seen me grow up and seeing my improvement. It makes me feel blessed.”

Avon Thorpe was 18 when he started working for the now 82-year-old Leatherbury as a hotwalker at Pimlico. Now 42, Thorpe steadily rose through the ranks of the barn, now based at Laurel Park, to become Leatherbury’s trusted, hands-on assistant.“I didn’t even know him. It was a case of just hiring him and him lasting and doing a good job,” Leatherbury said. “Avon kind of graduated and worked his way up into that position. He does a real good job. He’s on top of everything and very knowledgeable. He keeps people straight.”

Thorpe said he’s never considered going out on his own, and is content to work with the Mid-Atlantic legend who ranks fourth all-time in wins and was announced April 20 as a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 – his first year on the ballot.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. King gave me an opportunity to learn a lot and he lets you pretty much use your own judgment on a lot of things where a lot of other trainers probably won’t do that. He treats me like a son,” Thorpe said. “I stayed because I saw an opportunity. It was my time, and I never looked back. I don’t plan on leaving.” Thorpe is now passing that knowledge down to Darius, who has been an eager student from the time he was young. “At 8 years old he said, ‘I want to be a jockey.’ He kept saying it and I told him, ‘Boy, you’re going to get too big,’” Thorpe said. “At 8 years old he was in the tack room, just riding a saddle on the sawhorse the saddle sits on. When he got in high school, I got him an Equicizer so he could practice. All day and all night he was on that horse. I had to tell him to go to bed.

“He paid attention a lot. He looked at every race everywhere. He watched the good riders. He stuck with it, and it means so much,” he said.

“That’s what he loves. That’s what he wanted to be, and I’m going to stand behind him 100 percent. He’s still going to college to have something to fall back on if he gets too heavy or whatever. I just like to let him live his life. I’m doing what I want to do and what I love, and I want him to do the same.”

Darius Thorpe juggles studying architecture at Ann Arundel Community College with riding. He has two wins, three seconds and four thirds at Pimlico’s spring meet, which opened April 2 after going 61-2-6-8 during the winter session at Laurel Park that ran Jan. 1 to March 29.

“Pretty much since I’ve been little I’ve been around the track. I always found a comfort zone being around horses, so I knew I wanted to do this for a long time,” he said. “It’s been better than I expected. It’s picking up.”

An apprentice currently riding with a 10-pound weight allowance, Thorpe’s first win came as an amateur last year before launching his professional career in the fall at Laurel Park. Getting his first pro win for his father and Team Leatherbury made it extra special.

“It made me feel blessed to know that I had the chance to win for a Hall of Famer who gave me a shot on a good horse. Everything just played out right,” he said. “I just want to stay humble, always listen and follow directions and be the best rider I can be for as long as I do this.”

Thorpe won the first race of the current Preakness Meet at Pimlico by a nose aboard Gold Hill ($29), and rode $28.20 winner Sizzling Lassie on the Federico Tesio undercard April 18 for owner-trainer Robert Gamber.

“I heard a good report on him when he won that race. Eric Camacho, who’s a friend of mine and a good rider, said he switched sticks good and looked good on a horse,” Leatherbury said. “That’s what he’s got to do, just get more experience. The more you do something, if you’re good enough, you’re going to benefit from it.”

Black Girls RUN!

Writers, Runners, Role Models

What is the significance of Black History Month to you?

“Black History Month is an opportunity to honor and pay homage to African-Americans who have made a significant impact on our history and in our communities.”

What was the most poignant moment in black history for you?

“Definitely the Civil Rights Movement. It is a great example of the resilience of our community. It’s really been the only time in history that we’ve come together for the greater good of our people.”

Growing up, who were the African-American icons that you looked up to for inspiration and why?

“W. E. B Dubois and Malcolm X. Both were considered radicals of their time and offered a different way of thinking when it came to the plight of African-Americans.”

Where do you see the direction of black history from this point?

“Unfortunately, I don’t believe enough emphasis is put on black history. We now look to reality stars as role models instead of the people who truly make a difference in our community.”


Black Girls RUN! was created in 2009 by Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks in an effort to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African-American community and provide encouragement and resources to both new and veteran runners. What started off as an online blog has grown to be a nationwide movement to include an annual national race and conference, fitness clinic tours, national race partnerships, Walk Before You RUN! training, and more.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 51.6 percent of black women ages 20-74 are considered obese. The mission of Black Girls RUN! is to encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority and create a movement to lower the obesity rate among women and subsequently, lower the number of women with chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle.

To date, Black Girls RUN! has more than 60 running groups across the nation with more than 62,000 members. The groups include beginner and experienced runners and provide a support system to help members reach their fitness goals.


Toni Carey: Native of Lebanon, Tennessee. Carey graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn., with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications with concentrations in Public Relations and Advertising and minors in marketing and Spanish. She also received a Master of Arts and Science degree from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. She has worked with Dye, VanMol & Lawrence Public Relations in Nashville, Tenn., as an account executive and Avis Budget Group, Inc., a Fortune 500 Company located in Parsippany, N.J., as a corporate communications and industry relations specialist, as well as CRT/tanka a public relations and marketing agency in Norfolk, Va. She currently works for Black Girls RUN! full-time, lives in Atlanta, Ga. with her husband and two dogs, Legend and Cali.


Ashley Hicks: Native of Evans, Ga., Ashley attended and played soccer at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. She graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications. She also received a Master of Science in Communication from Columbia University in New York. She has worked with WRDW-TV as a television director, the South Carolina Educational Television as a producer – director and as a social media, communications manager for a non-profit headquartered in New York. She currently works for Black Girls RUN! Fulltime and lives in Atlanta, Ga. with her fiancé.

Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks have been recognized locally and nationally for their work to combat obesity in the African-American community. They were recently awarded the Young Professionals Dream Catchers award from the Urban League of Greater Atlanta Young Professional. Also, they were recently profiled by Runner’s World magazine, espnW, The Tennessean and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and appeared on The Michael Baisden Show. They were also named to Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 list, The Grio’s Class of 2012 list, nominated as “Best Blogger” by Shape Magazine and named as one of the“30 Black Bloggers You Should Know”, by TheRoot.com.

Visit www.blackgirlsrun.com or Follow @blackgirlsrun

Marcus Stroud

Noted NFL Veteran, 3x Pro Bowl Selection, 3x All-Pro Selection

What is the significance of Black History Month to you?

“It’s the celebration of everyone who paved the way for me to be able to do the things I’m doing today. To me, every day we move forward is a celebration of the things African Americans have done to make progress. This is just the month where we officially take time to celebrate all of the great achievements.”

What was the most poignant moment in black history for you?

“That’s really hard to answer since there are so many moments. I think I would be doing in an injustice if I were to label just one. There are too many pivotal moments to be able to pick just one.”

Growing up, who were the African-American icons that you looked up to for inspiration and why?

“The most obvious ones that I looked up to were Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, for their leadership and for being able to unite people and get them focused. Even though both had different ideas fundamentally, they were able to get people to come together for the greater good.”

Where do you see the direction of black history?

“I still think we have a lot of history to be made. Our story is never done. There’s always somebody that will make a difference every day.”


A self-proclaimed “country boy” from South Georgia, NFL veteran and philanthropist Marcus Stroud remains humble and grateful for his experiences during and after the NFL. Marcus was the 13th overall pick in the 2001 draft and played for 10 years in the NFL for teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills.

“I started playing football my junior year of high school,” said Marcus. “My goal was to go to college and obtain a degree first, and if I was fortunate enough to make the NFL, it was a bonus.”

His talents and leadership were quickly recognized. As a high school senior, Marcus was selected to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996, when he committed to play college ball at the University of Georgia, UGA. Marcus graduated with his bachelor’s degree and remains a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma, a predominantly African-American Fraternity.

After being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Marcus made a name for himself as a rising Defensive all-star. He successfully earned a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl for three consecutive seasons.

When asked the most important lesson he learned during his tenure in the NFL, Marcus responded “Never take anything for granted. You always think you can bounce back from an injury or something like that and sometimes that’s not the case,” said Marcus. “So don’t take anything for granted, that’s my number one lesson.”

In 2008, Marcus was traded to the Buffalo Bills and became one of the team’s integral defensive talents. He worked hard to become the starting Defensive Tackle where he became one of the most dominant and versatile players until 2011 when he signed with the New England Patriots. In June 2012, Marcus signed a 1-day contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars to retire as a Jaguar.

“It was a no-brainer. [Jacksonville] is where I played most of my career and it was where I had most of my success,” said Marcus. ”Even though I embraced other teams like the Buffalo Bills, I’ll always be a Jaguar for life.”

Marcus has not only accomplished great success on the football field, but he also has a passion for entrepreneurial endeavors off the field.

“I just obtained my graduate degree, and now I’m studying to get my insurance license,” Marcus said. “I’m still trying to keep my options open, perhaps get into broadcasting one day.”


Given his successful career, Marcus also realizes the importance of giving back to the community. He has contributed countless hours to charity and in 2007, he established the Marcus Stroud Charitable Foundation to assist under-privileged youth in low-income single parent homes. The mission of the foundation is to raise support by improving and enriching the lives of under-privileged children by offering various academic and athletic programs otherwise unavailable to them.

“A lot of people helped along my journey, and I wanted to pay it forward and give back,” Marcus said. ‘it’s evolved so much, it’s now at the point where [the foundation] is about bringing awareness to the childhood obesity problem,” said Marcus. “It’s one of my focus and goals right now.”

An elite yet humble athlete, business-savvy yet philanthropic entrepreneur, Marcus continues to make impacts on and off the field.

Visit www.marcusstroudfoundation.org or Follow @marcusstroud99

Sanya Richards-Ross

4x Olympic Gold Medalist, Entrepreneur, Reality Show Star

What is the significance of Black History Month to you?

“Black History Month is by far my favorite month, not only because I’m born in February, but just because it really gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come from and it highlights so many of the heroes in the African American Community. It also gives us a chance to see where we are and where we are going and how much more we have to accomplish. For me, Black History Month has always been very special.”

What was the most poignant moment in Black History month to you?

“I think of Brown vs the Board of Education when schools were no longer segregated. And for me that always sticks out, because my coach, Coach Clyde Hart, he was actually a part of the first school in Arkansas that became integrated and he always talked about that. Sometimes, I can’t wrap my mind around that moment because we’re so used to being integrated.”

Growing up who were the African-American Icons you looked up to and why?

“My very first role model was Merlene Ottey. She was a Jamaican celebrity sensation, one of the best 100 meter runners in history. I remember thinking as a young kid, I wanted to be just like her. Not only because of her strength and power on the track but she was always so poised, so relatable and did so much in the community in Jamaica. Similarly, my American role model is Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I loved her grit, her determination, and also all of the stuff she has done for St Louis, which is her hometown. To know her personally is a great thrill.”

The first American woman to do so in 28 years, and only the 2nd in history, Sanya Richards-Ross became Olympic Champion over 400m at the 2012 Games in London by overtaking the competition in the last 50 meters of the race. The London games also saw Sanya become tied as one of the most decorated female track and field Olympians of all time after anchoring the 4x400m relay team to gold for the 3rd consecutive time.

A banner year in her career, the 2012 season got off to a roaring start for Sanya Richards-Ross. Having set four world-leading times over 200 and 400 meters in her first three competitions of the season, electing to participate in indoor competition for the first time in several years, has proven beneficial for Richards-Ross. Being crowned 400m World Indoor Champion and helping her teammates win the Silver as the anchor in the 4x400m relay has been the icing on the cake on her journey to her ultimate gold of becoming Olympic Champion in her flagship event later this year. With this achievement under her belt, Sanya began the 2012 season with high hopes, ambitious goals, and great expectations for what she hoped would be the best year of her career yet.

Sanya dedicated the 2011 season to working her way back to form. Her best performance of the year came in at the Aviva Grand Prix in London, where she turned out an impressive time of 49.66 seconds over 400 meters. Encouraged by her performance, Sanya went on to defend her individual World title at 400 meters in Daegu, South Korea, but fell short. She went on to lead her teammates to gold in the 4×400 meter relay, becoming a World Champion once again.

Sidelined by injury after injury, starting in early April, Sanya was unable to compete for the majority of the 2010 season.

From the very start of the 2009 Track and Field Season, Richards-Ross was unstoppable, staking her claim on the World stage as 2009 World Champion. She was named IAAF World Female Athlete of the Year and is nominated for the prestigious Laureus Award, in the same category. In addition to earning her 5th U.S. National title, Richards-Ross’ name sits beside 6 of the 7 fastest times run in the world during the 2009 season, achieved while on the way to breaking the record for most 400m races run under 50 seconds with 39 sub-50 clockings and counting.

Richards-Ross blasted her way to winning a share of the $1million Golden League Jackpot for the 3rd time, remaining undefeated in all of the 6 event races this season. Sanya recently joined Lance Armstrong in the fight against Cancer on the Livestrong campaign, and was chosen to don a custom made Livestrong uniform and golden spikes at a recent competition. Sanya Richards-Ross is poised, proven, and eager to claim her seat on the throne as the Face of Track and Field.

In the 2008 Olympic Games 400m final, Richards earned Team USA’s fourth Olympic medal ever in the 400m dash and the first since 1984. Running the anchor leg for the 4x400m, when Richards-Ross took the baton, she trailed Russia by several meters. In a stunning finish, and one of the highest rated moments of the Beijing Olympics, Richards-Ross overtook Russia moving into first, turning in a 48.93 leg and crossing the line in 3:18.54, the fastest time in the world since 1993…Richards-Ross staked her claim at the top of the U.S. heap in the women’s 400 at the 2008 Olympic Trials, sprinting away to win by nearly 1 full second, running 49.89.

Visit www.sanyarichardsross.com or Follow @SanyaRichiRoss

Shawne Merriman

Noted NFL Veteran, 3x Pro Bowl Selection, 3x All-Pro Selection

What is the significance of Black History Month?

“Black History Month allows those that have been a positive influence on the world – those that I looked up to growing up because they were doing something big – to take a month and acknowledge the special things they’ve accomplished.

What was the poignant moment in Black history?

“If you’re talking about sports, then it would be Doug Williams, a quarterback in the NFL who broke barriers. In business, it would be Michael Jordan, as the owner of a NBA team and an all-around business mogul who transcended being just an athlete. Magic Johnson would also be in that conversation, overcoming his personal challenges and going on to becoming an owner of a baseball team.

Who were the African-American icons you looked up to and why?

“It was the athletes I just mentioned. I think every athlete always models their dream to other athletes growing up. It wasn’t until I was old enough to be in the position they’re in now to realize you can be more than just a player. You have the ability to be an owner. That, to me, means more than any dunk or Super Bowl. They’re owners of something now. They worked to stake their place in this world. “

Where do you see the direction of Black History?

“It’s going to keep opening up doors. Obama’s election gave people hope to enter many different areas that blacks weren’t allowed to be in previously. It’s incredible what impact the hope alone has done for people nowadays.”

From the gridiron to the boardroom, Shawne Merriman proves that there is life after playing professional football. Growing up in a rough and tumble neighborhood in Maryland, Shawne avoided the negativity and managed to channel his energy into something positive. He knew that there was more out there for him.

“We struggled financially and I definitely had a rough upbringing but it molded me into the person I am today,” said Shawne.


Shawne’s outstanding talent in football emerged quickly. He earned the nickname “Lights Out” in high school knocking out four guys in one football game as a high school sophomore. After which the name stuck with him through college and when he was a first round draft pick. Merriman then played in the NFL for teams such as the San Diego Chargers and the Buffalo Bills.

“I was blessed to even be there on this grand stage, and it was something I dreamed about as a kid,” Shawne said when reflecting on his career in the NFL.

He also dedicates his time to the “Lights On Foundation” which hold annual coat drives as well as specially community projects such as rebuilding home for wildfire relief in San Diego. As for life after the NFL, Merriman says his goal is to “Keep grinding and building my own personal empire and myself.”

He is working on completing his MBA, doing commentary work on NFL Network, and having roles in TV and movies. Shawne is also working on a lifestyle line aptly named “Lights Out” which features “athletic but still fashionable” apparel for men and women.

“The quote of the company is ‘push the limit’, it’s about doing everything to the fullest and giving 110%, and accepting nothing less”, said Shawne. “Right now, I’m working, having fun and doing what I love to do”.


After overcoming many adversities, the future is bright for Shawne. With multiple projects in the queue, along with a budding television career, he gives his advice to those who endure some hardships as he did.

“Keep looking at the light at the end of the tunnel, keep looking at people who are breaking down the barriers and doing stuff that 60, 70 years ago that couldn’t have been done,” said Shawne.

His recommendation for those that want to be the next Shawne Merriman… “Be better than Shawne Merriman, keep going, there are no ceilings. You’re going to have obstacles, you’re going to have adversities, but at the end of the day, don’t stop, just never stop.”

Visit www.shawnemerriman.com or Follow @shawnemerriman