Baltimore Entrepreneur Nakeia L. Drummond: The Woman At The WELL

Last year, The 2018 State of Women-Owned Business Report was released. The report was commissioned by American Express with the hope that “the report will continue to serve key players within the women’s advocacy arena with data on changing business conditions and will identify opportunities for accelerated growth, as well as acknowledge and celebrate women’s progress and identify where they still struggle.”

The 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses report examined the periods 2007, 2012, 2017 and 2018, looking at trends in the number of firms, employment, and revenue by various groupings. The findings were promising, with the report noting, “African American owned businesses represented the highest rate of growth in the number of firms between 2017 and 2018 of any group.”

The report also included data that was not so promising. It found that for women of color, average revenue dropped from $84,000 in 2007 to $66,400 in 2018, while for non-minority businesses, revenue rose from $181,000 to $212,300. Moreover, the gap between African American women-owned businesses’ average revenue and all women-owned businesses was the greatest.

However, one local minority female entrepreneur is taking an active stance to close this gap and ultimately help to ensure that women of color are getting their fair share of the financial entrepreneurship pie. She is 36-year-old Nakeia L. Drummond, founder and chief strategist of NLD Strategic, a management, consulting firm supporting businesses and organizations that drive social impact.

Last fall, Drummond launched The WELL (The Women Entrepreneur Leadership Lab), a network that will foster collaboration, community and confidence for black woman-owned businesses.

“Our intent is to collect data and best practices that are scalable for black women businesses,” said Drummond. “We are hearing that black women start business three to six more times than other groups, but our income earnings are lower. That duality was really intriguing to me. There was this narrative of how black women are living their best life, and are starting businesses, but our annual revenue is considerably lower than that of other groups.”

She added, “That makes it harder to grow and increase revenue. I wanted to explore the duality of taking the leap and starting a business, but on the other hand, not making the money. The problem has been explored, but I wanted to explore it from our perspective.”

Last October, Drummond held a pre-launch event for The WELL.

“The purpose of this event was to tell people in my network what I was doing,” said Drummond. “I had been holding Roundtables over the last two years, and I know how I felt about the disparities. However, I wanted to see if this resonated with other women, and it did. This was a way to take all the work I do, and apply it to area of impact that was relevant to me and that I was passionate about.”

The LAB recently wrapped up the three-month Founder’s Launch (pilot), and now has 10 Founding Members. According to Drummond, The WELL has started building a social media presence and following on Instagram under their handle @sheswellnetworked.

“As a black woman professional you have to go into all spaces,” said Drummond. “We aren’t given the same information as other groups. If we can’t have access to that information, we can’t grow. We have a ton of success, but we also experience setbacks that we would not have to experience if we don’t work in an isolated way. The main intent is to build community, collaboration, and confidence to grow our businesses.”

Prior to founding NLD Strategic, Drummond worked at Accenture, as an analyst before shifting careers into education, teaching in Baltimore City Public Schools and serving in various district management roles. The entrepreneur is a Spring 2018 Warnock Foundation Social Innovation (WFSI) Fellow. The Fellowship provides Baltimoreans with the opportunity to implement their ideas/innovation to make Baltimore a vibrant city to live in, learn and grow. The Baltimore native is married and has two children.

“As black women entrepreneurs, we have to prove and prove and prove,” said Drummond. “However, we are experts, are educated and have proven time and time again we know our stuff. Through The WELL, we will share our expertise in a trusted space. We will give advice to women that they can act on and implement. People learn in cycles, and The WELL takes a cyclical approach to growth and development.”

She added, “Symbolically, and biblically, a well means a lot of things. It’s a place you can go, be you, be accepted, and where your needs are met. That embodies what The WELL is all about.”

For more information, visit

Maya Jai Pinson Is A Teen Voice For The Ages

Maya Jai Pinson has some seriously sound advice for young people: “Be committed in what you’re doing, follow your dreams and never give up. Be consistent in everything, be passionate, be open-minded, open-armed and just have fun.”

When the 14-year-old was asked if she is having fun, the question was more rhetorical, particularly after an inspiring telephone conversation with Maya, who at a young age has accomplished about as much as anyone twice her age and older.

“Yes, I do have fun,” she said.

“My mom and dad motivate me and I just love motivating people and inspiring people,” said Maya, who among so many other interests has written a children’s book called “Back Pack Lilly,” an entertaining read for ages three to nine. “My book is teaching kids how to prioritize their studying and school work.”

It was Maya’s mother, an author herself, who inspired the teen to write the book.

With a daily schedule that seemingly never ends, Maya knows quite a bit about prioritizing. Her list of activities include:

•Acting with more than 14 titles including starring in a new comedy series called, “Dad’s Do it Too.

•Maryland talk show radio co-host of the teen program, “Voices of Our Teens”

•Children’s book author “Back Pack Lilly” for children 3-9 years old

•Motivational speaker whose “Dream Big” speech is for kids and teens

•GPA Honor Student (3.9 GPA)

•Read over 3 million words this past school year

•1st chair cellist

•Basketball, volley ball captains and more.

•Volunteers by reading to day care centers, YMCA’s, Boys & Girls Centers and she reads at the National Children Medical Center Hospitals.

•Prepares meals and sandwiches at churches, food kitchens and other locations for those in need.

“School work comes first and I make sure that my studying work and my grades are good before I do any extra curricular activities,” Maya said. “I also have a schedule where everything is planned on a calendar so I have time to study and then relax and have fun.”

While her book is a tool to help children prioritize studying, schoolwork and play, Maya has won awards as a motivational speaker where she says she enjoys giving talks that inspire young ones. Her radio show is also a platform to inspire young people.

“It gives kids a platform to get their voice heard on certain topics,” she said. “Young people aren’t always comfortable speaking with adults and the show gives them a chance to say what’s on their minds.”

As co-host of a Maryland radio show called “Voices of Our Teens,” Maya says she finds time to speak to children and adults alike about the importance of balancing work and play in their lives with her “Stop, Drop, Work then Play” method.

The radio show, which aired every third Sunday of each month from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on WOL 1450 AM and 95.9 FM News Talk Radio, has tackled such topics as teens coping with their parents’ divorce; teenage and young adult pregnancy; teen dating; and youth bullying. The show is expected to end in January.

In addition to all of things she enjoys, Maya lists her niece, Janiya; her older sister and brother, Brittany and DJ; as those she loves spending time with.

“Mom and dad are just that, mom and dad,” she said laughing. “They are more behind the scenes and they prefer it that way.”

If Maya had to choose a first love in all that she does, she says it would be acting.

“I love portraying another role and I love being on camera,” she said. “In the future I see myself as a big star, a featured actress but still writing books on the side and still motivating people and helping others.”

It’s easy to see why her mother describes her as “resilient, hardworking responsible, respectful and caring, and silly,” she said.

Her dad also said Maya is loving, caring, respectful and he added “athletic and fun.”

For more about Maya or to purchase “Back Pack Lilly,” visit

Author’s New Book Tells Tale Of Young Girl Who Lives Life Grounded In Her Jamaican Roots

Surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is an island rich in history, culture and family, and the buoyancy of the music that plays in various locations and homes throughout that island nation brings life and stirs the soul, according to Ayesha V. Dwyer, a passionate storyteller who shares an adventurous tale of a young girl who lives life grounded in her Jamaican roots in her new children’s book, “Sista Me – Every Mikkel Make a Mukkel.”

“Jamaica is a lively place where seemingly the sun is forever smiling and the clouds are never dreary. This is the perfect backdrop for a children’s story,” said Dwyer, a wife and mom of two who lives in the Chicago suburb of Wadsworth.

Her illustrated hardcover book chronicles the fictional story of a little girl who shares her Jamaican descent through fun and adventure, and awakens readers to life on the tropical island.

It also shows Dwyer’s love of Jamaica, the people, the language and the culture; and even though the characters reside in the Unted States, the Jamaican influences are very apparent.

In the book, readers are taken on a journey with “Keturah,” whose nickname is “Sista Me.” There is also “Jaggy,” Keturah’s grandfather; “Auntie Merty,” her mother; “Kingston,” her brother; “Noelle,” her best friend; and host of other family members and friends.

The book weaves in cultural references, some Jamaican patois, and a glossary to help readers find the definitions of the words.

“Jaggy” counts as a central character always there to support Sista Me, as she navigates her way through childhood.

“You know young kids are full of adventure,” Dwyer said. “Sista Me is just one of those kids who will bring a smile to your face no matter what they do.”

Dwyer says she drew inspiration to write the book from her own youth.

“As an adolescent, I was quite rambunctious and facetious; a class clown to say the least. During those times, it was often the wisdom, and aphorisms of my grandfather, Joe. L. McDonald that kept me out of sticky situations,” she said. “I was inspired to write this story on account of my relationship with my grandfather. There is nothing more precious and endearing than the relationship between a child and their grandparent.”

She also says she had the pleasure of bonding and developing a close relationship with her husband’s grandfather, Jaggy, who is of Jamaican decent.

“Jaggy was a man of few words, however when he spoke, there was always a lesson to be learned,” Dwyer said.

The book’s “Jaggy,” is the main character’s confidante. He is the teacher and the hero, Dwyer said.

“Sista Me considers him her superhero. They have a very close relationship and on account that Jaggy resides with Sista Me and her family, he’s often the first person she encounters before each new adventure,” Dwyer said. “Sista Me values Jaggy’s insight, even though she may not fully appreciate it until she finds herself in another sticky situation. But, even still, Jaggy is always present when she needs him the most.”

To Dwyer, the overall importance lies in having the ability to unlock the imagination of a child, which she calls a gift.

“It’s a gift that I most cherish. I desire to inspire children to be creative and utilize their gifts for greatness,” Dwyer said. “My goal is to continue to write stories that will be admired and shared for many generations.”

“Sista Me – Every Mikkel Make a Mukkel” is available for purchase at;; and iTunes.

Black Tie Affair Raises Nearly $10,000

On Saturday, November 24, 2018, WISEorg, Inc., (Women’s Inspirational Self-Empowerment), held its first ever Golden Gala at The Park in Washington, D.C. where an estimated 300 people danced, ate and mingled— all in the name of supporting women struggling with mental illness.

Founded by Dr. Thomisha M. Duru, TheWISEorg, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides physical and mental healthcare, legal services, spiritual restoration and development, employment readiness and other services to women with mental illness at no cost.

“We received an overwhelming amount of support,” said Dr. Duru. “It was pleasantly unexpected but we were humbly grateful. We raised, close to $10,000. We have never raised that amount of money in grassroots efforts. Nearly a week later, we are still receiving donations. We hope to reach $10,000.”

Dr. Duru has had personal experience with mental illness. A tragic event caused her to slip into an abyss of depression ultimately resulting in a mental breakdown. She found her way back to mental stability and is now helping other women to do the same through TheWISEorg, which she founded in 2016.

The program consists of an eight-week cohort and works with small groups of women with mild to moderate mental disorders. Program offerings also include training, Career college admission, GED prep, CPR training and certification, Housing assistance, food, and weekly care packages.

“Thanks to the monies raised from this event, we are now able to expand our course offerings,” said Dr. Duru.

“We now have a licensed clinical social worker, and a psychologist who specializes in trauma. We were previously nable to secure that level of professionalism, but now we can.

“We can also obtain personal care items our clients need, which I previously had been paying for out of pocket. We are also able to feed more of the underserved population and offer additional resources. We will also be able to put on more Sister Circle projects, which will allow us to take women on nice professional outings like shows and restaurants.”

The event included hors d’oeuvres, dancing, and a Silent Auction. According to Dr. Duru, event sponsors and donors played a major role in the event’s success.

“The venue and food were donated by Marc Barnes, owner of The Park,” said Dr. Duru. “Carl Harper worked with me to promote the event. Guy Lambert, who is a radio personality and FOX 5 news anchor also helped with the event. They all donated their time and service. They believe in what we are doing to help women who have mental health issues and wanted to help raise money to support our cause. They helped to make all of this possible.”

According to Dr. Duru, Silent Auction donors included Cigars 210 in Ft. Washington MD, Aphelion Cigar in Gambrills, MD, and Sergeant-Major Brian Taylor.

Dr. Duru is a college professor and is the author of “I Suffered in Silence,” which is available for purchase on Amazon. According to Dr. Duru, the Golden Gala will become an annual event. Plans are also in the works for a mid-2019 fundraiser.

“We hope to expand or programs even more,” said Dr. Duru. “In the past we have had small numbers, but in 2019, we are hopeful to serve at minimum of 20 women. We are looking to have two cohorts, with 10 women in each cohort. If we can get them social services, we can put them back on the road to good mental health.”

She added, “We want them to realize they have the strength to do anything. Your mind is a muscle you have to exercise. But we have to have funding. We thank everyone who helped to make our Golden Gala a success.”

Dr. Duru says the next cohort will take place in the spring, and will be offered at Winning Souls Evangelistic Church in Pasadena, MD.

NAACP’s Tiffany Dena Loftin Honored At Black Girls Vote Ball

National Director of the NAACP Youth and College Division, Tiffany Dena Loftin was awarded the Rising Star Award on Friday, November 16, 2018 at the 2nd Annual Black Girls Vote Ball.

The Black Girls Vote Ball celebrates the accomplishments of black women in politics and activism who are making a difference not only in their community but around the world, according to a news release.

The Rising Star Award is bestowed upon a person for their clear demonstration and dedication to changing the world we live in for the better.

Black Girls Vote, Inc. was launched on what would have been Shirley Chisolm’s 91st birthday— November 30, 2015 in Baltimore.

Through nontraditional engagement efforts that focus on meeting people where they are, Black Girls Vote has registered more than 16,000 voters.

Black Girls Vote (BGV) is also supporting the next generation of leaders and engaged voters through their High School and Collegiate Ambassador Program where BGV Ambassadors activate their student body while bringing BGV’s mission, vision and values on their campus, the organization said in the news release.

This midterm election cycle, under the leadership of Loftin, the NAACP Youth and College Division completed a highly successful Vote 2018 campaign in just a few short weeks, according to Black Girls Vote officials.

They were able to mobilize 5,800 students, recruit and maintain 2,607 new activists, host 232 “vote specific” events, organize at 174 schools across this nation and engage 33 of the 50 states, proving that young people are rising to the occasion and answering the call.

“I dedicate this award to everyone 35 and under who constantly prove this country wrong. I dedicate this award to those who can’t vote. I dedicate this award to every black woman who says I told you so,” Loftin said as she accepted the award. “Every year we have an opportunity to not only change government, to not only advance legislation but to redefine democracy. I know we’re winning because it’s getting harder, but I am encouraged and inspired, and I’m committed to our communities.”

Former Baltimore Times Writer Reflects On What Maya Angelou Taught Her

Kimberly Brown says she has always shared the journey of others in her reporting, whether it was an obstacle, new venture or victory. Now, the former Baltimore Times journalist has written a new book about her own journey.

While the title, “Reflections – What Ms. Angelou Taught Me” is certainly an ode to the late poet Maya Angelou, Brown also pays tribute to her parents in the opening of the book.

“To my mommy and daddy, you both have stuck by me no matter how outlandish my dreams or wild my beliefs. I love you,” Brown writes in the forward to “Reflections…”

And, while telling the stories of others has been a major part of her work as a journalist, Brown decided it’s time to tell her own story.

“Along the way I neglected to share the truth of my own path so as a way to open up about challenges which I endured, the book was written,” she said. “I am a private person who failed to realized that some of my adversities could possibly offer encouragement.”

In telling her story, Brown says she drew strength from Angelou, the famed poet, author and civil rights activist who died in 2014.

“What I have learned from observing Maya Angelou is that there’s strength in owning who you are and being true to self. Also, as a woman of color, we essentially hold the key to recognizing our own worth as well as hold value to who we are and what we offer into the world,” Brown said.

Growing up, Brown recalled watching the ABC Television presentation of “Roots,” the gripping true story of the enslaved ancestors of author Alex Hailey. She says the book and television series also helped to shape her as a writer.

“Some people, like myself, embraced the story and wanted to learn more, while others who still to this day, believe slavery has no connection to the mindset or behaviors we experience in our community,” Brown said. “I feel whenever we fail to acknowledge a timeframe in American history it can affect a culture moving forward.”

Brown also notes the importance of being humble.

“After going through but so many challenges along your path, if we’re not humble already, life will humble you,” she said. “I don’t understand what’s the big turn off about being humble. Although, I do understand we should definitely be compensated for our worth or involvement in work related projects.”

As far as awards and accolades, Browns says she believes just having an opportunity to keep doing what she loves and being able to reach higher goals is in itself fulfilling.

“Of course, at some point there is a desire to retire so to do so fruitfully is a reward within itself,” she said.

Brown also hopes that anyone who reads “Reflections” will understand regardless of their background or circumstance that anyone can succeed.

“There will be challenges as well as obstacles along the path, but just continue to move ahead with faith and belief in your gifts,” she said. “I want readers to feel encouraged and inspired that they can accomplish or pursue what is in their hearts to achieve despite what they may have endured in the past.”

“Reflections – What Ms. Angelou Taught Me,” is available for sale at:

Maryland Media Coach Overcomes Tragedy To Dream Big

When Jackie Kotei was six-years-old, she was in a fire with her little sister. Jackie survived. Her sister did not.

The reason— her sister was hiding and the firefighters couldn’t find her in time to pull her to safety.

For Kotei, that gut-wrenching incident proved a defining moment in her life. She says she spent years working to heal and to move through “survivors guilt.”

“I often wondered, ‘Why was I the one who was saved? Why didn’t I do more to protect her? Why me and not her?”

Ultimately, Kotei says she came to realize the gift all of what happened and the true message her sister was telling her.

“She died because she hid. And my message is you don’t have to hide. You can stand out, be seen and get your message out into the world,” Kotei said.

Now a publicity, media strategist and marketing coach, Kotei, who is often booked to speak at corporate and other engagements, has a goal of helping to change the narrative in the media so that more transformational stories like hers are featured.

“We need more good news stories out there in the world. People who share their stories and how they overcame things in their lives,” Kotei said. “People who provide ways that society can do things better than we have before. I’m not under the illusion that we won’t ever have negative news in the world, but I’m committed to changing the narrative in the media so that more good stories get featured.”

Kotei added that it’s important to build a relationship with the media from a place of service, meaning how she can support them and help audiences follow. She says journalists often are seeking great stories, new creative approaches and good news and they need the help of others to achieve those goals.

“I believe that sometimes the biggest challenges we’ve had in our life, are the greatest gifts. I know now that it was no accident that at the age of six, I was in a fire, lost my younger sister and was on national TV as a result,” Kotei said. “It’s helped me to become who I am today and serve the world with what I believe is my divine calling. For many years though I didn’t get that. I felt guilty that I didn’t do more to protect her and that guilt carried over in so much that I did.”

With the help of mentors and coaches Kotei was able to look past the pain and the victim mentality she had developed and overcame survivor’s guilt. She continues to look toward to the future in a positive manner.

“Dreaming big in 2019 is about picking a goal that is beyond what you could ever imagine for yourself and focus on setting yourself up to win,” Kotei said.

“It doesn’t have to be done the way anyone else has done it before. You get to make the rules, you get to do it on your own terms— and it’s okay if people think you’re crazy.

“I know people look at my dream to change the negative news cycle and say it’s impossible but I know it’s only a matter of time and that today it starts with the baby steps— getting 100 positive stories featured this year and then in 10 years maybe a million, and then one day we’ll have newscasts where there are five good news stories instead of just two— and so on.

“So ‘dream big’ but start with the baby steps. Let your dreams fill up your heart, mind and spirit and be okay with how they take shape.”

For more about Jackie Kotei’s story, visit

Local Author Debuts Novel About An African American Millennial

— Baltimore native Victoria Kent has fulfilled her dream of becoming an author by writing and releasing her debut novel, “Almost 30,” a fictionalized memoir about an African American millennial living in Baltimore.

Set in Baltimore, “Almost 30” is a contemporary story of Sawyer Jenkins, an African American millennial woman on the verge of turning 30 who is attempting to maneuver through societies’ pressures of adulthood, financial instability, still living at home with family, job stagnation, men or lack thereof, and the physical transformation of her body.

As Sawyer attempts to “adult” she dissects the world and her purpose while dispelling stereotypes placed upon black millennials, like her.

“I chose to write this type of book because I was feeling like maybe I failed at life,” said Kent. “People were incessantly bombarding me with questions like when was I going to settle down and get married, have children and purchase a home. When I spoke to other millennials, I realized I was not alone. Many of us were being asked these same types of questions and coping with many of the same issues.”

Kent attended St. Timothy’s High School and later graduated from Loyola University with a bachelor’s degree in English. Her love for writing began at the age of five when she began reading and writing poetry and short stories. When she’s not writing Victoria volunteers with the Baltimore Guardian Angels and is an “Investigative Discovery” addict. Almost 30, is her first novel. She names Terry McMillan, Issa Rae, Kevin Shird, and Omar Tyree as some of her

favorite authors because of the honesty in their writing and that they write about life in an urban inner city.

The Almost 30 e-book is available for purchase on Amazon and the print book is available for purchase at:

Singer Brandy Headlines ‘Journey Home’ Fundraiser In Baltimore

On Saturday, October 20, 2018 Grammy Award winning singer Brandy will take the stage at the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric for the annual “An Evening of Unexpected Delights” fundraiser to benefit “The Journey Home,” Baltimore City’s 10-year plan to make homelessness a rare and brief occurance.

The plan centers on a best practice known as “Housing First,” which emphasizes an increase in programs for men, women and families experiencing homelessness, as well as the better coordination of existing services.

According to organizers, about 35 percent of Maryland’s homeless are in Baltimore City, enough to fill the seats at The Lyric, which holds 2,564 people.

“The Journey Home brings together the public and private sectors, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and concerned citizens to work on solutions for preventing and ending homelessness,” said Chuck Tildon, vice president of Government Relations and Strategic Partnerships at United Way of Central Maryland, which serves as the fiscal agent and marketing partner for The Journey Home in an earlier interview.

“The Journey Home focuses on addressing fundamental causes of homelessness; the lack of affordable housing, inaccessible health care, inadequate incomes and a lack of coordinated services,” Tildon said.

In January 2008, the Journey Home board adopted what they called, “The Journey Home Strategic Priorities.”

The purpose of those priorities is to create a strategic framework for continued commitment and collective action. The priorities and strategic plan are complementary documents that contribute to the vision that homelessness in Baltimore will be rare and brief occurrences.

“The Journey Home was launched in 2008 in response to the growing call for cities nationwide to develop concrete plans to end homelessness in their respective communities,” Tilden said.

“An Evening of Unexpected Delights,” the annual fundraiser for the initiative began in 2011— a collaboration of presenting sponsor, Centerplate, the Baltimore City Mayor’s office and the United Way of Central Maryland.

Funding for The Journey Home come from a combination of public and private sources and the annual benefit provides needed flexible funding that is allocated based on real time need by Baltimore’s Continuum of Care.

“Understanding homelessness and why it happens in Baltimore, along with the types of homelessness people are experiencing— from transitional to episodic— is the key to making homelessness brief,” Tildon said, noting that efforts have led to the reduction of homelessness among veterans by nearly 30 percent over the past three years.

The fundraiser stands as a signature event, which organizers put a lot of effort into making sure of its success.

“We pride ourselves on this annual event of unexpected delights by surprising the sponsors, friends and family who support our great mission,” Tildon said.

Brandy is a Grammy Award winning performer and “we are confident that she will score a home run for us,” said Tonya Miller, the senior director of public affairs in the mayor’s office.

Brandy first rose to fame in 1994 with her debut hit, “I Wanna Be Down.” The Grammy-award winner also starred in the leading role of the successful 1990s sitcom, “Moesha,” and put together a string of hit albums and singles, including “Never Say Never,” which sold more than 16 million copies worldwide. Her duet with singer Monica on “The Boy is Mine,” spent 13 weeks at number one on the U.S. Singles Charts. Brandy went on to star in other television and movie projects like the horror film, “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.”

Tickets for the 8 p.m. event are $49.50 to $79.50 plus fees. VIP tickets, which include a 6:30 p.m. reception are $99.50 plus fees. General admission tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Nia Franklin Wins Miss America

The genius, intelligence, beauty and spirit of Black women, which continues to transform the world, shined brightly again Sunday as Nia Franklin became the first Miss America in the post-swimsuit era.

“It took a lot of perseverance to get here,” Franklin, the freshly crowned beauty queen, said after her win. “I want to thank my beautiful family, my mom and my dad, who is a survivor of cancer.”

An opera singer, Franklin is a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina and earned her master’s degree in music composition from UNC School of the Arts, according to her biography as reported by CNN.

She moved to New York after being accepted at the Kenan Fellow program at Lincoln Center Education in Manhattan.

During the competition, Franklin described how music helped her find her identity.

“I grew up at a predominately Caucasian school and there was only five percent minority, and I felt out of place so much because of the color of my skin,” Franklin said. “But growing up, I found my love of arts, and through music that helped me to feel positive about myself and about who I was.”

Her win set Twitter and all of social media ablaze.

“Congratulations to our new Miss America,” famed radio and television personality Donnie Simpson said. “Nia Franklin represented New York and won the crown last night. She’s obviously very smart, very talented and absolutely stunning. I’m so proud.”

Another popular radio show host, Michael Lyle, Jr., also couldn’t contain his joy for Franklin.

“Huge congratulations. Well-deserved and another reason why Black Girls Rock,” Lyle said.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association – the trade organization that represents 220 African American-owned newspapers across the country – said Franklin’s win is just another statement on the outstanding achievements of Black women today.

“The NNPA Congratulates 2018 Miss America, Nia Franklin. The genius, intelligence, beauty and spirit of Black women impact and transform the world,” Chavis tweeted.

Franklin, who plans to advocate for the arts during her tenure as Miss America, told reporters that she was also happy that the swimsuit competition – which had been part of the overall contest throughout its 92-year history – had been discontinued.

“I’m happy I didn’t have to wear a swimsuit,” she said. “I’m more than just that.”