Tuesday, October 10, 2017

9 Outstanding People In Southeast Queens Inspiring Hope and Making A Difference Our Community

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Southeast Queens is known for its outstanding residents especially in fields like jazz, hip hop, business, politics, and sports.  Standouts in these fields like Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Lena Horne, Count Basie, John Coltrane, LL Cool J, 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Russell Simmons, Nicki Minaj, and Daymond John are just a small slice of the successful celebrities from the area.

The area is also known for great intellectuals activists like Roy Wilkins and W. E. B. DuBois.  However, the Greater Jamaica and Southeast Queens area is still the home community that cultivates greatness beyond well known luminaires.  There are community members making a difference without a lot of fanfare.

There are countless hardworking and positive people in Southeast Queens.  The following persons are an example of the amazing and inspiring people who make Southeast Queens a great community.

Kevin Livingston - is a very proactive, creative, and dedicated activist in our community who helps financial distressed persons and also those involved in the criminal justice system.  He is the Founder 100 Suits.

Livingston, wanted to create a program to address the needs of underprivileged men and women in need of business attire in the New York City area. In 2015, he obtained a 501 (c)(3) non-profit status.

His organization's core service is to provide free business attire to men and women who are in the job search process. By being able to wear appropriate attire to their interviews, these men and women are better equipped to achieve gainful employment, which will ultimately help them to transition into mainstream society and live more productive lives. Through this program, they also provide free haircuts for men and wig referrals for women, if needed.

The mission of 100 Suits for 100 Men is to help underprivileged men and women improve their role in society, building dignity and self-esteem, fostering self-sufficiency, dispelling stereotypes, and promoting community involvement in order to build each other up.”

One of their two offices is at 114-02 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, Jamaica, NY 11434.  Our other office is located inside of one of our strongest partners, the New York State Parole/Queens office at 92-36 Merrick Boulevard, Jamaica, NY 11433. This organization has grown to include programs that address more than a suit. 100 Suits now also addresses socio-economic issues.

It also addresses injustice issues with its community involvement and activism, making positive changes in the lives of men and women in the New York City area. These solutions help those individuals get to a place of economic freedom and help to reduce recidivism rates.

To address the recidivism rates,100 Suits partners with NYC Dept. of Corrections Community Supervision Unit, this is located inside of Queens Parole. This is the primary location of the 100 Suits Boutique.

Monthly workshops with men who are newly released from correctional facilities are also conducted at this location. Currently, 100 Suits services both male and female populations of Queens Parole.

Their boutique model specializes in men but has had operations also in the business training teaching entrepreneurialism. Their organization is currently looking to expand the program to Brooklyn Parole.

Glenn Greenidge - Is a man who wears many hats in his tireless efforts to bring economic vitality to the Greater Jamaica and Southeast Queens.  His positions in community and civic organizations are:

Executive Director at Sutphin Blvd BID

Chairman Economic Development Committee at Community Board 12, Queens, New York and...

Director of Real Estate Operations at Farmers Boulevard Community Development Corporation

Greenidge is a rock solid performer in the areas of economic development and community affairs.  He is instrumental in bringing business and community development to all the diverse ethnic groups in the Greater Jamaica and Southeast Queens area.

Under his mantle as the Executive Director at the Sutphin Blvd BID he has creatively brought community jazz to JFK Airtrain development and he is championing business development for store owners around Sutphin Blvd and throughout the area.

Glenn Greenidge Talks About Development In "Downtown Jamaica" and Sutphin Blvd

Terryl Ebony, is a highly regarded and award winning activist, empowerment speaker, author, parent, entrepreneur, and leader in Southeast Queens.  She is the Founder and Executive Director, of The Misunderstood Youth Development Center.  The center helped young people avoid being incarcerated and having criminal records with the option of going through her program.

Ms. Ebony is today a highly sought after national speaker.  Ebony has written books coaching and inspiring people to reach their goal and dreams.  She also creates videos inspiring people to be purposeful producers.

She has also worked with numerous community organizations, issues, and causes.

You can reach her at her website TerrylEbony.com or on Facebook. To order insightful and inspiring books by Terry EbonyClick Here

Terryl Ebony On Stopping Denying Your Greatness

Erica FordCEO and Founder of LIFE, Camp Inc. is like the Southeast Queens "Queen of Peace."  She's been involved in advocating against violence and for peace in the area going back to the tumultuous years of the Crack Cocaine epidemic in Southeast Queens and the violence associated with it.  

“This is not a job, this is my LIFE; my undying love keeps me committed to my people until my glory day takes me away” is a powerful statement by Erica Ford.  She has been a very dedicated activist in the area that has been fortunate to benefit from her passionate peace driven efforts.

Erica's efforts were instrumental in the neighborhood of South Jamaica, known to be tough and have a disproportionately high number of violent deaths, going over a year (569 days) with no gun murders reported.  We've seen Erica at rallies and marches protesting violence and injustice for decades.

"Erica Ford remembers what it was like growing up in Jamaica, Queens back in the 1980s, where crack use and gun violence was an everyday occurrence. A resident in the high crime neighborhood since the age of five, Erica grew up attending countless funerals for friends and seeing mothers left alone to raise their children after losing their husbands to death or prison." According to her Life Camp Inc., website.

Ford early on got involved in the December 12th Movement, an international human rights and activist group.  She later founded the Black Consciousness Youth Movement dealing both with student governments and also organized against police brutality.

While at York College (The City of the University of New York), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, she served as President of the Black Student Caucus, Vice President of the Evening Student Government and co-founder of The Code Club, formed in 1994, with her friend, the late Tupac Shakur, and others. The group’s mission was to keep young people out of jail and to decrease “Black on Black” crime. In 1998 and 1999, The Code co-coordinated the Million Youth March where tens of thousands of young people from across the country assembled to rally against injustices and strengthen their platforms.

In 2002, the tragic murders of two children in her community inspired Erica, along with Jeffrey “Ja Rule” Atkins and others, to create the monumental LIFE Camp (Love Ignites Freedom Through Education). LIFE Camp provides at-risk inner-city youth, ages 13-24 years, the valuable tools they need to stay in school and out of the criminal justice system. The program also offers these individuals educational, employment and social opportunities they might not otherwise have.

Erica Ford Speaks On Her Peace Journey

LIFE Camp has even spawned an I Love My LIFE tour which highlights young entrepreneurs and visits schools and prisons with the LIFE Camp message of anti-violence and self-love. Another offshoot of LIFE Camp is Erica’s Peace is a Lifestyle program, featuring holistic guru Deepak Chopra. Chopra, an outspoken supporter of Erica’s work, makes monthly visits to LIFE Camp where he talks to and meditates with the group participants.

Through the years, Erica’s dedication to reducing violence among young New Yorkers has garnered, countless awards, accolades, praise and recognition by notable public figures such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Reverend Al Sharpton, and hip hop mogul Russell Simmons. Her recognized leadership has brought extensive travel and speaking gigs in prisons, community centers, high schools, college campuses, and confer- ences throughout the country and internationally.

Erica’s made numerous appearances in print, television, radio and Internet outlets and has partnered with numerous entertainers, and athletes, such as Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Salt & Pepa, NBA Allstars Kenny Smith, Stephon Marbury and John Starks, NFL Superbowl Champ Michael Strahan and TI, to name a few, encouraging them to give back and play an active role in transforming lives and communities:

After practically 30 years of dedicating herself to championing for today’s youth, Erica Ford shows no signs of stopping. Her current "Bury Da Beef" campaign has put together a citywide coalition/campaign to reduce gun violence. Another recent brainchild, her NY Peace Week, occurs each January and honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of nonviolence. Organized by LIFE Camp, Inc., the collective goal is to create a culture of peace throughout NYC for seven days by hosting an event, performing an activity or simply taking one personal action toward creating inner peace and setting a positive example for young people.

Isa Abdur-Rahman - Is a real estate Attorney who is committed to economic development on Farmers Blvd and Southeast Queens.  He is very committed to help residents of Greater Jamaica and Southeast Queens become homeowners. 

He is also the founder and executive director of Farmers Boulevard Community Development Corp., a non-profit group created in 2009 with the mission of revitalizing Farmers Boulevard.  Here is a great article Isa wrote for the Southeast Queens Scoop on Home Ownership Being A Hedge Against Gentrification Click Here 

Isa taught Business Law at York College from 2011-2016.  He lives in Jamaica with his wife, Fazeeda, and their three young children.  You can view Isa's contact info below:

Isa Abdur-Rahman, Esq.
90-04 161st Street, Suite 308
Jamaica, NY  11432
Phone: (718) 262-0682

Adrienne WhaleyAdrienne Whaley, MBA, MA, is on a mission.  The energetic and resourceful metaphorical renaissance woman will not be denied in her pursuit of using the arts to bring about positive change in her longtime community of Southeast Queens and Greater Jamaica.

Having a meeting space that houses a myriad of diverse artistic expressions ranging from martial arts for special needs children, to dance, or culinary arts would be an incredible challenge for most entrepreneurs.  However, if any business person can do it Ms. Whaley, with numerous degrees in business and education like an MBA, MA, and professional education degrees, has the multi-faceted background to make it work.

Adrienne is the Founder of Innovations In Creative Arts & Martial Arts, located at 198-20 Linden Blvd., St. Albans, NY  11412 is the place where both children and adults can come to learn, discover, and have the opportunity to delve deeper into the arts of choice. She offers the opportunity to learn the terminology, history, steps, equipment, supplies, and techniques from professional artists and certified professionals.

From Karate, ballet, hip hop dance, aerobics, culinary arts, wearable arts, jewelry making, bath product making, drawing, painting, 3d computer modeling, STEAM, other crafts, professional development for educators, therapists, and administrators, she also rents spaces for gallery showings, events, and meetings.  She runs the place in the community that loves and appreciates all of the arts so much that they've bought them together in one warm open space.

In September, the Enrichment Program begins during after school time from Monday - Saturday where children from 3 years to 16 years can attend and enjoy a large number of arts and learning activities throughout the week.  Adrienne works with young people but also is actively working with organizing other business people and professionals in Southeast Queens for economic empowerment.

You can reach her by phone at 917.387.8311 or email: InnovationsCreativeArts@gmail; InnovationsCreativeArts.com, or just by stopping in from Tuesday - Friday from 2:00pm - 7:00pm, Saturdays from 10:00am - 7:30pm.

Kevin Henry - does not let being in a wheelchair cramp his style.  Mr. Henry has overcome a terrible tragedy that may have fashioned a sideline existence for many people. But not Mr. Henry.  Kevin was shot by accident in a violent encounter between two other people.

However, he did not succumb to his wounds or let his permanent injury sideline his life. Today Kevin designs clothes for people with disabilities.  Henry also goes to Queensborough Community College. The name of his clothing line is "Kmatikz."

Kevin because of his disability realized that it is very difficult to find clothing that is easy for people with disabilities to wear and get dressed.  Henry also discovered, from his personal experience, that most of the clothing made for people with physical challenges looked a bit like clothes you'd see people wearing in a nursing home.  He felt most people with physical challenges wouldn't want to wear this type of clothing.

Therefore, Henry, an industrial design student, went to work fashioning a clothing line that is both stylish and functional. He represents a person who didn't let personal tragedy sideline his life. Henry states "If you fall down, just get back up. Even if you don't physically get back up but you can still enjoy your life, you can still live your life to the fullest.”


You have to respect this person, in our community, who inspires us to rise beyond our personal circumstances and contribute to the betterment of the community.  Henry is working hard to get grants and win business competitions to launch his startup company.  Kevin has also received awards for his inspiration and innovation including one from CUNY. 

Chae Blount - Chae Blount is an inspiring young man that has written 3 Books at only 9 years of age.

1. Chae's Guide Book - How To Be The Best Big Brother Or Sister You Can Be: to pick up a copy Click Here

2. Chae's Guide Book - How To Save At A Young Age:  to pick up a copy Click Here

3. Chae's Guide Book -  How To Be The Best Student You Can Be:  to get a copy Click Here 

Chae's insightful mother, Ms. 
Dianna Blount, was able to identify a lot of promise in her son and obviously nurtured and encouraged his talent and ability to write.  Chae Blount, according to his mom, "started reading books when he was only 9 months old."

He was also in a spelling bee at three years of age.  Ms. Blount and educators at the time coordinating the spelling bee were surprised when he made it to the 4th round in the spelling bee competition (especially since he was competing against 5 and 6-year old children).

Dianna believed her son Chae "was dreaming of his future" before he started to write books. She began guiding him to start writing and journaling his thoughts and was surprised when he wrote on being a good older brother.  Chae was inspired by his younger sibling being born.
Chae sounds like he is certainly going to be a good big brother. His mother's first editor for Chae's books was his aunt - who was also very impressed with his level of writing.

He obviously loves writing books.  He states his motivation is wanting to make books so he can "inspire people" all over the world.  Well we definitely find him inspiring.

Chae has had tremendous support from his family who have purchased his books, local politicians, and the Southeast Queens community who have come out well for his book parties.  60 people came out for his book party on March 4, 2017.

Saywalah Kesselly - Saywalah graduated from the W.V.S. Tubman High School in Liberia in 1981, and immigrated to the United States in 1984 in search of higher education, graduated from Baruch College with a BBA degree in Economics in 1991. Currently, Saywalah is the Executive Director of the African Center for Community Empowerment (ACCE).

Saywalah started the ACCE, after some young people he personally knew were killed in senseless violence.  He started the Center to help young people excel in life.

He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Joseph P. Addabo Family Health Center, Farmers Boulevard Community Development Corporation and former President of the Board of Directors of Arverne Limited Profit Housing Corporation.

He is also the recipient of numerous awards including the 2005 Union Square Award, 2006 HBA / Times Ledger Newspaper “Community Impact Awards,” New York City Council Citations and many others.  This days Selwayla is very involved in the creation of a Proposed Southeast Queens Credit Union (FCU) to help bring about credit and economic development in the area.  You can find out more about the proposed credit union's development by clicking here 

Saywalah Kesselly On Eyewitness News

There are countless hard working activists and business people in our area inspiring others and making a difference.  You can share residents you feel are giving outstanding and inspiring service to the community in the comment section below.

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Posted by community events coordinator, Nzinga Lonstein Austin, is a prolific blogger who writes on the entertainment industry and issues for people with developmental and physical challenges.

She is presently in high school looking to have a career in video, film, and media. You can see more of her entertainment writing on Lonstein Movies.

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