Posts from the “Philadelphia” Category

The Craig Ellis Organization: A Day of Service (Philadelphia 3.4.17)



Considering Entrepreneurship in 2017: BELLA CHANTELLE:

“Everything happens for a reason. God planned this out exactly how its suppose to be…” – @iambellachantelle

Sheena Johnson, fashion designer and young entrepreneur from Philadelphia, shares the details of her journey in creating and branding her very own fashion line “Bella Chantelle.”

During a brief phone interview with Sheena, I had a chance to catch up with my old friend, learn more about her fashion line, and the dedication and hard work it takes to establish a brand and becoming an entrepreneur.

Sheena’s interview reflects the vision for Bella Chantelle, her inspiration, motivation, and future goals as an entrepreneur.

Introducing Bella Chantelle, this marks the third interview in a series of interviewsfocusing on successful African- American business owners and entrepreneurs.

The purpose of this series is to find out the keys to becoming successful in entrepreneurship and to hopefully inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs in 2017.

Bella Chantelle

The first topic on my agenda was to discuss the meaning behind the brand’s name “Bella Chantelle.”

Sheena explained that the original/former name of her line was “Uzuri” (which means beautiful in Swahili). Sheena was content with that name but soon found out that other businesses adopted the name and it would be almost impossible to patent.

Sheena later thought of the name Bella Chantelle; keeping the same beauty concept (Bella means beautiful in Spanish and Chantelle is Sheena’s middle name).

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Sheena and I discussed in detail the hard work that goes into creating and maintaining a successful business. Sheena described a typical day as Bella Chantelle’s CEO as non-stop work, 24/7 sewing, editing pictures for designs, and photo shoot preparations. Bella Chantelle has been showcased over 20 times in Philly, Jersey, Baltimore and New York City.

“I’m a one-man band.” Sheena is independently bringing her designs to life; with only her mother to help sketch the figures for her designs.”Mom draws bodies; I draw clothes.” Currently, Sheena is working on a wedding party which involves the creation of five bridesmaids gowns.
I asked Sheena what her greatest attribute to the success of her business entailed, and her reply was creativity. “I find inspiration in everything, cars, objects, colors; I’m a visionary.” Sheena has a vision for something new, and it doesn’t take long for her vision to come to life as quality fashion.

“Success is happiness in what you’re doing; emotionally, physically, financially.” Sheena’s first moments of realizing her fashion line was a complete success came in February 2011 when she debuted her designs and showcased them at FBH Philly Fashion week.

The Philly Fashion Week event was a huge turnout, and it surprised Sheena how much positive feedback and love she received. The praise Sheena received motivated her to keep pushing toward the successful production of Bella Chantelle’s designs as she continues to get the word out.

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Inspiration & Motivation

Bella Chantelle’s CEO is self-motivated as she is always pushing to be better and produce better than what she has in the past. Sheena expressed that she has always been into fashion, so the motivation to become an entrepreneur and to create her line was instinctive.

Along with being self-motivated, Sheena admitted that her biggest inspiration comes from her mom and grandmom. Witnessing her love ones pound the pavement for a job they didn’t like motivated Sheena to break the cycle and that’s when she knew she was going to become an entrepreneur.

Sacrifices & Goals

Sheena’s greatest sacrifices as an entrepreneur (like most other answers I’ve received) include time and money. Sheena has surrendered aspects of her social life for building her brand.

Also, striving toward her goals cost money and mostly all of it is out of her pocket. “I want to keep making my own money and keep the debt low…” Sheena doesn’t have any sponsors or investors; her designs are produced solely with her hard earned money.

Some of Sheena’s long term and short term goals consist of: the continuous growth of Bella Chantelle and eventually expanding the brand. She goes on to explain that she would like to eventually detach from social media as a primary source for business and begin manufacturing designs across the U.S. and open up boutiques; collaborating with other major designers.

In addition to building her brand, Sheena offers an opportunity to share her knowledge and to help others be creative and produce their own designs. Sheena provides home sewing sessions where she visits your home and teaches you how to sew, repair, and make clothes.

To the new age of entrepreneurs: “Believe in yourself.” Sheena explains the importance of not settling for a typical job and going beyond contributing to others success. A book that helped to jump start Bella Chantelle is Young entrepreneurs guide to own business.

Sheena admitted that not everything is perfect in being an entrepreneur. Sometimes she struggles with the weight of being independent, feelings of being overwhelmed, and how hard it is to find help. For example, ample time to complete the large bridal party (5 bridesmaids gowns) and three future prom orders.

Three exciting things to look forward to in the future of Bella Chantelle:

1. An official website for ordering Bella Chantelle’s designs. The website is currently under construction:
2. More fashion shows- BellaChantelle independent fashion show
3. More designs (of course) Keep your eyes open for a swimsuit line

Sheena is thinking of ways to recruit staff and may consider social media recruitment for an assistant designer, for PR marketing, and working on a youtube channel for her fashion line.

For more information about Bella Chantelle:


IG: @iambellachantelle



Health Insurance Enrollment Opportunity: Philly

If you’re in Philly and need to enroll in a health insurance plan, or want to discuss your options, Amalgam Comics & coffeehouse is hosting a free event this saturday from 10am-6pm at 2578 Frankford ave 19125.

Health care professionals will be present to answer questions and to assist in enrolling individuals into a plan.

Open enrollment ends Jan 31, 2017 visit to make an appointment ASAP.

One Step Away: Advocates for Social Change in Philadelphia

“One Step Away-a missed paycheck, a lost job, an unexpected medical bill-is how far many people are from homelessness.” –One Step Away

One Step Away is an organization that produces a “street newspaper” whose mission is to overcome homelessness, joblessness, &poverty.

The purpose is to create jobs for members of the homeless population, in the hopes of diminishing people experiencing homelessness and joblessness in Philadelphia.

Vendors, volunteers, and the staff at One Step Away create the paper by contributing to its content; filling the paper with personal experiences, stories, poems, and insights.

The vendors then distribute One Step Away on the streets of Philadelphia, advocating for social change.

One Step Away: The Process

Vendors (Philadelphians experiencing hardships) receive their first 20 newspapers for free with additional papers costing 25 cents.

The vendors sell the newspapers on the streets of Philadelphia for a dollar (or whatever donation they receive), and they can keep the profit.

This process helps the vendors to gain self-sufficiency, engage with the public and strengthen social skills, gain employable skills, and most importantly earn an income.


A memorial was held last month to remember the 200 homeless lives lost in 2016.

One Step Away reported that some factors leading to the 200 lost lives contribute to at least one chronic physical medical condition, documented mental illness, or history of substance abuse. The average age was 53.

Each person’s name was read aloud at the candlelit vigil, and they were celebrated through music, and dance.


Vendor Site Hours:

Mon-Fri 10am-1pm

Arch street Methodist Church

55 N. Broad St (Broad & Arch streets)

Contatc Vendor & Volunteer Coordinator Nylla Goldstein



























Women’s March 2017: 50k strong in Philly

Women’s March 2017 in Philadelphia

“I am a Woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal Woman, that’s me.” ―Maya Angelou

The Women’s March in Philadelphia was held yestarday Jan. 21, 2017 commencing near the art museum.

With a turnout estimating 50k, thousands of people from the Tri-Sate area united to promote feminism.

Predictions for the turnout fell near 20k, so the numbers more than double.

2017: Year of the savage. Here are 6 selfish things to do this year.

I got things to do in 2017, and you better believe I am going to do them savagely.

I’m savagely going to achieve my goals this year and you will too.

Here are six things you can do this year to self-improve.

I feel like sometimes nobody gets it and at this point I’m just done doing things the same way if you want different results you have to switch up your methods.

1. Consider Entrepreneurship

It’s time to find your passion and pursue it. Find what you like to do, find what you’re good at, and get paid for it in 2017.

You can only do your job 100 percent if you give a damn.

People who pursue their passion and work in the fields they choose just seem happier and perform better.

I understand that not many people can pursue their passion due to lack of opportunity, not enough resources, lack of money, etc. and that’s understandable, but effort and inquiry go a long way.

Networking is extremely beneficial and can sometimes get you further than a dollar bill.

Learn how to talk to people, and by this, I don’t mean act fake, or totally outside of your character.

You can be yourself and adapt a business savvy, mannerly, and respectful composition.

Learn what questions to ask and seek what is available to help you get started in whatever it is you want to do.

Most recently I read the story about Asia Newson, a 13-year-old entrepreneur from Detroit, Michigan.

According to an article in Forbes, she began her business, selling candles, when she was only five years old.

Last year in 2016, she made over $60,000. If she was determined at five years old to get started and can be a successful entrepreneur in her own business at 13 years old so can you.

2. Request a raise/ Get that promotion

It may be time for you to speak up and ask for a salary increase.

Know your worth and don’t allow your employer to use you without proper compensation.

Sometimes we are so desperate for a job or so thankful for the current position we’re in that we neglect to realize we are taken advantage of.

Your employer should compensate their employees for hard work, especially if you are consistently exceeding expectations, taking the initiative to do more in your position, and (or) adopted a leadership role.

Know your job, and it’s description; doing work outside of what is expected, that’s great work ethic.

Suggest a higher paying position to the appropriate personnel. Discuss compensation and challenges. If the opportunity is unavailable, look for an opportunity to grow elsewhere.

3. Say No!

No more going along to get along.

If the joke isn’t funny, don’t laugh.

If you don’t feel like going out don’t go.

Don’t do things only to please other people.

Do the things that you want to do.

Say no if you want.

No you can’t borrow anything, no you cant waste my time, no you can’t have me for free.

4. Read More

Knowledge is power and it’s something no one can take away from you.

Noir Reads provides various literature from Black Authors to provide an in-depth understanding of culture and the overall Black experience.

It is an online book subscription service delivering new books from Black Authors each month subscribe here.

“With Noir Reads, we aim to help people discover voices of African descent actively exploring the Black experience through fiction and non fiction,” said the creators. “It can be hard to find diverse Black literature and a community to engage around it – we hope Noir Reads can make it easier.”

*I’m currently reading: Angela Davis’ Women, Culture & Politics *

5. Take Better Care of Your Overall Health

Self-improvement is essential and this is inclusive of your health.

Take some vitamins: Women’s Ultra Mega is really good for skin and hair improvements.

Be selfish and treat yo self to that manicure and pedicure. Men you guys too!

Research products before you but them. If you’re like me, you may need an introduction into some new products.

Look into different subscription services to try new products if you are unsure about what works well for your hair, skin, nails, body, etc. look stuff up!!

Try subscribing to the Onyx Box for new surprises each month.

The Onyx Box subscription offers women of color a chance to celebrate their beauty each month with useful new samples.

Also you can check out and subscribe to for skin care tips & advice and other special deals.

6. Learn something new/Get some hobbies

Shock and awe- do something out of your comfort zone.

Do something courageous or risky.

If you’re local to Philadelphia, you can always look up the Mt. Airy Learning Tree to see what new classes are available.Capture.PNGThey have tons of classes in various areas and it can be found here: Mt. Airy Learning Tree

Philly Poet Appreciation Post

Soledad Alfaro-Allah: reads “Fencing Poem” at the Philly Youth Poetry Movement Grand Slam

Perry ‘Vision’ DiVirgillio: Philly spoken word poet “Vision” performs “Thirsty.” 

Joshua Bennett “Say It, Sing it as the Spirit Leads” (After Vievee Francis)

TS Hawkins: performs “Momma’s Worry” at the “Girls Will Rock Philly” benefit concert in 2015

Trapeta Mayson: performs at Blue Banana on South Street.

‘A Love Letter to Philadelphia’ by Poet Laureate Yolanda Wisher

‘A Love Letter to Philadelphia’ by Poet Laureate Yolanda Wisher

Poet Laureate po·et lau·re·ate /ˌpōət ˈlôrēət/ noun

 a poet appointed to, or regarded unofficially as holding, an honorary representative position in a particular country, region, or group.

“Dear Philly,

Sonia always puts the words a place called before your name. Girl, you’ve been called so many names. Been called out of your name, too. Philly. Illadelph. 215. Killadelphia. You are corner stores and cranes, murals and museums, litter and Love Park.

I used to be a girl poet from the suburbs in the backseat of my stepfather Doug’s army-green sedan, yearning for you to look my way with your tragic smile. Doug knew you like the back of his hand; I memorized all your street names: Indian Queen Lane. Rising Sun Avenue. Minerva Street. Venango was a poisonous fruit of a word, cassava-sweet:

o’ city lights,
bless the crimson-eyed junkies praying over vents,
guide the urine of canker-sored bums to the sewer grates, help the comic-stripped hookers push back poverty tears.
o’ city lights,
the eyes of a lame flute player on 52nd need your attention—
shame on you, for forgetting.

Riding the R5 down to Market East Station to promenade in the Gallery in a tennis dress with my hair wrapped tight and smooth like Halle Berry’s in Boomerang, I acted grown so you’d notice me. I would drive myself into you one day:

malona is cruisin with the girls
Mischief, a satin kerchief easin out her back pocket
it’s gonna rain young, full-hipped malonas wearin the city on the shelves of their…

And then I started to really hear you, came to love you beyond pity and promiscuity. Fed you black beans and Jean Toomer’s “Georgia Dusk” at Toviah’s Thrift Store out West. Sat straight-backed in a plastic chair—room M18 in the Bonnell Building of CCP—while you coaxed a soprano out of me, and I sang—yeah, I sang—“Thank You, Lord” with your sinners and your savers. I caught your spirit.

You’re always in season, blooming with another renaissance. Artists all up in your first forests, heathens all up under your churches and mosques. We come to you as atheists and leave as preachers. Railroads run through your gut. Harriet’s tribe raced through here on their way to Canada. Archaeological shards vibrating with black-bottomed beats.

Sometimes I hear heels outside my window and mistake a woman for a horse from a neighborhood stable. Once I saw a young woman, like a petulant-shouldered Ntozake Shange with black and blonde braids, red lipstick, and tight blue jeans, riding a stallion down the middle of modern-day Morris Street like she’d been doing it for centuries. I think these women are you. No offense, I see you in the stray cats on the block, too. I can’t name all of the dangers or kindnesses in the broken glass of their eyes.

Walking up Schoolhouse Lane makes me think about old black schoolhouses in the woods of Northern Neck, Virginia, where my people are really from. Proud teachers in crinolines. Children dusty, but hungry for knowledge. When I taught at the Quaker School four blocks up, your kids would walk alongside me in the morning with bags of red-hot pork rinds, hungry for knowledge. Eleven-year-old Cheryl would be on her way to Pickett Middle School where the hard rock (she said bad) kids didn’t let her learn. Could you take me to your school?

I’m still thinking about how to take Cheryl (and a couple of the hard rock kids) with me. And here I am, walking my daily, grown woman sojourn through you. Someone’s planted irises and tiger lilies in a bed á la feng shui next to the train overpass. Past the Mactavish home, huge, with its big guard dog that has learned to like smooth rocks like me. The droopy branches of their heirloom trees form a canopy over the pavement. [

When I get to Pulaski, I reminisce over Jackie-turned-Sis-Het-Heru who years ago saw my husband Mark on the street and said, “Here, take these books to your woman. I know she is a bibliophile.” Hundreds of books from her personal library, a Ph.D at Temple University. She had forsaken the academic gods up North for your Egyptian ones along Germantown Avenue, rocking a bald head and a tunic in December. We wheeled her Baldwins and Emechetas home in a little red shopping cart. And so, as I stroll through your Green Society Hill streets, I say a simple prayer to/for Jackie-turned-Sis-Het-Heru, which is also a prayer to/for you.

And I get to singing something out loud, maybe one of my own songs or some jazz standard I’m practicing for a gig, and it’s when I’m walking up Schoolhouse like this, or any of your streets whose names I’ve made romantic, that I feel like I’m on stage—a real chanteuse—and I’m perfectly pitched as I get to Wayne Avenue, not before I nod towards your brothers on the halfway house porch and to the banana tree in front of the Sawyer house. I got married in the Sawyers’ backyard, beyond that banana tree.

Born to you and not from you. Bound for you and bound to you. I find pieces of you on each block and gather them up. You give me love. Like the brother walking up the street in a funk and a daze. Like the kids smoking an L in the brash light of morning. Like the sister on a corner prowl. The part of you I love best is darker than Poe.

I was searching for a pyramid in you, Philly. But pyramids don’t grow here, and that’s alright. Poems do.



Yolanda Wisher – Sincerely, Philadelphia: A Letter to Our New President

Need a vacation? Start planning now: 9 flight deals for January 2017

I think it’s safe to say that everyone is already over the unwelcomed artic blast. Although traveling after the Holidays may not be ideal (if you’re like me who just spent it all on bills and gifts), its the best time to find mindblowing flight deals and vacation packages. Here are 9 flight deals for January that wont leave you completely broke:

1. Travel from Philly to Miami

Travel to Miami THEN to LA

2. Travel from New York to Canada 

3. Travel from NY to Milan, Italy

4. Travel from NY to Dallas, Texas

5. Travel from California to Hawaii

6. Boston to Mexico City

7. Philadelphia to Puerto Rico

8. New York to Montego Bay

9. New York to Turks and Caicos

For more information on affordable flights visit and sign up for the daily newsletter at the Flight Deal’s official website.

Prefer the cold? Check out USA Today’s article “10 beaches you have to see in winter “

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