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Boots on the Ground in Flint, Michigan



Recently, Jay sent me a text telling me that he wanted me to be involved with a “project” he was working on. Jay is the kind of guy that you want to have in your corner – an inspirational, creative, genuine person with a passion for life and his people.

So with that in mind I’m like “yeah I’m down.” Late one Thursday evening after a hard workout, he introduced me to something that would dominate my mind for days. Something so ridiculous, so tragic and crippling to an entire city. We spoke for about twenty minutes over an off-beat cadence of basketball dribbling and occasional jump shots but focused on the mission at hand. Four hours from our doorsteps, tens of thousands of people were being affected by an act of domestic genocide. A slow killer was being consumed by the citizens of Flint, Michigan and the local government let it happen. Lead poisoning; people dying or dead, babies affected, elderly suffering, many poor in need, on a path to torment, with nowhere to go.

Flint, Michigan, water, Move On, health

Photo Credit: Ken Williams

Flint is a predominately African-American, low-income city that although carries so much pride, is a city of people faced with many obstacles and now, poisoned water, for now nearly two years. We know that Governor Snyder and his administration would have never allowed this to happen in more economically advantaged cities in Michigan. has been leading a heavy charge against Snyder calling him to take proper action and raising awareness including #UnPureMichigan, a play on the state’s tourism slogan, Pure Michigan, and 

Here are some facts:

1. Drinkable lead ratio in water = 2% | lead found in flint water 27%.
2. April 2014 – a boil notice came out for Flint, Michigan residents

3. Governor Rick Snyder knew about this issue for at least one year before taking any action

Flint, Michigan, water, Move On, health

Photo Credit: Ken Williams

With all this to consider, a plan was already in motion; all I had to do was be present. I was captured by Jay’s statement “the government moves slow. If we have the ability to do something, why should we wait?”

A four hour drive to Flint is where we met Maurell and DC – two brothers from Flint – who both have family affected by this terrible issue. Our boots hit the ground and we went door-to-door in three different neighborhoods. While each person who answered the door bore a different name, they are all related for they were all like spouses in an arranged marriage. We shook hands with the cold, calculated hands of American oppression and tried to soothe the wounds of the abused. Some were fearful to answer the door to strangers though our complexion was the same.

Flint, Michigan, water, Move On, health

Photo Credit: Ken Williams

One of my best friends confirmed something about myself and people who are moved by a vision of positively affecting the world we live in. “We weren’t made to work a 9-5 and be home-bodies; we are compelled, because we know that this is bigger than us.”

From celebrities, to corporations, and most importantly, every day people, voices are being heard. Aid is being provided. People are being brought together. We just want to see proper action taken by those who can truly fix the problem.

I’m far from perfect, I’m far from fully realizing my dreams, but i’m writing this because I’m on my way……. finally.

Ken Williams is a Columbus, OH based photographer by way of Cleveland, OH. Street photography and urban exploration were his original draws to picking up a camera. The feeling of finding and capturing something captivating cannot be duplicated or explained. It's not a rush from a thrill for Ken but more of a subtle satisfaction and an overwhelming joy. Since he has picked up his camera he has been compelled to tell stories. There is a moral responsibility that every artist should strive to uphold, and that is regardless of the medium. Having been through many hells in his life and have witnessed many tragedies, that is what shapes him as a photographer - not to only convey struggles and the darker side of life, but not to shy away from it. Ken believes that we all have voices; his voice just to happens to ring loudest through visuals.

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Recap: 2018 Finding Ashley Stewart Event

Watch our recap of the 2018 Finding Ashley Stewart Finale Pink Carpet at the King’s Theater in Brooklyn, New York.



Photo: Finding Ashley Stewart

The 2nd annual Finding Ashley Stewart Contest searched around the U.S. in search of a diva who personifies Ashley Stewart and everything she stands for: kindness, resilience, confidence, community and fashion! In the video below, Finding Ashley Stewart host and comedian Loni Love, 2018 Miss Ashley Stewart winner Tiffany Gosa-Flamer, journalist and author Soledad O’Brien, DJ Kid Capri, actress Andrea Rachel-Parker, Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Peter Thomas, Essence Editor-at-Large Mikki Taylor and Naughty by Nature all talk with BFT contributor Ryen Watkins about the importance of this competition and how Ashley Stewart is immersing themselves into the communities that support the brand.

Video: Ryen Watkins
@ryenwatkins (IG)

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Greenleaf Star Deborah Joy Winans Talks About Overcoming Self-Doubt and Achieving Self-Love



Greenleaf, Deborah Joy Winans, OWN
Photo: OWN

It’s hard to find a black family who didn’t grow up listening to the legendary Winans family, or at least know someone who did. From Bebe and CeCe, to Marvin, to Vickie, the Winans family has an annointing! But not everyone in the Winans family has chosen to make a primary career out of singing. 34-year-old Deborah Joy knew in her spirit she wanted to become an actress. The pursuit of her true passion paid off, as she was seen by Oprah at a workshop, and offered the opportunity to play Charity Greenleaf. Ironically, Charity is a singer!

Black Fitness Today caught up with Winans to discuss her success as an actress living her dream, and how she has overcome colorism and struggles with body positivity, to truly love herself and who she has been called to be. We know that wellness starts from within, and a healthy body is meaningless without a healthy mind and spirit.

Winans says she’s living her dreams thanks to her big breakthrough to starring as Charity Greenleaf on OWN’s hit drama series, Greenleaf. She credits her family as being a dynamic support system, as they constantly cheered her on as she worked towards her dream.

Even though her family was very supportive, Winans says she still dealt with a lot of self-confidence issues as a black woman with a darker complexion. Winans noticed a difference in the way she was treated in high school when events and activities came around that required a date. Winans says women with a lighter complexion would get more attention and she even recalls asking her dad, “Is it because I’m dark?”

Black womens’ battle with complexion is nothing new. We have all been culturally conditioned to view lighter skin as a the standard-bearer for beauty. It is refreshing to see the shifts in beauty and what our culture views as acceptable.

“I had to learn to see myself the way God saw me.”

When it came to career goals and dreams, Winans always knew she wanted to be an actress, even though she grew up in a singing family. Daughter to Carvin Winans, Deborah grew up amongst chart-topping hits and albums across her family, but has said she did not grow up singing.

“I always knew what I wanted to do, but I never saw anyone who looked like me in film.”

Despite not getting attention from her peers as a teen, Winans realized one day she had to be a role-model for darker girls, especially those who didn’t get the same love and support from their family as she did.

Winans acknowledges Oprah Winfrey as a beacon during her childhood.  And today, she says the black representation in television and film is, “absolutely amazing!”

“If [Oprah] can pursue her dreams like this, certainly at some point, somebody will see me too.”

Winans pursued theater in school and after completing her Master’s program, she knew she’d done all the work necessary to move forward in her acting career. But that is when self-doubt started to hit. After hearing so many “no’s,” Winans began to wonder if acting was truly the career path she should be pursuing. Winans thanks her husband, attorney and community activist, Terrence Williams, for being the motivation she needed. After meeting Williams, Winans says she still didn’t have an agent, and hadn’t really booked anything.

Deborah Joy Winans, OWN, Greenleaf

Photo: YouTube

Still questioning God and wondering when her moment was coming, Winans recalls Williams sharing advice, “you have to be open and you have to be ready.” Months later, Winans was doing a family workshop production in NYC. Oprah attended, saw Winans performing, and pitched her to the network for the role of Charity.

“I knew I had done the work, it’s just a matter of being able to have an opportunity.”

She credits her support system for believing in her more than she even believed in herself. While currently prepping for Season 3, Winans notes how balance is more important than ever. With a full time schedule with Greenleaf and having a family life as well, Deborah Joy says it’s all about making “day-to-day decisions.”

Whether its deciding what time she needs to wake up to make sure her home is taken care of before heading to work, or simply deciding what to eat while on set, Winans says you have to constantly choose what’s best for you.

After being nominated for Best New Artist at the Stellar Awards, Winans is currently trying to figure out if singing will be one of the next steps in her future. She did however, have a single on the Greenleaf soundtrack, The Master’s Calling, that shot to the top 20 on the Gospel Billboard chart. Along with constantly writing, it’s safe to say, Deborah Joy Winans will have a busy 2018!

“When you recognize who you are in God and who you belong to, you know that there is nothing that is for you, that you won’t get.”

Follow Deborah Joy Winans at, @deborahjoywinans – Instagram and @deborahjwinans – Twitter to stay in the loop with what she’s up to next!

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American Bobsledder Aja Evans Looks to Bring Home Gold at the Winter Olympics



aja evans, winter olympics,
Photo: Sports Illustrated

Bobsledding might be the sport to watch in this winter’s Olympic Games. We’re seeing more representation and more awareness of the sport. It has been nearly two decades since Vonetta Flowers became the first African-American bobsledder to bring home a Gold Medal in 2002. In 2017, we found out that Nigeria would have a bobsledding team of black girl magic competing for the first time ever, which brought even more excitement about representation in the sport. But did you know that we’ve got an African-American woman from Chicago representing TEAM USA? 29-year-old Aja Evans will be competing in the Olympics for the SECOND time, after winning a Bronze medal in 2014.

Evans is using her platform to encourage more participation from people of color in on-ice sports. Her story was also recently featured in Procter and Gamble’s Love Over Bias campaign who spotlight athletes who found their deepest encouragement from their mothers.

“I saw that I could be a symbol of power and resilience and strength for others,” Evans says, “and I wanted to own that. … It was a powerful realization to understand I was standing for so much more. I was representing where I’m from. I was representing African-American women all across the world…In this city and the areas I grew up in, so many kids are closed-minded and they don’t think there’s any more to life outside of where they are,” she says. “But I’m living proof that there is. When I talk to kids, I want them to see my (Olympic) medal and to understand I accomplished these things because I refused to let anyone tell me I couldn’t.”

We are already inspired by Evans and will be cheering her on! The 2018 Winter Games in South Korea begin February 7th on NBC, but catch the opening ceremony on February 9th.

Read more about Aja Evans and her journey as an elite athlete here.

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