Monthly Archives: July 2010

Music…A Non-partisan Magic

By Allison Brooke Gordon

“America the Beautiful” was one of several songs performed by soul singer Aretha Franklin and former U.S. Secretary of State and classical pianist Condoleezza Rice at a recent one-time only performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The 2-hour concert shared by this dynamic duo reminded me how truly beautiful America is.

Before the performance I was curious how Ms. Rice and Ms. Franklin would share the stage. How exactly do you compose a musical program of classical and soul, diva and conservative, Democrat and Republican? I wasn’t the only one anxious to find out.

Nearly 8,000 people filled the seats and sprawled the lawn at the Mann Center in Philadelphia to hear these unique artists. It was a beautiful site not only because proceeds from the tickets were a benefit for children in music and arts, but also beautiful because of the diversity of the audience. It was a joyous gathering of people of different ages, ethnicities, religions and political affiliations. I doubt anyone cared. What mattered were the melodies. It’s amazing how music just does that.

The diversity of the audience was matched by the diversity of the musical selections played. The Philadelphia Orchestra opened with a soothing “Candide” overture, later followed by a variety of genres. Classical, soul, gospel hymns, and even opera crossed the lips and or finger tips of Ms. Franklin and Ms. Rice.

The audience was pleased. A sea of heads bobbed, swayed, and at times some even looked to the heavens in praise. Hands clapped, fingers snapped, a few hundred air tambourines played along, I’m sure. It was a small reflection of the diversity of our country; the diversity of its people and its talents—coming together to celebrate music and the arts.

Music has the power to make us all feel as one. Though some of us prefer certain sounds or instruments over others, music in general is a non-partisan magic that brings us all together… from sea to shining to sea.

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Woman to Watch: Suzanne Shank

Occupation: President and CEO of Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., LLC, since its inception in October 1996.

Education: Graduate of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania with a Masters of Business Administration in Finance, and the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.

Previous Career: Suzanne functioned as an engineer with General Dynamics, Electric Boat Division, where she worked as a Design Engineer on various design projects.

Childhood Dream: To become a Social Worker

What She Does Now: As a founder and co-owner of the company and a member of its board of directors, Shank has participated in municipal financings totaling more than $356 million. Suzanne has led financings for large-scale projects for many issuers, including in the Northeast, the cities of New York, Philadelphia and the State of Connecticut.

History Maker: Siebert Brandford Shank is the largest minority- and women-owned municipal finance firm. They have been lead manager in issuance of $5 billion in tax-exempt bonds.

Awards and Recognition: Suzanne was honored by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of the “50 Most Influential Black Women in Business” (February 2006 Issue), and as one of the “75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street” (October 2005 and October 2006). She has also been recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business as one of the 40 outstanding leaders under 40. Additionally, she was named National Entrepreneur of the Year by the Madame CJ Walker Center and named as one of  “Metropolitan Detroit’s Most Influential Black Women” by the Women’s Informal Network (Detroit and Wayne County).

Volunteer Efforts: She has a deep commitment to and passion for public service as evidenced by her contribution to charities that help those less fortunate. She spearheaded the formation of the Detroit Summer Finance Institute, an internship program that has introduced more than 70 high school students to the financial world in the past three years. She also is vice president of the founding board of W.A.V.E., an initiative to help poor residents pay their water utility bills. Ms. Shank serves as a Board member of CAMERA, the Caribbean American Mission for Education Research in Action, which links educators and educational institutions to develop and implement programs that support, augment and strengthen the capacity and capabilities of educational systems in the Caribbean and the region that includes Philadelphia, the District of Columbia and New York. She is also a founding member of the Michigan Women in Finance and is a member of the Board of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Recently she served a three-year term on the Board of Directors for the Bond Market Association, and is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

Family Ties: “My favorite undertaking in life is raising my two daughters, Devin and Camryn, with my husband,”

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Poll: Should Race Be a Factor in Essence’s Hiring?

Last week we heard some news that left many aghast. Essence Magazine had hired a white fashion director, Ellianna Placas, formerly of O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine. Some feel like it is a magazine for black women by black women. Others feel like we are beyond race and good fashion is good fashion regardless. This news has undoubtedly caused a lot of mixed thoughts. We even saw some mixed reviews on our Facebook Fan Page.

You can check out some of the articles about this here:

So tell us what you think – is this progressive or regressive?

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Avoiding the Bouquet

By Kailei Richardson

Don’t you remember the days when, in the not so distant past, many women looked forward to the bouquet toss at weddings? Women would fight over the flowers – sometimes harming the bouquet or each other in the process. But recently there has been a noticeable change. I’ve noticed many weddings don’t even have the traditional bouquet/garter toss. And those that do seem to have much different outcomes than years past.  Which is what happened at a lovely wedding I attended this past weekend in Dallas. Attendees of the wedding included many of the bride’s girlfriends, many who were single, beautiful, and successful with advanced degrees from top institutions.

After dinner, we hit the dance floor, did the Cupid Shuffle and the likes, when “Single Ladies” came on and the bride approached the dance floor holding her bouquet. As I looked around I realized that the women around me knew what was coming next and there seemed to be a reluctance and hesitation as they entered the dance floor.

So there we were, the “single ladies.” Some women were playing the part, looking like they would participate, while others were there with their arms folded, standing in the back. But I still expected that all would change once the flowers were airborne. Then the moment of truth came. The bouquet was in the air and descending towards the crowd, when it starts to land to my left. Though it looked like it was going to land between my two friends, it was like the parting of the seas when they split in the opposite direction to avoid it! To my surprise there were no “‘bows throwed,” nor did anyone rush to pick up the bouquet on the floor. After about five or so seconds, once this was clear, someone came to pick it up, realizing that she might as well claim it as clearly, no one else was.
This episode made me think, is it that we are so jaded by the stats about marriage rates of black women that we don’t even want to get our hopes up, or are more of us becoming okay with forever being single ladies? Let us know what you think.


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The Vyne 9: Not So Neutral Neutral Shoes

Shoes in beiges, browns, and flesh tones may sound dull, drab, and safe. But in this week’s The Vyne 9, we’ve found nine pairs of neutral colored shoes that are anything but dull.

1. Martinez Valero ‘Corona’ Sandal
2. Kelsi Dagger ‘Camellia’ Sandal
3. Tory Burch ‘Graham’ T-Strap Sandal
4. L.A.M.B. Quintessa
5. Charles David Women’s Chic Sandal
6. Chinese Laundry Women’s Willy Dress Sandal
7. Nine West Women’s Desine Ankle-Strap Sandal
8. Report Signature Women’s Vandam Strappy Dress Sandal
9. Gucci ‘Carrie’ High-Heel Platform Sandal

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“Shirley-gate”: Right Wing Conspiracy or Media Goof?

If you’ve been watching any of the major news stations this past week then you’ve heard about the debacle with Shirley Sherrod, former Georgia Director of Rural Development for the USDA. The gist of the story is that she was fired after making a speech that was edited into a few seemingly inflammable statements and posted on youtube by an “anti-obama administration” pseudo-journalist. The real debacle was the fact that Fox News, NAACP and others (not including CNN) took the youtube video as a credible source and publicly lodged claims of reverse racism on Shirley’s part and called for her resignation. Next thing you know someone in the administration called Shirley and forced her to resign from her position. Once the full tape of Shirley’s speech surfaced it turned out that her comments were taken completely out of context, which prompted a slew of public apologies as well as an offer for her to return to work with the USDA in a different capacity.

What’s interesting about this incident is that it completely overshadowed the President signing the historic Wall Street reform bill. Which begs the question, was this all a right wing stunt to steer the media away from covering the signing of the Wall Street reform bill? Or, less dramatically, was this just a colossal goof on the part of everyone who is responsible for keeping the “24 hour news cycle” going?

Tell us Vyne Readers, what do you think? Right wing conspiracy or colossal media goof?

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Heartbreak Repair Tips

Heartbreak. We’ve all experienced it. That feeling when your mind and body simultaneously realize that the man you’ve invested significant time and energy in and fantasized about the future with is no longer a part of your life. It’s that visceral response you have when you begin to imagine how your daily routine will change now that he is no longer a part of it. Often times the sadness of heartbreak can be so overwhelming that it paralyzes you. While there’s no cure for heartbreak, there are a few things you can do to get yourself back on the mend. Consider these six “heartbreak repair tips”:

1)   Cry – Give yourself permission to have a good ol’ fashioned ugly cry. Whether by yourself or with your friends, having a good cry can do wonders for preparing your body to release the person and the relationship in order to begin the grieving process. So go ahead…let it out!

2)   Soundtrack Your Heartbreak – Music is so healing. Try making four playlists for your iPod. Start by creating a “lovey dovey” playlist with all the romantic songs that make you think about him (e.g. Pattie LaBelle’s “If Only You Knew”). Next make a “you make me sick” playlist with songs expressing your anger about the situation (e.g. Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know”). Then make a “It’s time for me to get over you” playlist with songs like Mariah Carey’s “Shake it Off” and finally make a “I’m over it, happy and moving on” playlist with songs like Mary J. Blige’s “Just Fine”. Listen to the “lovey dovey” playlist until you’re ready to move to the “you make me sick” playlist, and so on. You’d be surprise how the music helps you through your grieving process.

3)   Plan Your Thinking and Crying – If you find that you keep thinking about him and crying throughout the day, try planning your thinking and crying. Sounds odd I know. But if you tell yourself, I’m only going to think/cry about the situation after 5pm it gives your brain a way to make it through the day and the part of you that wants to grieve will have something to look forward to. Eventually you’ll find that you can shorten the timeframes to “after 7pm”  or “just before bed time”. Soon, you’ll find you’ve gone a whole day without even thinking/crying about the situation.

4)   Keep Busy – You may not feel like talking and hanging out with your friends but do it anyway. It will keep your mind occupied so that you don’t spiral further down.

5)   Pamper Yourself – Do something to take care of yourself. Your mind, body and spirit are going through a rough time right now. And since all three are connected, doing something for your body (like a massage) can instantly raise the harmony levels in your mind and spirit.

6)   Ground Yourself – Take the time silent time at the end of your day to ground yourself. Whether it’s through prayer before bed, chanting, meditating or just being silent. Make it a habit to ground yourself in the reality that while your heart may be broken, you are not…and this too shall pass.

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Woman to Watch: Claire Babineaux-Fontenot

Occupation: Senior Vice President and Chief Tax Officer, Wal-Mart

Hometown: Opelousas, LA

Currently Living In: Bentonville, AR

Birthday: April 26

Bachelor’s from University of Louisiana at Lafayette,  JD  from Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge

Career Path: Started with Wal-Mart in 2004 as Vice President of Audit and Tax Policy, and became SVP and Chief Tax Officer in 2006. Prior to working for Wal-Mart, she worked in tax and general commercial litigation for law firm Adams & Reese, and also had worked for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, LLP as Dispute Resolution Practice Group Leader for the Southwest Region. Also amongst her positions have been Assistant Secretary of the Office of Legal Affairs for the Louisiana Department of Revenue and Administrative Law Judge.

Credits Her Success to: Her parents who were the son and daughter of Louisiana sharecroppers

Quotable: “My God and my family come first.  I am grateful to have worked in environments that compliment those priorities.”

Accolades: Top 100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America and one of the Top 75 Most Powerful Women in Business by Black Enterprise Magazine

Family: Husband Barry and two children, Barry Jr. and Sydney

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Six Item Wardrobe

In a time where the economy is weak and people continue to look for ways to simplify their life, it’s not surprising that “shopping diets” are springing up all over. Last month the NY Times did a story about these “diets” and featured one woman who went 31 days with only wearing six items from her closet (excluding accessories, shoes and underwear). The crazy thing is, people didn’t notice – not even her husband!

Sites like Six Items or Less and The Great American Apparel Diet (which asks you to go shopping free for a year!) are dedicated to similar challenges. Which prompted us to ask, could you go a full year without shopping? And, if you could only wear six items in your closet for a month, what would they be? Here are six of our choices:

Black Pants
like this shown in this Calvin Klein Suit

Black Blazer like this shown in this Calvin Klein Suit

Crisp Button Down Shirt (preferably white or a bright color) like this Classic Button Down white shirt from The Limited

Dark Wash Jeans like these Trouser Cut jeans by Banana Republic

Black Dress like this Tahari Seamed Ponte Knit Sheath dress

Good t-shirt (preferably white or a bright color) like this Yellow Jersey T-shirt from the Gap

Take the poll:

Also, tell us what your six items picks would be!


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Let Nature Take Its Course

Chances are, everyone at some point in their adult life, has felt drained for one reason or another. You know that feeling you get when you’re just not on your “A” game? Maybe your job is really busting your hump or perhaps you’re in a relationship that is stressful or maybe your personal “to-do list” is just not getting done. Whatever it is that takes you off balance, getting back on can often be a difficult thing to do.  Generally when it happens to me I use a variety of techniques to counteract it and last weekend I discovered another, less obvious but equally effective, way to get refueled.

It only took a trip to Longwood Botanical Gardens with a few great girlfriends to recharge my battery. If you’re thinking “how can walking through a massive garden recharge anyone’s battery” trust me, it can. We started out by having a yummy brunch at a local diner, then we proceeded to the botanical garden. The weather was magnificent, sunny and not a cloud in the sky. We walked and talked and walked some more. But what really made the experience a “battery recharger” was the stimulation of all our senses.

Our sight was stimulated by the vibrant colors of all the unusual flowers in the garden and the sound of the wind blowing through the trees coupled with the running waterfall, instantly put us all in a place of calm. As we walked we found ourselves taking in the texture of our environment by touching the petals of these beautiful plants. When we entered the conservatory we were treated to a display of the most fragrant plants and flowers that contribute to modern day perfumery. And finally we indulged our taste buds by stopping in the café nestled quietly above a field of playful waterfalls and treating ourselves to peach and raspberry ice cream.

By the time we hopped back in the car to start our journey back home it was obvious that the trip rejuvenated all of us. Something about breathing in that fresh air and stimulating all our senses brought about a feeling of balance and newfound energy. It was a dose of aromatherapy, color therapy and aerobic exercise all in one. We all couldn’t stop talking about what projects and unfinished tasks we were going to tackle once we got back home.

So the next time you’re feeling drained and off your “A” game, try taking a time out to walk a botanical garden and let nature naturally take it’s course….

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