In This Issue - May 2016
In honor of Women's History Month, FunTimes is highlighting women who are making a difference in people's lives, in their businesses, in their careers, in their communities, in their countries and our world. In recognition of their commitment and dedication to their communities we have decided to feature a select few.
Dr Cordelia Uddoh
Dr. Mrs. Uddoh is a mother, wife, physician, entrepreneur, philanthropist and community organizer who has broken so many barriers.
She described it this way, "In Nigeria, women play all kinds of roles. My mother-in-law once told me that the women own the inside of a home and the men own the outside. I believe women make things happen both at home and in the community. In the village, the women with the support of their men, build and maintain the schools, hospitals, roads, markets and other infrastructures."
Reminiscing her early days in America, Dr. Uddoh recounts how on admission to University of Pennsylvania Medical School, her initial thought was to become an OBGYN with the intention of teaming up with her husband who is an OBGYN. Along the way she discovered she was not passionate with OBGYN and instead found her niche in ophthalmology. Dr. Uddoh says, "The eye is the most beautiful organ in the body. I can look at it all day. I love what I do. I am mostly an Anterior Segment surgeon with focus on cataract, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and eyelid surgery. As a board certified comprehensive eye physician and surgeon, my practice offers a full range of eye care, from the routines to surgeries at both our Philadelphia and Willow Grove offices."
Born in Kano, Northern Nigeria, as the second of eight children to Chief & Mrs. Agogbua, Dr. Uddoh remembers when her father was transferred by the Nigerian Railway Corporation from Northern Nigerian to South-Eastern Nigeria about a year to the beginning of the Nigerian civil war. In hindsight, that was a providential intervention to safeguard the entire family from the mayhem of that civil war. The experiences of the civil war marked a turning point in the young life of Cordelia.
Dr. Uddoh explains that the survival of the Igbo-Nigerian American community is dear to her heart. She has devoted her time, talent and treasure to ensure that this immigrant community succeeds in America. She articulates it thus, "we owe it to ourselves and generations to come to find a way to preserve our culture, encourage our young people and chart a better future for all."
Dr. Uddoh knows the importance of a strong minority base as seen in the African- American communities. She states, "I see them as my sisters and brothers in struggle. They know what survival as a minority in the U.S. means. African people should emulate some of these values of unity and cohesion."
Dr. Uddoh would like to be remembered for the numerous times she made a difference in people's lives, "I love helping people. I wouldn't be in the position I am today if I wasn't helped. All you need to do is look around and see how the generosity of people has made things possible for those who are coming along."
Hon. Abla Dzifa Gomashie
Gomashie believes that women need to share their stories more through writing and social media so that young people can be empowered to dare to be different. "It's through the narrative of people who are doing well that we empower other women. These stories should find their way into curriculum and not just stay in the social circles," urges Hon. Gomashie, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts for Ghana. She says "Too often we've seen images of our heroes and they're usually men. But there are women who are doing amazingly well. It is a woman who raises a child to be a great person--that woman is a hero; that woman has to be celebrated, Gomashie says. Successful men are because of women.�We have heroes in our communities. Look at them and dare to be different. We need to change the stories about our own people. We need to read more and put the flag of Africa in the right place--Africa is not only disease and war. Africa is about beauty, it's about diversity, and it's about strength."
Gomashie (whose stool name is Maama Dzramedo I of Aflao) has a Master of Philosophy in African Studies, Bachelor in Fine Arts, and Diploma in Theater Arts. She has worked in the creative arts industry for nearly three decades and has produced and directed many Ghanaian television programs including the popular story telling show, By the Fire Side. Gomashie was the Chief Executive of Values for Life, a non-governmental organization she founded to promote the creative arts and culture among youth in Ghana. She is one of Ghana's most talented performers and has received several awards for her work. Prior to her appointment in government, she was also the Managing Director of Mama Dzifa's Kitchen, a restaurant that specialized in local Ghanaian dishes. "I love to cook and I love to eat; I'm married with children. That's a bit about me!" Gomashie smiles.
Gomashie continues, "I wish more African countries would do what Philadelphia has done for me, which is to bridge the gap between Africans: then we would move the Diaspora forward." She says, "It's a myth to talk about Africa and instability; the entire continent is not unstable. We Africans owe it to ourselves to change that narrative and celebrate the successes of Africa even as we pull along areas where there's turmoil. When we have an opportunity to tell our stories, we often reinforce the status quo, but that has to change."
Looking forward to her legacy she notes, "I want to be remembered as one who made a difference; that I honored God through the choices that he made for me; that I made this world a better
place than I found it."
Last April, Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention brought onboard Tiffany Newmuis as the DNC's Director of Diversity and Community Engagement. Newmuis is taking a break from her role as Director of Diversity Programs with the Pennsylvania Convention Center. "My work is to help business owners understand the DNC event and our needs in the business community, including our vendor opportunities," Newmuis explained.
Diversity in Leadership
Expressing delight on how diverse the city of Philadelphia's decision makers are, she observes "Having diverse leadership, especially women, brings another level of innovation from people who see the world through different lenses; it forces us to think differently with a variety of solutions to help us solve issues and problems that we face." Adding, "Our City's diverse leadership builds on what people are most interested in a fantastic experience that is unlike any other in the world. It's about the unique culture here."
Advice to Young Entrepreneurs
"I think emerging entrepreneurs need to think outside the box by seeking opportunities, instead of getting hung up on the lack of capital or other limitations," says Newmuis. "As a woman, it's important to focus on what your perspective as a woman has to offer to the situation. Your voice is unique so bring that to the table."
As for how she wants to be remembered, Newmuis was direct. "I try to conduct myself according to Maya Angelou's quote, 'People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.' I drive myself with the highest of ethical thought for that reason." She states, "I want my legacy to be, 'She might not have articulated herself in the perfect way but she made me feel welcome, like I was very much included.'"
"At 64, I've been doing a lot of thinking about Mary, God's purpose for me and the legacy of being the daughter of an architect entrepreneur. I too, am an entrepreneur as founder of M. Livingston Group, a Human Resources Consultant and Training company. I ask myself, why do I keep so engaged with my company's clients and devote so much time to helping small businesses as well as serve as caregiver to my mother and grandsons?
"So far my answer is that I understand that God has a purpose for each of us," Livingston muses. "This encourages me to keep on stepping up to that purpose for my life. In December I accepted the position as President of SCORE Philadelphia."
"We are a volunteer non-profit organization who provides counseling, mentoring and education services to America's small business. I've been involved here since 2007 and with the Atlanta chapter since 2005. I really enjoy seeing people's excitement when they talk about their business and their possibilities. The passion shows in their faces, body language and comments as they talk about what it means to be a business owner,"� Livingston says.
Talking about her upbringing, Livingston says, "My dad, an African American, left such a huge footprint in Philadelphia, which encourages me to continue doing what I do." Adding, "I worked with the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group for nearly 20 years, leaving this organization as Human Resources Director. When I left the NYT regional newspaper group, I became the Program Director for a Maynard Institute's Media Leadership Program held at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, at Northwestern University. I then traveled across the country working for a national training company; it was fun helping people with their professional development. I came back to Philadelphia in 2007 to spend quality time with my parents."
SCORE's Goals for 2016
"We are working to create a strong body of members and leaders as well as organizational effectiveness with processes in place to ensure that SCORE stays successful," Livingston outlines. "As President, I encourage collaborations with other agencies that have similar missions such as The Enterprise Center, and local community and neighborhood business associations, as a resource partner with the Small Business Association (SBA)."
"I would like to be remembered for being there when needed." Adding, "I have been and will continue to be available to help others realize their goals and their dreams. I work with my church running a reading circle for women. We are now reading Fervent, the prequel to The War Room, a powerful movie. I'm also involved with my grandsons, three who currently enrolled in college with one becoming an Eagle Scout. I am very proud of all my 7 grandchildren."
"When I think about the fabric of this country and what it was founded on, I believe that women have always been the underlying strength wherever they were," Livingston says. "I see women in leadership roles even if they don't have the title," Livingston summarizes. "I don't consider myself a Shero, however, I am proud that FunTimes is featuring me as one. I say this not as Mary Livingston but as one of all of the women who are giving, helping, sustaining, supporting, encouraging, and growing." "I was working with the Southwest Community Development Corporation (CDC) talking with immigrants about effective business practices and providing excellent customer service," Livingston recounts. "Now I'm honored to be on FunTimes Advisory Board of Directors, helping to reach a very important niche mostly ignored by other media in spite of the magazine's growth throughout the Mid-Atlantic states and the African and Caribbean communities. I feel this allegiance to the magazine due to my mother's birthright. We are from Trinidad."
Uva Cristina Coles
Born and raised in the Republic of Panama, Uva Coles migrated to the United States after receiving a full academic scholarship to the historic Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, shortly after her graduation from high school. The decision was a difficult one as she left her native home in the midst of the military unrest that was straining the political relationship between the United States and Panama. Encouraged by her family to seek higher opportunity ground, Uva arrived in the United States armed with one specific goal: to have impact.
Today, Uva is Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Strategic Partnerships with Peirce College in Philadelphia, PA. She works with the College's Executive Leadership Team in driving a steadfast commitment to bridging the competency gap between higher education and business. In her role, Uva leads her teams in building institutional employer partnerships, identifying alignment for strategic philanthropy focused on workforce and diversity and inclusion priorities, engaging alumni, and supporting students in their career management. She believes that Peirce's adult learners fuel Philadelphia's workforce and her job is to support their academic achievement and workforce alignment.
Advice to Young Entrepreneurs
Her message to young people is, "You have to learn, find all available resources, and seek out mentors who can guide and support you." Coles urges, "Be honest with yourself about your skills; if there is a gap academic or otherwise, resolve to fill it. And remember, the people who breakthrough sometimes aren't the best, they are just courageous enough to be fully committed to achieve their goals. Invest in yourself first before asking others to invest in you. Your belief in yourself will pay you unequivocal dividends, confidence, legitimacy, growth."
How Women Can Make a Difference
"Yes, there is still a glass ceiling; to me that's fuel,"�Coles explains. "What is important is not to see that glass lid as insurmountable. Glass, like all other obstacles, can be broken, shattered. Push yourself into spaces not designed for women if those spaces are where you wish to be. And when you get there, look around, settle in, and make sure that you create space for others who have been marginalized. That can be other women or people of color or of varying abilities."� She continues, "When you have experienced marginalization, it is important that you challenge the thinking, the behaviors, the environments, and the people responsible for creating it. Normalize the space you occupy. Make sure it reflects a diverse and inclusive community. If not, why are you there? What is your purpose?"
Using this same spirit, passion, and over 20 years of experience in business as well as what Uva codifies as her calling, Uva recently launched a self-development program called Girls Wine. It is safe space where women gather once a month to commune, discuss their challenges, and develop tools to propel themselves to purposeful living. In Girls Wine, we activate our innate gifts to arrive at a place that is spiritually fulfilling.
Impact and Legacy
"Between having a great job at Peirce, fulfilling my calling with Girls Wine, and having the love and support of my husband and two sons, I believe I am beginning to live out the impact I am committed to have. That's not just rewarding, it's essential. It's Oxygen."
In thinking about her legacy, Coles reflects, "I hope that the people who come in contact with me see a person of integrity. My goal is simple. I hope to learn, grow, inspire, motivate, support, love, teach. I hope that I do enough, serve enough, impact enough, that my life, in retrospect, will be considered well lived."
Sharon Mitchell lives her goal to be remembered as a person who helps anyone in her community. Each day she strives to be true to her philosophy of life, "Do what you can, make the best of it, and if you can't do something, then try something else that will work for you."
Mitchell is the Manager of the Parkside Branch of American Heritage Credit Union (AH) at the Shoprite Supermarket on 52nd Street in West Philadelphia. During her 10-year tenure, she has worked her way up through three positions, staying at each level for about two years.
Branch of the Year Award
Mitchell beamed as she talked about being a part of earning the American Heritage Branch of the Year Award. "It's a big honor," she exclaimed, "AH has over 5 in-store branches, as well as 25 stand-alones. We are the first in-store branch to be established with the company, and because of our achievements, AH has been able to grow to open about five or six more store locations. It's a big accomplishment and we're also the first store to receive this honor. We enjoy working with the people in the community."
Mitchell describes the joy she feels when she is able to get people on track in handling financial responsibilities from buying that home to purchasing a property for an investment or to buying a better car. She summarizes, "I have no problem helping people build up their finances to get through to where they need to be. At the same time, I am a single parent--grandmother of two, and mother of three, all in their 20s and college graduates. My two daughters, just 24 and 26, have purchased their own homes; my son will be purchasing his next year."
Encouraging Other Women
"Since I've been with American Heritage, there have been a number of women that have gone from lower areas to higher areas within the company,"�Mitchell relays. "I think women are able to accomplish any goal, no matter whether it is raising children, going to college, and/or establishing their own businesses; start learning by word of mouth, and networking to spread the word. Getting education and a foundation helps achieve anything."
"I want to say to everyone that FunTimes is a great magazine," Mitchell states. It provides a lot of information that otherwise would not be known in our community. It is a great plus for all of us in the African Diaspora. I urge everyone to reach out and reap the benefits of supporting FunTimes.