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Imagination Movers The guys who like to figure things out are back!

Imagination Movers

The guys who like to figure things out are back!

By Ana García

Imagination Movers

The guys who like to figure things out are back!

Click aqui para español- >Contágiate de creatividad con Los Imaginadores

The city of New Orleans is always brimming with history, culture, cuisine, art, and music. People around the world have experienced its unique sounds of Jazz, Blues, Bounce, Brass, Hip-Hop, Zydeco, and much more. We can thank countless musicians such as the famous Louis Armstrong, Irma Thomas, Trombone Shorty, to name a few, for being an inspiration and for sharing their universal legacy. There is also a unique local music band that’s been “Brainstorming” for years and awakening the imagination of kids around the world. Dave Poche, Scott Durbin, Rich Collins, and Scott “Smitty” Smith are four “goofy” friends from Lakeview, Mid-City and together they are the Imagination Movers. We shared a cup of coffee with Smitty while he told us their success story.

“Everything had gone to animation or puppets, there were no people.” The idea of creating the group was born in 2002 at a friend’s birthday party. Their show would be about four friends who work in an “Idea Warehouse.” This warehouse is a metaphor for the child’s mind to solve problems. Mover Smitty remembered, “the first pilot script was about helping a child decide between a healthy snack and junk food.” Next came creating the music. They wrote three songs, “Snackin ABCs,” “My Favorite Snacks,’’ and “Good Ideas.” These became their first album called “Good Ideas.” This album later added other songs like “I Want My Mommy” and the fan-favorite “Brainstorming.” After putting out the record, selling it, and giving it to friends, their popularity grew, not only locally but regionally. The attention allowed them to create and release their first DVD, which was recorded during a live performance at the UNO Lakefront Arena. The DVD made it to Burbank, California, thanks to friends and opened the door to The Walt Disney Company.

Right from the start, the four movers knew how to “Reach high, Think big, Work hard, Have fun.” Their partnership with Disney helped them gain popularity in Europe and Latin America. According to Mover Smitty, their time at Disney brought them “one of the most fun creative challenges that they had” when writing songs for their television show. After 3 seasons, they began touring around the country.

The “Movers” are a real example of perseverance and resilience. Like many musicians in this business, they had to face some challenges and obstacles. However, they never lost sight of what their brand is all about: Kids. “Kids were being treated as consumers more than anything,” said Smitty. “We wanted kids to have fun using their creativity and using their imagination to solve problems.” It was importanto to the movers “not to play down to the kids, to play on their level, not to dumb down the music.”

The Imagination Movers have been “organic from the start.” All this is reflected in their more than 200 songs, television shows, concerts, and music videos. Their Facebook page has served as a way to stay relevant and to continue connecting with their audience. There, you can see them rehearsing and “goofing around” live. Their brotherhood is so strong that when they get together with their instruments, voices, and songs, magic happens, and you can really see their passion.

The Movers and their iconic blue suits are back with a new album called “Happy to Be Here” which includes five songs, “Happy,” “Robot Breaks Down,” “Leaves Fall Down,” “My Dog,” and “Alligators are Cute.” “Happy to Be Here” is a beautiful, fun, and very clever album that was born in an Airbnb in Manchac, Louisiana, literally, in the swamp. “We went there and brought our instruments. It’s almost like we were sequestered, it’s like, okay, we are here for a reason,” Mover Smitty recalled.

There’s no doubt that their “Big ideas” and inspiration for their new songs are, like the rest of their work, a group collaboration. An example is the lyrics from the song “My Dog,” in which each Mover wrote their own verses about their pets. “So, these lyrics are true, we are all dog owners, except for Dave who’s a cat owner, which is hilarious,” Smitty commented. “Scott’s dog Hershey, his dog pees when you pet him. When I come home my dog picks up a shoe, and brings it to me,” he added smiling. The song “Robot Breaks Down” is one of Smitty’s favorites, he describes it as “It’s just so poppy, candy goodness.” The video for this song was filmed in City Park and was directed by Abby Collins, Mover Rich’s daughter.

What is in store for the Movers? As true New Orleanians, their love for the city, their community, and their passion for music motivate them to keep moving forward. And the Hispanic community is no exception. For their 20th anniversary in 2022, the Movers have a surprise, and in a sneak preview, they told us that it includes Spanish language content. “We’ve been working on a song - tentatively titled Te Digo Que Te Amo (De Muchas Maneras) and we’re also looking to re-record Brainstorming in Spanish. For us, we are aware of our impact and how what we’ve created resonated with our Spanish-speaking fans. It’s our goal to respectfully recognize our fan base as evidenced by our desire to give back even as we create.”

Mover Smitty finished off this interview by giving a special message to the community: “If you are passionate about what you want to do, just do it! We just kind of believed it and we worked to push it along.”

You will never know where that idea could take you and if you need a little inspiration just look at the Imagination Movers.

Photo Credit: Adams Photography


*** The Imagination Movers television show, which originally aired on Disney Junior from 2008 to 2013, is available again on Disney+.


*** Want to support?

Get a “El lema de Los Imaginadores” t-shirt on imaginationmovers.com Proceeds will go to diverse non-profits supported by Los Imaginadores.

Dr. Roy Salgado. Supporting Mental Health in our Community

Dr. Roy Salgado.
Supporting Mental Health in our Community
By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- >El doctor Roy Salgado y su aporte a la salud mental en la comunidad

During the COVID-19 pandemic, struggles with mental health have brought what used to be a taboo topic to the main stage. The greatest gymnast of all times, Simone Biles, withdrew from the most crucial competition in her field, the Olympic games, citing the need for mental health as the reason for her shocking announcement. High-performing athletes such as Naomi Osaka and Michael Phelps have publicly recognized their mental state. At the same time, entertainers like Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez keep bringing the topic to the mainstream media.

Health practitioners and officials in Louisiana and, particularly in New Orleans, quickly recognized the impact of mental health in the community. The University of Holy Cross was one of the first institutions to react and address the need for health counseling. They expanded their counseling services by providing free access to Tele counseling for New Orleans area residents.

The television series “Coping During the COVID Crisis” helped reach a broader audience with information about mental health issues that many in the community were experiencing. Dr. Roy Salgado, Associate Professor of Counseling at the University of Holy Cross, chose the most relevant topics for the TV program and provided resources to the community. The program airs on WLAE-TV Fridays at 8:00 P. M.

Salgado has been a faculty member of the University of Holy Cross since shortly after hurricane Katrina. Born in New Orleans to Honduran parents, Salgado is fully bilingual and has provided critical mental services and health information in English and Spanish. Over twenty years, his trajectory involves working with vulnerable communities and providing counseling to immigrants, victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse, and domestic violence.

He is a Psychology major graduate from Tulane University and received his master’s degree in Counseling and his Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of New Orleans. “When I began working in health counseling, I was one of the very few licensed Latinos who could provide these services.” When there was an influx of unaccompanied children about six years ago, Salgado worked on a project and gathered health professionals who could support the vulnerable minors, finding only about 23 qualified counselors qualified to provide their services in Spanish.

He realizes there is a greater need today to have representation in the healthcare field. “We need more health providers, whether it is in medicine or counseling, who speak Spanish so that we can meet the demand for these services in our community.”

He has made it part of his mission as faculty to promote access to higher education to everyone. Still, as a Latino, he wants to make sure more Latino students go into professional careers. “We need professional Latinos in our community that cross-culturally understand the community,” says Salgado.

The University of Holy Cross currently has about 5% of a Latino student population. Salgado uses every opportunity to promote the growth of the University, the various programs the University offers, and advocates for careers in Counseling. “I have been able to recruit some Latino students into the program who have served in my private practice as interns. I was able to multiply myself by hiring some of them.”

That additional help is essential at a time when mental health is the topic of many discussions. “Even though not everyone has been infected, everyone has been affected by the virus. Many people have experienced the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, income, community, society, and all of this has impacted the individuals, so there are high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and fear.”

According to Salgado, the most significant need during this fourth surge of the Coronavirus is conflict resolution. “There is a battle between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. We have to learn how to listen to each other without judging or adding heat to an already complex situation.”

Salgado stresses the importance of understanding that we are all humans that react differently to each situation. “When we feel overwhelmed or exhausted, it is a normal reaction of a human being, and not necessarily of a person who is sick, or someone that needs psychiatric help. It’s normal to recognize that sometimes we need help from our family, friends, and if that help is not enough because they don’t have enough resources, perhaps that’s when we need to seek professional help.”

If you are interested in a career in counseling, you can contact Dr. Roy Salgado by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Chef Melissa Araujo’s Alma

Chef Melissa Araujo’s Alma

By Ana García

Click aqui para español- >Melissa Araujo: Alma de Chef

The city of New Orleans is world-renowned for its delicious cuisine. Thanks to the fact that this city enjoys a very diverse cultural influence, a modern Honduran restaurant like Alma Cafe can exist.”

Melissa Araujo, chef and founder of Alma Café, was born in La Ceiba, on the Atlantic coast of Honduras. She grew up primarily in Providence, Rhode Island, and New Orleans. She never stopped visiting her beloved country every summer.

Melissa is the ninth daughter of an Italian/Honduran couple. At 16, she began working in the kitchen, washing dishes. It was always essential for her father that their children received a college education, so Melissa entered college to study law. After a while, she suspended her studies and began working in different restaurants in the city. “I did not choose this profession; the profession picked me,” said Chef Araujo about finding her passion for cooking.

Upon entering her restaurant Alma Cafe, a portrait of her parents and a striking mural of the Mayan goddess Ixchel, goddess of the moon, love, and fertility, catches your attention. The personal touches throughout the restaurant give it a cozy feel.
Alma, the word for soul in Spanish, was the name Araujo gave the restaurant because it represents her essence. “Alma is not a name; it is not a person, it is my spirit, it is my soul, it is who forms Melissa,” says the chef, adding that “the photos of this restaurant are my family, the recipes are my family.”

The successful chef highlights that the goal of Alma Café is to show that Honduran culture has much to offer, and that is why she tells the story of her country through her family’s recipes.

Araujo is proud of her heritage, and she is also proud of Alma having an all-female kitchen team. Her sister, Ana Araujo, is in charge of keeping the traditional recipes in the kitchen, and her general manager, Ashleigh Oquelí, runs a smooth operation under the chef’s absolute trust.

Alma Café offers delicious breakfasts and lunches. One of the most requested dishes is the Alma Breakfast, a dish consisting of ripe plantain slices, refried beans, eggs, cream, avocado, and fresh, homemade cheese.

The baleada is Araujo’s recommended dish. Alma’s baleada is the chef’s modern adaptation of the quintessential Honduran staple and her grandmother’s recipe. The baleada consists of a tortilla hand-made to order, refried beans, scrambled eggs, homemade cream, and fresh cheese. For garnish, Araujo uses locally-grown microgreens to add flavor and freshness to the dish. Customers can customize the baleada by adding avocado or their preferred protein. Apart from the delicious natural aguas frescas, flavored fruit waters with no added sugar, Alma offers imported 100% Honduran coffee of the highest quality.

According to Araujo, this modern Honduran restaurant aims to “take the traditional and raise it a foot or two higher, and start putting Honduran gastronomy on the map.” For this reason, one of the chef’s goals is also to open the doors of Alma to serve as a launching platform for future Honduran chefs. Araujo understands that this profession is full of sacrifices, and it is not easy to get to where she is. Her advice to aspiring chefs: “Never listen to someone who tells you that you will not be able to make it; you can do it. You need to know your capacity, and nobody can tell you what your capacity is.”

Alma Café is currently open seven days a week from 8 am to 3 pm at 800 Louisa Street in New Orleans. In the fall, Araujo plans to expand the service hours to include dinner so that customers can indulge in delicious wines while they continue to enjoy her excellent cuisine.

”Zydeco Star” A fusion of cultures


”Zydeco Star” A fusion of cultures

By Anamaria Bech

Click aqui para español- > ”Zydeco Star”Una fusión de culturas

Zydeco superstar Rockin ‘Dopsie Jr. collaborated on “Zydeco Star,” the latest single by composer Fermin Ceballos. The multi-talented Dominican artist based in New Orleans will release Zydeco Star on April 24, the second single of his upcoming album, Bochinche.

The idea for the collaboration came after Ceballos met Dopsie Jr. in 2019 when he was giving a concert with his merengue band at a West Bank bar. “When he arrived, we were surprised, and I dared to ask him if he wanted to play a merengue with us. He went to the car and brought his washboard, and played with us. I remember that he loved it, and then he told me, ‘I wanna do something with you, little brother.’”

Although they ran into each other at various festivals, it was only until the 2020 French Quarter Fest opening ceremony that they had a chance to chat again about the collaboration. This time, the busy schedule of Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters was clearing up as it was the early days of the pandemic that affected the band’s commitments in Europe.

Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. grew up in a musical family from Lafayette, Louisiana. Although his first instrument was the accordion, the washboard is the signature that sets him apart. The washboard gave him the mobility he needs for his energetic performances that include jumping up and down, doing splits, and dancing in a way that captivates an audience unable to resist dancing to his music.

Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. has managed to spread the traditional music of the Acadian Cajun region of Louisiana worldwide. He has carried on his father’s legacy, the King of Zydeco, Rockin’ Dopsie Sr, and has brought this music to broader audiences.

For Fermin Ceballos, working on this collaboration goes beyond two artists creating together. It’s a chance to bring the rhythm to other communities. Ceballos wrote “Zydeco Star,” zydeco mixed with bachata and folk-rock influences with lyrics in English and Spanish, to honor the impact of Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. on the genre. 

The process of creating the single took about eight months. The process happened organically. Ceballos witnessed the professionalism and humility of the renowned interpreter, who allowed the composer’s creative freedom. ‘We met at my home, rehearsed the lyrics, the music, and then we met in the studio where we recorded the song.”

Fusing zydeco and bachata was only possible because of the accordion. “This was the strongest link because, although we can fuse the two genres, they have a different rhythmic pattern. But the accordion unites them,” explains Ceballos, adding that the güira is replaced in this song by the famous washboard played by Dopsie Jr. 

 “When I heard the rhythm, the drums, and the base, it was so different for me,” said Dopsie Jr. Having recorded with artists such as Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and Cyndi Lauper, among others, Dopsie Jr. understands styles are unique. “They want you to follow their rhythm,” Dopsie Jr. said about collaborations with other artists and his reasoning behind not making any changes to Ceballos’ song. He admitted that “playing the washboard was a challenge, but I didn’t want to change anything. The song had that Miami vibe. It’s a perfect song for the club.”

Ceballos took the opportunity to be part of a Louisiana genre that’s as upbeat as Dominican merengue. “As an artist, it’s wonderful for me that he put his name and talent in my hands to produce the song.” 

This experience was also exciting for Dopsie Jr., who gets to sing a few Spanish words in the chorus. “I’ve always thought Latin music is the best music. I’ve admired Latin music for a while, starting with one of my idols Carlos Santana.” 

Dopsie Jr. is excited about the result. “I want to thank [Fermin] for letting me be on his single, and I can’t wait to play it on stage, either at one of my gigs or one of his gigs.”

As of April 24, you can find “Zydeco Star” on different music platforms, including Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube.

Mardi Gras 2021: The Year House Floats Were Born

Mardi Gras 2021: The Year House Floats Were Born

By Alejandra Guzmán

Click aqui para español- >Mardi Gras 2021: El año que nacieron las casas carrozas

Mardi Gras celebrations in 2021 will not include New Orleans’ traditional parades, which take place yearly during carnival season. The need to cancel the usual way of celebrating was necessary to keep our city healthy, as we now understand that large gatherings are COVID-19 super spreader events.

While we will not have parades this year, this does not mean there will not be other ways to keep the tradition alive, our spirits high, and support the local economy. During a traditional year, Mardi Gras has a direct economic benefit of about $144 million for the city. Although we may not see this kind of economic impact, creative initiatives have emerged to allow for a safe carnival season and to support local artists and vendors who depend on Mardi Gras for their incomes.

“Hire A Mardi Gras Artist” is an initiative created by the Krewe of Red Beans to produce 40 extravagantly decorated homes during the 2021 carnival season. The first house to be decorated under this program is on Toledano Street. Its theme honors the late iconic musician Dr. John, and it includes a large skull, snakes, flowers, and Cyprus oak trees. This initiative combines a donation drive with a lottery system, and its goal is to raise $10,000 per home. Donors enter a raffle to have their house decorated.

The do-it-yourself house-decorating group called “Krewe of House Floats” is an organized group that started on Facebook that has gained thousands of followers. Sub-krewes of decorators worked the house floats located around more than 30 neighborhoods in New Orleans.

The group got started under the belief that if we cannot safely gather by the parade route this year, we can still bring the spirit of carnival home to celebrate the season in a pandemic-safe manner.

The decoration of house floats began on January 6 and will culminate on February 16. This vital effort will provide donations to organizations around the city that support those affected most by Mardi Gras’s cancellation. 

The site www.kreweofhousefloats.org includes a list of artists and vendors that can get hired to decorate your home. You can also find a map with the location of all the house floats throughout the city so that you can visit.

Monserrath Avila’s Journey to a Healthy Lifestyle

Happy Living. Monserrath Avila’s Journey to a Healthy Lifestyle

By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- > El Camino de Monserrath Avila a un estilo de vide saludable

If you meet Monserrath Avila, you will find a motivated, confident, healthy, and fit beautiful woman. A devoted mother and wife, and an entrepreneur, who provides fresh, healthy, portioned meals through Happy Living Meal Prep, the business she created with her husband, Sebastian Gomez.

Once you learn about her business, you understand why Avila lives such a healthy lifestyle. But when you follow her on her Instagram profile, @itsme.monse, you not only find motivational phrases and workout posts, but you also find surprising before and after photos.

You realize her healthy journey started a while ago when she was 80 pounds heavier. The difference is striking, and her bravery in the way she shares about this healthy lifestyle journey with her followers is admirable.

Avila began learning about focusing on fueling her body with the right nutrients and with whole foods. She disliked vegetables but forced herself to incorporate them in her meals. She began to do food prepping to control her portions and create the right combinations of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. When people started noticing her changes, they asked her for advice and kept asking for recipes. Avila understood that there could be an opportunity for a business that would allow her to create some income while helping others. Gomez bought the first box of containers and told his wife that he believed she could have a successful business. Soon after, Happy Living Meal Prep got started about three years ago. The company has been an economic opportunity for the family, but it also serves Avila’s fulfillment. “I love to be able to help others achieve a healthier lifestyle.”

Social media has helped Avila promote her business and also has provided her company during her fitness process. “I feel this is a lonely journey. When I share it on social media, other people can see that if I made it, they could also make it.” Avila has been able to connect with other women, especially with other moms. “They ask me all kinds of questions. They ask how I’m not ashamed to post pictures where you see my stretch marks. I answer and try to remind them that we must love our body, our temple. I feel that by sharing my changes, I can inspire other women.”

Though scrutinized by the internet trolls from time to time and being accused of achieving her results through plastic surgery, Avila stresses healthy nutrition and controlled portions for long-term weight loss. Avila also reminds everyone to be patient. “Making small changes every day helps. In a year, those small changes will make a big difference. She has eliminated the word “diet” and has replaced it with “lifestyle.” She understands the most challenging part for most is realizing that this process takes time. She shares her “Before and After” photos to serve as a testament that incredible changes don’t happen quickly, but that they are achievable.”

During the weekend, Avila and Gomez work to prepare, package, and deliver meals to clients in the New Orleans metropolitan area. Customers can pick from one or two meals per day and sign up by Friday to get their meals for the following week. Convenience is this service’s main appeal, and the fact that the food is never frozen makes it the healthiest meal prep alternative in town. There are no added preservatives, and the food can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.”

“Happy Living Meal Prep is an easy, fun lifestyle. When you get your food, you will not say it’s flavorless. We always changed up our menu. You don’t have to worry about the right portions and nutrients. It’s an exploding of Colombian and Honduran flavors, and people will never feel they are dieting,” explains Avila.

Her daughter, Sofia, has been her greatest inspiration to improve her everyday life. “She is my motor.” The physical changes have been a plus because, for Avila, the difference in her mentality has been the most important. “If we have no control of our bodies, what would we be able to control? I feel good. I have energy. I can do things with my family and my daughter that I couldn’t do before when I was overweight. I was always tired; I had no desire. I was miserable,” Avila added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made more evident the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “I believe better nutrition is the best medicine to combat this virus and to keep the body strong to stay healthy. Avila has developed a need to exercise and to take care of her health every day. When she doesn’t take the time to get it done, she feels she is cheating herself out of the gift of a healthy life.

“Start today. Make a small change. No one will ever say, ‘I regret eating healthy today.’ It is about making small changes and being very patient.”

If your new year’s goals include a healthier lifestyle, consider this local prep meal service. Find more about Happy Living Meal Prep on their Instagram account @happylivingmealprep

NOEMI GONZALEZ On Playing Suzette Quintanilla On Selena: The Series




By Cody Downey T:@codyalexdowney

Editorial artwork by Vince Trupsin

Character photos courtesy of Netflix

Raised in Coachella Valley, California, Noemi Gonzalez began to sing to handle the struggles of life. Thanks to the dedication of her teacher, she joined her school’s choir, which eventually took her to New Orleans.

“The first time that I was on a plane, the first time that I went to another state was to this beautiful, creative place of New Orleans,” she said. “That was before Katrina happened, so it was incredible to have this richness of culture and music and artistry and to sing there with my choir.”

As she went back home and continued singing, she was soon brought down a different path thanks to something a friend told her.

“My girlfriend Gina said, ‘I love to hear you sing and watch you sing because it’s like you are telling a story. It’s like you are acting.’ That’s when acting came into the field of vision for me and my plane of consciousness to consider it as something I could do,” she said.


Though not sure if this was her true path, she went to the University of California in Santa Barbara with the plan of being a music teacher like the one who inspired her. However, in an Intro to Acting class, she auditioned for the school’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program and joined their acting conservatory pushing her to fully pursue acting.

“I say acting found me,” she said. “I just remember being in that program knowing that I wanted to keep acting even if it was in the theater if it was in New York if it was in commercials or films. God willing, I just knew that I wanted to keep acting.”

Now, Gonzalez is awaiting the release of her latest project “Selena: The Series,” that comes on Netflix on December 4th. Retelling the true and tragic tale of Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla, the series presents a story close to the hearts of many Mexican Americans, like Gonzalez herself. But, for this self-described “first-generation Mexican-American immigrant from humble roots,” the project is an honor that her career has been building toward.

In the series, Gonzalez plays Suzette Quintanilla, sister of Selena, and a part of their band Selena y los Dinos as a drummer. Through the process of her casting, Gonzalez had to show off her acting chops, show her commitment to being in the role and perform a camera test. Upon getting approval from the Quintanilla family members, who serve as executive producers on the series, Gonzalez was officially given the part and got to work.

“I started drumming August 16th and then three weeks from that we were supposed to film. So, I started learning 50 songs of hers,” she said. “It was definitely a severe, professional leveling up and challenge to live up to creatively, spiritually, professionally.”

Along with the musical aspect of the role, Gonzalez had to work with a dialect coach to get the overall essence of who Suzette was during the period she was being portrayed in. The role also came with some creative challenges as there was not much material of Suzette prior to the loss of Selena.

“It was nice to have some creative license of filling in the gaps of who Suzette was before this tragedy happened,” she said. “It was so much fodder for artistry and craftsmanship, and it was so much fun to recreate a life based on something I already had to pull from.”

With working on this project that is important not only to the fans of Selena but also to the Quintanilla family, Gonzalez said that she leaned on God, Selena’s music, and the people she worked with.

“Whenever I felt stressed, I would listen to her music and would be brought right back to the light that is Selena, that is Selena y los Dinos, that is the Quintanilla family,” she said. “I definitely had to make sure that I was always centered and based in reality but not overwhelmed by it.”

Along with that, there was the pressure that came with COVID-19 that affected the filming of the project, which had to shut down and then return to be filmed under restrictions.

“It’s just been an experience to go through this while being a part of a show that meant so much to me that I didn’t know whether or not it was going to pick up again,” she said.

A major aspect of “Selena: The Series” is that it is a Latino story told with Latinos on camera and behind the camera. Gonzalez said that the industry has changed a lot since she started for stories about Latinos and stories about people of color.

“Yes, we have more work to do. The work will never stop but we’re not watching paint dry. We are adding to the mural as changes continue in the industry,” she said. “I want to stay positive and grateful and not at all cynical, jaded, or callous or bitter about where we could be.”

As we move into 2021, Gonzalez says that despite not knowing what the future may hold, she wants to live out life to the fullest when everything comes back to normal.

“I want to honor that we went through this experience together and channel everything that we’ve been through in 2020 and 2019 to my next jobs and my next presentations publicly so that I can serve my community and that I could serve my artistry so that nothing shakes my course, nothing shakes my drive, my zest for life and my love of connecting with people through my work,” she said.

Latinas to Vote

Latinas to Vote

By Staff

Click aqui para español- >Latinas al voto

The Latino community is growing exponentially, and this growth requires thoughtful, inclusive, and accountable participation in the creation of policies that improve the quality of life of the immigrant population. The Hispanic vote is necessary. Policies that support immigration depend on the vote of Latinos who understand the needs of immigrants and who can be the voice of the many residents of this country who cannot vote, yet still contribute to the development of this nation.

Around 32 million Latinos are eligible to vote this year in the United States. This number is large enough to democratically create an impact that reflects changes for the community and Latino generations to come.


The mobilization of women is fundamental for the upcoming elections. Latinas are expected to play a leading role in this presidential race. According to the Pew Research, 55% of women who were eligible to vote cast their ballots in the 2018 midterm elections in November, compared to 51% of men. Hispanics were also found to have a gender gap in voting preference, with 73% of Hispanic women and 63% of Hispanic men backing Democratic candidates for Congress.

The New York Times called the Latino population “the sleeping giant” because the vast majority of Latino citizens eligible to vote still do not exercise this right, thus giving others the power to decide on issues that affect the community.

The Latino vote depends on the participation of women in this democratic process. “The role that Latinas play in our communities and our families is that of our matriarchs, they are the glue that holds our families and communities together,” said Stephanie Valencia, co-founder, and president of EquisLabs.


Latinos in Louisiana.


The Latino population eligible to vote in Louisiana is 107.000, according to Pew Research, which represents 3.1% of the electoral force. And, although for some, this figure may be small, it could make a big difference in decisions like reforms and the creation of more inclusive policies that involve the immigrant community in the state of Louisiana.

Noting the big voting gap between men and women, it is important that women in the state of Louisiana get involved and to learn about the importance of voting. In many cases, women are the head of the household, they are community leaders, so when a woman commits to civic representation, her impact goes beyond her vote because she is very likely to encourage voting among family members, friends, and neighbors.

Issues such as education, health care, and immigration reform are of great concern to immigrant women, and although the voting rate for Latina women tends to be lower than that of other racial groups, their mobilizing force is inherent. “We believe that they [Latinas] will not only vote but will also organize and engage those around them to vote as well,” said Valencia.

According to a study by Christina Bejarano, professor of Gender Studies at Texas Woman’s University in Dallas, Latina women, compared to their male peers, tend to have higher levels of education, pay more attention to politics, and have higher naturalization rates in the country.

Regardless of the candidate or the political party you support, do not forget that a political discussion isn’t worth it if there are no solid foundations for your claims, or if there is no further action.


Even if you cannot vote, you can educate, inform, and encourage those who can vote to exercise their right. By being informed and getting politically active, even if you cannot vote, you are indirectly helping find more support for reforms that can affect your immigration status, health care, and the education of your children.

Karrie Martin: FROM LA TO L.A.

Karrie Martin: FROM LA TO L.A. 

By Cody Downey

Click aqui para español- > Karrie Martin de Louisiana a L.A.

From her time as a young girl, Karrie Martin was a fan of the arts from watching television shows and movies to being a dancer. However, until she went to college, she never thought of being an artist as a possible way of life.

“When I went to LSU, truly, I didn’t even realize that you could pursue a career in acting,” Martin said. “My sisters and I always joked that it was the chosen ones that would get it.”

Her interest peaked though when she found out that one of her sorority sisters was in the theater program. Martin then decided to take some acting classes off-campus and discovered how much she loved it. “Although I didn’t pursue full-time until I graduated college, it was something that just brightened my day,” she said. “It gave me a new outlet of expression that I truly loved.”

Martin’s newfound love of acting would take her to Los Angeles and eventually take her into the lead role of Ana Morales in the Netflix Original Series “Gentefied.” Before moving to Los Angeles, Martin had lived her whole life in Louisiana. Born into a family of Honduran Americans who was raised in the South, she said that she always felt that she had her family and culture around her. According to Martin, her parents were her first real role models. “They always gave us that sense that we could be whoever and do whatever we wanted and set our minds to as long as we worked hard,” she said.

The decision to move to Los Angeles to pursue acting was very difficult because of her strong connection to family. “I think it was that move which I did with my sister, who is also an actress, that made it so much easier,” she said. “You want that grounding feeling all the time and always around you.”

Martin said that the move helped her get outside of the bubble that she lived in and discover who she was as a person and actor. “I grew up in L.A. essentially,” she said. “My formative years were definitely there.”

A couple of years into her move to Los Angeles, Martin started to work as an intern at Betty Mae Casting to learn about what to do in the auditioning room. Through her time as a casting assistant, she helped cast for numerous films such as “Creed II,” “Troop Zero,” “Dolemite Is My Name” and “Bad Boys for Life.” 

According to Martin, her knowledge of film and television helped her in the position allowing for her to bring up actors her peers may have not heard of. “That became a really fun process for me to bring in actors that they hadn’t seen or wouldn’t have otherwise seen if I hadn’t thrown that name out,” she said. “It became a really awesome collaborative effort on a lot of projects that I was able to do.”

In terms of translating her work in casting to her work in acting, Martin said the experience helped change the way she approached going into an audition. “From the little bits and pieces that I would take from actors I had been admiring all my life, getting to read with them in the room, that was beyond educational for me,” she said. “It changed my confidence in the room just seeing how the other actors, who had been working forever, approached the audition. They completely took control of the room and took their time as opposed to coming in with so much anxiety.”

Though Martin loved casting work, she made it clear that she was an actor first. During this time, she had done one episode of roles on television series such as “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Purge.” However, her big break would come with “Gentefied.” After being passed on for a role, she was brought back in by the casting director, who she had made friends with, to audition for “Gentefied.” Martin received a call back within a week and felt like the environment presented was one she wanted to be a part of.

“I left and remember calling my sister and saying, ‘All I want is to be their friend.’ I had never been in such a welcoming room like that,” she said. “I loved their energy and that was the same energy that they had on set from the auditioning process to the last day we filmed.”

“Gentefied” follows a trio of cousins who work to help their grandfather hold onto his taco business in an ever-changing neighborhood. Martin’s character of Ana is also an artist who must contend with her disapproving mother, her activist girlfriend, and working to have her art appreciated.

The series marks Martin’s first time as a lead in a series, which she admitted was intimidating at first. However, as filming continued, she said that she knew that set was where she was meant to be. “I just felt really at ease with the character that is so opposite from who I am as a person,” she said. “The environment that was created was so incredibly safe and felt like a safe space to work in that it made the whole process incredibly rewarding and much more simple to fall into the character when I never walked in her shoes.”

Despite her differences from Ana, Martin found ways to incorporate aspects of herself while still playing this character. One way she connected with the character was how Ana kept her cousins and grandfather together despite the conflicts they face. “I am the oldest of four children, so I feel like that was something that always came easy for me,” she said. “There are little nuances that I bring to Ana without even realizing it but she is so well written that you just fall into it whether you relate to them completely or you have to take one little thing and run with it.” 

Being a Latina actress in L.A., Martin said that the fact that she didn’t have to have an accent for the audition was huge for her since that is usually the expectation. “I remember even in the makeup room one of my makeup girls was born and raised in the East L.A. area and she sounded just like me. She was like ‘That is such a stereotype because I sound like you and I was raised in this environment,’ she said. “It is definitely a stereotype that gets placed on Latinos based on region.”

“I didn’t even realize that you could pursue a career in acting. My sisters and I always joked that it was the chosen ones that would get it.”

In hoping to continue this three-dimensional way of presenting Latinos, Martin said that the key is not being afraid to tell your story. According to her, this was something she began to think about after living in California and talking with her castmates. “We’re like everybody else. There is no difference; we’re just a little tanner,” she said. “We should be leading roles.” 

As she moves on in her career, Martin said that she has been taking things one step at a time. According to her, “Gentefied” is preparing to get back in production soon for season two. Along with this, she has also been auditioning for other projects.

However, for Martin just like many others, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a rollercoaster of different emotions. Before the shutdown of most operations, Martin had traveled back home to visit her family. “It was so sweet to be back home with my family and have that positivity around me,” she said. “But, even us being home, all together it is six of us, so we were like ‘We are going to go stir crazy here.’” 

Though she has grown through her time in Los Angeles, Martin is prideful of the way her parents taught her to be proud of who she was no matter what. “I’m so proud of the way my parents brought us up to know that we have value and are worth being the leads in our own stories,” she said. “I am very proud to be able to represent the Honduran-American culture on this show even though I play a Mexican.”

*Karrie Martin plays Ana Morales in the  Netflix Original series “Gentefied,” a comedy-drama series based on the online digital-short of the same name. Created by Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez, the series has been produced and directed by Ugly Betty star America Ferrera.



An Alternative for Many Families After the

Coronavirus Outbreak

By Dayhanna Velandia

Click aqui para español- >Aprendizaje en casa.

Homeschooling is the learning alternative that is becoming very common among parents who are concerned about the health and education of their children, and which has expanded further after the Coronavirus outbreak in early 2020. This independent learning option allows children to learn in a flexible and personalized way, according to the needs and interests of each student and each family.

Since the pandemic and social changes in our society began to affect mainly the education and interaction of our children, one of the issues that worries me the most, as a mother, is the implementation of certain rules in schools, which make me take into account other learning options and exploring the world of learning at home.

Homeschooling is the education of school-age children (ages 5 to 17) in a grade equivalent to at least kindergarten and not above grade 12, who receive instruction at home, rather than in a public or private school, all, or most of the time. In the past, this technique has been used mostly by Catholic and Christian families who were looking to base their children’s learning on the implementation of the Bible; however, there are now many more programs that don’t necessarily follow this basis. The various guides available for homeschooling are attracting many more people to choose to homeschool because it allows them the flexibility to create unique learning processes and rules.

The first thing I did to access more information was to connect through social networks and groups of parents with experience in homeschooling on Facebook. I noticed that, like me, there are hundreds of parents with the same everyday concerns. The most common questions are: how to start? what should I teach? What is the curriculum? How many hours will I dedicate to the day? How do I organize my activities? How is the learning progress validated? and many others.

Here I’ll try to solve some of these basic questions and hopefully, clear your doubts. The steps are simple:

 How to start teaching at home?

  1. I recommend you make the decision that is best for your family and your child through your philosophy and curriculum. Depending on the age and grade to which the student is entering, there are multiple web pages that facilitate topics and activities. Talking about this with our children and explaining the fundamental reason why you learn each topic is important, so everyone agrees and understands the learning goals.
  2. Once you are convinced, you must officially withdraw your child from the private or public school program through an application or letter to the state.
  3. Designate and arrange an appropriate space for the development of school activities.
  4. Connect with other parents who can give you tips and options for group learning.

 What am I going to teach? What is a curriculum?

Just like a traditional school, there are programs designed for learning development, which can vary according to the interests of each student. These programs are the curriculum. I have found options online, and according to the curriculum chosen, you can purchase textbooks and materials to follow that specific curriculum.

I also realized that some children learn more by creating and doing things; others through reading or talking to people. When choosing your homeschool curriculum, you should keep these preferences in mind when exploring learning styles such as visual, auditory, and learning through physical activities and experiences.

You may also need to consider whether your child is right-brain dominant when choosing the curriculum, as this hemisphere is in charge of developing creativity and art.

 How to organize time and scheduling activities?

One of the methods most used by home educators is that of creating weekly programs with flexible hours. A record of all activities must be kept. Some programs use more hours of activities than others, and it all depends on the pace that each student and educator want to follow. It is very helpful to post a schedule that’s visible to everyone at home with activities divided by hours. This way, if there are parents who must be absent, the children will know what to do during each specific time frame.

Hours vary according to the age and grade of the student. “We recommend that true home school students spend between one and two hours a day during the elementary years, two or three hours a day for middle school, and three or four hours a day for high school” says Jessica Parnell, executive director of Edovate Learning Corp and program of homeschooling Bridgeway Academy.

The point is, while your children may be in school six or more hours a day, they don’t spend all their time listening to academic instruction. You should also keep in mind that to give him a complete education and not stop the socialization process of your children, you may need to join other parents and look for socialization activities, field trips, or tutors that help strengthen the socialization processes.

 How are homeschoolers evaluated?

Parents must submit an annual notice to the Louisiana Department of Education and must include a packet of materials or an assessment (by standardized test or portfolio assessment) with the notice of each subsequent year. Approval can be denied if a child is not making adequate progress. Parents must offer 180 days of instruction and provide a “quality sustained curriculum at least equal to that offered by public schools.” There are no parenting or accountability requirements.

Home educators in Louisiana do not have specific graduation requirements. Parents are fully responsible for deciding on the appropriate courses and choosing the credits assigned to them. We also determine our own criteria for when the high school student is ready to receive a diploma.

If you are interested in the homeschooling alternative for your children, you can contact local organizations and support groups to better understand the process. Fortunately, there is a lot of information circulating and the communities of parents who use this method are getting bigger every day.

 If you have doubts or want to find more information, visit the links shown in the following chart.

New Orleans, We Miss You

New Orleans, We Miss You

Por AnaMaria Bech

Para español hacer clic aquí ->New Orleans te extrañamos

New Orleans is recognized around the world for its vibrant art scene and its iconic live music performances around town. The impact of the pandemic in the city’s cultural economy has been devastating. Even after over four months, walking on Frenchmen Street and seeing boarded up music venues is a very somber scene. We can only think of the many performers and venue business owners who are being impacted the most. For most of us, the spectators, New Orleans without its live music scene is just not the same city. We can’t wait for music to return to every corner. 

Together, Reaching Out

Together, Reaching Out

By AnaMaria bech

Click aqui para español- > Unidos por la comunidad Hispana

Almost 15 years ago, Hurricane Katrina impacted our region, and on the road to recovery, the demographics of the region changed with a significant influx of Latino workers who helped rebuild the city and stayed. Once again, Louisiana has been heavily impacted by an emergency in the form of a novel virus, the COVID-19 pandemic. As is expected with emergencies, many needs arise, and the government, local organizations, and media must work together to ensure there is an accurate reach of information and resources to everyone in the community, especially the most vulnerable groups.

People from the southeast Louisiana region are no strangers to the concept of uniting during times of crisis. With long-term training in preparedness for hurricane emergencies, leaders in the region have been able to do a remarkable job by adapting emergency practices to include the necessary resources to firmly react to an unexpected public health emergency.

During the COVID-19 emergency, disparity issues were quickly identified in the way the virus was affecting minority groups. African American residents were experiencing higher death rates than other racial groups in Louisiana and other parts of the nation. This has been in part due to long-term inequalities that have prevented adequate health care access to minorities, making these groups vulnerable to the effects of the virus. Economic inequalities also create multiple issues. Many minority group individuals are deemed essential workers and are required to show up at work, which puts them in the front lines with higher chances of contracting the virus.

Soon after the disparities in the African American community were identified, doctors began to raise concerns about similar patterns within the Hispanic community and the high rate of infection. As cases grew, city officials took notice. Helena Moreno, president of New Orleans City Council, the only elected official in the state of Louisiana of Hispanic heritage, made it her personal mission to spearhead an outreach initiative through the creation of a Hispanic Outreach Task Force that focuses on identifying major obstacles in getting resources to the Spanish-speaking community and creating action items to quickly find solutions for the most pressing issues. Moreno thought it was important to expand this reach at a regional level and made sure representatives from the neighboring Jefferson Parish were included in this task force. She identified key individuals and Hispanic leaders in health, business, advocacy, nonprofits, and media, who could help identify areas in need. After the first couple of meetings and identified issues, an unprecedented press conference was held with the participation of some of the members of the task force and the inclusion of Spanish language during the broadcast. Doctor Jennifer Avegno, the director of the city of New Orleans Health Department shared the concerning data of positive cases within the Latino community in New Orleans. “The positivity rate for Latinos who are getting tested at our testing sites is five times more of that of non-Latinos in our region” adding that “it creates a community-wide problem and a cause of great concern,” Avegno said.

Among the reasons for Hispanic people to be infected at disproportionate amounts are that Hispanics rely on essential jobs, jobs with low rates of access to paid leave, the need for public transportation, lack of health insurance, language barriers, no emergency funds, and for undocumented workers, the lack of access to financial federal aids or unemployment benefits, for which they must continue to work. In response to these issues, leaders from New Orleans and Jefferson Parish have made it a priority to engage their Latino population and have committed to expanding their Spanish language communication through their platforms and through their partnership with Spanish bilingual media outlets and community organizations.

Prior to the pandemic, there had been efforts to inform Spanish and Vietnamese speaking individuals. During emergency preparedness, NOLA Ready has provided all information in Spanish, as well as PSA and infomercials throughout their website ready.nola.gov. These same efforts have been replicated to include critical information regarding Covid-19, including prevention tips, food distribution sites, safe reopening information by phases, testing availability, and even mask giveaways.  The city of New Orleans has also created brief recaps after all press conferences in Spanish and Vietnamese that have been shared on their social media channels. The city recently announced that Spanish-speaking residents can subscribe to govdelivery to receive press releases once they have been translated into Spanish. Anamaria Villamarin-Lupin, the program manager for the Youth and Families department of the city of New Orleans, and a member of the Hispanic Outreach Task Force praised the outreach to the Hispanic community by the city. “The efforts of the Mayor’s Office of Youth and Families in partnership with CBOs, faith-based organizations, community leaders, and Councilmember Moreno’s office are evidence of the collaboration.  We are making sure we share these resources via our partnerships with community-based organizations,” she said.

In Jefferson Parish, President Cynthia Lee Sheng had created an intercultural coordinator position to guarantee that all parish residents could understand the services the parish provided. “During the pandemic, we have been translating all our press conferences and are now translating all press releases to distribute to local Hispanic media outlets,” said Lee Sheng. Jefferson Parish launched “JP Noticias” a Spanish text messaging service to provide regular updates to Hispanic citizens.

Because of the efforts of the Hispanic Outreach Task Force, there have been several resources that are reaching those in need. The city of New Orleans set up additional mobile testing sites with bilingual personnel and brought them to locations that were accessible to community members. As Mayor of New Orleans Latoya Cantrell expressed during the press conference, “One of the reasons that we are increasing testing is because we recognize that there is fear, as well as a lack of access and barriers that have prevented our people from coming to get tested.” Latinos, some of them undocumented, are fearful of accessing government-run testing sites. Echoing the same message from the mayor, Moreno added, “We think that no one should have to suffer in the shadows, so, we want to ensure that everyone feels welcome and has access to testing and treatment.”

As we move forward and try to recover from the pandemic, it is important to continue to bring visibility to the Hispanic community. As the Consul of Mexico, Tito Livio Morales Burelo expressed, “This pandemic highlighted the importance of the Latino workforce and the contribution of Mexican labor, in particular, because most of these workers are essential in various sectors, including farming and agriculture, and they help make sure the food supply was not interrupted.” The Latino workforce is essential to the economy of the United States and of the State of Louisiana. 

As Mayra Pineda, the president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana said, “We are beginning to make important inroads which result in greater diversity and inclusion, but much more needs to happen, and a key to this effort of visibility and representation is this year’s census, which not only will bring resources to communities where Hispanics live, but also a political voice and equal opportunities.”

As we wait for an official population count from the 2020 Census, we don’t have to wait to confidently say that because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the work in unity of our city and community leaders, Latinos in Louisiana became visible and the outreach efforts are a strong foundation for a bridge between communities, an effort that was needed to make the Latino community seem as what it always has been -an integral part of the community at large.


Boss Mother: Robin Barnes Casey

Boss Mother: Robin Barnes Casey

By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- >Boss Mother: Robin Barnes Casey

Name: Robin Barnes Casey
As Robin got older and mainstream music began to take hold, she began to marry the old and the new to create her own unique blend of funky jazz, soul and R&B. By captivating audiences with her renditions of popular songs and contemporary classics, she makes each song her own.
She’s appeared on ESPN, BET, NCIS and more. She has also been featured in publications like Forbes, Southwest Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Marie Claire and Southern Living. In addition to being an award winning music artist, she’s also one of the city of New Orleans’ biggest ambassadors and influencers, and has been featured in the press for the fitness movement she founded, Move Ya Brass. She proudly carries the official distinction of the “Songbird of New Orleans.” “Songbird of New Orleans.”

Tell me about your experience with motherhood?
Motherhood has been such a new experience in love. I thought that music was my only love until I became a mother, and now every day I wake up and there is like this little person smiling at me. It just gives me a whole new meaning of love and happiness.

How is being a mom with a career like yours that demands non-traditional work schedules?
Balancing being a mother and being a musician full-time is difficult because I work at night and my baby sleeps at night, so I must make sure that everything is in order before I go to work. At the same time when she’s a new-born, she’s going through her new sleeping patterns and that requires like all-day, all-night, so it is exhausting to be a mommy and be attentive all-day-long, and then gig from 9 PM until 1 AM.

So how do you find that balance?
Honestly, I’m learning how to nap. I never napped before this. I was a go-getter, hustler, all-day, 24 hours, 7 days a week…. Now I nap. But at the same time scheduling is so important. You have to make sure that you take time for yourself and take care of yourself.

What are your thoughts about being a boss mom?
I will say being a working mom is a challenge, but I have so much more respect for all the moms who have 9-to-5 jobs, and those who are working as single mothers. Anyone who is a single mom, or a single dad, who is doing it by themselves… I don’t know how you do it! I am so grateful for my husband because our baby is a balancing act, but as a mom, I feel there is so much more responsibility on our plate. We just need to remember that we don’t have to be perfect. It’s a learning experience the entire time. The main thing I’ve learned is to be humbler and to enjoy more the moment.
You are dealing with being a new mom during an unprecedented time. A time when musicians and many gig workers are struggling. What are your thoughts on this?
As a musician, going through this pandemic has been extremely stressful because I have lost my entire income and my entire livelihood. I did everything right. I made sure I had savings, I have a Master’s in business, so I kept my business organized, but you couldn’t really prepare for what is happening now, so now it’s a balancing of what do you do? How do you survive? Because if you can’t work, yet your bills are continuously coming, how do you make that happen? I have started Monday night streaming and I’m so grateful because my fans are able to tip and donate, and even though it’s not much, it helps pay the bills and helps pay for groceries, and it helps pay the light bill. During this time, human love and generosity have not only been surprising to me, but it shows that we are all in this together because everyone is connected. It’s really about the connection more than anything else.

Have you found anything positive during these difficult times?
There is some positive to all this. I am very fortunate because now I have more time to be with my baby and my husband. I’m not able to see my parents because we want to keep them safe, but I really do cherish this precious time. I know that this is something special. Not every parent gets to have this one-on-one time, all-day-long watching those first few months of your baby grow. It’s about the littlest things, like today, she rolled over. I did not know that would be the coolest thing ever! Every day is something new and it’s something great. Now when she says “mama,” I will be so happy, but I have a feeling she might say “dada” first.

What do you say to all those who are struggling right now?
First, there is such a range of people that are affected by this virus, like the people you know who have lost someone. Currently, I have a relative who is sick, and his kidneys are failing. He is on a ventilator and he’s only 43 years old. From people being ill to not being able to see our family, to people who are struggling financially, to those who are struggling emotionally and mentally. I say this in all my shows on Monday: You’re not alone, you are special, we will get through this together. If you need someone, reach out. The people who are doing OK, reach out to your friends, check in on people. We are going to be fine; we are going to be stronger from this as mankind. I hope that we are more compassionate and empathetic after going through this, and I think that is the best thing in life. As we see things happen, we know it can only get better, so let’s be together in a sense of love and support.

What message do you have for other mothers?
To all mommies in the world: You are amazing, you are strong, you are fearless. I appreciate you. We are awesome, and our babies are better human beings for us in their lives!

Boss Mother:Teresa Lawrence

Teresa Lawrence

By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- >Boss Mother:Teresa Lawrence

Name: Teresa Lawrence
Occupation: President, Delta Personnel | CEO, Delta Administrative Services
Biography: Teresa Lawrence is a Cuban-born entrepreneur who came to the United States in 1973 under President Nixon’s “Freedom Flight.” It was this pursuit of freedom, mingled with sheer uncertainty, that inspired Teresa to dedicate her life to helping people find jobs, obtain financial stability, and support their families. Under her ownership, family-owned business, Delta Personnel has gained national recognition in the staffing industry. Teresa currently serves on the following Board of Directors: WBEC South’s Board of Directors as Regional Director for New Orleans, Jefferson Economic Development Board Vice-Chair, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, New Orleans Chamber and Jefferson Parish Workforce Development Council.
Tell me about your work, schedule, some of the responsibilities.
Delta Personnel was founded by my father-in-law, Victor Lawrence, in 1968. My husband, David Lawrence, and I took over this business about 30 years ago, developing our offerings across several industry sectors including: administrative & clerical, healthcare, hospitality, professional, and skilled labor. This year, I also became the majority owner and CEO of Delta Administrative Services, LLC, a PEO firm founded by my husband in 2001. As valuable community partners, our work involves helping our clients meet HR demands and mitigate some of the risks that surround labor management. Furthermore, partnering with more minority businesses and advocating for diversity and acceptance will be a major part of our companies’ growth plans.
Mother of # of children, names, gender, ages:  Two Daughters: Francesca (28) and Alexandra (26) + One Son: David (24)

What is the best thing about being a mom?
I became a mom in 1992. The first day I held Francesca in my arms was a true testament that God does not call the qualified…He qualifies those He calls. This role has so many twists and turns – like that of a business owner. There are no right or wrong decisions when there is no road map or instructions, however if you have a great support system like I did, then you will have the confidence to have two more! Apart from the laughs and friendship with my kids, the best thing about being a mom is watching them transform before your very eyes to make their marks on the world in their own unique ways.

How long did you take before getting back to work?
I was blessed to have my mother and grandmother, who eventually moved in with us (I married a good man!), to help me create a routine with Francesca so that I could quickly get back to work in just a few weeks. Alexandra had some health issues as a baby, which led me to make the decision to step back for two years, which turned into three after my son was born.

What was your biggest fear about becoming a mother and the ability to continue to thrive in your career?
My biggest fear about becoming a mother was the world that my children were entering, and I had faith and trust in my family to face any obstacle we would encounter both at home and work. Coming from a matriarch household, it was not hard to follow suit. My mother said: “Teresa sigue con el negocio que aquí estamos nosotros – nunca dejes de echar pa’ lante.  Ahora más que nunca tienes que luchar por ti, por ellos, y por todos los empleados que dependen de ti.”

How did your work dynamic change, or did it?
Being an owner of a company at the same time as I became a mother gave me the freedom to be there for my children when they needed me. My work dynamic with my husband at my side changed between the years I took off to raise my babies, however his expertise in finances allowed the company to improve profitability, and I was able to focus on sales efforts to drive the business further.

What is the hardest thing about being a working boss mom?
Being a working mom, I missed many of my daughter’s basketball games (she went on to play in college), especially when it involved travel as my husband would go with her and I’d stay behind to manage while he was gone. It was hardest when the kids were young, and I would call to check in with my mom and would hear them crying for me in the background. 

What can women do to find that mom/boss balance?
There is no magic formula for balance, so doing your best to be there when it counts. Having a support system with family and friends as well as a trusting relationship with my husband helped me to prioritize what was important to me, while dedicating time to learn as much as I can to help my business.

Are there biases against mothers in the workplace in general?
Motherhood has helped me to empathize more with working mothers, and I try to accommodate my staff as much as possible when life’s precious moments require their presence. I have never given them the opportunity to choose work over children – they know children come first, no matter what, and they are the reason they spend 8 plus hours a day with me. My staff is 95 percent women, and some are single moms, so in the same sense, they are empowered to make decisions when I need to be there for my family. 

What would you tell a career woman who is conflicted about starting a family because of fear of jeopardizing her career?
To have enough emotional energy for your career and your family you need to make sure you have some personal time to do what you love without feeling guilty.  This will help you change your life battery and keep you focused.  When your mind is in the right place your decisions are clear and concise both for your personal life and work. At the end, life is about how many lives you’ve touched, so following your heart will reap in benefits.

What should the government do to create a better environment for working mothers?
I employ many non-salaried workers, and I feel for them when they cannot afford to return to work so quickly. While I'm not one to talk politics, I would advocate for some of the rights of these staffers, especially essential workers as outlined by the government these days.

What does your support system look like?
What would I do without my family? My blood relatives are mostly in New Orleans and Miami, and I am lucky to have such great in-laws spread across the south, as well. In addition, I have a wonderful work family with staff that sincerely care for one another.

How does motherhood make one a better professional?
Mothers are equipped to handle anything life throws at them.

How have you handled the COVI19 pandemic regarding work and family?
As an HR partner, we have shown commitment to our clients and employees, working longer hours, and responding to questions while advising them on the government policies that affect their ability to put food on the table for their families.

How has this situation affected you personally, and as a mother?
Personally, I’m being reminded of Katrina, and thankful that we had measures in place to get through another hurricane, although this pandemic of course affects more than just where we operate. I’ve learned to take things one day at a time and pray for a new tomorrow.

What are your feelings towards New Orleans’ current situation, specifically to festivals, and live performances?
New Orleans is better equipped to handle a rebirth than most cities in the US. We are the epidemic of resilience!

Boss Mother: Alejandra Guzman


By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- >Boss Mother: Alejandra Guzmán

Economic Developer, VP of Real Estate and Capital Investments
Alejandra Guzman is an internationally recognized expert in economic and community development, social responsibility, and new business development. With leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, Alejandra creates and analyzes inter-sectoral initiatives that maximize the resources of non-government organizations (NGOs), government agencies, and private sector companies to solve international community and economic development challenges.
Tell me about your work, your schedule and some of your responsibilities.
My focus is on developing and executing real estate, policy, and partnership strategies to promote the development of communities that have been handicapped by disinvestment.  This takes many different forms, from organizing networking and educational opportunities with the Real Estate community to designing key programs to support the industry. Most recently I have been working on developing a strategy that leverages the Federal Program Opportunity Zones.


How many children do you have?
Mother-to-be of a baby girl, Sophia G. Cooper, expected for July 12, 2020.

What is the best thing about being a mom?
There are several things that excite me about becoming a parent. I am looking forward to the joy of discovering a shared sense of purpose with my partner. Starting from pregnancy, it is really fascinating to see and feel how quickly a baby grows. Once Sophia is born, I’m going to cherish all her developmental milestones from discovering her own hands to walking and first words. This is going to be a life-changing experience that I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life.
Are there biases against mothers in the workplace in general? If so, how can they be tackled?
There are still a lot of biases that affect expecting mothers. Motherhood triggers false assumptions that women are less competent and less committed to their careers.  This maternal bias is a major problem for women’s career advancement. Because of this, mothers and pregnant women are often given fewer opportunities and are submitted to higher standards. Mothers might not be considered for promotions, new hires, or big projects. A landmark study published in 2007 “Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty?”, demonstrates that in an interview process, women who didn’t have children were two times more likely to be called for an interview as compared to similarly qualified mothers. The study also found that mothers were rated less competent and committed, and recommendations were made for lower starting salaries. The study also looked for this same discrimination towards fathers but did not find any evidence.  This study can be found here.

It is an unfortunate reality that women, regardless if they are mothers or not, still face other biases and challenges in the work environment including obtaining equal pay, harassment, and career opportunities. Although to tackle these issues one must advocate for societal and policy change, I believe there are personal tactics that one can take to navigate through this harsh environment. I would advise first to invest in your professional development and understand what skills are needed for a career move. Finding an executive coach can be very helpful in addressing skill gaps and preparing you for salary negotiations. I also recommend that women find a sponsor. Someone who is an influential leader who advocates on your behalf and opens the door to new career opportunities, promotions, and great assignments. To find your sponsor, go above and beyond at your job and make yourself visible by taking on projects that provide exposure.  
What would you tell a career woman who is conflicted about starting a family because of fear of jeopardizing her career?
I can’t deny that one of my fears about becoming a mother is how this could affect my career. I still have to discover a way to balance motherhood with professional life. Some of the things I considered that helped my choice to become a mother were, first, to count on a partner who is committed to raising a family and investing time into parenthood so that we can both continue to thrive in our careers. Secondly, having a network ready to step in to help, and lastly, knowing that we will figure things out as we go. There is no such thing as a perfect life, so I’m very intentional about being flexible and adaptable.
What can companies do to be more accommodating to working mothers?
Organizations must prioritize having women in decision-making roles. We can't expect to create a better environment for women without us being involved in the decision-making process. Companies should increase diversity and specify a target number of female candidates for each leadership position or have programs that encourage women to apply for leadership roles. A woman who has gone through pregnancy and parenting will understand the importance of lactating rooms, good health insurance, adequate and affordable day-care, paid family leave, and family flex time and will find ways to provide better accommodations to fit these needs.
What should the government do to create a better environment for working mothers?
Our country needs a system to support all working families through paid parental leave, affordable healthcare, and childcare to all our residents. There is no federal legislation to protect working families. 
How have you handled the COVID-19 pandemic regarding work and family?
As my husband and I continue to work from home, we agreed to stick to a routine and designate working spaces for each one of us.  We are treating our day just as we would at the office, minus the commute. We are taking care of our health by including daily exercise and healthy food.  We have limited news consumption to once per day and made sure to curate the news outlets that we listen to. Most importantly, we stay in touch with our loved ones while practicing social distancing, as this time has made it clearer that family is our priority.
What is a lesson that you have learned through this challenging time?
I have learned that I’m more vulnerable and stronger than I realized. I could have never foreseen being pregnant during a global pandemic! In this context, my motherhood journey has already tested me in many ways. There are different protocols for doctors’ appointments. Hospitals have limited entrance to patients only, which has been disappointing during routine visits, especially during ultrasounds. Going to a hospital is also scary. Being a first-time mother comes with a lot of unknowns, but this crisis brings it to a whole different level. In all, we have found other ways to celebrate the arrival of this baby and keep the joy. My friends and family have organized a virtual baby shower! I’ve learned the importance of being flexible, adapting to uncertainty, and that even in the hardest of times, there is always something to be grateful about.

Boss Mother: Amy Landry

Amy Landry

By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- >Boss Mother: Amy Landry

Tell us about your work.

I wear multiple hats. I am co-Founder and partner of Diapers to Desk, LLC, owner of Landry Corporate Training, LLC, and part-time employee for Loyola University’s Women’s Leadership Academy.
I created the training program ‘Diapers to Desk,’ which was successfully launched at Shell Oil in 2017, where I spent time one-to-one coaching new mothers returning to work. The need for the program grew to where I eventually partnered with licensed therapist Elyse Shull to create the online version and company Diapers to Desk, LLC in 2019.

How many children do you have?
I have one daughter Ava Elizabeth, who is six.

When did you first become a mother?
My daughter’s birthday is December 31, 2013! My husband and I dealt with infertility for MANY years before we were finally blessed to be expecting. However, whenever I would tell people my due date at the end of December, they would express pity and tell me, “what a terrible time to have a baby.” This infuriated me. I went into labor on December 30th, but I held out as long as I could so Ava could have a “memorable” birthday; thus, Ava was born shortly after midnight on December 31st. Cue the fireworks!

What is the best thing about being a mom?
LOVE! It’s the best thing in the world to fully experience the unconditional love that mothers have for their children. When my daughter tells me that she loves me with her whole heart, I can’t even begin to describe how my heart literally bursts with my love for her!

How long did you take before getting back to work?
Twelve weeks off, the full amount of FMLA that was offered to me at the time. I do remember a co-worker asked me one day how long I would take off and I said twelve weeks. She replied, “must be nice.” The comment struck me, and I remember feeling guilty and worried if I should not take the full 12 weeks.

What was your biggest fear about returning to work?
I had a million thoughts and fears! I was breastfeeding at the time, so I worried about pumping and keeping my supply up. I was also worried because I was so exhausted, and I did not feel like myself. At 12 weeks, I was still reeling from the shock of being a new mother and worried about how to manage my former high-achieving, professional self with a NEW full-time job as a mother. In the past five years, I have coached countless new mothers on maternity leave and have found that regardless of age, profession, race, ethnicity, and other factors, most mothers all feel the same gut-wrenching fears of leaving our babies and returning to work. It is a difficult transition to say the least and a transition that most of us are ill-prepared for and receive little to no support.

How did your dynamic at work change?
I was an HR director serving on an all-male executive team and I was the youngest by more than 15 years. It was hard to relate to each other. I had also discussed flexible work options and the ability to work from home, which did not end up happening. It was a struggle for me because I was not prepared for the shock and trying to adjust back to work. My entire career had been built on giving resources to employees and helping in times of need, but as a new professional working mother, I felt like my world had flipped upside down and I did not have a resource to turn to for help. This was an isolating and overwhelming experience for me.

What can women do to find that mom/boss balance?
In Diapers to Desk, LLC., we have a training support course called BALANCE, and we break this down over seven courses because there’s no secret recipe or easy fix for work-life balance. It’s a mindset. One must learn to prioritize your values and yourself. It’s coming to terms with unrealistic expectations, managing and learning to release guilt, establishing boundaries, and even gaining communication skills on how to speak up for yourself in an assertive manner. Mothers can be so good at taking care of everyone else, but usually at the expense of ourselves. In order to have balance, mothers must begin by taking care of themselves.

Are there biases against mothers in the workplace in general?
Yes, there are biases that exist for mothers in the workplace. I remember when I told my boss that I was expecting. His immediate response was, “Are you going to come back?”. I hadn’t even considered NOT coming back. Many people react this way and this is a hidden bias, which when left unchecked can even lead to discrimination.
Diapers to Desk, LLC has a companywide course called ‘Babies, Bias, & Burnout’ that uncovers the hidden bias and educates on what we call ‘benevolent discrimination,’ which regardless of your intentions, it is still illegal.

What can companies do to be more accommodating to working mothers?
Diapers to Desk was created out of a desire to improve the experience for working mothers, and the plan started with empowering the individual mother. Over time, our mission has evolved into partnering with companies to offer support and training for their entire team because it must start with the company wanting to create inclusive, supportive environments.

What makes you proud of being a working mother?
I think being a mother makes you a working mother. I know many mothers that do not work outside of their home, but they work so hard and put all their efforts into their children without pay, so all mothers should be proud of the work they do! I am personally proud that I can inspire my daughter and get to nurture her ambitions by showing her to work with passion. My ultimate goal is to make the world better for her.

How does motherhood make one a better professional?
I believe that motherhood helps put things in perspective, and your sense of urgency increases., You also learn not to sweat the small stuff, and how to better manage emotions. I felt a level of confidence that I had NEVER felt after having my daughter that I was indeed a superhero capable of anything.

How have you handled the COVID-19 pandemic regarding work and family?
Well, …we have had good hours and bad hours, and every day feels like Groundhog Day. But it boils down to that I am doing the best I can, focusing on the things that I can control, having clear communication with my spouse on how to work around each other, and being grateful that we are safe at home and still working. But I’m not going to lie...We are making time for daily ice cream AND LOTS OF NETFLIX.

Brandan “BMike” Odums

Brandan “BMike” Odums

By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- >Brandan “BMike” Odums

‘Brandan is out painting” is what I heard upon arriving at Studio Be in the Bywater area of New Orleans for an interview with the artist himself. I checked my email, and, in fact, I had missed the update that instructed me to meet Brandan at 401 N. Roman street. We headed his way during school rush hour, hoping not to be too late for the 4 p.m. appointment. In my mind, I imagined arriving at the location and pulling Odums away from his entourage during the painting session. As I got out of the traffic jam, I arrived at the quiet street and saw the huge mural with sketches of various people, and only about 5% of the wall was fully done. Brandan “BMike” Odums was by himself, propped on a lift, iPad in one hand, spray can in the other, music is playing. It was a beautiful spring day, but a feeling of uncertainty swept through the community as the news about the spread of COVID-19 in our city was breaking. At this point, it was business as usual and Odums’ office for the day felt pleasant with perfect warm weather and even light. He was hoping to make progress on an already overdue project. This was the third of my brief encounters with the artist. However, this was the only time I actually got to see him in his element creating art.

Odums got down from the lift to greet the photographer and I. Just then, a black jeep drove by, blew the horn, only to slow down and park. The driver was Charlie Vaughn, Odums’s friend and an art teacher from a nearby school who came by to analyze his technique and ask him some questions. While we were getting ready to take Odums’ pictures, we talked briefly about his trajectory, about some of the press I’ve read about him, and how much coverage his work has received. We discussed the “illegality” of his initial works at the Florida projects when Odums’ art was considered defiant and forbidden. We mentioned we had been previously introduced by a friend in common during his massive Exhibit Be, an incredible display he had done in Algiers some years ago. He immediately started praising our mutual friend Perez, telling us how he made an impact on his life, saying, “he was one of the first video professionals that reached out to me about 2 Cent and told me what we were doing was dope.”

Odums explained he was working on the last mural that needed to be completed for the commission of the city of New Orleans during its tricentennial celebrated from February 2018 for the whole year. He laughed, explaining he had been traveling a lot, and that when he is in town he is pulled in many directions, including the school tours at his Studio Be on Royal Street. While we talked about the mural, cars passed by and beeped at him. A couple of girls in one car giggled, waved at him, and even looked a bit starstruck. People greeted him, yelled praising words, stopped and admired the mural before moving on. “This is part of the process,” he says. This is another reason why it takes him longer to paint in New Orleans. It’s quite different when he goes out of town to paint because he can fully dedicate himself to that creation free of many distractions. Of course, there are a few interruptions but he can remain focused on his masterpiece. At home, he is a staple of the community and has to take care of business matters while people stop by to greet him and talk to him. Naturally, he doesn’t mind these interactions with the people and the neighborhood as it provides him an opportunity to explain all the layers of the final piece. Educating the public is very much part of his mission, and, as he puts it, “that relationship between audience is needed for sustainability.” For this mural, the city bestowed upon him a complete artistic license, from choosing the location to creating the piece.

There is a lot of research that goes behind the work. It is a very collaborative process. One location he scouted turned out to be the perfect setting when he learned this location was an important gathering spot known as The Coliseum Arena. Here, boxing matches and other types of gatherings took place, including Civil Rights reunions with important figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Ella Fitzgerald, among many others. “Friends have found newspaper articles, pictures, and all kinds of information about this place,” says Odums, indicating that the process involves community members who develop an interest in researching the history, which makes the artwork very relevant. Friends also contribute by finding people and sending their photographs so that he can portray real people on the walls. “There are lots of sports being played in this park, so they are also supposed to look like they’re the audience for the people playing sports,” Odums explains. These everyday people and some historical characters will be painted to represent different eras. The process starts with a request, and moves through from location scouting, historical research, finding the subjects, creating a digital illustrated composition, gathering materials and equipment, scheduling time, prepping the walls in some areas with a foam roller and paint, and then sketching the shapes with blue spray paint.

This quiet afternoon outdoors, during a work in progress, was much different than our last time together during his first tour at the Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University. “Not Supposed to BE Here” was his first solo exhibition in a museum, which opened January 18, 2020, and was to be on view through May 23rd. A free tour on Saturday, March 7th attracted quite a diverse crowd that filled the small gallery. I could see the excitement of his followers from being in the presence of the artist himself. Many were familiar with his work, but for a few others, it seemed like they were crossing a cultural barrier. I could hear them debating whether all the pieces were, in fact, made of only spray paint because “they looked like fine art.” Another group had to ask others if the meaning of the word “dope,” used constantly by Odums while explaining some of his accomplishments, had a positive or a negative meaning. His art, initially considered vandalism, as it happened with graffiti in general, is now part of a gallery exhibit in a museum of a prestigious university. 

Throughout the rooms, the quest for belonging is depicted in different forms. We appreciate art ranging from a young Odums learning history and painting historical and cultural heroes on T-shirts to a young professional questioning his place as a production crew member in a local television studio, a bold creator exploring cultural storylines through filmmaking, an artist putting everyday black people on the cover of a comic book, to a person defining his genealogy and being lifted by the stories of his ancestors, to an artist paying homage to cultural heroes, to even art alluding to the fact that the city of New Orleans, isn’t supposed to still be here. Odums reminded the audience that it was his first time hosting the gallery tour. But even while being unclear of the flow and how to take the audience through each art piece, listening to the thought process and learning all the backstory behind each piece was such a valuable insight for those of us in attendance. Nothing on those walls seemed coincidental or fortuitous. Odums’s artistry is masterful. There is a meaning to each subject, with deep layers in the process that convey a carefully crafted message.

His spray-painted works of art become a layered masterpiece that comprises multiple dimensions. We see the large scale characters who may be historical figures, civil rights leaders, musicians, or sportsmen, but also see the greatness of regular people who become relevant, with art that seeks to remind us there is value in the day-to-day.

Knowing that the NOCCA graduate dove deep into videography as his profession, creating a name for himself as a filmmaker in the 2 Cent collective, makes sense when you analyze his visual storytelling technique. Somehow, Odums has created a unique form of art, where still images can somehow move you through layers that become storylines, and colors that enhance character development. Odums sees the stories that are already in place and infuses them with a feeling of “if these walls could talk”. During the tour, he refers to that adage when a young audience member asks about the writing in the background of his pieces.

Odums thinks about the stories that are implied, whether on a wall, or what is contained within a painting, so he recreates that feeling of a wall on a blank canvas. He includes the surface and the texture, the messages that could have been there with words or numbers and allow his characters to show that back story through transparencies within the work. We are so drawn into his paintings because beyond the scale and the skillful management of aerosol paint, his images can tell multidimensional stories.

His work starts with lengthy research, and the characters are developed by the essence of the very location, the buildings, the neighborhood, the people, and its audience, all giving such deep meaning to his work. His “fine art graffiti” conveys strong messages and high relevance. His subjects do not provide testimonials or soundbites, but he still incorporates phrases and quotes that enhance the messages and develop the characters. He is aware of the need to honor graffiti art, stating he honors “spray paint as an art of communicating through words and staying true to the messages. I see large scale painting as a process of glorification of the people I paint.” Odums enjoys creating art on big canvases and for him, in many instances, it’s also important that he gets to glorify and value everyday people. He learned by listening to some of his mentors that there is no need for superhuman powers to highlight people. He instructs us, “let’s value them for who they are.”

His artwork also challenges us. Odums asks us to evaluate and review our attitudes towards people. “Systemic racism can be tackled through artwork,” he explains while pointing to a painting of a young black man holding a horn and asks if we react differently to that same man when we see him on the street and he is not holding his instrument. His art is a powerful statement against prejudice and the way society sees or unsees people, particularly everyday people of color.

A simple art lesson by Odums came at the end of his gallery tour when a young person asked him if he was ever afraid of the outcome of his final piece. Quite genuinely, he answered, “not really. For me, the process is the most exciting part of creating.” I was a witness to this during the brief time I stayed watching paint after our encounter on N. Roman street, all by himself, favorite tunes playing, spray can in one hand, iPad on the other, painting until sunset. Watching him passionately immerse himself in his art, you wouldn’t think the world around was collapsing through a pandemic. The city came to a halt, but the painting continued. Through all uncertainty, his “BMike” work of art will remain to retell history, to be a witness, and to color our hope. As for the title of his solo show at Tulane University, Odums’s conclusion could serve to foreshadow what we would be dealing with within the next few days. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to be here, but I’m already here and I’m not going anywhere.”

Lani Ramos Rock & Rouge Women’s Festival

Lani Ramos' Rock & Rouge Women’s Festival

By AnaMaria Bech


Click aqui para español- >The Rock & Rouge Festival de mujeres creado por Lani Ramos

Opportunity. That is precisely what has been lacking in the world for women. The workplace can be tough terrain for women who often lack access to leadership positions and are denied fair pay. The situation can be even more complicated for self-employed women who work in male-dominated industries. Women have often been forced to find a solution to inclusion, and for creatives all around the world the answer has been creating their own spaces where they can showcase their talents and, hopefully, make a decent living out of it.

The music scene in New Orleans is no different. With so many talented artists, women continue to be underrepresented in festivals and music venues. Lani Ramos, a talented musician, producer, and lead singer of Big Pearl and the Fugitives of Funk, is no stranger to this reality. The California native has resided in New Orleans for almost two decades and has been an active performer in town. She has once again taken the role of producer to create The Rock & Rouge Women’s Music & Food Festival & Beyond, a woman-headlined music festival that will debut its second edition on March 21st, 2020, at Lafayette Square in downtown New Orleans.

After falling in love with New Orleans during a short birthday trip (during which she brazenly knocked on the door of music legend Fats Domino), Ramos knew she had found a special place with a character like no other. The day she decided to find Domino, she was armed with cookies made from her great-grandmother’s recipe, and that was what convinced the artist to open the door for her. The rare encounter left Ramos with a precious birthday gift and a story to tell for generations. She walked away having met a Rock ‘n’ Roll legend that was kind enough to give the young Californian tourist an autographed photo.

She returned to Los Angeles to try one last time at a breakthrough in the entertainment industry as an actress. Ramos continued to work in production for a big movie studio, but New Orleans kept calling her. In the summer of 2000, she moved to the city where she could live her dream of fully becoming the creative artist she is. “Moving to New Orleans was a dream come true because New Orleans let me be who I wanted to be from the inside out, without judgement, without scrutiny,” says Ramos.

Within a few weeks, Ramos was living her plan A dream as an artist, and to top it off, she also got to live her plan B of being a producer. Her first gig ever on Frenchmen Street was for the Music Maker Foundation where Ramos got to open for Earl King. She also got to record with the guitar player of British band The Alarm. The venues welcomed her energy, her mezzo soprano voice, and regularly booked Ramos for gigs on Frenchmen and Bourbon streets for many years.

After the events of September 11, 2001, Ramos went into full producer mode and worked with various musicians in New Orleans to create “In Loving Tribute, 9.11.01,” a compilation CD for first responders in New York City. Ramos traveled to the Big Apple to distribute the CD’s to fire and police stations. While in New York, she watched the play “Love Janis” and was inspired to create a dinner theatre style version of the show back in New Orleans. “I didn’t want to be her, I just wanted to sing her music, have fun, make some money.” People seem to remember Ramos mostly for that show. She used that platform to release her second album during the Janis Joplin Birthday Bash in Port Arthur, Texas in 2004. She performed her tribute to Janis and debuted her original music with Scoot Boogie Baby.

Playing Janis Joplin gave Ramos recognition, but it also created a stigma for her that was hard to break out of. Even when tribute shows became popular for other local artists long after she was done with her show, people didn’t seem to let go of the fact that Ramos performed Janis’s songs. When booking some of the big festivals in town, she was passed over many times. Although the reasons were unclear, it may have had to do with the fact that she had done the Janis show and Ramos’ original work was overlooked by festival producers.

That was just one of the many obstacles Ramos had to overcome in the music scene. Hurricane Katrina changed many things in the city, and the aftermath took its toll on Ramos as well. She stayed during the hurricane and has detailed stories of the days after the hurricane that could easily be made into a vivid movie. She left momentarily to San Francisco, where she booked some gigs before returning to New Orleans shortly thereafter to deal with a precarious housing situation, health issues related to black mold for which she became an advocate, and a city in recovery in the music industry as well.

Through resilience, she was able to regain her footing. Ramos continued to perform across town and recorded her third album “Big Pearl Double Faces” in 2012. Big Pearl and the Fugitives of Funk released “Live on Frenchmen Street” in 2014. This album was a live recording of their performance that included various influences and allowed New Orleans’ essence to come through with audience reactions, improvisation, and collaboration.

Ramos has kept busy and active, playing, recording, and even producing the Yeah You Right! television series. But Ramos recognizes the difficulties women in the industry face. She has been vocal about health issues and has lent her voice to speak against gender inequality in the industry. Just as she had to create opportunities for herself, it is important for Ramos to do the same for other female artists. After getting involved with the Women’s March a couple of years ago, she realized the need for a female-driven festival in the city of New Orleans. “In 2017 I was so fed up with the oppression in this town of the female artist. When the Women’s March came up, I wanted to join because we wanted to make statements.” Ramos created The Rock and Rouge Women’s Festival in 2018 with the intention of giving an opportunity to women-led bands and women-owned businesses to showcase their artistry through music, crafts and food.

The second edition of The Rock and Rouge festival takes place March 21st from 10am until 8pm in the CBD in Lafayette Square Park. “The Rock & Rouge is not a man-bashing event, but quite the contrary. It is instead inviting men to come see women as powerful role models and as equals in the playing field of male-dominated careers and as beautiful and educated women.” Launching the festival has allowed for the creation of the Rock & Rouge Foundation, which aims to support young women with a future in STEAM college courses and careers.

The Women Who Rock stage will include great artists like headliner Lena Prima, The Vettes, Lynn Drury, Big Pearl & The Fugitives of Funk, Muevelo, Shawn Williams, Sandra Love and the Reason, The Dirty Rain Revelers, and Sole Gaze.

Women will also feel inspired at The Women’s Empowerment Panels that will cover topics like local politics, business ownership, navigating the music industry, combating social and economic oppression, along with other diverse panelists and themes. The Rock & Rouge Foundation, in conjunction with the local Microsoft branch, will host the S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) Tent for girls, featuring interactive workshops in all these fields to inspire and educate the next generation of independent, creative women. Additional local organizations and individuals invested in educational programs, focusing on ages 8 – 14, will help cultivate these activities.

The festival is free to the public to enjoy great performances along with delicious food provided by women-owned restaurants. This year, the festival is offering the option to purchase reserved seating tickets that include a wonderfully prepared picnic from Carmo, spearheaded by Chefs Christina and Dana Honn.

Ramos’ vision is getting the support of organizations who believe in the importance of creating equal opportunities for women. All are invited to come out on March 21st to support our local women artists and to enjoy a spring day of great music for a great cause.

Son of a Saint

Son of a Saint

The Mission of Bivian "Sonny" Lee

By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- > Son of a Saint

Passion for the mission. That’s what you can get from Bivian “Sonny” Lee when he talks about Son of a Saint, the charity he founded in 2009. Currently, Son of a Saint is welcoming 30 boys who will be added to the growing family of 120 mentees served by the organization.

Growing up without a father is a challenge that thousands of children face, and it is one that is too familiar for Lee. Bivian Lewis Lee, Jr. was a professional football player who was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 1971, and who passed away at the young age of 34 from an enlarged heart. His son, “Sonny,” had just turned three, yet he remembers the day vividly. “I remember a loud noise, walking down the stairs, my father gasping for air, and the chaos... [Son of a Saint] is all about helping the next generation, but it is also therapy for myself.”

Unlike Lee, the boys at Son of a Saint have lost their father to violence or due to incarceration. That is the criteria he had to establish to select a small group from the many children in New Orleans who are in need of guidance and of a father figure in their lives.

Lee grew up in a better environment than many who grow up without a father. He had a family who could provide a good education, access to extracurricular activities, a safe environment, a nice house, and a home family made up of mostly women. But even though he had more than many, losing his father left a big void in his life. “I didn’t go fishing growing up, I didn’t talk sports with my dad…Now I’m doing these things with the boys that probably would have had the same experience that I have had.”

From his mother he learned volunteerism. When he was young, he wanted to be a veterinarian and often volunteered at animal hospitals. He played baseball and tennis growing up, but never pursued a professional career in sports. His mother discouraged him because she knew that his father did not want him to experience the things he had as a black athlete back in the ‘70s. 

However, Lee had a chance to work in sports. First for AAA baseball team, the New Orleans Zephyrs, and later as chief aide to Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. He had access to many opportunities working closely with one of Louisiana’s most powerful men. Yet, he steered back to creating something that allowed him to help people and make a difference where it is truly needed. His foundation gives mentees opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have, designed to open their eyes to experiences and possibilities they once believed out of their reach.

Son of a Saint has developed a holistic approach to address the needs of every one of their boys. Besides the support and 24/7 dedication of their mentors, mentees have access to behavioral health services, recreational activities, group and one-on-one mentorship, tutoring, and tuition assistance.

After covering the basic needs for mentees through Son of a Saint, Lee has found ways to partner with organizations that provide funding and life changing experiences for the mentees that allow them to explore an entire world of possibility. Their program offers travel abroad and service missions, a time for reflection for the boys. “Visiting other countries like Ghana last year and Costa Rica previously, allows them to see their privilege and to experience other things.” For these boys, flying for the first time is a way to understand there are people who do that on a regular basis, and Lee knows having that experience may encourage them to get a job that allows them to travel. “We don’t want to just help that boy a little bit. We want to help him, make him into a leader who helps others.”

Because the mentees have dealt with traumatic experiences, the counseling part of the program is essential. Lee’s mother made sure he saw a therapist every week to help him deal with anger and frustration as a teenager. He understands these issues were present in him because of the loss of his father. When talking about news and crime committed by young boys, his frustration is evident. “I can tell you that 99% of these boys don’t have fathers, or a good father figure at home. If I could have gotten to him when he was 10…I really feel that that would not happen to a boy, or the chances that it wouldn’t, would be greater.”

After the staff and volunteers at Son of a Saint, Lee believes the strongest asset is the logic model they have developed. This model demonstrates how each element of the program leads to specific outcomes that are identified in each stage of their lives. The boys start the program at 10 years of age and stay in the program until they are 21, making the program preventative. A connection remains while the boys are in college, and the hope is that most of them would return to volunteer and mentor.

As a father himself, Lee defines the success of the program through experiencing the positive development of the mentees and watching the boys grow in the right direction. Getting messages from the mentees like “Mr. Sonny. I don’t know where I’d be without you, without this program” means a lot. “They see Son of a Saint as family, as a support for them,” Lee proudly tells us, and the most rewarding thing for him is to see the boys smiling, even though he knows they are struggling with big problems at home. He shares the stories of Jahiem and Alejandro. “Jahiem lost his mother and was living with a family friend who had a drug problem. His two older brothers were in jail for life. We intercepted him at 9 years old, before he would head in the same direction. His father was killed in jail. He is a Junior in high school, looking at colleges right now. He will probably get a full-ride scholarship. He had nowhere to live and is now living with our project manager. The project manager and his wife are going to adopt him. We also have Alejandro. He struggled being the older boy to four siblings, his father was in jail. He went to UNO and is going to the Culinary Institute of New York. We identified that he liked to cook early on, and he is attending one of the best culinary schools in the country, if not the world. He is coming back to New Orleans and we are looking into the possibility of opening his restaurant.”

The growth of the organization is focused on reaching out and serving approximately 200 mentees at a time, to have all the resources needed to fill their unique needs. “To support a boy holistically is a 24-hour job. You are raising a child. At Son of a Saint we are almost adopting a kid.”

One of their short-term goals as an organization is to find an office space of their own. Lee would like to acquire a building that can host Son of a Saint and all its activities. Lee would also like to increase the diversity of his mentee base as well as that of the mentors. Mentors are males 21 and older who want to provide guidance. They must go through a background check and a training that lasts around four hours. After that they participate for three months in group mentor sessions, which serves as additional training, but it also allows the mentors to develop a rapport with the mentees and organically identify a good pairing.

Son of a Saint is always looking for support. Whether it is through mentorship, financial contributions, hosting training sessions, providing food donations for their activities, or buying their branded merch, support is always needed and welcomed. There are many ways men and women can get involved. You can always lend a helping hand, by contacting them directly and checking out sonofasaint.org


Photography: CBass Studios

Nicole Caridad Beyond Off the Eaten Path

Nicole Caridad

Beyond Off the Eaten Path

By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- >Nicole Caridad Más allá de su Instagram Off the Eaten Path

Nicole Caridad Ralston is fashionable, creative, and charming. That’s what you can easily tell from looking at her successful Instagram account, Off the Eaten Path NOLA, a profile dedicated to showcasing the most amazing food New Orleans has to offer. Her aesthetically appealing feed has acquired more than 15,000 followers and has gotten the attention of New Orleans tourism agency New Orleans and Co., which named Ralston as one of New Orleans’ Top Ten Hispanics to know in 2018.

Nicole Caridad takes part in the most exciting food-related events in town and she gets hired for marketing/influencer campaigns by many local restaurants to promote their menus.

It is hard to believe the food blog isn’t her full-time job. Behind the foodie extraordinaire is a very committed Higher Education Administration professional. Dr. Nicole Caridad Ralston is an educator in leadership, intercultural development, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Those who know Nicole personally describe her as “the real deal.”

In a world so dazzled by the superficial, finding out about someone like Nicole Caridad is a breath of fresh air. Sure, she looks like she is always Instagram-ready with stylish clothes, perfectly done manicures, and flawless make-up, but her style goes beyond the superficial. Nicole Caridad is highly educated. She cherishes her doctorate degree because she was the first person in her family to go to college straight out of high school. She says higher education was a powerful experience for her, an experience she feels many people should be able to attain.

Nicole deliberately moved to New Orleans in 2012 after completing her master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from NC State University. Enticed by the rich history of the Crescent City, the cultural traditions, the food scene, and the similarities to the Caribbean, New Orleans became Ralston’s clear choice for relocating with her then-boyfriend, now-husband. “I really deep down felt called to New Orleans... I really could not imagine life anywhere else. The food is amazing, the culture is amazing, everything about it I just love, and I feel very honored to live and be in this place and to call it home.”

Her father, an American of Irish descent, met her Cuban immigrant mother in Los Angeles, where Ralston was born. The family moved to South Florida when Nicole was a child. That’s where Nicole grew up, surrounded by her Cuban family and enjoying weekends at a farm in Homestead where she learned to love her roots. “I have beautiful memories about being on the farm and picking food and eating fresh meat that grew in the farm... Rabbits, chickens, goats, pigs… Being in the kitchen with my abuelo and mom, cooking.”

Her bicultural upbringing has given Nicole a high awareness of the social inequities people experience. Growing up having to navigate two very different cultures, languages, food, and customs instilled in Nicole a sense of empathy and a deep understanding of cross-cultural communication, finding validity in how individuals from other cultures value different things.

Her higher education journey was also one of finding herself and understanding who she really was. In many moments of her life, having different cultural influences made her feel as if she did not fully belong anywhere. “As a mixed-race woman, coming from Cuban refugee immigrants on one side of the family, and the other side being a white, working-class family, I was a free/reduced-lunch kid. A lot of my marginalized identities, as well as privileged identities of [passing as] white, having lighter skin than other members of the Cuban side of my family, all these experiences kind of blend together and have given me a lot of empathy into what folks are experiencing.”

All these experiences and the knowledge acquired during her professional development have been put to great use in Nicole’s work. As the Associate Director of Education & Programming at Beloved Community, a non-profit consulting firm focused on implementing regional, sustainable solutions for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Dr. Ralston, as she is known professionally, finds it important to evaluate organizations through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion. She believes it is essential to push people to think deeply about racial equity, which permeates the education system, businesses and everything in this country. Guiding organizations through the process of understanding who they serve, who they hire, how they involve the community, and what inclusion looks like in their organization, contributes to an intentional economic development. “I want to leave a society where folks feel included, where policies and practices are equitable across identity markets like race, gender, class, etcetera, and [I want] us to treat each other better and get back to centering humanity and who [we] are as people. [I] want us to collectively work together to uplift each other.”

Whether it is through her food blog at influencer events, or at professional speaking conferences, Nicole Caridad strives to live her values. She keeps busy with promoting restaurants in the city, serving on the board of the ACLU, being a publicity co-chair of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s annual Azúcar Ball, consulting for organizations, and even dancing in some of the city’s parades with the Latinx dance group, Ritmeaux Krewe.

Nicole Caridad Ralston is certainly an inspiring individual, a proud Latina, and a passionate New Orleanian who consciously contributes to the betterment of our community and our society. She uses her platforms to promote and uplift businesses in New Orleans, discuss issues people are afraid to talk about, and to promote the politics and values she believes in. Nicole embraces her bicultural roots, is a declared feminist, and couldn’t do without her food blogging or her consulting work. Through both identities she has found the perfect balance to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. She stays connected to her community, simply by doing what she loves and sharing it with those around her.


Photography: CBass Studios

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