The Rep Zone was invited by the Alma G. Davis Foundation to serve as the VIP Celebrity Correspondent for the 7th Annual 2016 “Dinner for Divas” honoring survivors of domestic violence. The exclusive red carpet gala was held at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center and was presented by the foundation’s CEO and Founder Alma G. Davis, a world-renowned entrepreneur, motivational speaker and visionary. Most recently, Ms. Davis, through her work and expertise, was acknowledged as a 2016 “Nominated Change Maker” during the White House Summit’s: United State of Women. She was selected as a finalist for the 2016 Presidential Leadership Scholars program, and was extended a special invitation to the White House where she met with the Senior Advisor to Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women where was excited to be in the same room with President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and other dignitaries.
The Dinner for Divas gala was hosted by Shirley Strawberry (of The Steve Harvey Morning Show) and Palmer Williams, Jr. (of Tyler Perry’s Love Thy Neighbor and House of Payne). Jaylon and Johnnie Gordon, collectively known as the Christian hip-hop recording duo JMGBOYZ, served as presenter and keynote speaker. Check out the exclusive interviews featuring these movers and shakers, as they joined me in The REP Zone.
Kicking off the first interview, I sat down with the two awesome and dapper young men, Johnnie and Jaylon Gordon.
Ten-year-old Johnnie and nine-year-old Jaylon are both actors, models and hip-hop artists. Both have appeared in commercials, national print ads, magazines and feature films. They are best known for their roles as Gerald and CJ (respectively) in A Christmas Blessing, where they starred alongside Omari Hardwick, Lisa Arrindell Anderson and David Banner. When Johnnie isn’t filming or working on his music he uses his voice to advocate against the injustices of child sexual abuse alongside his brother and Angela Williams the founder of Voice Today Inc. The company honored Johnnie in January 2015 by making him a recipient of The Voice of Courage Award. Jaylon recently made history when he became the youngest person to ever join the BET Network Family, starring alongside Brandy as her son, Xavier Moon in Zoe Ever After.
For the gala, Jaylon was a presenter and introduced Johnnie who delivered the keynote address and they were definitely impressive on stage as well as during the interview.
T-REP: What does diva mean to you and who are the Divas in your lives?
JOHNNIE: Well the diva in my life, I would have to say, is my mom. I mean my mom is my hero.
JAYLON: I’d have to go with the same answer. My mom too, because I love her and she’s also my hero.
T-REP: When it comes to being involved in an event like this, what makes you guys, being so young, want to get involved so early?
JOHNNIE: Well, I just want to encourage all of the survivors to press on through your tragedies, no matter what happened to you. You just gotta press on. That’s why I’m here.
JAYLON: The reason why I’m here is because I totally support domestic violence survivors and my brother and I wanna help them to walk in forgiveness.
T-REP: That’s amazing and truly inspiring coming from such young men. What’s something that you would say to the survivor’s that you will be meeting tonight?
JOHNNIE: Well, I would say God bless you and don’t let what happened to you affect your life and who you are. You just gotta walk in forgiveness.
JAYLON: I would say, you gotta walk in forgiveness even though that happened to you, still walk in forgiveness.
T-REP: Thank you so much Johnnie and Jaylon. I truly appreciate you guys being here and I’m so excited to hear your keynote address tonight.
Next, I sat down with one of the night’s celebrity hosts, Shirley Strawberry, one of the most recognizable names and voices in radio. Dubbed, “The Best Voice in Radio” by Steve Harvey, she is the co-host of one of today’s biggest, nationally syndicated radio morning shows in the country with nearly eight million listeners, The Steve Harvey Morning Show. Shirley and Steve offer honest advice to listeners who have sent in letters concerning life’s challenges. She has won an NAACP Image Award and was voted as one of Atlanta’s Top 25 women of Rolling Out Magazine. So, you can see why it was an honor to have her join me in The Rep Zone to share some of her wisdom.
T-REP: Ms. Shirley Strawberry! I love that name, by the way and it’s a huge honor to be sitting here with you. Thanks for being here.
STRAWBERRY: Well, thank you so much for having me and I like your name as well. T-REP from The Rep Zone, that’s pretty cool too.
T-REP: Thank you so much. Well, what actually made you get involved with this type of event? There are a lot of causes out there. There are a lot of different foundations. Why this one?STRAWBERRY: Well, for a number of reasons –number one being I was once a victim of domestic violence and it’s nothing that I talk about it,because I’ve forgotten it; it’s in my past. I’m no longer a victim. I’m over it, I’m strong, I’m fearless,I’m victorious now. But there are so many people who are going through this, probably right at this moment as we’re speaking that need a voice, who haven’t found their voice yet. So I’m representing them.
I care about the cause. It’s one of those causes that’s been kind of swept under the rug. We don’t talk about domestic violence anymore. There are so many other things that are in the forefront right now. I don’t want this cause to go away because it’s happening every single day of our lives and I want to bring it back. I want to focus more on it. I want it eradicated. I want it stopped because it can be stopped.
T-REP: That’s amazing. That’s truly inspiring. With you overcoming that situation, what would you say to those women who just don’t know if they can come out of it? Or don’t know if it’s right for them to move on? What advice would you give to them?
STRAWBERRY: Well you know, my mom, who just passed away a couple of months ago, she knew about it and she once told me that when you get tired, you’ll leave. So I think, we as women, when we’re in those types of situations we have to get to a point where we’re tired, where we recognize who we are. Where we start to love ourselves again and know that we deserve better and should be treated better. It’ll start with us when we stop taking it. Period. We have to get to that point though, unfortunately. Because sometimes we think that we deserve it and we love someone else more than we love ourselves and so we allow them to do that to us.
T-REP: I love the name of the event Dinner for Divas.What does a Diva mean to you?STRAWBERRY: Well a diva means exactly that,a survivor. Someone who loves life, who loves herself, and who has a relationship with God, because I tell you one thing T-REP, it’s going to take a relationship with God to get strong enough to get out of a serious domestic violence situation. So that’s what a diva represents to me.
T-REP: You are such an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing your words of wisdom.
The other half of the evening’s hosting team was the funny, talented and awesome Palmer Williams, Jr., one of the busiest and hardest working comedians in the game. He is an accomplished and versatile actor and singer who is recognized as one of the funniest stars in television and stage. His credits include primary roles in several of Tyler Perry’s national touring productions, including I Don’t Want To Do Wrong, The Have and the Have Nots, Madea’s Big Happy Family, Laugh To Keep From Crying, and The Marriage Counselor. His resounding performances segued into a recurring and expanding role on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and is now featured on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network comedy series Love Thy Neighbor. In addition, we’ve known one another since I was around eleven years old. So as you can see, there are many reasons why I was so excited to have him join me in The REP Zone.
T-REP: Uncle Palmer, how are you doing this evening?
WILLIAMS: I’m doing good and so proud of you.
T-REP: Thank you so much. I’m just trying to be great like you. So, you do a lot of hosting and traveling and lots of people ask you to work with them. Why did you choose to work with this particular organization?
WILLIAMS: Because I’m personally involved, being a survivor myself. Because of my sisters and my cousin and the abuse that they had to withstand over the years. [At] 9 or 10 years old, I witnessed this with my sisters, even to the point of actually having to help my brother pull my sister’s husband off of her. So it’s very personal to me. I never want it to ever happen to my daughters, it’s not going to happen to my wife, and I don’t ever want my sons to even think that they need to put their hands on a woman. So by leading by example and finding a cause that you believe in and fully support is what it is all about. Alma is a beautiful person, inside and out, and who wouldn’t want to help her out. It’s something that I take a personal note about and I want make sure that we eradicate this craziness called domestic violence.
T-REP: Thank you for sharing that. I know that you’ve hosted this event before.
WILLIAMS: Yes, I’ve hosted this event for four out of seven years, not a bad run. I was suggested by comedian, Rodney Perry, who hosted the years before me.
T-REP: What advice would you give to women and even men who may be in an abusive situation right now?
WILLIAMS: Well, statistics show that even one out of seven men are abused, so my suggestion would be, the first step is [to take] the first step out of that.Get out of that situation. You always may think like“how can I get away from this situation?”I talked to a woman tonight [who spent] 16 years in an abusive situation and finally got to the point where she had to take that first step to get out of that house and out of that situation. So, all that I can say more than anything is just get out of there. Do your research, calculate your move. Make sure you do it at a time where it’s least expected. Find a way out, because we don’t want you to be that statistic on the other side. We don’t want you to be an angel that lost their life to domestic violence.
We want you to be an angel because you were here for a very long time and you can speak to women and men that have gone through the same situation and find a breakthrough and a break out. So get out! Get out now!
T-REP: Thank you so much, Uncle Palmer. I truly appreciate you.
Finally, I was able to catch up with the amazing visionary, Ms. Alma G. Davis.
T-REP: Ms. Alma Davis, how are you doing this evening?
DAVIS: I am excellent. I’m so excited because we are at our 7th Annual Dinner for Divas Gala honoring over 150 domestic violence survivors, so I am elated.
T-REP: I see it. I see the glow in your face and I seethe glow in all of these women’s faces. I know that it must be tough for the women or even the men to be able to come out of this type of situation and being able to have that strength and that empowerment. I definitely thank you for that. How does it feel knowing that you’re not only a founder and a mother but also an inspiration to other women?
DAVIS: It’s great. I never thought that doing what I do would inspire others. This is just from my heart. I wanted to help because I used to be them and to know that I’m inspiring other women and other young girls, it’s an incredible and very humbling experience. I’m so appreciative that God can use me in my life and through all of the tragedies that I’ve gone through to help somebody else.
T-REP: We know that this is dinner. It’s a Dinner for Divas but the foundation is so much more, it’s so much bigger. What else does the foundation offer to these women?
DAVIS: Under our mission to educate, empower and celebrate domestic violence survivors and help them achieve financial and self-sufficiency, like you said, we do so much more. We educate not only survivors, but the public about the effects of domestic violence. So many don’t consider things that affect them from the health arena, from the financial arena. We help survivors get jobs because one of the big reasons why people stay in these situations is because of financial restraints or financial control.
So we educate survivors on the things that they need so that they don’t have to go back [to abusive situations] and educate the public to show that this affects everybody. It affects the economy, it affects corporations. So we educate people and then we empower them by connecting the dots.We also do a walk called Walk A Mile In Their Shoes. It’s a 5K run, 1-mile walk and if you walk instead of run, you’re partnered with an actual survivor and that survivor shares their story as you walk together so you’re truly walking a mile in their shoes. And then of course celebrating them, honoring them. I am a strong believer in if I can show you how beautiful you are on the outside then I can pour into your inside.
T-REP: All of these women are beautiful, you’re beautiful and I love how you and the foundation don’t say victims, but instead you call them survivors and divas. What made you choose to use the word Diva? Why Dinner for Divas?
DAVIS: Because growing up I always listened to all of the Cinderella stories and I always said, oh, I wish that that could be me. I’ve heard the word divas and people sometimes had such a negative connotation about it. My thing was, if you can understand your value and understand your worth, then you ARE a diva. You should be treated at 250% no matter what you’ve gone through. So I took that and said you know, Dinner for Divas. I’m empowering them,they are divas and it’s ok because they deserve to be Divas.
T-REP: That’s truly inspiring. There are millions of people across the world who go through this, whether men or women, and so there are those out there who are nervous, they don’t know if they can come out of it. They don’t know if it’s their time. What welcome or what words could you give them to know that you can come to us, you can come to the Alma G. Davis Foundation or a shelter, to know that you CAN get out?