Category Archives: Lifestyle

Houston Super Trainer & HBCU Advocate Marcus Walker Discusses Fitness, Entrepreneurship, And His Staunch Support For HBCUs


To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. – Buddha

Recent years have seen a boom in the fitness industry among those 40 and under. A desire to be fit, not develop dad bods, and live active lifestyles has seen small gyms popping up all over the country, especially in urban centers. Looking at the numbers of the fitness industry that seems to be just scratching the surface it is not hard to understand the lure for entrepreneurs and investors. According to Statista, “The global fitness and health club industry generates more than 80 billion U.S. dollars in revenue per year. The North American market had an estimated size of more than 28 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, of which 90 percent, around 25.8 billion U.S. dollars, was attributable to the United States. The U.S. is the single biggest market worldwide not only in terms of revenue but in regards to the number of members in health & fitness clubs as well.” This booming industry seems to be just scratching the surface as people’s desire to live longer and more quality lives becomes more and more a societal norm and value. HBCU Money caught up with Marcus Walker, one of Houston, Texas’ premier trainers, who we caught up with in between sessions to talk fitness, the business side, and why he supports HBCUs despite having not attended one.

How can small businesses integrate fitness into their business to ensure they have healthier and productive employees? They can partner with a local trainer to see if they have a plan that would help make the owner and workers aware of living a healthier life. It is no secret that healthy employees call out of work less, work more efficiently, and overall are more productive. From a bottom line perspective alone it is worth small businesses who have to watch every dime to be invested in employees who are healthy and fit.

A second aspect is engaging their customers as well. They could partner with a trainer and run specials for customers who shop with their business. The latter part shows that they care not only about their customers’ business, but their well being. Be more than just a business in the community, be a community partner.

If you could meet with the mayor, governor, or president, what would be your advice on how government can help its citizens achieve healthier lifestyles? I would start by showing them the effects that fast food have on people. Obviously in a city like Houston that is geographically very spread out and has a heavy reliance on cars there is a tendency toward less activity and unhealthy eating as we spend a good deal of our days driving. I would suggest that they create a program focusing on providing favorable small business loans for vegan, gluten-free, and clean eating businesses so that we could have healthier options. The fresher the food, the better it is for you. Replacing those late night fast food chains with healthy options would be a great start.

There are a lot of different avenues to be an entrepreneur within the fitness industry. Where are some areas you feel African Americans are underrepresented or over looking that has opportunity in the industry? We are definitely underrepresented in owning gyms. There are a lot of African American trainers, but not a lot of gym owners. It’s not easy to run a gym, but its doable. It requires hard work, being hands on, and providing an atmosphere that people feel great about being committed too.

How is technology impacting the world of fitness for gyms and trainers? Technology is making gym and training experiences better for all. As a trainer you are allowed the opportunity to train people all over the world by training online. It also has made it possible to make sure clients and gym members keep correct form on certain machines that guide you in the right direction to ensure they are truly maximizing workout efforts. For trainers, it has helped keep their small business running smoothly by offering different apps that do everything from keeping up with clients to filing taxes correctly.

Despite typically being a more active time, health issues like obesity and the like are on the rise at HBCU campuses. A few years ago, Spelman College scrapped its entire athletic program in favor of a campus wise holistic wellness program for all students and Paul Quinn College eliminated pork from its cafeterias. What are some other opportunities you believe HBCUs can help their students be healthy while in college and after? They could offer free seminars on meal prepping, portion control, alternate healthier late night snacks, and drive home the importance of brain food. I also feel like an elective should be required just to bring awareness to being healthy. These students are often returning to family and communities that they can help impart that knowledge on, so it is vital that we give them the information needed.

In closing, you did not attend an HBCU, but have been a staunch advocate over the years. What brought this on and what message would you give to other African Americans who did not attend HBCUs about supporting them? I didn’t attend an HBCU as you said, but as I began to dig deep into our history, I found the importance of HBCUs. I would tell any African Americans to do their best to promote, support, and give to HBCUs. We are some amazing people and we need to support our own. We are all we have.

You can find Marcus Walker training at Houston Muscleheadz Gym. Also follow him on Instagram @MWalker357 to see his Temple Building process.

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10 Twitter Accounts To Follow If You Want To Be A Global HBCU Citizen


“A little exposure to a city like Sulaimani will help Trump understand that the Middle East is a much more complex place than he seems to believe. Perhaps Trump could even give a speech at the American University in Sulaimani, just as President Obama did at Cairo University early in his first term.” – Peter Bergen

Today, more and more HBCU students and alumni are embracing the passport. Traveling abroad has become even more of a priority as a mixture of factors that range from value being placed on experiences over material possessions, heightened frustration with the cultural climate in the US, and simply more exposure to the benefits. Beyond travel, more than a few HBCU alumni have become expats and taking careers abroad opening a whole new world of opportunity. Whether one chooses to travel or work abroad, we are now in a world where having a global perspective is paramount.

How does one go about learning how to understand the world from truly global perspective? The most sure fire way is to read and consume perspectives from around the world. This is not to be confused with reading about the world from only a US perspective. That is to say, reading about East Africa on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox is vastly different than reading about East Africa from an actual East African publication.

As such, we have comprised ten Twitter account can get you on the road to truly becoming the HBCU global citizen who not only trek’s the world, but understands its intricacies.

@OurWorldInData

  •  An online publication that presents empirical research and data that show how living conditions around the world are changing. The web publication on global development uses interactive data visualisations (charts and maps) to present the research findings on development that explain the causes and consequences of the observed changes. (Wikipedia)

@The_EastAfrican

  • The EastAfrican is circulated in Kenya and the other countries of the African Great Lakes region, including Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. It contains stories and in-depth analysis from each country in the region, in addition to international stories. (Wikipedia)

@ChinaDailyUSA

  • A Beijing, China based paper that is considered one of China’s more liberal news outlets, like almost all media in the country is state run. Its importance can not be understated as it is one of many vessels of communication for the world’s number two superpower and its views.

@ForeignAffairs

  • An American magazine of international relations and U.S. foreign policy published by the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership organization and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. (Wikipedia)

@IanBremmer

  • The president and founder of Eurasia Group, the leading global political risk research and consulting firm. He is credited with bringing the craft of political risk to financial markets—he created Wall Street’s first global political risk index (GPRI)—and for establishing political risk as an academic discipline. His definition of emerging markets—“those countries where politics matters at least as much as economics for market outcomes”—has become an industry standard. “G-Zero,” his term for a global power vacuum in which no country is willing and able to set the international agenda, is widely accepted by policymakers and thought leaders. (Eurasia Group)

@SecurityScholar

  • Natalie Sambhi is a Research Fellow at the Perth USAsia Centre where she publishes on Indonesian foreign and defence policy as well as Southeast Asian security. She was most recently an Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) from 2012 to 2016 and Managing Editor of ASPI’s blog, The Strategist. She worked previously at the Department of Defence and University of Canberra. (Security Scholar)

@Ipeaonline

  • The (Brazilian) think tank’s main goals are the following evaluate and propose essential public policies and programs to improve the social, economic and structural development of the country; formulate prospective studies to guide development strategies for medium and long-term outcomes; assist the Brazilian federal government in its aim to improve the efficiency of its decisions; and contribute to the improvement of the public debate related to the country’s development endeavors and government actions. (Ipea.gov)

@ChathamHouse

  • The Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly known as Chatham House, is a not-for-profit and non-governmental organisation based in London whose mission is to analyse and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs. (Wikipedia)

@JapanTimes

  • The Japan Times was launched by Motosada Zumoto on March 22, 1897, with the goal of giving Japanese an opportunity to read and discuss news and current events in English to help Japan to participate in the international community. (Wikipedia)

@NatGeo

  • Often forgotten as an aspect of global and international affairs, geography plays a significant role in the way countries, nations, and cultures interact with each other. This publication gives insight to geography, culture, and nature that shape many nations.

Connect with us on Twitter at @HBCUMoney and let us know what you are reading to help shape your global world.

 

Living & Teaching Abroad: Xavier University (LA) Alumna Britney Francis Conquers Beijing


There has been a recent revelation in the past five years that African Americans need to get out and explore the world. The passport has become the new IT thing to have among African America’s young and educated. Adding to that reality is that more and more college students must set themselves apart in a more competitive global workforce. One sure way to do that is to show that you have the ability to go anywhere and be successful, especially if it means going some place out of your comfort zone. If adding tools to your tool chest is what sets you apart, then studying abroad during your undergraduate years gives you one mean hammer to swing. It also presents some amazing career opportunities upon graduation if you are willing to take the chance. HBCU Money caught up with Britney Francis, an alumna of Xavier University (LA), who is conquering the classroom in the capital of arguably the world’s number two superpower – China.

How did the opportunity arise for you to live and teach in Beijing, China?

By May 2016, I was unfulfilled, disillusioned and dissatisfied with life, particularly with my job. I had also been going through a health issue that had been going on for nearly 3 years at the time. Feeling like I needed real change, I was inspired by a friend from high school who had gotten a teaching job in Dubai. I had started to come around to the idea of teaching, and had started studying to test for an acceleration program that helps people become teachers — who had degrees in other specialties besides education. I had my sights set on becoming a high school history teacher in Houston. I had also been mentoring kids at the juvenile justice center and felt it was time to get into the classroom to find other ways to reach the youth. So I figured, “hey — maybe I can also teach abroad particularly next year or the following year”. I thought I would do myself a service by gaining experience in the States before taking the show abroad. I was interested in Japan and started to do research. For some reason, it seemed much harder to get to Japan (which wasn’t true but you don’t know what you don’t know). Then I started to see posts from China. After researching for a few weeks on various job boards, I came across a job ad for an education company called Education First, based in China. What made me pull the trigger was getting written up at my job for performance issues (and my health stuff, if you wanna keep it a buck. My manager had told me that all I had been going through was “impacting the business” – whatever that means). I was so bored and disgusted; the place was no doubt a dead-end job. My work and my health continued to suffer and I was listening to podcasts at my desk all day… anything to escape. I had applied at a charter school at the recommendation of a friend. I had written an elaborate essay but received a response almost immediately saying they would “keep my application on file”. Something inside me told me to change a few of the words around and apply to the same company I had seen in China days before. So I did, and by the end of that week I had the job and was set to arrive in Beijing by September. PERFECT timing!

How do you believe going to an HBCU and XULA in particular prepared you for being an expatriate?

One thing I always say is that being HBCU alum prepared me for life in a way I feel no other school could have. I learned so much about myself at my HBCU and my sense of Black pride strengthened. Being a Xavier student during the year Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city of New Orleans is what particularly made me strong. It made all of us strong. We had faith in our school and returned to the city five months after the storm hit. Houses were destroyed, there was mold everywhere. The city was crippled and the students/admin kept it pushing. Hell, all schools in the NOLA area did the same thing. Most of us that returned after the storm have graduated and have moved on to do great things in our lives.

Living in a place like China where most people you encounter are ignorant and inherently racist, I feel that what I’ve experienced prior to now gave me tough skin. But not to say it’s the all bad. For every ignorant person, there are a million more kind, giving, and helpful people here as well. The mindset, cultural and societal norms here are SOOO different.

As an educator, what are some differences and conversely similarities you have noticed between the education systems of China in comparison to the United States?

Being that my teaching experience is only limited to my time here in China I can’t speak too much on the American side as I haven’t seen it from the eyes of a teacher. But I will say that certain teaching methods I’ve tried to use on my older students were frowned upon, especially in instances where I tried to make my classes fun (for my high school students). Things that I know worked for me as a student or methods I’ve researched can sometimes be overridden as you’re expected to adapt to the “Chinese way” and not have much say-so in the matter.

Chinese students don’t have lives of your typical American teenager. They are groomed to study 7 days a week and get LOADS of homework. On weekends, they study, sleep and play on their computers. They don’t have social lives, and hardly date. Emphasis is placed on math and science more than other subject areas. And I’ve found that most parents here will pressure their kids to be successful, to the point where they are depressed and often unsure of themselves. I’ve even had parents ask me “how can my son/daughter be better?” with an overall class score of 99 and rated highest in the entire class. On the other side, there’s also a bit of denial when it comes to things like learning disabilities and behavioral disorders.

Do you have a favorite memory thus far in your time there?

Most of my favorite memories involve my students, present and old. Children are so amazing and smart and I’ve become emotionally attached to nearly all of my students. It’s very hard saying goodbye to students when new opportunities arise and it’s time to move on to a new school (or they move on to a new school). My other favorite memories involve all the friends I’ve made here and especially the trips I’ve taken. Living here has afforded me opportunities to travel that I didn’t have before and it’s been amazing. So far, I’ve been to Thailand, S. Korea, Hong Kong, and a few interesting cities around China. I have so many other places to see before I pack up and head back home.

Being African-American in China, what has that particular part of the experience been like for you?

Honestly, it can be a bit frustrating. It can go either two ways: either people are deathly afraid of you or WAY too curious/friendly/unable to respect boundaries. Being Black in China, you can expect people to take pictures of you without your permission. It’s cute at first – until after you’ve been here a few months, you had a long day at work and just trying to get home to your bed. Seeing someone sneaking a picture of you like you’re a zoo exhibit can be angering. Also, people don’t have concepts of boundaries and personal space. With there being 20+ million people in bigger cities, there’s not much room for you to breathe and people like to touch your hair or try to rub your skin to see if the black comes off. I try not to fault most people for it because they are conditioned and they simply don’t know much about the world outside of China. They also assume any black person they see is from Africa… and when you don’t know the language you can’t explain to them how the Diaspora works. It’s just a LOT of ignorance. For me personally, in work spaces and social spaces, I require respect from everybody I interact with, language barrier be damned. It’s the only way I can cope with what goes on around here.

We know you can not prepare for everything prior to living abroad, but is there something you wish you had known in particular prior to your move?

No. Besides bringing enough black hair care products and make-up that matches your tone to last you a while, there’s nothing I think I could have been told prior that would have made much of a difference. Everyone’s experience is different. You could ask another person to talk about their experiences and they may LOVE it here, or hate it with their entire being. I like that I was given the opportunity to come here and be out of my comfort zone. Everything I’ve learned about myself and the world thus far has only enhanced my personal growth. I am a different person than I was in September 2016 and I can only continue to soar from here. I’m still very happy about my decision to move here.

Tell us about one of your fondest HBCU memories while at XULA?

Graduation day. Enough said.

Britney Francis is an English teacher from southern Louisiana by way of Houston, TX. She has a bachelors degree in Communications from Xavier University of Louisiana, with a concentration in public relations and speech communication. She is currently working as a kindergarten teacher in Beijing, China. She is passionate about travel, sports, and children’s causes.

Follow her experiences via Twitter at @britneyisland

An Untapped Opportunity: African American Women’s Absence In The Craft Beer Industry


By Della Fain

There was a time when you thought of beer, it was a beverage to accompany you to picnics and ballparks. No one was doing anything innovative or creative with beer. Fast forward to now and crafted beer makes up 98 percent of all breweries in the U.S. This in no small part is due to the support of craft beer lovers. But who are these craft beer lovers?

In an industry that nets 107.6 billion dollars annually a 2014 survey conducted by Neilsen found that African Americans rank a minute 3.7 percent of all craft beer. And of that 3.7 percent, how many are Black women? To quote 702’s song “Where my girls at?” Now do not get me wrong, we are not non- existent and there are Black women in the industry as brewers, bloggers, owners, culture and lifestyle branders, but the numbers are minute. With society and lifestyle brands like Dope & Dank co-founded by a Black woman Beny Ashburn, who advocates diversity in the dank world of craft beer.

But in a decade of sustained growth, the craft industry has largely ignored minorities and in the past, diversity meant white women. And even today it only in a small part means men of color. So, where do we (African American women) fit in?

In 2017, Craftbeer.com listed 8 women in craft beer who are making a mark, and none were Black. No mention of Celeste Beatty, founder of The Harlem Brewing Company, or the fact that her beers are available in 39 Wal-marts across New York. In April of this year The Brewers Association, an organization dedicated to small and independent American brewers, named a Black woman J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham their first diversity ambassador. I tried unsuccessfully to interview Dr. Beckham about what a diversity ambassador does. Hopefully future dialogue about what diversity means in craft beer and what’s missing.

While recently watching a video of Alisa Bowens-Mercado the first African American woman brewing beer in Connecticut canning her own unfiltered lager named Rhythm I noticed she was the only woman of color present in the video. She is quoted as saying she would like to “see more women in the industry, more brewing, more women canning.”

Since craft beer has mainly been a white man’s game and only recently included men of color and even more recently white women, black women have a few hurdles to leap before we can be acknowledged and respected. The predominately boys club has also made it clear that they are not interested in our taste or opinions on beer unless a pair of breasts accompany it. So first we have to overcome sexism seals then race.

A lot of breweries do not even consider African American women as their consumer because Black women are not being seen drinking or purchasing craft beer. When I am in line for a can release I’m one of few women and the only Black woman in line. We do not feel included so we do not show our love for it and our opinion isn’t largely sought after because we aren’t present.

And finally, an issue I’ve seen with my growing presence on social media is lack of support to one another. I see our white counterparts trade, share, follow, repost and support one another on their craft beer journeys, but a huge lack of support amongst each other. Women are often pitted against each other in every facet and culture of life and the craft beer community is no different. I especially see it among black women. I say this having experienced more support, follows, shares, trades and paid appearances through white men. I see black men get together and have a guys weekend of comradery, fellowship and mutual love of craft beer. I know there are Black women who love craft beer, so how about we show the industry what we have to offer it. Cheers Black Women and if you see me, next rounds on me.

Della Fain is an Chitown native Arizona resident. Married mother of 3. She’s also a contributor to Bourbon Zeppelin giving bourbon barrel aged beer reviews. You can follow her on Instagram at @sixfeetofdynamite. 

FAMU Alumna & Atlanta Cigar Week Co-Founder Octavia Toliver is Adding New Flavor to the Old Boys’ Club of Cigars


On any given day, you can find Herficionado, Octavia Toliver’s moniker, just about anywhere from the cigar shop to a rooftop terrace puffing on a cigar and planning her next move as she takes the cigar industry by storm. A storm that she hopes will continue to change the demographics of those who embrace a good stogie on a beautiful afternoon and present opportunities as far as the eye can see, smoke clouds aside. The cigar world has traditionally been the stomping grounds of old white business men, but Ms. Toliver’s “feminine perspective” as she puts it is bringing elegance, style, and a breath of knowledge that runs cigar circles around many of her male counterparts who dare try to see her as  just a beautiful face. Nor is she alone as the #SOTL or Sisters Of The Leaf are a rapidly growing and yet underappreciated segment in the cigar world. According to the CDCP, women cigar smokers have grown from 1/10th of 1 percent in the 1980s to 2 percent of U.S. women’s population. It may not sound like a lot, but 2 percent is equivalent to 3.2 million women. As such, Ms. Toliver has become an influencer and innovator within the industry and HBCU Money was able to catch up with her for interview.

What is your HBCU background? I achieved a B.A. in English from Rattler Nation better known as Florida A&M University. Never ask a (southern) lady her age OR graduation year.

We are sure you get asked this a lot, but what got you interested in cigars? I was introduced to cigars by a guy who took me on a date to a cigar bar 10 years ago. I don’t remember his name, but I remember the cigars! Lol.

In light of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements where women are empowering themselves to push back against sexual harassment in their respective spaces. How do you believe women are treated within the cigar industry? What improvements would you like to see in respect to women within the industry? The cigar industry is obviously male-dominated, so there are still some instances in which women are treated as just pretty faces. A woman can know more about cigars than any man, but if she’s very attractive, she will never be considered an authority, by some guys. This hasn’t been my experience, completely, because I’ve gotten tremendous support from men in the industry, but I’ve definitely felt the resistance from some. I’m not really sure if there is an improvement that can/will be made. I just advise all of the SOTL’s (Sisters Of The Leaf) to keep carrying themselves with class so that eventually the guys will come around. Or they won’t and we’ll start more of our own cigar companies! *wink*

For HBCU students who may have an interest in the industry, what advice would you give them on getting started? Frequent your local cigar lounge or shop! Hang out, ask questions, try various profiles! Join a Facebook cigar group! There are tens if not hundreds of thousands of people online who are just waiting to teach others about cigars! Just like with any other industry, educate yourself and go for it.

Tell our audience about what led to the creation and mission behind you co-founding the Atlanta Cigar Week? Atlanta Cigar Week was created from a desire to showcase Atlanta as the top cigar market in the country. We have almost 100 cigar shops and lounges so we wanted to show the country what we have to offer. ACW2017, we executed 13 events in 7 days! We had a great turnout, but we’re expecting even more attendees and sponsors for 2018. We are also expanding to Dubai in May, and hopefully at least one other city before the end of the year!

Do you think your HBCU experiences prepared you in any special way for the work and life you live today? I’m not sure if it prepared me for my work, but my experience at an HBCU was a great bridge from childhood to my adult life. FAMU was my first experience where minorities were the majority. I’m from a city that is sometimes called the Redneck Riviera, but it was just HOME to me. In retrospect, I now see that my perspective of black people was quite limited. Attending an HBCU opened my eyes a great deal because there students from many backgrounds who just all happened to be black. When we speak of diversity, we’re usually referring to people of different ethnicities or races, but I had never seen such diversity in people of the same race. I now live in Atlanta which is the same on a much larger scale.

What is one of your fondness HBCU memory? One of my fondest memories was Set Fridays at FAMU. As a freshman, I lived in a dorm only a few yards away from the set, which was a courtyard on campus. On Fridays, vendors would come set up tables and food stands! There would be music playing, and all of the students would hang out in between classes. I LOVED it because everyone would put on their flyest outfits, and the Greeks would always come stroll through. The camaraderie out there was absolutely beautiful.

You can follow Octavia Toliver on Instagram at @herficionado for all of her latest projects and events.