Holiday Party Fashion Preview

It’s beginning to look a lot like…cocktails!

The holiday party season is upon us! Lucrative red lips, sultry, smoky eyes and all metallic EVERYTHING will be on display at the Black Professional “Party With a Purpose” this Wednesday at Orbit New York!

Everyone’s fond of the ever so classic “cocktail dress,” so how about browsing the closet (or nearest retailer, no shame) for something a tad bit more…unconventional this year? Check out the fashion preview below and click each picture to go directly to each look where the items are individually listed!

#1 Party Pants

Tis the season for festive pants! My personal fave are culottes (pictured below) because you can pair them with practically anything. A boxy top or cropped sweater can read uptown chic, while a larger or oversized dress shirt can read more edgy and sleek. Printed pants, be it wide-leg or skinny, paired with a tie-neck top or sizable vest are also great choices! Top this off with a dashing heel – and by dashing, I mean one of the hundred pairs likely already own. Pants are an open book; various styles and shapes appeal, but the happy ending is personal.

#2 Jovial Jumpsuits

Remaining in the arena of pants, jumpsuits are great alternatives to the classic holiday dress! Each jumpsuit is peculiar in its own way, ranging in color, fit and detail, while continuing to present elegance and maintain comfort (except, ladies you know). This piece stands alone very well! A prominent clutch and a few accessories will have you #ON for the night!


#3 Denim Essentials

Denim is a way of life, therefore, being appropriate for most occasions, holiday parties included. Specifically, holiday parties with purposes. This one! Remember, black or dark jeans are the go-to guys for this instance. A slinky, sequin top or plunging bodysuit will do nothing less than captivate your audience. Wear with a black blazer and metallic pumps to top it all off!


#4 Merry Militant

The utilitarian color trend of olives and khakis has definitely earned its name as the “New Neutral.” These earthy shades are as easily worn as gray, black and white, and can be seamlessly incorporated into any ensemble. A turtleneck midi, which is a great basic for winter (or whatever season we’re in) is paired effortlessly with a shearling vest for a luxe look. Dark, berry colors and luminous gold accessories are my absolute favorite to pair with earth tones. It adds just the right amount of intensity!


Don’t forget to come out and Party With a Purpose this Wednesday, December 16th at 6 p.m. at the Black Urban Professional Holiday party! Wear what you love, and absolutely LOVE what you wear! Also, #dowhatyouwantcauseyoupoppin

Happy Holiday Partying!

shawndrekaShawndreka Gatlin (IG: @SweetDreks) is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana and holds a B.S. in Fashion Merchandising and Marketing. She is currently employed by Saks Fifth Avenue as a Digital Merchandise Assistant. One of Shawndreka’s goals, as a member of the fashion industry, is to help individuals understand that one does not have to live outside of their means to be considered “fashionable.”



Fashion Preview: REBIRTH! Masquerade Benefit

It’s that time of year again, a time of celebration and wonder for those individuals who are rising towards a prominent future!

REBIRTH 2015! A Masquerade Benefit (Tickets available here!)

“And what exactly am I supposed to wear to that?”

Naturally, question 2 in the top 5 list of questions a person will ask before attending an event (the first is usually the price). Nevertheless, there is a variety of looks awaiting your grasp and they are all modestly priced.

REBIRTH is a semi-formal cocktail affair, so we welcome more midi and mini styles as opposed to floor length styles. Fit & Flare dresses give an undeniable feminine appeal.


You can Flirt a little in a mini…

…Or be bashful with a longer length. Let’s not forget the Popular Pencil


Of course if you want don’t want to do a full dress, there is the ever so amazing  two-piece dress.

Also, spring is right next door, so don’t be afraid to mix in those floral and tropical prints!


However, if you decide to go with a simplistic look, glam it up with large statement pieces:

And most importantlyan amazing mask to pull your entire look together!

Remember, you don’t have to spend a million to look like a million. Having style isn’t what you wear, it’s how you wear it…over and over again.


Dress Sites:,,,,



About the Author

shawndrekaShawndreka Gatlin is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana and holds a B.S. in Fashion Merchandising and Marketing. She is currently employed by Saks Fifth Avenue as a Digital Merchandise Assistant. One of Shawndreka’s goals, as a member of the fashion industry, is to help individuals understand that one does not have to live outside of their means to be considered “fashionable.” Continue reading “Fashion Preview: REBIRTH! Masquerade Benefit”

The Power of “No”

20150223 griot3

March has been declared Women’s History Month for almost thirty years, twenty eight to be exact. But, we don’t necessarily need a national declaration to bring attention to the impact women have on society, do we? When I think of women who shaped the nation I know today, I imagine Sojourner Truth pioneering the abolition of slavery. Assaka Shakur, political refugee, continuously advocating for women’s equality or Melba Beals, fifteen years of age, one of nine who physically endured the integration of public schools. The list of powerful women are endless: Rosa Parks, Hattie McDaniel, Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, Shirley Chislom, Condoleeza Rice, Michelle Obama and let’s not forget one of the first women in history, Eve, who even to this day, independently changed the course of history – and no one is letting her live that down.

Despite all the impact, guidance, and influence women has had on our nation’s history, how much time you think those women took for themselves? Honestly, how much time do you take for yourself? As women, some of our best characteristics are to work tirelessly for the cause, the mission, the objective. We will go the extra mile, stay late, put our wants and needs on the back burner for others. As much as that work ethic produces great results, simultaneously, if you’re not careful, it will wear you out. It will leave you so drained you won’t have the energy to enjoy anything else in your life. So how does the 2015 woman pursue everything she desires and still keep herself balanced?

20150223 griot2Just say no – unapologetically.

I could write a twenty page dissertation on the benefits of saying no without reason. And there are that many, but I will spare you the lengthy read. Below I will give you my top three benefits of applying this life tool to every area of your life.

  1. Saying No creates boundaries – listen, you should not be available to anyone or thing twenty four hours around the clock. You have to take time for yourself to recharge. It is imperative to carve out moments of silence so you can think, and connect to your higher self, and center yourself. Saying No is how you create this space. Remember, you are no benefit to others, if you are running on fumes.
  2. Saying No adds validity to your word – When you say “No” you are modeling to others that your words have efficacy. Of course, you have to back up what you say with your actions, but that is a given. When your words are valid, you are creating trust in your relationships. People want to feel secure in all their relationships: work, personal, platonic, romantic, alike. If others know they can count on your words and actions to match, they will want to continue to build relationships with you. If you never say no, what will your yes be worth?
  3. Saying no conveys certainty- As women; we are often not taken seriously. Yes, I know it is 2015. Yes, I know we have a whole month dedicated to us. Yes, I know a woman president will be next or at least I hope so. Well, hopefully, in my life time. But when we say No and follow that up with an explanation, it communicates doubt. It appears as if you are seeking approval in the stance you just made. Be confident and assured in your decisions. No really does mean no.

Do you think any of the women who made waves in our society blundered, stumbled or compromised their stance? Not at all. They all grasped the importance of saying No, without explanation, reason, or unapologetically. There are no special tricks to saying No. No special way to phrase it. The important factor is to just do it. Do it often. Do it – unapologetically.

20150223 griot4Nikenya Hall is a native Oklahoman transplant New Yorker since December 2011. With a Bachelors in Psychology and Masters in Human Relations: Counseling from the University of Oklahoma, Mental Health Professional Nikenya Hall is redefining dating, relationships, and everything in between using her degrees, ten years of professional experience, and day to day life chronicles. Throughout her therapeutic sessions, daily conversations, and overall observation, Ms. Hall noticed a void with young professionals with expressing their authentic needs and wants in romantic and platonic relationships alike. From this observation SNIT Chronicles: Spicy Nikenya in The City was created to guide those to a path of fearless authenticity. Her private practice, Achieving Balance Counseling and Holistic Institute will be launching in the fall.

#Blackwomenmatter: Taking a Stand Against Street Harassment

20150122 GRIOT

As a boy I grew up hearing that it has to be a man that saves the day,  so it was only natural that I wanted to be that man.  As an adult, I sometimes find it difficult to take a step back so that the voices of equally deserving women can be heard, but I do it because I understand that for years I have had the privilege of being listened to solely because of what I have between my legs. So everyday I try to check my privilege and play my role in advocating so that we have equality for all genders. But I do have power, and that power is in my privilege, a privilege that I am not afraid to admit has helped me a time or two. So it is with this little bit of power, that I would like to take a stand and speak to some of the people out there who might listen to me rather than the cries from our sisters about street harassment–a serious problem, and we absolutely have to put an end to it.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll give you a bit of background. Street harassment, as defined by the website, is:

 “Unwelcome words and actions by unknown persons in public places which are motivated by gender and invade a person’s physical and emotional space in a disrespectful, creepy, startling, scary, or insulting way.”

Think of any moment in which you have provided uninvited attention to someone you didn’t know, think back to those guys that would shout at women from across the street to grab their attention, and then become upset when she didn’t respond. Think about that thirsty friend who see’s a “shorty with a fat ass” and decides to follow her for a block or two just so he could enjoy that sight. And when you’re done thinking about all of those scenarios, ask yourself; have I ever participated in this kind of behavior?

As men, yes even black men, we have an unfair advantage to black women. We have the power to walk down a street, wait for a bus, sit on a train, go to the gym or just go on a casual walk without the risk of some strange person staring at our chest, grabbing our genitals, trying to masturbate on us or calling us “bitches” because we didn’t say “hi.” The same black women who started #BlackLivesMatter would be the first people at the protest if one of us were killed in cold blood, can’t walk down the street or reject a man’s advances without their life or safety being put at risk.  This is something we should all be upset about. It is something that should keep each and every black man up at night, it should fill our spirits with anger and make us feel so compelled to make a difference that we will shout out at the top of our lungs until every single person in the world starts to listen.

Black women need our voices now more than ever in a country where the deaths of women of color are virtually ignored and rape victims are blamed and bashed. We have to take a stand and use our little bit of privilege for good. The road will be long and the path full of rubble, but change is tangible. It might take years to convince society, but we don’t have to fix the world over night, we can start with ourselves. If you want to make this a world where women of color can walk the streets and exist without the threat of violence or harassment, begin by letting go of childish lessons. For years we have blamed the victim when a woman say’s she was raped and when a guy harassed or followed them, we asked them to explain their actions. Those actions don’t matter, it shouldn’t matter what a woman wore, what she said, what neighborhood she was in or what time of night it was. The real question should be the following:

  • What can I do to help?
  • Who do I need to call?
  • Do you need medical assistance?
  • Should I contact the authorities?

The faster we remove  blame from victims and instead find more ways to support them, the better off we will all be. One of the most important things that we can do as black men, in support of black women is to speak up. Call your friends out, let them know it’s not okay to behave that way. If you see a woman being harassed or threatened speak up, if you’re not comfortable putting yourself in that situation then inform the authorities. We shouldn’t be leaving our sisters out in the cold to fight battles they shouldn’t even have to deal with in the first place.

Finally, take a minute to say Black Lives Matter, and when you do, remind those around you that the phrase isn’t just for men, it’s for women, it’s for Lesbians, Gay Black Men, as well as African Americans in the Transgender community. They need our love, they need our help, they want our support, its about time we stepped up and became the hero.

Manning Up and Getting Over the Friend Zone

The following is a repost from the Let Your Voice Be Heard blog

20150115 GRIOT

Its 4:13am, and I’m sitting in front of this blank screen. If there is one thing that I know for sure, and that you will know in a word or two is this: I am in the “Friend Zone”. I tried to lie to myself and say that I could change the outcome, but I think it was clear from the outset that she only wanted one thing.  I obliged by being the same person that I have always been. And in the end I am right where I have ended up on so many occasions. The Friend Zone.

My history with women has not been the greatest, I’ve had a run of bad luck starting from birth and running strong through my 22nd birthday. Sometimes they love me, sometimes they hate me, and on other occasions they see me as “The most awesome friend a girl could ever have”. Either way, I don’t seem to come out of this as the winner of many or any girl’s hearts. It’s a feeling that I have become very familiar with. I would give her every thing she wanted, adjust myself to fit the mold of a person that I thought she required, and just when things looked like they were heading in the right direction she would hit me with those dreaded words; “I only see you as a friend”. And for a long time, that was the worst thing that I could ever hear. It’s funny what a couple of years will do.

I wrote those two paragraphs when I was 22 years old and had just been rejected by another girl. After months of courting she  let me know that she wasn’t interested by asking me to hook her up with a one of my friends. I remember how hurt and rejected I felt when that happened. I hated her and every single female that didn’t want me. They were too stupid to see the mistake that they were making, because they didn’t really know what they wanted. I spent a lot of days in my room listening to angry rap songs and brooding over this rejection. Frustrated that women who should have been all over me were going after guys that clearly didn’t give a crap about them. When I was done hating them, I went back to the old reliable, I hated myself. I hated the color of my skin, the way I spoke super fast and sometimes slurred my words, I hated that I couldn’t dance, and didn’t have the money to to dress as well as the other guys in my school, and then I mentally trashed the women who didn’t want me. Six years later I still believe the Friend Zone sucks, but I’ve learned a couple of things. I just thought I would share them with you.

  1. She Might be Making a Mistake, but it’s hers to make- I think what sucked the most about being told that I was only a friend, was that 8 out of 10 times that same girl would date a guy who she and I both knew would not give her what she wanted. More than likely he would give her everything she didn’t want and then some. But it was her choice to make, just because it makes sense for someone to be with you, doesn’t mean that they should or have to. When you really care about someone and not in that hallmark way. I’m talking about really care about someone and want them to be happy, you learn very quickly that there will be times when their decisions may not line up with what you think is right. But you concede because you respect them, resenting someone  you claim to care about for making a decision that you don’t agree with is not only selfish, it’s also the opposite of what someone does when they really have good intentions.
  2. Take a Look in The Mirror (Who Are You?)– When I used to go after a girl I liked, I would go out of my way to find out what kind of guy she liked and try to fit that mold. It was very rare that I would come forward as just regular old Stan. In my mind that wasn’t good enough. But how do you expect someone to fall in love with an idea of who you are? It’s damn near impossible, and if you do happen to win someone over by playing a part. It can only last for so long, because the real you will eventually surface.
  3. Why Does Rejection Hurt- Rejection sucks, and we all deal with it in different ways. But resenting the person who rejected you just doesn’t work. A lot of the anger I felt when women rejected me was misunderstood. What I mean by that is I was inexperienced in understanding my own emotions, I have always been taught that real men were unfeeling. So when a girl I really liked rejected me, I would become really sad and a little depressed. Then years of being taught that I wasn’t supposed to feel would cause me to punish myself for being emotional, when I couldn’t control those emotions, instead of realizing that pain is ok, I would begin to resent the person who caused me that pain. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was hurt, so I would go to the easiest and “manliest emotion” anger. But anger solves nothing.

If you want to get over the Friend Zone, understand that it is nothing more than something you created. It’s a feeling, it’s rejection, and while it stinks it only has as much power as you give it. Stop being mad at her for not wanting you, and maybe you’ll find a great friend in yourself.

ThumbnailStanley Fritz is the political writer/Editor-In-Chief for He is also the author of “Beautiful Problems” and the Engineer/Co-Host of “Let Your Voice Be Heard! Radio.”. Born and raised in East New York Brooklyn, Stanley is a proud Obama supporter who believes that education is the ultimate pathway to prosperity.

Dressing the Millennial

NONOO Fall 2014 Collection

In light of New York Fashion Week for Spring/Summer 2015 collections, I wanted to speak to those outside of the fashion bubble to give insight on the process for reaching out to ‘millennials’. Despite what some may believe, young professionals and your interest play a big role throughout the development process. The general idea thought by most people is that fashion is all about the high-end prices seen at high-end retailers. However, this theory is incorrect and only works to discourage people who believe that fashion is out of their price range. The world’s couture buyers have been reduced from nearly 4,000 in the early 1900s to 100 women today paying for a $100,000 gown that may have taken over 150 man-hours. With this statistic weighing heavily on every designer’s mind, they look to affordability, what the working young professional is buying, and how they’re wearing it in order to create the perfect match that will convince you to invest in their brand.

The design process is extremely strategic and scientific, based on a hypothesis that will hopefully yield a satisfied and loyal consumer. Young designers seek the advice of CEOs, VPs, and other notable titles every season to help with this process. This includes choosing which fabric weight gives the loveliest drape, approving the perfect shade of #201 off white, measuring an appealing yet appropriate hem length to the ¼”, envisioning a plunging but not too sexy neckline, as well as deciding if Hilary Clinton or Kim Kardashian are the best representation of the brand and are well respected by today’s young professional. The list is exhausting. But there is nothing left unacknowledged, they all must be on brand and should scream “Buy me!” with a meticulously calculated price to entice the young professional. Every piece of the line is carefully thought out for every season. The designer has to be absolutely in love with it, and there must be a story to tell behind it.

Ultimately, the buyers that shop for young professionals will choose what you will be wearing to work, to play, to interviews, and to dates. Masterminds also known as the design team and the creative director are conjuring up what the young professional wants to wear; they circle with the production manager to make sure prices fall into the consumer’s disposable income. Lastly, the sales director will put the icing on the cake by choosing which store/boutique will actually pick up the collection.

Today’s fashion is not all about young girls trekking through the garment district in stilettos balancing coffee cups. The brown paper bags they’re slinging hold the secrets of the upcoming season, transporting the 5th or 6th mock-up of your favorite mini skirt that you wore to Beyoncé’s concert last month. You did not pick out that military jacket to style your rolled up jeans and boyfriend tee, we did. You don’t just happen to love the shade #18-3025 TPX in fuchsia, we told you to. You don’t have the perfect black dress in your closet just because, we subliminally hung it there. You, as the young professional, benefit the fashion industry greatly by what you’re posting in your Instagram’s, or on your Pinterest page. Then the fashion industry sucks it in and spits out what the masses will want to throw on their backs, and empty their pockets for. It’s a phenomenal cycle that is never ending, and sometimes not always clear on which came first, like the chicken or the egg.

About the Author

image Brandy-Courtney Williams, a 2010 University of Texas at Austin Alumnus, heads up the Global and Domestic Production and Sourcing for a contemporary design in New York City. She currently serves as a Junior Board Member of HEAF, Secretary for Students First Harlem Chapter, and a Lead in numerous committees for NYULYP. She has a drive to improve the community’s awareness and how it is perceived from outsiders of the world around. She’s into healthy eating, an avid gym enthusiast, and being active outdoors.

Relationships and Retirement Savings

20140829 GRIOT

Can couples save for retirement and keep their relationship strong? Life throws a number of challenges at couples on a daily basis. Among those challenges are work, children, bills and the relationship itself.

Make Retirement Savings a Budget Priority

In meeting those challenges most couples are working with a definitive budget. Unfortunately, many times retirement savings are low on the budget priority list. If that is the case some rearranging needs to happen. Many retirees reflect on life and say, “life happens pretty quickly and before you know it, you’re retired.”

Couples Need to Contribute to the Company 401k

To help meet these long term needs couples still want to make sure they put at least the minimal amount in a retirement account for their future.  A great way for them to do that is to participate in the company sponsored 401k plan.  They can start off with a minimal amount of their salary.

Once they see how that works for their budget, they can always increase the amount they put in. They also want to make sure they contribute consistently. Making consistent contributions insures that they build up nice enough nest eggs.

One of the other major benefits of contributing to 401k plans is that it helps lowering taxable income when it comes tax time. Taxable income is lowered by how much is contributed each year to the plan.

Couples Need to Contribute to a Roth or Traditional IRA

Another great way for couples to save for retirement is by making contributions to a Roth or traditional IRA. Very similar to 401k plans, couples want to make sure they contribute to the accounts on a regular basis.

Again, that’s the best way to make sure they have a comfortable nest egg when it comes retirement time. Similar to 401k contributions they can start off with something small and as their salaries go up they can increase the amount they contribute to the plans.

Also similar to 401k plans, Roth and traditional IRA accounts offer some great tax benefits. The Roth allows the money to grow tax free for when the money is taken out in retirement. The traditional allows the couple to make contributions each year and have the contributions reduce the amount of taxable income they have on their tax returns.

The best way for couples to approach the retirement savings issue is to sit down and see what works best for the household budget. After living, travel and expenses for children, savings should take a front seat to Netflix, entertainment and a host of other expenses that are short term in nature. Especially since many movies’ will end up on television for free. Once they do that as a couple they will be on the road to a comfortable nest egg for their retirement and a strong relationship.

About the Author

Kolonji MurrayTaxAssurances, LLC is an independent financial services firm that provides expert advice and solutions in three financial disciplines: Accounting, Insurance and Investment Management.

It’s Founder, Kolonji Murray, has worked as a banker, accountant and financial advisor for a number of leading firms. He holds a degree in Accounting from Hampton University and is active in a number of civic and industry organizations. Along with being an Accountant Mr. Murray is Series 7 and 66 licensed in NY. He is also life, accident and health, variable life/variable annuities insurance licensed.