SOT New Haven

SOT New Haven
SOT New Haven and their Circle of Mentors

Thursday, December 5, 2013


By Carla Morrison
Often I feel the spirit of our ancestors speaking to me to act; however, I’m often in limbo on how to channel my actions to be most effective with real change. Will it be through my writing ability, my public relations efforts or my community/youth engagement?

Last night, I attended the pre-screening of the film “Mandela” Long Walk to Freedom, played by Idris Elba, who did a dynamic job, as did Naomie Harris, who played the role of Winnie Mandela. 
The film really moved me in a way that woke me up in the middle of the night thinking about Nelson Mandela’s life work and that of Winnie Mandela. At that time, I said to myself, “I’m going to write an article on this movie” and I then began thinking about my in-direct connection to such a rich history.  I didn’t think by the time I would actually sit down and begin writing the piece, Nelson Mandela would have passed on….

I saw and felt the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, as I watched the life of Nelson Mandela on film. However, it was the strong desire for freedom Winnie Mandela possessed, that I believe was ignited by Nelson Mandela, that kept the African National Congress (ANC) mission alive during the 27 years Mandela was in jail. Nelson Mandela’s influence on his strong spirited and passionate wife Winnie and the South African nation will live on for generations to come. 

As a young girl growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, I first became aware of Nelson Mandela, when the Superintendent of New Haven Public Schools Dr. John Dow, was arrested for protesting against Apartheid in front of Yale University.  At the time, I didn’t understand why my Superintendent would put himself in a position to get arrested, because in my mind, we were past the Civil Rights Movement and I had no idea what Apartheid was. By the time I went off to college, I became more aware of Nelson Mandela; and when he was released from jail, he visited New York City, in 1990, where he spoke at Yankee Stadium, with thousands of people gathered to see him and I was right there standing proud as I witnessed history.

17 years later, in 2007, at the request of Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey opens a school for girls, “Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls”, in South Africa. As the founder of my own girl’s organization, “Sisters of Today and Tomorrow”, I get excited just thinking about what these girls will become, and how they will change the world. I also think about the probability of Nelson Mandela’s thought process when he asked Oprah to develop a school in his native land…  In my mind, I believe he understood his influence and Oprah’s power.  The combination will be historic; because the girls who attend and graduate from “Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls” in South Africa have the opportunity to attend college anywhere in the world. And we all know when you educate a girl you educate a nation.

With education being the foundation for these young girls, a hint of Winnie Mandela’s passionate history for freedom that Mandela ignited and the guidance of a woman like Oprah Winfrey, the legacy of Nelson Mandela and his fight for true freedom will live on, as this long walk for freedom is not over just yet.

God Bless you Nelson Mandela and thank you for the influence you have had on the world and generations to come…

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

LEADING BY EXAMPLE The Legacy of Leadership…

The Legacy of Leadership…
by: Carla Morrison

For the past couple of weeks I had been anticipating attending the 9th Annual Spelman College Leadership Conference, themed, “Women of Color”, Strategic Leadership: Building Wealth, Entrepreneurship and Paying it Forward. The Conference is one of my personal, annual highlights, where career driven women from all walks of life, with outstanding careers and/or businesses come together, share and learn from one another. 
Nicole Ari Parker and Judy A. Smith, both Spelman College
Legacy of Leadership Awards Honorees.
This year’s conference was no different; however, the Leadership of Legacy Awards Dinner was the event, I was especially looking forward to, because Judy Smith was going to be one of the honorees, (along with actress Nicole Ari Parker). “Who is Judy Smith?” one might ask. You heard of ABC’s “Scandal” right? Well, the show was inspired by Ms. Smith’s body of work, as a “Fixer” (in the public relations world we call it “Crisis Communications Manager”). And since public relations is what I do, it was thrilling for me to see and meet such an accomplished woman who has been highlighted and revered through a television show, for her intelligence, as a leading Public Relations professional/Crisis Communications Manager/Advisor. (Think the Michael Vick Case, Monica Lewinsky, the family of Chandra Levy, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., and Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry, just to name a few).
When I walked into the Georgia World International Convention Center (GWICC) where Spelman’s Legacy of Leadership Awards Dinner was being held, I was frantically looking for the press room, because I thought I was late for my interview with Ms. Smith (I’m also a journalist). As I was walking back and forth, I glanced to my left and spotted a woman of color, in a white pant suit, with long hair and glasses, sitting at a table, engrossed in a serious telephone conversation.  It was Judy Smith! aka the real “Olivia Pope”, live and in living color, doing what she does best. I waved hello and mouthed that I would be interviewing her. She positioned her finger to say, “one minute” and I kindly waited. Ms. Smith’s conversation went on for a while and was so intense, that she got up and walked away, but I kept my eye on her the whole time, so I wouldn’t miss my opportunity…
…A few minutes later, “I’m sorry I was on the phone. I was working,” said Ms. Smith, as she shook my hand.  “I know I heard you, I replied with a big smile. “Was it another scandal”, I asked. “Not something that I can tell you about,” said Smith, as we both laughed. What was even funnier was, the interviews hadn’t started yet and I was just in time for the press conference…
From journalists to the public relations specialists, and all the other professionals attending the conference, we were all excited to see, meet and interview Judy Smith, known as the real live “Olivia Pope”, from which ABC’s SCANDAL was inspired.
“The drums called you warrior, and we never saw you coming,” said Dr. Jane E. Smith, Executive Director of Spelman College’s LEADS program, as she introduced Judy Smith to the crowd of over 500 people, (mostly women), who roared with screams, and hand claps.
(l-r) Dr. Beverly Tatum presents Judy Smith with the Legacy of Leadership Award,
along with Dr. Jane E. Smith, who so eloquently introduced Ms. Smith. 
Judy Smith approached the podium and shouted, “Where are all my gladiators?” during her awards acceptance speech. When you talk about leadership, Smith said, “I lead by example. I focus on the work; do the work well and hopefully the work will speak for itself.” Smith went on to mention the importance of “showing up, leading the way and supporting one another”.
During the press conference, I asked Smith, what did she see her legacy being. Smith responded, “I haven’t really thought about my legacy; I feel at this point in my life, I’m just getting started”. And it was at that very moment that I realized, Ms. Smith didn’t recognize her legacy as being just what she said in her speech, “doing the work” and “supporting one another”.
Most Scandal watchers love the edgy story lines, the affair with the President, and the killings, but for the Public Relations professionals like myself and the hundreds of other PR experts who were in the room and around the world, we are inspired by Smith’s “work” to lead. Developing the level of network needed to get things done, using the media to convey the message she set forth for her client(s), establishing herself as a major player in the PR game and extending her personal and professional brand to millions of people through a major network, ABC.
Compassionate, committed and non-judge-mental are a few of the adjectives Ms. Smith used to describe who she is, as well as the character of Olivia Pope.  “I think the great thing about this show (Scandal) is that this is the first time an African American woman has played a major role on television in a very long time, so it was important to me that, that person have a degree of strength and a level of confidence and that person feel like she is at the top of her game and not afraid to show that."
Smith showed that same level of confidence, compassion and commitment to her work and her supporters. After the awards dinner, there was a long line of public relations professionals who came up to Ms. Smith, wanting to take photos, get a hug or just tell her how inspired they are by her. And the awesome thing about Judy Smith, she stayed and met every last person who approached her; from the corporate public relations professionals of Coke, UPS, Georgia Power, the Atlanta Braves and more, to the small business owner, as well as the GWICC Wait Staff, who called a relative for Ms. Smith to speak with.
“You all support me, why wouldn’t I stay,” said Smith. Leading by example is what she does; And Spelman College is producing those kinds of women leaders everyday.
Just a few of the many top PR professionals from Los Angeles
and Atlanta that were onsite at the Spelman
Legacy of Leadership Awards Dinner.
“Spelman College is an institution about academic excellence, leadership development and service. And in the leadership area, with the leadership of Dr. Tatum, we want to put emphasis on women of color and the work that they do. And this year its about wealth building, and entrepreneurship and paying it forward for our community.” -Dr. Jane E. Smith

Friday, May 10, 2013

SOT Adventures: InfluenceHER Community

SOT Adventures: InfluenceHER Community: Rhonda Wilkins and Carla Morrison I have a delayed reaction to most things, unless I’m in a dangerous situation. And yesterday, by no ...

InfluenceHER Community

Rhonda Wilkins and Carla Morrison

I have a delayed reaction to most things, unless I’m in a dangerous situation. And yesterday, by no means was danger apart of the situation. It was INFLUENTIAL … Actually, it was the InfluenceHER Awards that Rhonda Wilkins and Divas Unlimited Inc., produced.
When I got a call from Rhonda congratulating me because I had been nominated and chosen to receive the InfluenceHer Community Award of the 2nd Annual InfluenceHER Awards, I was so thankful; however it didn’t hit me until this morning. And since I’m a writer, my only way to truly share, are by journaling my thoughts…
I’m not going to front, this morning I’m beaming with excitement, as I think about having received such an esteemed honor, the “InfluenceHer Community Award”; wow the small town girl with big city dreams receives the “InfluenceHer Community Award”... It was the community in my “small” town of New Haven, Connecticut that raised me and now I’m in the community helping to raise others… “Now that’s a trip” (as my mother would say).
Leona Barr-Davenport, Stacii Jae, Judi Cohen Wade,
Rashan Ali, Palestine Ace and Carla Morrison
The great company of accomplished 2013 honorees was impressive, but the entire experience, leading up to this point, regarding the work I do, my personal trials and triumphs are mind blowing. You never know who is watching you and I thank God that I act from a sincere and genuine place. When Stacii Jae Johnson, who brought the welcome address and Beth Goodman, who was the co-host, (along with Dr. Alduan Tartt) of the event spoke about imagining and believing, I thought about the many times, as a little girl, I would look through my mother’s Essence Magazines and daydream about being a woman of influence, where I could give to my community.
Last night, the keynote speaker, Ms. Janice Andrews (Google her) spoke about what an influencer is and how their actions play a major role in having a positive influence on others, I just shook my head in agreement; Because it was the actions of many that helped me as a little girl and now it is my actions and those of my support team that are helping to develop other little girls. It’s not becoming someone of high regard and then doing the work. It’s doing the work that makes one look at another with high regard.
In my speech, I accepted the award on behalf of the 250 supporters, sponsors, donors and volunteers who have helped me to be able to do the kind of work I do in the community; however I twisted and turned all night because I felt I could’ve said more; So I decided to take another stab at it.
Carla Morrison’s revised speech for the “InfluenceHer Community Awards 2013”:
“It is very fitting that I receive the community award, because it was the community in New Haven, Connecticut that helped to raise my sister and I. And in that same spirit of community, it has always been my goal and that of Sisters of Today and Tomorrow (SOT) to be a part of the “community” for which I call the village, which helps to raise and support girls and the women in their life, to become productive, goal oriented and well rounded citizens.
I can’t do this work without you. It’s not a one woman job. I ask you to continue to support me and SOT through your time, treasures and talents.
I thank Ayana Walker for nominating me, Rhonda Wilkins and her team for voting on me, and my mother and father for planting the seed in me many years ago. And I can’t forget about my beloved sorority Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated., thank you for igniting the passion in me to be of service. I charge everyone with giving to a nonprofit organization, because it is from your generous donations that we can continue to do the work that will make our community a better place.
I accept this award on behalf of the 250 supporters, sponsors, donors and volunteers who have become a part of SOT’s village. Please join me in becoming a part of the village of SOT, as we continue to develop the confidence, character and leadership in our girls. Thank you.  

That AKA and Zeta Love -
Rashan Ali, Founder of Sporty Girls
and Carla Morrison, Founder of
Sisters of Today and Tomorrow.

Photos by: Dann Slaughter Finklea
Shout out to the 2013 honorees:
Dr. Bernice King (Daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & Coretta Scott King), Leona Barr-Davenport, Carol Blackmon, Dr. Rogsbert Phillips, Terri J. Vaughn, Rashan Ali, Judi Cohen Wade and Palestine Ace, all great women of character and community. (Google all these women. They are truly awesome)
Side note: We invite you to sponsor a girl to attend the 6th Annual Sisters of Today and Tomorrow’s leadership conference July 10 & 11, 2013. Log onto: or email: