by Mellissa Thomas
Imagine you’re born and raised in a very crowded city that’s no stranger to struggle. You’re in such a weird location, your hometown is called the forgotten city. You bust your tail to outshine everyone, but still get overlooked, manipulated, or both, losing to someone you know did less than you to get what you were after. (Sound familiar?)
So how do you make an imprint in a forgotten place where nearly everyone is clamoring for attention?
You start an evocative movement, building a brand around one of the most visceral impulses universal to all of us: the power of persistence.
Take Respect. Defy Adversity.
Baltimore native and resident Dwayne T. Allen’s clothing brand slogan echoes the “natural toughness” his hometown has taught him. The city, considered “up north” by southerners and “down south” by northerners, is the inspiration behind everything he does. “I was never given anything, not even the things I deserved,” he told DOFW in a phone interview August 29, 2013. “I always had to fight for [them]. I rise above the naysayers.”
He described his “forgotten city” as crowded and dog-eat-dog competitive. “Everyone pulls themselves up from their own bootstraps,” he explained, adding that as a result, collaboration is very limited. He revealed that though he worked hard, he still got “screwed over and looked over,” but has never given up. He goes beyond his duty to demand respect, which, according to him, means defying adversity.
Defying Adversity with Recon
After playing basketball for five years, Allen became a bouncer at a lounge to make ends meet during tough financial straits, which sounds almost glamorous…until he added that he wasn’t well paid. He’d lost faith in the college degree and the system, but also gradually lost sight of who he was.
Fortunately, during his bouncer tenure, he rubbed elbows with entrepreneurs, clothing designers, and promoters, and he realized he could do better than the other successful designers, using his struggle as a constant muse for excellence, which fueled him to return to his core: he loved fashion and street skateboarding, and determined he would pursue a career that harnessed both.
During Allen’s studies at Morgan University, he had the change to network with even more fashion designers, models, and entrepreneurs, learning seasonal trends and collegiate fashions, which he incorporated into his clothing line. He challenged himself as his brand concepts expanded, doing deep research (which he continues on his personal blog).
To that end, he has positioned himself for success in Baltimore’s fashion market. He told DOFW that the city’s fashion used to be regional: people would shop at the nearest boutique or retailer to them, so it was easy to tell by their clothes which part of town they’re from. However, since Baltimore’s fashion evolves with the major trends, it’s hard to tell who’s from where anymore.
Despite that, he currently has an advantage because most Baltimore-based brands that grow to become successful usually leave the state, constantly making room for new designers like him, which is why he chose to attach his brand to a movement. “People buy what you stand for,” he said.
Though his line has a wide appeal, he separates himself by staying focused on the brand. “I’m not sold out for fashion,” he explained. “I don’t adapt to all trends.”
To bring his point home, he released a personal brand logo on September 20, 2013 establishing his identity (below).
Here’s how he explained it on his website:
“…the DA stands for Dwayne Allen and the number 24 is a number that I incorporate in almost everything I do with my name. The number “24” usually comes after “DA” or my name Dwayne Allen because it represents me being myself 24-hours a day. I’m myself at all times, I’m never being phony or have different versions of myself in different settings. I’m The Real Dwayne Allen 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.”
So What is TRDA?
TRDA, an acronym that doubles as the first initials for Allen’s slogan, “Take Respect Defy Adversity,” and the first letters of Allen’s personal brand, “The Real Dwayne Allen,” is a street wear clothing line that carries the swagger of both Hip Hop and skater cultures in a stylish and athletic way. TRDA Brand Clothing, LLC. was born August 2010 (which he’s embellished on some of his clothing in the Roman numerals MMX).
Allen’s been skating since the age of nine, so he has intimate knowledge of the styles skaters like and plans to offer them more of what they want. According to him, some of the big brands don’t really know.
His line promises to be a menswear candy store, offering tees, crew necks, hoodies, varsity jackets, baseball jackets, ratline tees, fitted caps, accessories, tanks, and eventually skateboard decks.
Though the TRDA line isn’t available for order yet, Allen’s prototype designs will be ready to premiere in his 2014 catalog, all of which you’ll find at his blog, therealdwayneallen.com.
Bringing TRDA to the Masses
Like most post-2000 entrepreneurs, Allen’s taking a DIY approach to marketing his brand. He’s a mostly self-taught graphic designer in Adobe CS software and CAD, and with his very recent degree in television and video production from Morgan University, he’s a skilled videographer and show producer as well.
In fact, he’s using video to build a buzz around TRDA already. He initially created a promo video series of him building a skateboard. The completed process is now in one seamless video on his YouTube page.
Furthermore, he’s already building a following through a video series and podcast he co-produces, the Wrestling Wrealm.
Between the Wrestling Wrealm, the promo skateboard video, shareable image quotes he attaches the TRDA brand to (like the one at top), and prototype “sneek peeks” that he releases exclusively to his blog, his presence has expanded and people are already asking him where they can buy his stuff.
Considering how many other clothing designers he’s already met in the tightly crowded and highly competitive Baltimore, that’s saying something.
And, of course, he milks every drop of influence out of social media. He’s on Facebook, Twitter (@dwayneeallen24, @TRDAbrand), Instagram, and LinkedIn; and uses both WordPress (for his professional website) and Blogger (for his personal site).
In the Meantime…
Also like most ‘treps, Allen isn’t putting all his eggs in one basket — at least not yet. While his brand gains popularity, he offers his services as a freelance graphic designer, videographer, and video editor.
His next challenge is photography. Thanks to his degree, he’s skilled with the Canon Rebel T3i 600D and Nikon D700. So we asked the trick question: which side is he on?
Though he’s a Canon fan, he wisely explained each has its purpose. The professional photographers he met use Nikons, so he may use one for his official clothing line photo shoots, but he finds Canon is better for recording videos, so he plans to purchase a 60D and find someone to learn from.
Check out Allen’s upcoming designs here, and be among the first cool kids to buy his clothes when they release by following @TRDAbrand on Twitter.
All images belong to Dwayne T. Allen. Used by permission.
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A Quick Primer on the Team Solving Orange County’s Affordable Housing Crisis
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Orange County faces a growing affordable housing crisis, and Mayor Jerry Demings has taken notice–and action. Shortly after his inauguration, he formed Housing For All, an affordable housing task force to face the challenge head-on.
The Housing For All task force doesn’t meet monthly like the County Commission–in fact, their next meeting won’t be until October 4, 2019–but they do work when they’re not meeting. The task force is made up of three subcommittees, Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee, Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee and Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee. These three subcommittees meet twice a month to come up with ideas and plans to fix the affordable housing problem.
Each subcommittee has a specific focus on ways to help solve the problem of affordable housing. The Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee is focused on the design of new affordable housing projects, the renovation of current affordable housing that might need fixing and land development for affordable housing units. The Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee is focused on making sure affordable housing is accessible to the major economic zones of the city, develop partnerships with groups and focus on outreach in the county. The Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee is focused on finding ways to increase the supply of affordable housing and how to preserve affordable housing.
At their next meeting in October these subcommittees will update the county on what they have accomplished and what they plan to do in the future. For information from previous Housing for All Task Force meetings or the meeting schedule, visit the Orange County Government website.
Leyton Blackwell is a photojournalist and Florida National News contributor. | email@example.com
Opening Biopic ‘Te Ata’ Sets High Bar for 2016 Orlando Film Festival
ORLANDO (FNN NEWS) – Orlando Film Festival kicked off at Cobb Theaters in Downtown Orlando Wednesday night. The red carpet came alive with excited filmmakers and actors ready to showcase their projects to the Orlando community and, in some cases, to the world at large, including Nathan Frankowski, director of this year’s opening feature Te Ata.
About Te Ata
Frankowski’s biopic feature chronicles the true story of Chickasaw actress and storyteller Mary Frances Thompson, whose love of stories and the Chickasaw Nation fueled her to share the Chickasaw culture with new audiences in the early 1900s, a time when the United States was still growing as a nation and clashed with Native American peoples in the process.
Viewers are immediately swept into the saga from the film’s opening scene with a voice-over folk tale told by Mary Thompson’s father, T.B. Thompson (played by Gil Birmingham). Ironically, though his storytelling places the seed of inspiration in her, it slowly becomes a source of friction between them as she ages.
What makes the film engrossing is the sprawling backdrop upon which Thompson’s journey takes place. While young Te Ata (which means “The Morning”) flourishes with each solo performance and eventually sets her sights on Broadway, the Chickasaw Nation is fighting to secure the funding due them from the U.S. government in the face of ethnocentrism and religious bigotry–to the point that the government passed a law forbidding the sale of traditional Native American textiles and creations, which caused further financial struggle for the Chickasaw Nation. Viewers even experience the Thompsons’ fish-out-of-water feeling as the Chickasaw people’s territory, Tishomingo, shrinks significantly to become part of the newborn state of Oklahoma.
The political tensions are counterbalanced with Te Ata’s experience. Te Ata does her first performances among family, but chooses to leave home for the first time in her life to attend the Oklahoma College for Women (known today as University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma), despite her father’s wishes for her to find a job at home. Viewers immediately empathize with Te Ata’s awkward experience upon her arrival at the predominantly Caucasian-attended College, but cheer her on when that one connection is made, because all it ever takes is one.
Te Ata’s jumping off point occurs when she meets drama teacher Frances Dinsmore Davis, who encourages her to join her class and to share the Chickasaw stories for her senior presentation instead of the usual Shakespeare recitation. From there, Te Ata’s career blossoms from one serendipitous connection to another, taking her performances across the country. She eventually makes it to New York City, hustling to find her place on Broadway, and finds love in the process while performing privately for Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband was then Governor of New York. The heroine’s journey continues with well-placed highs and lows, keeping the viewer visually and emotionally engaged.
Te Ata is touchingly channeled through lead actress Q’orianka Kilcher who, like Te Ata, has stage experience, and brought it to bear in the role. Kilcher’s magnetic singing, with the help of the film’s sweeping score and indigenous songs, imprints the true Te Ata’s passion for her people onto the viewer’s heart.
Frankowski, who worked closely with the Chickasaw Nation in creating the film, honors Te Ata’s memory and legacy in a cohesive, sweeping tale that will edify audiences everywhere.
Florida National News Editor Mellissa Thomas is an author and journalist, as well as a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She also helps business owners, CEOs, executives, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.
New Solar Co-op Hopes to Shine in Orange County
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (FNN NEWS) By Orange County Government —Orange County homeowners looking to add solar power to their homes have an opportunity to do so at a discount through a new solar co-op program. The initiative is spearheaded by Orange County Government, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Florida Solar United Neighborhoods (FL SUN), which is a local nonprofit working to organize solar co-ops across the state. According to the Florida Public Service Commission, 11,626 utility customers (less than 1 percent) in Florida have rooftop solar installed. In Florida, these co-ops have worked with nearly 340 homes and businesses across the state.
Above photo (from left): Orange County employees Lori Cunniff and Jon Weiss (both have solar); co-president of the League of Women Voters of Central Florida Sara Isaac; Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Florida Director of FL SUN Angela DeMonbreun
Solar co-ops provide bulk discounts – up to 20 percent – for a group of homeowners who are interested in purchasing solar panels. As part of a solar co-op, citizens benefit from the educational process and each participant signs his or her own contract with the installer, and everyone gets the discount. All homeowners who reside in Orange County are eligible to participate in the co-op.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs officially signed up for the co-op and she’s hoping other residents will consider joining as well.
“This technology is an excellent long-term investment and we’re delighted to invite our residents to participate. The Orange County Solar Co-op is a powerful way to leverage our collective buying power and go solar together,” said Mayor Jacobs. “Florida’s outlook is bright for solar and Orange County’s Co-op can help lead the way.”
The solar co-op supports Jacobs’ goals in her Sustainability Initiative, “Our Home for Life,” which seeks to reduce barriers to alternative energy and increase renewable energy production by 10 percent in 2020 and 25 percent by 2040.
Joining the co-op does not obligate members to purchase panels. After the co-op receives bids from solar installers in the area, members will select one or two companies to perform the installations at a group discount.
The exact price of a PV (photovoltaic) system is dependent on homeowners’ preference in system size and their home’s energy consumption. Additionally, there is a federal tax credit of 30 percent towards installation costs. Homeowners have the option to install the size PV system that fits their budget.
“Experts tell us Florida’s sunshine gives it the potential to be among the top three states in America for solar power, and by joining in solar co-ops Floridians can start planning for the sun to help pay their electric bills,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. The League of Women Voters of Florida has partnered with FL SUN and various markets in Florida, including Orange County and St. Petersburg, to promote solar initiatives.
In addition to promoting the solar co-op to residents, Orange County is encouraging its more than 7,500 employees to consider signing up.
East Orlando resident Jon Weiss, director of Orange County’s Community, Environmental and Development Services department, is one employee who already participated in a solar co-op and had solar installed in May of this year.
“The co-op really helped us understand the solar project costs and benefits. I realized the questions I had were the same ones that my neighbors had, and I had confidence in the information provided by the contractor selected by the co-op.” said Weiss. “We sized the system to match our budget, and are very pleased with the savings on our power bill. Our up-front investment should be recouped within the next five to six years.”
In considering going solar, Weiss suggests that your home’s roof be in relatively good condition as the panels can last 20-25 years.
Orange County has a goal to obtain 500 participants in the co-op program with 30 percent of the residents opting to Go SOLAR. The co-op deadline to sign up is December 2016. Orange County is sponsoring Community Power Network and FL SUN, 501(c)(3) non-profits, to provide technical assistance to neighborhood solar co-ops at no charge to participants.
“I am excited to work with Orange County residents to educate them about the benefits of solar energy,” said FL SUN Co-op State Director Angela DeMonbreun. “If you’ve ever thought about going solar before, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. We have established that this model works in Orange County and in other states.”
FL SUN expands access to solar by educating Florida residents about the benefits of distributed solar energy, helping them organize group solar installations, and strengthening Florida’s solar policies and its community of solar supporters. Grants from Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Barancik Foundation and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy broadly support FL SUN’s work.
As part of the Go SOLAR Florida initiative, Orange County and other partners have worked to streamline the permitting process for solar installations. Now solar permits in the county can be processed in a single day on a walk-through basis. Also, use of one of the standard designs that have been pre-approved by the Florida Solar Energy Center can save additional time and money.
· Aug. 22 from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the Orange County Agricultural Extension Office located at 6021 S. Conway Road in Orlando.
· Aug. 23 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Meadow Woods Recreation Center located at 1751 Rhode Island Woods Circle in Orlando.
· Aug. 24 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the First Unitarian Church located at 1901 E. Robinson Street in Orlando.
Additional meetings will be scheduled as well, so visit www.flsun.org/orange-county for listings.