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Reality Stars, Coaches, Millionaires Inspire Game Changers at Women’s Impact Conference & Luncheon



ENTERTAINMENT: Miami Gardens, Fla. - Women's Impact Luncheon Speakers Dr. Heavenly Kimes, Lisa Nicole Cloud, Cynthia Bailey, and Dee Thompson at Jazz in the Gardens 2016. Photo: Mellissa Thomas/Florida National News.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla (FNN News) – While the 11th annual Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival promises to fill the Sun Life Stadium and the surrounding area with 73,000-plus attendees for the annual star-studded concert series happening Saturday, March 19th and Sunday, March 20th, JITG has an equally enthralling event on Friday, March 18th: the Women’s Impact Conference & Luncheon (WICL), presented by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) and sponsored by State Farm, takes place from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Turnberry Isle Miami, Autograph Collection (19999 W. Country Club Dr., Aventura, FL 33180). The 6th annual WICL will set the weekend afire as dynamic women and men join forces to talk about what’s real, what’s not, and what it takes to be fierce and unstoppable. Transformational life coach and sought-after keynote speaker Dee Thompson will host this year’s event, which boasts a celebrity panelist lineup:

Cynthia Bailey: Supermodel and BRAVO TV reality star from “Housewives of Atlanta.” He recently launched her new collection, Cynthia Bailey Eyewear

Lisa Nicole Cloud: Author, motivational speaker, sales trainer, CEO of Elite Marketing Strategies, Lisa Nicole Cloud Enterprises, fashion collection, The Lisa Nicole Collection, and BRAVO TV reality star from “Married to Medicine”

Dr. Traci Lynn: Motivational speaker and founder of the multi-million dollar Traci Lynn Fashion Jewelry enterprise

Dr. “Vikki” Johnson: Soul-wealth coach and healer, bestselling author, sisterhood specialist, and ordained Elder

Vicky Townsend: President and CEO of Inspiration University and founder of what was known as South Florida’s light music and jazz station, Lite FM

Dr. Heavenly Kimes: Atlanta dentist, author, inspirational speaker, business powerhouse, relationship expert, and BRAVO TV reality star from “Married to Medicine”

Bern Nadette Stains: Best known as the quick-witted, sexy, savvy, and original “It” girl, Thelma Evans, from the groundbreaking first African American sitcom, “Good Times”

Lucinda Cross: Bestselling author, internationally known speaker, spokesperson and energetic teacher of personal and professional development

Dr. Sonjia: Bestselling author of Sex in South Beach and is a certified sexologist

Angie Nicolas: Owner of the Hotspot 813 Fashion Boutique located in Tampa, FL, and fashion commentator on NBC News Channel 8 Daytime TV

Ray Crittenden: Former wide receiver for the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers

The speakers look forward to pouring their expertise into the audience, and some anticipate being enriched as well. “I look forward to interesting conversations,” said Dr. Heavenly Kimes, who received the America’s Top Dentist award from the Consumer Research Council of America. She said that her WICL topic, “It’s a Man’s World,” and the topic of relationships in general always generates interesting conversations. Dr. Kimes entered the world of relationship coaching after noticing the audience response on her radio show in Atlanta. While the show was originally her platform to discuss her business expertise, she found more and more people calling in to ask her relationship questions. “People would ask me questions like, ‘How do you manage having three kids and two dogs and working and keeping your husband happy at the same time?’ So I became a certified relationship coach.” Dr. Heavenly has spoken on other panels and plans to do more. She is the author of the upcoming book The Business of Love.

Dr. Traci Lynn is contagiously passionate about her “Game Changers” segment. She will be discussing “what it takes to change the game in your own life, how to make it an impactful year by being your best possible you. You can’t do it the same old way.” The Philly transplant, an entrepreneur from the age of twenty-six, counts herself as a game-changer with the success of Traci Lynn Fashion Jewelry—now 35,000 independent consultants strong in forty-eight states—and is ready to show attendees how to be game changers themselves based on her experience. “This is my life,” she told FNN News. “I give it as I live it.”

Dr. Lynn’s game changing efforts continue: over the last two years, Traci Lynn Fashion Jewelry has been developing the necessary infrastructure to become a global enterprise, starting with expansion into Canada and Puerto Rico.

Dee Thompson, who was a WICL panelist last year for her groundbreaking Purpose Never Dies coaching program, is a conference regular. “I attend every year, and try not miss,” she told FNN News. “It’s a fabulous event of such powerful women.” Thompson noted that this year’s WICL will also include a fashion show hosted by Angie Nicholas that incorporates three designers from this years panelist lineup: fashions from Nicholas’s Hotspot 813 Fashion Boutique, Cynthia Bailey’s eyewear line, and Dr. Traci Lynn’s Fashion Jewelry.

Thompson, who held South Florida’s first empowerment conference in 1998, has a heart for events like WICL. She is currently gearing up to tour for her next program, My Purpose Never Dies 2, and will be speaking all over the country. She is a Les Brown mentee, and shared the stage with him as well as other renowned speakers like Lisa Nichols.

This year’s WICL attendees will come away with practical tools they need to make an imprint on the world. Thompson’s passion is helping people find their purpose. “It’s exciting when you’re doing what you’re born to do,” she effused. “You have two births: the day you’re born and the day you find out why you’re here…I never enroll new coaching clients until they know who they are.” Dr. Lynn’s biggest takeaway is equally foundational: “Never quit. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your vision. Just because they don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not real.” In addressing those who suffer with self-doubt and ask themselves, “Who am I to do this?” she provides this answer for them to improve their mindset: “I came here to do it. That’s who I am. I’m just the best me that I can be.”



Jamaica-born author and freelance journalist Mellissa Thomas is a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She helps CEOs and executives, advisors, coaches, consultants, 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.


A Quick Primer on the Team Solving Orange County’s Affordable Housing Crisis



Orange County’s Housing for All Task Force held its introductory meeting on April 12, 2019 at the Board of County Commissioner Chambers. Photo: Orange County Government.

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. |

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Opening Biopic ‘Te Ata’ Sets High Bar for 2016 Orlando Film Festival



ORLANDO: Chickasaw Nation Biopic 'Te Ata' Sets Stage for 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.

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New Solar Co-op Hopes to Shine in Orange County



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (FNN News): Orange County launches solar co-op. Photo: Orange County Govt.

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.

To learn more and register for an information session, visit or email Upcoming information sessions are as follows:

· 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 for listings.

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