Overcoming Decades of Grief

Anita D. Russell’s first solo project as an author, I Wanna See Laney’s House: A Sibling Story, reveals her decades-long journey towards spiritual growth and mental wellness. It begins with a tragic moment at the family home on Linden Avenue in East Pittsburgh. A dark night of the soul unfolds when one sister is hit by a car and the other hit by depression.

Anita is a life coach, speaker and founder/CEO of The Place to SOAR, a Pittsburgh-based social enterprise dedicated to cultivating. The primary components of the SOAR concept — Step Out And Redesign — include the SOAR Coaching Academy for adults and the SOAR Youth Empowerment Program, developing leadership in teens ages 13-18.

I have a riddle for you:
How does a 5-year-old girl recover from depression?
Answer: One decade at a time.

Therein lies my story, a life filled with joy, laughter and sunshine ultimately morphed into a quest for mental wellness over several decades. On Sept. 6, 1962, I became a depressed little girl after witnessing the death of my 3-year-old sister, Laney, who was hit by a car in front of our house. On that day I disappeared, and no one could see that I was gone. I suffered from the internal bleeding of emotions I did not recognize nor understand; emotions that I did not have the language to express, articulate or process. I suffered from the pain of grief that dragged me into the dark, melancholic space of depression.

Read the full article on Kidsburgh.org . . .

“Sometimes They Think I’m the Help”

Black CEOs Speak Up about Discrimination on Long Island, Saying They’re Often Made to Feel Like Outsiders

Long Island, NY

Black business owners on Long Island say that regardless of their years of experience or achievements, they are often made to feel like outsiders. In excerpts from a conversation hosted by Newsday, four Black CEOs discuss the impact of race and racism on their careers.   Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger

Deidre Helberg, CEO

One of the featured guests is Deidre Helberg. She is the CEO for her family business, Helberg Electrical Supply. She is also the President to the U.S. Coalition of Black Women Businesses (USCBWB), founded in February 2020.

As a Black woman business owner, I am proud to be a member of the USCBWB. I also serve as the USCBWB Northeast Regional Partner, residing in Pittsburgh PA.
—Anita D Russell, Founder/Principal at The Place to SOAR

USCBWB is a Hub for Resources and Staying Connected 

  • Networking. Become a part of a community. Entrepreneurs, practitioners, educators, and policymakers committed to ensuring that our businesses and communities are valued, resourceful. Supported with regularly scheduled networking events
  • Social Media. Engage with our community online, in webinars and events. Receive resources that intersect communities around the country through various social media platforms.
  • Partners. Join one of the Regional Partners in communities across the country. Access a local network of leaders and resources.

USCBWB Supports Your Health and Your Business

  • Resources. Online and direct access to industry-specific resources that support business growth.
  • Business Development. Find opportunities to grow your business. Procurement partnerships, new business with corporations, and member-enterprises.
  • Professional Growth. Take advantage of dynamic opportunities, including our Health & Social Equity Series. Expand your knowledge on topics that promote the health and wealth of our businesses and communities.
  • Advocacy.  Attend national, state and local trainings, events, collaborations and activities. Ensure that policymakers are making positive and equitable decisions that support the wellbeing of ourselves, our businesses, and communities.  

Homeless Teens & Children

Homeless Children’s Education Fund Asks How do We Fix This?

Education is the key. I spent a couple of years volunteering for the Homeless Children’s Education Fund supporting the Teen Outreach Program known as TOP. The aim of the program is to confront the challenges teenage youth face when experiencing homelessness and to offer a college and career road map to success for each individual identified through HCEF’s partnerships in Allegheny County. I served as a mentor trainer and supported the targeted high school outreach working with students within schools (Brashear and Westinghouse High Schools in the Pittsburgh Public School system). I also volunteered at the summer camp program for children in a local shelter.

The mission of HCEF is to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness, guiding them to be productive, empowered citizens. As a national model for addressing the educational needs of unstably-housed children and youth, HCEF leads a collaborative effort among regional partners by providing educational programs and services in Allegheny County and advocating for policy and system improvement.

Be Uniquely You

Sometimes, I think we as human beings have forgotten what it means to simply be uniquely you; that blending in homogeneously has become the order of the times. Like there’s only one ideal state or look or way of thinking that everyone should strive towards. So, what if you could see every micro experience you’ve ever had across the span of your lifetime? What if you recall every opportunity you have ever had to touch someone’s life; to cultivate change through transformational strategies; or to make decisions that bring you into unique joy, significance and fulfillment?

Leading up to my 63rd birthday, God dropped a special message onto my spirit. I’ve never been one to stress over age. It’s has always been about winding up rather than down; being better tomorrow than yesterday; or growing wiser as time progresses. The message helped me look at age from a yet another perspective.

The message resonated with me and I decided to share it with you. Consider this: What if you could create a micro experience map or a pointillism painting (aka the power of dots) that chronicles a lifetime? Each dot representing a unique micro experience over a lifetime. Imagine how different your painting would be from mine or anyone else’s. This message forms the basis of the theme for my life in 2020, “Be Uniquely You”. You were created to be significant, one-of-a-kind, not a duplicate of anyone else. I consider the number two billion as it relates to the unique painting of my lifetime.

A Bench by the Road

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While attending the ASALH 104th Annual Meeting and Conference in Charleston SC, I decided to do the post-conference African American Heritage Bus Tour. So glad I did! Anyone who knows me would know that I have a deep appreciation for African American History—that is the undistorted view; the view that speaks our narrative truth to power; the view that brings into the present our generational contributions, not just in America but across the diaspora and the world. The tour was sponsored by Dominion Energy and the National Underground Network to Freedom. One place of historical significance on the tour was Sullivan’s Island.

Fellow Authors Sitting on a Bench by the Road.

For me the highlight of the Sullivan’s Island stop was sitting on a bench by the road with fellow authors. The “Bench by the Road” is a project initiated in by the Toni Morrison Society The name “Bench by the Road” is taken from a 1989 interview with World Magazine where Morrison speaks of the absence of historical markers designed to remember the lives of enslaved Africans. According to Morrison, her fifth novel, Beloved, served in this role:

There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves . . . There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road. There is not even a tree scored, an initial that I can visit or you can visit in Charleston or Savannah or New York or Providence or better still on the banks of the Mississippi. And because such a place doesn’t exist . . . the book had to” (The World, 1989).

The second notable memorial is the Sullivan’s Island Marker . . .

Click to Enlarge and Read the Full Text

A place where…Africans were brought to this country under extreme conditions of human bondage and degradation. Tens of thousands of captives arrived on Sullivan’s Island from the West African shores between 1700 and 1775. Those who remained in the Charleston community and those who passed through this site account for a significant number of the African-Americans now residing in these United States. Only through God’s blessings, a burning desire for justice, and persistent will to succeed against monumental odds, have African-Americans created a place for themselves in the American mosaic. . . .

ASALH: Author Book Event


Imagine a gathering of minds bringing forth knowledge, and narratives bearing the history from transatlantic migration to the 21st century...

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During the first week of October 2019, I had two firsts in my life. I visited South Carolina—not just driving through on my way to somewhere else—actually spending five days in Charleston. And I attended the 104th Annual ASALH Meeting and Conference held at the North Charleston Convention Center. The truth is I had no idea what to expect.

Find out how you can become a member of ASALH!

“I was enthralled from the moment I stepped in the conference space . . .”

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Artist Tranikka Powell: The Lion Queen

A Passionate Artist

Hello, my name is Tranikka Powell. I was born in West Palm Beach, Florida and grew up with three sisters and two brothers. I remember developing my passion for art at a very young age when I would sit on the living room floor and watch my mother draw all sorts of characters with the most memorable being Sarah from “The Land Before Time” (as I really liked dinosaurs back then).

Art truly became a part of my life after family turmoil eventually lead to the separation of all of my siblings and me from our mom and each other. It became all I had growing up and for the longest time was my only ray of light against the shadows of abuse and uncertainty. Now I predominately draw as a means to make others happy. It’s God’s gift to me and though I may not be a Picasso, it’s a gift I really like to share with others.

Dress for Success: Build Community, Inspire Change, Give Back

Dress for Success is hands down one of my favorite nonprofits organizations. I volunteer with them for two main reasons: (1) The organization helped me at a low point in my life several years back and (2) it adds fuel to my passion of building community, inspiring change and giving back. Can’t wait for my first ride on the mobile boutique, coming soon to Macy’s Ross Park Mall!

#myvolunteerlife | #ilovedressforsuccess

Dress for Success Pittsburgh Location

The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

I found out about Dress for Success when I was at an emotional low point in my life. They helped me to regain my dignity, my drive for success, and my commitment to make my life that best it could be.

Mental Health First Aid

I became a Mental Health First Aid instructor because I understand the struggle with mental health. As a teen I suffered from the pangs of guilt resulting from childhood trauma, which led to bouts of depression, suicidal thoughts and self-injury. I received the certification to deliver the adult curriculum. I hope to receive the certification for Teen Mental Health instructor as well!

Visit MentalHealthFirstAid.org

Lady Gaga Announces teen Mental Health First Aid Pilot Program Will Expand to 20 Additional High Schools