Back to In-Person Training

As a trainer and lecturer, you don’t really know your impact until the evaluations come in. Allow me to share some comments that make me very proud of my first in-person lecture – outside of teaching at Howard University – since the pandemic’s start. I’ve conducted several Zoom trainings, but there is nothing like meeting face-to-face. The personal interaction, the storytelling, filling the room with my energy is where I shine, and it’s my “superpower.” 

From my client, Legacy International – On behalf of Legacy International, Amideast, and the U.S. Department of State – Palestinian Affairs Unit, a huge thank you for supporting the participants from Palestine during this year’s Professional Development Immersion Program. Your session (Social Media For Your Personal Brand) and the social technovation session were the only training sessions that received a full 5.0 stars from all participants! They were highly impacted by your training and were motivated by your energy and excellent facilitation skills! 

Here’s what some of the participants had to say: 
“I love her. She is funny, smart, professional, and a great teacher.” 
“The most energetic session ever!” 
“It was so fun so nice and glamorous woman I would love to be like her when I grow up.” 
“Very helpful and informative. You get to see from a professional point of view how the media works.” 
“So energetic it changed my mind about being active in social media.” 
“It was very good. We learned how to brand our name and to work more on social media life.” 

Such high praise from an amazing group of young professionals. I’m proud to have given my support to help this very important program to be successful despite significant COVID-era hurdles.

You can now call me Professor Ricks!

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the distinguished Cathy Hughes School of Communications at my beloved Howard University, I joined the Strategic, Legal and Management Communication Department as an Adjunct. I’ll be teaching a “Social Media and Integrated Marketing” for the Fall 2021 semester and a Programming and Media Planning class for the Fall 2020 session.

This appointment is a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to pour into my School of C Baby Bison. Now I can take my 35+ years of experience in mass communications and give back to the University and the School that helped form me into the professional and leader I am today. I always say, my parents gave me life but Howard made me.

Also, I love full-circle moments.

Here’s to a great school year!

Making MOVES

I am happy to announce that I have joined the Peloton Interactive family.

Peloton works to empower people through fitness; even more, we work to empower our employees and our community by striving to be the best place to work for the world’s top talent, the best business partner, and the best corporate citizen.

BET Celebrates 40 Years of Black Excellence

BET is celebrating its 40th anniversary. I got my start in media communications at BET. The network just went 24-hours. BET corporate offices where Georgetown in DC. The production offices, where I worked out of, was in a TV studio in Bethesda, Md. I was an aspiring producer, and BET gave me all the space I needed to develop my craft.

Soon the network expanded, and we ended up leaving our small studio in Maryland and moving to production facilities in Virginia. I moved from a Production Assistant to Associate Producer to a Producer. My career grew as BET expanded, and eventually, we found ourselves in a campus owned and operated by BET. These were the gilded years of black entertainment, and I grew expeditiously.

I ended up leaving and coming back to the network three times throughout my career. I worked with an incredible group of people, produced some stellar music video shows and music specials, met some fantastic artists and record industry folks, and turned several co-workers into lifelong friends.

If I could say something to that aspiring my younger, aspiring producer self it would be this:

•STOP stressing out, or find a way to release the stress. (Stress is going to make you sick)

•Stay in touch with your contacts (seriously, how did you lose touch with Benny Medina???)

•Don’t let other people define you (they don’t know your life!)

•Take a professional development course (you need coaching on how to be a better boss)

•Ignore the haters (20 years from now they will have zero impact on your life)

Other than that, enjoy it, girl. This is going to be the highlight of your young career

What advice would you give to your younger self at the start of your career?

So, What’s Your Story?

What would you say if someone asked you to tell them your story? We all have a story to tell. We all represent our own brand. But when it comes right down to it, are you able to tell your brand story. I have to admit, it wasn’t easy for me!

Everyone has a story… here’s mine.

Since primitive humans painted the first images on cave walls, storytelling has been around as one of the most effective ways to convey a message and get others to take action. I have made a career out of telling the stories of others leveraging traditional and new media.

My background is in broadcast media with two decades of experience producing for network and cable TV. For ten years, I dedicated my career to social and digital media. But whether I’m telling a story for millions of viewers on television, thousands on social or helping thought leaders and organizations craft their messaging, I am a storyteller at heart.

Schedule a time for us to chat so we can start to tell YOUR story!

The Role Of AI In Immersive Storytelling

Every Story Starts Here

The past week at the NAB Show was sensory overload in all things tech and development. My focus was on ways emerging technology was shaping immersive storytelling. With that in mind, I saw some innovative equipment, impressive editing systems, and promising content curation platforms. But the most exciting learning came from the lively discussions during the sessions.

The most thought-provoking session for me was the AI & Immersive Entertainment discussion moderated by HP Global Head of VR, Joanna Popper..


One fascinating top arose around the integration of Virtual Beings and Digital Humans; two terms that are interchangeable these days. For instance, what would Alexa look like as a Virtual Being? How Would Google Home appear as a Digital Human? Where would our own bias come to play when creating these Virtual Beings? Do people want a Virtual Being that mimics our ethnicity and culture or would they want something entirely different? Researches are working to answer these and many more question just like them.

Where does AI fit into this new landscape? What would happen if there are hundreds of Virtual Begins interacting with you in the real world driven by AI in the physical world? Some people might find this new tech frightening; others will seize the opportunity to be a part of this exciting time.

As a storyteller, I want to know where writers and producers fit in? Where does AI fit in when programming a TV show, web series or film? Can AI speed up the narrative or will it complicate things? According to Armando Kirwin, Co-founder of Artie, a technology company dedicated to enabling a new form of computer interaction powered by hyper-engaging AI characters, a computer can generate a story. AI can enhance speech. But, a human has to come through and curate the content.He tweeted,

“Immersive characters will outnumber humans 100x in the near future. Your physical reality will be filled with AI holograms, living toys, virtual teachers, proxies, and familiars. Every fictional character you ever loved will be walking around IRL with you.”

Where does that leave the content creators?

During the session, Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, a Producer at Butcher Bird Studios, shared, “The only thing you can do as a writer is tell a story that’s interesting to you.” But Diaz-Przybyl was optimistic about the future adding,

“There is an opportunity for more voices to be heard. AI won’t be truly generative, but it will allow for more diverse to be told.”

Kane Lee of Baobab Studios shared interesting data around VR and character development in immersive storytelling. Do the characters have to look believable or can they be more abstract?

“VR in animation has less to do with how the characters look and more with how the characters interact with you,” said Lee.

In other words, the characters don’t have to look human; they have to play on your human emotions and act in a way that is immersive, inclusive and interesting. This concept is an interesting note for writers and producers in this new tech..

As a producer, AI and VR offer many new and exciting opportunities for storytelling. I’m not sure where all of this will lead me, but I’m excited about the journey. How are you or your company using or planning to use AI and VR to tell your story?


Preparing Students for a Career in Digital Media

PGCC and PGCPS Host the 5th Annual Student Media Day

On November 16 and 17, Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) partnered with Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) to host the 5th annual Student Media Day. More than 150 high school and middle school students convened on PGCC’s main campus in Largo, Maryland for the two-day event.

The event is designed to help encourage students interests in pursuing careers in mass communications. My workshop allowed students to see how they could make a career out of social and digital media and maximize the social following they have already developed.

Students also had the opportunity to anchor a live news show produced by PGCC mass communication students, get first-hand experience with the latest in digital video technology, and interact with local media professionals.

It was an exciting day for the students as well as PGCC and PGCPS faculty and staff.

“I enjoyed seeing students actively engaging in the workshops, learning about the magic of digital video technology, interacting with local media professionals and having fun participating in our live newscast in front of the camera as anchors and reporters and behind the scenes as part of our production crew,” said Angela Mathis, senior producer and adjunct faculty, Prince George’s Community College.

Beyond the workshops, Student Media Day provides “an opportunity for students who are taking video production classes in the public schools to visit PGCC’s campus, explore their interests, and learn from professionals working in their field.”

Click here to view more photos from this year’s Student Media Day.

The NASCAR Drive For Diversity

NASCAR created an “industry action plan” to attract a multicultural audience. Marc Davis was the great black hope. I enjoyed supporting his social media efforts when he raced at the Virginia International Raceway. He won in the lower levels of the sport and was signed by Gibbs. But Davis raced in only 10 Nationwide Series events from 2008 to ‘11. The opportunities were few and the results less than needed to prove himself.


Fast forward to 2018 and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Team is full of emerging young talent ready to make their mark in the sport.

The drivers represent a cross-section of backgrounds – both in terms of heritage and driving disciplines – and all share a common goal: To reach the highest levels of NASCAR.

“What we’re seeing with these six drivers is a group of very talented racers who have shown the ability on and off the track to excel at the next level,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “With an increased focus on seat time and competition among the drivers, we’re looking forward to watching them perform next season.”

NASCAR, like most industries, understands the need to attract a diverse audience to their brand. It is these kinds of inclusive environments that allow companies to thrive. Share your story of diversity.

Preparing Young Leaders: Workshops on Leadership Development and Public Speaking

During my Young Leadership and Public Speaking workshop as part of the Legacy International Professional Fellows Outbound Cultural Exchange Program to Algeria, I worked with a group of 18 young adults on leadership development, communications styles, and public speaking skills. It was an interactive, all-day workshop with hands-on learning – something that is rare in Algerian cultural. Algerian students are accustomed to the lecture teaching format of learning where there is little participation. However, these young leaders were eager to learn and participate in the workshop to gain valuable, practical skills in their efforts to become better leaders in a civil society.

The participants took part in team-building activities and group assignments that often pushed them outside of their comfort zone. They challenged their ideas about leadership and how best to express those ideas.

For their final activity, each group had to come up with a project or association that would help their Algerian civil society. The goal was to work together as a team, display varying leadership styles and then each one of them had to speak about at least one aspect of the project.

The first group had three people who started the day by saying they were too shy to speak in public. One participant was so shy she was in tears when given the assignment. But we repeated our mantra for the day – “I am fearless. I am honest. I am creative” – and with that in mind, the group went through various leadership development and public speaking exercises. The videos below are the result of two of the group’s work from our day together.

Group number one showed the most improvement over the course of the day.


Group number two showed the most confidence and creativity.


I am proud of all the participants. Many walked in the door on their day off as shy leaders who and lacked confidence. They walked out accomplished leaders ready to take on their community and contribute in a major way to their civil society. This is the kind of cultural exchange Legacy International is known for. I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to contribute in my own small way.

On a side note, the workshop was such a success the group wanted more. We talked abut ways we could all stay in touch. The young leaders decided they would use social media to continue to engage and connect. They have committed to setting up a Facebook Group and Google Hangout where we can continue to work together. I’ve given each of them “homework” that they must complete by the end of next month. They each have to book one speaking engagement at a local association or club and invite someone else to come speak at their association or club. Becuase public speaking opportunities are so rare, I’ve challenged these young leaders to not wait for the opportunity to present itself but to create the opportunities where they can speak. To become a good public speaker, you must speak publically. I can’t wait to see what this group of young leaders come up with.

Special thanks to Legacy International and their sponsor, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for the opportunity to share my social engagement best practices, training and knowledge with the Algerian Pro Fellows. Let’s keep the conversation going!

UPDATE! I recently heard from two of my young leaders. Dallel GUIR wrote, “Thank you for that day it was amazing.” Dallel wrote. 

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 5.25.46 PM.png
She followed it up with these hashtags, #Fearless #Creative #Dreamer Those are her hashtags, not mine. However, that was our mantras for the day so I co-sign.

Then I got an email from one of the participants. Excuse the typos and broken English. Instead, focus on the sentiment. It took a lot to email me this. I’m so very proud.

“Good morning, So i’m one of the lucky persons to meet you and to be a mumber in «Youth Leadership and Public SpeakinAlgeria» to be your student for a day.
I was shy and couldn’t express my feeling, from that day i started to think differently i really want to change to be confident optimistic and crazy in the same time i want to do new things and things which were hard for me.
Something great and special happened to me today and i want to share it with you,
Before i meet you i had to do a homework and send it to my teacher,but because i was a kind of lazy person i left it that because i was negative i was just telling my self that i can’t do it i can’t understand this module but after the training when i arrived home i was thinking that i have to start now i have to do something and i started this homework and in the same day i sent it to my teacher it was 11pm.
I was happy.then 3 days after he sent me a mail and told me«congratulations good job»
Today, we had a corse with him and after a GOOD MORNING he said who is (amrouni amina) then i sad it is me he sad reallly i was glad to see your unswers it was a pleasure for me to read it, he said that i was the only one from 7 persons who did the right job and said that he will give me a complet mark even if i don’t work well.
I know it is just a simple thing or maybe nothing but trust me i’m glad and happy because this special module is my only key of success in the situation in where i am.
To conlude,sorrrry for wasting your time by writing a lot but i just wanted to let you know how much you helped me and thank you soooo much ,
I hope i will recive something from you and everything new which can happen to me i will tell you about it because I AM FEARLESS,CREATIVE AND HONEST.”

That was our mantra for the day… I AM Fearless, Creative and Honest. These young people… WHEW! They blow me away. They opened up and let me pour into them and then they gave the joy right back to me. I’m going to get a tissue now. There’s some sort of water coming from my eyes.

#SocialEntrepreneur #LegacyIntl #ProFellows #LegacyInAlgeria

Storytelling in Algeria: We are more alike than unalike

You think we are all different. You think our struggles are unique. Then you travel the world and you are reminded of the beautiful and powerful poem, Human Family, by Maya Angelou. In that poem, she teaches us that we are all people, and we are so much more alike than different. This has been made even more apparent this week during my trip to Algeria.

I was invited to be a part of the Legacy International Professional Fellows Program U.S. Delegation to Algeria.

“The Professional Fellows Program brings together emerging leaders from around the world who are working in the legislative process and governance, civic engagement, NGO management, economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, and journalism arenas with American counterparts from across the country. The Professional Fellows Program establishes structured interaction among American and international participants aimed at developing sustained professional ties and lasting partnerships” – US State Department.

Legacy International is dedicated to promoting peace by strengthening civil society and fostering a culture of participation worldwide and have been an excellent client and partner in my role as a social entrepreneur.

I worked with the Legacy Algerian Pro Fellows when they were in America on their inbound exchange program. We did workshops on storytelling pitching story ideas. Now, I am part of the Legacy International outbound cultural exchange program to learn from and share with NGOs in Algiers and Oran. The week concludes with the delegates conducting workshops and roundtable discussions to provide skills to continue to build their civil society and to help them grow their NGO or Association. However, before the week wraps up I wanted to share today’s experiences. It proved to be an amazing day of storytelling and cultural exchange.

We started the day meeting with two Oran “Associations” or what we would call in the U.S. nonprofit organizations. Our first stop was to Les NOMADES Algériens where we learned about the challenges and strategies of a newly formed Association in Oran.


It was interesting to learn how the group used art and visual storytelling – amazing photos and compelling video – to communicate complex issues around their mission to help disenfranchised children in Oran. They found that when you are trying to raise awareness and promote advocacy in the fight for children’s mental health, education or to improve their living conditions, using visuals helps tell the story. While they are still a new Association, NOMADES has compelling content that is sure to catch the eye of funders, grantors, volunteers and participants. I always encourage nonprofits in America to approach their storytelling the same way – to use compelling visuals to tell your story and mission in a provocative and heart – warming way. It appears good, visual storytelling is a universal concept.

The other organization, Femmes Algériennes Revendiquant leurs Droits, is a well established NGO/Association in Oran. They are doing impressive and impactful work in the fight for women’s rights.

They not only use special events and medical and legal assistance to help the women of Oran – sometimes at great risk to themselves – they too use visual storytelling to communicate their mission and outreach services. While they use traditional communication tactics to include flyers, posters, banners and printed material, it is their visual storytelling that is making the most impact. With an all female crew and production team, FARD is producing a series of documentaries to raise awareness about the specific and unique challenges in the fight for women’s human rights in Oran. These rights include everything from stopping violence against women, equality in employment and education, to the type of clothing women should be required to wear or the places women should go in public. We also spoke to a young woman who felt grateful but removed from FARD. This is not unlike the many young women in the U.S. who say they feel removed from the feminist movement or NOW organization.

Fighting for women and children rights are causes of great concern in Algeria and the also in America. This is not surprising. Women’s rights are human rights. When you empower women, you empower the world. While the nuances of women’s rights advocacy may change from region to region, we are all still in the same human rights fight together. Children are our future. Making sure youth are well cared for is the concern of everyone across the globe.

Through all of this, great storytelling remains a powerful communication tool that can play on the heart strings of the public and call about the real change needed in communities across the globe.

As a professional storyteller, this has been an enlightening and empowering day of learning and sharing. I am only half-way through my Legacy International U.S. Delegation to Algeria but what I know for sure is:

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” – Maya Angelou

Closing the Gender and Diversity Gap in Tech: A Conversation with Shireen Mitchell #BlackSTEMLikeMe

I had the pleasure of sitting down with my Geek Diva, tech superwoman, sista friend, Shireen Mitchell to talk about gender equality and diversity in STEM. If you don’t know Shireen, here is your chance to get to know her. If you do know her, here is your chance to get to know her a little better. She is a pioneer in the advancement the STEM for girls, women, PoC and WoC and she always, “keeps it real.”

An American entrepreneur, author, technology analyst and diversity strategist, Shireen Mitchell is the founder of Digital Sisters/Sistas, Inc and Stop Online Violence Against Women. Below she shares our chat about the tech gender gap and digital racial divide.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE A CAREER IN STEM? Good question. I don’t know that I chose STEM. I was gifted with my abilities and a curiosity at a time when people were saying to me “What are you doing?” They were questioning how I knew what I knew and why things came so easy to me. I was a sick kid, so I wanted to become a doctor. Being terrorized by a medical professional, I wanted to make sure other doctors wouldn’t terrorize young kids like myself. The natural state for me was very analytical and technological. So, I started out with video games. Then I started hacking.

WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A GIRL IN TECH? The concept of a girl in tech was far and few between in the 80s. But it was the highest point when women started entering the tech field. Research shows that women made up 36% of the tech fields during that time. Now, in 2017, we are down to 22 – 30% women. That’s not even counting black women and girls.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE WORKING IN TECH? The biggest challenge is in hiring practices and policies. That is where the pipeline breaks. It’s the “I don’t see gender” and “I don’t see color” mentality that is the break in the pipeline. For women of color, both those things are consistent. We are having these conversations about Hidden Figures. What we did during that time was remove those women from the timeline, and we started to believe what was presented to us instead of the data and what the leaders in tech were saying. It was a false narrative, and it still is. It’s an illusion that women and women of color, in particular, don’t have the ability to be leaders in tech. A white 20-something dropout being considered an ideal leader in the tech industry is a completely false narrative. When we talk about Hidden Figures, we know who had the intelligence. We also know who has been removed from the storyline to allow the false narrative to populate.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER BLACKS WHO WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN STEM? They need to know they have the capacity. Learning STEM is the easy part. The part that we haven’t handled is the social part and the bias it perpetuates. I would also tell them not to let anyone tell you that you don’t know what you know. Don’t let anyone deter you from building your base in tech. Create a space for yourself. Use a model that only you have, and you can change the industry by who you are.

What challenges have you overcome in your STEM Career?

This post originally appeared in the NSBE #BlackSTEMLikeMe website

Photo Credit link here.