Attending a “Girls Night Out,” every now and then gives women the opportunity to connect and build relationships while sharing information and stories of common interests.
At Take2Chic, it’s an important night to gather women from across the city for a night of conversation and fashion.
Mari Alstin, owner of Take2Chic, located at 547 N. 20th St., hosted a “Girls Night Out” last Friday at her boutique for fashion tips, wine and cheese in addition to discussion on healthy living.
This is Alstin’s second event at her boutique and she wanted to focus on health last Friday night.
Throughout the night as women gathered, Alstin gave her friend Bernadette Golden the opportunity to share Juice Plus, a dietary supplement that Golden sells, to allow Alstin’s guests to sample.
“Mari is really the type of individual who goes for what she wants. She doesn’t let any doors get shut. I like to see young African-American women aspire to what they want,” Golden said. “I sell a product called Juice Plus--Mari gives other people the opportunity as well, to show their products.”
As guests browsed through Alstin’s merchandise, they sampled Juice Plus drinks and fruits and vegetables and grains in capsule form.
When Sapna Patil heard of the event, she brought her two girlfriends along to enjoy a peaceful girl’s night at Take2Chic.
“I just saw this place with all the clothes in the display and heard about this girl’s night and spread the word to my friends,” Patil said. “I liked the fact that it was a wine and cheese theme—girls love to eat and we like to shop,” she said.
Alexis Young, Alstin’s mother, thought the event was a true success. She is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments and thinks it’s important to have nights where women can come together.
“This is a wonderful thing, we look forward to this — girls just being girls, food fun and fashion, and we cannot just have enough of this,” she said. “Mari is dedicated; she wants to do this every month as an appreciation to our customers—we have a loyal customer base. If you check the fine print on our birth certificates, it says ‘born to shop’— this is girl’s night and we are going to do what girls do.”
Mari Alstin never gave up on her love for fashion. After years of customer service experience, she decided to take a chance — quit her full-time job and open her own boutique, Take2Chic.
Take2Chic, located at 547 N. 20th St., carries women clothes and accessories that Alstin handpicks with the mission to provide women with stylish merchandise at an affordable price.
“I thought, ‘what could I do to give girls a way to get cute clothes and accessories at a very affordable price?’” she said. “Something local where they don’t have to go down to Market Street to grab a quick shirt — providing this store was a great avenue to give girls a quick and affordable way to go out and still have family dinner at home.”
As a new, African-American storeowner, Alstin noted there’s diversity in her customer base and a great deal of support from the neighborhood.
It was not an easy decision for Alstin to take a chance in opening her store. She previously worked for Bank of America and Marriot but eventually came to the decision to step out on a leap of faith, as she describes it.
“I’ve always wanted to do something on my own and open my own business,” she said. “I wanted to put the hard work that I’ve been putting into these Fortune 500 companies and do something for myself, with the years of training I had in customer service and my background of loving fashion.”
Alstin still currently works part-time at night while she continues to build the Take2Chic brand.
The store’s grand opening was last month on July 1 and Alstin and her team are hopeful for the store’s sustainability. The customers have been enthused and supportive of this neighborhood store, while willingly sharing their feedback on ways to build revenue and various marketing strategies.
Alstin describes the clothes and merchandise at Take2Chic as very versatile, catering to a wide range of customers.
The idea behind selling these items started with a website she created back in February. Her initial plan for Take2Chic was to have a site where customers solely bought items online. When her site didn’t get as many hits as she anticipated, she redirected her energy towards opening a store.
The meaning behind the name Take2Chic, has had a few different meanings, but now stands for the idea, “it’s so affordable, you can take two.”
Alstin wanted to make her store affordable to cater to her customers in these hard economic times.
“My customers are always extremely thrilled when they look at the price tag,” she said. “Being able to do that for the community is really fulfilling.”
Alstin believes affordability is important, especially when it comes to jewelry. She reasons, customers would be more at ease after the loss of an earring or necklace, if their purchase was inexpensive. After a conversation with a woman who called this “disposable jewelry,” Alstin decided it was important to combine style and affordability.
In an effort to reach out to the community, Alstin will host “Girls Night Out,” a wine and cheese and fashion event, at her boutique Aug. 24 at 8 p.m.
With maxi dresses, handbags and “disposable jewelry,” Alstin constantly researches recent trends to give her customers a stylish, yet affordable option.
Whether their status was single, married, in a relationship or “complicated,” men and women joined at Reserve restaurant on Aug. 12 for “Relationship Secrets and Cocktails,” hosted by Kevin Carr.
Carr, author of “If All Men are Dogs Then Women You Hold the Leash: How Far We Go Depends on You,” joined with Google+ to host this event which exposed secrets men and women keep — when dealing with matters of the heart.
As guests settled in the event room at Reserve, located at 123 Chestnut St., they were welcomed by a performance from singer/songwriter/performer Bianca Raquel, who opened and closed the night singing and playing the piano. She performed covers including Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat,” and a few of her originals.
Carr kicked off the night welcoming four panelists: Todd Anthony, actor, model, singer; Maurice James, graphic, web designer for BET; Envy McKee, radio personality, media consultant and blogger at ArkyM Entertainment, LLC; and Will Patterson, promotions director at Radio One.
Conversation stirred as the panel answered questions to “Why don’t men want to be in a committed relationship?” “Is it reasonable to expect monogamy if you aren’t official?” and “How much should you include the opinions of friends in your relationship?”
As the panelists shared their thoughts, the guests were engaged and enthused to share theirs as well.
One question that divided the room with varying opinions was whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the number of sexual partners one has had prior to the start of a new relationship.
McKee declared “It’s none of their business.”
Brandon Swift, star of the 27th season of MTV’s “The Real World: St. Thomas,” attended the event and shared his thoughts on the discussion.
“There is definitely a double standard when it comes to men and women — men can sleep with a lot of women and still not be judged on such a higher extent than a woman would be judged,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t agree with the double standard, but at the same time, I know that I’m the type of person that if I found out how many partners she had — and it’s an extensive amount — it’s going to bother me.”
Sonya Newland heard of this event through a friend and thought it would be a good opportunity to participate in a discussion surrounding relationships.
“It’s important to see people of color doing positive things; I thought there were some very relevant and important topics raised.” Newland said. “It was important to get the perspectives from people in committed relationships, the male and female side of things and those that are single as well.”
Carr continued to moderate discussion with the panel, while touching on the importance of communication in a relationship. Anthony noted how well his girlfriend communicates with him and how it leaves no room for confusion.
David Alston, Carr’s childhood friend since the age of seven, was happy to support Carr and engage in conversation. Alston feels he learned a lot about the perspectives of women.
“One of the key things was the perception of women — their questions, their issues, things they are bringing to the table for men to step up to the plate,” he said.
Succeeding the panel discussion, Carr closed discussion with sharing his personal experiences. He covered the importance of safe sex and healthy, honest relationships. He was pleased with the outcome of the event and plans to host upcoming events, including “single mixers.”
“I wanted it to cultivate a conversation representing men and women,” he said.
Carr has made a name for himself as a “dating coach” especially through his work for Essence magazine, where he writes articles giving relationship advice that is published on the magazine’s website, Essence.com.
While he shared his best dating tips for a predominately female audience, he certainly had the approval from an important female recipient — his girlfriend.
“I think everything came together well,” said Breena Green, Carr’s girlfriend. “I’m very happy with him. Kevin’s the bomb.”
Since Tia Norfleet was a young girl she knew she had a desire for racing cars. Her passion for racing led to her breaking barriers — becoming the first and only African-American female licensed by NASCAR.
Norfleet obtained her NASCAR license two years ago and made her first NASCAR debut on Aug. 4 at the Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Va. Norfleet, who is sponsored by Verizon, finished 23rd out of 25 drivers at the CMC Supply Twin 100s at Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Va.
With an early start at five years old racing her Barbie Corvette — replaced with two new car batteries to increase the speed by her father Bobby Norfleet — Norfleet stopped at nothing to make her racing dreams a reality.
“It’s a blessing to do what you love to do,” Norfleet said.
Bobby Norfleet, an inspiration to his daughter, has a long history of racing. Founder of Bobby Norfleet Racing, Inc., he began his career in motorcycle racing, then moved to drag before competing in NASCAR in 1992. His mentor was Wendell Scott, the legendary African-American racer who competed in NASCAR in the ’60s and ’70s and was the only African American to win a race.
Bobby proudly wore Scott’s number “34,” which he then passed on to his eldest daughter, Norfleet, who wears the symbolic number with a long lineage. Bobby has always supported his daughter’s dreams and encouraged her to make the decision to race on her own.
“I didn’t influence her at all — that was her decision,” he said. “She took an interest in racing whereas my boys didn’t. Whatever the kids wanted to do, if it was positive, we are behind them. I just told her she has to want to do it.”
Norfleet was 14 when she realized she wanted to make racing a career. She knew hard work and dedication would be the key to success — despite what anyone else told her.
“There were plenty of people, even recently, that would say they don’t get it or ‘it won’t work,’ trying to discourage me,” she said. “Misery loves company but I didn’t listen to them because had I listened to them I would be right there with them.”
Off the track, Norfleet is engaged in a number of community efforts that include working with children and programs like the National African American Drug Policy Coalition and the Motorsports Institute, Inc.
Norfleet keeps a busy schedule and routine to remain mentally and physically fit. Her racing career is “surreal,” as she describes it.
“I’m just really a driver like everyone else, I just happen to be a Black female,” she said. “I didn’t set out to be the first African-American female — I just wanted to drive.”
Norfleet plans to participate in more races this year. With a strong team behind her, she is enthused for what the future holds.
“Now we’re just preparing to run a lot more races this year and getting ready for Daytona 2013,” Bobby Norfleet said.
Transfiguration Baptist Church is a church that prides itself on its connections throughout the community.
Located at 3732 Fairmount Ave., Transfiguration is committed to its Mantua neighbors and the Philadelphia community as a whole. With a new pastor of just two years, Transfiguration Baptist has already seen positive outcomes since its new leadership.
The Rev. Dr. Charles L. McNeil, Sr., took the position to serve as the fourth pastor of the church on Nov. 14, 2010. Rev. McNeil, a South Philly native, attended Palmer Theological Seminary where he obtained a few degrees and now currently runs a doctoral program. Additionally, he runs church partnerships with Palmer and has done work with Eastern University for more than 20 years.
“My passion is that I am really into urban ministry—coming from the neighborhoods, coming from South Philly, urban ministry is what I do,” he said. “I think there is a reason for that, mainly because you have to have a heart for people in the urban communities.”
Rev. McNeil focuses his messages on social justices and bringing the community together.
“The slogan I go by is Psalm 133:1, which is how good and pleasant it is when brothers come together in unity,” he said. “That’s my life verse, it’s on everything that I do.”
Transfiguration Baptist Church has been apart of Carla Claud’s life since she can remember. She was baptized at the church at the age of eight and has been a member of the church for many years. She is proud of its history and happy to see where it’s going.
“This is not just a family church it is an extended family to me—it means a lot,” Claud said. “We have three generations of family members here and Rev. Smith the founder, actually baptized me here. The changes have been fabulous and since Rev. McNeil has been here there’s been a lot of changes in the past year—our pastor is awesome, God is good.”
On May 28, 1959, nine people joined in the living room of the Rev. Prentice H. Smith at 425 N. Budd St. It was an important day as it was the day Transfiguration Baptist was organized. The founding members — Mrs. Holland, Deacon Spencer, Mrs. Spencer Davis, Renee Davis, Mrs. Louise Harrison, Mr. Willie, Mrs. Lula McGhee, the Rev. Prentice Smith and Mrs. Malinda Smith — gathered as Holland made the motion to name the church “Transfiguration Baptist.”
The church’s first service was held June 7, 1950 at 1:30 p.m. at the Jehovah Jireh Baptist Church, located at 48th St. and Haverford Ave. Later, Transfiguration Baptist held its first morning service on June 21, 1959 at the A.V. Barkley Memorial Chapel.
A few years later, the church found its current location on January 22, 1964 and the work on the building was completed two years after. Rev. Smith served as pastor for more than 40 years until he passed in April of 2000.
Gino Ayers, brother of Rev. McNeil’s preceding pastor , the Rev. Antonio Ayers who passed in 2008, has been a member of the church for approximately five years. He feels that joining this church has been a “blessing.”
“Joining was a blessing, I usually would come and go but never was a member until he [Rev. Antonio Ayers] became the pastor so me and my family joined, God has been a blessing to us,” Ayers said.
Ayers believes Rev. McNeil has made a good transition into leadership.
“We have a good shepard, he’s a good pastor,” he said.
In their efforts to work towards social justices, Transfiguration Baptist hosts a slew of activities, events and community outreach. With past community-based events including “MLK Volunteer Day,” “Heritage Day,” Black male workshops, Vacation Bible School and others, Transfiguration Baptist keeps a busy schedule serving the community.
The church hosts clothing drives frequently and recently held their annual neighborhood block party reaching out to their neighbors for fellowship and uplift.
In the past, Rev. McNeil organized and gathered six churches to come together for “Holy Week Services.”
“That was a wonderful time, the fellowship with the churches, because for me I think we are all doing the same work so we need to come together to do some work,” he said. “I’m actually planning a winter basketball league for those churches so we can have church leagues in this neighborhood.”
Angela McNeil, the First Lady, feels the members of Transfiguration Baptist are strongly committed.
“I think we have some very committed members here who work very hard and tirelessly and support the pastor’s vision,” she said. “My husband and I are co-laborers in the Lord, I understand he has a call—he was called and as his wife therefore I am called. I am called to support in the blessings God has given me. I try to do whatever it takes to support his vision—the vision God has given him.”
First Lady McNeil is a deaconess and is apart of the women’s ministry.
In addition to community work, beneath the sanctuary in the basement lives a community group titled, “Community Supportive Service and 12-step program.” The services orchestrated from the church building include; clothes drives and prayer services.
“I’m the care person and we started back in April in the community because there is a great demand with these kind of services,” she said.
Tammy Pullins, long-time church member, has seen a “new energy” since the arrival of Rev. McNeil.
“There’s a new energy in the congregation to go out in the community, that’s been the biggest change,” she said.
Pullins also believes the family aspect of the church has affected the congregation positively.
“Many of us are long-term members so we have our mothers here, our sisters and brothers here and you can probably pick anyone in that church and they are related to two or three other people in the church,” she said. “Us being a family church, it allowed us to be able to disagree with one another but still hang in there with one another and move forward.”
With the “family” emphasis in mind, Rev. McNeil also encouraged his church to contribute to funding college costs for a few of the younger members, last Sunday’s service.
With a focus on outreach to the youth, Rev. McNeil’s 14-year-old son Charles McNeil Jr., also benefits from the loving caring nature of the church his father leads.
“I like it here, it’s a fun church and I like all the people here,” Charles said. “My father is a great guy and I think he does a really great job being the pastor.”