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From Fertilize to the Versace Mansion

Most of the readers who follow me know that I was born in an area of LaGrange called “Fertilize.” I imagine the name was appropriate because not too far from our home was a plant that produced fertilizer. I really didn’t know until the great Milliken textile fire, many years ago, that the correct name for the place we lived was the Live Oak community. But that’s another story. This story is about how hard work and tenacity can defy man-made barriers and lead to considerable success.

During the period that I was growing up in LaGrange, societal restraints did not provide many postsecondary options for minority youth. Many in my generation, encouraged by strong and loving parents, did transcend our environments and attended college. From the Fertilize community, several of my friends and siblings would later become educators, major sport figures and even successful entrepreneurs.

My old community has changed considerably over the years, and so have the lives of people who called Fertilize home. Two such persons are my sisters, Jeanette and June. Both completed college and were instrumental in supporting the career of a young man whom Forbes has stated could be the next hip-hop artist to grace the cover of their magazine. The artist is called 2 Chainz. I call him Tauheed. His mother is my sister, Jeanette Epps. This past weekend, this young man, who defied all odds of being successful, married his high school and college sweetheart, Keisha, at the prestigious Versace Mansion, in Miami, Florida. This was the former home of deceased fashion icon, Gianni Versace. As I walked his mother down the aisle, I reflected on my old community, and how things have changed. My relatives staying in a place we could only live vicariously years ago. This, past weekend, however, celebrities from around the country honored my nephew by their attendance.

Tauheed is a classic example of hard work and dedication to a task producing unimaginable success. As an entertainer, he is invited to countries around the world. He also hosts a popular television program. During my career, I had the opportunity of being around several world leaders and entertainers. The experiences always took me back to my humble beginning in Fertilize. My being at my nephew’s wedding created the same emotions.

As I stood at the entrance to the fabulous mansion, looking at a sea of fans waiting to get a glimpse of my nephew, I paused for a moment and thought-all the way from Fertilize to the Versace mansion. What an experience.