God’s Writer Girl: Legacy of a Nashville PR Leading Lady

Deborah Ann Culp came into the Nashville community in 2014 a Detroit native and seasoned writer, photographer and public relations professional. She was affectionately dubbed “Lady Deb”, “Miss Deborah” and of course, her own handle and the title which most knew her by, “God’s Writer Girl” (GAG). To say she merely “worked” for several publications, would be a huge understatement. She did much more than just work. Deborah was an infectious ambassador for the brands she represented. Rain, sleet or storm, good health or not feeling her best, Lady Deb showed up and she always did so with her undeniable personality preceding her and it was large and in charge. As a friend, she was a giving listener and empath. But as a public relations professional, Deborah Ann Culp was a force to be reckoned with, showing up on every major event scene with her larger than life personality preceding her. She never entered a room unnoticed. Both visiting celebrities and local media, politician or laymen recognized her contagious and uninhibited laughter and her trademark fiery red hair entering the room. Despite her take charge, larger than life style, Deborah managed to gather, teach, embrace and draw-in everyone to whom she came in contact whether they were a popular visiting celebrity, or the newbie media person who needed a quick whisper in the ear about how to get in position to really get the interview.

Deborah Ann Culp

Lady Deb moved in to our great city and made it her own. She was a proud Nashvillian and proud to represent her home town, Detroit. She literally became our “First Lady of PR”. Those that knew her, knew her bubbly, assertive, goal-oriented personality was fueled by all that she had overcome in life, the people she loved, those she had lost and the publications and people she represented. Just below the surface was a woman who had overcome odds most may consider, insurmountable. Despite her success and established brand, Lady Deb never chose to forget where she came from and she always wanted others to know where she was coming from. Although she wrote everyone’s story, she somehow never had to write her own, because she lived it openly. Her transparency preached to every person she encountered and gave them permission to show their scars.

Next to her faith and the people she loved including her deceased husband William Culp Sr., deceased daughter and her pride and joy, son William Culp Jr, a US Marine, Deborah loved her work and the people she worked with. She wrote for the Pride Publication, Divine Magazine, Tennessee Minority Pages, Exhale for Women and formerly Tennessee Tribune and other publications. She also had a host of clients from local government, business owners, entertainers and brands that she represented from the well-established to the burgeoning artist. Hers was a labor of love and passion for people and her purpose. All of whom were her extended family; each of whom were made to feel they were her favorite.

In 2015 Lady Deb was nominated for the Women’s Power UP Award, an award granted to women who had overcome great obstacles and realized success. Upon her passing on October 26, 2018, Deborah was memorialized at the Ivy Center amongst family (including her beloved son William Culp Jr. and his family), friends, spiritual, business and political associates. Judge Brenda Gilmore presided and awarded her a Proclamation from the State of Tennessee. Judge Rachel Bell was also amongst her esteemed guests and awarded Deborah a Resolution on behalf of the Davidson County, General Sessions Court Division VIII. Many of those who admired, worked with her and loved her, assembled and honored the life of Deborah A. Culp, a life though never chronicled, it inspired all who encountered her to live in the moment and to live out loud.

Written by Nicole L. Wade

Martesha L. Johnson: Nashville’s Newest Public Defender

On August 28, 2018, Martesha L. Johnson became the first African-American elected Public Defender of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Defender’s Office. A native of Nashville, Johnson ran for Chief Public Defender to raise her voice on injustices that impact low-income communities, like the criminalization of poverty. Yet, as she stood on the stage during her swearing-in, the weight of her accomplishment as the first African-American to hold this position became apparent. The day marked sixty-three years since the lynching of Emmett Till and fifty-five years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his seminal “I Have A Dream” speech. Sharing the date with such momentous events highlighted the importance of Johnson’s election to office, which was possible only because of the fights won by civil rights activists. With those wins in mind, Johnson remarked, “I was completely overwhelmed by the honor that this bestows upon me but, also, I know that this is a great responsibility.”

Since graduating from law school in 2008 (the first in her family to do so), Johnson has worked as an assistant public defender in Nashville. She began her tenure in the office while still in law school during the summer of 2007 as an intern; by graduation, she had completed a second internship. “It was [at the Nashville Defenders] that I sort of found my tribe of people,” Johnson recalls. “This was really advocating for people who have so much more to them than just the charges on the paper.” But due to the financial restrictions of the recession in 2008, the Nashville Defenders had a hiring freeze and could not offer a paid position to Johnson. That did not stop Johnson from working to defend people who could not afford an attorney. “I made a determination after one summer being here that this is where I wanted to spend my career, this is the type of law I wanted to practice.” Johnson began volunteering at the office and worked nights at Macy’s to support herself. Her sacrifice was rewarded a few months later when Dawn Deaner, her predecessor in the Chief’s position, was able to offer her a paid position.

Despite her passion for the work and, perhaps, because of it, Johnson encountered certain frustrations with the work. “You’re arguing for reform, you’re trying to change the hearts and minds of people who make decisions, you truly believe that there’s humanity and dignity in all people, but that’s not always met with understanding,” Johnson said. She realized she needed a different opportunity to continue fighting for her clients. When Deaner announced she would not seek re-election, Johnson quickly concluded, “I have to do this.” As the elected public defender, Johnson would have a seat at the table with leadership from which to advocate for her clients.

While prepared and qualified for the job, Johnson still had to convince others to elect her. As a young, single mother with no background or connections in politics, running for office was terrifying; Johnson was concerned about whether she would be negatively judged.

“Deciding to run for office was extremely hard for me and ultimately a decision that rested largely on my daughter, Jacari. I needed her to see me put my fears aside and go after what I wanted. I am most grateful that I got to take her on this ride with me and show her in real time that anything is possible.”

However, from her first campaign fundraiser, she found the opposite to be true. “My passion was apparent,” says Johnson. “All of the things that I was fearful about, when I jumped out and actually started running, those things made people want to support me. They supported me because I was young and passionate and steadfast in my belief that we need to make some change in the justice system.”

As a career public defender, Johnson has plenty ideas on how to reform the justice system, including to prevent jails from replacing mental health hospitals. But she knows she will need collective action to support change, and so she aims to empower the community to get involved in the inner-workings of the criminal justice system and to raise their voices on the necessary changes. Johnson says, “I would like my legacy to be that I was a public defender both in the courtroom and the community.”

Written By: Cynthia Amezcua, Stanford Law Student

Photos By: Porche’ Belcher

The Art of The Dance: Dr. Ming Wang Mastering the Art and Health Connection

Ming Wang is a name most recognize easily. For years we have seen his commercials and revered him as not only the leader in ophthalmology, but as the “dancing doctor”. We’ve watched his commercials with wonder as Dr. Wang danced right into our living rooms. Even from our television screens we have felt a connection with Dr. Wang and entrusted him all the more for giving us an occasional glimpse into an artistic side of him that was obviously as skilled as his ability to fix people’s eye conditions. Dr. Wang’s dance gave us reason to believe there was more to him than meets the eye.

If you are a Middle Tennessean, then you know Ming Wang’s name to be synonymous with laser eye surgery. But most have no idea how he came to be a leader in his field and his enormous impact on the international medical community. There is a reason we feel so much confidence in Dr. Wang. Earning his medical degrees from Harvard and MIT (MD, magna cum laude), Dr. Ming Wang is one of the few laser eye surgeons in the world today who holds a doctorate degree in laser physics. He has performed over 55,000 procedures, 4,000 of which were on other physicians. He has published 9 textbooks and scientific papers including one in the world-renowned journal “Nature”. Dr. Wang holds several U.S. patents and performed the world’s first laser artificial cornea implantation. He is currently the only surgeon in the state who performs 3D Laser Cataract Surgery (60+) He has published 9 textbooks and many scientific papers including one in the world-renowned journal “Nature”. Dr. Wang holds several U.S. patents and performed the world’s first laser artificial cornea implantation.

Like many people who have realized great accomplishment, Dr. Ming Wang came from humble beginnings. He was born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of the People’s Republic of China in 1960. As a young boy about the age of 13, he was forced to make decisions for his future, a difficult task for someone so young. But the Cultural Revolution racked China during that time and forced over 20 million people to a lifetime sentence of hard labor. Chinese leader, Mao Zedong‘s efforts to rid China of remnants of capitalism led him to divide families and breach them of education. There were only a few routes around this impending sentence, one of which was the arts. While Ming had become a talented musician, a skill he pursued to try and avoid janitorial work, it was not the answer to his freedom. Even though he practiced playing the Erhu (an instrument akin to the violin) 15 hours a day, ultimately the Chinese government decided against recruiting musicians from the city of Hangzhou that year. He then joined a group called the “lost generation”, Chinese youth who were in despair because of their grim futures. Along with a pal, he wrote music and collaborated on an opera. Not willing to give up on his hopes, Dr. Wang sought the opportunity to join the Communist Dance Troupe, a dance group that opened doors for gaining an education. Advice from his father that education was the key to a successful future, never fell on deaf ears for Ming Wang. Although it required much hard work, both physically and mentally, training with the dance troupe changed Ming’s life and opened doors for his educational opportunities.

As it turned out, the study and art of dance was not just a way out, but in many ways, it taught Dr. Wang the core skills needed to become a great physician and partner to healing and restoration to many. Dr. Wang’s most rewarding lesson from ballroom dance is not only in technical agility, but also in the ability to connect with his partner and even anticipate his partner’s natural response and rhythm. As a physician, Dr. Wang still adheres to “the dance”. After performing thousands of procedures, Dr. Wang is noted for connecting with his patients, even praying over each patient for which he is going to perform surgery.

Dr. Ming Wang’s accomplishment in eye sight restoration is extensive and yet he is still opening new doors to helping countless people gain vision they never had or thought they never would obtain. Recently, Dr. Wang performed surgery on a 47-year-old healthcare executive who suffered from poor vision all his life. A high degree of nearsightedness, coupled with an astigmatism distorted his vision. Without any correction, his condition was worse than being legally blind. With this procedure, Dr. Wang literally made yet another distinction in his field, being the first physician to perform this first of its kind, surgery. The SMILE (small-incision lenticular extraction) procedure has nothing at all to do with teeth. It is a major advancement in laser correction since the last 25 years and the advent of LASIK. SMILE corrects astigmatism and has three distinct advantages: 1) smaller incisions, 2) less dry eyes, and 3) less postoperative complications. The Food and Drug Administration approved the astigmatism correction using SMILE and not surprisingly, Dr. Ming Wang is the first to perform it. Dr. Wang’s care for people does not end in the surgery room. He founded the Eyeball Concept, a foundation that donates its services to those needing eyecare.

Without great tenacity to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, Dr. Ming Wang undoubtedly would not have emerged the renowned physician that he is today. Even if it meant he had to master an entirely new skill to gain his education in the field that has allowed him to be a conduit for healing for thousands of people, he was willing to apply focus and ambition to accomplish it. While it may take unorthodox routes to arrive at our destinies, we improve the world when we commit to reaching them despite the difficulties along the journey. Like Dr. Wang, most times, we eventually realize what we learned was only the fuel for what makes us great. In Dr. Ming Wang’s case, from his humble beginnings until this day, the dance was really all about the art of connection. His care and ability to align with people is a waltz with an impact that is easily seen in the faces of his happy patients and felt just upon meeting him. Even while surrounded by an immaculate office with state of the art equipment, what stands out, is Dr. Ming Wang’s heart for healing and God- given ability to truly understand human connection makes him one of the world’s most skilled and talented physicians.

Written by Nicole L. Wade

Tennessee Black Pages passes the Torch

Tunisia Scott Headshot

New owner and President, Tunisia Scott

Nashville, TN – Just as Nashville and surrounding areas undergo revitalization in historical communities, so does another Middle Tennessee staple. Tennessee Black Pages, a 25 year old Middle Tennessee minority business directory that lists and showcases local African American businesses, has officially passed the torch and been renamed, Tennessee Minority Pages by new owner and President, Tunisia Scott. Scott renamed the directory to service an even more diverse Tennessee than yesteryear.

The local directory was sold to Scott by former founder, Deloris Black who once hired the new owner as her Executive Assistant and Office Manager. Black’s protégé, Scott, will continue the founder’s legacy to bridge minority organizations to mainstream organizations and to the community at large. With the name change however, Mrs. Scott will impact a broader demographic.

Under her new leadership, Scott has launched a full campaign to update the look and the feel of the publication to accommodate the contemporary needs of today’s advertiser and reader. The publication will soon have an upgraded web presence as well as a full social media presence which includes: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a Blog-site, an App and appearances at local events. These additions will exponentially increase the footprint of the publication’s featured advertisers.

Tennessee Minority Pages has officially moved out of the station to take itself and Middle Tennessee partner advertisers to the next level.


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