Alley Oop Hoops presents
"Drive & Kick" with Dasan Ahanu
Dasan is a public speaker, organizer, curator, educator, poet, spoken word artist, educator, songwriter, and emcee, and loyal Hip-Hop head born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is co-founder and managing director of Black Poetry Theatre, a Durham based theatre company that creates and produces original poetry and spoken word based productions. Dasan is a former Assistant Professor of English at St. Augustine’s University, and visiting lecturer at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the Rothwell-Mellon Program Director for Creative Futures with Carolina Performing Arts.
Dasan grew up in Raleigh, going to North Ridge, Ligon, and then Enloe. Dasan’s mother and father had him young - mother was 16 and father was 17. He grew up around both of his parents' families, and had a strong matriarch family with both grandmothers involved. He was allowed to be curious and precocious, and his family tried to keep him active and busy with puzzles, things to put together, chess, etc.
When he was young, Dasan’s mother signed him up for Carolina Pines Community Center, and it was his first organized sports - football (7th - 10th grade), summer park, tennis, and fell in love with basketball in high school.
Curiosity was the constant in Dasan’s youth. He was shy and reserved. “If I wasn’t given something to figure out, I got bored easily.” “I was lucky to get tested instead of medicated.” “If I could figure it out, I felt comfortable. If I couldn’t wrap my mind around it, I got frustrated.”
What drew Dasan to art
“Art is one of those things you can do by yourself. I didn’t need anybody else to create. My exploration of art was something I could do by myself.” Art became Dasan’s coping mechanism. He was not immediately comfortable sharing, but that came with time. At Enloe, he had a lot of friends who talked him into doing things that weren’t always comfortable, but that was easier than sharing his own art.
Dasan started at NC A&T where there was a strong creative writing department and cultural arts. He was talked into going to an open mic - the first time he was talked into sharing anything he had written.
Early career transitions
Dasan worked his way into Corporate America as an Executive Office Assistant. He joined IBM as a Project Supervisor. At the time, he thought he would go into project management. Because of his job, Dasan was able to pay to maneuver to find new poetry spots - traveling to New York, etc. Then, around 9/11, there was an economic pullback, and Dasan had to lay off much of his team before he was let go. Dasan was told that he wouldn’t be able to find work at the same rate because he didn’t have a college degree.
Dasan then went back to school to St. Augustine’s to get his degree. There was a program that would allow him to accelerate his studies, but this program didn’t give him the time to have a normal full-time job. Dasan was spending a lot of time around the arts community and was asked to do youth work, which he loved. By the time he finally graduated with a degree in Organizational Management, he still expected to go back into Corporate America, but he was deep in the arts scene and hip-hop scene - “there was no turning back at this point.”
Connection to 9th wonder
Basketball is the great equalizer. Dasan used to search for runs, and Carmichael Gymnasium at the time was a great spot. Dasan’s cousin who went to NC State would invite him to come play. Dasan met 9th Wonder at the Carmichael games. The first artist Dasan met was Cesar Comanche, around the time that Justus League was coming up, and got plugged in through Cesar.
Still playing basketball?
Yes, he is still playing in year-round leagues in Cary. “It’s my other love.”
Experience as a Harvard Fellow through Nas’ Hip-Hop Fellowship
Being at Harvard & Cambridge was amazing. The Archive was a phenomenal place - research based instead of memorabilia based - so much stuff to read, pick up, and dig through. The year he was there, the folks that got brought through campus - they honored Nas that year, so he met Nas. Lupe, Bun B, Pusha T, Quest Love, Black Thought, Esperanza Spalding. “Just to be there representing hip-hop was crazy.”
Evolution of local hip-hop scene
The vibe is a little different but the energy is the same. The way the artists congregate looks familiar. Dasan feels bad that they don’t have the same types of venues - the mom and pop places like Local 506, Berkeley Cafe, Hideaway, etc. There are some young cats who are on the radio wave, but he still meets die-hards of the Golden Era of hip-hop.
“The culture doesn’t change. What we see in the industry is one thing, but the culture doesn’t change.” Young like-minded folks who want to be around one another to make something fun.
Dasan’s role as Program Director of Creative Futures Program with Carolina Performing Arts
The heart of the program is the artist in residency program - between local community partners where artists are supported by community partners and creating together. Building community connections that benefit not only the artists but the community supporters as well. Incentivizing both sides while demonstrating how art can be of benefit to the community. So often, artists are kept in silos versus all working together.
They had not found a Director for the first year of the grant. Someone he knew within the community brought it to Dasan’s attention and he applied.
Dasan joined for the second year of a four-year grant, and then COVID-19 hit. The current work for the grant is how to reimagine how to work during these times. Understanding the digital landscape, and how to sustain and maintain.
Dasan’s main course he teaches at UNC-CH is a Spring course, and he also teaches a three-course summer hip-hop course that was recently wrapped up. Dasan was a teacher on St. Augustine’s campus from Fall 2006 to Spring 2015 to head to Harvard for the Hip-Hop Fellowship. During his time at St. Augustine’s, the university encouraged him to get his masters degree, and rewarded him thereafter with a promotion. He became an Assistant Professor in Fall 2011.
Art leveraged as a tool for social movement
“These are the moments where art is so critical, both in terms of helping people think about the moment, but also helping people think past it to be reminded of what it looks like to get through it. To see themselves reflected, the best parts of themselves reflected, to know they are not struggling alone. Whether it is poetry, visual art, music, film, to fill spaces. We are forced to be still a lot more than we are used to, you have these things to fill spaces.”
Dasan is seeing that after a few really difficult months, everyone is settling back into the creativity and delivering in this moment. “Across the board as artists, we are going to be a lot savvier and smarter. Not only is there going to be a shift in consciousness socially, but also artistically. We have surprised ourselves with the types of things we can do on our own, which will change the way we move on the other side of this.”
Favorite producer? DJ Premier
Favorite emcee? Sean Price
Favorite musician? Prince
This weekend, we successfully distributed 48 laptops in the community to student-athletes who needed hardware to support virtual learning.
Most importantly, we would like to thank our community partners - Poobie Chapman, Chris Davis, and Rashad "Pooh" Herndon of the Boys Club, for making sure these laptops get in to hands of youth who need them.
Alley Oop Hoops would also like to give flowers to:
- Mayne Pharma USA for donating the laptops.
- Vaco Raleigh's Office Manager Cocoa Pittman for inventorying and preparing the computers for distribution.
- Qwik Pack & Ship for donating a majority of the supplies.
- Dell for providing the laptop chargers at a fraction of the typical cost.
Please reach out if you work for or with a business that has computer equipment available for donation!
Alley Oop Hoops presents
"Drive & Kick" with Rashad West
Born in Boston, MA, Rashad has over a decade of experience in various mediums including professional sports, education, business, and leadership. In college, he was nominated as a NCAA Bob Cousy Award nominee given to the nation’s candidate who emphasizes leadership, teamwork, success, and fundamentals. After graduating from Hampton University, Rashad entered Corporate Finance in Loss Mitagation at Wells Fargo, then as an MBS Analyst at Credit Suisse during summers and time off from pursuing professional basketball abroad. After finishing his professional tour overseas, he supported several start-ups and continues to do as a consultant to early stage companies, also starting his own tech company.
Upbringing in basketball
Rashad was born in Boston. He came to Raleigh in elementary school and went to Cathedral Middle School, then started high school at Cardinal Gibbons before transferring and finishing at Ravenscroft. As a child, Rashad ran track, played football, but there was something about basketball that stuck with him. His mom and dad both played basketball at Hampton University (where Rashad played).
Recruiting and pivot to college
Rashad was not highly touted in high school, and because there were not as many eyes on private school all, he had to scratch and claw for college looks. Most of his college looks came through AAU. Garner Road, Durham Disciples – David Noel, Ivan Jenkins, Sheldon Bailey, Vincent Greer, Raleigh’s Finest with James Mays. Only after Rashad graduated, were more eyes on private school basketball in the state with Ryan Kelley and John Wall. Rashad’s Ravenscroft team lost to Anthony Morrow’s Charlotte Latin team in the State Championship of the private schools in North Carolina. Rashad was recruited organically by Hampton University. He was more interested in Boston College and Virginia Tech, but he got hurt in his senior year of high school.
Experience at Hampton University
Rashad was running mates with Adrian Woodard from Lee County at Hampton University in the starting lineup together as freshmen. He was First-Team all MEAC and a Bob Cousy Award Nominee during his time at Hampton. Hampton had a Top 50 recruiting class his junior season and came off the bench as 6th/7th man, which was a difficult pill to swallow. Even so, his competitive nature was that he wanted to be in the NBA.
Rashad had moments where he doubted basketball. “I would go to the gym but I might not go hard that night. I might still get in some work but there is someone outworking me.” “Even when you are down, or not having a good season or good game, you go in the gym and find something to work on.” Rashad could have done more to have organized and prepared for after basketball. Hard work is what differentiates those from who do well and from those who don’t. Now, every day, Rashad looks at business – “This is a new day, what is the one thing I can do today such that by doing it, everything else is easier when necessary. I want to make my life easier by working hard.”
Preparing for after basketball
One of his teammates at Hampton University, Laurel Djoukeng, was an influence of his. Laurel would email executives while in college. Laurel exposed Rashad to other avenues – venture capital, start-up, building wealth as an investor. “As much as I loved playing the game, I knew I had to prepare for something else. You are thinking about the game, the practice, who made a play, competing every day, making the coach happy. You are getting pulled in so many different directions.” Mental health on an athlete is not always easy.
He played professionally with top competition in Spain – “When the professional basketball career ends, you have to have a plan for once your playing days are over.”
He knew that tech was the way in to venture capital. IT & business seemed a more stable, more opportunistic career path and it offered a way into the career he wanted. Rashad does not have a lot of developers to lean on. He can code in Python, C-Sharp to a degree – self-taught. He interned in corporate finance and technology and took courses at general assembly, learning from corporate executives.
About CX Labs, Inc.
CX Labs, Inc. was created to learn through play, using sports and entertainment to teach. The company has built an innovative curriculum to instill the values of sport with skills of academia. They are now up to 8 employees, including two interns, to help scale the business in adding the STEM component to sports. Rashad’s business partner is the creative and has extensive experience with preparing curriculum. Rashad has learned that “content is King and data is Queen” – Rashad has historically been focused on data, but now the focus is now on exposure and content.
“Let’s impact youth in a way that will create opportunities. You may not make millions, but you will be able to sustain and provide for your family.”
Upcoming, in Winter 2020, CX Labs, Inc. will be working with trainers & coaches leading virtual basketball camps through math. Adding STEM component to sports - teaching math through game of basketball. The difficulties in the moves you do shows the level of your skill, while also learning math along the way. There are trainers using the took in California, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina.
How early is too early for student athletes to begin thinking about entrepreneurship and life after basketball?
He cannot remember a time where he wasn’t thinking about basketball. “In order to be great at anything, you have to have 10,000 hours in to it, some way, form or fashion,” which is why Rashad focused on how to leverage his basketball foundation.
“If you’re old enough to think about it, read about it, you might as well start.”
Rashad never understood why all these players go broke. There is something foundationally wrong, not only with the households of people of color not knowing financial literacy, but there is also an aspect of an accountant, financial advisor, or banker running the numbers for you, a lot of times you may not understand what the financial statement is saying. “Developing those skills early,” re: financial literacy skills is key. It’s not anybody's fault for lacking financial literacy and accounting skills - the institutions and foundations fail the student-athletes by not teaching and rewarding business skills.
They are working with children in Uganda and Sierra Leone. These children do not have pen and paper, so they are trying to build the foundation of STEM. “The only true language is math. It is a universal language. Anyone will hire you. You can do finance, data science, accounting. Math is the lost language. It is the one thing everyone can speak."
Alley Oop Hoops presents
"Drive & Kick" with Faith Bynum, Founder and Principal at Faith Bynum, CPA, PC, an accounting firm focused on small business accounting, non-profit accounting and tax advice. Faith is a proud graduate of North Carolina Central University's business school, and spent the first ten years of her career in non-profit accounting. Faith is an MBA and CPA. A Durham native, Faith has a passion for community and education.
About Faith's firm, Faith Bynum, CPA, PC
Faith Bynum, CPA, PC employs 8 employees, with a 9th employee starting September 1st. I finally bet on myself. “When you have a purpose, people tend to gravitate toward it, sometimes earlier than you do.” She worked in a non-profit accounting for ten years. Her supervisor Angela was instrumental in her entrepreneurship journey. Faith became a licensed CPA in 2012. Angela told Faith that when Faith’s tenure was done, Angela told Faith that she saw Faith going out on her own. Support from supervisors and her network that developed over her years at a nonprofit. Had a good foundation of support, that was built, watered and nurtured. When the time came that support system helped her bring plans into action.
Upbringing around business
Faith’s mother was a natural accountant that tended to the business operations of her father’s floor covering business for many years. She was drawn to how numbers are definite - a start and a finish. Faith taught herself short-hand on the calculator with grocery receipts as a child.
Her father had five strokes when Faith was 15 and her father was 50. “I saw how if a business is built solely around a business owner, how that can be detrimental if you don’t have a team around you.” “I learned it was important to have a good accountant.” The accountant her father’s business used eventually got in big trouble with the IRS.
Setting sights on business
Faith’s first major at North Carolina Central was Spanish. In college, she started working for a car dealership - Michael Jordan Nissan, where she started as a receptionist and then moved into the cashier’s department. She remembers the CFO at the time who left the Wall Street Journal from Faith to read. She bought “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” when she was 19, and that solidified accounting for her, but she did not know what business was. A lot of accounting majors ended up going to law school. A lot of peers said, “forget this.” Accounting is not an easy major.
Internship opportunities in early 2000’s
Faith’s experience in seeking internships at NCCU was not diverse. Faith was at NCCU from 1998 to 2004. NCCU had a very small share of the resources needed to offer post-graduate and internship opportunities. In her junior year, she had an internship at the Department of Revenue.
Big accounting firms didn’t offer many opportunities at NCCU, and she hopes that it has changed since then. HBCU’s have top notch talent, especially in the business schools. “There is a short-sightedness of businesses trying to make their team more diverse. There needs to be a more intentional relationships, and not just “we need to employ more black kids. There are pots of gold sprinkled all over HBCU’s.” Companies are missing out.
This was before social media. “Central allowed for the professors to be at arms reach.” Faith would talk to her professors in between classes. She asked them about life and career, which helped her land.
Landing in non-profit accounting
One thing NCCU taught her was the power of networking. Because she did not have extensive experience and internship opportunities, she was overlooked. There was a man at Michael Jordan Nissan who had a sorority sister looking for a Staff Accountant for a non-profit. He asked that Faith send her resume in, and she did, and that led to her first role after school. She graduated on May 1, and started May 3 for that non-profit. She stayed there for 10 years.
Where did you gain the confidence to step out as an entrepreneur?
Faith emphasized the power of networking and social media. From 2010 to 2012, she chronicled her journey of passing the CPA exam on Facebook. She found a large group of support and gaining followers. People felt connected to her journey. This is when she realized how important people are in building a small business. After she passed the exam, many of these people reached out to her - “Hey Faith, can you do my taxes.” From 2012 to 2014 she was running the business on the side. The passion for entrepreneurship was growing so strong; however, Faith was a single mom who needed benefits and a secured paycheck. She was afraid. She was laid off in 2014, she grieved getting laid off, but her book-keeping/tax clients gave her more work. She hung her shingle in January 2015 and didn’t look back. She remembers her father saying, “you did not get your CPA license to sit on it.”
Biggest challenge in entrepreneurship
There is an element of mystique. Business school doesn't teach you entrepreneurship when she was in school. “You have to have an emotional tenacity that can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t. If you don’t have it, you better learn to build it - quick, fast, in a hurry.”
Managing the growth, the correlation of supply and demand, was more so challenging in the beginning years. At first, you are just happy and star-struck that people want to work for you and with you. Faith learned to understand how to hire and assess what true businesses needs are, and clarify what was needed out of each team member. Instead of hiring to fit the employees needs, she had to transition the thought to what the business needs.
“You have to have a solid administrative foundation. You have to have a solid support team. You have to understand all of the systems you use.”
“You have to understand what your business is telling you. Listen to your business, your business is talking to you and saying a whole lot of stuff loud and clear.”
Entrepreneurship forced her to become a risk-taker. “You have to bet on yourself. You have to bet on your business in moments in which other people will not confirm that.”
Pitfalls of small businesses
You are operating as a business and need to build infrastructure. Many businesses get caught up in only what the mission is, or what they are in business for. Used an analogy about feeding the hungry - you can’t just talk all day about the programmatic mission. You need administrative tasks to support the mission. Understanding that your business has to support your mission. You have to be able to have foundational business operations to sustain your mission. You have to be able to look six months ahead while still dealing with issues of today.
“Get out of your own way, allow your business or non-profit to do what it’s supposed to do.” Sometimes, business owners are stuck - “no one will do it better than me” mentality. She tells people she is only good at 3 things, but it takes 52 things to run a business.
The future for Faith Bynum, CPA, PC
Faith hopes that she eventually has a commercial space, owning real estate. Faith would also like to be a full-time visionary for Faith Bynum, CPA, PC and focus on other ventures. She is empowered by seeing her staff grow. She thinks the firm can become more regionalized, be able to touch people all over the Southeast by enhancing the virtual experience. Faith loves business - she wants to build it to where it is functioning, and the staff has it covered. She is focused on stretching her brand and being as creative as possible with content.
Alley Oop Hoops presents
"Drive & Kick" with Ralston Turner, Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch. Ralston played college basketball two years at Louisiana State University before transferring and playing his final two years at North Carolina State University. After going undrafted, Ralston played for two years in the NBA G League and is now three years in to his post-basketball career as a Financial Advisor. Ralston also coaches JV basketball at his former high school, Muscle Shoals High School, in Alabama.
Childhood love for basketball
In his earliest memories, he only remembers basketball. At three years old, he remembers his father asking to see his crossover. His father was a Lakers fan and passed that along to him.
He always loved to play basketball. If you dumped a bucket of balls in front of him as a child, he would grab the basketball every time. His mom used to try and keep him from playing in the Alabama heat to no avail.
When Ralston was 10 years old, his dad thought he needed more competition and got him on the AAU circuit. He played for the North Alabama Crusaders in Huntsville, Alabama and in the first game of AAU Nationals, he went up against the Atlanta Celtics, a team with a reputation of top teams. Ralston had 24 points. “Ok, I could do this. It proved to me that I belonged.” When he got to high school, he really began taking working out more seriously. “I’m a big believer in when you are young, you need to have fun. Burnout is a real thing and you have your entire life to make it a job. But my curiosity just kept increasing and increasing and increasing.” He began asking more questions and staying in the gym longer.
Impact of his parents
Ralston was blessed to have both parents in the household to have him with decisions. When Ralston was a freshmen, 15 years old, he played for the Alabama Challenge. He got moved up to the 17-under team and they played on the Nike circuit. In his first game at the Peach Jam, a prolific AAU tournament, he got in the game and hit 5-6 three pointers quickly. All of the sudden, his life changed. Recruiting picked up and his phone didn’t start ringing. His parents were great through that process. His mom is protective, and you couldn’t get anything past her. His parents came with him on nearly all of his college visits that helped him cross his T’s and dot his I’s.
Education is very important. His mom is an educator at Muscle Shoals High School and her mother was as well. When he visited his grandmother, he would be reading and writing.
The realities of preparing for life after basketball
At 16, he was looking at high school rankings for the top players in the country, and he looked back at a few years classes before him and reading all of the names of the players, many of whom are not still playing basketball. "This is real. You need to make sure you have a plan.”
Later that year, as a sophomore attending the LeBron James Skills Academy with the top 100 players in the country, a Director at the camp pointed out 6-8 players to stand up, and said that the reality is that only 6-8 of the 100 will make it to the NBA. That’s the reality. "Ball is important but you need to be prepared for the realities."
When you are young, people tell you you need to go around and shake hands with people. He actually did it - introduced himself, shook hands, because if anything, one day he might need that person.
Early studies in college
Ralston initially was going to major in kinesiology when he joined LSU - human movement science. He was intrigued by being a Physical Therapist because he had been rehabbed. He then pivoted to sports management and expected to be in sports management and administration, as he had hopes to become an Athletic Director at a large Division I school.
Transitioning from LSU to NCSU
When he was looking to transfer, his coach at LSU gave him the ability to visit other schools but come back to LSU if he didn't find a better fit. His goals were to find a situation where he can make the NCAA Tournament, play with other great players, get an education and enjoy the experience. This was before the NCAA Transfer Portal, so he went to the LSU Compliance Office and learned he could not transfer within the SEC. NC State was on the top of his mind as he has known Coach Mark Gottfried since he was 14, as Coach Gottfried coached at Alabama and Ralston played AAU with his son. He visited NC State and immediately felt it was a great fit. He left Raleigh on Sunday and called Coach Gottfried the next day to join the Pack.
Experience at NC State
Not only was NC State better for him from a basketball sense, it was valuable off the court as well. The support in the ACC for basketball. "The way people feel in the Triangle about basketball is how they feel about football down here (SEC country)." They made it to the NCAA Tournament twice, played with great players, but the major thing he gives credit to NC State was preparing off the court. Raleigh is a great city - it is progressive, growing and a lot of opportunities are coming there. Players don't typically account for this when making a college decision. He met a lot of successful people.
In Spring 2015, he was in ACC play and was still zoned in on basketball. "This is it, so leave it all out there and worry about the rest later." They lost in the NCAA Tournament and it was a whirlwind after. He played in the College All-Star game at the NCAA Final Four, played in the Portsmouth Invitational for exceptional seniors, selected an agent, and worked out for the Hornets, Pistons, and Clippers. He ultimately didn't get drafted but got picked up by the Hornets for the NBA Summer League. "There's some power in going undrafted because you have a whole bunch of choices. No one really owns your rights."
He went oversees to play for BC Vita in the VTB League, one of the strongest leagues in Europe. This was BC Vita's first year in the league so the organization had a lower budget and needed young, unproven players to compete. Unfortunately, BC Vita struggled with corporate sponsors, and Ralston stopped getting paid early on, so he returned to America.
He landed in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the NBA G League. After one season in Grand Rapids, he joined the Greensboro Swarm (the Charlotte Hornets NBA G League affiliate), and loved being back close to the Triangle.
Transitioning in to business
Going in to his rookie year, he knew he could get hurt tomorrow. Ralston admired Kobe Bryant, not only on the court. Kobe once said that players should think about what your other interests outside of basketball are to apply yourself after your playing days. He took this to heart.
After his second year in the G League, he was expecting to continue to play basketball. He was seeking internships to get experience on his resume. He did not want his resume to be "basketball, basketball, basketball." He was trying to get experience to see what he liked and didn't like within business. Someone he knew since high school worked at Merrill Lynch and they got together to network. This individual asked him if he'd ever thought about being a Financial Advisor and the rest was history. It was never his dream to be a Financial Advisor, but he believes there is a higher power at work who has a plan.
Experience in financial advising
He enjoys financial advising because it allows him to educate and empower. Ralston feels like the black community and other underserved and underappreciated communities are not empowered financially.
Years before he started in financial advising, he did not understand the stock market. In his last year of college they went to the New York Stock Exchange and his mind was blown. Then, the next year when he was in NBA Summer League, at a Players Association meeting, they had someone speak about Financial Advising and this former player speaking shared that every player needs to understand their own personal finances to avoid the "sharks in the water." As he got in the business, you can learn it, but not without time invested.
"I felt like I needed to educate. I try to take the things I learn and pass it on. Helping people have a baseline knowledge - you don't need to be a guru, what you really need to know is how to be financially smart. How to save money and make a budget. How to make your money grow. What's credit? How does it work for you? All these basics - things I didn't learn when I was young to teach me these baseline financial things. Education and knowledge is power and I hope to give that to the next generation."
Staying connected to basketball
Ralston is the Junior Varsity coach at Muscle Shoals High Schools, where he went to school. He also gives skill lessons. Working with the youth to hone in on their skills and give a baseline of fundamental work to learn the game. "You get kids that have these bad habits and they are hard to break. It's not their fault, but they came to you like that."
"I was always a believer that you have to respect the game. If you respect the game, the game will reward you."
Expected NBA Champion
Lakers, he has faith in LeBron and AD until they give him a reason not to, but the Clippers make him nervous. Rockets as a dark horse.