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Thomas Moorehead, First Black Rolls Royce Dealer, Rolls into the World of Ultra-Luxury

Thomas A. Moorehead
By Eric Easter, Urban News Service

The world’s first African-American Rolls Royce car dealer got there through hard work and perseverance, but only after disappointing his family. Thomas Moorehead’s parents thought the key to respectability was a Ph.D. Both teachers, they lived by an old-school axiom that the one thing you never can take away from a man is an education. Yet, with just a few credits and a dissertation to go, Moorehead abandoned his doctoral program, and his parent’s wishes, for an uncertain shot at learning the automobile business from the bottom up.

It was a leap of faith, an offer from a fraternity brother and mentor, James Bradley of Bradley Automotive Group, who promised to make Moorehead a millionaire in five years — if he took the risk. But it wasn’t the promise that attracted Moorehead: “Teaching was a guarantee of a long career, but I always had a passion for business,” he says.

His road to success required two years of apprenticeship with Bradley, the mortgaging of his home and the depletion of his savings to enter a training program, then eventually owning his first dealership, selling Buicks in Omaha, Neb. Moorehead built a strong reputation as someone dedicated to customer service, an essential value of the Rolls Royce brand. That reputation, and his sales record as owner of Sterling BMW in Virginia, sparked an invitation from Rolls Royce Motor Cars to join the exclusive club of only 33 dealers and 130 dealerships around the globe, an opportunity he accepted without hesitation. The new store, Rolls Royce Motor Cars of Sterling, is the sole Rolls Royce dealership in greater Washington, D.C. and covers much of the mid-Atlantic — from Virginia to southern Pennsylvania. It sits just across from Sterling BMW and Mini, his other successful dealership, a fact that fills him with immense pride.

“These are the best cars in the world, and I’m honored to be able to bring them to my customers,” Moorehead says as he looks across the lot.

His dealerships thrive in one of the region’s wealthiest communities, filled with prosperous government contractors, newly minted millionaires from tech start-ups and the Washington Redskins’ nearby training facility. But the opulence that Moorehead markets is a long way from his roots in Monroe, Louisiana, a town of 38,000 with a historic poverty rate twice the already poor state’s average.

During his youth, Monroe Colored High was the sole choice for black students in that segregated city. It was a time when, according to Moorehead, families like his could “offer you their good name, but not money.” That upbringing drives a sense of humility that led Moorehead to keep his own name off the dealership’s logo. “I always say the boss is the customer, not me. I don’t get caught up in having my name on the door,” he explains. “Actually, most customers who come in think I’m just another salesman, and that’s fine with me.”

In a world where demanding buyers have been known to add millions of dollars’ worth of custom details to their cars to reflect their personalities (fur-lined shoe-holders, built-in picnic baskets, crystal cufflink holders), Moorehead’s low-key manner is a studied contrast – a contrast he believes helps him sell more cars. “I can talk about the features of the cars all day but, ultimately, people are buying good service.”

At age 71, Moorehead still relies on the daily advice of mentors, who include Hall of Fame home-run great (now car dealer) Hank Aaron and former National Urban League president John Jacob. He calls them “instrumental” in shaping his business’s success. “They marked their careers by quietly getting the job done, but also being the best at what they do.”

While giving a tour of his office, Moorehead seems slightly embarrassed as he points to pictures of himself with presidents Obama and Clinton and an array of famous business leaders. That changes when he points out two items of which he’s most proud. The Laurel Wreath Award, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity’s highest honor for lifetime achievement. And then something much less distinct: a small cardboard sign that lists more than a dozen vendors who, he says, have contributed to his achievements — architects, decorators, contractors, cleaning-service owners and even the guy who printed the sign. All are African-Americans, and fraternity brothers, people for whom he has paid forward the gift that Bradley gave him.

“This is really what it’s all about, bringing other people up and giving something back.”

Beautillion Knights Meets Actor Joseph Phillips at Oratorical Contest

 L/R: Twillea Evans-Carthen (Social Lites Beautillion Committee Member), Kevin Eastman, Joseph Phillips (Actor and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.), Elijah Preston Little, Edna Wade (Social Lites Beautillion Chairperson), William Jernigan; Second Row: Conlan Baker and Royce T. Rodgers

L/R: Twillea Evans-Carthen (Social Lites Beautillion Committee Member), Kevin Eastman, Joseph Phillips (Actor and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.), Elijah Preston Little, Edna Wade (Social Lites Beautillion Chairperson), William Jernigan; Second Row: Conlan Baker and Royce T. Rodgers

BEAUMONT, CA- Surprise guest judge for the 27th Oratorical Contest, Mr. Joseph Phillips, well known actor and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity made it a point to share words of wisdom with participants on how to enhance their public speaking skills.  Following the contest, Mr. Phillips took time to exchange words of encouragement to the young men of the Beautillion.  The reality of choosing to participate in this contest has shown these young men they are all winners!

Participants of the 49th Social Lites, Inc. Beautillion program under the leadership of Mrs. Edna Wade, Beautillion Chairman took part in the 27th Oratorical Contest sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Mu Xi Lambda Chapter and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.  This event was held on Saturday, February 13, at West Valley High School in Beaumont, CA.

The 49th Beautillion Ball will be held at the National Orange Show on April 2.  For more information please contact Mrs. Edna Wade, Chairperson at 909-947-8774 or Mrs. Brenda Daniels, Co-Chairperson at 909-856-6341 or Mrs. Bettye Brewster, President at 951-204-0022.

Crip and Piru Chefs come together in creation of Underground Compton Restaurant

trap_kitchen_duoBy Naomi K. Bonman

LOS ANGELES, CA- For those that are born and raised in California (Cali) will probably remember that gangs were created to protect the community; however, over these past several years gangs have gotten a bad reputation because of the drive-bys, killings of one another and innocent bystanders. Despite of the bad there is always good in between. Crip and Priu business partners, Malachi Jenkins and Robert Arturo Smith, are making an impact with their TrapKitchenLA in Compton.

“It all started when I got hired to be a personal chef for local pimps while living in Las Vegas,” Malachi “Spankihanas” Jenkins stated. “I started cooking for them after I dropped out of Le Cordon Bleu; they love rich pastas like shrimp and Chicken Alfredo, and dishes like that.”

TrapKitchenLA was launched in 2013 in South Central, Los Angeles when Chef “Spank” decided to sell plates of food to his community. He received plenty of help from his closet friends, News (Sous Chef) and DJ Kev (Delivery Coordinator), and together they have created a business that is growing rapidly with each passing day.

Taking their efforts from just single plates to catering major events, they are definitely on to something.”Spankihanas” is the name that they use where you get five star restaurant meals without the five star prices. Not only are the meals affordable, but they can be delivered right to your door! Each combo includes a canned soda and range from $10 to $20.

Creating the Kitchen saved the two of them from the streets and from getting into trouble. This is what I call inspiration. Our young brothers in the streets can look up to these two young men and realize that if these brothers can make something good for themselves despite where they come from, then anyone can.

”We went from hanging in the clubs and messing with them girls to hanging in the kitchen and messing with food. I’m a Piru, and he is a Crip, but that doesn’t matter,” Smith said.

The two chefs have became widely known the neighborhood for their cooking, as well as for their love of music which has given them the opportunities to cater to renowned Hip-Hip icons and to cater for Kendrick Lamar’s wedding party.

Not only is TrapKitchenLA catering and giving back to the Los Angeles community, but they have also donated 5,000 water bottles to the Flint, Michigan Community. Jenkins and Smith are definitely going beyond the call of duty and beating the odds in several ways. Smith’s passion is to feed Los Angeles County and have no one go hungry; massive goal.

Follow TrapKitchenLA and Connect with Jenkins and Smith at trapkitchen.com.