By Monica Lee Floyd

WHEN I was asked if I would write an article for The Savannahian’s One Year Anniversary Issue, I was honored to say the least. I wanted our readers to finish this issue with a sense of pride for their community.

I’ve lived in Savannah and the surrounding areas for twelve years now and am a local author as well as the vocalist for local band Sugar and Spit. I have seen the changes in the community over the years, and I cannot help but think those changes have been largely facilitated by the wonderful people who live here as artists, business owners, and our neighbors who genuinely care about making this world a better place.

I spoke with some of the people living in our community that I have come to know and respect, and I am proud to share a small part of their stories here in this article.

Sarah Cuda

Owner/Hairstylist/Makeup Artist at Hair You Go In Sola Salon Studios, Photographer at Sarah Cuda Photography, Insight Coach and Mental Mindset Motivator at Coaching by Sarah Cuda; Aspiring Author

Before I even say anything about Sarah Cuda, I am going to tell you how we met. Almost five years ago I was volunteering as an organizer and advocate for the “Savannah for Kratom” rallies held at local business Planet 3 Piercing alongside Michelle Bradley McRorie. Sarah had donated her services for the cause in the form of a free haircut. That simple act of giving established the long-term friendship we have maintained until this day, and she has been my hairstylist ever since.

Tell me about some of the charity work you have done over the years.

I’ve worked doing hair and makeup for cancer survivors. I have worked to raise money for the Savannah Dancing With the Stars to raise money for Alzheimer’s awareness. I donated time to Haircuts for the Homeless. I have participated in local neighborhood trash pickups facilitated by Stephen Bass, the owner of the local gym/martial arts studio Savannah Combat Club. I do a lot of donations through collaborations and artist/business collectives with people such as, Xulu Jones from local band Xuluprophet. When I am approached with these opportunities to give back and they resonate with my soul and my spirit, I do everything I can to gift what I can of my time and services. I believe charitable
work comes town to having a kind and giving heart to share and serve with others who either aren’t as fortunate or can benefit from our gifts not just in the physical form, but also the emotional, mental, and spiritual side of what these services can provide for people who truly need the help.

You advocate for animals and pets as well. Explain that to me, and your story in relation to that.

I had a situation with one of my pets where something adverse happened. It affected me in a huge way. The best way I found I could be impactful through my pain was to try and do things to make a difference so it would not happen to others as well.

I know this specific topic is more personal and hard for you to talk about.

I was in between vets. I had a vet for 14 years and I needed a new vet. I didn’t like the new veterinarian, so I went and got my cats services at a low cost clinic. Part of their procedure is for them to tattoo the animals, and had I known more I would have never done that. My pet cat Gotham got an infection at the tattoo site from being cut too deep. I had to go through a series of unfortunate events where I met my current vet, Dr. Brian Mulvey from Savannah Veterinary Medical Center. He’s incredible and extremely kind. Unfortunately after bringing my pet to see him due to the medical issues caused by the low cost clinic, my cat Gotham passed away after Dr. Mulvey did everything he could to save him. In going through that experience I developed a better critical thinking ability and the confidence to ask
questions, and through my job as an Insight Coach I would like to give people that ability to use their critical thinking and ask questions when things don’t feel right. They can learn from my own loss and devastating experience to prevent this from happening to them. Bringing awareness and donating time and gifts through my own resources and experiences is what makes my spirit feel fed. I am here to serve
and help others.

Tell me about your photography. You’re doing the photography for this article.

I got started with photography at a really young age. I didn’t professionally pursue it until just a few years ago. I got better photography equipment and I was finally able to pursue my passion because I was able to capture the images that I saw should be captured through the lens. I especially love capturing flowers. I go on several nature photography retreats every year and I am getting ready to put my
collection together for a gallery show early next year. One of my greatest photography mentors has been Georgia Walters. She has truly inspired me and helped me. Her photography can be found through Georgia Walters Wildlife Photography. She not only an incredible photographer, but an incredible person. Besides nature photography I also do wedding photography, event photography, music photography, and art photography.

Let’s talk about hair.

The name of my business is Hair You Go Salon located in the Sola Salon Studios on Bull Street in the Starland District. I have my own independent, individual salon space. It gives me the ability to have complete control over the environment my clients are immersing themselves into. It is an individualized experience between stylist and client where everything down to the music can be chosen specifically for
the needs of each client. The whole reason I initially got into hair was not even to start a business, it was because I wanted to learn how to manage my own hair, and I realized there was a need to help others learn how to manage their own hair. Through my own personal experiences in working in salons I discovered my love for science. I learned how to help people manage their own hair needs at home
based on science, and not just when they come into the salon. This year alone I’ve traveled to Bluffton to study with Beth Minardi who creates hair color and color formulation. Her information can be found at bethminardi-allaccess.com, and she teaches hair stylists science education. Because of the COVID pandemic and being completely shut down I was able to study online via zoom, but I have also traveled
to Atlanta and South Carolina to take classes. I took a class with Phillip and Mary Wilson of Wilson Collective. Albie Mulcahy is a dry hair cutting teacher I’ve studied with as well as Jack Winn. In the beauty industry there is always new things to learn.

What is an Insight Coach?

You can access my insight coaching at Coaching by Sarah Cuda on Facebook. The approach of the Insight Coaching community is that we’re here to serve others. We show up empty, we ask powerful questions, and we help others to find their own insight. When others find their own insight it makes a bigger impact than telling others what to do.

Why is it important for you to give back to this community?

I try to be a kind, considerate, honest, and thoughtful individual. I live by the words honesty, integrity, and respect which I have tattooed on my chest. I work at growth everyday to pull the roots out and plant flowers. Everyone needs to heal to become whole. Theresa Tyson is The Harvester of Healing who has helped me immensely on my spiritual journey. She has helped me to be more calm and centered. It feels right in my soul to share and help others in my community. As an empath it’s tough out here, and if I can put a smile on someone’s face because of a small gesture it makes me feel impactful.

Who was the person in your life that inspired you to give back to others?

At a very young age my mother Diane told me that I needed to really think about how I treat others and how it affects them. It has been ingrained in me. My mother had me volunteer at the local nursing home, or raking leaves; election volunteering. My grandma showed me what true love, kindness, and compassion were. My grandma’s name was Hazel Brubaker. I’m so thankful for her for never giving up on me. My grandma gave me a safe space to share my emotions and she loved me unconditionally.

Xulu Jones

SEO Digital Strategy Consultant; Owner/Founder of Savannah Band Xuluprophet; Production Director at East Broad Street Studios; Consultant at Low Country Oscillations and Studio 13; Savannah Starcaster

Xuluprophet is your band, and you do so much charity work through your music. Let’s talk about the band and the other band members.

I originally started the concept in the 1990’s and put it on the back burner because I was involved with a reggae band out of North Carolina called Imani. I played with them for a decade. I ended up here in Savannah, and I wanted to revive the idea of Xuluprophet, but the original band members were scattered around North America. I still wanted to stay true to the spirit. The current band members are
myself, Oisin Daly who I met in 2013 and the first time I played with him I knew in my soul that I did not ever want to play music without him. Right around that time we met Rhett Coleman who is our drummer. He didn’t join the band for another five years but we were in the same music circles. We became friends through running the open mic at Barrelhouse South for five years. The drum spot
opened up, and he finally said yes. We’ve been rolling together ever since 2017. In Xuluprophet both Oisin and I play bass and guitar and switch back and forth as well as the both of us on vocals.

What are some charity events you have participated in?

On Friday November 19, we are participating in Rockers for Reading with Xuluprophet contributing, as well as Low Country Oscillations, Angel Gabriel, live painting from Alexis Javier from Sulfur Studios, and other DJ’s to raise money for Book Nation of Dreamers which is a literacy program started in Savannah
by Dream Smith. A human being that can read can teach themselves anything. If you live here in Savannah and you don’t want to deal with an illiterate population in 20 years, invest in it now. On December 17, we are going to be at The Wormhole raising money for SAFE Shelter. Cheryl Branch does a really good job over there. Manhood as I define it is taking care of people who aren’t able to take care of
themselves. If you are an honorable man, you look out for the fatherless child and the widow. Past events we participated in was a coat drive called Loop it Up Savannah, the Lymphoma/Leukemia Society at Harley Davidson as well as a breast cancer awareness event out there. My suggestion is that every band in Savannah pick two charities that they give a damn about and throw one party for each of them each year.

What has inspired you in your life to want to give back?

Selfishness. I’m doing this to ensure that I have the continued support from the community I live in. We’ve had tremendous support in Savannah. I started out with nothing here. From a mathematical point of view if I reduce the amount of suffering in the community the less likely I am to become the victim of someone else’s desperation. Doing this work is a down payment on future success. If I can put some money in my pocket and some money in a charity’s pocket who are the ones that are doing the work everybody benefits. The good feeling you get when you do a good deed or help somebody out is a side benefit.

What was the most crucial help you have ever received from the community?

It was when they chopped my jaw off. They removed the bottom right mandible of my jaw and replaced it with titanium. Dr. Petruzelli through Memorial Hospital performed that surgery for free. That was under the old management. I’d be dead right now if that hadn’t happened. Death is still coming at the end of the story, but I had already adopted a today is a good way to die attitude. I never had to return to
the self I was prior to that surgery. It’s a gift not many people get. I might not cross the finish line or reach that goal but the only thing that will stop me is if I die.

Last thing you want to add?

Hire me for digital consulting and internet strategy. If you hate technology and want someone else to do it for you, hire me through Savannah Starcaster. I also do search engine optimization and social media marketing. Also, on Friday nights with Shena Verrett we are going to be broadcasting from a mansion in Ardsley Park. It’s a live stream invite only event to help Savannah AMBUCS; a local nonprofit providing children and veterans with mobility devices.

Alfredo Martinez

Muralist, Designer, Illustrator, Art Director, Studio 13

You are an artist who is inspired by the youth in Savannah.

I painted a mural for Garrison Elementary school totally pro-bono. The subject matter was a train cart with different arts on it. I’ve done a good bit of work with Deep. I’ve done some seminars to help teach the youth there. They help with creative writing. Throughout the year things will pop up and I will help with designs if I think it’s a worthy cause. I try to just help out and be a people person. I do mentorship and volunteer consultations for starting a business and artistry. I’m invested in Savannah’s art scene and art economy. I would like to see it grow. There’s potential but it doesn’t happen on its own. If I want a stronger economy to support me, it has to be a stronger economy to support everybody.

Are you so passionate about helping young artists because someone helped you in your youth?

My mom is an artist and I had a huge leg up on my drawings and anatomy from a young age. She started telling me how I could fix things in my art instead of just slapping it on the refrigerator.

If you could say anything in this article what would you say?

Don’t ever discount the importance of sheer stubbornness and follow-through. The difference I’ve seen in the people who are successful and the people who aren’t isn’t necessarily in the quality of what they do, it’s in how stubborn they are about it and how much they keep pushing even when it’s not working. Most of the time we start things we’re not in the position to do them, but the only way to get there is to do it. Stop being embarrassed and letting insecurities stop you. Plenty of people worse than you put their work out with way more confidence. It will eventually take you somewhere. It’s just a matter of stubbornness and following through. You’re always going to have more ideas than you can act on, and that’s totally normal, but if you’re not acting on any of them you’re not going to go anywhere.

Stephen Bass

Owner, Savannah Combat Club/Ultimate Fighting Championship Participant

What is your business?

My name is Stephen Bass and I run a competition martial arts team and fitness centered gym in Savannah, Georgia. I explain boxing as keeping people three feet away from you, protect your head, and keep your feet on the ground. I’ve had two police officers say they didn’t kill a guy that day because they were able to keep themselves away and use non-lethal stuff to assess the situation. That’s a big deal to me: a fifty year old woman who called me and told me she was able to keep a guy from busting into her business and robbing her.

Tell me how you have been able to give back to the community through your business.

I’ve done between a half a dozen and a dozen trash pickups. It was the first Saturday trash bash. We work with Coastal Harbor Kids. We help provide winter clothes, food drives. I also directly donate to Savannah Mission. People drop things off at the business and I drop it off over there. People should know they have the ability to help on their own.

Why is it so important to give back to the community?

It’s a selfish venture. Doing for people improves my own physical and mental health. It’s science and endorphins. It’s a healthy dopamine outlet for the brain.

What is the most significant memory where someone have back to you?

One of my friends paid for me to fly to try out for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Another one of my friends met me when I was sleeping in the hallway of the hotel and let me stay in his room. So many people donated punching bags and other equipment to the gym.

What’s your message?

You can. Anything you want to do you can do it. Get fit, and then do fun stuff in life.

Kirk and Calli Joiner

Owners/Founders, LILAKK; Owners, Kirk and Calli's

Who are the members of your band LILAKK?
Calli: There is Kirk on vocals and guitar, Calli on guitar and back up vocals, Zach Young on drums, and Johnny Covington on bass.

Why is it important for you and your band to be part of the Savannah community?

Calli: Our band is an alternative rock band that we consider a Savannah based band because Zach is closest to Savannah and the rest of us live out in the country. What we love about the Savannah community is it’s like an escape for us from our regular every day life. We can communicate and get together with other artists to share the love of music. We’ve gained a lot of friends from different bands, and the whole community is a very special thing. The fact that it’s growing even bigger
in Savannah and we can witness it is pretty special.

Kirk: Music has been something I’ve been into since my late teens. It’s therapy in a way. Music was my escape from all the stuff I went through growing up.

What are some community events you have participated in?

Calli: The first animal rescue we did was the Rock The Rescue at Burns Alley Tavern in Charleston [organized by Kally Knight]. That was the first show we played with Zach, run by a guy named Calli. Another animal rescue we participated in was with your band, Sugar and Spit for the Renegade Paws Rescue at The Wormhole.

Kirk: Carolina Strong which was for the flood victims was another event we helped out with. [Organized by Sean Kerr.] Channel 5 news was out there and we raised $3,500 between everybody and all the bands for the flood victims.

You also run an awesome barbecue business called Kirk and Calli’s. Two pounds of pulled pork and a pack of buns for $25. It’s awesome.

Kirk: And it’s delivered. It actually started out as Kirk and Calli’s Wiener’s and I had a hot dog cart on the side of the road. I deep fried hot dogs in bacon grease. Then I got into barbecue and people love it.

Calli: Imagine me nine months pregnant sitting next to Kirk who was wearing a hot dog costume and trying to get people to buy wieners.

When was a time in your life that you received an unexpected blessing?

Kirk: One time in particular was when we first started the barbecue business and Avaleigh was first born. Calli couldn’t work with the baby and I had a massive business loan. This guy knew we were struggling and his parents bought us groceries. They stocked our cabinets. It was such a blessing. I didn’t know those people that well. It was very selfless. I tried to repay them in some way and they
wouldn’t let me. We try to help people as much as we can, whether it’s holding a door for an old lady or just a small act of kindness. It all adds up.

I highly encourage all of our readers to check out these amazing people who generously contribute their businesses and art to local charities and events. Without people in the Savannah community who regularly make our area a better place, we would all have less resources to live in a better world. I’m proud to call all these people my neighbors, my friends, my peers, and my Savannah family. Show them some love.