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How Black Women Exposed Celebrity Chef Darius Cooks

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“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time,” the late icon Maya Angelou once said, and indeed Black women have long been the canaries in the coal mine before controversy, corruption, and scandal emerge, providing the receipts and spending the time and energy to expose deception and scams.

It was Black women who spoke out loudly about Donald Trump in 2016. Black women who organized #MuteRKelly long before it was socially accepted that the R&B singer’s behavior was criminally wrong. Black women who created the MeToo movement and helmed Black Lives Matter —the most marginalized among us steadfastly trying to improve conditions for all of us.

And now it is Black women who have used the viral hashtag #DariusCrooks to share their stories about a chef and social media star who they say has been abusing his employees, stealing recipes, and scamming his customers—all claims that he has denied.

Darius “Cooks” Williams went from an unknown Chicago food blogger to social media influencer overnight in 2011 after Sunny Anderson, a Black cookbook author and co-host of Food Network’s The Kitchen, invited him to be an on-air guest on her hit show, Cooking For Real. According to Anderson in a recent interview with Southern Grit Magazine, their once sweet collaboration turned sour after she says he misled his customers into believing that she was attached to his failed grocery delivery service called Fresh2Go—a business venture she had declined to invest in when he first asked her a decade earlier.

“Hopefully people that do business with him will research him. When you add up everything, he took an opportunity and ruined it,” Anderson told Southern Grit. “At every turn he’s choosing to be dishonest and I hope he stops.”

Over the years, Williams would go on to develop a flashy brand with over 3 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as he sells cookbooks, hosts dinner series, and opens restaurants. Williams isn’t a classically trained chef and has often boasted online of how he’s become a millionaire by applying his grandmother’s cooking lessons.

But his warm public image took a turn for the worse over the last year and a half. As another business of his that promised to repair people’s credit was hit with a six-figure fine in Georgia, he abruptly shuttered his three restaurants in Atlanta and Chicago and a torrent of claims appeared on social media accusing him of taking advantage of Black women, mistreating employees, and ripping off customers.

Asked about the various claims about him, Williams told The Daily Beast that “I’m declining to comment at this time as they’re allegations. Thanks for understanding.”

Williams’ troubles began when he and his company, Above 701, Inc., agreed the previous December to a $145,750 settlement—including $110,000 in customer restitution and a $35,750 civil penalty to the state for violating the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act.

The consent judgement with the state attorney general also required the company to cease all business operations in the state after operating an illegal credit repair business by “requesting and accepting payment from consumers for its credit repair services before those services were provided” and “making misleading claims that it could get bankruptcies and debts permanently deleted from consumers’ credit reports, without adequately disclosing that negative credit information cannot be erased from a consumer’s credit report if the information is accurate.”

In an interview with Black Enterprise on the matter, Williams says that “I paid the 140, it’s over, everything is cool,” but also added: “I think they’re pulling from that saying ‘Oh, he’s a scammer.’ But it’s like no, the people who were on the roster, their credit scores increased.”

Last February, just before the pandemic and just after his business was hit with that six-figure fine, Williams abruptly closed his three restaurants, Soul Crab Atlanta and Soul Crab Chicago as well as Greens and Gravy in Atlanta, a decision he said was related to “mental health” issues.

Since then, several former employees have claimed that he was verbally and physically aggressive, didn’t pay them, and neglected the warnings of inspectors who hit them with health code violations.

An anonymous employee at Soul Crab Atlanta told Black Enterprise that the establishment “was so dirty and rat-infested that it couldn’t pass several state inspections” and that they had to spend their own money to keep the restaurant’s maintenance afloat.

“I’m patching stuff up. I got my whole crew in there on a Monday, cleaning and doing everything and Darius is on vacation in Dubai and literally, I’m in charge of a whole damn restaurant with 30 friggin’ employees and you in Dubai and we’ve got a major inspection tomorrow and you are overseas,” the former employee told the publication.

Other former employees of Williams have also claimed that he left them high and dry during the closing of his restaurants, with one of them complaining on social media that she was “paid pennies” by him and was mistreated when she used to bake his Carolina Pound Cakes and ship them.

Kiara Ross, a former employee of Soul Crab Atlanta, alleged on social media that Williams never paid her and physically assaulted her when she confronted him. She is now trying to raise funds via GoFundMe to sue him for “nonpayment and mistreatment.”

Speaking to Black Enterprise, Williams admitted to putting his “hands on [Ross]” but claims he didn’t know who she was at the time of the confrontation, while also adding that he was never formally arrested and charged.

Others online, many of them posting under the hashtag #DariusCrooks, also accuse him of swiping recipes from other food bloggers and not delivering what he promised customers who paid for his dinner series, with complaints about his business practices also piling up on the Better Business Bureau website.

“There’s a big difference between being inspired by someone’s work and then giving them credit for adapting their recipe. And he doesn’t do that at all,” Reina Gascón-López, owner/chef of the Sofrito Project, told Southern Grit Magazine. “And that’s what is so frustrating about the entire situation that’s unfolding. His fans and supporters enable his predatory and toxic behavior that’s so common in the culinary industry, both in and out of restaurants.”

Williams, a Black gay man, told Black Enterprise that a lot of the criticisms of him are from people who are “jealous” or who have misinterpreted “my speech, my mannerisms look to be that of a straight man.”

“I think what’s happening is, it’s the people who may not be familiar with my brand, because some of the hate mail I’m getting… you know, stop abusing Black women, keep your hands off Black women… and I’m openly gay but I don’t come across as gay,” he told the publication. “All I want to do is fry chicken and make macaroni and cheese, that’s it.”

But sexual orientation aside, Williams has garnered a reputation for attacking Black women online, selling his cookbooks with the discount codes “Sunny” and “Bad Wig” after Anderson criticized him publicly. He also did the same thing when Angela “the Kitchenista” Davis called him out on social media, which seemed to open up the floodgate of stories about him, with Williams then taking to YouTube to brag about how says he made $110,000 in a little more than a week off of the beef.

“You got to understand that the beef is not about you, the attack is not on you. The attack is on the greatness that lies inside of you,” he says in that video. “When you become great, people will attack that greatness.”

Such antics seem to be catching up with Williams, as popular comedian Kev On Stage has publicly disavowed his previous support of the chef.

Even for influential chefs with followings of their own like Anderson and Davis, it’s not easy to publicly call out someone like Williams, given how Black women are so often not believed until others back up their accounts as we’ve also seen in the cases of Shaun King, and R. Kelly and Russell Simmons, among others. It can take years, when it happens at all, and a tremendous toll in the meantime on the women who speak up.

For example, Deb Freeman, the Black food writer who first wrote about Williams’ controversies for Southern Grit Magazine, faced online attacks from many of his vociferous fans following its publication. It was only after the publication’s white male editor-in-chief publicly stood up for her that others in the media industry took notice.

That pattern of Black women being ignored or attacked when they speak up about men’s bad behavior needs to change. To those who claim to be progressive, ask yourself: When was the last time you took a Black woman’s word on something? If you can’t immediately think of a recent example, you’re a part of the problem.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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