Men of Character | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Men of Character

DJ Young Venom

DJ Young Venom Photo by Courtesy Aaron Phillips Photography

An earlier version of this story referred to Lingofest Language Center as Oasis Spanish Learning Center and the Latin American Business Association as the Latin American Chamber of Commerce. We have also clarified that Israel Martinez serves on the board of directors for Jackson 2000. We apologize for the error.

Open those wallets, ladies. Each year at Chick Ball, we auction off our local Men of Character to raise funds for the Center for Violence Prevention. This year, the money is going to fight sex trafficking (see pages 14-31 for the full lowdown on this year's 9th Annual Chick Ball).

Each man on the auction block offers a different set of skills—cooking, singing and whipping you into shape, to mention a few. Who will you bid on?

Phillip "DJ Young Venom" Rollins


DJ Young Venom

The JFP Best of Jackson's Best DJ is back, scoring points as one the few, and proud, Men of Character. Phillip "DJ Young Venom" Rollins, 28, is a native of Jackson. After graduating from Madison Central High School and attending Jackson State University, he began to develop his craft as a deejay. Though Rollins is in high demand, he remains humble.

"I was honored to even be chosen ... I guess I have enough character," he said jokingly.

This Man of Character not only proves that he is deserving of the title through his words, but also his actions. Rollins works with youth through the ACLU and serves as a liaison to parents by informing them about ways that they can help their children. He also hopes to bring the arts back to schools in the form of an afterschool program working with the Midtown Partners to improve the area and keep the art scene alive in Jackson.

Rollins is always around and seems to be passionate about the helping others, especially victims of sex trafficking, a wide spreading crime that seems to be taking Mississippi by surprise.

"I didn't know how big it was until the JFP brought it to the light. I know there were some instances of it, as far as prostitution. But you don't really hear about it too much around here. So of course we need to put an end to that," Rollins said.

DJ Young Venom will be hosting his "Hip Hop Summit" on Saturday, July 20 and Sunday, July 21. Follow him on Twitter at @DjYoungVenom.

—Nneka Ayozie

Kerry Thomas

Kerry Thomas is a man dedicated to his craft.

Thomas sees his music as being a personal therapy, which coincides perfectly with the soul-driven power ballads he performs. While the local superstar leans toward the genre of R&B, Thomas, 28, is inspired by many different types of music. His primary inspiration for learning to play the acoustic guitar was solo heavyweight John Mayer, but his main influence for playing music in general hits closer to home.

"I came here in 1999 when I started high school and wasn't doing music then. ... Mississippi has a huge history of blues, and music in general. Seeing live performances got me excited, and made me want to get involved," Thomas said.

When Thomas was asked to be one of JFP's Men of Character, he said he couldn't pass up the honor.

"Being a Man of Character is one of the things I always care about. You want your craft to be respected, and everyone wants to be paid, but I learned in the beginning that it's more than that," he said. "People may not always be able to pay you for your music. I pride myself on being humble enough to do that. Being humble is very important. I think it's very important that you don't forget where you came from."

Thomas serves his community by working as a grant administrator at Tougaloo College. Before this position, he taught the freshman orientation class.

You can check out Kerry Thomas's music on Facebook.

—Rebecca Docter

Israel Martinez

Israel Martinez, 27, is the owner of Lingofest Language Center in Ridgeland. He moved to Jackson 9 years ago from Mexico. He is vice president of the Latin American Business Association, which is an organization that provides networking and support for businesses in the Jackson Latin American community. Martinez is also a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and serves on the board of directors for Jackson 2000. He is among the organizers for Latin Fest, which is an annual celebration of Latin American culture in Mississippi and a member of the Red Cross's Board of Directors.

Martinez says he chose to become a Man of Character because he thinks that JFP's Chick Ball is a great event to bring awareness to violence against women.

"I think Chick Ball is a great event to bring awareness to something like violence against women," Martinez said. "I've seen violence happen in my family. The community has a strong voice, and we can stop this.

Martinez says many people are unaware of sex trafficking in Mississippi.

"With this type of event, it's an opportunity for people to see that this is going on in their own back yard here in Mississippi and everywhere," Martinez said.

Martinez also said that the community can do a lot to help stop sex trafficking.

"We should be more involved in what happens in communities and families, especially with something as horrible as sex trafficking."

—Kim Murriel

Terry Sullivan

Terry Sullivan is a fitness guru and owner of liveRIGHTnow, dedicated to creating and supporting a healthier population.

"I think it really is about making what you believe your passion," Sullivan said about his Man of Character honor.

The 37-year-old Winona, Miss. native was employed in New York with Aldi, Inc., a global food-retail company. He left after seeing the health problems that started to arise in the consumers.

"I would see the customers come into our stores, and some were overweight and didn't look healthy, and they were buying our food and products," Sullivan said.

In 2009, he and his wife of 10 years, Meredith, moved to Jackson. He had always heard about the obesity crisis in Mississippi, but never saw it for himself until he moved back.

"I wanted to take all my life experiences and try to create something where I could help other people experience what I experienced," Sullivan said.

In 2010, Sullivan took all that he learned about health and fitness and his MBA from the University at Buffalo to create liveRIGHTnow.

The company provides products and services to enrich healthy living, but it also helps to promote community events.

"We firmly believe in using our money coming in to help fund and allow us to do things that are free to the community," Sullivan said.

For more information visit

—Dominique Triplett

See more Men of Character tomorrow!

Thanks to all our new JFP VIPs!

COVID-19 has closed down the main sources of the JFP's revenue -- concerts, festivals, fundraisers, restaurants and bars. If everyone reading this article gives $5 or more, we should be able to continue publishing through the crisis. Please pay what you can to keep us reporting and publishing.


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