Damario Solomon-Simmons and Mia Fleming
Although Damario Solomon-Simmons and wife Mia Fleming both attended programs at the North Mabee Club as youngsters, their paths did not officially cross until both were in middle school.
It all began, Solomon-Simmons says, with a fateful phone call when he was in the eighth grade at Carver.
Fleming’s best friend had approached Solomon-Simmons to tell him Fleming, who attended Whitney Middle School, had seen his yearbook photo and hoped he would give her a call. Solomon-Simmons agreed but was so nervous that when Fleming answered the phone, he asked for “Mya” rather than “Mia” and then promptly hung up. He didn’t call back.
Later, when both were students at Booker T. Washington High School, they were reintroduced.
“We’ve been pretty much together ever since,” Solomon-Simmons says.
Although Solomon-Simmons and Fleming did not know each other at the North Mabee Club, both say their time there influenced their lives.
For Solomon-Simmons, many memories involve his participation on the North Mabee Club football team. In addition to the big games, he also remembers the coaches. They were tough, he admits, but taught lasting lessons.
“It taught us the value of (being on) time and doing things correctly,” he says. “ … They never cussed at us or anything like that, but they certainly coached us hard.”
As a young football player, Solomon-Simmons says that he had a “dream succession of teams” — Carver, Booker T. Washington, The University of Oklahoma and, eventually, the Dallas Cowboys. He got as far as OU, where he lettered twice as a linebacker, but he says the NFL eluded him. Even so, Solomon-Simmons found a way to combine his passion for professional football with his dedication to helping others achieve their goals.
After earning a master’s degree in adult and higher education from OU and graduating from the OU College of Law, Solomon-Simmons became founder and managing partner of Tulsa-based SolomonSimmonsSharrock & Associates PLLC. There, he has been lead counsel for high-profile clients and cases and serves as general counsel for several professional athletes, including Felix Jones.
Often mistaken as a sports agent because his practice is primarily focused on sports, Solomon-Simmons says he is actually an attorney whose practice includes helping athletes maximize their opportunities and utilize their platform to provide social and economic empowerment for their communities.
This goal is already materializing at the North Mabee Club. Solomon-Simmons and Jones raised $50,000 to fund the club’s ACT preparation program over the next four years. Now called the Felix Jones ACT and College Preparatory Program, it will reach 250 to 300 students.
“I believe strongly, to whom much is given, much is required, and I saw that every day at the Mabee Center,” Solomon-Simmons says.
Fleming agrees. As a participant in the North Mabee Club’s summer day camps from second through fifth grade, she says she learned to bowl, roller skate, swim and play basketball. She also participated in club talent shows, which she says built confidence and taught the importance of hard work and dedication.
“Each step of the way, Mrs. (Jo) Bright and camp counselors were always there with encouragement,” she says. “And with kids like me, who were scared of everything, they always had a lot of patience. As an adult, I have no choice but to pay it forward and help others who are where I was as a child, children who need, desire and thrive from positive influence in their lives.”
After graduating from Jenks High School, Fleming attended Langston University and completed an internship at KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, where she also received a position as a writer and assignment editor.
Two years later, Fleming was hired as an associate producer and weekend assignment editor at at FOX23 News. However, she continued to work toward her goal of becoming a reporter by remaining at work late to learn more about editing, writing and developing her on-air presence.
“Each week I would give my news director (at the time) a tape of my latest work,” she says. “ … I heard the words, ‘No, not quite yet’ more times than I care to remember. No, really, I’m kidding. Those words really made me a better journalist and appreciate my success even more.
“It was really like a lot of the things I learned at the North Mabee. You know, I didn’t learn how to swim the very first time I got in the pool. I had the height but no athletic talent on the basketball court. Yet, I kept trying, and I did it.”
Fleming is now weekend anchor, reporter and the host and producer of the community affairs program “Tulsa Talks” on FOX23. She also aims to use multiple media platforms to achieve her ultimate goal: creating and hosting a show and projects that will combine her journalistic talent with helping others.
She and Solomon-Simmons also worked with Jones to create the MVPs, a red-carpet event honoring some of the most valuable people in the community.
“We worked together for the past two years to raise money and awareness for the North Mabee so that other kids will have the chance to be a part of important programs (there),” Fleming says.
This desire to help others seems to unite many North Mabee Club alumni, and Fleming says she hopes that desire will continue among the youth who are currently creating memories there.
“It’s opportunity, it’s hope, it’s a safe haven,” she says of the North Mabee Club. “It’s about building a bright future for so many children; it’s about helping parents help their kids create a solid foundation through countless educational programs, programs that build character, leadership, discipline and values — all tools that will help kids build on that foundation throughout life and achieve whatever they put their minds to.
“That’s a Mabee Baby.”