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It’s All About Perspective

Our every view of the world goes through a filter of perception

It’s mid-June, which means Juneteenth, commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. We chatted with this chapter’s featured gentleman, Charles Barnes, chairman of The Lee County Black History Society, about the significance of Juneteenth, about history, of course, and about the future.

Self-advocating is not as self-explanatory as it may seem. We take a look at the various forms of self-advocacy, especially on health care and aging, so critically important to the circle of life.

We wish we could self-advocate robocalls out of our lives. Sadly, that’s not on the horizon. Kimberly Blaker brings us an overview of the annoying distractions, and updates us on measures being taken to thwart this public menace.

And we present the beautiful photographic imagery of two passionate local businesswomen who focus their free time through very literal lenses of life.


"If you want to see a better world, change the lens through which you see it and do the work to make it better." ~ Jeffrey G. Duarte

Juneteenth: A Reason to Rejoice


Advocating for Yourself and Others 
Moments in Nature
Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots


Advocating for Yourself and Others 

It has never been more important to be your own advocate

by Kathy Grey


Dr. Nancy Snyderman

“It’s time to really put ourselves on the front burner,” Dr. Nancy Snyderman proclaimed as the keynote at April’s SpelLife Summit in Naples. “It’s hard, because that’s not how women are wired. But you have to tell those around you ‘It’s my time. I have to claim something for me.’”

If you don’t fight for yourself, who will?

Essence, Angles and Options

There are so many angles to self-advocacy, including personal, educational, professional, legal and, importantly, medical and aging issues. Successful self-advocacy results in a greater sense of self-reliance and contentment.

As a physician and founder of Patient Advocacy MD in Naples, Cleveland and New York City, Dr. Georganne Vartorella provides medical expertise to help people navigate the complex health care system.

Vartorella urges patients, particularly women, to create lasting change by being disrupters for the best outcomes. As self-advocates, she advises getting second opinions, preparing written questions before each appointment, insisting on clear communication and persisting until each issue is clarified.

“Physicians and patients need to fully engage and put themselves into shared decision making,” indicating that, if a patient feels she is being dismissed, she must stand firm. “It takes a lot of time, but you’ve got to be resolute,” she says.

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Dr. Georganne Vartorella

In health care, especially, you’ve got to communicate, ask questions and understand the answers.

As we age, being a self-advocate is critical for health and for avoiding fraud and/or abuse.

Can you self-advocate if you have a disability? Who’s going to be your wingman if you can’t? You must have zero tolerance about being dismissed, trivialized or marginalized.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Vartorella urges people to surround themselves with verifiable information, not “junk news.” Everyone has an opinion, a blog or a quick fix, exploiting the internet to get clicks, she says.

Consider Johns Hopkins as a source. TED Talks on health care also have great information and valid patient forums.

Have a senior care plan and team: elder care doctor, lawyer and insurance expert. It’s a reality check.

Plan ahead for advanced care and a safe life situation based on your needs and wants. Can you live at home? What is covered by insurance? Is independent living an option? Is the designated nursing home safe? Need reform there. Look at different models. For instance, in Denmark, elderly people are valued and connected to their communities instead of being isolated.

Everyone at age 21 should create an aging plan and discuss it with family and loved ones, she advises. Once you have a plan, you’re unburdened. Update it every five years, unless there is a significant life change.

“You must know what you want and value. You can’t ‘phone it in’ and have expectations unless you actively participate,” Vartorella says.

That is what drives true self-activism.

The (Other) 10-Step Program

1. Believe in Yourself
You are worth the effort. You may need to work on raising your self-esteem to really believe in yourself and become your own best advocate.

2. Know Your Rights
You have the same rights as others. Don’t let anyone you don’t fully trust make decisions for you. Have systems in place so that if you can’t make good decisions for yourself, a trusted person can and will.

3. Decide What You Want
This will help you set goals so you can clearly let others know what you want and need.

4. Get the Facts

It's best to check with people who have expertise and/or others who have issues similar to yours. Check the library, health agencies and organizations for information and support. Be careful with the internet.

5. Planning Strategy
Using the information you have gathered, plan a strategy. Think of several ways to address the problem. Ask for suggestions and feedback, and take action.

6. Gather Support
It is helpful to have support from family members, friends and other people who have similar issues.

7. Target Your Efforts
Talk directly with the person or organization who can best assist you. Be patient. It is worth the effort.

8. Express Yourself Clearly

Be succinct, direct and to the point. State your concern and how you want things changed. Repeat yourself, if necessary, until you get what you want or go elsewhere.

9. Assert Yourself
Speak clearly, asking for what you need. Then listen, but do not let others take advantage of you or your situation.

10. Be Firm and Persistent
Pursue what you want, persistently self-advocating for whatever it is you need.



Juneteenth: A Reason to Rejoice

Charles Barnes reflects on history, progress and a celebration of community

by Kathy Grey

June 19 is Juneteenth, a day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, with a focus on education and achievement.

“Juneteenth celebrations strive to acknowledge the wrongs that were committed by slavery and help to raise the descendants up by concentrating on education and personal achievements,” says Charles Barnes, chairman of The Lee County Black History Society.

“I can’t imagine if you only knew life as a slave. You’d be indoctrinated into that system because you don’t know a better life.”

But, despite slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, the civil rights movement and ongoing equality and race issues, Juneteenth is a celebration of “where we were and where we are now,” Barnes says.

Born and raised in Fort Myers, Barnes graduated from North Fort Myers High and served in the Marine Corps. He earned a bachelor’s degree from International College and a master’s in criminal justice from Hodges University. He retired as captain from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office after 27 years of service.

He is passionate about history, so he chose to be part of The Lee County Black History Society a couple of years before he retired from the sheriff’s office.

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Charles Barnes

The Society

Formed in 1994, the Society sits in Clemente Park in the Dunbar area of downtown Fort Myers. Barnes’ dream is to expand the organization both physically and educationally to teach music, art, dance and, importantly, a local Black history curriculum.

“We’re talking about how to change things on the local level,” he says about race equality. “Our local government does listen, and we are much better now than we were before.”

Following multiple setbacks because of the pandemic, the Society is reestablishing relationships with educators on every level, Barnes says.

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“It’s all positive.”

As chair of the Society for nearly nine years, he relishes a walk in Clemente Park to the Williams Academy Black History Museum, a building that had quite a history of its own — including being the community’s first Black library — before it was moved to Roberto Clemente Park in 1994.


That library was part of Barnes’ personal history, where he first read about Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson and other people who inspire him.


“Education is key,” Barnes says. “We need to teach our kids the truth about our history — where we were and where we are today — and allow them to dream forward.”

If You Go

Who: Dunbar Festival Committee & Lee County Black History Society

What: 10th annual Juneteenth Community Celebration

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 18

Where: Roberto Clemente Park, 1936 Henderson Ave., Fort Myers

Details: This family day includes stage performances, music, arts and crafts, food and refreshments.

Free information will be available from community businesses in the areas of wealth, health, education, job training, employment, housing and corporate and government services.

An exhibit about Florida’s Emancipation Day and Juneteenth will be available at Williams Academy Black History Museum during the festival and through the month of June.

Williams Academy Museum History

Now located at county-owned Clemente Park, the Black History Museum is actually the 1942 addition to the original 1913 Williams Academy structure. The academy was the first government-funded school for African American students in the city and was named for J.S. Williams, Fort Myers’ superintendent of colored schools.

Following a series of educational uses, the building was reconfigured to a two-classroom structure that was slated for destruction in 1994. The Lee County Black History Society raised funds and moved the building to its current place at Clemente Park. To learn more, visit


Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots

There are ways to combat annoying robocalls

by Kimberly Blaker

If you regularly screen your phone calls, keep your ringer turned off to avoid frequent calls, decline unknown numbers or wait to hear a voicemail before deciding whether to return a call, you’re not alone.

According to the YouMail Robocall Index, Americans received more than 3.9 billion robocalls in January 2022 alone, averaging 126.3 million calls per day at a pace of 1,462 calls per second.

To avoid robocalls, more than half of all phone calls go unanswered, says Alex Algard, CEO of Hiya, a phone spam solution company. But this leads to frustration when people miss important calls.

Fighting Back with Legislation

Many groups are working to combat robocalls through legislation. A few government agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), also have information and resources available to the public.

In November 2019, the House and Senate announced an agreement on the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, merging two bills to stop robocalls. This act gives the FCC more involvement in combating robocalls. It also created a group with representatives from various agencies to work together on evaluating resources and policies to help combat the problem.

The TRACED Act allows the FCC to require phone carriers to use technology to verify and authenticate calls at no cost to customers, evaluate how to prevent scammers from accessing numbers and assess approaches to stopping robocalls. The FCC is also required to give regular updates to Congress. 

How to guard against robocalls

It’s impossible to prevent all robocalls but there are steps you can take to reduce them keep from falling victim to a phone scam.

Sign your mobile phone numbers up on the National Do Not Call Registry. This is a free service to stop unwanted sales calls from telemarketers and legitimate companies. Unfortunately, scammers don’t abide by this list, so it doesn’t prevent the most precarious ones. Sign up or report unwanted calls at, or by calling 1-888-382-1222.

The most basic way to avoid robocalls is to screen all your calls and answer only known numbers. Enter any important numbers into your phone contacts to minimize the chance of screening an important call. Also, be aware that with “spoofing” technology, scammers can choose which name or number they want to show up on your screen.

Use technological advances in call-blocking, when possible:

  • Wireless and landline service providers have tools and services to prevent robocalls and spam calls. Visit your account online or contact your provider to see how they can help you prevent these calls.

  • Phone manufacturers also sometimes include call-blocking or robocall warning technology on their devices. Check your phone’s handbook or contact the manufacturer to find out what services are available. You can block specific numbers on your phone after they’ve called you. However, some robocallers place calls from many numbers to avoid being blocked.

  • Many mobile phone apps are available to help with call-blocking, screening calls, blocking likely scam calls and even to file a complaint through the appropriate channels. Search your app store to find one that suits your needs. Read reviews before downloading.


If you answer a call that you believe is an illegal robocall, don’t engage or press any buttons to be taken off a list. Hang up and report the phone number to the Do Not Call Registry.

Robocalls can be particularly problematic for seniors, who may be more trusting or not as familiar with the technology behind them. AARP offers tips on how to recognize a robocall with key phrases to listen for in common scams targeting seniors, such as health insurance, jury duty, Social Security and pain centers. These calls are generally looking for money or valuable information like your social security number or access to your Medicare account. To learn more, visit

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Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer. She also owns an online bookshop, Sage Rare & Collectible Books, specializing in out-of-print, scarce, signed, and first editions; fine bindings; ephemera and more at

Legal Robocalls

  • Political parties looking for support

  • Charities asking for donations

  • Informational calls (appointment reminders, automated school messages, airline flight updates and information from your health provider, to name a few)

  • Calls from debt collectors

  • Companies to whom you’ve given written permission to contact you

Illegal Robocalls

  • Imposter scams that pretend to be a government agency such as the IRS or even a loved one

  • Credit card or debt scams charging a fee in exchange for aid with credit card or other types of debt

  • Loan scams asking you to pay an upfront fee in exchange for a loan

  • Scams that require you to pay a fee or share personal information to get a prize

  • Free trial scams that lock you into a subscription plan

  • Travel scams that are too good to be true and end up having unexpected extra costs, other strings attached or that don’t even exist

  • Charity scams in which they pose as a charity to get donations

  • One-ring scams from foreign phone numbers that call and hang up on you to get you to call back and rack up fees


Moments in Nature

Two high-powered professionals talk about their passion for photography

by Kathy Grey

The June 15 release of this èBella èXtra chapter happens to coincide with National Nature Photography Day.

We reached out to two Southwest Floridians who have a passion for photography. The fruit of their avocation is extraordinary. Along with developing their photographic eyes, they have amassed a collection of cameras and lenses that allow them to capture stunning stills of living things, locally and globally.

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Gail Markham

Until 2020, she was too occupied with work and community to fully invest in her 25-year love of photography. But, says Gail Markham, who founded Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Company in 1979, “I got a lot of practice during the pandemic.”

She remained close to home and outdoors, safely cocooned in her getaway condo on the Gulf. She’d post her photos on social media and was thrilled at the positive feedback of friends encouraging her to do more.

Oh, there had been girls’ trips with photographer friends in the past, but “It had a different focus,” she says, with no pun intended. Back then, it was about babies and children … flowers and tulips at the Biltmore ...

But it was during that perfectly horrible early pandemic period that, she says, “I was allowed to replace my social life with a camera.”

She’s in the process of surrounding her home with butterfly gardens inspired by two of her favorite spots to explore: Naples Botanical Garden and the Butterfly Estates in Fort Myers. From Lover’s Key to Ding Darling, Markham, camera in hand, is drawn to places in Southwest Florida where the wild things are.

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Susan Goldy

A few weeks ago, a bear showed up at Susan Goldy’s back door. It was a blessing because bears don’t frequent her neighborhood. It was a curse because it was the one time she didn’t have her camera within reach.

Goldy retired from a prestigious legal career and, in 2013, moved to Southwest Florida with her husband, architect Scott Spiezle.  The couple founded Kids’ Minds Matter at Golisano Children’s Hospital and, in their spare time, they golf, travel, do woodworking and — are passionate about photography.

“Over the last few years, I have focused on the relationships among animals, birds and, yes, humans,” says Goldy, who seeks “to capture those fleeting moments that show character and complexity.” That includes people, too. Last summer, she took a series of stunning portraits of villagers in Rwanda.

From Botswana to Canada to Bonita Springs, she spends hours outdoors learning about animal species, their behaviors and how they relate to one another.

A lioness with her cub illustrates the gentle side of the “queen of beasts.” A photo of an injured hyena was a study in vulnerability in an otherwise aggressive animal. She has witnessed how red deer stand together, eyeing the horizon for predators and the many attempts a baby bluebird made before it took its first flight.

“Photography has made me more patient. It has increased my respect for our environment and the world around us,” Goldy says.

Most importantly, when she looks into her subjects’ eyes, it’s “so telling of  their character and who they are.”

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