BALTIMORE -- Cassandra Ferguson, a radio show host and owner of Elevation Global Media Group in Towson, Maryland, overcame a turbulent early life and now works to inspire others.
“I was tired of seeing other women not motivating women,” Ferguson said. “So I decided to follow Gandhi’s [apocryphal] quote, ‘Be the change you want to see in others,’ and I became that change for others.”
The Harford County resident was born in New Jersey and lived as a child in Buckingham, Virginia. She said her father was sent to prison for robbing a bank and her mother, with a “desire to start a new life,” moved the family to Baltimore when Ferguson was 12.
Her mother held low-paying jobs, mostly in janitorial and retail services, before landing a job with the state department of corrections.
“My childhood was actually very painful,” said Ferguson, 53. “Most of the time was spent visiting my father in prison.”
Ferguson said she carried that pain until a sermon changed her perspective.
“I remember Bishop Johnson [of Mount Pleasant Church and Ministries in Baltimore] preached ‘Even if the person is no longer here, you should forgive them,’” said Ferguson. “It was the day I really released my father.”
A month after graduating from Eastern High School, now closed, she married her husband of 35 years, Antonio Ferguson. Around the same time, her father died of a drug overdose.
Ferguson and her husband moved to Harford County to be closer to his job as a service technician in Cecil County, built a home in Joppatowne and raised four children who attended Harford County public schools.
Ferguson worked in the mortgage industry until the recession in the late 2000s, and in corporate compliance thereafter, but when she sought out other women as mentors, the responses she received were unwelcoming.
A woman she went to for support when she wanted to begin motivational speaking told her she “didn’t see it in me” and advised her to consider another ministry path.
“I needed support and mentorship, but I saw the truth that some women aren’t willing to share,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson started a networking group for women. She also founded the “Bxtraordinary Conference” which, prior to the pandemic, occurred biennially in Baltimore to help young girls connect with women in leadership positions.
After the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in April 2015, Ferguson said she was disheartened watching the response.
She approached the local Radio One office in Woodlawn and began hosting “The Cassandra Ferguson Show” on WOLB-AM, paying out of her own pocket for airtime until she got a sponsor. Six months later, they asked her to host a show on Praise 106.1, which became the “Elevation Talk Show.”
Alex McCamey was the account manager for Radio One’s Baltimore stations, including WOLB-AM and Praise 106.1, and was responsible for booking shows.
“Cassandra started on our AM station and I noticed how exciting and exhilarating her program was, so I suggested she move to the FM station because it’s inspirational based and has a wider range,” McCamey said.
Ferguson left the radio station in March 2020 after she saw herself in a dream sitting in an empty radio station and later elevated on a platform. Days later the pandemic shut everything down.
Ferguson started a livestreaming show, “Maintain Monday,” because, she said, “people still needed to hear encouragement, even if they’re home.”
She’s had guests from all over the world and now it’s featured on her own streaming radio network, Elevate Your Life Talk Radio. The network includes her show as well as shows from other creators who use her studio. At the height of the pandemic, the new outlet garnered 1,500+ views on YouTube.
All of this prompted Ferguson to open another business in May 2020 in Towson Commons. Elevation Global Media Group has studios for TV, livestreaming, podcasting and voice-overs. The startup was funded by “bootstrapping,” Ferguson said, with savings and support from friends and family.
Her team of 18 includes interns from Towson and Morgan State universities.
John Shearin of the Baltimore Fellowship of Christian Athletes is the co-host of “B’more FCA Today,” a sports show and podcast produced at Elevation.
Shearin, a youth pastor and former football coach, has been friends with Ferguson for more than 20 years and became board chair of the organization around the time Ferguson was opening her studios.
“Podcasting is popular with young people and we wanted to connect with young people and coaches,” Shearin said. “We’ve highlighted some amazing student athletes on our show, and as a result, we’ve seen tremendous growth and interest in what we do from coaches and community leaders.”
In addition to the studio, Ferguson works at the nonprofit Operation Hope teaching financial literacy to Baltimore City youth.
“My mother eventually did some things to succeed in life, but the pain and trauma hindered her from living life to the fullest,” Ferguson recalled. “If God has given you a voice, use it.”
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This story was originally published July 1, 2022 1:00 AM.