BALTIMORE — Cassandra Ferguson, radio show host and owner of Elevation Global Media Group in Towson, Maryland, overcame a rocky start to life and is now working to inspire others.

“I was tired of seeing other women not motivating women,” Ferguson said. “So I decided to follow Gandhi [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 worked in 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, I spent most of my time visiting my dad 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 gone, you should forgive them,'” Ferguson said. “That was the day I really freed my father.”

A month after graduating from the now-closed Eastern High School, she married her husband of 35 years, Antonio Ferguson. Around the same time, his 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 late 2000s recession, then in corporate compliance, but when she sought out other women as mentors, the responses she received were unwelcoming.

One woman she turned to for help when she wanted to start talking about motivation told her she “didn’t see it in me” and advised her to consider another avenue of motivation. ministry.

“I needed support and mentorship, but 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, before the pandemic, was held every two years in Baltimore to help young girls connect with women in leadership positions.

After Freddie Gray died in police custody in April 2015, Ferguson said she was heartbroken to see the response.

She approached the local Radio One office in Woodlawn and began hosting “The Cassandra Ferguson Show” on WOLB-AM, paying out of pocket for airtime until she found a sponsor. Six months later, they asked him 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 uplifting her program was, so I suggested she move to the FM station as she is inspired and has a wider range,” McCamey said.

Ferguson left the radio station in March 2020 after seeing herself in a dream sitting in an empty radio station and later being lifted onto a platform. A few days later, the pandemic stopped everything.

Ferguson started a live show, “Maintain Monday,” because, she said, “people still needed to hear encouragement, even though they’re at home.”

She’s had guests from all over the world and now she’s featured on her own streaming radio network, Elevate Your Life Talk Radio. The network includes his show as well as shows from other creators who use his studio. At the height of the pandemic, the new outlet garnered over 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 television, live streaming, podcasting and voiceovers. The startup was funded through “bootstrapping,” Ferguson said, with savings and support from friends and family.

Its 18-person team 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 chairman of the organization’s board around the time Ferguson opened his studios.

“Podcasting is popular with young people and we wanted to connect with young people and coaches,” Shearin said. “We’ve spotlighted 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 non-profit organization Operation Hope, teaching financial literacy to young people in the city of Baltimore.

“My mom ended up doing some things to be successful in life, but the pain and trauma kept her from living life to the fullest,” Ferguson recalled. “If God gave you a voice, use it.”