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5 Under 40:
Marshall Talley

Marshall Talley, 39
Food and beverage entrepreneur; VIBEZ General Manager; Macon Black Culture Co-founder; community change agent

Tell us about your job and why you chose your career field.
I’ve always had a passion to serve, and I am able to do that through the entertainment and service industries. I serve as general manager on the executive team for VIBEZ. VIBEZ has established a pillar within our community, and we build our reputation by providing our guests with world-class service that creates memorable experiences. I consult through Fabartender Consulting & Management. I’m the co-owner of Cheers Entertainment Services with my wife, Kim. Cheers offers Alcohol Awareness certifications, bar and waitstaff training, customer service training, and event staffing, planning, and marketing. We’re the largest service industry staffing company in Central Georgia.   

Tell us about your activities in the community, especially what you’re most excited about.
I worked with Project ID to help over 750 members of our community obtain government IDs, improving their access to housing, healthcare, employment, banking, and the ability to vote. I co-founded Registered and Ready, Inc., and worked with numerous organizations, registering thousands of citizens in underserved communities to have the ability to vote. I worked with community leaders and city commissioners to help decriminalize marijuana under an ounce.   

I’m the current VP of I Am King Foundation, Inc., which enlightens students with an emphasis on reading, math, and career training. Right now, I’m most excited about the organization Macon Black Culture. Our first accomplishment was organizing the Inaugural Juneteenth Parade, with Bud Dupree as grand marshal.   

Macon Black Culture’s purpose is to build up a culture, not only in the Black community, but the whole community, that is receptive to the Black positivity in our city.  

What needs to change to encourage continued progress in our city?
People in power realizing that Macon isn’t a small town anymore.   

Right now, what is the best thing going on in Macon?
I got to give a shout out to Cure Violence Macon. A global effort, the organization helps communities to implement violence prevention programs that are effective in significantly reducing violence. It’s amazing what that organization is doing on the ground in Pleasant Hill.  This group is in the trenches, day and night, working to curb gun violence, which is plaguing our community. I hope the program continues to get funding and is allowed to expand into different areas of our community. More of the best things are downtown development, The Ocmulgee Mounds National Park [effort], and the highway expansion.  

What are you personally committed to accomplishing in Macon and why?
I’m personally committed to helping improve the quality of life in underserved communities. I’m blessed to have been a part of Urban CEO (Cohort 3) and Leadership Macon (2019). Those course experiences and networks have given me the tools, knowledge, and skill set to better organize, create partnerships, and engage the community. Improving the quality of life in our underserved communities will increase our productivity and economic output, making Macon a better place to live for all.  

What does it mean to be a good leader?
A good leader works with others to turn goals into a reality. Effective leadership involves communication, collaboration, and the ability to motivate and empower others.   

How do you think Macon is aligning to become a more inclusive place in the post-COVID era? How has that shaped your values and actions?
I believe our nonprofit organizations and local policy actors determine whether we’re an inclusive community. The state of our current community comes from the historic aftershocks of redlining, school system segregation, Jim Crow laws, and other legislation to limit the voting rights of Black citizens. The 2019 One Macon 2.0 Report found that those most likely to experience inequality were people of color, women, LGBTQ+ members, and those in certain neighborhoods. The Mayor and County Commission has to be more intentional and mindful of these groups when they are passing legislation, asking questions like “who’s being burdened by the legislation being passed, who’s benefiting?” Millions and millions of dollars flow through government and local non-profits. They have the power to feed, heal, shelter, educate, inspire, enlighten, and nurture the community.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My beautiful wife and my family. Being a role model for my boys and other young men in the community. Being able to provide jobs and teach career skill sets to others. Helping organize and leading the Inaugural Macon-Bibb Juneteenth Parade was an indescribable feeling.  

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