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Radio Producer Sheryl Flowers Loses Battle To Cancer

LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Sheryl Annette Flowers, 42, whose drive and passion for news and expertise in storytelling Tavis Smiley credits with the success of his broadcast career on public radio, has died.

She died at Cedar's Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on June 8 following a nearly two-year battle with triple negative breast cancer, her family said.

There will be no funeral service. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. July 8, 2009 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., in Los Angeles, CA.

Flowers was the Director of Communications for The Smiley Group, Inc., a communications company founded by Smiley. But until May 2009 she had spent nearly five years as the executive producer of The Tavis Smiley Show distributed by Public Radio International (PRI) and prior to that was the senior supervising producer of The Tavis Smiley Show from National Public Radio (NPR) from 2002-2004.

When Smiley's show on NPR launched in 2002 it broke ground as the first signature show hosted by an African American. When Flowers was hired as producer she joined a handful of African American women working in a field largely dominated by white men. Ironically, the show she and her staff produced daily, which was targeted to African Americans, drew a mostly white audience, Smiley said.

"The show was a first for NPR and the fact that it was successful across a mainstream audience eager for news and information about the African American experience is a tribute to Sheryl's vision and direction," he added. "She had great instincts and insights into stories and issues that were appealing to our listeners."

When Smiley left NPR in 2004, Flowers followed. Together they built a start-up show from scratch which is now distributed by PRI. The weekend news and information show, which started with just two stations, currently is carried on 90 stations around the country. "The formula she developed for radio audiences during our NPR experience works for our PRI show as well and I largely attribute her strategy to the success of the weeknight television show we now have on PBS," Smiley said.

"Public television audiences much like public radio listeners crave stimulating conversations, up-to-the-minute news and analysis with a dose of entertainment and slice-of-life stories. This type of lineup has worked well for the television show and allowed us to reach a broader audience," Smiley added. "If Sheryl had not worked so studiously to help us connect with public radio listeners, I'm not so sure that we would have been able to later connect with public television viewers."

Flowers' media career spanned nearly 20 years and touched on nearly every facet in communications.

She was born on Aug. 26, 1966 in Chicago but grew up in California's Bay Area and graduated from Monterey Bay Academy. Flowers began her career in radio in 1985 as an on-air announcer for the campus station (now WJOU — Oakwood University) while attending Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama where she majored in mass communications. After transferring to Clark Atlanta University to complete her bachelor's degree in journalism, she began writing for several publications including, The Atlanta Tribune, and Upscale Magazine while doing freelance production and voice-over work for Black Entertainment Television.

In 1989, she moved back to California and began writing for the California Voice and The Sun-Reporter. Her story on the high rates of black infant mortality in Oakland led to a media consultant position for the non-profit East Bay Perinatal Council.

Flowers was ultimately hired by the Council as a communications specialist to engage in media outreach and public policy development on a multitude of issues affecting low-income women, children and families. While at the Council, Flowers helped develop an award-winning Community Health Outreach Training Program for the State of California designed to assist high-risk, underserved pregnant women receive prenatal care and other services.

She eventually returned to her radio roots, and over several years served as a producer for Pacifica Radio's investigative public affairs program, Flashpoints; producer of the daily, national show, Living Room; and the weekly program, About Health, before becoming co-host of The Morning Show on KPFA radio in Berkeley.

She has been honored for her work by the Bay Area Black Journalists Association and in 1993 completed a Public Affairs Fellowship at WGBH in Boston. From 1997-1999, she was the voice of Mavis Beacon, the animated instructor of the world's best-selling typing CD-Rom, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.

In 1999, she moved to Washington, D.C. to help market and produce the award winning NPR program, Justice Talking. She returned to California in 2001 to join Smiley's NPR show.

Sheryl began speaking on behalf of cancer awareness even before her diagnosis in January 2008. In July 2007, she served as mistress of ceremonies for the Celebrate Life Foundation's Cancer Pageant and in August 2008, while undergoing her own treatment, moderated a panel discussion on awareness and prevention for young girls at the Tavis Smiley Foundation's Leadership Institute.

Flowers was a baptized member of the Seventh Day-Adventist Church and an avid runner, skier and traveler. Her appreciation for her family's Caribbean and Afro-Latino roots inspired her love of Brazilian music and salsa dancing.

"Sheryl was the light of our lives and we will miss her dearly. Yet, we are comforted in knowing that she lived each day to the fullest and pursued her dreams with grace and passion. We are immensely proud of the legacy she has left behind," said Lori Flowers, her sister.

Sheryl is survived by her parents, Carole Flowers-Clement and Henry Flowers; step-father, Alvin Clement; grandmother, Ruby Lewis; aunt Diva Hudson and her husband, John; uncle Ricardo Lewis and his wife, Vonya; sister Lori Flowers; step-brother, Durban Clement; and a host of cousins, extended family and friends.

In lieu of flowers, the Flowers-Clement family and The Smiley Group, Inc. respectfully request your support in fighting triple negative breast cancer. An announcement will be made during the memorial service to provide further details on our efforts. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers