Northside Business Spotlight

Paper Maker of the Northside

What were the barriers in place that made it difficult to become involved in community?

“I think my life experiences raised in the hood sector of the Northside based on my mother’s economic status and the type of realities we lived put me at a disadvantage professionally to truly understand and engage the community sector. My skills, credentials, clothes, language and knowledge of community and professional systems in some ways were nonexistent, although I loved my people and understood our conditions. I often felt out of place, was ridiculed, overlooked, looked down upon, challenged in my ideas and language also and shut out of many opportunities. People weren’t as open to the fire I was bringing from my life experiences growing up through the realities I did living on the Northside. I didn’t understand community professional life much at all although I’ve spent over 33 years living my life here. I did not know 95% of the people I worked with in community which was often discouraging. I was often misunderstood because they didn’t understand my language and style, I highly desired to see people who I knew that understood me, my passion, my path and my ideas."

 

"I choose to create my own space in order to exist in community the way I felt most comfortable and impactful which is through the creation of BWWA. I created my own space because what I needed and looked for honestly did not exist in a way that made sense and mattered to me the most. I later began to see my friends and familiar faces, but they were concentrated in youth worker jobs inside of parks, schools and other youth centers primarily. A fellowship opportunity in 2007 landed me an internship as a practitioner that led me to a different career path, experiences and opportunities.”

What were the barriers in place that made it difficult to become involved in community?
How did you become interested in starting your business?

“My great-grandmother, she ran a candy store. We practiced running her candy store and helping her make her products. So even though I moved here at 6, we went home every summer until I was about 12/13 years old to spend time with my mother’s family and our father. So entrepreneurship was instilled in me as a young person from my family foundation, my great-grandmother and people around me in my neighborhood and community in Kankakee who owned homes, businesses and worked jobs. I also ran my own hair business from the age of 13 till I was 23 years old. I was one of many neighborhood hair stylists doing weave styles out of my home. My first professional opportunity to work in the economic space was being hired by NEON through the LISC Fellowship in 2007. Post NEON I became a Bush Fellow and a Humphrey Fellow in 2012. Those experiences allowed me space and time to really get closer to my life purpose. Grover Jones, the former ED of NEON, truly invested 5 years into my growth and development. He gave me chances to grow from my mistakes and gave me space to explore my interest in community, I really appreciate it! The last year of my Bush Fellowship I created the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance as a way I wanted to show up and express myself in community and the way I wanted to give back and help Black women create generational Black wealth. BWWA very much grew from the core of who I am.”

How did you become interested in starting your business