Hey! I am Alishea. I was raised in Toledo since the age of 2, so I am considered a
native Toledoan. I am currently a graduate student studying Social Work at the
University of Michigan (U-M) with a concentration in Social Policy and Evaluation in Community and Social Systems. This is my second master’s degree - I have an MBA from Lourdes University. I decided to pursue a second master’s degree after seeing clients face social injustices and health disparities. I was aware of how racism and discrimination impacted the Black community and I wanted to do more to change systems and improve the lives of Black families.
During my first semester at U-M, I met the woman who became my new best friend and soul sister. She invited me to attend an online call for something she was a
part of. I wanted to support a friend and was in awe at what I discovered. That was how I learned about Sseko Designs. As a former sales associate and Associate Degree holder of Fashion Merchandising, I was familiar with the fashion industry. Sseko taught me that fashion could be purposeful and provide fair wages to women and offer opportunities to promote education, social justice, and leadership. I hosted a party to share the Sseko story and joined as a Sseko Fellow January 2020
to earn an extra income. (I resigned from my previous employer so I could attend school full-time.) This would allow me to set my own schedule and remain connected to my love for fashion.
Being a Sseko Fellow has taught me a lot about myself in a short amount of time.
My work towards social and racial justice starts with self. For the month of August, I
decided to create journal prompts for self-reflection for myself and my community.
How we look, feel, and show up for others starts within. One thing I have noticed is
how we often wear masks and it can be difficult to show up as our true selves
because of traumatic experiences. Growing up, I would pretend everything was
perfect on the outside and to strangers while suffering internally. As a woman, I’ve
experienced judgment from others and compared myself to others because of what
I observed in beauty magazines, on TV, and other forms of media. I never saw
“me” reflected in any of those things. Through years of messages telling me I never
measured up and feeling the impact of it, I knew I needed a change. I have been
doing internal work and wanted to be a support to others. I created “Journaling
through August” on my Instagram page to form a community with others and to
support them in their healing journey.
“Journaling through August” has helped me to realize how much I want to leave
a legacy for the community. I believe healing is both an individual and a collective
effort. We are communal and interconnected. Society has not always been kind to us
and there are folks and systems that want to keep us divided. With Sseko, I admire
the support my Sseko sisters have for one another. Instead of competing – we collaborate and support with the purpose of reaching people and sharing the Sseko
story regardless of where we live. Our purpose is to work to provide scholarships
and employment opportunities to our colleagues in East Africa and support our
artisans across the globe. I have also been streaming documentaries on human
development and native communities. It is opened my eyes to how disconnected we
are as members of a community, to nature, and our role as global citizens.
I love that Women of Toledo is similar to the community I have with Sseko. While
we all have our own goals to reach - whether it be becoming financially free,
building businesses, leaving a legacy, or uplifting a community - Women of Toledo
creates opportunities for women to learn, work, and support others. I am grateful to
be a part of this community and learn from business leaders who happen to be
women. As a parent, partner, entrepreneur, and graduate student, my plate is
always full. Being connected to an organization that is focused on women is
important to me because we are so many things to so many people. Women of
Toledo reminds me that I matter!
Do you know Sseko Fellows have supported 131 women as they have pursued higher education? Interested to connect with Alishea to learn more how you can support these efforts, please reach out to Alishea Sutton, Sseko Fellow at email: email@example.com or shop today ssekodesigns.com/Alishea