“I was loved and so I gave love”

Yesterday, I recounted my journey as a writer. I talked about all of the bumps and detours that I took to follow the literary (and journalistic) dream. Today’s prompt continues my story as a journalist. The challenge is to write about someone who inspires me and to share why that person gives me inspiration. 

Because I am a journalist and a blogger, I have had the opportunity to interview many people. They open up their world to me, and they are gracious enough to permit me to share their stories in print publications and online, in my blog. It is the people whose stories I tell who inspire me to continue. People who have faced far greater adversity than I have give me the strength to continue to follow my own dream.

I have met people whom I might have never had the chance to meet otherwise. They have enriched both my personal and professional life. They are doing great things. I’ve interviewed people who have overcome tremendous adversity and who came out of that adversity with strength. Their positive attitudes and their resilence are traits that I could only aspire to have. I have interviewed cancer survivors, domestic violence survivors, and people who have been incarcerated and have come out of prison, not with bitterness, but with a resolve to end mass incarceration and to help others make better, more empowering choices.

The person whom I chose to spotlight today is Tiawana Brown.

I met her early in March of 2018, when I went to Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend the funeral of Ramona Brant. I had shared Ramona’s story shortly afterward. Here is a link to  Ramona’s Story.


Tia is a very kind and generous person who is always willing to share of herself. She sees the beauty in everyone. Her path hasn’t been easy, but she has come to a good place, with love, thanks to her faith in God and her family.

I was born and raised in a family of love. We have lots of women and that southern love.
I come from a Baptist background, and I was in church on Sundays and participating in the youth programs.

My mom led by example. She talked it and she walked it. Treat people the way you desire to be treated. I was loved and so I gave love.

We didn’t have a lot of wealth in my young years but we had love. And so, coming out of prison, I always said that, if God gave me another chance, I would spread love and be inspiring and positive. So what you see is what I represent & it started from my Family Tree.

Like Ramona Brant, Tiawana Brown has a vision of a better society, and she has put in the effort to make her vision a reality. Tia served time in federal prison, and she
came home and created a nonprofit organization called Beauty After the Bars. I asked Tia
if I could interview her via Facebook Messenger, and she was gracious enough to
provide these answers to my questions. The photographs were provided by Nelson D. Medina of Medina22 Photography
.
What motivated
you to create Beauty After the Bars?
I was moved to
create Beauty After the Bars after spending my time in federal prison and having my daughter Tijema  while I was in prison. I also had a 2-year-old toddler daughter (Antoinette)  at home.

I left behind my
only sister 15 year (Chunta). I was her protector. I did not want them to ever
experience the dark side of the law or enter the justice system.
What is the
organization’s mission?
The mission of my
organization is to interrupt the school to prison pipeline. To keep our young girls out of jail and prison.
Could you tell me
about the challenges that women face after incarceration?
One of the
biggest challenges we as women involved with Justice face is escaping the
labels of incarceration. For example, today, I am still paying restitution, fines, and fees from 25 years ago. 
My compensation
from my employer is garnished before I get to see it. 
I also still
asked the question have I ever been convicted of a felony when applying for
employment and housing. Utterly ridiculous
What is your
biggest joy?
My biggest joy in
running and founding my organization is being able to restore hope in young
girls that may have gotten off track. For Black and Brown girls to be empowered
to do great things, no matter what.
No matter what
zip code they come from, I further receive joy in being a mentor and from the
feedback I receive on how many lives I am affecting. Especially my sisters, who are still incarcerated.
We improve the
lives of girls & women by being transparent and leading by example. By having
lived and experienced most of what our participants and clients experience. We
are relatable, and that is joy in itself.
To know that my
story, with my real life experiences and challenges, is effective and making a
difference.
Is there a
mentorship program for brown and black girls through your organization?
Yes, we have a
mentoring program that is free for girls ages 
8-17. We  are in the Charlotte,N.C., and surrounding
Metropolitan areas. The program is
 titled
#Believe Academic Success belongs to you.

Tiawana said that adults are welcome to volunteer in the mentoring program. Parents can ask for a mentor for their children. The program is currently only in the Charlotte, N.C., area. But Tiawana said that she is working to expand the program, “For areas outside of Charlotte, N.C., we are working to have a national platform of partnership.”

Check out the website at Beauty After the Bars website. There is more information about the program, as well as a link for you to submit information if you are interested in serving as a mentor or in finding a mentor for your child.

8 thoughts on ““I was loved and so I gave love””

  1. Beauty after the Bars

    Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Please feel free to share. I share with the expectation of being a blessing to so many others.
    We are here for a short time and I pray to leave a legacy of hope and inspiration!!

  2. Beautiful and inspiring story of triumph and perseverance. Thank you sharing and I pray for continued grace, peace and mercy.

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