In December 2014, two young women staged a solidarity march in downtown Tyler in response to the numerous police-related shootings across the country. Tyler United was born. Ambra Phillips and NiKishia Allen set out to do more to address issues in East Texas before such an event happened here. Getting involved politically, volunteering, and calling for a stop to violence among young black men—at an event called State of Emergency—were among the initiatives on their list. The women talked to Liberate Magazine about the mission of their grassroots group and what’s next.
Liberate: What is Tyler United’s mission?
NiKishia: Tyler United’s main mission is to be a voice for the people. Rather, that is by serving alongside someone, raising awareness about topics, educating the community we serve, inform and educate those who are unaware.
Liberate: Who comprises Tyler United?
Ambra: Tyler United is currently Nikishia and myself. Luckily, we have a team of unofficial members who we call on and they show support however we need them.
Liberate: Why is it important to do social justice work?
Nikishia: Social justice work is important because it deals with inequality. In the year of 2016 after so many activists fought for equal rights, it seems that rights are anything but equal. Rather, it is race, sex, class or gender. Social injustice is happening every day. Having the ability to bring awareness to our community and be a voice for the people is what makes social injustice so important; knowing that generations to come will not have the same struggles because of issues we addressed.
Liberate: Who do you look to for advice and ideas about uniting the community?
Ambra: NiKishia and myself each have issues or topics that we want to address with Tyler United. So we bounce off each other when deciding what’s next. We also deal with whatever is prevalent at the moment. The initial solidarity march was birthed due to the numerous deaths of unarmed black men by law enforcement. State of Emergency came about after the killings of two young black men in Tyler. So we try to stay current but still plan activities in efforts to be proactive versus reactive about certain issues. When wondering how to unite Tyler, we have called on Tyler Together Race Relations Forum for advice, NAACP President Cedrick Granberry, and some city officials. We also just talk to people as we run into them and ask what our city needs to be better, more peaceful and united. Everyone helps us tremendously, with ideas they formed from life circumstances or from experience.
Liberate: How do you feel Tyler has received Tyler United?
NiKishia: I believe that Tyler has received our organization with open arms. There are those who may feel complacent, however, we’re pleased that some are being reached along the way.
Liberate: How can people get involved or become a member of your team?
Ambra: We can be reached by email in regards to becoming a member at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Liberate: What is next for Tyler United? Where do you see the group a year from now?
Ambra: We will begin working on our annual summit that will take place again in January. Hopefully in a year we’ll have more active members doing more workshops and volunteering to help other organizations whose vision is similar to ours.
NiKishia Allen, 35, is a flight communications coordinator. She has a bachelor of science degree in business administration and is currently working on an MBA with a concentration in marketing. In addition to TylerUnited, she’s a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Women of Elegance Tyler, and Tyler Together Race Relations.
Ambra Phillips, 35, is a surgical technician. She attended Tyler Junior College and has studied journalism. In addition to TylerUnited, she’s also a member of Tyler Together Race Relations and the local chapter of the NAACP.