Some Tylerites, most of whom are millennials, are working to improve their environment on their terms — whether creating their own art and organizations or uplifting voices through advocacy and activism.
Both native-born residents and transplants are producing content, inspiring people to take charge of their health, urging the community to be politically involved and more.
They network and promote their work and ideas with the ultimate goal of creating a united community.
Black Tyler is not a monolith, though. And while there is a diversity of perspectives and identities they are united through one common thread: a need to express their authentic selves and help others do the same.
The mission of Liberate has been to bring people together, to encourage new ideas, and to build a support system — all while celebrating us. There are creatives, people who want to start businesses, and others who just need like-minded people to gather so they can spur change. But many go unseen or underrepresented, hence, their projects and visions may be stalled.
Liberate highlighted some of these folks who tap into their entrepreneurial spirit or embrace volunteerism and philanthropy. We hope their determination and giving hearts will inspire readers to seek each other out — and continue to build.
Check out their bios below.
Ambra Phillips, 36
Occupation: surgical technologist
Community involvement: co-founder of TylerUnited; founder of Integrity Scholarship Foundation, treasurer for the Tyler Chapter of NAACP; member of Tyler Together Race Relations Forum; voter education and registration advocate
In her words: “My heart is burdened to take care of my community in whatever way I can. Whether it’s advocacy, education, or raising awareness about a particular situation, I aim to serve Christ in all I do.”
Key to success: Faith, dedication, hard work and sacrifice
LaTasha Portley, 36
Occupation: registered nurse, certified case manager
Community Involvement: co-leader of Tyler chapter of Girl Trek, member of Black Nurses Rock, and a member of NET Health’s Diabetes Advisory Committee
In her words: “My work in the community allows me to identify and fulfill a need. The feeling that comes with this type of work for me is truly therapeutic. This does not mean that there are not challenges. It just means that the work is so necessary that those challenges can’t stop the work. I do what I do because of my children. My boys are my why. I wake up every day thinking about their well-being, and providing for them. I hope that through me they understand how important it is to create what you wish to see, and then never stop being passionate about it.”
Key to success: An individualized opportunity followed by the execution of a plan.
Trent Johnson, 33
Occupation: owner and CEO at Treniti Resources
Community involvement: co-founder of Integrity Scholarship Foundation, vice president at BOSS Mentoring,
executive board member at local NAACP chapter; volunteer for community events including Juneteenth festivities and Gearing Up for School; treasurer at Jarvis Alumni Tyler Chapter; member of Alphi Phi Alpha fraternity
In his words: “I was blessed with a vision and ability to provide a service to the community, while providing income for my family.”
Key to success: Put God first and believe that you can anything. Your work ethic has to match your dream.
LaKisha Price, 39
Occupation: owner and director of Kisha’s Learning Academy
Community involvement: child development, after school program
In her words: “My goal at Kisha’s Learning Academy is to help children become confident, independent learners who will develop a strong sense of self-worth enabling them to make positive life choices. I love working with my parents as well. I also own and operate Journeys Of The Heart After School Program. I would not change anything about my career because working with children is definitely my calling and children are a blessing from God.”
Key to success: Keeping the faith, staying focused and never ever thinking about money when trying to start anything that you dream of doing because it will stop you from achieving your goals and being successful.
Occupation: stylist, founder and editor-in-chief at Follow Your Intuition
Occupation: poet, student, communications professional
Community involvement: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, member of Kids Aspiring to Dream and numerous awards and recognition while at Stephen F. Austin University
Key to success: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
DeMarcus Bailey, 37
Occupation: writer, director and producer at JF Bailey Productions
Community involvement: Donating to various organizations
In his words: “I provide an opportunity for people in the community to do things that they only could dream of doing and I give people confidence to believe in themselves.”
Keys to success: Don’t give up on the vision God gave to you.
Occupation: health educator
Community involvement: co-leader of Tyler chapter of Girl Trek; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Mark Martin, 34
Occupation: freelance photojournalist’ CEO at MDM Productions and CFO at AllNationsTv.com
Community involvement: director of marketing at New Life Community Church
In his words: “I was simply blessed with a talent from God. I am able to touch lives through images whether it’s sports, weddings, family or events. This is the main reason I do what I do.”
Key to success: The “law of attraction” and think positive.
Community involvement: founder and president of Women of Elegance
Jeremy “DJ Juice” Jones
Occupation: radio personality
Community involvement: community engagement, public relations
In his words: “You have to start somewhere. If you don’t start then you’ve already failed. Don’t try, just do.”
C. Kalae Whitman, 31
Occupation: natural hair and loc specialist; owner of Sankofa Natural Hair
Community involvement: cultural education and support
In her words: “It is important to me that my work honors the work of my ancestors — uplifting Black people to a place of self-acceptance, self-love, and self-actualization.”
Key to success: Knowledge and purpose. The more you know about who you are and where you’ve come from, the easier it is to recognize your own capabilities and execute your goals effectively. With knowledge, you can identify your purpose, which, with focus, undoubtedly leads to success because you have found the path towards your destiny — what you were called to accomplish in this life.
Occupation: athletic coordinator and head football coach at John Tyler High
NiKishia Allen, 36
Occupation: flight communications coordinator
Community involvement: co-founder of TylerUnited; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; Women Of Elegance; board member of Integrity and a volunteer with multiple nonprofit organizations.
In her words: “I enjoy serving the community and helping others. I want to impact the community through positive change, integrity and growth while reaching and mentoring the youth. I am committed to making the community in which I live a better place through services, love and humanity.”
Key to success: The key to success is to remain humble, focused and positive no matter what comes your way.
Occupation: marketing professional, writer
Kerrigan Sanders, 22
Occupation: student, owner of Sugar Boogah Confections
Community involvement: founding president and vice president of Smith County Young Democrats; member of NAACP, Texas Democratic Party and Smith County Democratic Party; advocacy/donations to Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County.
In her words: “It’s my mission to make sure that I am constantly involved in my community to keep me humbled. Also, it is my duty to make sure my ancestors are proud of me because of them fighting for my basic human rights. I owe them my life.”
Key to success: Only apologize once for your mistakes and move forward.
Community involvement: Women of Elegance; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Chemeka Bristol, 38
Occupation: worker at Trane, CNA, certified pharmacy tech and owner of Faizah Morowa Wraps
Community Involvement: mentorship and event organizer
In her words: “Mentoring, guiding, and helping young girls has always been a passion of mine. That is why I’m pursuing my bachelor’s degree in social work. Some teenage girls will be young and irresponsible and while they are doing such they do not need to be torn down or judged. I started Faizah Morowa Wraps to help educate and show ladies and men how to properly wrap a head wrap.”
Key to success: Be patient and persistent.