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Check Out TaVia Wooley-iles’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to TaVia Wooley-iles.

Hi TaVia, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
In 2017 after leaving my job that I had committed so much of my time to, long hours, 4-hour commute round trip, delivered a baby via my 4th c-section and an hour later, I was on my laptop processing payroll, and the departure was not necessarily on good terms. It was the experience that I realized it was important to commit that same energy and time to build something of my own business so that I at the very least had more control over my results and rewards.

With over 20 years of experience working in the nonprofit world (social services and working with people of color), I always noticed that the communities that needed the most help were never the ones who told their stories. They never had the tools to change their own situation and they were always at the mercy of systems that only provided them with just enough to stay afloat.

I founded The EmpowerTHEM Collective a nonprofit organization that focuses on empowering the community through community leadership development, advocacy through public policy and economic empowerment via entrepreneurship. It is the organization’s belief that when the people have the ability to have a seat at the table, change or implement a policy that supports growth and build their own generational wealth, we will see a significant change in the black community.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has been smooth in that the need is there. The challenges have come with regards to carving a path that redirects traditional thought processes from ONLY providing. direct services aka a bandaid over the social issue (which is needed as well) and garnering support and momentum of the urgency to change the system itself. At times people see it as being in direct conflict of providing direct services or taking resources from direct services providers, vs, a complimenting aspect of helping our community. We all know that what plaques the Black community is systemic racism, and while our communities need basic needs and other social support systems, we need to dually attach and dismantle the system, and the best people to do that are the people who are indebted to a racist system.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
My professional career has been over 20 years of working with the community, from my work in child protective services, probation, to mental health and homeless services. I have seen all aspects of the community and the need that is ever present. Our organization is primarily focused on sharing our stories, providing the community with the tools to demand a seat at the table and to support community ownership.

We currently offer a Community Leadership academy where members of the community can be trained to serve effectively in their community, to support the change they feel is needed and to mentor others so that more of us can come up as well.

We also have a program that is Advocacy through storytelling. This program focuses on creating a visual story of the community member their challenges, how they overcame them and what is needed to further support many others experiencing the same challenges. Our goal is to ensure that the narrative that is being told and documented is the people’s voice.

Some of our partners are The city of Hope LA Partnership for Childhood early education, Los Angeles County African American infant and maternal mortality initiative and the United Way.

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
Authenticity, relentless, laser sharp focused, and the ability to build rapport with allies and non-allies when needed.

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