Current Town: Middlebury
Years in VT: 2
Industry: Social and Racial Justice Advocate and Consultant
Business name: Spreading Justice, LLC
Business contact: Email Justice by clicking here
Tell us a bit about your background before arriving in VT.
I am originally from Bainbridge, GA. I graduated from Columbus State University in Columbus, GA, with a Bachelor of Arts in History. I worked various jobs throughout college, but most of my experience came from call center and property management.
What do you enjoy about being a business owner in VT?
Creating safe, fun work environments has fueled my passion and desire to become a business owner. My dream turned into reality when I moved to Vermont. Upon moving to Vermont, I began speaking at various different businesses and schools as an AmeriCorps member and an independent consultant for the Peace and Justice Center. Through those opportunities, I was able to market and receive several contracts as my own business. These contracts then helped me to successfully register Spreading Justice, LLC with the state of Vermont.
Although my business was born out of the need to educate and inform folx on social and racial justice, Vermont has given me the opportunity to become a first generation business owner. I have enjoyed networking with others and staying connected through the VT POC Network.
What are some challenges that you’ve faced as a business owner living in VT?
In my workshops, we are open and honest about social and racial justice. We discuss the truth with the intention to learn and grow from the material and from others. Not having a large BIPOC community in Middlebury makes my work very difficult: I understand that I accepted the calling as a Black woman to discuss racism, white supremacy, etc. but it would be nice to have a community where I am able to recharge and recenter myself before I begin the work again.
I moved to Vermont in August 2021 for an AmeriCorps position at The Teen Center in Middlebury, VT. I had secured a rental via a Front Porch Forum posting. I had communicated with the woman who had offered me the room to rent via email and phone for about three months prior to my arrival in VT, including the fact that I was a Black woman. Within 4 days of my arrival she informed me I needed to leave within the next three months: she did not give me a valid excuse, but I later found out that this woman was not comfortable with me being Black and living in her home. I moved out immediately and scrambled to find alternate temporary accommodations. After a lot of searching, I was eventually connected to a woman named Susan who had an apartment above her garage. The apartment had just become available. After viewing the apartment, I was able to move in on the same day and I have been there ever since. So, SHOUT OUT TO SUSAN!!!!
How have you worked to overcome challenges as a BIPOC business owner?
I am a woman of faith, so firstly I pray through all of my experiences. I am thankful for all that I have been through, even the negative housing experience. Without my initial challenges in GA, I would not have said yes to moving to Vermont, and I would not be in this community living, learning, and giving back.
Additionally, I became an Independent Consultant with the Peace and Justice Center, joined the board at The Teen Center, facilitated other social and racial justice workshops, became the Lead Facilitator for the BIPOC Affinity Space at Middlebury Union High School, a member of Rutland NAACP, and joined Abundant Sun’s Racial Housing Jam as a Community Member.
I use my negative experiences to fuel my passion for change. I’ve advocated for BIPOC people in many spaces making sure they have their moment to reach the microphone. I am creating systems that will allow the younger generation of BIPOC folx to live in their truth and not have the same challenges as we do now.
What opportunities do you see for your industry in the future?
I see opportunities to develop and expand Spreading Justice, LLC, to receive more social and racial justice contracts and expand my facilitation practice to include more workshops and to collaborate with more businesses.
In what ways could the community or state of VT support BIPOC businesses?
We need to build more apartments and homes that are affordable for individuals. Additionally, there needs to be more activities and businesses that attract and keep young adults in the area.
What advice would you have wanted to receive about being BIPOC living in Vermont before arriving?
There isn’t a Walmart nearby and the nearest Dollar General is 25 minutes away. I seriously would have reconsidered (LOL). In all seriousness, speaking with minorities would have given me an accurate picture of Vermont.
What do you wish others knew about living in VT that you’ve discovered?
Depending on where you live Walmart and other box stores are far away.
If you aren’t eating at a trusted friends’ house that has a seasoning cabinet you may have to leave the state for good food.
You will also have to work to find your community here. As a person of color, having someone to lean on is very important – or get a therapist.
Having reliable transportation and proper winter clothing will save your life.
Lastly, pick up a winter sport– it’ll help you during the longggg winter months.
Why are you a member of the Vermont Professionals of Color Network?
It’s a dope organization that connects BIPOC folx all over the state. They send us important information that keeps us updated and informed. Vermont communities tend to be a bubble especially during the winter, so I am always happy to get emails from the organization or a text from Weiwei – it’s like chatting with a distant cousin.
Are there other things you’d like to share with the Vermont BIPOC community?
Yes, I am hosting a MLK Jr. Dinner under my role as an AmeriCorps member in Middlebury.
January 13 from 5:30-7 pm for food and fellowship: A Celebration of MLK Jr.’s Legacy. This event will be held at Kirk Alumni Center, 217 Golf Course Rd, Middlebury, VT 05753.
Esther Charlestin, Dean of Climate and Culture at Middlebury Union Middle School, will be our keynote speaker, followed by delicious food and engaging conversation. Participants will celebrate Black culture, learn about various Civil Rights heroes, and discuss MLK Jr.’s legacy. This is a welcome and open event to everyone, with participants from both Middlebury College and the greater Addison County communities.
The priority RSVP deadline is Monday, January 9, 2023. Childcare for children aged 3+ is available for a limited number of children. Please contact Justice Elijah, AmeriCorps VISTA member, at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.