In 2009, Shaleah Laché Sutton launched UNIQUELY YOU SUMMIT, INC. (UYS) a one-of-a-kind annual forum in the greater Philadelphia region where hundreds of black girls, ages 11 to 18 years old, engage in discussion and dialogue that addresses the complexities of being black and female in America. Since its inception, UYS has impacted thousands of young black women and girls through the work of our annual Summit.
Black girls wrestle with very distinct challenges and distractions during their formative years – including preoccupation with their skin complexion, hair texture, body type, and sexuality; navigating depression, emotional stress and trauma; difficulty perceiving long-range consequences of their actions; and weakened self-esteem. "We want to create an experiential dialogue and outreach that aids in eliminating the perception of isolation. Our hope is that by discovering the universality of their feelings and experiences, the barriers to becoming their best and most unique self are removed." Sutton says.
Over the years Sutton has expanded her commitment and vision of empowering young black women and girls by creating new platforms such as Conversations #ForTheLoveOfBlackGirls, peer-led open discussions for high school girls where they are encouraged to discover and use their unique voices concerning the societal and political factors plaguing their communities and schools. For Seniors Only, a two-day special edition of the UNIQUELY YOU SUMMIT (at UPENN’s Wharton School), specifically designed to strengthen, support, and empower 25 graduating high school seniors as they broaden their journey into womanhood, enter college, and ultimately prepare to become agents for change in both their individual and interpersonal lives. The UYS Cover Girl Cohort, a selected group of 12 girls, serving annually as peer-mentors and peer-leaders, representing the organization as the official faces and voices of its programming and initiatives. Our goal is to help them become active, engaged and influential global citizens; who believe they can transform not only their community, but the world. And lastly, the #WhatIKnowNow Series, which features black celebrity panelists, including actresses Teyonah Parris, Amanda Seales, Sheryl Lee Ralph and SNL Comedienne Sasheer Zamata, examines matters related to the black woman experience.
This mindset alone defies the world's often oppressive one-dimensional stereotype of what black girls [should] look like, act and sound like; what they [should] value and seek to attain; and what they [should] believe in and aspire to become.
UYS was created to deepen the efforts of social change in the communities where black girls live; by aiding them in their understanding of their worth and of their specific, unique and individual purposes, for the explicit intent of making their families better, and the world.
INDIVIDUALITY: We cultivate, incite and celebrate individuality among black girls in a society that tells them to conform.
AGENCY: We aid (and advocate for) black girls in their understanding of having choice - despite the many s0cial factors of influence like class, religion, gender, race or ability. We want black girls to have agency over their own lives, and agency over their own bodies.
INTERSECTIONALITY: We introduce the ideology of intersectionality as we continue to deepen the understanding that black girls have [of their] multiple identities.
COLORISM: We address the unfortunate value assigned to skin hues in the world, unpack the dynamics of what they mean socially, and encourage (and work toward) the eradication of colorism [through a deeper historical, cultural and social understanding of its roots in European standards of beauty] for the betterment of ALL black girls.
MIS-EDUCATION & HISTORY: A re-education of who we are, what we are, and the history of where we come from, so that it positively shapes character, confidence and identity for black girls.
SISTERHOOD: We nurture and galvanize oneness and solidarity in a culture that tells black girls to compare, and to compete with other black girls.
PRESIDENT & FOUNDER
[ Sha - LEE - ah ]
PRESIDENT & FOUNDER
[ Sha - LEE - ah ]
She is the founder and president of UNIQUELY YOU SUMMIT, INC. (UYS), an avant-garde organization with a clear mission - to help black girls uniquely define, discover and become who they are. In 2009, Sutton launched the UNIQUELY YOU SUMMIT, an annual forum in the greater Philadelphia region where hundreds of black girls, 11 to 18 years old, engage in dialogue that addresses the complexities of being a black girl in America. Since its inception, UYS has impacted thousands of young black women and girls from across the United States through the work of their annual Summit.
By creating new platforms such as Conversations #ForTheLoveOfBlackGirls, peer-led open discussions for high school girls where they are encouraged to discover and use their unique voices concerning the societal and political factors impacting their communities and schools. For Seniors Only, a two-day special edition of the UNIQUELY YOU SUMMIT (at UPENN’s Wharton School), specifically designed to strengthen, support, and empower 25 graduating high school seniors as they broaden their journey into womanhood, enter college, and ultimately prepare to become agents for change in both their individual and interpersonal lives. The UYS Cover Girl Cohort, a selected group of 12 girls, serving annually as peer-mentors and peer-leaders, representing the organization as the official faces and voices of its programming and initiatives. Our goal is to help them become active, engaged and influential global citizens; who believe they can transform not only their community, but the world. And lastly, the #WhatIKnowNow Series, which features black celebrity panelists, including actresses Teyonah Parris, Amanda Seales, Sheryl Lee Ralph and SNL Comedienne Sasheer Zamata, examines matters related to the black woman experience. She is also the creator of both the #ForTheLoveOfBlackGirls and #BlackGirlInspiration social media hashtags.
In January 2018 she was featured on Forbes.com (These Four Women Are Helping the Next Generation of Leaders Find Their Calling). Most recently Sutton was honored with the 2017 YWCA Tri-County Tribute to Exceptional Women Mission Impact Award & the 2016 PECO Power to the Community Award. In 2011, the Council of the City of Philadelphia, awarded Resolution No. 110325 to her organization for its efforts to focus on “character education” as the best method to instill leadership values among young women. She has also received a 2011 Outstanding Young Leader nod by Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes; The Role Model Group’s 2011 Lady Leadership Honor for her commitment to leadership and excellence as a real role model; an invitation to be a Workshop Presenter at the 100th National Anniversary of Girls Scouts for Eastern Pennsylvania; a 2012 Community Service Award from the Pennsylvania State Senate’s 7th Senatorial District for social activism; and a 2014 Community Impact Award from Philadelphia mentoring organization, Developing In Excellence.
Sutton holds a B.A. in Political Science from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA (2002) and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (2000). Shaleah currently resides in a suburb outside of Philadelphia with her 12 & 1/2 year-old twins, Brandon & Island.
WE UNAPOLOGETICALLY SERVE BLACK GIRLS!
WE UNAPOLOGETICALLY SERVE BLACK GIRLS!
"UYS provides hope, motivation, and inspiration to the next generation." - Raea
MAMA BEAR! I strive to teach and protect with ferocious intensity.
Was in 2010 (at the very first Summit) when all of the participants were gathered in the Expo. This moment was the first time I realized how huge, how dope, and how much needed UYS was and continues to be.
To complete a positive mission for the love of a beautiful creature that looks like me.
Daughter of LaFaye, Raymond & Percy. Wife to James. Mother to EV & AJ (9 & 7 years old). Striving to be better than the day before! "If you're actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader." Raea holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from Morgan State University, and is candidate for a Master's in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in non-profit management.
"Heck yeah, UYS is needed! We provide not only information, but an experience. An experience that lasts far beyond two days. Rather, an experience that draws out what has been asleep in many of the girls. It's the moment they find their voice." - Zsavon
I'm almost like 'The Fixer'. The make it 'Happen-er!!'
Still being part of the ministry (it's what I like to call it), and witnessing its evolution!
A reminder that there is one who must lead, and she who leads is one standing, walking, talking, supporting, and guiding young black girls along their journey.
The 500 black girls we serve, year after year! And the women I work with on the journey!
God's girl. A travel noire. "Auntie Z" to seven. And a lover of life! In the words of Jill Scott, "Living my life like its golden." Zsavon holds a B.S. in Education & Management from West Chester University of Pennsylvania.
"UYS is needed because the 'role models' that society shows our young girls equates to fake bodies, cussing and fighting. We are needed to uplift, support and encourage our young girls that we are First Ladies, entrepreneurs, mothers, designers and anything else we want to to be! They WILL be more than what society shows them we're capable of." - Tanysha
I bring all the girls to the yard!
Sitting with past UYS Cover Girls in a meeting and listening to how freely they discuss the burdens that are placed on them, and how those burdens affect them. We often think about burdens being for adults. It was a refreshing [and tear-jerking] eye-opener.
The uplifting of black girls who are constantly being put down or made a mockery of. Society doesn't show them love, SO WE WILL!
Tanysha's greatest #BlackGirlInspiration, is her 3 year old daughter, Malia Grace. Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Tanysha loves all things inspiration and computers. She is currently working towards a degree in Psychology. Tanysha's ultimate goal is to create a safe haven for young girls to run to when they feel that they have nowhere else to turn.
"UYS is needed because there is still at least one black girl who doesn't think that she is beautiful." - Z
I engage with young black women in ways that allow them to tear down patriarchy!
To reduce this to ONE moment would be a slap in the face of all that is UYS!
We are a group of black girls who love ourselves. Unapologetically.
The air of change happening in our world. Specifically the change being birthed by fierce brown youth.
I'm just a girl with a beard trying to shut shyt down!
*Zerandrian brings to UYS over 12 years experience as a Public Health professional (Data Analytics & Epidemiology), Social Justice Educator, and Curriculum Developer, specializing in programming that provide youth with the tools to empower themselves as agents for social change. (Zerandrian holds a B.S. in Psychology-PreMed from Spelman College, and a Master's of Public Health in Biostatistics & Epidemiology from Tulane University.)
"UYS is needed because black women and girls need a safe platform where they can share their stories and hear the stories of others like them that reassure them that they are not alone. The world needs to hear and see stories of black woman and girlhood through the eyes black women and girls themselves." - Anjelica
I work to ensure that health and wellness activities are incorporated in all UYS events and programs. From healthy food choices to meditation moments, I work to make sure that healthy behaviors are a part of the organization's practices.
Witnessing my mom and Godmother be filled by the inspiration at our #WhatIKnowNow Brunch (April 2015).
Taking action with the best interest of black girls (and women) as priority.
Her six year old niece.
Anjelica D. Sanders is a Health Educator and program coordinator for several community nutrition education programs. A West Philadelphia native, she holds a Master’s of Science in Health Education from Saint Joseph’s University and obtained a B.S. in Sports Science & Fitness Management from North Carolina A&T State University. With a passion and commitment for the community, Anjelica actively works with various community organizations. By night, Anjelica remembers her [first] love of dance.
Brandi Mapp-Evans, M.Ed (6 years of service to black girls)
Jennifer Carroll, Ed.M (7 years of service to black girls)
JeNell LaRue, MS (7 years of service to black girls)