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Our Story


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Our Story


Helping BLACK girls uniquely define, discover and become who they are.™

In 2009, Shaleah Laché Sutton launched UNIQUELY YOU SUMMIT, INC. (UYS) a one-of-a-kind annual forum in the greater Philadelphia region where 500 black girls, from 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, Sheryl Lee Ralph and SNL Comedienne Sasheer Zamata, examines matters related to the black woman experience. 

 

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Purpose


Purpose


"IT'S OKAY TO BE DIFFERENT.  AND IT'S OK TO BE BLACK."

"You matter, even though the world has tried to tell you otherwise. Our INTENTION is to provoke a state of mind within you where you do not feel inferior or inadequate because of the degree of your melanin; hair type or texture; OR social, cultural or familial complexity. BUT equipped with the knowledge THAT YOU ARE Far TOo valuable TO BE OBJECTIFIED AND DEHUMANIZED, and FAR TOO WORTHY tO BE EXCLUDED."

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 the world a better place.

 

EMPOWERing BLACK girls right where they are to go places they've never been.

THE WORK

  1. INDIVIDUALITY:  We cultivate, incite and celebrate individuality among black girls in a society that tells them to conform. 

  2. INTERSECTIONALITY:  We introduce the ideology of intersectionality as we continue to deepen the understanding that black girls have [of their] multiple identities. 

  3. COLORISM:  We address the 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/White standards of beauty] for the betterment of ALL black girls.

  4. 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.

  5. SISTERHOOD: We nurture and galvanize oneness and solidarity in a culture that tells black girls to compare, and to compete with other black girls.

  6. CELEBRATION: We affirm and celebrate the unique experiences of black girls that are regularly left out of popular American culture. 

 

 

OUR OBJECTIVES

  • To help black girls embrace & identify their individuality
  • To teach black girls how to self-love and self-care
  • To help black girls discover and use their unique voices
  • To aid black girls in the development of the confidence and life skills essential to building a powerful, healed, whole, healthy and unique self
  • To help black girls [believe they can] impact and create social change, political change, and cultural shifts within their very own communities and the world
  • To build and educate articulate, brave and outspoken young black women leaders
  • To help black girls understand that their existence is for the purpose of making the world a better place
  • To help black girls understand [and feel empowered enough to interrupt] the media’s, as well as the black community's, singular expression of black beauty 
  • To expose black girls to phenomenal black women
  • To help black girls understand that "glass ceilings" are meant to be shattered 
 

LEARN MORE

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SHALEAH LACHÉ SUTTON


PRESIDENT & FOUNDER

[ Sha - LEE - ah ]

SHALEAH LACHÉ SUTTON


PRESIDENT & FOUNDER

[ Sha - LEE - ah ]

Shaleah Laché Sutton is a THOUGHT-LEADER & self-professed passionista for THE ADVANCEMENT OF black women and girls. Sutton has fused her life and work experience to build a rare platform

A platform that “challenges the world’s one-dimensional concept of what black young women and girls should look, act, and sound like; what they should value and seek to attain; and what they should believe in and aspire to BECOME.”

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, a one-of-a-kind annual forum in the greater Philadelphia region where 500 black girls, from 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 from across the United States through the work of their annual Summit.

Sutton has expanded her commitment of EMPOWERING YOUNG BLACK WOMEN & 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, 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. 

Sutton has received numerous honors for her efforts to enrich the lives of young women and girls.

Most recently she was honored with the 2016 PECO Power to the Community Award. In 2011, the Council of the City of Philadelphia, awarded Resolution No. 110325 to Sutton’s 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 Glen Mills, Pennsylvania with her 11 year-old twins, Brandon & Island.

TEAM UYS


WE UNAPOLOGETICALLY SERVE BLACK GIRLS!

TEAM UYS


WE UNAPOLOGETICALLY SERVE BLACK GIRLS!

RAEA A.V. WILSON

GIRL EXCHANGE PROGRAM DIRECTOR, 6 YEARS OF UNAPOLOGETIC SERVICE TO BLACK GIRLS

"UYS provides hope, motivation, and inspiration to the next generation." - Raea

IF I HAD TO DESCRIBE MY JOB:  

MAMA BEAR!  I strive to teach and protect with ferocious intensity. 

FAVORITE #UYS MOMENT:

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.  

RAEA DEFINES #FORTHELOVEOFBLACKGIRLS AS:

To complete a positive mission for the love of a beautiful creature that looks like me. 

RAEA'S #BLACKGIRLINSPIRATION:

Her Mother!

BACKGROUND

Daughter of LaFaye, Raymond & Percy.  Wife to James.  Mother to EV & AJ.  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.

Zsavon Uniquely You Summit Staff

ZSAVON "ZZ" RAMSEUR

logistics director, 4 years of unapologetic service to black girls

"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

IF I HAD TO DESCRIBE MY JOB: 

 I'm almost like 'The Fixer'. The make it 'Happen-er!!'

Favorite #UYS moment:

Still being part of the ministry (it's what I like to call it), and witnessing its evolution!

Zsavon DEFINES #FORTHELOVEOFBLACKGIRLS AS:

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. 

ZSAVON's #BLACKGIRLINSPIRATION:

The 500 black girls we serve, year after year! And the women I work with on the journey!

BACKGROUND

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. 


Tanysha Uniquely You Summit Staff

TANYSHA POWELL

DIRECTOR OF REGISTRATION, 5 YEARS OF UNAPOLOGETIC SERVICE TO BLACK GIRLS

"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

IF I HAD TO DESCRIBE MY JOB:  

I bring all the girls to the yard!

FAVORITE #UYS MOMENT:

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.

TANYSHA DEFINES #FORTHELOVEOFBLACKGIRLS AS:

 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 #BLACKGIRLINSPIRATION:

Phylicia Rashad

BACKGROUND

Tanysha's greatest #BlackGirlInspiration, is her 1 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.

Zerandrian Uniquely You Summit Staff

ZERANDRIAN "Z" MORRIS

SOCIAL JUSTICE DIRECTOR*, 6 YEARS (& MANY LIFETIMES) OF UNAPOLOGETIC SERVICE TO BLACK GIRLS

"UYS is needed because there is still at least one black girl who doesn't think that she is beautiful." - Z

IF I HAD TO DESCRIBE MY JOB:  

I engage with young black women in ways that allow them to tear down patriarchy! 

FAVORITE #UYS MOMENT:

To reduce this to ONE moment would be a slap in the face of all that is UYS!

Z DEFINES #FORTHELOVEOFBLACKGIRLS AS:

We are a group of black girls who love ourselves.  Unapologetically.

Z'S #BLACKGIRLINSPIRATION:

The air of change happening in our world.  Specifically the change being birthed by fierce brown youth.  

BACKGROUND

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.)


 

 

Anjelica Uniquely You Summit Staff

ANJELICA SANDERS

HEALTH & WELLNESS COORDINATOR, 3 YEARS OF UNAPOLOGETIC SERVICE TO BLACK GIRLS

"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

IF I HAD TO DESCRIBE MY JOB: 

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.

FAVORITE #UYS MOMENT:

Witnessing my mom and Godmother be filled by the inspiration at our #WhatIKnowNow Brunch (April 2015).

ANJELICA DEFINES #FORTHELOVEOFBLACKGIRLS AS:

Taking action with the best interest of black girls (and women) as priority. 

ANJELICA'S #BLACKGIRLINSPIRATION:

Her six year old niece. 

BACKGROUND

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. 

 

THE GIRL EXCHANGE (GXC) COre TEAM:  

Brandi Mapp-Evans, M.Ed (5 years of service to black girls)

Jennifer Carroll, Ed.M (6 years of service to black girls)

JeNell LaRue, MS (6 years of service to black girls)

Phylicia Henry, MBA (4 years of service to black girls)