Name: Shalonda Menefee
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: Homebuying Specialist and Entrepreneur
Artist, coach, and entrepreneur Shalonda Menefee cannot be easily confined to a single label. This community leader makes sure to channel her energy into many productive and inspiring avenues any chance she gets.
“I consider myself a creative “healing artist,”’ she explains. “I’m a certified Sacred Woman Practitioner, energy worker, empowerment coach, clothing designer, mystic and artist. I’m trying to find a name that encapsulates all of who I am as there really is no label for what I do,” she laughs.
It was through years of life experiences and struggles that sparked Shalonda to start SISTAS: SISTAS Initiating Strategies to Achieve Success. Working with her community, she hosts empowerment workshops and events that help other women grow and maximize their full potential.
“Shortly after high school, I became a young mother and a wife. I did not continue the path I had hoped for myself, and retreated to taking care of my family. I also carried a little shame of having to drop out of college and losing my full scholarship all after being a Rose Festival Princess,” she explains.
It was only after she returned to college at 24, a divorced single mother of three, that she felt compelled to look for encouragement from those around her.
“I began to reach out to the community to find support in helping me regain my confidence and self-esteem as a black woman in Oregon, let alone a single black mother,” she says.
She found that, at that time, a sisterhood movement wasn’t available, so she created SISTAS as a place women of color could come and feel connected. This fostered a community that allowed women to lean on each other for resources, support, and encouragement.
Beginning in 2005, Shalonda began to hold SISTAS monthly gatherings where her friends would have dinner and share ideas. Over the years, it has expanded and shifted, with SISTAS holdingvarious workshops and events, providing business consulting and empowerment coaching, as well as crafting clothing and accessories. There is even a Back 2 Basics Youth program as well as the SISTAS Doll Workshops, and Shalonda is now working to achieve nonprofit status for SISTAS Empowerment Corp.
“SISTAS’s mission is creating an atmosphere of empowerment,” Shalonda explains. “It’s a movement that encourages and honors healing, individual expression, empowerment, and unapologetically embracing and honoring who we are inside and out, no matter our past and current circumstances.”
After several losses that weighed heavy on Shalonda’s emotionally, she decided to use her sewing machine to get her out of a depression. She took to creating and sewing cloth dolls and headwraps and accessories as a method of healing, and it was from that experience that the SISTAS doll workshops were born.
“I made my very first cloth doll in 2012, and that was so therapeutic I developed SISTAS Dolled Up workshops. This led into headwraps and accessories, which led me into making my first skirt. It was shortly after making the skirt my mother reminded me that I used to talk about being a clothing designer, and I’d sketch different types of clothes in high school. Life took me a different route, but now I’m back.”
Currently, Shalonda is working on an associated clothing line, called SHAMEN, which includes a New Normal 4 Now line of protective masks and accessories.
“As I began to learn tools to heal and grow, I learned to tap into my inner power,” Shalonda recalls. “I wanted to make sure I created the things that I needed so that others could have resources and support. In Oregon, there is a small population of black people, and it is hard to feel safe and encouraged with so much institutionalized racism and prejudices. With so many barriers, it’s hard to really feel confident that you could be successful. But it’s also challenging to pursue something if you feel like you are alone.”
What advice does this inspiring and passionate community leader have for young girls out there, growing up in these chaotic times?
“No matter what you have been through, know that you have survived, and you are stronger than the day before. Even the hardest experience we survive is a testimony of victory, and overcoming that will help someone else.”
“Always choose you first! Have a lot of fun learning about yourself,” she adds. “Always stay safe.”
Incredible advice! For her tireless work lifting up her community and helping others to heal and grow, we think Shalonda Menefee is an exceptional Cool Girl!
Follow along with Shalonda at any one of the links below!