We are links in a chain. The drive to provide for ourselves and our family, to create beauty from our circumstances, to persevere in the hardest of times, these are humanities that connect us.
The human story fascinates me. It pushed me from the South to New Mexico, to degrees in social work and anthropology, and to Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.
When I came back to the States, two things stuck: I was humbled by a poor country’s spirit of community. And, like so many who travel, I could see my own country through new eyes, freshly grateful for its land of opportunity (and overwhelmed by the sea of food in the grocery store).
We are put on this Earth in such wildly different places. So I decided to tell the story of what we share.
I started a gallery in Denver. From Slaveship to Ownership, with African masks, statues and jewelry. Over two decades I saw people who looked nothing like me have a dedicated interest in what we sold. They loved the craftsmanship of items that looked nothing like them. Art was our bridge.
Ti-a came from a chance connection that led to my first trip to Africa. I saw impoverished women and a growing trade. A 20-hour bus ride from their villages to the nearest major city. Ti-a has since helped hundreds of women develop their craft. Better yet, Ti-a has linked them with raw goods, connections and financial education to make their craft profitable.
(In the beginning we had to get permission from a weaver’s husband and tribal chief so she could earn money outside the home. Empowerment is real and it is working.)
I’m an idealist, yes. I’m also a proud businesswoman who started Ti-a with $100 and a hand up, not a handout, is something I firmly believe. My path has been filled with chance encounters that gave me a hand up. You and I, let’s keep passing that spirit along.
- Simbala Drammeh