Hello queen! Thank you so much for this opportunity to sit down and talk with you! Please first tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do!
My name is Taja Morris and I am a youth advocate first, the culture connection and the founder of Sisters with an Agenda. I have always been dedicated to helping those students who were missunderstood find their voice, understand the power of their skills and the importance of building relationships. I am Muslim and was raised in a muslim community where the women, and mothers created programs for us to develop life skills, personal development, leadership skills, community service and self-awareness.
Growing up Muslim I was taught to value morals that were taught to hold others accountable but help them along the way. I was involved in all different types of youth programs throughout elementary, middle and high school which led me down the path of creating programs after I graduated high school. Without a college degree, every job I worked at I was either creating youth programs or in some form of the leadership role or coaching/managing other team members.
I have worked as a director for summer camps, program coordinator for youth placement and created and facilitated Program Management and Social emotional training for Mastery Charter School for the last 5yrs. I love to help people grow and develop personally and professionally.
Where did you develop your initial interest in public service as it pertains to empowerment and motivating the community?
In 2007, after one year in college I returned to my alma mater Germantown High which is a Philadelphia Public School. I had signed up for Americorp to be a high school support staff. During my time there I was signed to support large math classes, after school programs and summer camp. After working in the school I had noticed a need for empowerment, self-awareness and self-esteem amongst the 9th grade students I was assigned to work with in the math classes. So I decided to write out a proposal and curriculum to start a youth empowerment program called Sisters with an Agenda. I submitted the proposal and once approved I had over 16 students sign up.
What has your preparation process been like? What experiences did you have early on that you feel contributed to your overall experience in your field?
Growing up in South Jersey, I was always involved in leadership, youth and empowerment programs. At the age of 5yrs old until I was 18yrs old I was involved in Girl Scouts and a youth leadership committee. I was always interested in how the program operated and once I was of age I was assigned to be a counselor or to work in leadership roles. During my years in high school at Germantown high I was the leader of the national honor society, dance team and manager of the cheerleading team. I took the tools I learn from being involved in those programs to write the curriculum for Sisters with an Agenda.
Talk to us about Sisters with an Agenda! How did this BRAND come about and where did you come up with the name?
So the name originated, as stated before, in 2008. I chose the name because I am a Sister by blood, Sister by Culture and a Sister by religion. At a young age I was different then my two older sisters and most girls my age because I always focus on leadership opportunities and things that would benefit my future goals. I always had a mission or agenda in mind when it came to everything that I did throughout middle and high school. I was never one of those children who did what was expected from my parents.
I kind of moved to my own beat when others didn’t understand because I knew what my mission was. Sisters with an Agenda’s mission was to help the young ladies identify what they want the world to know about them and where they saw success because I believe that if they had a mission in mind that when life distraction came about, they always had something to look forward to. In 2020, I relaunched Sisters with an Agenda as a safe place for women of color to release, reflect and celebrate.
The goal was to push women to tackle past trauma, limited beliefs and confidence that we truly joy in life with our personal and professional success.
What are some of the areas you are looking to impact the community in 2023?
I look to help females of color from 12yrs to adults release from the lack of confidence or trauma that hold us back from truly being happy and fulfilled. I realized that most people are hurt inside that even with professional success, loving relationships or financial freedom they are unhappy because they have trauma that holds them back from being their true self.
My goal is to continue to help amplify people of color’s stories, mission and message to help improve the next individual. I empower and coach people of color to find their voice, tell their story and stand in their truth without shame. Through my village we also provide space for people of color to be affirmed, receive access to tips, tools, and resources for personal and professional growth and support with promoting and advertising the Black owned business.
Please tell us about the Philly Culture Podcast! — What is the primary focus and what inspired you to create such an amazing and collaborative platform in addition to SWA?
The Philly Culture Podcast was inspired from our Black Business Friday Spotlight and Testimony Tuesday IG Live Series. We had so many people who wanted to come share their stories and as I worked in the inner city school of Philly my goal behind Sisters with an Agenda was always to bring exposure to the youth of how we have unlimited opportunities right at our fingertips.
I have been working in the youth sector and high schools across Philly since I was 18 years old. I have lost over 30 students to suicide and gun violence in the last 9 years. So my goal with the Philly Culture Podcast was to create a platform to motivate the youth growing up in Philly to know there are opportunities to be successful and to be someone important to the community no matter your background.
The Philly Culture Podcast spotlights people who grew up in different neighborhoods in Philly that are creators, entrepreneurs and community leaders right in the neighborhood where I serve my students. Through my connection with the Podcast guests I am able to get some guests to speak at school events, mentor students or connect students to their businesses for jobs or internships.
How does it feel to build a brand, coming from a large inner-city with limited resources and public knowledge for entrepreneurs of color?
For me it is personal because I work directly with students everyday who feel the impact of my work.
Their feedback keeps me motivated that my mission is important and that it has an impact on the decisions that our youth make. I have a young man who has created Brothers with an Agenda at a previous school I worked at. He was once my student who was silly in high school and played around all the time, so much so that he had to attend summer school in order to get his diploma.
He went off to college, graduated and came back to work summer school the same year I launched Sisters with an Agenda youth empowerment. He would come sit in my class and just watch. Once Summer Camp was over he asked me if I could help him start Brothers with an Agenda because he loved what I was doing with the girls. He now has 26 students and is fully operating the program by himself. I have had several students join my Testimony Tuesday where we go live on IG to reflect, release and celebrate our personal journey, boys and girls. As I have also had previous students join the Philly Culture Podcast.
It is sometimes overwhelming. Whenever I was asked what superpower I would choose if I could have one, my answer was always to help other people heal. God is doing that for me. At 18 years, a college drop out, I had a mission and agenda for myself and I stuck with it because I knew God put me here to help others heal, grow and thrive.
How do you go about finding support and growing your network in business?
I had a village of people from the different companies I worked at over the years. I have worked in schools, youth programs, youth placements, and from doing community service over the years. So once I got on social media I just showed up as me. I started the healing journey with myself and I opened up space for others to join. As the mission grew, I tapped into my marketing skills and I got on all platforms and networks.
I share my mission to help amplify the stories, mission and messages of others and people saw my dedication and transparency and were willing to join. I never stop… I just keep thinking about more ways to connect with others so I could collaborate with other businesses who share the same mission. I was never scared to ask people to join because I believe in my mission.
What does it mean for a “Sister” to have an “Agenda”? — Talk to us about planning and execution as it pertains to the WOC Community.
It means that you have to be dedicated to wanting to see growth. Every year we have a birthday and we grow by age. So as my sister I want to make sure you have the tools, support and space to grow personally and professionally.
Our motto is “want for your sister what you want for yourself.” I believe that to have an Agenda is to have a vision and plan of how you plan to grow. Every business, actor, athlete has a mission statement which gives them a vision and plan of how they are going to be successful. So Sisters with an Agenda is about creating a village where we will grow through having a mission, accountability and resources.
The plan is to provide coaching and consultation service around personal and professional development, events to build support sisterhood and network and build a directory that will be accessible for all with black owned businesses, community resource and youth programs.
What do you have coming up next, and how can our readers get involved? Where can we connect with you?
We are working on creating a Youth Program Development Ebook and Curriculum Templates. We will be relaunching our Unstuck Zoom Series for women to join a 4 month series where we collaborate with other women platforms to bring tips and tools on how to get unstuck around self-awareness, self-esteem, self-expression and self-accountability.
Our 4 month Series will run from September to December. We also will host some network socials at the end of 2023. We will have some accountability planners coming as well as some SWA Swag. You can stay connect via our website Sisterswithanagendavillage.org, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and stay update to date with everything on IG Live Page @sisterswithanagenda_newpage