Let’s Talk! A Conversation with Jamira Burley and Ariela Suster

BY Rachel S. Winkler

Jamira Burley and Ariela Suster are social entrepreneurs, activists, and co-founders of I Am Here To, a community dedicated to turning personal struggle into a force for good. A long-time client of mine, Ariela has continued to inspire me, and I was excited to hear about her joint effort with Jamira, and now I look forward to helping with these efforts as counsel.

Both Ariela and Jamira grew up in communities directly impacted by violence, racism, poverty, and crime. They have turned their hardships and trauma into a mission to give voices to others and create real change.

Below are a few of the themes from our Let's Talk conversation that I wanted to highlight.

Ariela left a successful career in fashion to start Sequence, a jewelry and accessories collection that employs, trains, and empowers at-risk youth in El Salvador. She set out with an intention to end the circle of gang violence near her hometown. Ariela notes that finding your passion gives you confidence. She can pursue her mission with intention and purpose and is true to herself and her background while doing it.

Jamira also stresses moving with intention as we are faced with opportunities. Instead of saying yes to every opportunity, we need to ask ourselves, What is my mission? It's important to define your goals and what success looks like to you and also remember, rejections are redirections.

Jamira has had an impressive career. She has been recognized by the Obama White House as a Champion of Change, a Forbes 30 Under 30 Honoree, and too many others to name. When I asked Jamira what she sees as her greatest accomplishment, she shared that it was seeing her younger siblings graduate high school, go on to college, or learn a trade. You do not need to be defined by what has happened to you. Seeing her siblings choose a different path and learning demonstrated you can write your own story.

Organizations and individuals are all rushing to make social change in our current climate. Jamira and Ariela stress that the key is first to understand your own experiences and why those are driving you to create change. Identifying those most important issues to you and your organization will help you move with more intention and authenticity. Start small. You need to truly understand the issues in order to create change.

This is a time for different voices to finally be heard. Jamira and Ariela share that believing that you deserve to be heard is an important first step. They are on a mission to empower young people to find their voices and create social change. Jamira emphasized the point to speak up by quoting Zora Neale Hurston, "If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it." Use your voice to speak out.

Learn more about Ariela and Jamira's story and support their mission for change here.

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Rachel S. Winkler


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