“I was incarcerated for five years and released in 2011. One of the things that I do now when I’m having a bad day or just feeling like I have not accomplished anything in life is I look at two photos side by side. One of the photographs is of me during my incarceration. The OTHER photo is of me on the day of my college graduation. I was separated from my children while incarcerated and I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want to live anymore, but I survived, and this is were I find my strength. I then went on to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and I also have my Associate’s degree in social work.

My brother was also murdered two years ago and we are still dealing with the grief. I have chosen to stand up for justice and keep speaking his name. I’m involved with some great organizations now such as the National Homicide Justice Alliance, Operation Save Our City, Prison Ministries, and I am also a part of the mentor program at the Criminal Justice Center and I mentor those who are reintegrating back into our communities. I also am working on establishing an organization in memory of my brother which is called SOMBER – “Sisters Of Murdered Brothers Emerging & Revolutionizing”.

My strength to persevere comes from my struggles, and I have decided to help others make it through their struggles.”

Strength Source Project in the Philadelphia Inquirer!

The Strength Source Project was recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 7th!

The project was also on Philly. com:

Columnist Helen Ubinas interviewed me as well as two of the women who have participated in the project, Kelli and Angelique. Below is the collage of images that was included within the article.




“I’m a social worker, and I work mainly with individuals addicted to heroin in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. What I spend my days doing is attempting to meet people where they are at, and then empower them to make changes in their lives. It’s a privilege to hold space for people’s pain and strife while encouraging vulnerability, openness, and honest dialogue about taboo subjects. Working with addicts has taught me that change starts with them, not me, but that I can create room for them to contemplate the changes they might (or might not) want to make. I can listen to them, and my goal is always for them to feel cared for and heard when our time together has ended. I guess I feel strong when I know that someone else is empowered because of our time together.  

I can identify clear times in my life in which I have felt empowered by another person, so to be able to bring that feeling to someone else, is the greatest gift I could ever ask for. I feel strong when others feel strong.  For this reason, I often advocate for change and am not shy about calling out injustice, while consistently being reminded that I have much to learn. I am usually outspoken and get most accomplished when I am emotionally involved. That is probably why being a social worker seems so natural for me. I find strength in other’s people’s resilience, and often find their resilience contagious. If my clients can find beauty and be strong while suffering from addiction and homelessness, then I most certainly can find beauty and be strong in whatever hardship I am experiencing. 

I also think strength is multi-faceted and doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes, I am strongest when I look weakest. When I need help and feel broken, but can muster up enough courage to ask for help – I know I am strong. When my clients come to me in tears and tell me they don’t know what to do next, I immediately tell them how strong they are for being able to come in and talk to someone. THAT, in my opinion is the strongest a person could ever be. To position oneself open to receive requires so much vulnerability and this represents more strength than I have the capacity to fully comprehend.”

Participate in the Project

Hello out there! If you would like to participate in the project, please see the contact option above (in the menu bar) — and get in touch!! I would love to meet you, take your photograph, and share your story!



*A side note on Jen’s story: I first met Jen over ten years ago when she cut my hair while working in someone else’s salon.  Later, she continued to cut my hair in yet another salon – owned by someone else — but NOW she owns her OWN successful salon. I love seeing talented women taking charge and making things happen.

“Being a hairstylist for the last 20 years, I’ve met so many amazing people. As much as my job requires putting a smile on my face and pretending everything is ok in my own personal life, the compassion I feel for others and the ability to make their day better makes me realize I do make a difference in this world.

When I made the decision to open my own Salon 7 years ago, no one told me how hard it would be or the challenges I may face. My family, friends, and clients were so excited for my new journey. The fact that everyone believed in me gave me the strength to start a business. So after collapsed ceilings, plumbing failures, electrical fires, and the fact that 15 human beings rely on me to support them professionally and financially….I stand taller than before.

I would try to envision how the perfect Salon would be in my eyes, the location, employees, and most importantly the way our clients would be treated and the quality of our work. Everyday I look around and see this! I’m so grateful for everyone who had believed, supported, and trusted my vision. This makes me feel empowered and drives me to overcome and look forward to whatever the future may bring.”

Jen is the owner of Crimson Hair Studio :





“I don’t remember feeling stronger than I do right now. Turning 40 was hard for me, I had been in an unhealthy and unhappy relationship and I was stuck professionally. In times like these, I find myself going back to a passage by the Sufi poet Rumi: Let yourself be led by the stronger pull of what you really love. It’s a reminder to trust in the process of this universe and the light within yourself. To be still and listen to what your heart is telling you.  

When I was at my wits end with my relationship this past summer, I turned to exercise for an outlet. Feeling stronger physically allowed me to find the strength to not settle –  and to recognize that I needed and deserved to be happy. I ended up leaving my significant other which was a positive step for both of us. We have been able to do this with honor and respect. While untangling these binds on my personal life, I felt more present and open to where the universe was taking me. I felt the strong pull of what I really love most and it presented itself to me in my dream job: director of a small arts organization. I feel like everything that I have worked towards has led to this moment, it is my calling, and I feel like I can do anything.”




“Music has always been my main love. During high school when I was awkward, too skinny, and just plain old weird in the eyes of my peers I put all my creativity into writing and practicing. This caused much heartache between me and many of my friends and people that I love because I had to be selfish with my time in order to pursue my goals. It really isn’t easy sometimes. I decided to pursue music seriously after a depression in high school when I felt I wasn’t being my true self. I was a cheer leader and hanging out with people who didn’t treat me nicely. But being in a small Catholic school I just hung out the whoever was there. Music lifted me out of the depression and I kinda said “fuck it” (excuse the language 🙂 ) and decided to go for it and pursue music more seriously. When I play guitar and sing I feel relieved. I feel best when writing music though as this is how I can show the darkness, heartache, and happiness I experience

I spent last summer as an actor in Philadelphia studying at the prestigious Playhouse West. I loved it and accelerated rapidly at the craft of acting. Within a few weeks I was attending film festivals, was in two films, did a bit of modeling, and got a role in a play. I met amazing friends that I still have. However, what acting taught me was to listen to my soul. Although I love acting and really hope to get into the business eventually, my soul told me to leave and do music. Although I was naturally talented in acting, it wasn’t my main objective. I am now studying sound engineering, interning at a recording studio, performing live at open mics and nursing homes, and working on an undisclosed project to be released by this summer.” 



“I spent three years of my childhood living in central Alaska. During the summer, many of my days and nights involved running through the deep woods. I remember feeling free and fierce.  I was always a tiny kid – skinny, with a very soft voice, and a face that made me look younger than I really was. I was the littlest person in my entire extended family. People constantly commented on my size and my voice and this, paired with moving every few years, meant I grew quite shy (which sometimes read as coldness). For a large part of my life I’ve carried the weight of others’ judgements and perceptions of me and at times it has affected how I perceive myself. But when I was in the woods, I felt strong because the wilderness never judged me. It never mattered how big or loud I was. I felt invincible, like I was apart of that majestic space – and it was amazing.

In my adult life, I feel the strongest when I tie into that same feeling I had in the forest and I block out the chatter in my head that is concerned with how others perceive me. When I move forward without questioning myself, that is when I feel the most powerful. Working on the Strength Source Project has made me feel stronger because while I am naturally introverted, I have pushed myself to meet with so many women all over the city. Pushing beyond the perception of seeing myself as small or meek, I feel like I have become apart of something so much bigger — a greater connection with other women – and we are in that wilderness together – and it’s wonderful.”



One thing that I have done in the past and still continue to do that makes me feel strong inside is creating and accomplishing goals. I think after several break ups and heart breaks, including losing my grandmother and aunt in the same year, I realized setting goals and working towards them has helped me feel stronger inside. To accomplish something after a tough time is like opening a new chapter in my life. I remember a time when I thought I was about to lose everything. I went into a deep depression for a month or so. One day, I woke up and started creating goals for myself. Within that year, I graduated college, built my career in the corporate industry and in the modeling industry. So now a days, when things don’t go according to plan in my life, I use my goals as a way out, a way to mend wounds and a way to feel more alive.

I think the message that I really want to bring to others is that, you just have to keep pushing yourself to become a greater you. It could be small goals like finally visiting that city you’ve always wanted to see or applying to the job you’ve always wanted. To just take that first step and know you’ve finally tried will always make you feel stronger than ever. It’s like you’ve faced your fears and jumped.



“What makes me feel strong are the twenty-four years that I have been in business – and it makes me feel strong that I’m a woman and I can do this type of work in a field that is  mostly dominated by men. I have sacrificed a lot of time and energy and a personal life for my business and having it work and seeing that I am finally being recognized in the industry on an international level and knowing that I can employ people and give them a livable wage – THAT makes me feel strong. I think all in all I worked really hard to get to a place where I’m very proud of what I do and and I enjoy what I do. It’s not really work, it’s more of a lifestyle and being in the studio and working and being creative and appreciated for it – it’s a wonderful life. Going to the job site yesterday when I saw the work we completed together on the project – after many months of working on it – I said to myself wow I did that – and that makes me feel strong.”

*Kathy is a master craftswoman, who is world renown for her skills in employing the scagliola technique, which is a technique of creating architectural elements that are indistinguishable from marble  – using industrial plasters and silk.”

you can can view her work at: