We had the good fortune of connecting with Tyra Shange and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tyra, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I am from the Southside of Chicago and have family from the southern United States, mostly Mississippi and Georgia. My background and upbringing have a strong impact on who I am today because I was raised on a side of the city where we were so heavily stigmatized (by local agencies like Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Police Department, and the media) to believe we were not valuable. Growing up in the projects, I know what it means to feel undervalued or unworthy. The only thing that saved me from actually believing this as a child was how I perceived my Grandmother’s faith in God; experiences I had with family, in the church and outside of school; and being able to see the Sears Tower (renamed Willis Tower in 2009) from my bedroom window.
When I was growing up, I was bounced back and forth between my mother and grandmother. Both women had strong personalities, were single parents, and were responsible for my exploration of the city at an early age. Traveling across the city with my grandmother to and from work every day, I was able to see the clear differences in various neighborhoods. The word segregation wasn’t in my vocabulary until middle school, but it had a clear impact on my definition of community and my dream of what it could be. I have become an advocate for those that have been led to think they are powerless.
I am a strong believer in the idea of “training up a child.” I was trained to believe in the power of God’s plans for us. In fact, I’ve written poetry and essays about the need to see people as God sees us rather than how the world sees us. I have been blessed to have many experiences and meet so many dope people because I was willing to try and see something great in the people and things around me. My business motto is to “celebrate something about yourself.” It’s been a long journey, but I firmly believe that’s there something special in each of us worth celebrating.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
EbonySun is a digital design + consulting firm that was started to help others create a sense of worthiness in themselves and a sense of pride in their work. Our motto is “Celebrate something about yourself.” Very much a company that is community-centered and others-focused, our goal is to help leaders understand how to communicate their successes. I’m most proud of that because we often forget that leaders need motivation as well.
EbonySun, helps people #SlayTheDream in a number of different ways such as designing community-based engagement experiences, professional development and workshops, and strategy sessions. As a project manager and a community organizer, I gained over ten years of experience working with non-profits and churches across the Chicagoland area. Within these organizations, my focus has been youth development, family engagement, policy, and workforce development. I have planned, coordinated, and moderated multiple events across a broad range of topics to keep our communities informed and engaged. Additionally, I serve youth across the city of Chicago as a mentor and hopefully a positive example of leadership they can replicate.
Two of our newest products include small business website design and a podcast that we launched this Fall entitled, “When Queens Link.” The Fall/Winter season will also add an additional hoodie design and a new family set. Adding new services, updating a website, editing a book, and taking on a new role at a small university is keeping this new CEO busy. As I perfect each new skill or product, evaluating how my target audience is responding to it. As I look for additional ways to market services, I am contsnatly designing workshops, apparel, and motivational tools to slap my logo on. That part comes easy to me. What is challenging is storing ideas away as a creative. I have been designing graphics visual aids for companies and non-profit organizations for the past 6 years. I drafted, designed, and edited newsletters, pamphlets–bascially, anything piece of written or visual communication I could get my hands on. I served as the student writer in our university’s communications department during all four years of my undergraduate career. In fact, when I went to Cairo in my senior year-people called me crazy. But, as the Online Editor of The Caravan, I was able to gain writing and editing with an international institution while studying at the American Univerity of Cairo. To be brief, I turned my middle school through undergraduate years into the ultimate internship experience.
Next Fall, I will re-incorporate event planning back into my repertoire. I would love to finish this poetry book and start writing this play that’s been nagging at me. Over the course of my career, however, I have learned how many projects to take on before I start burning out. When I think of new business strategies, my priority stays the same. Adding a podcast that completely embodies the allure, resilience, and resourcefulness of my target audience seemed like the next best step. As I work through details like the slogan, social media bio description for each platform, and guest list. I am stockpiling content to use later until I finish developing my marketing strategy.
“When Queens Link” is brought to you by SincerelyTyra.com + EbonySun, LLC, the lifestyle brand that reminds you to “Celebrate something about yourself today.” It’s giving, Black Queendom at it finest, this podcast recognizes and celebrates Black women entrepreneurs as we defy all the odds the world has placed before us to #SlayTheDream.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love plays and art galleries, pop-up shops/events. If you’re in Chicago, you have to go to ETA Creative Arts Foundation and see Alvin Ailey at the Auditorium Theatre. Bulls games and our newest champions, Chicago Sky games are always exciting. There are so many restaurant options in the city and the suburbs. I love to go to Soul Veg or Majani’s on the Southside. Sociale is a chill spot in the heart of downtown. Beatniks on the River is another restaurant downtown that I have been yearning to get to in the summertime or spring. If you’d like to weigh in on a good Chicago restaurant debate; try both Harold’s Chicken and Uncle Remus and rate them accordingly. If your taste buds are intact, you’ll pick Harold’s over Remus.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people that I could recognize here! I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to my sister and friend, Jackie Eadie. She is a strong encourager and passionate about her work with youth and within the community. Because our work intersects so much, she often calls me “the plug.” But what she may not know is that it’s everyday conversations like those that remind me why I do the work to motivate others and keep us connected. Community organizing and advocating for people’s dreams is often thankless work. Thank you, Jackie, for your tireless efforts!
If I had to thank anyone else, all my love and gratitude goes to God, my friends, and countless mentors. In the spirit of saying their names: Sameyah, MaryAnn, Zelma, James, Corlis, Shirley, Cecelia, Amina, Jawanza, Jalida, Jitu, Jeanette, Ja’Vida, Jasmine, Joseph, Mandisa, and William.