Not a stereotypical Appalachian

I am an example of diversity in West Virginia; someone who does not fit the stereotype of an Appalachian. I am a Black woman and an immigrant. I was born in a small South American country called Guyana. My family immigrated to Brooklyn, New York when I was 17 years old.  We were sponsored by my aunt, Dolly and came to the US legally. For five years our family of five lived in my aunt’s finished basement. During this time, my parents worked tirelessly in their new careers and saved most of what they earned, enabling them to purchase a home. We then went through the process of becoming naturalized US citizens.

The fact that I am different has not affected my career trajectory in West Virginia. I feel blessed to be the President and CEO of the largest community foundation in central Appalachia and the 82nd largest in the nation. I’m enjoying a fulfilling career in philanthropy. The word philanthropy means love for humankind. I love the fact that we get to invest in organizations that are making lives better and making communities better. I relish the fact that we get to invest directly into West Virginians who are pursuing post-secondary education via our scholarship program. My grandmother only had a 4th-grade education, but she managed to instill in her children and grandchildren the value of an education. So our scholarship program is near and dear to my heart. The philanthropy sector exists because this state has had and continues to have extraordinarily generous people. People whose love for their fellow man compelled them to put that love into action by sharing their wealth. These are people who believe that better is possible. 

I strive daily to change the narrative about West Virginia. According to a well-known Proverb, life and death are in the power of the tongue. I believe that West Virginia is the best place to live for people of all ages and races, who want to change the world — a humble place where one can make a difference, raise a family, and find real community. 

I’ve lived in New York and Ohio. Twenty-six years ago, when Union Carbide Corporation recruited me, I chose West Virginia. I left chemical engineering over 20 years ago, in pursuit of my passion for community economic development, and I chose to stay here. I found my purpose here. My life has meaning here. I believe that better is possible here. So, I am here until God says otherwise.

Recent Content


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This