Mikaela Sydney Smith is no stranger to being the change she wants to see in the world.
At age 12, she started collecting socks from friends and family to distribute to shelters during the wintertime for kids in need. By age 13, she started BrownGirlMagic.com and with the help of her mom, she planned and executed the Brown Girl Magic empowerment conference in Atlanta and drew in hundreds of young entrepreneurs like herself to share their stories of success and self-esteem.
Now at age 17, as racial tensions flare at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement and people calling for change and as COVID-19 cases steadily rise, Mikaela found that although her social life was suffocating, she could march and protest and do something meaningful to make a difference.
The teen activist decided to expand her Brown Girl Magic platform to launch an inspiring t-shirt business with apparel that speaks to Black empowerment, beauty, and civil rights.
“Last year I was protesting after the George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks shootings and I went to the Wendy’s site in Atlanta where Rayshard was shot and I bought a Black Lives Matter tee shirt. I decided I wanted to do something that I knew would be inspirational but I also wanted to make sure kids like me wouldn’t have to go out and risk our lives to get a tee-shirt,” she admits. “Sadly about a week after I got my shirt a little girl was shot near the Wendy’s where I stood and purchased a tee,” she recalled.
Mikaela’s mom applied for a COVID grant that allowed them to not only upgrade their business and offer merch but give back and offer a $500 scholarship to a graduating senior in the name of her aunt, Janet Vernette Woodson-Holmes who was murdered in late 2019 in Philadelphia.
Mikaela’s aunt Janet, along with her two sons and husband, was killed by her eldest son who was suffering from a mental illness. The story made national headlines and deeply affected her family to the core.
“I know that I am not the only young woman who has experienced such tragedy, but I aspire to push through so that I can inspire change in the world,” says Mikaela, a senior at Ola High School in McDonough, Georgia.
Her aunt was a passionate hairstylist, who was in the middle of renovating a building in West Philadelphia to open a hair salon. Mikaela decided to use a portion of the COVID grant to gift a deserving female, African American student with a $500 scholarship to aid her in making her hairstyling goals a reality.
And to further help her business grow, earlier in 2021, Mikaela pitched her business and won the Henry County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Shark Tank Jr. competition first place prize.
For Mikaela, it’s all about spreading sisterly love and activating her own inner magic to make a difference.
“I know that colleges are getting hit hard too because of COVID and a lot of kids won’t get the scholarships they thought they would,” said the Philly native who now lives in McDonough.
“So I’m so happy that I can help another young lady reach her dreams in the name of my aunt.”
“I sat down with my mom and we picked messages that we felt would connect with young people. And there are just fun shirts that anybody can wear too!” she says.
Mikaela concludes: “I love funny and fun tees and I hope that people support my business so I can continue to help others.”
For more information or to purchase inspiring tee shirts and merch to support Mikaela, visit BrownGirlMagic.com
This story first appeared on Blacknews.com.