small business owner and community activist

Photo by Anaya Battle ’22

We had just gotten home late. I turn to my husband and said I was tired of witnessing things like this. It was late and we were both tired. We went inside and called it a night. The next day we heard that the police were called and someone was arrested.

I grew up in the Bronx and moved to Allentown with my family in November 1986 to have a better life. I have eight siblings: four girls and four boys. Two of my sisters work here at Muhlenberg College actually, in plant operations. I also have four daughters, two of them are still in middle school. When I was 22, I graduated from Empire Beauty School. My mom was a beautician so I learned from her and just never stopped after that. I now own my beauty salon ‘Yamilett Unisex Salon’ on Gordon Street.

I try to help out as much as I can in the community.  There are a lot of resources in Allentown that can help with rent, especially if it has to do with COVID. Casa Guadalupe would help with that and so would Pathways Housing Services. The problem is, rent has increased majorly; you can’t find a one-bedroom apartment in Allentown for under $1,000 a month. Everything has gone up – electricity, food, everything. People are struggling and need help and that is where this program can help them out.

After COVID, things changed. I personally try to reach out to anyone I know who can help. I work closely with a non-profit, COHESION, whose mission is to empower youth and young adults in marginalized communities to develop self-worth and strong character. The founders, Darian and Yolanda Colbert have a vision for the area of the 1st and 6th wards that is promising.

The city’s 1st and 6th Wards are trying to get the community to be better. They work closely with the youth. Later this month, we are planning to host a block party.. They will have stations up where people can register to vote, to get their voices out. They have a voice and they got to know that. Hopefully, now that the weather is getting better, we can address the community face to face instead of online.

The city does have a 2030 plan. It’s about 90% complete. The plan focuses on beautification, public safety, and neighborhood health care. The PPL Center has improved the area a lot, but not in the 1st and 6th wards. We need a bank, preferably a credit union. We need a recreation center. That would be awesome. Or even a place where the youth can go and work on resumes and write a paper. We need a lot of things. But it is looking promising.

I feel connected to Allentown because of the neighborhood. I know everyone around me. The city council, the people who live near me, and the business owners. Allentown has improved a lot, but there needs to be equal opportunity for everyone not just in one area.

Interviewed by Valerie Kusner ’23, photo by Anaya Battle ’22

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