Meraki is a Greek term for doing something with soul, creativity and love.  In Waco, Texas Sophia A. Strother is definitely living out loud to spread her meraki love throughout her community.  In the wake of the Black Live Matters movement and the pandemic, Sophia is striving to secure better standards for her Texas community.  She founded Empowerment Driven by Knowledge Coalition in 2008 to bring awareness surrounding the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.  I wanted to utilize my gift to market, coordinate events, and network to partner with various community organizations to bolster their voice and imprint to make an impact,” says Sophia. 

Through her organization she has been driven to create change with the use of the awareness hashtags known as #GetLoudGetOut and #ChangingImagesSavesLives.  “When I was 9 years old I was sexually abused while my mother was working overnight. The abuse carried on for two years; and throughout that time I was taught to be quiet and never talk about it. My abuser taught me that if men ever become mad at me or leave me it would be my fault,” she explains. “As I grew up and experienced abuse I never spoke up and always blamed myself. In my early 30’s I started to realize I needed to GET LOUD {talk to anyone} and GET OUT {leave in a safe way} to exit toxic relationships. Ever since then that’s been the mantra I share with others,” Sophia continues.

Sophia continued her advocacy with the birth of the #ChangingImagesSavesLives hashtags.  This particular hashtag was brought about from the injustices of the Trayvon Martin death.  Sophia wants this hashtag to shed light on how we treat each other within the Black community.  “If we begin to value one another while working together, we will be able to effectively fight against the devaluation that we endure by others,” she encourages.  Her outreach is commendable in various ways.  Sophia continues to push forward despite her own trauma in order to protect the lives of those in her community.

With the onset of the pandemic many saw the disparities in care, vaccine access and overall awareness of the severity of the virus.  In addition to her other community efforts, Sophia partnered with her faith-based community to create Meraki Medical Associates to combat the health disparities within communities of color in East Waco, Texas.  She saw the need and the destruction that COVID caused with firsthand experience from her immediate relatives.  She took a leap of faith and continued to be the change that she wishes to see.  In a country where life and death are in the hands of those that built communities to fail by eliminating access to hospitals, highways, grocery stores and banks; we must advocate for ourselves. Launching Meraki Medical Associates is my small part in that quest to eliminate barriers that lead to our health disparities,” she expresses.

Despite her push to advocate for communities of color, many BIPOC communities have several reservations about receiving the vaccine. The medical and scientific community have habitual misused our trust and taken advantage of our disparities. However, I’ve seen the effects of COVID-19 within my family so whatever steps I can take to add another layer of protection for them; I’m willing to do,” Sophia continues. “We take risks daily to protect our families: ie allowing our children to get annual vaccines, taking the flu shot, or taking medications that can have serious adverse reactions. Our faith isn’t solely in the medicines or the vaccinations, our faith is in the assurance we are taking all necessary precautions based on the information available at the time to protect our loved ones,” she continues.  Sophia is a change agent that we need in our communities.  Her Black Girl Magic is priceless, reassuring and in support of BIPOC communities everywhere.  It is easy to sit back and watch as countless adversities occur in society but she is actively taking steps to bring awareness, eliminate disparities and create hope.  Connect with Sophia Strother online and with Meraki Medical Associates here.  Support her widestream efforts in making her change occur mainstream.

Writer, C. Scott, is a mompreneur, educator, social work and more.  Follow her on Instagram and Clubhouse as @curls_coils.  Follow her preschool journey on Instagram as @beautifulshadeslc.

All images courtesy of Sophia A. Strother