Friday, August 18th at Missouri’s Botanical Garden, WEPOWER hosted their second ever Garden Party. LaParis Hawkins shared her journey with WEPOWER and what’s to come. LaParis is a graduate of the 2023 cohort of WEPOWER’s Chisholm’s Chair Fellowship and the founder and owner of Tailored Pieces.
August 18, 2023
LaParis Hawkins | The Renaissance
LaParis is a graduate of the 2023 cohort of WEPOWER’s Chisholm’s Chair Fellowship and the founder and owner of Tailored Pieces.
Friday, August 18th at Missouri’s Botanical Garden, WEPOWER hosted their second ever Garden Party. LaParis Hawkins shared her journey with WEPOWER and what’s to come.
I am LaParis Hawkins. I am the daughter of Latrice Claxton. I am the granddaughter of Dorothy Person. I am a proud entrepreneur currently living in North City. In June 2021, I moved back to St. Louis for the first time as an adult. My mother had been diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer called multiple myeloma. As an only child, it was a no-brainer to move home to care for her. She said she didn’t want me giving up my life for her, but she’d been the perfect example that love and sacrifice often go hand in hand. Little did she know, I was aching to experience a change of pace.
I moved to New York City a week after graduating from Mizzou. The “job” I’d accepted was really a six week freelance Beauty Assistant Editor position at thee one and only EBONY Magazine. For the next nine years, I pursued my editorial dreams having written and worked for publications such as EBONY, ESSENCE Magazine, InStyle Magazine, ESPN, and a host of other blogs. I also reviewed books and wrote two novels. When the magazine publishing industry practically diminished, I worked in luxury retail at Ralph Lauren on Madison Avenue, directly under the Lauren family.
New York enriched the foundation laid by St. Louis, having been born and raised here. It taught me strong values in business and how to be persistent. Living in Bed-stuy Brooklyn also opened my eyes to the importance of valuing and preserving culture in predominantly Black neighborhoods. Gentrification had crept in and slowly taken over like a plague, misplacing and pricing out families who had given decades of their time, love, sacrifice, and resources to building up their communities.
It was also why I was so excited when I was able to inherit a family house in North City when I moved back home. The walls held so many family laughs and memories, and it would be the first time I’d be living alone, roommate free. Returning home to STL and to my family home in North City has also allowed me the freedom to be a full time entrepreneur and continue to build my lifestyle brand Tailored Pieces that I created in 2020. When I proudly tell people I live in North City, I am immediately met with side eyes and criticism from colleagues and other millennials who look down on the area they considered “the hood”. Of course I wasn’t oblivious to the never ending gun shots at night and the food deserts in the area. I have to drive at least 15 minutes to go to a decent coffee shop and most of the small restaurants that I remembered from childhood are now gone.
But in between everything the area seemingly lacked to the naked eye, I saw beauty, I still see beauty everyday I leave and return home. Imagine if all the beautiful brick abandoned homes became refurbished and re-inhabited by Black families instead of being owned by LLC’s and corporations with no true commitment to STL and that don’t even reside in Missouri.
Imagine if MLK Drive was North City's version of Cherokee Street on the Southside, with bustling clothing stores, Black-owned craft beer shops, co-working spaces, and good toe-curling soul food. A space where Black entrepreneurs can thrive while also pouring back into the community that produced them.
This exact weekend last year I attended the first ever WEPOWER garden party with this imagination of North St. Louis city tucked away in the back of my mind. I didn’t know much about the organization until Charli gave her speech. Immediately, I knew I wanted to be a part of the tangible change they were creating around the city. I applied and was accepted into WEPOWER’s Chisholm Chair Fellowship where Black and Latinx women explore leadership development and consider pursuing publicly elected and appointed offices. The Chisholm Chair Fellowship taught me about the current political landscape of St. Louis. Although I’m still unsure if I’ll ever run for a public seat, I’m confident that I will eventually sit on boards and commissions and continue to build businesses that positively impact the upward mobility of Black people in this city, especially North City.
Imagine If we recognized that we have everything we need to transform the North. Because we actually don’t have to imagine it, we have everything that we need! Imagine If we prioritized collective economics to leverage banks to reclaim real estate. Imagine If we developed a shared political strategy and community to ensure we have more seats and influence to rebuild and nurture North St. Louis City. WEPOWER has given me the confidence and tools to believe that change can truly happen sooner than we think. Thriving leaders lead to thriving businesses, which also leads to thriving communities. We are all one relationship away from activating our purpose.
My mom transitioned on May 6th of this year.
My WEPOWER family has been such an amazing support system as I grieve. But there is peace in knowing my mother Latrice Claxton completed her assignment here on earth.
Every morning I wake up in my house in my home town, I am reaping the harvest of my ancestors. It is now my duty to help build a community that one day our children can be proud to call their own. Revolution isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. No one is coming to save us. There is a place for you here at WEPOWER. Join us in the journey of improving St. Louis from a place of joy, love, community, and liberation.
We’ve been waiting for you. Instead of making a mountain of my mother’s transition, I choose to be a living memorial of her legacy and reflect her benevolence, compassion, and strong-will for the good of others. I have no plans on moving to another city. I’ve been replanted here with purpose.