At Bellwood Bonfire, A Sisterhood Heats Up

Monday, November 20, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: The founders of Lādē Incorporated, a Bellwood nonprofit: Jessica Cox, Tamara Wallace and Marquetta Williams. | Shanel Romain 

In 2015, while living in Atlanta, Tamara Wallace, 27, had hit a low point.

“I was at a place where I was trying to find myself,” she recalled. “I lacked confidence and self-esteem. I was trying to figure out where I was and what I wanted to do. I didn’t have a special skill or talent or something I could call mine. What I realized about myself is that everyone comes to me for advice, people vent to me. I’m an encourager and I make people feel good about themselves.”

Two years later, Wallace is at the front of what is turning into a burgeoning local movement to help other young women find themselves. Last January, Wallace found her own nonprofit, Lādē Incorporated, which has become a vehicle for her budding ministry.

On Nov. 11, the organization hosted what it called a BONDfire in Bellwood, where Wallace now lives. For a few hours, around two dozen people, women and men, gathered around a bonfire built by Wallace’s father, Earl Wallace.

BondFire_Founder and father

Earl Wallace and his daughter, Tamara Wallace, the founder of Lādē Incorporated on Nov. 11. | Shanel Romain

“Every month, we try to do something that will benefit the community and women, and that is relevant,” Wallace said after the event, as Bellwood firefighters sat monitoring the flames.

Jessica Cox, 27, and a Lādē co-founder, said that the bonfire was something of a metaphor for their lives.

“In the summer, we had a blossom campaign,” Cox said. “We put down seeds and put down our hopes, dreams and wishes into those seeds and we catered to those seeds the whole summer, checking on their progress. Now, we’re in harvest season and that’s where the bonfire came in. You reap what you sow, so tonight we wanted to share all that we’ve accomplished this year.”

Those feats include a self-defense class the organization held in October in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Those who attended the bonfire were encouraged to bring donations, such as toiletries, that Lādē planned on dropping off to a local shelter for abused and battered women.

In January, Wallace said, the group will hold its annual vision board party, which entails young women putting down their goals for the year and implementing mechanisms that will hold them accountable, ensuring that those ambitions are met.

BondFire_People talking

Participants after a bonfire hosted by Lādē Incorporated in Bellwood. | Shanel Romain 

The concept is relatively foreign to millennials scattered to suburbs. Networks of the young and ambitious and like-minded are becoming more and more concentrated in the cities — in white collar havens like the Loop or creative hubs like Wicker Park.

Think of places like Bellwood and Maywood and vision boards don’t often come to mind. That’s a reality Wallace and her core group of Lādē co-founders (which includes 27-year-old Marquetta Williams) is trying to change as they each strive to find their individual purposes together.

“I popped into the picture recently,” Cox recalled. “We went to Proviso West together and I’d been kind of in the same place [as Wallace] two years ago. I was trying to find my purpose. I’m a good supporter, so I helped Tamara put her ideas down and organize them. I run errands and do decorations because I’m really creative. I kept emailing her ideas, like the one for the blossom campaign, and now I feel like I’m finding who I am and what I’m here for.”

That high sense of purpose and common striving attracted Moriah Warfield, of Westchester, to the Bellwood bonfire. And it could be what attracts many other young people into the group’s growing community of the young and purpose-minded.

“I have my own fashion brand and a lot of what you all were saying is kind of a mirror of what my brand is about,” Warfield told Cox and Wallace. “I’m always up for working with people. I just loved this.” VFP 

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