With May Day coming up on May 1, it’s a great time for us all to be re-inspired by Lucy Parsons, a #BlackIndian Latina resistance leader. She taught us how to resist, as she helped organize the first May Day march of 1886, setting up modern protest as we know it today. If it weren’t for Lucy, we might all be working 16 hours a day in factories from childhood on. She was an intersectional feminist and mother of the sit-down strike (sit-ins in the 1960s and Occupy most recently).
This week, we bring you Allyson Ahlstrom
Tell us about your background and how you got started with your calling in life.
I am currently a senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, pursuing a Bachelor of Science with concentrations in Finance and Real Estate. In high school, I had the idea to hold a one-time clothing drive for girls in foster care. I sent out over 300 letters to different clothing companies explaining who I was and what I was trying to do. From January 2010 to August 2010, I collected brand-new clothing donations. We held the opening event in August of 2010, where 13 girls in foster care received a free brand-new outfit. Since then, Threads for Teens has grown into a full-time national nonprofit, with multiple boutique locations.
What do you identify with about Lucy Parsons?
I believe Lucy spoke out strongly for women and their empowerment. I most definitely identify with this as Threads for Teens’ direct mission is to empower teen girls.
What are your proudest moments?
I have a few milestones with Threads for Teens that I find really important to the organization and my personal growth. These would be holding our first event in August of 2010, completing our first nationwide tour in the Summer of 2013, and making the decision to pursue growing Threads for Teens full-time post-grad.
What have your biggest challenges been and what do you anticipate?
The Summer tour in 2013 was incredibly difficult to put together. There were many logistics surrounding the stops. We had 49 in one summer! I definitely did not know what I was getting myself into beforehand. While it was an incredible experience, we outfitted over 1000 girls in a new outfit, it also took a lot of energy. Right now I am working to fund raise to support further programming development, which is something I have not ever done on such a large scale. This is quite daunting, but I am confident that we will meet our goal.
How are you using your voice? And how are you helping others do the same?
I hope that any who hears about my work with Threads for Teens understands that no matter your age, you can make a difference. I started Threads for Teens when I was fourteen, and have had incredible success. Toward this end, several girls in high school have heard the story and been so empowered to hold their own Threads for Teens events across the country. Check out this video of Maddy from Detroit
What do you want to change in the world? And how will you do it?
I want to continue working to empower a population that is generally overlooked, teen girls in foster care. Beyond increasing clothing through confidence, I will begin to work to develop mentorship and education curriculum. The programming will give girls resources to help them graduate from high school and go on to higher education.
What’s next for you?
If you feel Lucy Parsons’ spirit of resistance lives in you, get in touch! We’d love to hear about you and your activism.