Written By: Andrea Sanchez-Mendoza
Afiya Williams is the founder and director of Wildfiya, a social enterprise focused on creating racial justice through lifestyle transformation. “Wildfiya is my baby, and I started it technically by name, back in 2016”, expressed Afiya over the phone from New York after getting off of a long flight from Costa Rica. In the past year, she restored her brand to focus on her mission “to empower black women and women of color to live joyful and liberate lives. We will do that by providing life-enriching or joy enhancing experiences, and tools that empower those shifts”. Women are the pillars of many communities, they lift up families, and economies but sadly they are often “left behind, misunderstood, or violated… And I feel that is usually black women”.
“Black women still continue to carry the broad responsibilities of their community, homes and being able to move things forward. So from women who live in the projects to women who can sit around the boardroom table, it just feels like we deal with stress, our well-being, experience conformity, and conditioning just to belong in different spaces”.
Like a Wildfire
Wildfiya is not a name of a brand you hear of every day, it’s unique just like Afiya’s journey has been so far. The name of her brand is a play off of her name Afiya, mixed in with the word fire to create a play on the word, wildfire. “The reason is something will spread like wildfire, be powerful, go far and wide”. Her brand’s goal is to deliver these “messages and the good feelings that we want black people to have to go further and wider than just those of us who can access them fairly easily”. And just like a wildfire she is spreading her mission to live a life that embodies her style. Which is what drew her to stay in Costa Rica.
Destressing with Chocolate
Chocolate is most people's simple pleasure in life because once you eat a piece of chocolate you are rushed with levels of serotonin and dopamine, which allows us to feel happiness and stress-free even for just a moment. So it’s no wonder that Afiya found that same level of happiness and relaxation while interning at Talamanca Chocolate Farm, a chocolate farm in Costa Rica.
Change in the Road Map
When asked, what is one piece of advice she wished she heard earlier in life she responded that “it would be to have the fear and do it anyway. To not overthink everything and to find a way to believe in your ideas even if they fall flat.” Even though she has an adventurous spirit she did not plan to quit her job. As of earlier this year, she now pursues Wildfiya full-time. “Yeah, I felt like I did a lot of courageous things in my life. I feel like this is still one of the more courageous because it takes a lot of putting yourself out there”. She just wanted to be living the message that she was preaching, but she made abundantly clear that her mission in life is not for everyone to randomly quit their jobs. “What I want for everyone is some road map or some way to figure out what it is and how you can exist within your own worlds”.
Her story reminds us that we don't all need to follow the same road map, that it’s okay to take the road less traveled. Even though it can be scary to follow a different path than many of our peers are on. Fear is scary and can stop a lot of us from having the life we may want. We just need to remember that we push past that fear and create the life we have manifested, just like Afiya did.
Afiya was inspired “during the pandemic, because it became “really clear that black people were suffering in so many ways. It's just so hard to watch, but then it's like, all we can do is suffer. When we watch TV, everything is about our suffering and movies come out and there is more suffering. It's all on repeat, and it’s a part of healing. But it just feels like there's so much missing how much goodness and joy and brightness black people also have. We need more spaces where black people can be black people”.
Black joy and love should be celebrated and should be represented on film, in music videos, and throughout print. We need to see the positive and goodness that black people have in their lives, and not just focus on the negativity and their struggle.
After asking Afiya what she would like to be remembered for and what kind of legacy she would like to leave behind. She wishes to be remembered for having a strong passion for helping others, and a strong voice for the people. Her voice is already making an impact by simply inspiring others throughout her journey in life.
Wildfiya has just started its journey into becoming a great resource and becoming an influence to create a different perspective for so many people. We can not wait to see what else she accomplishes. If you would like to continue following her journey you can read her blog and follow her on Instagram.
Represented Foundation's mission is to close the diversity gap in social impact leadership.