Tonyia Carter

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Tonyia Carter
Violence Interrupter (East Oakland)

tcarter@youthalive.org | (510) 594-2588 x331

Tonyia Carter, also known as Nina, joined Youth ALIVE! as a Crisis Responder in our Khadafy Washington Project, where she entered people’s lives in the first hours and days after the sudden, violent death of a son, a daughter, a husband, a father, brother or mother. Now she has become a member of our team of Violence Interrupters, who mediate conflicts between people, groups and gangs in Oakland, trying to defuse tensions before violence flares. Nina has been helping traumatized people turn their pain to a purpose for many years. Nina was one of those young people who dreamed, who had a vision, a driving force. Even as a 13-year-old transplant to Oakland from Little Rock, she saw things with a clarity rare in most kids. “But no one knew what to do with me,” she says today. In Oakland, she ended up living the street life for many years. There were drugs, violence and loss. But one thing she never lost was the vision, the desire to give back, and a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Early on, Nina discovered and nurtured her talent for hair styling. She started a business, a hair salon. She called it Virtuous Vision Design. She began to use her position as a business person to speak out on the behalf of others, to give her community a voice. She helped others whose need for guidance, for the practical things in life, she well understood. Women and children of color needed encouragement, attention. They needed training in how to succeed at work. All the things that driven young girl from Arkansas had never been given. Nina founded her first organization, Women Inspiring Women, to provide practical help, life skills, job training and something more: help turning the pain from loss, from violence, abuse, poverty, racism, sexism  and neglect, into purpose. At Youth ALIVE!, the clients she worries about the most are those who don’t think they need the help. There’s always the risk they will turn to unhealthy methods of coping, including drugs and alcohol. But the reward comes every time she can take her services or other resources back to the community to impact people’s live. Today, she still operates the salon, and the Virtual Vision Leadership Academy, to teach job skills to young people of color, and to encourage leadership and self-determination. “I want to show people in pain,” she says, “that you don’t have to be there forever.”