From pain to positivity: Bridgeport woman shares message of hope for young women
A Bridgeport woman who has overcome several challenges on her way to professional success says she wants to a share a message of hope during Women's History Month.
"Women's History Month to me is about acknowledging the contributions of women," says Erika Wesley.
The 38-year-old says the road ahead for young women in Bridgeport is filled with infinite possibilities as long as they have mentors that help them steer the way.
"I'm always thinking about how we care for and how we nurture young women in this city," she adds.
Wesley is the first-ever director of equity, diversity and inclusion at Westport Country Playhouse. She says she will never forget as a student going on a field trip with kids from a surrounding community.
"Those students had so much to say about us being from Bridgeport, and that was really the first time that I realized that where I was from was…not the preferred place, and that there was some social stigma about this city and kids who came from this city," she recalls.
It was a realization that Wesley says was at odds with her actual background.
"I grew up in the City of Bridgeport as a lover of art, a lover of all things literary and literature," Wesley says.
She would go on to embrace the arts and received a degree in English from the University of Connecticut. She later completed her masters of fine arts and is now on path to get her doctorate.
But even as Wesley hits her stride in life, she is still haunted by the tragic death of a close friend. In 2006, 20-year-old Lynn Larsen was found murdered in Bridgeport.
"There was so much about her death that still unsolved and unknown, but I think that act of violence is certainly one that reverberated within our friend community, and it's something that every year I think about because there are many more young women that just need community support," she says.
Now as the proud mother of 7-month-old daughter, Emani, Wesley is happily married and says helping the next generation of young people is more important than ever.
"I truly understand that each generation needs a better Bridgeport to live in," she said.
Wesley says she is actively recruiting for Westport Country Playhouse's first-ever summer internship in the field of equity, diversity and inclusion.