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Meet LaWanda Lewis Burrell

Today we’d like to introduce you to LaWanda Lewis Burrell.

Thanks for sharing your story with us LaWanda. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m thankful to have grown up in Sweet Home Alabama. It is a beautiful place and I was blessed in a safe, healthy and loving environment with wonderful parents that instilled in my older sister and me to always have a character full of integrity, kindness, love and respect for others. I was a shy, small town girl from Greenville, Alabama with big city dreams, who learned how to speak her truth in the time of adversity.

During my teenage years, I persuaded my parents to allow me to work in high school. Unfortunately, I experienced discrimination on my very first job, which truly scared my heart. After graduating high school, I started higher education at Stillman College as a Sociology major. Stillman prepared me for a different world, embracing excellence and leadership skills through their hands-on learning. Students at Stillman learn and thrive in a vibrant, exciting, and positive atmosphere.

The unethical behaviors I experienced on the job in high school struck my curiosity in the field of human resources. At Stillman, I started my work-study at the student development center gaining experience in interviewing, career fairs, and job postings. God blessed me with a full-time position as a group home manager during my junior year of college. In Alabama, I continued to experience sporadic racism. This motivated me to do well in school, graduate from college, look for job opportunities and move far away. What I didn’t realize at 22 years old, was the evils of the world was everywhere.

Months before I graduated college I applied to a graduate school in Houston, Texas and started preparing to move, however, I didn’t get accepted into the program. Although, this was very disappointing, I knew God had other plans for me. Sometimes we miss out on God’s blessings because we give up too soon. My determination to succeed and never give up was quite evident as I stepped out on faith and quit my job as a group home manager in Alabama, to go to no job in Houston. My parents weren’t too happy, but I knew my God was never going to leave me nor forsake me. I was confident that Houston would be my forever home, because of its stable job market, affordable housing and diversity. I gained a position in the insurance industry and purchased my first home in West Houston at age 24.

Years later, God blessed me to marry my husband DeMorris, and we’ve been  happily married for 15 years, and blessed with three beautiful children, Neziah 13, Nylah 11, and Nalin 9. Family time is very important to me. We enjoy fishing, river tubing, cooking, hiking, playing board games, biking, family discussions, boating, traveling, and watching family movies. I enjoy volunteering in the community as I am a member and volunteer in the Greeter’s ministry at Lakewood Church. I’m a member of my beloved Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and the Order of Eastern Star, Board Member and Historical Researcher with the African American Library (Friends Group), preserving the rich historical accomplishments of African Americans in Texas and surrounding states. Also, a Historical Researcher with the Harris County Remembrance Project under the direction of Commissioner Rodney Ellis and the Equal Justice Initiative (Montgomery, AL), this organization raises awareness for racial injustices, recognizing the victims of lynching by collecting soil and the placement of historical markers.

In Houston, I worked many years in human resources later accepting a position as a HR Director for an organization. What I didn’t realize I would be recruited into a predominantly white toxic work environment. I noticed unethical behaviors in the workplace and after a year I got the courage to stand up and speak up for my beliefs. To my counterparts, I was the best HR Director when I followed their lead but when I decided to use my own voice, I became their worst enemy. My expertise began to be underestimated because of the color of my skin. Later, I was harassed and terminated.

What they thought would be a setback was a setup for a comeback! The experience of losing my job was devastating. I thanked God for removing me out of the environment but asked him for direction. After praying in the closet, I reached for a box on the top shelf, and out fell a journal that I had written five years prior. I immediately grabbed my laptop and started typing on January 15, 2018, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. It was like super glue was on my fingertips, I couldn’t stop typing. Within two weeks I had completed a manuscript of over 250 pages. God had birth my book Stand Up, Speak Up, Because Your Time’s Up!

Writing was truly therapy for me and helped me put things in perspective. After a few days I presented my first draft to my husband, and he loved it persuading me to submit it to a publisher. Although I was confident in my work, I was fearful of rejection because I had gotten rejected from so many HR positions during that year. The cruel harassment I experienced in the workplace played constantly in my head, and created hatred in my heart. Many months later, I went back in my closet and asked God to forgive the ones that mistreated me, calling their names one by one. I immediately felt like I had been released from bondage. After nine months of persuasion from my family, I submitted my book to the publisher. The next week God blessed me with a book contract from Christian Faith Publishing!

My book journey has blessed me tremendously to have a book signing in my hometown with Mayor Dexter McClendon in attendance December, 2019, and a book signing at black owned Cypress Sweets Candy Shop in Cypress, TX, February, 2020. I was happy to learn that my book is on the 2020 summer’s reading list for the Houston Texas Book Club, and my paperback and hardcover books are being sold by Walmart. I have been a guest on several podcasts, attended speaking engagements, guest on live radio on my hometown radio station, Big KD 94.1 in Montgomery, AL, featured in Versafi Magazine online as a Cover Model, and now featured on the Inspiring Stories of Voyage Houston Magazine! 

Mayor Sylvester Turner and I was introduced at a community event and I was happy to take a picture and present him with a copy of my book, and get a quick selfie with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Always know your self-worth and never allow anyone to devalue you. You have the strength to overcome any challenges that life throws your way. Keep your head up and celebrate you. My pain turned into passion and God revealed my purpose!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
At the beginning, it was hard to stand up and speak up for myself, especially when you are doing it alone, and the consequences that may follow afterwards.

Occasional writer’s block and marketing pose a challenge at times too. Sometimes it may be difficult to know what to write, find a quiet space or just not be in the mood to write. It is hard to convince strangers and sometimes people you know that your book is a great read.

Also, it may be frustrating to get clients to believe in your work and willing to pay you for what you are worth. It takes time, creativity, and effort in knowing how to get connected with the right media outlets to get the exposure you desire.

Stand Up, Speak Up, Because Your Time’s Up – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
LaWanda Lewis Burrell is a So Sweet Author of Stand Up, Speak Up, Because Your Time’s Up, it is an inspirational journey of true stories for EVERYONE that will motivate you to live a life of purpose, understand your self-worth, be kind to one another, and learn to love and forgive. My autobiography will take you on a journey of specific moments and events that displays my transparency and lays out life lessons along the way. 

What sets Stand Up, Speak Up, Because Your Time’s Up apart is the topics are relatable for everyone like, finding true love, childhood bullying and harassment, happiness, domestic violence, health and safety, death, self-worth, forgiveness, racism and discrimination, infidelity, financial and reading literacy, having Godly principles, mental health and depression, kindness and respect for others, generational curses, positive thinking, goal seekers, social media influences, and  cherishing marriage and family, etc.

My heartfelt stories are uplifting, insightful, and funny! This roller coaster read will make the toughest athlete get emotional. It will make you laugh, cry, but most of all encourage you.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
There has been several proud moments of my book journey. From meeting New York Time’s Best Selling Author Mrs. Sharon Draper, engaging in conversations with dignitaries of Houston, reading my 5-star reviews on Amazon, black owned independent bookstores and Walmart have begun selling my books, hearing the reader’s talk about how my book has blessed and healed their lives, and seeing the smiles on my family and friends’ faces telling me job well done has been a blessing! To be able to discover your inner strengths and use your life’s experiences to inspire others is the greatest feeling in the world. 

The most memorable would be the journal falling beneath me. I realized that God allows trials and tribulations to direct us into our destiny, to discover our own purpose and maximize our potentials. Trust God’s timing!

Pricing:

  • Paperback $24.19
  • Hardcover $30.15
  • Audiobook $21.83
  • Kindle $9.99

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
DeMorris Burrell, Jr.

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