Difficult times are inherent to the human experience. It’s impossible to live a full life without wrestling with some kind of tragedy: the loss of a family member or friend or coping with a physical illness are both incredible common traumas that tend to leave the affected feeling isolated. Yet, with a strong support network, it’s possible to recover. But some life experiences carry accompanying stigmas that make it more challenging to bounce back. Histories of incarceration, substance abuse, or homelessness create additional barriers for women seeking to gain employment and reintegrate back into their communities.
Fortunately, organizations like Road Twenty-Two recognize that every person has a story and seeks to listen instead of judge women about their pasts. Fif Ghobadian and Alice Larkin Cahan started the San Francisco-based company as a way to empower women in their community. As a child, Ghobadian learned the power of a second chance when, at age 15, she and her family fled Iran after the fall of the shah. She watched her father lose confidence in himself as employers snubbed him.
Today, Ghobadian and Cahan channel that empathy into creating opportunities to women looking for a second chance. The company gets its name from the road that leads to Central California Women’s Facility, California’s largest all-women prison. Ultimately, Road Twenty-Two hopes to help women transition from the prison system to sustainable full-time employment and safe housing. The company is not only transparent about its products (all items are sourced and made in the USA), but it also encourages employees to share their stories. Kimberly, pictured above, lost her son to an act of gun violence and turned to selling drugs as a way to make ends meet. Eventually, she was arrested and incarcerated. But when she was released, Kimberly began working with Road Twenty-Two. Today, she has a steady job and a place of her own.
Kerrigan’s path to Road Twenty-Two was also paved with hardship. As a teen with little supervision, Kerrigan delved into drugs and alcohol and, at age 15, ended up on the streets. But during this dark period, she embraced her love of graffiti and visual arts. Today, she works as an in-house designer for the company; the logos on the tee shirts are her own designs.
In addition to ready-to-wear jewelry and tee shirts, the company also worked on commission to create tote bags and custom tees for the 2015 Democratic National Convention. Check them out on the web, pick up a shirt if you can, and follow them on social media to keep tabs on their progress. Big thanks to Monty for telling me about these amazing women!