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FIERCE Empowerment founder and CEO Arielle Johnson.

So much attention goes to providing gifts, presents, and other services to children around Christmas time. And deservedly so. But what about the mothers that are often overlooked?

With the absence of so many fathers in the home, women are the primary leaders in Detroit households. Sixty-six percent of unmarried women with children in Detroit are living in poverty and have most of the responsibility placed on their shoulders. Single mothers face constant barriers such as quality child care, transportation, and housing that keep them from successfully thriving in the community daily.

Arielle Johnson is the founder and CEO of FIERCE Empowerment (Female Icons Encouraging Real Concepts of Empowerment) and has worked to address and alleviate the issue of poverty among mothers in Detroit through the non-profit’s 6th annual Gifts of Empowerment Christmas Party. For the holidays, FIERCE has successfully recruited support from several female entrepreneurs and willing women in the community to adopt mothers and their children for Christmas.

At the Christmas party Saturday, December 15 from 10-12 p.m. at Femology (553 East Jefferson), the moms will receive their gifts and network with successful women from the community, exposing them to the positive female network that is available to them. Moms will also sign up for resources such as workforce development programs, affordable childcare, parenting classes, mentors, and more. Gift packages include gifts for the entire family, $50 worth of holiday groceries, wrapping paper, and small decorations, hats, gloves and socks.

“The idea for this year is to empower moms to provide their family with a Christmas,” said Arielle Johnson, who became a young mother when she attended college at Michigan State University. “We decided to only invite the moms this year, so that we could be more intentional about setting them up for success in the new year, by doing things like signing them up for opportunities and resources on-site. Yes, it’s about Christmas, but it’s also about truly empowering women to become self-sufficient, thriving individuals in the community, therefore equipping them to empower someone else.”

Johnson had a strong support system while pregnant with her son at MSU, which allowed her to graduate in 2012, start her business, and found her non-profit that serves women and girls through four initiatives: Fierce Families, Fierce Mentors, Fierce Professionals, and Fierce Communities.

But, often times, that is not the case for so many others. Trials and tribulations can occur over a long period of time, or suddenly. Last month, General Motors announced it would close several plants, including the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant, laying off about 1,500 Detroit workers in 2019. With Christmas right around the corner, the news was all but holiday cheer.

“I opened up five more spots in the program for mothers affected by the GM layoffs,” said Johnson. “I understand what being a single mom is like and how discouraging it can be when something random like that happens to you. The holiday season is always a tough time in general, so losing your job around this time can be challenging. We wanted to be sure that we were a part of the solution and help these women find resources after the fact as well.”

So far, Johnson said she has found one mother affected by the layoffs and would love to find four more to assist. To donate or be a sponsor to FIERCE Empowerment’s Christmas party, Johnson can be reached at arielle@fiercedetroit.com or visit fiercedetroit.com for more information on the event and other programs.

The FIERCE Empowerment brand also launched a shirt and accessory line: Shop FIERCE. All of the proceeds from the sale of items go back to programming for the organization. Items range anywhere from a $15 FIERCE tote bag, to a $25 FIERCE shirt.

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