In light of so many trailblazers, such as Vice-President Kamala Harris and Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Former State Rep. Alisha Morgan became one in her own right at the age of 23.
Elected in 2002 as the first and youngest African-American woman to the Georgia House of Representatives’ District 39, Morgan has taken a page from Michelle Obama’s “becoming” to revitalize the act of “being.”
“I finally realized I spent so much of my life doing and not being,” states Morgan as she reflects on her early legislative years. For Morgan, those early years spear-headed a journey of great accomplishment and setback. It is a journey initially traveled with little pause but persistence, leaving missed memories in the momentum. Today, Morgan’s journey is set to a different pace as she revisits the moments that aided her transformation from Georgia’s ‘wonder woman,’ to the present-day ‘fearless chic,’ unlimited by district lines and expectations.
Raised by parents that pushed for Morgan to have educational choice and opportunity, Morgan’s early career honed in on implementing these ideals.
“I spent so much of my tenure in the legislature focused on education [and] leveling the playing field,’ Morgan explains, ‘I just believe so strongly in equity, access and making sure that every kid has access to a high-quality education, regardless of their zip code and family background.”
During her 12 years of service within the legislature, Morgan was able to accomplish two major feats, among many; the co-sponsorship of a constitutional amendment that created the State Charter Schools Commission (SCSC) and the implementation of the state intra-district transfer law.
However, these victories were not without a political fight and personal sacrifice. The formation of the SCSC, proved especially tough for Morgan.
“It took a lot out of me emotionally,” she explains. “I lost political friends because it was such a political issue.”
According to Morgan, despite overwhelming support from parents, her efforts were met with push-back and criticism.
“That was such a brutal fight, a political fight. Parents understood it clearly, which is why it passed overwhelmingly, “explains Morgan.
“The push-back was from the political elite,’ she adds, ‘It was not from the average parent.”
As traditional public school reform and the formation of charter schools continue to spark debate across the nation, Morgan’s stance remains clear.
“Having choice is not about indicting the system or criticizing the system. Having choice is about what’s in the best interest of my child,’ explains Morgan, ‘we have to do what’s best for children and not what’s best for the system or because it makes us more comfortable to send them to this school across the street.”
By this time in her life, Morgan was a woman wearing many titles, without fully experiencing the totality of its weight. Her advocacy of choice would soon be the gift she would give herself in choosing to be the woman, before the doer.
Transitions are inevitable and guides the next chapters in life. After working within multiple Georgia House committees and establishing a legacy of advocacy for her constituents, Morgan left the legislature in 2015 to transition to superintendent of Georgia’s first all-girls public charter school, Ivy Prep Academies.
“Ivy Prep was really one of the places of inspiration to become an advocate for public charter schools because I saw what those schools were doing. Particularly for black girls in metro Atlanta. I wanted to create those opportunities for all kinds of kids across the state,” says Morgan.
This prompted her previous run for Georgia State Superintendent of schools in 2014, which proved unsuccessful.
“Once I left Ivy [Prep], I applied for probably six months to be superintendent in the traditional space, but could not get an interview in most cases.
I realized it was because I was trying to fix a system that was very traditional [and] didn’t want change,” she says.
This marked a turning point for Morgan. Despite her qualifications as a state legislator and effective school superintendent that helped to increase Ivy Prep’s state scores from 43% to 85%, Morgan realized she was not welcomed in this arena.
“I realized in that moment I was a square peg, trying to get into a round hole, she adds.
In hindsight, Morgan admits she was going through a lot.
“I leave a job, a role I had for 12 years, which at that time was all of my adult life. Serving and doing, as I call it,” reflects Morgan.
After transitioning to the role of superintendent for a couple of years, Morgan began to realize her true purpose in life.
“My purpose in life is about mentoring, it’s about making an impact, it’s about creating opportunities for young people and women,” says Morgan.
The road towards this revelation began within her personal and professional transformation that included divorce, loss of personal relationships and in her own words, “learning the importance of going where one is celebrated, not just tolerated.”
She further shares that writing a book, speaking across the country and her service to her constituents are all works she is proud to have done.
For Morgan, serving is a natural extension of herself. Yet, she better understands the need for balance.
“I was doing and I was heavily focused on the accolades and the awards and all that stuff. I wasn’t so focused on who is Alisha. What did I want in my life personally?” reflects Morgan.
This looming question and personal transformation helped Morgan to become clearer on how she would use her process to continue to serve. It was a matter of finally filling up her own cup, to be able to truly pour into others.
The Fearless Chic
For Morgan, the creation of ‘Fearless Chic’ started from within. It is her personal evolution as a woman that expanded into a trademarked lifestyle brand that now provides coaching, mentorship services, podcasts and other resources for women, determined to live life intentionally.
“I want women to stop living their lives checking all the boxes, doing all the things people said we should do. Get all the awards, get all the degrees, but then we do not know who we are and what we truly want,” says Morgan.
Utilizing her own life as an example, Morgan details how in light of all her accomplishments, there are times and moments she vaguely recalls, because she was not present or in the moment. Rather, she was subconsciously checking off boxes of things to do and expected milestones to reach.
In regards to what it truly means to be fearless, Morgan offers her perspective.
“It’s not,’ I’m going to jump out of a plane.’ Fearless really means choosing the life you truly want to live and aligning everything in your life accordingly,” Morgan explains.
Since transitioning into her latest ventures, Morgan says she is happy and at peace.
“I am so much more pleasant in my own life than I have ever been before.”
Finding joy in service is one reason Morgan has been coined as the “people’s politician.”
Though she has found a deeper peace in where she is today, Morgan does not shy from sharing other uplifting moments throughout her extensive career of service, including serving in the White House with Former President Barack Obama.
“It is one thing to meet him on the campaign trail. It’s another thing when you are standing in the White House with the first black president of the United States of America,” recalls Morgan.
The historical moment is a highlight for Morgan, who co-founded the Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network with former electoral candidate Andrew Gillum and worked alongside the Obama administration to provide support, development and networking opportunities for elected officials under the age of 35 and self-identifies as progressives across the nation.
Fast forward to 2020 and the legacy continues with America’s first woman, Kamala Harris and woman of color elected to serve as vice-president.
“I would say Kamala Harris is the ultimate ‘fearless chic’,” says Morgan, who admits to getting emotional during the historic inauguration.
“Just the ascension, the process and all the people along the way that thought it wasn’t her [Kamala Harris’] turn. What if she had listened to them?” ponders Morgan.
“That is the message I want women to hear from me. What if those of us that have blazed trails listened to the haters and the naysayers?’ Morgan asks, ‘Listen to God, listen to your heart that is saying go and do this thing,” she adds.
As Morgan understands the plight of being the first within a field, she responds to what she would say to Vice-President Harris, from one ‘fearless chic’ to another.
“Be authentically you,” says Morgan, while understanding the natural pressure on Harris to serve people that have never experienced a woman of color in that position. Morgan encourages the vice-president to remember that she has been placed in that position because of who she is, so walk in that and do so unapologetically and fearlessly.
“Be intentional in what you say and do’…’but don’t get weighted down by the level of responsibility,” Morgan advises.
“Be present for the people in your life that don’t care what your title is, they just want ‘momala’, Kamala or auntie, so be that,” Morgan laughs.
The words are universal for Morgan, as she applies the same advice in her own life and those she has been called to serve and support.
Throughout her journey, Morgan has been given many monikers, that are intentionally included within these chapters of her evolution. Today, this ‘fearless chic’ redefines the ‘wonder woman’ moniker that propelled her start but will not be her finish.
“At this time in my life, I would define a ‘wonder woman’ as living life intentionally and who gets her accolades not from over-working herself or feeling like she has to do it all.”
Ultimately, Morgan has learned to stay focused on what truly matters.
“It’s not about an election, it’s not about a political fight, it’s about a legacy,” says Morgan.
With a self-made platform intentionally designed to support and empower women and youth to be fearless, Morgan continues her legacy by simply ‘being’ and encouraging others to do the same.
–Written by Angela Fedrick-Lewis