AR1_1701_crop_0.jpg

Cheryl Worrell Brown

FOUNDER, 02EX BOSTON FASHION WEEK, CEO/FOUNDER, O2EX

From an early age, Cheryl has defied all odds. Growing up in the rural south during the segregation era in a town governed by Jim Crow laws, Cheryl chose to never accept the words ' You Can't'.

A flower growing beneath concrete.

Cheryl grew up in the rural south. Petersburg, VA sat near the capital of confederacy, and was the very location where Robert E. Lee’s surrender ended the civil war. Her town was governed by Jim Crow laws and blatantly ruled by the Klu Klux Klan. All spaces, public and private were segregated. Schools, hospitals, stores, workplaces, pools and recreation centers remained separate for Blacks and Whites. During this dark period, Cheryl was born and raised, a flower growing beneath concrete.

Daily, during her childhood, bricks of degradation and doubt were stacked on top of that concrete. Every day, when she and her family were told they couldn't do something - her mother would always say  "there is no such thing as can't". Cheryl's mother was inspired by her parents Elizabeth and Govan Worrell, who were business owners, ministers and community leaders. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. personally recruited her mother during his early years and registered her to join the movement. 

Public schools were finally integrated during Cheryl's first year of high school. However, not every learning opportunity was integrated.  White students were provided educational resources and extracurricular activities that Blacks were denied. When she graduated high school and consulted with her school guidance counselor for advice on going to college she was told "no, you can't go to college" because of average grades and low financial resources. Even when applying for jobs she I was told "no, you can't" work a professional job, you have no experience, you only qualify for labor positions, in restaurants. 

Despite all these bricks of negativity stacked on top of me, my mom's voice continued to ring deep in my conscious that said "there is no such thing as can't".

Ironically, one of Cheryl's classmates endured some of the same challenges. Both attended Petersburg High School.  This young man had exceptional talents and his name was Moses Malone. You may recall, Moses fought for his rights, defied all odds and became the FIRST person to be drafted directly from high school to the NBA. He was a kind, gentle giant, an NBA Hall of Fame player, and recently passed away leaving behind records that are still yet to be broken. Cheryl was inspired by Moses. He was an ordinary person who refused to be believe “can’t” and made extraordinary contributions to society.

So, relying on living examples like these and words from her mother, her last resources of hope, she visited the public library and prayed for help from God and began wading through books of college information. The information was overwhelming. So, she prayed even harder, closed her eyes and put her finger on a random college in Ohio, Cleveland State University. Miraculously, they were welcoming and provided the help she needed to get accepted into the university.

After defying the odds and getting my degree, getting married, raising three beautiful sons and enjoying a wonderful career at Boeing, I looked around to seek how I could give back to my community o2ex was founded “Ordinary People doing Extraordinary Things”.

From that day forward, Cheryl continued to be inspired by ordinary people who aspired to do extraordinary things. After getting her degree, getting married, raising three beautiful sons and enjoying a wonderful career at Boeing, she looked around to seek how she could give back to her community. O2ex was founded, “Ordinary People doing Extraordinary Things”.

She started O2ex to showcase people like herself, working a regular 9-5 job but after hours they do amazing things to give back to their community. Cheryl noticed the media rarely reported “good news” and seemed to focus on “bad news”. So, Cheryl started producing and providing positive programming to as many media outlets as she could by using platforms to promote shared stories of heroes next door.

Boston Fashion Week O2ex emerged from the same passion. When she moved to Boston, she was disheartened by the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, a state of emergency had been declared, reports of depression and suicide loomed overhead, most people wore “black jackets & jeans” muted color palettes were the “go to” attire, so Cheryl decided to bloom where she was planted and use BFW as a platform to lead by example.

I decided to bloom where I was planted and use BFW as a platform to lead by example.

Not only did she preach positivity and vibrant living, Cheryl made sure to wear lively colors in the winter, she wore exciting fabrics and jewelry. At first she received odd stares and comments saying: We don’t dress like that here.  We don’t wear heels in this climate.  Where are you going?  Why are you dressed up?  The consensus believed she was overdressed.  But eventually, it all changed. She began to see her influence increase in her small circles in Boston and Cambridge, and in media with people that she contacted with her positivity campaign. She would use social media to talk about the positivity and encourage others to follow. Cheryl started to see a positive reaction in the fashion industry periodicals, websites or television promotions about equity in fashion, equality in images, and social justice. She is encouraged to continue seeking O2ex partners to find other “Ordinary people doing Extraordinary Things”. Cheryl's mantra is to Inspire, Innovate, & Engage Ordinary People doing Extraordinary Things because “there’s no such thing as ‘CAN’T”