Flint's creative community comes together to hold fundraiser for AshleyCae Lee

FLINT, Michigan — On Saturday, June 22, community members came together for an evening of live music and poetry to support AshleyCae Lee's battle against stage 4 leukemia and breast cancer. The Flint native is not only a poet, painter, pageant winner, and queer creative, but she is a force and it is undeniable.

The fundraising event was organized and created by Tamika Hicks, owner of Paints, Chalices, and Hues. Other Flint natives such as Hunter O'Conner and Alberto Bercich of Hive Holistic Center, Tracy Palmer of Trendsetters Production, Attorney Trachelle Young, Dee Steele, and radio host Star Conswayla assisted Hicks with putting together the fundraiser and helping AshleyCae check off her bucket list items.

The event featured local poets and music artists, including Gaddie, Baad Blair, Sway Montoya, Charlie Dobson, Jerimiah Whitehead, and more. The dynamic duo of Alpha Drew and Terresha Simone Moore hosted the unforgettable evening.

"I started in spoken word in 2011, so along the way is when I met the wonder-soul of AshleyCae," shares Alpha Drew. "I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was ten years old and I've known a few people who have lost their fight and know others who still fight the fine fight along with Ashley. Ashley is a beautiful person with many talents and a fighter attitude which is something I saw growing up."

All the performers and vendors pose for a group photo on Saturday, June 22, 2024.Dequindra Washington, also known as Dee Steele, expressed, "AshleyCae is something most people spend their lives trying to be. She's brave, courageous, intelligent, compassionate, smart, witty, fun and a fighter! Ashley has inspired me to bring these thighs to the party whenever I see fit. Her confidence is something I would tell 13-year-old me to focus on."

Several days before the event, inside 100K Ideas co-working space in downtown Flint, Hunter, Tamika, and Alberto each shared how, through empathy and resonance, they are intentional about uplifting AshleyCae because she has, in many ways, uplifted them. 

The vendor, trophy, and sign-up table are pictured on Saturday, June 22, 2024.
Flintside: How have you all come to know AshleyCae Lee?

Hunter: "Anyone who sees Ashley and sees those eyes [knows] she's special. We both have a mutual good friend, Courtney Bell, who was looking for extras for a video shoot, and Ashley showed up to support him. She and Sage (Hunter's son) hit it off, and we all took to each other. Berto and I offer holistic wellness and a healing space to Ashley. She's just become our sister. It's easy to love her."

Alberto: "Her spirit draws people to her. It is one of the strongest I've ever seen."
Tamika: "When I found Ashley, she had already been diagnosed and going through chemotherapy. I met her right before COVID-19, and we got to know each other."

Flintside: Ashley's best friend Kai was the first to suggest a "bucket list" upon learning of her terminal diagnosis. After sharing her list on social media, several individuals have implemented Ashley's wish list. Who took the initiative to bring everyone together?

Tamika: "I had been sitting back watching Ashley and everything surrounding [her] for a while. When she posted her wish list, the first time I saw it, I saw all the people commenting underneath. I started to reach out to everyone individually through [Facebook] Messenger, and we created this community. People were willing to help, and we continued to add them to the group." 

Hunter: "What has been so powerful for me to witness and be a part of is [Tamika] starting something and all of us joining and choosing a task to bring to life. None of us are doing this for clout or social media. We are doing this out of pure love so that it surrounds AshleyCae."

Flint creatives came out to support the AshleyCae fundraiser event with music and poetry on Saturday, June 22, 2024.
Flintside: How important is it for people, particularly women, to hold space for one another?

Tamika: "It's extremely important because we tend to get beaten down by society and everyday life. So, to hold a safe space, not just space, it is vital to build each other back up or to know we have someone to lean on and talk to."

Hunter: "Right! And it is powerful to be able to surround yourself with women to process the sh*t that only other women would understand. It's also important because it is our nature to be with our sisters — we were designed for that. In every ancient culture, women gathered together, and men gathered together. It was so sacred. We helped raise each others' kids, cycled, created, and did our life's work together. So, many hands make a lighter load, even if those "hands" are listening ears."

Flintside: How can others join the effort of fulfilling Ashley's wish list? 

Dee: "Ashley's wish list can be accessed by reaching out to me, her best friend Kai Washington, Tracy Palmer, or Tamika Hicks. She also has a GoFundMe that you can donate to, and those proceeds go towards fulfilling things on the wish list and other things. Please give what you can. Prayers are always appreciated, even if you can't. Ashley is a breath of fresh air, showing us every day that we can't give up on ourselves. There's always more to do!" 

Tamika: "We are just going down her list, reaching out to people who want to be involved, and letting them decide what they can do. We are planning and finding resources to execute some more significant tasks." 

Flintside: What sentiments do you want people to take from the fundraising event? 

Tamika: "I want people to feel all our love for Ashley the second the door opens when they walk into the fundraiser."

Hunter: "We want everyone to show up in love. We want Ashley to feel loved the way she makes us feel loved."

If you would like to support or donate to AshleyCae, visit her GoFundMe page.
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Read more articles by Jarielle Tasha Nettles.