photo by // Donnell Carr
Talisha Nicole Gilbert, 27, recently won the title of Ms. Black Michigan. A native of Flint, she has made it her mission to improve Flint’s image in national media and help children affected by the water crisis and other inequities.
On September 23 of last year, Gilbert hosted her annual birthday charity benefit at the Greater Flint Arts Council downtown. The event, the Beauty Brunch, featured a complimentary meal, mini makeovers and massages. Funds raised went toward the Flint Child Health and Development Fund to help children affected by the Flint water crisis have a better quality of life. This fund was implemented by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, an organization dedicated to good stewardship of the community’s endowment, investing in initiatives for diversity and social justice.
In April of this year, Gilbert hosted the National Clean Water Collective’s “Just Clean It” Jamboree, where she modeled in their fashion show. The event was designed to reduce the negativity regarding Flint’s water and boost morale in the community. It was partly sponsored by the National Clean Water Collective and partly by Flint residents and community activists. Water treatment specialists and advocates gave information about long-term solutions for cleaner water. There were also music and activities for kids.
“I try to be as positive as possible about the community,” she says. “It’s our responsibility to come together in a crisis.”
As a Carman-Ainsworth graduate, Gilbert describes herself as “a Flint girl through and through.” She now works in the heart of the city, at the downtown branch of Huntington Bank. Of her role in pageants, she says she was always fascinated by them, but she never thought she could be in one herself. The Ms. Black Michigan Pageant required two interviews, one in the form of an essay, the other in person. In June, she will go to Washington, DC, to compete for the Ms. Black USA title.
It’s clear to see why Gilbert was chosen. She is highly active in the community, with continuous efforts in fundraising, especially for causes that help area children. She has volunteered for Flint’s Whaley Children’s Center as well as the local branches of the national organizations Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
She is also working to put together a story hour at the Genesee District Library, a project she says will soon come to fruition. “I want to bring local authors to read and inspire kids in the Flint area in a positive way,” she says.
Gilbert teaches children from ages four through six in Sunday school at her church, Victorious Word in Flint Township. As the mother of a seven-year-old son, she spends a lot of time with him watching videos and reading. She points to Ruth Mott as one of her greatest inspirations.
“To be a philanthropist and leave such a legacy behind that has far-reaching effects even after you’re gone is amazing, and that’s how I’d like to be remembered,” she says. With all her accomplishments, it would not be a surprise if generations to come will know her name and what she has done for Flint.
“I try to be as positive as possible
about the community.”
– Talisha Gilbert