Social Networks

3LW bridges connections for local Black professionals

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For young professionals pursuing career opportunities, moving to a new city where they may know absolutely no one is always difficult.

That lack of community can be even harder for Black professionals moving to a city like Wilmington, where opportunities to network and socialize with other professionals haven’t necessarily been targeting their demographic.

The founders of 3LW (which stands for Three Ladies in Wilmington) are hoping to fix that by creating casual but meaningful opportunities for Black professionals to find each other and connect, a mission that seems more important than ever as people emerge from the pandemic’s social lockdown.

The three ladies of 3LW are founders SHERI SHAW, assistant dean for student success at UNCW; CONSTANCE FOREMAN, a family medicine doctor with NHRMC Physician Group; and CRYSTAL PELLOM, director of diversity and inclusion for Coastal Horizons and founder of MMHP (Minority Mental Health Professionals).

As transplants, career professionals, and friends, they’re well aware of how isolating it can be to move for a new job.

The temptation to throw yourself into your work because you simply don’t know anyone else is a slippery slope.

“Having 3LW gives people that work-life balance that we all need and desire,” Shaw says. “Now, I’m an extrovert. But, there are lots of introverts, and when they don’t see a community for them, they travel out. They go to their family every weekend, they go to Raleigh, they go to Charlotte, they go down to Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Every weekend they’re going somewhere else. What we wanted from 3LW is we want you to spend your off-time here. You don’t have to outsource your fun.”

The group, however, aims to be more than just social events. They want to be a resource for Black professionals moving to the area. Shaw likens it to an extension of the Green Book idea: How do you find a Black church? How do you find a Black doctor? Where are the best places to live? These are all the types of tips a strong social network can help with.

“There is a lot of research out there showing congruency in the patient and the provider provides better outcomes and a sense of fulfillment for both patients and provider,” Foreman says. “So, from my perspective, I know that a female patient who goes to a female provider has a better outcome. A Black patient with a Black provider? Better outcome. If you don’t see organizations that are congruent with who you are, it will be challenging to let your guard down and feel a sense of belonging.”

“Constance, Sheri, and I recognized the question is how do we retain people of color in this area, and what generally retains people is a sense of community, a sense of connectedness. We were lacking that,” Pellom says. “We know people succeed and excel in their respective roles and their families when they feel connected to their community. We see it as a multi-pronged approach to building stronger professionals but also building strong communities, so we’re not just here and present but here and thriving.

“And listen, we just came out from a pandemic and a lot of social and racial unrest in this nation, and we know the best buffer of stress is your natural supports,” Pellom adds. “Right now, people just need to be well. They need an opportunity to not think about the financial ruin or the health issues from the pandemic or just the pandemic in general. We’ve been huddled up in our homes for more than thirteen months, and social distancing created a safe space for the pandemic, but it created a big gap when it comes to connecting to the next person. Some of us need to take our training wheels off, because we haven’t done it in a while, and 3LW is a chance to get back out there and remember why staying connected to other people is important for mental and physical health.”

The group had its inaugural events – a speed dating event and a games night – last year right before the pandemic hit and decided to hit the pause button. But now, they’re ready to get back into it.

“People are asking for it again,” Shaw says, “And, we know people who have transplanted here during the pandemic who are seeking out and need a community of color. Especially in this time of uncertainty of social unrest, race issues, and health inequities, they are looking for that space.”


Saturday, May 22, 1-3 P.M.

End of Days Distillery, 1815 Castle Street

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