Former VP Of Communications At TIMES UP, Chelsea Fuller, Extends Her Roots In Activism With New Venture, Black Alder, LLC, To Better Serve Their Community


Do you have the capacity to serve your community in the ways in which it requires? For most leaders, answering this question is made easier with a trusted partnership in place. In a post-pandemic world, prioritizing collaboration has come down to flexibility and an openness toward dynamic communication.

But in order to meet the growing needs of their communities, many leaders have taken a second look at how they undertake the two. For Chelsea Fuller, former Vice President of Communications at TIME’S UP, this meant recognizing that her talents would best be put to use as a business owner in partnership with her siblings.

“I did not initially want to start a firm,” Fuller revealed in our interview. “I liked the process of being in-house and working as a part of a team and coalition,” she said. “But when I realized that it made more sense for me to own something and to do the work in the way that it felt right to me, there was nobody else that I thought of to work with other than my sister.”

Last year, Fuller joined forces with sister, Takara Robinson-Pierce, and brother-in-law, Kevin Robinson-Pierce, to found Black Alder, LLC, a communications and movement strategy firm helping to build capacity for organizations across industries who are working to make collective liberation and equity a reality.

For the Fuller-Robinson-Pierce family, Black Alder offers the siblings a way to work within their values ​​for their people as they cultivate a space for creativity for themselves. Offering services ranging from executive communications coaching, media engagement and narrative strategy to DEI strategy development and digital media consulting, goals toward the improvement of the political and cultural conditions of the Black community have been unapologetically prioritized.

The sisters revealed the firm was founded out of a desire to support organizations, companies, movements and other formations with high-quality, value-driven strategy and support — a nod to the history of liberatory strategists and freedom fighters who used all manner of tools and skills to create better conditions for their communities. Already working with tremendous clients, including For The Culture, Survivor’s Agenda, and The Housing Narrative Lab, which was created to shift the narrative around homelessness and unsheltered populations around the globe, the co-founders say they are eager to transfer their specialized skills and experiences to the market in a brand new way.

As a former journalist and media advocate known for her work in The Movement For Black Lives and the ‘Me Too’ movement, among others, Fuller forth a robust portfolio of successful messaging strategies and narrative-shift campaigns around the issues of race, white supremacy, patriarchal violence, and community safety. Her international and domestic relationships with media, business and community leaders have helped her successfully place stories in such publications as The New York Times, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, Refinery 29, and The Root.

Sharing the role of co-founder and Managing Partner is Robinson-Pierce, who also currently serves as the Communications Director for Dream Defenders, a Black-woman led social justice organization advancing a new vision of safety in the state of Florida. Previously serving as their Digital Organizing Manager, Robinson-Pierce adds a technological edge to the company, having ideated and executed a number of digital campaigns that have reached millions of people through ads, SMS, email, social media, and more across several different areas of civic engagement.

Bringing forth a more unified and mature vision for what it looks like to prioritize their values ​​and scale toward greater impact for their community with Black Alder, Fuller and Robinson-Pierce gave two very helpful insights for professionals looking to expand their circle of influence without losing the connection to their roots.

Build Your Service Around Your Values

“There are very few configurations that allow for people to work inside of a set of values ​​together,” explained Fuller as we discussed her transition from corporate employment to entrepreneurship. As illustrated on the firm’s website, a Black Alder is a sturdy tree known for its healing properties and ability to prevent erosion. It’s a tree that holds special significance in the hearts of the company’s co-founders, who have all committed themselves to helping heal and grow their family and extended community.

Influenced by the matriarchs of their family, both Fuller and Robinson-Pierce agree that their central aim throughout their lives and careers has been to support their community through leadership in various ways. The two reflected fondly on the Black women experimenting with and growing businesses that could better take care of their family and serve their varied alliances within the Black community. Their mother, an educator and cultural worker, remains their greatest inspiration. “I knew really early on that I wanted to do something like what my mom did,” answered Fuller when asked how she landed on what has now become her life assignment.

“My mother is a professor of Pan-African studies, so we grew up on college campuses in different universities around the country,” recalled Fuller of her and Robinson-Pierce’s childhood. “I learned about who I was as a Black person in ways that were contradictory to what I was being taught in school as a young kid. And that really shaped the way that I think about the world and shaped the way that I thought about and engaged with my community.”

In her hopes to educate and tell authentic stories about Black people Fuller began pursuing Journalism and other forms of creative storytelling. She later landed the role of Deputy Director of Communications at Blackbird, a leading movement capacity building firm where she worked for nearly six years. It was there where Fuller admits she understood that she was capable of utilizing her skills and experiences at the level of ownership.

For Robinson-Pierce, having also been impacted by the incarceration and resulting wrongful death of her father (whom she does not share with Fuller), working with the West Virginia Innocence Project became her way of healing wounds and preserving her family’s legacy in higher education . But after watching her older sister as she studied communications, Robinson-Pierce says she found her calling at the center of it all.

Focus Your Impact

The duo chose to enter into business together after a family conversation around values ​​prompted them to take stock of their professional experiences and how they chose to uphold and pursue their moral obligations. Supported by fellow Managing Partner and Ohio University MBA candidate Kevin Pierce, who has ample experience managing finances and large-scale operations, Fuller and Robinson-Pierce’s unique perspectives of how to serve their clients are fully realized in the workings of their newest venture.

Although mentorship is not one of the company’s service offerings, Fuller admitted that the practice of aiding in the long-term growth and evolution of others with shared experiences is admittedly a core driver of their organization’s impact. One of their latest projects is the formation of a collective meant to complement existing networking opportunities for Black business owners, contractors, and freelancers who want to do work specifically in service to impacted communities.

Fuller remarked that the company uses their values ​​rooted in partnership, transparency and trust to move them through an evaluative process of choosing a clientele that tends to carry one common thread — or not whether they can provide value. “We know that nothing brings people back [more] than really well done, high-quality work,” she explained. “One thing we often say is that we’re ‘high impact, low ego,’ and sometimes that means just simply being in community with people beyond the scope of a contract,” added Robinson-Pierce.

Fuller also urged owners to stay grounded in the goals that make sense for their businesses. But for the pair, drowning out the noise is easier done when greater focus is given to the issues that matter most. For those of us belonging to impacted communities, they agree that it’s necessary to stand in our values ​​while simultaneously centering our lived experiences in the work that we do.

“I would absolutely recommend that people drown out the noise and not focus too much on what the assumptions of other folks might be,” remarked Robinson-Pierce. For instance, we have absolutely centered Black liberation in the creation of our strategies, but people assume that we only care about the issues that impact Black people. But a rising tide lifts all boats, right? When you center the most impacted, everyone wins.”

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