Aleeshia Watson, now known as "Leeshia Lee," who is a radio personality in Charleston, West Virginia, recently founded "Gold Mind Promotions LLC." According to SundayGazetteMail.com, she hopes that Gold Mind will show people in the community that they do not have to leave West Virginia to make a difference, and they do not have to turn to drugs and violence, either.
Aleeshia grew up in one of Charleston's worst housing projects, where sirens and gunshots were the norm. As the crack cocaine trade soared in 1991, it brought record rates of crime. She said, "I wasn't exactly scared, it was just reality for me. I guess you become a product of your environment and get used to it. You grow up poor, but you don't know who you are."
As a kid, Aleeshia had dreams of modeling and even becoming president. Local city officials dedicated thousands of dollars to provide kids like her a haven from drug-riddled neighborhoods through after-school activities. Now, she hopes to reach out to help her community, as well.
She founded Gold Mind Productions LLC, in hopes to show people that they do not have top leave West Virginia to make a difference, and she hopes to help people in her "hood" find alternatives to drugs and violence. She said, "People think you have to go out of town to be successful in whatever you do, but you can do it wherever you are. 'If you think it, we can create it'- that's our slogan."
Aleeshia became a local celebrity disc jockey and assistant program director for the Charleston radio station 98.7 FM, "The Beat." Her voice is heard by thousands across West Virginia. The station is the only one of its kind in the state, featuring a mix of Top 40, hip-hop, and R&;B, which attracts a significant minority audience. Her most recent venture, creating Gold Mind, is an effort to help locals, businesses, and events achieve success. She said, "It will encourage dreamers to dream and creative people to create. If everyone talented and creative leaves, where will that leave West Virginia?"
Aleeshia's company has compiled a CD of aspiring hip-hop and rap artists from Charleston, Huntington, and Beckley areas, titled "I'm So 304." Her plan behind this CD is to show the world that there is more to West Virginia than the typical stereotype. Aleeshia said, "It seems like people are always chasing a gold mine and want to leave for someplace more popular. When you have a "Gold Mind" you can be successful wherever you are." She plans to pass the CD along to connections she has made working as a radio personality for the last ten years.
Mike Buxser, vice president and general manager of West Virginia Radio Corp. in Charleston, said, "She takes her role seriously, she's a good role model. She wants to make a difference in the community; she wants people to grow. She has one of the best bonds with listeners…and I've been in this business a long time. We're only about 5 miles from where she grew up, but she's come so far." Listeners often relate to Aleeshia's story, and many of her friends' and family members' lives did not turn out so well. Buxser said, "She has a rare ability to connect with listeners in the community that most radio personalities aren't able to establish. "The Beat" is a very unique radio station. The station has a voice in a community that doesn't have a lot of voice."
Aleeshia credits her value in connecting with the community to her grandfather. She said, "My dad wasn't in the picture, my grandfather raised me- he was the father figure for a lot of kids in Orchard Manor. He wanted people to understand that just because you lived in the project, it didn't define you. There are a lot of talented and smart kids that grew up in the Manor- some just took an alternate route." Aleeshia, who is also a mother of two, hopes her new business and footprint in the community inspires her children, just as her grandfather inspired her. She said, "There are different sets of rules for different people in West Virginia, like when you're poor and grow up here you don't have the same opportunities- you don't go to the same schools, you don't have the same avenues to take. But, what I hope to show people is even if you're not born with a silver spoon, you can dream- you can have a 'Gold Mind.'"
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Photo courtesy of Chris Dorst and Sunday Gazette Mail.