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A true Lion brings Africa to Derita

Lions and tigers and elephants, oh, my!

You never know what you might find in Derita. Today I met a “true Lion.” Better yet, she has a daughter who is a “real tiger.” Better still, she travels around Charlotte with an elephant.

Honestly, I don't make this stuff up.

Let me tell you about Delores Manigo-Aklassou, also known as The African Lady.

Delores is a native Charlottean. She graduated from West Charlotte High School in 1965 and still has a deep sense of pride and belonging to the school. She calls herself a “True Lion.”

In 1999, she opened The African Lady Shop downtown at 10th and Graham streets. Then, as is the case so often, “progress” needed that space, and Delores brought her shop to Derita. She saw the need in Derita for her kind of business; and, when the location came open, Delores seized the opportunity to bring her vision to the diverse community that is Derita.

The shop is at 2506 W. Sugar Creek Rd. The sign broadcasts not only the business name, but also its mission statement: “Reaching All Cultures Through Style.” Delores's vision is to expand throughout Charlotte and the surrounding areas to educate people about African cultures.

In that effort, she has shared her knowledge of African culture with many churches and various community organizations. Delores wants people to know that African clothing can be worn every day and that the African culture should be a daily celebration.

The African Lady Shop is known for distinguished fashions, beautiful jewelry, handbags and masks from various parts of Africa. It is also an international business, with a nonprofit division that promotes and sponsors programs throughout the community. The shop was recognized as a Top-Five Pick for shops and businesses in the Observer's 2007-08 “Living Here” special edition.

Delores's daughter, Jackie Brown, is co-owner. She is charming and smart, energetic and enthusiastic about the business. Truly, she is a “real tiger.” She has established a strong name in the business community and is part of the Black Business Owners Charlotte United. Still, Jackie lists partnering with her mother as co-owner of the shop among her greatest achievements.

Delores and Jackie are always making plans for taking their business to an even higher level.

In September, they plan to open The International Tea Room in their shop. The tea room promises to be a gathering place for poets, authors, singers, dancers and just plain folks from the many cultures represented in our community.

Also in the works: children's African dance classes, jewelry-making classes, head-tie classes, praise and worship events, a festival for families and a gala fashion show complete with modeling classes and a model search.

For details, go by the shop (hours are noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday) or call Jackie and Delores at 704-596-5990.

OK, now you know about the “true Lion” and the “real tiger.” But what about that elephant?

It's simple: Delores works part time at WTVI, Charlotte's public television station. One aspect of her job is traveling around with the station mascot, Seemore Goodstuff, promoting literacy and early childhood and multicultural education.

Of course we all know Seemore Goodstuff is a big, purple elephant.