As Fair told ESSENCE, the roots where planted when she turned thirteen. After telling her mother that she wanted to become a cosmetologist when she grew up, instead of summer camp that year, she opted to get a job. And every week that summer, Fair worked at a pioneer Black hair company on the southside of Chicago for two days.
It was there that Fair said women mentored her. “Even though I was interested in doing hair, they asked me, ‘are you still thinking about college? A four-year degree is great on top of [doing hair].’” “They really mentored me holistically, and down the line when I had women supervisors, they always mentored me. As an adult woman, I realized they gave me a blueprint for success,” stated Fair. “In starting Polished Pebbles, I wanted to be able to provide that same type of blueprint for girls today.”
Fair even relayed how ESSENCE and the editor emeritus Susan Taylor helped her when she was looking for a name for her fledgling organization. When she was reading Taylor’s book, All About Love, she knew that she wanted to start Polished Pebbles, but didn’t yet have a name. But “in one of the chapters, she wrote about the importance of relationships. There was a quote that said something along the lines of, like pebbles in a bag we all polish one another, and I just knew that would be a great name,” said Fair.
Fair knew she had hit on what she wanted to call her mentorship program, explaining the metaphor, “When you think about girls being a part of a collective, we’re polishing one another and building a network of girls, and more importantly, adult mentors who are also in this collective. I thought about pebbles in a bag, and when we come together for sessions and activities, we may be jagged, we may be a little dirty. But we all come together and through these experiences and through these interactions, we end up polishing each other through the mentoring experience.”
After George Floyd’s murder and the great racial reckoning swept the country, Fair learned how the NBA Foundation was putting “together [grants] to really drive economic opportunity in Black communities and connect Black youth from school to future career development and career opportunities.” She realized it would be a great partnership opportunity for Polished Pebbles.
“The NBA grant goes a long way, and because of those funds, we’ve been able to include 200 girls in our program this summer,” shared Fair. “You come to Polished Pebbles and learn how to get up and go to work on time. You learn the essence of soft skills, conflict resolution. And the NBA Foundation is supporting that as well as our career conference, which is happening this year on October 14.”
“It’s in the spirit of the NBA, in the work that we do, we’re polishing pebbles,” Fair states, adding “it really is a community effort. Our work only works because individuals in our community really come through and support that.”