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‘It means that I’m seen’: Fayetteville community organizer talks historic photoshoots, accolades and authenticity

Creator of “100 Professional Black Women in Black” photoshoot will host “100 Professional Black Men in Black” photoshoot this Saturday.


When Tiffany Campbell, 37, receives the Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission’s Community Recognition Award on Feb. 15, she’ll celebrate the achievement of a goal she set for herself just a month ago.

Campbell works as a youth counselor technician and certified driver for the N.C. Dept. of Public Safety and is also the owner of Elite Steps, an organization focusing on gun violence and community outreach. She created the “100 Professional Black Women in Black” photoshoot in downtown Fayetteville last month, which brought 150 women from nearby counties dressed in black together to celebrate their professional accomplishments, and will host the “100 Professional Black Men in Black” photoshoot this Saturday. She has also facilitated numerous gun violence awareness events in Cumberland and Harnett counties, including the annual “It’s A Family Affair Sneaker Balls,” which she began in 2022.

CityView spoke with Campbell on Monday about what drives her, who inspires her and what’s coming next. 

Her answers are excerpted below and have been edited for brevity and clarity.


CITYVIEW: How would you describe your role in the community?

TIFFANY CAMPBELL: I guess I would describe myself just as someone who is giving back, doing my part to try to make an impact on the community that impacts us all. 

Walk me through your journey to organizing the It’s A Family Affair Sneaker Ball and other gun violence awareness events.

All of my events are based off things that I see that need to happen. I’m a big believer in being who you needed when you were younger … just being and doing those things that are needed for myself and others. 

I actually have been doing family-friendly events for a long time. Growing up, I was a part of a lot of family-friendly stuff, but it didn’t always incorporate everybody. My first event was probably [in] 2013, 2014, bringing parents and kids together for events. I did a formal ball in Harnett County and then I had Jump Start … [where] we opened up a gym from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. that kids could be dropped off at … Kids wanna go places. Parents need safe places for their kids to go that’s not getting them in trouble. “Free to Be Me” was a group I had that was mentoring girls, because that was a need that I saw. I know what I needed — I needed open-minded people that didn’t judge me, but listened to me. That was the base — listening more than we talked so that we could help navigate them through life. 

Even with the professional women’s [shoot], as a Black professional woman, I do need that network of people. I wanna have the support of the next person. Seeing that we didn’t have that is what inspired me to do the photoshoot, because I knew if we could just get in the same space, we’ll make the connections we need …

With gun violence awareness, my friend Daniel Sulton was murdered [in 2021]. Seeing the narrative of, “Oh, well, he was a gang member” — it was just so many negative things attached to his name when none of them defined who he actually was. This was a father of three. This man worked every day. The gang stuff and the stuff when you look on social media … that wasn’t actually who he was; it was just maybe a piece of it. We were neglecting the fact that he had three kids out here that no longer have a father. My cousin was murdered, and his son didn’t have a father anymore — of course, he had a stepfather, but his dad was gone. It took me back to the whole family-friendly atmosphere again, which is what motivated me to do the It’s A Family Affair Sneaker Ball. 

Gun violence is taking so many people out, and it doesn’t really get the attention it deserves. We acknowledge it, but we don’t do anything about it, which is why I started the “Guns Down, Family Up” [events], to bring people together and say, “Hey, let’s put this down.” 

Can you walk me through what the moment of the 100 Professional Black Women in Black photoshoot was like for you, having all these women together in downtown Fayetteville? 

It was surreal. It didn’t feel real … If I had a child, I would want them to experience this much unity and this much solidarity, this much support, this much love. I love the fact that I was able to help create this for people. People were taking generational pictures there … [we had] my mom and my mom’s sister, my sisters and my other niece. We had generations there as well. For me, my great-great-grandmother was sold at the Market House. So for my family, it was like, this is a moment that we see how much power we have to rewrite our own history. 

Speaking of the Market House, you got some backlash for the photoshoot, with some people taking issue with the photos taken around the Market House and others unhappy with the concept of the shoot itself. What’s your response to those criticisms? [The Market House in downtown Fayetteville has been the subject of controversy in recent years for its history as a place where enslaved people were sold.]

At the end of the day, everything is not for everybody. If you don’t understand, you just don’t understand. If you don’t agree, just don’t agree … this is a part of our history. We can talk about it all day long — if we tear it down, we still know where it was at. We still know what happened there. It’s still attached to so many negative feelings. At what point do we gain our power back and change the narrative? We literally held hands with a circle full of love and support and everybody putting everything aside to say, “Hey, this is what we choose to create for this moment at this place that is seen as a negative thing.” We’re choosing to change the narrative. We’re choosing to evolve. We’re choosing to regain our power, and if that’s not what you see it as, then this wasn’t meant for you.

You achieved a major personal goal last month when you were announced as one of the Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission’s 2024 Community Recognition Award winners. You’ll receive that award on Feb. 15. What does that mean to you? 

It means that I’m seen. For me, I don’t care much for the public accolades. Prior to the women’s shoot, I began to drop stuff [online] about my mom. My mom has been the ultimate community person my entire life, so I’ve had a great example … I’ve seen a lot … as I started to do things on my own, I didn’t care about being up front. Sometimes, being in the background of your own stuff or letting other people do stuff in front of you — sometimes you get tired. You start running out of steam, because you never get acknowledged. You don’t do it for the acknowledgment, but you just wish [you’d hear], “Hey, I’m proud of you,” or “Keep it going” without having to be the face of something. 

It’s almost breathtaking to know that I’m being seen and that I’m actually leaving an impact, fulfilling my purpose in what I’m supposed to be doing around here. 

You work closely with juveniles in your day job. What has that experience taught you? 

It’s taught me to listen to understand. There are so many kids that do so many horrible things — I’m not going to sugarcoat it. A lot of times, the signs were there, and listening to their conversations and being open-minded enough to just listen and understand their perspective … showed me that they’re kids. Their brains are not developed enough to understand that this isn’t how this works. Sometimes, listening to them, you understand why they made the decision that they made, even if it was wrong. Being in that space has taught me that until you humble yourself and just listen and try to understand without judgment, you’re never going to actually make an impact.

Are there any events or initiatives you’d really like to make happen over the next year or that you want people to know are in the works?

Of course, I have the It’s A Family Affair Sneaker Ball; the third one will be this year. The goal is to have it at Segra Stadium, and that’s March 2. I’ve already dropped the flyers for that. 

I’ve always done a Guns Down, Family Up event in June, because that is Gun Violence Awareness Month. Last year, I did it in Cumberland County; this year, I’ll probably try to go to Harnett County. I try to do both. 

I’m also wanting to do a professional event reunion for all the people that are a part of the 100 Black Men and 100 Black Women [shoots], to be able to come out and just have an old-school family traditional cookout. It’s not just for Black people, but that’s kind of the vibe. I want to keep it on that professional, old-school-type vibe where professional vendors are able to come out and showcase their food trucks, food and clothing lines so that we can just bring Fayetteville together and be able to support one another. 

There’s a lot of people here — not just Black people, professionals, period, that are doing a lot of amazing things that we don’t always see because we don’t know enough. I can’t reach everybody, but if you can reach an audience and that audience can reach their audience, then we can bring more people together. I want to have music. I want to have art. I want to have a bounce house for kids. I want to have something that is a family-friendly event where everybody can find something there that they can enjoy.

Who are some people in this community who inspire you in the work that you do?

My biggest inspiration at this space in my life is my sister. She was like a mother figure to me growing up … Our focuses in what we do are so totally different, but still being able to be in each other’s world and support each other there makes a difference. My mom [is] the ultimate example … Having somebody that understands who you really are … is pure amazing. You can’t beat that right there.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

I’ve worked in the background for so long, and I just want people to understand that sometimes, we have to give first and then get. We can’t always focus on the money and the compensation. Sometimes, you just doing things out of pure love makes all the difference in America. All the rest will just come. Being genuine is what it’s all about. 

Reporter Lexi Solomon can be reached at lsolomon@cityviewnc.com or 910-423-6500.

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Gun violence, community organizations, Cumberland County, nonprofit