During the Summer of 2007 in Chicago, Allegra’s mother, her family’s main support system, became ill and passed away later that year. The following year, Allegra moved everyone to Duluth, MN so her children could be closer to their father and his wife. Having grown up in Chicago, a very segregated city, Allegra’s family had lived in a predominantly black community. Upon arriving in Duluth, she experienced culture shock and found herself to be the only black person at her job and in most other situations. For what felt like the first time, she experienced racism.

She recalls, “I was a college educated woman with great work experience, but not everyone saw that – there were assumptions and misconceptions about who I was that baffled me”. However hurtful, these experiences led her to seek outlets for creating change. She became an Employment Advocate for African Americans returning to the workforce. Allegra later became employed with the local school district’s Office of Education Equity, where she advocated for closing the achievement gap of black and indigenous students of color. Her passion to address issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion spurred her to become involved with a myriad of local causes (human rights, parent involvement, YWCA Board, local community newspaper, anti-racism campaigns) all addressing racism.

“After six years of giving my professional best to so many agencies, committees, and organizations in Duluth, with so many meetings and marches, I became burnt out from the extensive involvement,” she explained, “and when my second eldest son graduated from high school there, I decided this was time to take a break. We moved to California to get him enrolled in college, and stay with my oldest son, who offered that the younger children and I could move there and live with him while I found work.”

Shortly after the California move, Allegra’s children learned that their father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and would be undergoing treatment back in Minnesota. To make things more complicated, Allegra was notified by county officials that the home she was sharing with her eldest son was not properly zoned for an additional family of three. She and the younger children would have to find another living situation, and quickly. Real estate and rental properties in the area were out of her price range. Allegra confided in one of her friends from Minnesota, who had heard about Partners for Housing’s (P4H) shelters and affordably priced housing, so Allegra decided to move back to Minnesota with her two school age children, for more affordable housing options and to be closer to their father again.

I was a college educated woman with great work experience, but not everyone saw that - there were assumptions and misconceptions about who I was that baffled me.


When P4H Staff connected with Allegra, she had gone through her third move in a short time. There was room in the shelter for her family, and 6 weeks into their 90-day stay, they qualified for one of P4H’s below-market rental apartments. Finally, Allegra had the stability she and her family needed to forge ahead. She was able to get her younger children in school where they could forge and maintain connections, friendships and have continuity in their education.

The P4H apartments provided the landing place Allegra’s family had been seeking. Her children’s father passed away in 2017, while Allegra continued to provide for and comfort the children during the grief, emotional and health issues that ensued. Thanks to P4H, they had the stability to mourn, heal and move forward during this difficult time. The affordable rent allowed Allegra to pursue her own personal, professional, and entrepreneurial goals. Networking with mentors in the community, Allegra avidly formulated her business and marketing plan, including a logo and website. Through Allegra’s business, Ahkin LLC, she presents diversity, equity and inclusion workshops to individuals, organizations, and businesses throughout southern Minnesota.

With success in her new business venture, and with her family mostly grown, Allegra has decided to move from P4H’s complex into another apartment building in Mankato.

“I really loved Partners’ apartment. It was my home and I miss it in some ways,” Allegra explained. “I loved the wooded ravine, the wildlife, and the overall privacy. At this point in my journey, though, I am ready for something a little more private and geared around professionals. I was ready to move on.”

We wish Allegra the best with her exciting new life and thank her for sharing her journey with us.