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Tomalisa Washington: a proud, resilient and profound leader

Meet Tomalisa Washington, the ultimate multitasker and real-life superwoman! 🎭 She juggles

more hats than a circus performer as an executive director, wife, mom, first lady, doctoral student, mentor and community leader. But her favorite roles, you may ask? You got it! She enjoys being a wife and mom, hands down. 🤗


Raised in Mobile, AL, her roots are now planted in Tuscaloosa, AL. As a product of teenage parents, Life wasn’t handed to her on a silver platter, and she is immensely grateful for the amazing support system she has built and the opportunities she seized that led her to the place she is today. Tomalisa says “knowing what it is like to not have, as well as serving those who are/have struggled for extended periods, gives me a unique perspective.”


As a mental health therapist – talk about needing strength, care, and a whole lot of resilience! It's like playing a superhero, convincing folks they can be whole again. Now, as the ED of this chapter, I'm on a mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering, especially for the unserved and marginalized. Advocacy is my jam, fueled by my own experiences and a whole lot of heart.



As we celebrate the contributions of women and their impact on history this month, Tomalisa is blessed to have an abundance of female role models. Every day she is surrounded by strong, dynamic women like herself – doctors, lawyers, college presidents and more. As a member of the AKA sorority, Jack N Jill of America, Inc. and other local boards, she witnesses the ingenuity and versatility of females every day. Although she isn’t close personal friends with Michelle Obama, she is inspired by her.  


“Michelle Obama epitomizes grace, resilience, and unapologetic authenticity. Despite the demands of serving as first lady, she prioritized family and carried herself with a quiet grace that spoke volumes. Michelle's accomplishments, from earning a law degree to running a hospital, showcase her intelligence and drive. Her impeccable style and willingness to challenge norms inspire countless women, including myself. As a woman of darker complexion, Michelle faced unique challenges but remained true to herself and her values. She rose to prominence from humble beginnings, never allowing adversity to hold her back. Her story of resilience and triumph, as detailed in her book "Becoming," resonates deeply with me and countless others. Michelle Obama is a beacon of strength and authenticity, and her legacy continues to inspire generations.”


From a young age, Tomalisa was reassured that she could do hard things. She knows her only limitations are the ones she places on herself. Fellow AKA sorority sister, Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to travel to space once said, “Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination”. Tomalisa recalls the pride she felt when learning that Jemison had broken the proverbial glass ceiling, overcoming the obstacles in her way. “Wow, wow, wow. I had never seen a black woman astronaut; it was unheard of at the time”. Tomalisa adds, “It is important that you know who you are and your capacity so that you aren’t influenced by the doubters and those who seek to limit what you can do.”


Like so many women of color, Tomalisa has fought stereotypes and microaggressions and throughout her career. At the Red Cross, our clients, volunteers, employees, donors and suppliers represent a wide array of cultures, ethnic backgrounds, ages, gender identities, lifestyles, and beliefs. We must embrace the rich diversity around us. Black women leaders often grapple with the pressure of conforming to the "strong black woman" schema while avoiding the "angry black woman" stereotype. The expectation to embody perfection and resilience can be overwhelming, leading many to suppress emotions to avoid being labeled aggressive or confrontational.


Despite these challenges, access to supportive resources and understanding leaders within an organization provide reassurance and a pathway to navigate these barriers without compromising one's authenticity and identity – something that Tomalisa appreciates about the Red Cross.  


To the young ladies out there, Tomalisa shares this piece of advice “START! Settle yourself, focus, and pursue your passion. Your older self will be grateful, and you will have peace unlike any you’ve known.”

Tomalisa is just one of the phenomenal women who make up the breadth of the Red Cross! Next time you're in Tuscaloosa, Al. stop by and chat with her - you won't be disappointed.


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