There are many ways to describe Aelicia “Chocolate” Watson; resilient, intelligent, intuitive, and intentional are words that readily come to mind. As the founder and executive director for Redeemed Women, a non-profit charity helping women get their lives back on track, Chocolate walks alongside girls and women as they navigate life’s challenges.
Chocolate herself was dealt a heavy hand in life. After enduring sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, bone cancer twice, breast cancer, homelessness, and domestic abuse, she turned her obstacles into stepping stones toward redemption.
Raised with fifteen siblings, Chocolate spent many of her younger years caring for her brothers and sisters while her parents struggled with drug abuse. Refusing to let the same struggle manifest in her life, Chocolate set out on a path to connect with God and heal herself from, as she puts it, “all of the things” meant to hold her back from her purpose.
“Molested by my father, homeless, abandoned by my mother, and I’ve had cancer three times … I’ve seen every aspect of life, even in my professional career. I’ve always started at the bottom and worked my way up. So I feel like my story is one of transformation and grace,” explains Chocolate.
While Chocolate strives daily to heal from her own wounds, she has set out to help other struggling women do the same. By forming her non-profit organization, Redeemed Women, in 2017, Chocolate created a space where all women, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or spiritual belief, could come to repair and rebuild themselves.
“No one is wrapping their arms around a woman and loving her no matter if she’s a single mother, married … loving her if she is a caregiver for her parents, loving her if she is a drug addict. … Nobody ever talked to me about safe sex, birth control, or STDs. That was something I had to figure out on my own. No one told me where my life could go in a different direction,” explained Chocolate.
As a young girl growing up in West Dallas before moving to live with her father in Compton, California, she only saw life one way: hard. Chocolate explains that a notable portion of the population in South Dallas are Black women who have little or no education. She sees a version of herself in most of the women she ministers to in the community.
One of the hardest things Chocolate has had to do was write her book, Anointed: A Survivor’s Story, wherein she exposed her father for molesting her and her mother for abandoning her.
“I want to share my story transparently, so people will know that they’re not alone. We grew up in a culture where you slip everything up under the rug. I exposed my dad and mom in a book I wrote and talked about things publicly, which means that none of my family talks to me,” explains Chocolate. “So you think about being in an impoverished community where people want to talk about major hurts, but then they’re judged by their families. No one is going to support them. Then as the woman shares her story, she lives in shame, guilt, and fear.”
She continues, “For me, I just wanted people to know that Jesus paid the price for our life, but he also wants us to be surrounded by community. And so I just was like, let me build a facility that can be nice, warm, safe space that provides a community to address certain things.”
Chocolate ministered to broken women even as she struggled with divorce. Her doctor determined that the stress brought about her breast cancer diagnosis.
“My breast cancer was brought on because of stress because I didn’t tell anybody I was in a toxic relationship, because I was ashamed to let people know. So I woke up to a blood vessel bursting in my nipple … only to find it’s stress-related because I’m bottling things [up], and I have nowhere to talk about it,” she shares.
Chocolate explains that she wants to prevent other women from facing the negative consequences of dealing with their hardships alone.
“So we have to be able to get out of what I call the generational norms and do something different, which is what Redeemed Women does: we help break the cycle of generational poverty. It’s not just material poverty, and it’s not just monetary poverty; it’s the mindset poverty, health poverty, relational poverty,” she says.
When asked why she chose to take on the battle of redeeming women in the South Dallas community, Chocolate’s answer is simple, “South Dallas because I know South Dallas. I know impoverished communities, East Dallas, West Dallas, and Oak Cliff. I know disadvantaged communities because I grew up in them my entire life.”
Chocolate looks at her experience battling cancer, overcoming abuse, and breaking damaging cycles as a war. Every battle is more complicated than the next. She feels she has completed basic training by pushing through all the obstacles that could have stopped her.
Now, Chocolate is “armed with the tools to go and fight the battle,” she says, adding, “South Dallas is the battle for me.”