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A conversation with the founders of the Purple Tie Foundation

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The Purple Tie Foundation recently held its gala night in Edmonton. The Foundation is run by twin sisters  Neriah and Moriah Inyang-Otu.

We interviewed them for our magazine a while ago. Here is the conversation in their own words.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your sister. What are you studying?

I am studying Physiology, and my sister Moriah is pursuing Biochemistry. We both aspire to become physicians, but in addition to our education and career goals, we share a strong passion for social justice and making a positive impact in our community.

What is the Purple Tie Foundation? What is the story behind it? What is the meaning behind the name Purple Tie? What do we hope to accomplish here in Canada with it? I noticed the essay competition was across Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria.

The Purple Tie Foundation was established in 2021 with the aim of encouraging our community in Akwa Ibom State, a minority group in the South of Nigeria, to invest in their education and future.

Each day, as we familiarize ourselves with the systems of the Global North, we study what makes them so successful. Aside from private education, what impacted them substantially was the presence of constant role models to learn from, and the numerous angles of access they had at their disposal.  We can help make those educational privileges – these motivational events where people pour out hope and love and pure, unconditional faith into them – more accessible to our own students.

The name of the foundation was inspired by Moriah’s novel, “Purple Tie Foundation: There is Royalty Within,” which she wrote at the age of 15. The book had a charitable purpose, with all proceeds to go to a cause aligned with our passions and social justice narrative. Since we couldn’t find a perfect fit, the Purple Tie Foundation was born.

The name itself carries a metaphorical meaning. The colour purple symbolizes royalty, power, and ambition. We believe that everyone possesses these qualities within themselves. By tying together all our experiences, both positive and challenging, we shape our identities. If we choose to carry ourselves with confidence, initiative, and purpose, symbolized by wearing our metaphorical purple tie, we can overcome any obstacle.

You are based in Canada but working globally; other than Nigeria, where else has the Purple Tie Foundation been busy?

While our initial focus has been on hosting essay-writing competitions in Akwa Ibom state, we have expanded our efforts since our launch. In Canada, we provide an annual scholarship to a high school student who has demonstrated an interest and active participation in social justice issues. We look for students who have volunteered with organizations dedicated to addressing injustice and have shown inspirational commitment to serving others.


The Purple Tie Foundation supports multiple communities. We currently focus on our home community in Akwa Ibom and Canadian students. Although we are just three years into our journey, we already have numerous ideas for future expansion and initiatives.

Tell me about your involvement with the Black Students Association – is this the main association for Black students at the U of A? Once I get your answers, I will do a follow-up as I am not sure where to take this now. What challenges do Black students face at the university? Are there options or solutions to solve them?

As the current Vice President of the Black Students Association (UABSA), my role involves extensive outreach and collaboration with local and national organizations that share our values. For example, I have worked with the City of Edmonton to contribute to the development of an anti-racism action plan. UABSA serves as the main association for black students at the University of Alberta (UofA), providing events and creating a safe space for our members. One of the main challenges faced by black students is access to resources, including mental health support and academic/career resources. While these resources exist, the issue lies in a lack of awareness among black students regarding their availability.

You have been busy with Teamup Science. What led you here? What have you accomplished?

My involvement with TeamUp Science stems from my deep passion for science. It’s why I’ve been an active part of TeamUp since I entered university. The program aims to make science accessible and enjoyable for Edmonton’s youth, with a specific focus on our indigenous, rural and inner-city communities. We host an Interdisciplinary Science Competition, workshops in Medicine, Computer Science, Engineering, as well as project-based after-school programs.

Currently, I have the privilege of leading the division responsible for coordinating weekly programs in schools and organizations across Edmonton. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to play an active role in enriching young minds. Our activities range from programming robots to working with distillation apparatuses, exploring chemical reactions. By dismantling academic barriers, STEM fields become less obscure. We have the opportunity to mentor the youth who sometimes fall through the cracks of our system by reaching out and letting them know their education and success mean so much to us. That they matter, and their interests and capabilities are worth pursuing. If you ask me, we have some astounding, talented future innovators!

Who are your role models?

When it comes to role models, my mother stands out as an incredible inspiration. She is a force to be reckoned with, trailblazing in her industry as the first black, female builder. But beyond that, it is her wholehearted commitment to the justice of the “othered.” (And she does not back down or give up. Forward is the only direction she knows!)

Growing up, she made it clear that “can’t” was not in our vocabulary. Every failure was met with a gentle but firm “try again.” Even if we had tried a hundred times before, even when giving up and permanently bolting on the training wheels was the easier option (albeit, dramatic).

When we went through humbling times, she would sing us a song her mom sang to her, and her grandma before her: “I am content with what I have, little be it or much…” siphoning our worries into a melody passed down from generations of visionary women. Her faith in God, in the kindness of others, in the promise of a better tomorrow – it all instilled humility and fire for life that burns in us fervently.

It is because of her and our experiences that we have a childlike hope in the ability of a pair of hands and reckless, unbridled devotion to a cause. That’s what we aim to share with whoever is willing to listen and whoever is brave enough to try.


Do you find time to read leisurely? What books motivate and inspire you?

Reading has always been a passion of mine. I find valuable lessons in every book, regardless of genre. One book that has resonated with me is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Its principles have had a lasting impact on my personal and professional growth.

As for Moriah, her current favorite book is “Purple Hibiscus” because of its themes of resilience, personal growth, and the insights it provides into the socio-political context of post-colonial Nigeria.


What campaigns did you lead at Student for Change that made you most proud? How do you combine your extracurriculars with school work?

At Students for Change, we initiated numerous efforts to raise awareness about racial discrimination faced by students. I am particularly proud of our first initiative, which involved engaging teachers and staff in conversations about our experiences with racism.

It was an eye-opening experience for them, and working together to establish protocols for addressing racial discrimination incidents was incredibly fulfilling.

 Balancing extracurricular activities with schoolwork requires effective time management, prioritization, and organizational skills. It is crucial to strike a balance and dedicate focused time to both academic pursuits and extracurricular commitments.

What do you do for your mental health?

Honestly? Bubble tea! It’s seriously an addiction for us now. I order the matcha milk tea with tapioca pearls (if you have not tried this yet, you haven’t tasted enjoyment). Moriah orders the classic brown sugar bubble tea. We pair that with our favorite book or TV show at the end of a long day, turn our notifications off, and just unwind. It’s such a great mental reset.

 What is your core message for your generation?

Use your hobbies and talents to spread joy and perhaps even spark innovation. Embrace the opportunity to be a leader within your own community, a true global citizen. As Charles Handy wisely put it, “Citizenship is the chance to make a difference to the place where you belong.” So, go out there and make your mark, positively impacting the world around you.

There is something important I must mention, though: with every story of success, there is a story of rejection. You might not know this because people aren’t quick to celebrate rejection. In fact, most try to hide it. But it is in the face of rejection that fear and procrastination thrive. So don’t let it get to you. Even if you don’t win the race the first time, remember that every experience builds the muscle that will help you achieve your goals the next time.

In light of this, I encourage you to view adolescence not as a period of irresponsibility and naivete but rather as a critical time for growth and learning. By challenging ourselves to take on difficult tasks and step out of our comfort zones, we can build a foundation for success in our adult lives.

So go beyond your comfort zone. Work on your music, business, career aspirations – whatever idea you have sitting in the backburner of your mind. Tomorrow is not a promise we can always rely on, so why not start now? Create a ripple effect, one impact after another. You are capable of so much greatness. The world eagerly awaits you.

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