No matter whether he was a point guard on the basketball court, a quarterback on the football field, or a platoon leader in boot camp, Sulaymaan Alkarriem always emerged as a leader.
Today Alkarriem, 41, is the owner of MySelfies, a family fun art gallery and hospitality business located downtown at 12 W. Broad St., which recently celebrated its second anniversary on Oct. 26. This venue offers over 15 interactive photo booths and rental space for a variety of events from bridal showers to birthday and graduation parties (there is a 2-hour minimum required). Also it bills itself as the “first selfie gallery in Richmond’s art district.”
The owner says the idea of creating a “selfie-museum” originally came from a friend, and even though there was no business plan at first, Alkarriem knew he was good at executing things.
Alkarriem enjoys working with the community through the business, especially reaching out to kids and partnering with other organizations. He wants to give back to the community in fresh ways. Everyone does Christmas giveaways, he notes, but what about Halloween? So this year, MySelfies was giving out costumes to families. “Why not gather more resources and help more people? It’s just a mission statement, to give back,” Alkarriem says.
In 2019, he founded the We R Me Foundation. This nonprofit focuses on helping ex-inmates readjust back into the community. Alkarriem was formerly incarcerated and wants to help others through the foundation, as if providing training wheels for the sometimes bumpy road back into society.
“Some people don’t make it to the age [when] they’re able to mature or find out what [their] purpose is,” he says. “So I just started looking back on things. I always was a leader even from sports programs, point guard, quarterback, being locked up, I did the boot camp thing as platoon leader, so I always had that leadership. I just told myself one day, ‘Wow, if I use it to do the right thing, how far could I go?’”
The lack of resources that most ex-inmates suffer from can take those persons right back into the lifestyle that put them in the system in the first place, Alkarriem says, adding that any federal or government assistance is often not enough.
For Alkarriem, the answer is to keep hustling and trying to help others. Besides his selfie museum, his other business ventures include polling during election time, marketing, music promotion, transportation and a management company.
“Sleep is for suckers,” he says.
MySelfies is located on 12 W. Broad St. and open Tuesday through Sunday with membership only Mondays. To learn more, visit the website.
The writer Gabriela de Camargo Gonçalves was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. She is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University graduating in December and a current intern at Style Weekly, while also leading VCU's independent student newspaper The Commonwealth Times.