“I like doing it, it is a gift to me, even if I do not get paid for it, I like doing it for myself”
Ansumana Komba Gbembo grew up in a war driven, British-colonized Sierra Leone where gun shots were second nature. He was raised as an English and Creole speaker in a family that valued their time together and were never “too busy” to sit down and merely enjoy each others company.
Ansumana finished high school while war was taking place around him during 1995 through 1997. Because of the unfortunate circumstances, his parents did not have the means to send him to college. His family would eventually migrate to New Guinea to flee the war. He attended an institute that provided education and safety for the refugees. During his time at the institute, Ansumana participated in a sewing class and soon developed his passion for it.
Ansumana and his family moved to Gambia in 1997. He lived there with his family as a refugee. In 2007, he applied for asylum and on September 15th 2009 he would find himself in The United States facing a brand new life without family or friends. He had to leave his family and the only life he knew behind but he was in good spirits.
“I had all the courage to be here. I came by myself and I am fighting for my brothers and sisters to make it over here”, said Gbembo.
The United Nations separated the traveling refugees between Britain and The United States and he was chosen to go to the United states. After traveling through three different countries, he landed in New York City where he stayed in a hotel for one night and was then transported to Erie, PA where he now lives.
“I used to have nightmares in Gambia because of the war and when I came here to Erie, they were gone.”
After settling in the states, Ansumana used his gifts as a tailor and designer and made a living out of them. He professionally makes custom designs for both men and women ranging from clothing to household items. He also offers sewing lessons. Gbembo is active in his community. He has taught a number of sewing classes at community centers such as the Betney Outreach Center and Erie’s Multicultural Resource Center (MCRC). He has also participated at “Erie Day” consecutively from 2012-2014, where his works were displayed and vended to the public.
Ansumana used his love and passion for design and fashion as a way to network and make connections in Erie. He plans to never give up designing and tailoring because he has recognized what it can do for his life. Fashion has allowed him to take care of himself while on his own in Erie and become the professional that he is. His profession and skills can also one day help to take care of his family. The cultural difference between American style and traditional African wear, makes Ansumana’s work a unique asset to the Erie community.
“I noticed that people in Africa prefer to wear clothing that they make, but Americans just go buy what they want to wear. We figure in Africa, if you want to wear it and you can make it, why not make it?”, said Gbembo.
Although he was placed in Erie without his own say so, he is happy and grateful for the time he has spent and the opportunities he has been given thus far. However, from time to time he is reminded of the war zone he wants lived in. It’s hard to forget something so notable in a lifetime. Sometimes if he hears a gun shot or stories of violence in his area, he is reminded of his history. Gbembo advocates for those who want to hear the stories of others and learn about their history. He is a motivationally driven entrepreneur who loves to tell his story.
Ansumana Komba Gbembo is active on Facebook under his full name. Visit for inquiries and more photos of his work.