By the Grace of God…Here I am!

1459215_10201816861135154_1471421347_nIt’s hard to pinpoint any instance in particular, but this latest tragedy of violence that has taken the life of yet another child in Chicago has to be one of the most senseless and illogical. Endia Martin, a 14 year old freshman at Tilden High School was shot to death as a result to an argument over a boy with her former friend, another 14 year old girl. The argument apparently involved some cyber cat-fighting and eventually played out on a south side street that is all too familiar with gun shots and hopelessness.

While more than 50 children have died by violence this year alone, it is not typical to hear that the suspect is a teen so young…definitely not a girl. This is different. But is it really new?

Like so many, I too have asked the question of just what in the world transpired that would cause a 14 year old girl to shoot her former friend. Is that hate? Is that anger directed at an individual? How much vitriol disregard can you truly have for someone who just months ago you were cool with (in adolescence rationale).

You begin to research, to make a personal connection to the children involved. You hear family anecdotes and friends’ reflections. Facebook photos surface. More questions.

Then you remember what your life was like at 14-15…

This is my story.

I remember the fall day like it was yesterday.

It’d been a long week. Another day walking the halls in a school I abhorred…sitting in classes with only one other person who looked like me, in front of teachers who expected nothing from me, and amongst peers who (in my mind) were so simple (they all believed this stupid bogeyman perception that kids who grew up in the “city” were extremely poor and  deviant. Too boot these “suburban kids were the poorest materialistic folk I’d ever met) it all  felt so pathetic. I only hung out with seniors.

Just as in previous days,while passing one another in the hall I’d  bumped shoulders with my arch nemesis…she liked my boyfriend; and truth be told I know some colorism was at play on both our parts. Too bad for us that on this particular day, my tolerance was on empty. She walked past my locker as I was talking to my boyfriend and made a snarky remark. I told her I was going to fuck her up. Oh yes. No filter… I had a potty mouth and could hang with the best of drunken sailors. We argued on the bus ride back from our predominantly white suburban school to our all-Black suburb. She got off at the first stop. I remember thinking. Okay. Good. I don’t feel like fighting anyway and really just want to go home. But when I got off at my stop (about 3 blocks) I see her and a group of instigators running towards me yelling my nickname (which became infamous against my desires). Oh shit. She is still on this b.s. Okay, she want a fight, a fight she is going to get. I ran home, dropped my book bag at the door, ran into the kitchen got a steak knife and dashed back up the street. She was still there talking big stuff. I let her swing first, then I popped her one good time… then landed a couple of more. The knife connected right below her temple.

I saw the blood. Instantly I felt remorse….I said I was going to fuck her up, but I didn’t consider her blood. All I could think was that I fucked up. I don’t remember what happened…if I walked to the police station that night  myself or if the police came to school the next day (maybe both).

Court date came and went…don’t even remember how I plead but God’s favor was all over me. Case dismissed (I think). But that would not be the end of my woes for the two and half years I lived and attended school in the suburbs of Chicago. Other scenarios filled my teenage angst. I loved NWA and had my mother confiscate my cassette tapes (which I dubbed from friends). I constantly mouthed off to racist/prejudiced teachers and got detentions and suspensions. And more fights…mostly 85%  not as the aggressor.

But that doesn’t matter. Aggressor or not, fighting is still fighting. And in the heat of the moment, especially when weapons of any kind are involved, can end with someone seriously hurt. Or dead.

So I can understand why so many question what leads our girls to this behavior, what is going on today? I keep in mind the times long ago but not far away when even before I moved out to the suburbs and lived on the Low End of Chicago, it was pretty common to hear of girl fights involving locks and box cutters.

WE look at these girls’ Facebook pictures today and question their parents’ involvement and guidance…their morals; yet I can attest to being a girl throwing up gang signs OFTEN, my mother even found a picture of me on a bus full of SUBURBAN Black kids, all “gang banging.”

What I know for sure is this…there but for the Grace of God here I am. Today I am an advocate for urban girls who are growing up in similar environments as me and in a time when NOBODY seems to care about their very being. When the only time Black girls matter is if it is an exotic story from a world away. This is a time when not even the school house can be a refuge full of teachers who fight tooth and nail to educate and give life to your full development. This in a time where local politicians sell out kids for a dollar or even at a price as low as a handshake from the mayor. Today guns  pass through U.S. customs and land in the hands of 14 year old girls in economically stifled neighborhoods but never make it to their polar opposite neighborhoods…even while obscure people like Bin Laden can be found in caves or missing planes can be tracked to ocean floors across the world

See folks LOVE to play the righteous role…like their whole life has been an angel’s walk. Not my story.  lovnd and own their place as change agents in this world…I choose this work over a career that could easily yield me $60K+ a year. This work that I am lucky to earn $10K  a year. Why?

Because I remember. Because they are girls like me and I know what they can be IF we invest in them making it to the other side, successful, wounded healers bettering their community. Feeling loved. Being love.

Stop judging our babies. Stop treating them like they are just another headline or case study of the day. They are still yet babies with a whole lot of growing up to do. See their value. See how you can increase your value by investing in them.

Please. There is no future that we do not nurture.

*I had completely come to a different understanding of my worth by my senior year of high school. I avoided physical conflicts. I spent time with productive friends who had ambition and dreams. I was ALWAYS surrounded by a loving mother/grandmother/father/stepmothers, extended church family….this all made a difference.

Disconnect. Denial. Bloodshed: When losing a generation is not enough

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You feel a depth of pain that at first snags your heart and you cry tears of sadness. Then an angry sensation sears  through your nervous system…it is a state of existence that seems quite normal if one lives in Chicago and is in tune with the events of the hood or just regularly watches the news. All of it seems to settle with a big depressing thud right in the middle of your spirit and you ask yourself how many more? What can I do? Why? How?

The loss of life is never any less senseless in situations where children are involved…never a way to make sense of the insanity, even after the 50th child is murdered within the first four months of 2014.

Such is the case upon hearing the news that 14 year old Endia Martin was shot to death, by her 14 year old former friend; an argument over a boy taken to the streets from a Facebook beef.

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The anger consumes you and you want somebody to pay for the absolutely deranged order of things. Whereby kids are no longer arguing and having a fist fight but cocking back and following through with pulling a trigger to not only shoot at, but shoot again until the victim falls like action in a video game. But it is not a game. No brilliant sounds  or lights signaling the score or proclaiming a winner. It is real. And the only sounds and flashing lights come from the ambulance and police cars…no winners. Two lives lost in a minute of thoughtless aggression.

chicago-violence-juvenilesIt is the reality facing our babies on the south and west sides of Chicago whose common denominators are the color of their skin and proximity to poverty.

You become depressed when you know full well that little 14 year old girls 20 miles away in Edgewater and Ravenswood are having catty arguments over boys and other such juvenile melodramas…and yes they are engaging in cyber-cat fights and bullying. Ridiculous selfies that are ripe for 20/20 hindsight…and you wish, really pray hard for the times when the girls in your community could have a life so simple…where they can be assured that no matter what, a violent death is possible yet not highly probable.

Why is that?

Heartbreaking that Endia Martin will never get to realize her dream of traveling the world…she’ll never follow in her mother’s footsteps to become a nurse and possibly a physician. She is dead. A bullet struck her petite body. Blood spilled from her body. She lay lifeless, zipped into a plastic bag and carried to a coroner. Do you FEEL THAT?!? It is not just news, this is happening to a family, to teenagers who have to return to the same school, same streets as she just walked the day before.

And to add unto the tragedy the accused shooter, another 14 year old girl, was handed the gun by her adult uncle…and another family member helped unjam the gun after her first attempt. She then had to stand alone, no family, nobody who cared enough to stand with her as her fate is dictated to her by the court system.

So much screams at us that we are completely off track if in fact we truly CARE about the lives of our children.

Here’s the deal.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently gave public statements questioning the morals and values of the families/parents of people who shoot/kill others. Okay. I’ll give you that..if you also apply the same theory to the families/parents of those who shot up Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and other such incidences.

All the values in the world, all the compassion and dreams can be smothered to death when lack, and want and survival are suffocated without their airline of resources.

So now here’s where you should stop reading if any diversion from political correctness makes you uncomfortable.

That was your warning.

STFU about values, STFU telling kids they are the future…just STFU if you are not present in the lives of any children who do not share your blood line. STFU if you had any part in the closing of 54 schools located within the most desperate communities of our city. STFU if you have had any part in the dismantling of the family structure with policies that castigate fathers and harden mothers. STFU if you are producing/playing/dancing to spirit killing music and not reading to your children. STFU if you shake your head, pack up your family and move away without planting seeds for growth within the ones still behind. STFU if you have not asked for accountability beyond a press conference and photo opp with politicians and celebrities.

EVERYONE READING THIS HAS A RESPONSIBILITY TO SAVE OUR CHILDREN!

How? Here a few ways to begin…

 

There are never enough ideas or ways to transform our community and save our babies! If you have more to add, please feel free to share!

 

You can’t consume beauty: Lupita…an image of hope!

And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty. ” Lupita Nyong’o-Essence Women in Hollywood 

Courtesy of chikaoduahblog.com

Courtesy of chikaoduahblog.com

Her face is everywhere these days…whether you have seen the film that catapulted her onto magazine covers and household television screens, or if you rely on newscasters to help you pronounce her name, one thing is for sure: the world knows Lupita, Oscar-winning actress…and wounded healer.

It’s funny…this game of life in our society. Just one instance can land us in our dreams, exalted by the masses despite ourselves. Never mind the struggles we have on the climb up, the nightmares that can include half a girlhood spent in self-loathing for not fitting the beauty standards of the western world, for being  poor, being uneducated….for just not being anything other than yourself.

Still, the right lighting or role, a chance conversation tucks all that in and the world is now ready to accept you, sans your struggle.

And so many buy into it, never to speak of their struggle; either they surgically deny it or cover it up with glitter and studded diamonds, entourages and pseudo diva attitudes. So when one uses their platform, as Lupita has, to boldly acknowledge her struggle and her journey to self love; it is rather shocking when that bold nature is then used as a springboard for a few (well now a worldwide movement) to insist on feeding a beast that too often exploits and  conflates the value of those who consume its fruit…yes I’m talking the #LupitaForMac campaign.

Very astute and influential Black WOMEN took to twitter and IG to assemble the bandwagon calling for MAC cosmetic company to create a Lupita line, which was well received…the call was directed to the Mac Cosmetics Twitter account. Not quite certain if MAC has answered, however that is not the point of this piece.

And let me state for the record, I AM NOT AGAINST MAC CREATING A LINE FOR LUPITA NYONG’O.

This is not that.

However, I want us to consider Lupita’s speech delivered at the Essence Women of Hollywood Luncheon. She had a message for young girls, those girls like herself who are struggling to love what the mirror says beyond what media spins about beauty. As she stated with much conviction, “beauty cannot be consumed” and “…get to the deeper business inside…”

These phrases push me to plead with our sisters, the ones who have healed the “ugly scar” of self hatred, the ones whose frequent shopping splurges easily take them into department stores with shiny and colorful makeup counters, lip-gloss popping and foundation dabbing at counters boldly proclaiming brands like MAC, Clinique, Estee Lauder, etc. That these ladies might remember the wounded girl child still in search of the love on the inside. The young girl whose idea of shopping for makeup and beauty products rarely if ever involve revolving doors opening to a world of shining glamour but more likely than not relegated to peering through  dimly-lit, crowded shelves of an asian-owned beauty supply store. Stores which upon her entry, demand she leave all her bags at the front counter and only allow her one companion at a time. She gives up her hard to come by dollars only to receive little respect in return.

Let’s change this narrative. Let us put out the call for girls who love chemistry sets and those who love makeup to do a mashup and create a line of makeup which Lupita (or any number of high-profile Black women) can endorse. Let us apply the “for us by us” philosophy and BUSINESS model.

I’m willing to bet somewhere out there a girl has been mixing colors and products trying to get the right look for her skin tone. She’s been giving it away as gifts to loved ones and probably selling a few jars here and there. Imagine the boost her enterprising dream would get if she were to be discovered and pushed as so many do for brand names like MAC.

But I know I am probably being unrealistic, right? I mean who cares about those girls, after all, this is about the ones who can AFFORD MAC anyway. Right? Well….okay. I get it. I know what it is, especially when I see the comparative statements regarding Lorde’s new Mac line as justification to why Lupita deserves it. Hmmm, we cannot escape it no matter how hard we try; the deserving, good-enough factor always creeps in.

Still, I’d hope if the push continues for #LupitaforMac that there are a few other asks to be considered, such as:

  • Proceeds go towards scholarship for African-American girls studying chemistry
  • A reality show is created to discover the next make-up artist (hey why not, they have cake baking shows, home decorating, fashion designer, etc.) The prize is an internship/job working on the next MAC line for Lupita
  • Proceeds benefit summer camps for girls of color that fortifies self-esteem and beauty beyond the external

Of course this is only the way I must view things, as I have too much engagement with girls like me who are growing up in poverty and limiting environments. I know they need a deeper connection.

I’m known to be a little intense. Perhaps this is the case here. What do you think? And when you have a moment, do a Google image search of the terms, “black girls makeup beauty toy set.” Are you shocked that there is not one picture of Black girls playing in makeup? Leave off the toy set and see what you get? Surprised? Will we, too continue to lock out of beauty dreams?

Please share any organizations or programs that focus on girls STEM and enterprise, especially related to chemistry.

Here’s Lupita’s full speech:

Pampered Power Talks 2014

561280_518759218160082_1807241337_nIt’s that time of year again! Girls Like Me Project Inc. is set to celebrate Women’s History Month in ways that educate and celebrate women pioneers, while inspiring and transforming the lives of today’s legacy builders.

Throughout March, GLMPI will profile a trailblazer who has paved the way for girls and women in fields of STEM, education and advocacy. Our intention this year is to introduce urban girls of color to STEM fields in ways that feed their ambition while opening their minds to opportunities beyond the typical gender-discriminate career options they normally encounter.

Beyond the WHM profiles, we are excited to present workshops for school districts and organizations that focus on legacy building; breaking barriers; and media representation.

GLMPI 2nd Annual Pampered Power Talks celebrates Women's History Month

GLMPI 2nd Annual Pampered Power Talks celebrates Women’s History Month

To culminate WHM, GLMPI will host it’s 2nd annual Pampered Power Talks where girls ages 11-16 will be treated to a day of yoga instruction, hand massages, manicures, facials, and empowerment talks from STEM professionals. Pampered Power Talks is scheduled for Saturday, March 29, 2014 at University of Chicago Carter G. Woodson Middle School Campus, 4444 S. Evans, Chicago, IL. 60653. For more information or to register your girls for Pampered Power Talks, contact 773-599-3490.

So, what are you doing to celebrate Women’s History Month? Any books you suggest for girls to read in connection to Women’s History Month?

We’d love for you to join GLMPI for WHM Tweet Chat scheduled 5p CST/6pEST/3p PST Sunday, March 16th. #GLMPIWHMChat

To book a GLMPI workshop for your students or youth group, click here.

More background on Women’s History Month and orgs who are celebrating:

Official Women History Month site

YWCA intentionally connects Black History Month and Women’s History Month

 

 

Vision Boards: Perfect Project for National Mentoring Month

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It’s a new year. It’s the season of resolutions, planning, vision board crafting, and mastermind building.

This is the time everyone dares to dream. To forecast their futures. Yet what it also has been for so many of us, is a time to truly reflect on our purpose and our divine destiny. By now most of us have seen the magazine articles and  heard tons of motivational speakers deliver their new year talk about “finding your true purpose” and “living out your passion.”

Well, for those who make it a practice to take time to journal and reflect, to meditate, listen to their voice and seek to create their true desires…things have become a lot clearer. Clarity is always a beautiful thing. It helps you distinguish your consciousness from your subconscious. It helps you identify the blocks in your life (lack of goals, relationships, habits, environment, etc.) But mostly it gives you an ability to recognize your power and connection to The Most High…The Creator. God.

It is such a liberating space. You feel yourself. Not in any ego-maniacal way, but in a self-assured and determined way.

The month of January is also National Mentoring Month, so this is a perfect opportunity for some intentional engaged mentoring! As you plan for your year ahead, I encourage you to share the experience with your daughters, nieces, and mentees. Help them to do some self-evaluation, to really dig deep and identify their true desires. Help them to see themselves. Not to mention, this is the best way for you to get to know them a lot better and listen.

Vision Boards can help girls:

  • Develop Goals
  • Evaluate personal choice/responsibility
  • Encourage self-awareness
  • Nurture a sense of hope/possibility

You just may re-new a girl’s love for herself and thereby save her life!

A little inspiration….

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I always enjoy delivering Girls Like Me Project Inc. vision board workshops to girls. I’d love to serve your school or organization. I offer  mommy/daughter or mentor/mentee vision board sessions. Book me and let’s transform a life! Or if you’d like, I will send you a vision board template to help you and your mentee create your own vision boards.

Gift it!

New Moon Magazine

New Moon Magazine is a great investment to inspire our girls to reach higher and connect with a network of ambitious and legacy-building girls. 

Work it out!

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Dove has a great self-esteem tool kit. My favorite is the self-exploration workbook  that helps them connect with role models and strengthen positive self-esteem.

Make this a memorable Mentoring Month. Please share your vision board experiences, or your fun ideas for mentoring month activities!

Holiday shopping with Girl-preneur power!

One of the biggest honors of 2013 was the opportunity Girls Like Me Project had to foster the independent spirit of girls like me by supporting businesses of  girl-preneurs.

There is mutual pride that comes from investing and empowering our girls through enterprise and economic development. This blog post is dedicated to all the girls who dare to dream a dream, and those who are legacy builders.

The girl-preneurs featured below have provided services and/or donated items to support GLMPI giveaways and raffles.

Please help support their dreams and consider shopping with them for the holiday season and beyond. Here are our favorite girl-preneurs!

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Angel Beasley of Angel & Co.

Little Angel is indeed an earthly Angel! She started her business by the time she was 10 years old. Today her sweet, soft voice is reflective of the care she puts into her business Angel & Co. ; a multi-division company which offers Cookn’ Cookies by Angel; Heavenly Scents by Angel; and Designer Angel Origami Owl.  She is a big power broker in a small package! Visit Angel & Co. website and make a purchase, or book her for your next vendor event!

Amaya Anderson 13 Freshman AngelFace Collection™ by Amaya

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AngelFace Collection by Amaya is an accessories company. All items are handmade and uniquely designed with your individuality in mind. Man or woman, boy or girl, sports or formal, AngelFace Collection by Amaya is here to accessorize you.

She’s always loved arts and crafts and needed a way to make money. She saw some jewelry at a market fair and decided she would make her own and sell it for profit.

AngelFace Collection custom item

AngelFace Collection custom item

AngelFace Collection bracelets

AngelFace Collection bracelets

The name of the company is inspired by her nickname given to her by her deceased maternal grandmother. Visit AngelFace Collection online to make your purchase today! 

GLMPI would be remiss if we did not highlight the business of a woman whose selfless giving and community responsibility only enhances her enterprising spirit!

Ms. Peggy Riggins of Soul Purpose

561280_518759218160082_1807241337_nPeggy was so very generous  to provide the products and service to deliver hand massages at the first GLMPI Pampered Power Talk. We cannot thank her nor promote her business enough. Not only because she has been so generous, but because she truly believes in creating opportunities to empower girls and women.

1269648_642516492448306_1625552622_oShe is a gracious and humble servant, one who believes in giving back to the community. You can support Peggy in the Holiday season or for your self-care regime needs. Her products are perfect for special gifts and tokens of appreciation. Also, keep Peggy in mind for fundraising partnerships. Visit her website to find out more information and to get your pamper shopping on!

Girls Like Me Project, Inc. is so very proud of each of these Girl Power-Girl Preneurs and we look forward to partnering and supporting them in bigger ways in 2014 and beyond!

Hair We Go…Again. Open Letter to our Babygirls

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I’m tired. Sick and tired, really. It is rather exhausting to constantly debate the value and beauty of girls like me, whose very basic existence from our names to our physical traits (hair, skin complexion, facial features, anatomy) deviate from the european standards of beauty and respectability. Whose melanin and pigmentation seem to cast a shadow of doubt about our worth in this society. Every month, it seems we are confronted with yet another viral, insensitive, and highly offensive incidence of degradation aimed at Black girls. From the curious case of Gabrielle Douglas twitter chatter, to the unforgivable Quvenzhane Wallis verbal cuts, to the shaming of Willow Smith, to the sickening Rachel Jeantel reactions. I could go on and on. And these are only the highly visible cases, no way to capture the thousands of shaming episodes Black girls endure in classrooms, doctors’ offices, sports arenas, media messages, and households on a daily. I swear, if we added up all the hours of blogs, commentary,discourse, debates, rationales and confrontations dedicated to fighting misconceptions and narrow perceptions when it comes to our little girls’ hair and image, we’d have a year’s worth of classroom instruction.

In case you need to revisit, here’s how a historic moment became a trigger of pain for an innocent Gabby Douglas

I have devoted a huge chunk of energy doing combat work, trying to get folks to acknowledge our girls. And while I feel strongly about resisting the stereotypes and stigma as I did on CBS Atlanta, d.i.v.a Downloads, Perri Small Show WVON, Lady Dee Mind Magick Radio, it is so draining.

It always makes you wonder how much more we can take, that is until the next time we hear an atrocity such as the recent cases of 7 year old Lamiya Cammon whose teacher had the audacity to cut her braids in class and 12 year old, Vanessa VanDyke who is facing expulsion because she chooses to wear her hair in its natural state.

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How can one even begin to give voice to the anguish and defeat of the young lady who could no longer own her name, because it was not acceptable in her environment. Now one Keisha has become Kylie.

Sigh…

So here’s what time it is.

It is time to stop draining ourselves and fighting a losing battle. No more of the Kanye West outcry for validation in places we will never gain acceptance or respectability. From now on, my energy will be spent affirming our girls. Teaching them and empowering their agency. I will speak to their power, their beauty, their legacy, their heritage and their future…their life.

And so I penned this letter…

Dear Babygirl…

There is so much I want to share with you. So many things I wish you could truly know and believe. All the things us as your mothers and aunts tell you make us sound like we rode dinosaurs to the homecoming dance, and kind of make it hard for you to trust that we understand. I bet you believe we don’t have a clue what your current situation is like.

And you are right. We did not go through puberty last month. We didn’t have our first kiss last week. It wasn’t just yesterday when we were trying to study for the U.S. Constitution or ACT exam. Nope.We didn’t do our homework on a computer while texting our teachers if we had a question. Most of all, we are not sitting in our rooms trying to think of a way to get permission to go hang with our friends without cleaning the dishes.

Still, there are some things that are just the basics. You know, that stuff that never gets old.

The stuff of life that every girl child in your family, dating back to at least 6 generations, has had to navigate her way through.

1. You are the most special, most important person in your life.

You are a gift who was pre-ordered and given a due date much like your favorite album. The universe waited for your arrival on your birthday. That’s right, everything shifted and fell into place just for you to get here. When you were on your way, during your mother’s labor, nobody in that hospital/birthing room mattered as much as YOU. You were the center of attention. The doctors, nurses, midwifes/doulas, your mommy…everyone in that room focused on you, your safety and survival. Listen, honey, Rhianna, Beyonce, Nikki Minaj, and any other famous person you can think of could have been in the hallway outside of that delivery room, and they would have not mattered. So you must remember and hold on to that truth everyday. Remember you were born with a purpose and the older you become, the more power you possess to live on purpose.

2. The media is NOT your mirror

You are bigger than an image. And you are not in competition nor have any need to conform to a standard of beauty which exalts your silky-haired, narrow nosed, purt-lipped, nasal-toned counterparts. There are some forces in the world that would have you turn down so they can turn up trying to BE like you. There is no need to pretend or exaggerate your worst behavior to be recognized. Be your best self. That is what will make a lasting and powerful impression.

3. Love yourself

Take time to pause all the static and noise from your iPod, TV, smartphone, magazines and even your friends. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing and what makes you happy. Write it in a journal.

4. Move beyond the block

Remember your zip code does not define YOU. Even though where you are from, city or neighborhood, can be a simultaneous badge of honor and shame, you must understand what you were born into is not who you were born to BE. Your current situation is just that…At this point, it is more than likely due to your parents choices/decisions. Your future depends on what you see for yourself. Visualize yourself in the space you want to be. Then everyday believe in your heart you are already there. Let every thought and action be considerate of that space. Step into it fully. Set the intention to grow there and blossom to your fullest.

5. Love your sisters.

“Girls keep up too much drama.” Heard it a million times and have to admit I have said it before, too. But that was before I realized what I speak of “girls” is what I am speaking of myself. So no more of that negative talk about other girls. We attract what we give to the universe. Stop the competitive behavior, do not believe that anyone can take any opportunity from you, what is for you, you will receive abundantly. (That goes for the cutie you are dating) Recognize in other girls the same good things you like about you. I promise you will get along much better.

6. Speak your name.

Say it LOUD. Think for a second of how special you were when your mother took the time to think of a phrase/name that would pour all her love into you, her precious gift. And no matter what ANYONE else says or thinks of YOUR name, you own it. It is the first thing you will ever own. Honor and respect why it was chosen for you.

7. Celebrate yourself.

I know you love to talk about your favorite celebrity. You follow them on IG and watch their YouTube channel all the time. You root for them to win all the awards. But it’s time to focus some of that energy on you. Standing in the mirror, honor yourself for all the good choices you made today. Take this moment to clap for yourself.

8. Game recognize game

Adults get it wrong. And we don’t have all the answers. But there are many of us who love and care about you. We want the very best for you and will use all our resources to get what you need. Look for mentors all around you whether it is a teacher, neighbor, librarian, church member, or coach. And when you see an adult who appeals to your ambition, it’s okay to ask questions about their life journey…what were some of their challenges and successes. On the other hand, when you see adults acting the fool, in real life or on TV, find another example to follow.

9. An Educated mind is the key to the world

Inquiring minds want to know! Ask questions about EVERYTHING. Why? How? You can find out anything you want to know just by reading credible and factual sources. (Books, Articles, etc). It’s fun to watch music videos, but look at some documentaries and read some historical fiction, too.

Each day you are alive and breathing the air of this earth you will hear and see messages that take your mind off of celebrating you. From the ads on the public transportation to the sounds coming from your iPods and smartphones, to the images bouncing before your eyes on the screens, it will all try to turn down your applause for that girl in the mirror. But if you practice the above, you are winning the game.

Chicago Girls stepping out for their Day

GIMPI Facebook Banner final with age

Once again it’s on! The world stage is set to celebrate the 2nd annual International Day of the Girl on October 11 as declared by the United Nations.

For the first Day of the Girl, Girls Like Me Project joined a collective movement to celebrate International Day of the Girl as millions of girls and women around the globe participated in the movement to advocate for, as well as, educate girls. From now moving forward this day remains a day to shed light on social and political injustices impacting girls.

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GLMPI was proud to host a local event to connect inner-city girls to this movement because so often their voices are missing from this international dialogue.

Like the fact that the face of sex trafficking victims are almost always foreign girls, when there is a prevalent majority of cases involving local girls as illustrated in this recent Chicago Sun TImes article by Mary Mitchell.

And there has been low attention paid to the increasing crisis of drop out rates among girls, which the National Women’s Law Center reports Illinois as having 22% of its girls drop out before graduating high school.

Or the discussion around the grave teen birth rate in Chicago which remains one and a half times higher than the national average.

And perhaps the most influential factor of all that needs actionable discourse, is that female characters are disproportionately stereotyped and sexualized in media popular with youth which feeds a vicious cycle of exploitation and paints a false portrayal and devalues what girls bring to their spaces.

This is why Girls Like Me Project, Inc. and our partners are committed to hosting another Chicago Day of the Girl event.

This year’s International Day of the Girl theme is Innovating for Girls’ Education.

Right here in Chicago, GLMPI is hosting 2nd Annual Chicago Day of the Girl: Stepping Out for a limited group of 150 adolescent girls ages 13-18. The free event is scheduled for Friday, October 11 from 6-9:00p at Pilgrim Baptist Church, located 3300 S. Indiana. The evening will feature community resource sharing, food, thought-provoking programming including performance by Ayodele Drum and Dance, spoken word by Def Jam Poet M’Reld Green interactive fun games, raffle prizes and giveaways, plus an engaging panel discussion, as well as intentional engagement with prospective mentors.

Here’s just a sample of the rhythm the night will bring:

Don’t miss out. Add this to your calendar and spread the word!

All attendees must register by October 5, 2013. RSVP by email to glm@lakeishagraysewell.com or call 773-599-3490.

We are thrilled about having Chicago girls step out and dream big for Chicago Day of the Girl!

Follow ##RoadToTheDayOfTheGirl for other celebrations across the country and around the globe!

Tell us what you have planned for Day of the Girl 2013….

Support us!

If you cannot attend but would like to support Chicago Day of the Girl or other GLMPI programs, feel free to make a donation and share the information with your networks.

Summer Hot Reads

OCS

Whether a parent or teacher, if you have had to spend more than 30 minutes in the presence of an adolescent girl, I’m sure you’ve heard these words…”I’m bored…” or “It is soooo boring…” or “It’s nothing to do…”

Well, there is no better time than the “nothing to do” days of summer to encourage our girls to lose themselves in a book adventure.

If getting them out of our hair is not motivation enough to put a book into their hands, perhaps realizing how summer can pose a threat to their development will be the reason.

While it is certainly a time for leisure and relaxation, summer is also the season when children from disenfranchised communities experience a detrimental loss of learning. In fact, The Center for Summer Learning shared a report which states young people can lose up to 3 months of learning during their summer vacation.  Irrespective of income level, if young people are not as academically stimulated during summer as they are during the school year, they will not retain what they ended the school year knowing.

That alone is reason enough for me to compile a Summer Hot Reads reading list for Girls Like Me… that and my absolute love of reading. Now I admit, I have a selfish motive, too. I mean, for me there is nothing more appealing than sitting curled up with a book in my hand. I want so desperately to inject the reading bug into all girls…after all, I truly believe reading is power.

Still, not every girl will independently choose turning pages over uploading pics to Instagram, creating dancing vids for YouTube, or hanging at the air conditioned malls. Yet, I am confident if we add some engaging, culturally relevant titles to their reading elixir, they’ll be captivated by stories that hold a space for characters they identify with and connect to.

So without further ado, here is the GLMPI Summer Hot Reads reading list:

5-8th grade

One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia 

The Skin I’m In, Sharon G. Flake

Standing Against the Wind, Traci L. Jones

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

Ninth Ward, Jewell Parker Rhodes

8-12th grade

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Upstate, Kalisha Buckhanan

Assata: An Autobiography

The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood

On the Line, Serena Williams

The Other Side of Paradise, Staceyann Chin

To make sure girls are getting the most out of their reading experience, have them write a summary of the book which answers 2-3 of these critical inquiry questions.

Get Creative!

Have girls perform scenes from their book! Or record an video summary and upload to YouTube like like this one:

Reading is a great activity to share with you the girl you mentor!

And be encouraged to start a book club with a few of the girls on your block, or youth members of your church/community center.

Happy reading!

The Red Nose…not quite Rudolph. New X-Rated teen dance

Sitting in my hairstylist’s chair discussing the state of girlhood and the double plight of not only mentoring, but raising adolescent /teen girls, our parenting chat took a left turn that left my mouth hanging wide-open. Simply aghast, I sat listening to her hip me to the latest teen dance craze gone viral. It’s called the “Red Nose.”

Now I thought, surely with a name like that it had to be something innocent…you know considering Rudolph playing reindeer games with his red nose self.

Uhn Uhn. No such luck. This has nothing to do with Rudolph. Think more like a red nosed pit bull which is a breed of a dog, which in turn lends to the “doggy-style” inspired dance.

First of all, the fact that teenage girls as young as 13 know anything about “doggy-style” is just too problematic for words. Secondly, that some would be so bold as to record themselves and post videos on YouTube for the world to see all this stank is further proof of just how influenced they are by the ratchetness they see in music videos and reality TV.

Now, I simply refuse to post the videos…and there are plenty out there. But in my opinion it is child pornography. I ain’t going. You’ll have to find them for yourself.

What I will do is encourage you to have conversations with your girls…constantly. Don’t get caught slipping. Ask questions. Listen to their “girl talk” with their friends when you are around them. Monitor their media intake. And most importantly, talk candidly about media messages, find out why she is interested in certain content and how many of her friends share the same interests.

Just last week I conducted a media literacy workshop during the Girls On Fire 2013 Conference hosted by the SouthSide Coalition on Urban Girls (SSCUG), an alliance of girl-serving organizations on the south side of Chicago convened by Demoiselle 2 Femme. In three classes comprised of 45 mostly Black and Latina girls, they shared their top television programs. They were Bad Girls Club; Love and Hip Hop; Real Housewives of Atlanta; Guy Code; and Spongebob (seriously).

When I asked what were the main themes for each; fighting, sex, alcohol consumption, competition, confrontation, and more violence seemed to be common across the board (not as much with Sponge Bob although they broke it down that he and Patrick have disagreements…I was lost. lol)

Still, I shared with them some findings from Children, Media and Race: Media Use Among White, Black, Hispanic and Asian American Children. They were shocked. they felt cheated and angry. They couldn’t understand why some things so accessible to them are intentionally monitored for their white or higher income counterparts. Why no one is standing vigilant over the messages that influence their development and socialization.

It’s true, no amount of advice, wisdom, parental sentry will keep our girls from being exposed to the red-nose nor all its kindred pop-culture funk. They’ll see videos, hear deplorable and degrading music, pore over high-glossed sexist magazines.

Yet if we equip our girls with the tools they’ll need to critically examine those things, while also providing positive alternatives, they will resist the stereotypes and reject media norms that promote bad, self-desructive behavior. More importantly, if we, adult women, set out to BE who/what we say we want our daughters and the girls in our lives to be, the less likely it is for them to use the media as their mirror.

I know it’s heavy stuff raising our baby girls. Here’s a little help for you:

Bring a Girls Like Me Project media literacy workshop to your girls

Common Sense Media provides tip sheets and latest family media research

Watch this powerful documentary with your girls Missrepresentation the film

Mentor a young girl in your city

So please share, had you heard about this Red Nose? Ask your daughters and share their reaction to this new dance. How do you monitor your child’s media intake?