6th Chicago Day of the Girl: Global Sisterhood a Success

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Ayodele Drum and Dance Sesa Wo Suban performance

On Wednesday, October 11, the Girls Like Me Project hosted its 6th annual Chicago Day of the Girl: Global Sisterhood in observance of the UN  International Day of the Girl.

The event was held at the Studio Movie Grill in Chatham on the South Side of Chicago. More than 125 women and girls attended the event. Special guests included VuyiswaTulelo, Consul General- South Africa; Peggy Parfenoff, President- World Chicago,  Appreccia Faulkner, CEO- Global Strategists Association; and Perri Small, host WVON Radio.

“Our mission emphasizes global sisterhood,” shared La’Keisha Gary-Sewell, CEO of Girls Like Me Project. “Which is why we continue to be humbled by the opportunity to create a space that includes the experience and voices of Chicago girls in the global conversations on girls empowerment. It is critical that they know they matter in a global context.”

Highlights of the evening were performances  by Ayodele Drum and Dance, and teen dancer Maya Unique, music artist JazStar, and a mini fashion show which featured hand-crafted  jewelry piece made in Mali.

Felicia Apprey-Agyare of The African L.I.F.E assembled a collective of diasporic women who represented  seven countries. The women shared their global perspective and taught girls how to say “sister” in their native languages.  The seven countries were South Africa, Liberia, Ghana, Ethiopia. Kenya, Nigeria, and Mexico.

GLMPI took the opportunity to announce its new initiative and partnerships that provide life-changing international experiences for the girls we serve. Through a partnership with Global Strategists Association and Global Glimpse, GLMPI will sponsor travel to Latin America in Summer 2018 for  two high school students from low economic backgrounds.

“We want to bring diverse groups of students together to see the world,’ contends Jamelyn Lederhouse, Chicago Regional Manager of Global Glimpse. “This whole experience is to help you develop as a  leader, and also to  help you develop community. We work at Global Glimpse to help America’s next generation to become responsible global citizens  You cannot do that staying right here. You have to get out of our comfort zone physically,  mentally, emotionally, spiritually. When you come back you are stronger  you have a global understanding that goes beyond your peers’ perspective and that you will make a greater impact in your community and abroad.”

Consul General Tulelo of South Africa offered a sense of humor, wisdom and guidance to the girls, with an emphasis on self love.

“There are 52 countries on the continent of Africa and depending on which part of the country you come from, cultures are extremely different and are not the same,” explained Consul General Tulelo. “ It’s wonderful to celebrate this day as declared by the United Nations,  but there’s an even bigger responsibility as young women ourselves. There is a bigger responsibility in how we project ourselves to the world. What is it that defines you? As a people we are being misrepresented. So what do we want to say about ourselves? We are young women of courage, we are young women of integrity, of high levels of  intellect and we will not be shaken. We are young women who know where we come from and know where we are going to and nobody is going to deter us from that. But most importantly we know that we are people for the fight for justice, equality and nondiscrimination. It is important to never ever be ashamed of who we are. We should celebrate who we are. We should celebrate our heritage.” Watch video of Consul General Tulelo’s full remarks.

The Consul General’s commentary were the prelude to the culminating screening of the My Black is Beautiful film, Imagine a Future, which critically examined self esteem and the impact of beauty standards on Black girls. The film reinforced the Global Sisterhood theme of the event as it chronicled the personal journey of Janet, a teen from Delaware, who traveled to South Africa to learn more about herself and depictions of beauty.

The organization also honored three local women who exemplify the GLMPI mission. Honorees included:

Apprecia Faulkner (Global Connections Award)

Lesley Martinez Etherly (Mission Accomplished Award)

Perri Small (Lifetime Achievement Award)

While receiving her award, Perri Small demonstrated solidarity in the fight for social justice by taking a knee.

Watch video of event highlights.

View photos from event below. All photo credit: Kymon Kyndred

 

 

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Done With Dove

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Image courtesy of BellaNaija.com

Y’all remember that line President Bush jacked up while he was in office….(the one J. Cole used in his song No Role Models). No? Well he was trying to dole out an old saying, “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice and shame on me.” Needless to say he failed miserably.

And so it historically goes with Dove’s marketing strategies.

One of their recent Facebook ads went left real quick when Black women saw their skin depicted as undesirable and ugly. The ad shows Black women removing their skin toned tee shirts to reveal white women in white tee shirts. The accompanying words to the ad read, “….Our revolutionary line that improves the look of your skin…” They promise ‘You’ll see more visibly beautiful skin in just one week.”

 

Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get to the bottom of the subliminal messaging in this ad nor to understand the intended interpretation. And while Dove may not have consulted any rocket scientists, they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for market analysis, marketing consultants with a deep understanding for psychology and behavioral science. Plainly stated, they know down to a science the impact and influence of their campaigns. Choose either one:

  • Choose Beautiful
  • Real Beauty
  • Love Your Hair

Seems like every quarter they’ve got a new one to launch some new “revolutionary” beauty movement slyly connected to the billion dollar projected sells.

Yet with each of these Dove campaigns Black women find themselves offered Fool’s Gold. They hashtag us into this wonderful land of acceptance and empowerment, just to promote images that reinforce stigmas and stereotypes that have historically been called out as problematic to say the least, and racist to tell the truth.  The outrage is nothing new. Check their track record, even as early as Spring 2017. And back in 2015.  And back in 2011.

But here’s the gag…Black women go right back and spend our dollars where we are devalued.

Why? Shame on US!

Shame on us that we keep directing ourselves and our daughters to show loyalty to brands that blatantly show their disrespect to our beauty, our image, our cultural traditions and our very souls.

The pattern goes like this: Horrendous and offensive ad followed by a well-written corporate apology which is  then backed by hiring the new Black champion of the company to appease us right back to the stores to purchase their goods. Rinse and repeat. See Scandal and Olivia Pope for perspective on public scandal clean ups. 

Nielsen has proven to us our buying power. Don’t you know companies are paying attention to those reports as well? They are hip to the game. They see us going natural, they will tap into that market yet refuse to shed their racist views and prejudices. Understand that Dove and its parent company, Unilever, are veterans in the marketing game. They’ve been rewarded 100 times over and lauded the victor by many advertising journals, associations, etc.

And we have rewarded them with our loyalty. Why?

So the question is when will we be done with Dove and all companies who continue to devalue our magic? Will our insult level ever be as low as the value companies regard us?

Here’s a hashtag to consider #DoneWithDove. Better than that, let’s support the companies who never miss their mark because they themselves are the mark! Here’s a few BLACK-OWNED beauty/skin care companies who can benefit from your dollars and loyalty (please add more to comments):

 

Yail’s Garden

Two Sisters Organic Skincare

Body and Soul Naturally

TGIN-Thank God I’m Natural

NUNI Products

 

If not sisters keeper, perhaps daughters protector?

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Before the world heard the names Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis or Tamir Rice, little 7 year old Aiyanna Stanley Jones was slaughtered as she lay asleep on her grandmother’s couch. The victim of a police raid gone fatally wrong.

But even if little Aiyanna would have survived, given statistics she would have joined the legions of her peers…little girls who remain living in the grips of American injustice that overtakes their Black lives like a vapor one way or another.

Another way… the way it descended on the innocence of a 4 year old baby girl whose quick trip home from the grocery store with her mother and bonus dad left her witness to a heinous murder. One where she sat in the backseat watching the blood spill and the life leave her mother’s boyfriend, Philando Castile, who right before her eyes had been pumped with three bullets by an  “officer friendly” impersonator.  Out from that unerasable, ugly scene baby girl’s voice comes as a saving grace. She consoles her mother, Diamond Reynolds, “It’s OK, I’m right here with you.”

This is our truth. Our baby girls are right here with us in the thick of this war declared by those who seek to maintain white superiority. It is a war that has left Black girls in urban America as collateral damage. It pronounced itself when four little girls were bombed in a Birmingham Baptist church on a Sunday morning in September 1963.

Now given our reality today, I wonder if the world, including Black America, is ready to make a proclamation regarding Black girls. Although many don’t find it imperative that the sisters need keeping, perhaps we can now resolve the obvious… that our daughters are in dire need of protecting.

Because they are right here with us, psyches devastated from witnessing police brandishing guns, savagely beating and massacring Black daddies right before their eyes. Right here attempting to experience girlhood in the stranglehold of communities suffering with economic dehydration. Right here, where their innocent childhood is abbreviated by poverty and chaotic violence.

And while summits and conferences around the country may tout achievements made by some women and girls, the war to maintain white superiority has been waged with take no prisoners gusto on marginalized communities leaving everyone in its path is affected. It’s methodical strategy annihilates the fabric of order and peace. Its contexture weaves and intersects safe havens. So much so that a 6 year old, like little Tacarra Morgan, sitting on her front porch in the middle of a Summer day is left fighting for her life after becoming the latest victim of a turf battle.  

What is this new normal we are allowing for our baby girls? This reality of war where they very much imagine their life to be shattered by violence, to be introduced without distinction to the real life bogey man…some with badges, but certainly all with guns. Some endowed with license, some sharing bloodlines. Some in white tees. Many in tailored suits slashing budgets with pens dripping in blood.

We know the bad guys. No matter their uniform, each one culpable in the demise of Black girlhood.

The question is who is protecting our girls?

When will government create/implement policies that ensure the safety in urban communities? Which institutions that have benefited from generational agony will devise an economic plan to fortify the development of our girls? What level of investment will the privileged make for our girls to realize the promise of the pursuit of happiness? What commitment will family and neighbors pledge to their well being?

Answers must soon come. There needs to be an infusion of all of the above right now. Our girls, who by no fault nor default of their own design have been the outliers. Born below the scratch line, their chances for success debilitated.

Can we all agree that irrespective of assigned zip codes or the configuration of their social security numbers, Black girls in America deserve to experience the full promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I make the commitment. Will you join me?

Black Dolls: Holding up the mirror to society’s ugliness

 

Disgust. That is the most appropriate term for the video that captured the reaction of a White American child receiving a “Black doll” for a Christmas present. The fact that the adults recording thought it a funny “prank” to present a Black doll to their white children is beyond disgusting. And it is disappointing on quite a few levels.

First, let’s acknowledge that for decades, Black children have had no other option than to play with toys that were not reflective of their own inherent, magical beauty.  I myself can recall a girlhood which lacked options for my peers and I to see/be ourselves during playtime. Even when “Black” doll/toy options were presented, it was always some hue of grey-Black that I have yet to see on any living, breathing human from here to Africa. Features so  exaggerated, no wonder Black children refused to play with their “Black” dolls, which in turns prompts the explaining and cajoling yet again, this time to extol the merits of beauty found in all Black people. See how Black parenting is ever expansive and exhausting? We inherit teaching moments for what White parents take for granted. We don’t get a choice.

So while Black parents have had the onus of explaining, excusing, and teaching our children about diversity and the appreciation for other cultures, white parents have smugly presented the notion that “other” means inferior, ugly, worthless, and alien.

And it must be noted, that because of white supremacy’s elaborate design, historically most Black children rarely scoff at receiving white dolls. The disdain for one’s self and all things representative is the cost Black children pay to play…with dolls, with their history, with their own humanity. So much miseducation. Intense work to relearn and rediscover your value.

That’s the privilege of white supremacy…when YOUR identity is never in question as being the “other.” When everything you encounter reinforces your worth. Everything from toys to movie stars to marketing to policy dictates that you are the standard.

But you are not. Which is what has always been the problem. The problem for whites, really. People of color have no qualms with sharing the human spectrum. We buy into the ideal that beauty and value can be found in other races. Our children are taught to accept differences in others…heck the Church joins in the education of Black child identity and by age 4 everyone believes the words to the song Jesus Loves the Little Children, remember that? It went like this…

“Jesus loves the little children

all the children of the world.

Red and Yellow

Black and White

all are precious in his sight

Jesus loves the children of the world”

My concern is for the children. Working with Black girls, training them in media literacy and to be digital storytellers of their own experiences, my mission is to help them critically examine the messages that tell them they are inferior and stigmatize them. It is work necessary to help them move beyond the mental block of negative media and stereotypes that have been appropriated to them.  It is the work being done in communities of color all across this country; the repairing of girl magic and mending spirits broken by the ugliness of our society.

Yet, while we are tending to our girls, distinguished organizations and programs that claim to serve girls and fight for equality for all girls, seem to be avoiding an imperative teaching moment. I have watched the film Missrepresentation. I admire the writings of those claiming to build leaders amongst girls and end the “mean girl” behaviors. But what each of these have in common is 1.) A traditional white audience  2.) They negate the race conversation, refusing to deal with perpetuation of stereotypes and prejudice amongst those they serve 3.) When/if race is mentioned, it is an aside. The message is, the only change needed is to allow girls/women to be at the table… that is white women and girls.

In the times of Black Lives Matter, some may rebuff this as a tiny distraction to the overall liberation of Black and Brown people. Many may argue that this is just a play thing of no significance.

Well, I beg to differ. First of all, Black children need to love and value themselves beyond the lens of White people. There is no way they will be moved to join a movement for their liberation if they are not conscious to the truth. Secondly, if there is to be trust amongst allies, White adults must unequivocally point out this type of ignorance. There is far too much silence from those who claim to be fighting for equality and feminism. And thirdly, begin teaching their children at the earliest opportunities an appreciation for ALL peoples.

Blacks have gone far above and beyond convincing White America about our humanity. It is high time we tap out. Now it’s White America’s turn to look at their own instances of inhumanity and practices of dehumanization, then work to correct it. This is a prime teachable moment. I can’t wait to see the lessons in practice.

 

Teaching tips:

  • Expose children to other cultures
  • Foster authentic interactions that allow others to fully show up
  • Be honest with children about history
  • Provide cultural reading material, film screenings
  • Invite guest speakers to share their experiences
  • Collaborate for diverse programming
  • Follow #Blackgirlsmatter
  • Choose any of these culturally framed reads from this age-appropriate list
  • Make the Black Doll a conscious consumer choice

Community-based organizations doing the work across the country :

Girls Like Me Project (Chicago)

FAAN Mail (Philly)

Black Girls Rock (NYC)

Daughters of the Collective (Detroit)

WISEE Queen Dream Institute (Oakland/Bay area)

About the author…

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#SaveOurLibrary-Chicago students stage read-in

Reading is fundamental, or so the saying goes. Except maybe the significance of that statement hasn’t reached the rationalized logic of Chicago Public School officials who have cut budgets for its school libraries which in turn has closed libraries in all  but two of its schools with predominantly Black students.

The findings are common knowledge these days: school librarians are connected to improved student performance, reading expands the connection and understanding of the larger world, school libraries are safe havens and playgrounds to foster imagination, reading is primary factor in closing the achievement gap.

Still, the nuance of all the related statistics wasn’t what prompted young students at three affected schools in Chicago to stage a unified read-in  demonstrating their dissatisfaction with the impending library closing.

What lead the students housed in the historic DuSable high school building to sit en masse in the halls  with books from their library was learning their beloved librarian would be terminated at the start of their Holiday break. For students, the devastation is personal.

A few were quoted in local newspapers expressing how they were losing their refuge and one peaceful place to study.

While I myself am all-too familiar with how life-saving school libraries can be, even more I am proud of the agency these young people have harnessed to address a system that has consistently left them disenfranchised.

The read-in was just another facet of the movement that has been steered by the audaciousness of young people…a movement that says we will no longer be devalued and locked out.

Veronica “Precious” Bohanon, a social supports professional, arts therapist, and counselor to students, qualified the acuteness symbolized by student’s joining the voices of resistance to status quo.

“It’s bigger than a librarian. It’s about youth knowing they deserve resources and using their voice to demand it,” Veronica offered. “This intersects with every struggle happening in the city. Students are honing their voice and learning to follow their gut.”

Also on the line is the moral and financial ties of those professionals who answer the calling to be librarians. Korvetta Spencer answered the call and paid a hefty $$ price to earn her 2nd Masters in 2nd Master’s degree in Library Science. She did so after feeling restricted by classroom teaching measures, and longed for the autonomy to teach what she sees as  important and the most beneficial to her students.

After cuts at two different schools, she finds herself right back in the classroom, unable to use her Masters degree, yet carving out opportunities to transport the minds of her students.

“It’s a constant battle, however, we become librarians so that we can share the world with the students, to enlighten their minds, feed their curiosity, and expose them to what’s beyond their neighborhoods,” Korvetta affirms. “That’s why I taught my students about the Little Rock Nine; we read, discussed, and wrote about the Willie Lynch Letter; Bill Cosby’s speech, Can’t Blame White People;  Emmett Till and the present-day impact. I educated them about the Harlem Renaissance, Kwanzaa, Black scientists and inventors, how society views them, and the best ways to combat those stereotypes. For many students, the only books they have access to, are the ones in the school library because no one at home buys books, and no one has the time to take them to the public library. So, without a well funded, functional library program; staffed with a trained, certified librarian who truly understands who they are, where they come from, and what they need, our kids will continue to be lost, mis-educated, and ignorant to the possibilities of who they can truly be.”

The librarians get it. The students get it. How come CPS doesn’t?

How can you help? Glad you asked?

  • You can support the efforts to keep libraries open in Chicago Public Schools by signing this petition.
  • Parent/community groups can raise funds for a librarian
  • Philanthropist can donate and/or endow a library fund for a specific school of their choice
  • Volunteer as the librarian at a disenfranchised school

UPDATE as of 12/16/2015- it was announced school librarian was reinstated for all three schools housed within DuSable campus.

Continue reading

What girls do you see?

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As International Day of the Girl fast approaches, the focus on girls’ issues is being held up for examination. And rightly so. Girls all over the world face injustices directly related to their gender. Those injustices become much more perilous and detrimental to their development if they are poor and/or girls of color. The issues run the gamut from poverty, structural violence, sexual exploitation, stereotypes and misrepresentation in media, criminalization, limited access, health inequity, sub par to complete lack of education, obesity, and the list can go on and on.

All around the globe there is a movement to empower girls, and galvanize advocates on their behalf. Various institutional organizations have been able to attract heavy hitting allies and funding for their efforts. That support has also raised the profile of the girls they serve.

Still, there remains so many whose marginalized experience has now been marginalized from the global girls movement. The funding appears political, and the conversation seems to exclude grassroots voices. it is time for this to change. I’m hoping to influence this change my connecting the voices/narrative of urban American girls who face identical hardship, parallel to their counterparts on the other side of the world.

When United Nation’s resolution 66/170 declared October 11 as International Day of the Girl, it provided the perfect opportunity to work towards our organization’s mission, which is to partner with organizations and institutions to better navigate the negative stigmas and media messages that influence African-American girls.  Our power is in providing girls the tools that transform communities and foster global sisterhood.  

I am proud that we’ve been able to host Chicago Day of the Girl event since 2012 where we’ve connected more than 300 girls to the monumental purpose of International Day of the Girl. We get connect them to a global community that s otherwise distant and out of reach; celebrate and advocate for their success beyond the myriad of circumstances that stifle their potential.

In Chicago, our Day of the Girl is filled with fun! From cultural performances to spoken word and giveaways we make it exciting. Yet there’s the serious business of panel discussions and resource sharing.  Ayodele Drum and Dance will set the tone for us. She’s All That teen models will showcase women/girl designers. and so much more.

Here’s some video of previous years. And our FB page has photo highlights.

How are you celebrating International Day of the Girl where you are?

What #InternationalLiteracyDay means for #GirlsLikeMe

10842219_879360018766665_8605117007551207422_oWe’re so excited about International Literacy Day!

Girls Like Me Project knows firsthand how reading can transform lives. In fact, we believe once a girl knows how to read, she has a passport to the world! In a book lies treasures and the key to unlock imagination. Reading, whether a part of school learning, leisure family time, or our book club, is a great way to connect girls to people, places and ideas which they may otherwise never encounter.

And while reading is a necessity for all, it is also a privileged activity far too many cannot take part. Exacerbating this, it s proven that illiteracy has a significant impact on the quality of life. For our girls, the impact is much more detrimental than their counter peers. Here are just a few ways illiteracy marginalizes our girls:

  • Teenage girls between the ages of 16 to 19 who live at or below the poverty line and have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than girls their age who can read proficiently. (SOURCE)
  • Illiteracy plays major role in disproportionate prison to pipeline of Black youth, including girls.

So, today while celebrating the magic of reading, let’s also raise awareness about the RIGHT for all of humankind to learn to read. Let’s raise awareness about the importance of quality education in neighborhoods across this country and in developing countries all around the globe.

GLMPI is encouraging mentors, loved ones and community leaders serving youth to lift up literacy and the importance of reading. Take some time to introduce culturally relevant reading material to the girls in your life.

Just for fun, we created an

#internationalLiteracyDay Poll. Can’t wait to hear from you, so take the poll now.

Which Girl Issues Matter?

I hate to call this out, though I won’t apologize for it. Sadly this thing that is pressing me is centuries old. It is the thing that causes many good-hearted, well-intentioned, folks to glaze over and ignore the glaring hardship of others. It was the motivating factor behind the infamous, now known to be falsely attributed, Sojourner Truth quote. And though we are more than a century from the first National Women’s Rights Convention and suffrage movement, there’s still yet another generation who could rightfully beg the question…”Ain’t I a girl?”

Here we are in 2015, in the midst of a swelling, impassioned, global movement for girl empowerment. This movement is an appalled examination of the way girls are treated around the globe. It is a clarion call commanding attention to the majestic & transformational force girls can be in their communities if given the required developmental tools, most important amongst those are demonstrative love and genuine concern. The movement is a celebration of the greatness and resilience inherent in being born a girl.

Which girls matter?

As with most movements, while fueled by thousands, there are always a number of personal narratives held up to advance the cause. There are those whose faces and stories pull at the heartstrings to bring about awareness and connect with stakeholders, and those with the power to bring about the desired change. Oftentimes we find that that power translates into money.

And here is where we find ourselves in a conundrum. This tenuous space where women advocate for Black American girls heartily cheer for girlhood, and enlist their efforts in the fight for the equality and empowerment of all girls; yet the faces and stories of girls they fight for and alongside everyday are seldom, if at all, the ones highlighted or propelled into the public movement discourse. The stories and faces we do get to know seem to make their way to us from far across oceans. We become familiar with those from other continents through very determined and concerted efforts by those coiffed with power and access who are right here stateside along with us.


Somehow those persons of power and access appear oddly unfamiliar with the girls who are standing right on their same continent, in their same country…often in their same cities.  So we become intimately familiar with stories of child marriages in Uganda or sex trafficking in Sri Lanka; not the girls in Chicago and the other 13 American cities listed by the FBI as “high-intensity child prostitution” hubs. We know very well names and faces that connect us in a real way to the lack of access to education in Pakistan; but can’t identify personal stories of girls from the mass school closings in cities like Chicago which impacted mostly Latino and Blacks. The poverty narrative is well pronounced and easily identified with girls in just about any developing country, while muted are those who are living in nine of the worst food deserts. Chicago being chief amongst them cited by the United States Commission on Civil Rights as “
not simply a public health issue, but an urgent civil rights issue.”

blackgirlsmatterSo there remains the experiences of girls who come of age in the urban strangleholds of violence, poverty and systemic injustices within American cities but for whatever reason are left out of this powerful girl movement. They are disconnected from the conversation. The various reasons why that is are burdensome. Some quite suspicious.

We have to ask, is this movement inclusive of Black girls who hail from systematically impoverished American neighborhoods.? And if so, what is their role?  Is it simply to observe and fight for others, or do they get to tell their stories and have others fight for them, too? Perhaps they are to be treated (as we’ve seen) as mere footnotes and asides.

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I personally sought to include their experiences producing the annual Chicago Day of the Girl in observance of International Day of the Girl as designated as October 11 by the United Nations. Since its first declared celebration in 2012, we have connected more than 500 Chicago-area girls to this movement, ensuring activism and global sisterhood was our focus. The goal is to show girls that they are not alone in facing issues that debilitate their quality of life. That they can stand in solidarity with their sisters beyond their blocks and neighborhood, beyond their cities and their own country. This very grassroots effort, and others like it, need to be supported and embraced by all who claim to advocate for “all girls.” We need to provide a pathway for power brokers to look their way. To look and see the girls who have been left out and marginalized, whno are not traditionally associated with the illustrious, well-funded, institutionalized girl organizations.  Fund programs birthed in their communities by women who have found their way out and now selflessly serve on behalf of girls. See their need as a state of emergency and aid in the resolution of their issues.

And the list of needs/issues is long. We can choose from any of the those listed below to begin. Then we can consider the impact of incest/molestation which take on different levels of generational trauma in certain communities.

Finally after that, ask ourselves, is this important to me? How will I help.

The reality is, girls are living in the margins of our society in plain sight of privilege, access, prosperity, and quality living. They can see it, hear it, and smell it. Yet there remains a glass wall blocking them from touching it.

Let’s all break the glass!

  • Disproportionate school disciplinary actions and overcriminalization of Black girls as examined in African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality.
  • According to Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), “Fifty-two percent of females’ commitments to IDOC youth facilities of 13 to 16 year olds were for offenses against a person and 35 percent were for property offenses.
  • The FBI labeled Chicago as one of 13 locations of “High Intensity Child Prostitution.”
  • Black children are more likely to have an incarcerated parent, and twice as likely to have both parents incarcerated.
  • Mainstream media has placed Black girls outside the realm of standard beauty, describing them as “less classically” beautiful and manly-looking.
  • Black girls are disproportionately dehumanized and otherwise portrayed in media as sassy, hyper-sexualized, and violent.
  • In 2011, the U.S. Commission on Civil rights reported that “the food desert neighborhoods are almost exclusively in African American neighborhoods. Therefore, the problem of food deserts in Chicago is not simply a public health issue, but an urgent civil rights issue.”
  • Based on the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) which monitors six categories of priority health risk behaviors among youth, dating violence is a serious issue for teens.  A staggering 18.5% of Chicago youth surveyed reported that they had been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Rates are highest for African American girls, with 22.6% reporting that they had experienced dating violence.  Overall, this is a significant increase from the 2007 data.
  • A new report from The World Health Organization (WHO) landmark report, Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative, reveals suicide kills more girls between the ages of 15 and 19 than any other cause—more than pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, road injury and diarrhoeal diseases.
  • Violence and misogyny are tantamount in media influencing and consumed by youth, which includes an overwhelmingly large female population.

Black Girls: The New Road Kill

Shock. Awe. Horror. Silence. Indifference. Fade out….

This is the cycle that has followed the unGodly findings of dead Black girls left on the sides Iof interstate highways in America. Our America. Where Black girls can be found brutalized, tied up, decapitated, burned, and viciously beaten to death yet yield only hushed whispers of wonder and taboo talk.

Two summers in a row four Black girls have went missing only to be found mysteriously dumped like road kill, yet the mainstream media has been almost silent with mediocre mentions. Black activists have not seemed to remember to speak their names when proclaiming Black lives matter.

Perhaps it is the clandestine and controversy tied to their lifestyles that has pushed these lives to the margins of our outrage and mourning. Last September, Angelia Mangum and Tjhisha Ball were found naked and bound together on a Florida highway. Now this June, almost a year later, Kayla Ward and Jasilas Wright were found within a few weeks of one another in Louisiana. Their lives stripped of tomorrow’s promise, their stories buried under the outrage for cases with the obvious, menacing targets. Drowned out by the rallying cry for justice in police and racially-motivated killings.

***Publisher’s note:***

Since this blog was published, more tragic incidents have been shared with us. In May 2015, two sisters, Antquonette Hale, 20, and Tahnaizja Smith, 15, were found dead in a vacant lot. Their deaths were ruled homicide.

Yet another tragic case made headlines when Shakiyla Young, Ce’onta Cretter, and Laura Green (all acquaintances ) met the same fate on July 19, 2015. One of the young women was found in a dumpster along I-70. The other two found in a car and on a front porch.

Unlike the Atlanta Child Murders of the 80’s, these despicable killings do not seem to signal a trend…not for national outrage nor retribution. No cry to demand these crimes are solved. That even in death their lives have dignity.

Even in the media spaces and platforms hosted/published by Blacks, there has been a downplayed coverage… if any at all.

A crowd-fund was set up to cover the cost of Tjhisha and Angelia’s funerals. Less than $14K of the total $18K was raised.

My simple question is: why?

Do #BlackGirlsMatter when our girls are misdirected? When their lifestyles aren’t so pretty and poised? Do they matter when they aren’t poster children for scholarships and academic dexterity? Do they matter when they haven’t tapped into their Supreme self?

When? When do Black girls matter?

i hope we lift our Black girls in life before death steals them from us. I hope we speak the names of all we lose.  Today, my sisters I honor your life. I speak your names. May we all honor them and find the answers to their mysterious and cruel deaths.

 

It ain’t college, it’s the real world!

It’s that time of the year… the glimmer and glam pave the way from prom to the pomp and circumstance of graduation as girls are marching beyond high school, off to realize dreams. And as a great number of our girls continue to march their way on to college campuses, far too often they do so guided by the philosophy that a college degree will be their passport to the real world. It’s true, a college degree does afford entry into greater opportunities. However, we have got to halt the perpetuating send off that says personal control over their livelihood is on hold until they return home from a 4 year stint of academic and social revelry.

The truth is,  without getting too deep into the metaphysical, the moment they leave home and have to make choices independent of parental direction or adult dictation, girls (or more appropriately young women) have stepped into their real world.

When I made my transition to college, I remember clinging desperately to lessons from the closest ideal of college life I had, the television hit show, A Different World. That show dealt with almost every possible issue a Black girl could experience on college campus.

Just like then, we should equip girls with a few key beliefs as they make their way in the real world. While A Different World is still a media resource full of lessons for our girls heading off to college campus, they also need a dose of reality. Here is a vital list of mind sets our girls must adopt when heading to college real world:

Be enterprising: tap into an innate gift and skill set to earn supplemental income while away at college. From fashion design, hair and nails, blogging, makeup, tutoring, photography there are tons of ideas for dorm room enterprise. This income can be used at their discretion to fund clothing and personal hygiene expenses; spring/summer break excursions; or general expenses. Furthermore, this is money that can be saved for major investments right after college. Think first home, relocation, car, stocks.

Be a conscious consumer: Never too early to learn this! But college is definitely an opportune time to harness power over the dollars young women spend. Take a critical lens to brands which attempt to influence loyalty without much accountability nor personal return. Look at the brands that support causes and community initiatives that are relevant to you as a consumer. And take special note of brands that offer paid interns to college students like you.

Have an open mind: There are millions of perspectives and viewpoints beyond what you were raised around. Be open to gaining new experiences and getting to know people from various backgrounds whose beliefs and perspectives may be completely different than what you are familiar with. Expand your perception.

Be intentional: There will be plenty competing for your time and attention. Everything from classes to social clubs to campus involvement. Be sure whatever you devote your time to is intentional and aligned with the goals you have set for yourself. Joining organizations, like a sorority, should be given careful consideration so that it is not about popularity or hanging out, but connected to your future career and community service goals. Even your travels and breaks should be intentional. Yes, it would be fun to party in Miami for Spring break, but remember you can gain some international exposure as well. Many universities offer study abroad courses; perfect for those looking to secure a career in foreign relations, global diversity, government, teaching, etc.

Be healthy! Your health is real from the moment you take your first breath, and it becomes all the more important with every new plateau you reach. The “freshman 15” is real…mentally and physically your body must adjust to its new environment. Weight gain, stress, new sleeping patterns all have an impact. Stay fit. Take advantage of your campus recreation and health care facilities.

Be protective…and selective! Take precautions to become familiar with your campus  AND surrounding areas. Being on college campus does not mean young women will be immune to real world risks. From natural disasters to sexual relations, young women MUST be prepared. Become familiar with emergency plan on school’s website. Know safe routes when walking alone or at night. Be aware of areas off campus that may pose risks such as robberies, rape, etc. Observe new acquaintances to see who is trustworthy, as well as to see who exhibits self love. Be wary of those who have destructive tendencies (drinking, drugs, bad study habits). Also, be proactive in your intimate relationships. Protect yourself. Remember STI’s and unplanned pregnancy are most high on college campuses. Dating violence is also a factor, so again be keenly aware of acquaintances and their behaviors. Have your safe stash with emergency money, condoms, up to date prescriptions for medications, emergency contacts and numbers.

A few websites to check out for safety:

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

The SIWE Project

Planned Parenthood

Black Youth Project

Federal Emergency Management Agency

This list is just a start. What else should be included? What words of wisdom should our girls pack in their luggage heading to their “real world?” Share in the comments below.

Oh and just for fun, here are a few of my favorite “life-lesson” Different World episodes: