What’s Beef to Girls Like Me: The Reality of a Remy Ma and Nicki Minaj Rap Battle

572fe05f72767-imageWhen the fabric of your everyday work is woven with the heartbreaking, tragic outcomes of the all too common beef between girls, well then you tend to find it challenging to dismiss verbal assaults between two very public and influential Black women as merely an industry byproduct.

If they didn’t know before, just about anyone with an internet connection and an ear to the social media streets has learned who Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma are… or at least that they don’t like one another. In fact, if one was not familiar with their chosen career paths, the pop culture chatter might have one believe that someone had literally been physically assaulted, murdered, and decapitated. Especially when most of the related conversation is violent, even has inspired a reference to the homicide investigative-style television series, The First 48.

Still, it’s all been chalked up to fun and games…just a little lyrical wordplay between two rap artists. Nothing to see here. Just classic battle rap.

Yet perhaps if the names and lives of Myzhane Flourney, ShaMichael Manuel, Amy Joyner, Endia Martin, or De’Kayla Dansberry were a fabric of more people’s everyday consciousness, there would be less applauding the spectacle of Black women verbally assaulting one another for all the world to hear, and more concern about the impact on real life child’s play.

Some of us are all too familiar with the very real funerals processions, real flowers, real mourning  for the too early dead lives of Black girls on the other side of loud arguments, instigating peers, and bruised egos. A few of the girls named above can tell you about the ugly truth of girl fights…but some of them cannot. They are no longer here. Beaten. Stabbed. Shot…to death. Following an exchange of words.

I personally find it a bit perplexing that there is a measurable contingency of people (Black women specifically) who are irritated by those of us who live with this devastating truth at our center and therefore have raised flags on the gleeful adulation over glorified interpersonal girl conflict. There seems to be a compulsive addiction to Black girl drama…sadly even Black women/girls are here for it. It is normalized as acceptable, even expected. All this with complete disregard to what we know has been bared out by research and empirical evidence; that celebrities and media influence teens as strongly as peers and parents.

I’ll save the judging for others who find their validity in that lane. I’m not angry nor berating anyone who disagrees with my stance. My only goal is that if we clap for bad girl behavior, we take some time to find a young impressionable vessel and ask her perspective of the all too accessible “rap beefs.” See how far she can separate fantasy from real life. Be sure to follow up and ask her how she responds to interpersonal conflict? What she would do if she were in the shoes of your latest rap heroine?

And in hopes that it is not too much to ask, can we consider that just maybe the energy we give to this low frequency behavior does indeed lend to the vibration of society.

Then too, I remember when for me there was a limit to the number of words exchanged before contact was made…especially those fighting words. Beyond that, though, hatred and violent speech sends the same message whether from a politician or a rapper. Someone is listening. Someone is emboldened to enact the sentiments.

And it’s never a game.
No, #BlackGirlMagic is not about being perfect and righteous at all times. But what it is about is setting the intention to be better. That’s the game I want us all to win. Get better. Be better.

If not sisters keeper, perhaps daughters protector?

photo-28

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?

When Giving Back is as easy as a Summer Breeze

Obviously, as founder of GLMPI my main focus is always on ensuring our programs and events offer girls some real practical life skills and resources that empower them. But I also love to hear the oohs and ahhs when girls look inside their gift bags and see all the cool products that have been donated.
We have been fortunate in that area. Like when the lovely Dana Lardner of Words to Sweat By reached out to us all the way from the Bay Area to offer donated fitness-inspired goodies to gift girls at our 3rd Pampered Power Talks. Needless to say, the girls loved everything.


So imagine my excitement when Dana called again at the beginning of the year, to say she had GLMPI in mind for a project. She wanted to know if we’d be interested in being a charity of choice for a fundraising initiative she was launching. Her offer was too generous to pass up. Not to mention the ambitious fundraising goal we set for this year to help us sustain programming…this would def give us a start. The best part of all, is that it was a win-win for GLMPI and for our donors.

How does it work?

Well Dana launched Goods Giving Back, an online shop that supports the work of nonprofit organizations that are tackling important issues in their communities. GLMPI is one of the benefiting organizations.

We have a dedicated shop on the site and proceeds from any purchases go directly to GLMPI…How cool is that!?! Check it out….then just click item to make your purchase.

But not only is it an opportunity for our donors to get something in return for their generosity, this platform also allows artisans an opportunity to give back too. Under her slogan “ Be a maker for change,” Dana invites creatives to donate their art for charity.

The site is a secured site so all online transactions are safe. Donors get a receipt for their purchases, and become a part of our recognized donor club.

This is all so exciting for GLMPI! So much goodness. Go to the site and check it out…get you something cool and fun for Summer.

Did I mention this initiative allows us to 1.) offer our summer programming FREE to girls 11-15…look below for a video overview 2.) hire a dedicated college intern for Summer 2016? Which means we are able to provide professional experience and economic opportunity for someone who deserves it. 3.) confirm logistics for our 5th annual Chicago Day of the Girl festivities….Very cool, right?

There’s a lot going on, So be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram. You don’t want to miss anything because we’ll share a featured product each week and special information on our FREE programming that serve girls.

Happy Summer!
Oh, btw check out our video submission for the Chicago Community Trust Acting Up Awards which explains our Summer 2016 programming.

PushOut Comes to Chicago

Flyer (1)Seems as if the weeks don’t pass when some form of schoolhouse trauma does not shake up the life of a Black girl. It is such a prevalent happening, and there seems to be no age limitations as babies as young as four years old are harshly reprimanded, punished, handcuffed, expelled, and at worst pushed into the criminal justice system straight from their classrooms.

From brilliant science projects to emotional breakdowns, Black girls are denied their right to experience their full humanity without becoming engaged with law enforcement. The most recent story we’ve heard is the case of 6 year old Madisyn Moore who was handcuffed for allegedly “stealing” a piece of candy from her teacher’s desk. And none of us can forget the atrocious sight of the video showing a “school resource officer” slamming and dragging a Black girl from her desk in Spring Valley.

Hard as we try, we can’t seem to remove from our consciousness the images of savagery committed against Black girls in classrooms across this country. And while those raw images replay in our minds like the latest cinematic thriller, sadly it is a reality far too many actually live through every single day. In fact, the African American Policy Forum released a report, Pushed Out: Over Policed and Under Protected which outlines the numbers of Black and Brown girls impacted by the systemic injustices that have stripped their humanity, leaving them to be treated like wild animals in the very spaces that are supposedly dedicated to their development and protection. This report gave way to the social media and online activism of #BlackGirlsMatter, which curates story after story of girls violated by the concerted efforts between school administrators and law enforcement.

My story is among them. Though my situations took place more than 20 years ago as a Black teenage girl, the trauma of yesterday connects me with girls like me who a generation later are further entangled in policy that  seeks to over-criminalize and under-educate them.

That is why when I learned Dr. Monique Morris would be visiting Chicago, I jumped at the opportunity to host a discussion and community forum for her book, Push Out: Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools.

Girls Like Me Project, as a member of the South Side Coalition on Urban Girls, will host Dr. Monique Morris on Wednesday, March 30th at Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, located 1060 East 47th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60653. Forum begins promptly at 6p. I am inviting you to join us!

Before we get the conversation going, check out the latest episode of Voices Of Advocacy Radio which discusses this very grave matter.

More about PushOut: Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools

Book overview: Black girls represent 16 percent of female students but almost half of all girls with a school-related arrest. The first trade book to tell these untold stories, Pushout exposes a world of confined potential and supports the growing movement to address the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures.

For four years Monique W. Morris, author of Black Stats, chronicled the experiences of black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged—by teachers, administrators, and the justice system—and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish. Morris shows how, despite obstacles, stigmas, stereotypes, and despair, black girls still find ways to breathe remarkable dignity into their lives in classrooms, juvenile facilities, and beyond.

 

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…

keish 1

 

 

Cosby Show : Dealing with Family Business

IMG_3190Let’s talk the Black family. And not that “ooh, my Granny makes the best sweet potato pie,” or “What city are we hosting the family reunion?” “Or who is Daddy’s favorite?” kind of talk.

Uhn uhn. Time for real talk. Time to go deeper and have those conversations that force us to tend to our wounds and start healing.

When it chose a shattered portrait of the iconic Cosby Show for its November cover, Ebony magazine was simply heeding the call to “break glass in case of emergency.” Now the alarm is ringing, we must run and see what’s the matter.

Personally, I did not take the Ebony cover literally, as if there is some fracture in the Cosby Show, its image or its influence on American pop culture – and more pointedly… the Black American experience.

Let’s state facts: Heathcliff is not Bill Cosby. Claire most certainly is not Phylicia Rashad nor Camille Cosby… ‘cause we all know after Claire had gotten wind of the allegations surrounding her husband, there would be no defense, no victim-blaming. Nope. Our Claire would have delivered her death stare, read Heathcliff for shame, left him for her old Hillman flame, and then represented the women in court. Then there is fine Theo. Down-for-my-people-speak truth to power-working-at-the-community-center- righteous-Theo. He would never sacrifice truth for Malcolm Jamal Warner’s misdirected disappointment.

Well, of course that is my imagination talking. What my imagination hopes would have transpired on our beloved, yet fictive television show.

Yet, here’s the thing about fiction and made up things: It must have some semblance of believability. The Cosby Show, for all its new millennial criticisms, may not have been a reality for the majority of its faithful viewers, but it was believable enough to offer a new hope. Some inspiration.  And while it may not fully connect with the new lens from today’s proliferation of cultural critics, it was a welcome escape in its time as the number one watched network sitcom; a hope for what the institution of family could be. An inspiration for our individual and collective aspirations. It certainly was an influence on the many throes of Black folk heading to HBCU’s and college campuses in record numbers, producing many first generation college attendees in the 90s. It was a space for us to escape our world, to exchange our real families for the one on TV.

The Real Talk we need to have…

For all the reasons I mentioned above, we can certainly say that art inspires life. But there are many instances where it does not imitate it. Exhibit A: the Cosby Show itself is still intact.  Claire can still be seen in all her glory, Cliff stays doling out his fatherly nuggets, and we can enjoy wholesome family jam sessions to our heart’s syndicated delight.

So, I find it quite ironic, yet Divinely aligned, that the Ebony cover served as “The Family Issue” in the month of November:  the start to a season where for good or bad, people are forced to consider their families. A season connected with holiday gatherings, where many are obligated to sit across the table from their childhood sexual predator, aka Uncle Leroy.

It’s the season where many contemplate suicide rather than sit in silence as their family members berate and spew hateful, homophobic rhetoric at them across the turkey as their true identities cower under a protective mask. So many will up their anxiety meds in fear of the triggers that threaten to undermine the strides made in their therapy sessions.

Let us not forget those who are pushed back into the ugliness of childhood, where Aunt Sheila beat, cursed children and directed such derogatory language to shame them, that it would embarrass a drunken soldier. And surely we could dig further and take a look at all the grandparents and relatives who choose to ignore the fact that Troy has brought yet another pregnant girlfriend to dinner, yet has not been in touch with his first 4 children since they were in the wombs of all the other pregnant girlfriends from holidays past. And everyone will ignore  that Aunt Pat, with the cast on her broken arm, seems more skittish every time Uncle Kenny gives her his ice cold stare…the same Uncle who is also known to verbally beat up on all the women in the family.

Dressing will be passed ten times before anyone addresses why Lil Mike keeps jumping up from the table, peeping out the windows and clutching his waistband. Then when Loretta has a breakdown, again, and becomes violent, nobody will finally address the mental health issues several family members are self medicating or criminalized for. And who will stay to resolve the final balance on Big Mama’s funeral arrangements or discuss how folks skipped out on that responsibility?

Nope.

Everyone will just slice their homemade version of Patti Pie and sip tea as they all boisterously share their opinion about the Cosby Show and whether or not “Cliff” “really” “raped” “those women.” air quote air quote air quote.

And now that Bill Cosby has moved to file lawsuits against a number of his accusers for defamation,  this family focused holiday season will be just like old times. The Cosby Show escape from their real family problems.

Still the opportunity is here. Ebony pushed us to the line. And it’s high time we all step up, that means Ebony too, with its new generation of editors and staff writers who may not be familiar with the “culture” that was nurtured for years in the iconic red carpeted halls of their Michigan Avenue offices. But just as they arrogantly task the Cosby Show cast as collectively inheriting the sins of its father, it may want to look in the mirror. Ask around about the dysfunction, sexism, and adult indiscretions that were  embedded within the work culture. Any employee or associate intimately familiar with practices at Johnson Publishing Company from back in the day can speak to what built the figurative house they live in, even though it currently boasts a newly renovated version.

So, yes, we have to fully consider and examine how the Bill Cosby rape allegations (can we point out the deposition confessions while we’re at it) impact the Cosby Show family as a business and cultural icon. But while we’re looking over there, we’d all better be looking right at home tending to our own family business.

#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

Happy Friends Happy Teen 

Pharrell Williams’ hit song, Happy, may have been on to something. Recent findings from an on going study says beyond exercise and a healthy diet, a network of happy friends can enhance a teen’s lifestyle.

 “Depression itself doesn’t spread, but a healthy mood actually does,” he says. The study found that teens with a strong group of friends not suffering from depression — described as a “healthy” mood — had half the probability of developing depression and double the probability of recovering if they were depressed.”
The study is being conducted by National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health.

More findings shared via CNN. To read full study, click here.

Here are a few Girls Like Me Project tips for fostering Happy teen networks:

  • Host teen-lead events
  • Sponsor teen days/outings
  • Create happy circles via group-mentoring 
  • Lead team building activities
  • Encourage social networking, include safety Ed.

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:

 

Take It Back: Huff Post Black Voices promoting Black girl “beef”

1122749-Group-Of-Happy-Black-Girls

One would think that there are more than enough instances of “bad girl” promotion and instigated “beef” between Black girls and their real or phantom “haters.” Just do a media audit, surely you’ll find an excess of lyrics and images blasting messages that insist on competition, superiority, gossip, and violence amongst girls. From reality TV to music (rap or a tune from your favorite pop divas), to videos and film. Yet, apparently staff at Huffington Post Black Voices  (a curated NEWS platform) felt the need to add their voice to the negativity and pit girls against one another when they posted a very baiting headline on their Facebook page regarding the new film adaptation of the musical, Annie, starring Quvenzhane Wallis.

"How Quvenzhane snatched the role of 'Annie' from Willow Smith?”

“How Quvenzhane snatched the role of ‘Annie’ from Willow Smith?”

 

“How Quvenzhane snatched the role of ‘Annie’ from Willow Smith?”

Really?!?

There’s no telling what prompted “Black Voices” to use such divisive, antagonistic phrasing as a headline. One can only deduce the reasoning is sensationalism, especially when the actual article, published in Playbill and written by Karu F. Daniels, makes no reference to any competition between the two girl stars. In fact, there is a very minute mention of Willow, simply saying she was originally cast as Annie. It also mentions her parents remain producers.

A moment of shining celebration for the history-making, Academy-Award nominee Quvenzhane Wallis was otherwise ceded to the mindless/heartless decision that could have a detrimental impact on the very tone in which our girls consume AND are portrayed in media. The post acquired more than 50 shares and stirred conversation on social media.

Several commenters, myself included, requested Black Voices retract the title and find more affirming phrasing.

I thought it practical that when brought to their attention, an editor or someone on staff there who is sensitive to the influence media has on our girls, their interactions and identity,  would realize how important it is to correct the wording. I even crafted a few recommendations as a  guide: “Quvenzhane Wallis Glows as America’s First Black Annie” “Willow Smith opens lane for fellow girl actors…” “Black Girls rock the big screen; make history…”

We’re still waiting for HuffPost Black Voices  to move in the right direction on this. How long that will be is anyone’s guess as the post has sat for more than 5 days and as of Monday, November 17 remains.

Why make this into a big deal? In a space and time when young girls are bombarded with messages that glorify them into “mean girl” behavior and the internet is saturated with fight videos where girls get a digital audience for taunting and provoking their peers, girls deserve responsible media to share their stories.

NOV17_blackvoices1

At the same time, as we so often have to all but conduct an anthropological dig for intentional language that affirms our girls, I did want to include here what the director says about Quvenzhane in the original Playbill piece:

“The people in the press have been saying, ‘Wow, there’s an African-American Annie, and why [would] you make such a change?’ and my response to that is, ‘This is an 11-year-old girl who has to shoulder the entire movie with her music, with her singing, with her acting. How many times in history do we have an 11-year-old girl who has been nominated for an Oscar? So we were extremely lucky that she was available and that she existed and that we didn’t have to find someone. ‘The Beasts of the Southern Wild’ found her for us, and we were really lucky for that.”

Perhaps those of us who work closely with girls are more connected to the impact media messages have on their development. This is why we encourage media to truly reflect on the way it narrates the reality of our girls and be mindful of how their messages are consumed.

What do you think, should Huffington Black Voices retract the headline? Should we be concerned about this? If so, how do we hold media accountable for influencing positive interactions among girls?

Thankfully, Essence magazine got it right!


Credit: Columbia Pictures Twitter

Credit: Columbia Pictures Twitter