Institutionalized Orgs must embrace Black Girls Rock movement

Courtesy of Voices of America

Courtesy of Voices of America

It’s been a necessary declaration, yet starkly absent from our association since our ancestors were forcefully brought to these shores more than 300 years ago. It’s been covertly hidden in the white lie to the detriment of a Black truth. But thankfully since 2011, it has made its way to back into the light…a rekindling of a flame of sorts; a national movement and hashtag. Black Girls Rock! This is the mantra that has put a shine back into the smiles of little Black girls and has restored hope in the legacy of Black women. First as a philanthropic endeavor of Model/DJ, Beverly Bonds, it is now a nationally televised awards show which commands full attention on behalf of who? Black Girls!

And while this reclaimed pride has been met with some petty outcries from those who claim it as reverse discrimination and unfair to single Black girls out for affirmation, the movement will not be silenced. Although the outrage garnered its own hashtag, #WhiteGirlsRock, it can’t undo the entitlement Black girls now have to concepts of inspiration and empowerment.

Many have begrudged FLOTUS Michelle Obama, for embracing and yes, promoting the Black Girls Rock sentiment. Even while she is a mother to two Black girls. On the other hand, it was quite fine for Nancy Reagan to categorically single out Black children for her “Just say no” campaign. But that is another blog for another time.

Still, with plenty of cause to explain how ludicrous (and sad) that type of petty Black Girls Rock outrage is, Dr. Stacy Patton has already given thee best read of all time on the subject, so I won’t digress.

However what I am here to say is, it is high time for girl-serving institutions and organizations to do a self assessment and analyze if the execution of their mission has negligently hampered Black Girls’ individuality or ability to fully rock their Blackness. What does that mean? Often times, diversity does not involve intentional inclusion where Black girls are allowed to bring their whole selves into an organization that has traditionally served predominantly White populations.  They must dial back their voices and language. Their creativity is repressed. And it is not uncommon that they be punished (even criminalized) for expressing any range of human emotions that show anger, depression, sadness, or dissatisfaction. This is illustrated in the recent findings of the African American Policy Forum’s report, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected.

Not sure if this applies to you? Here are a few checkpoints to see if you need an initiation into the Black Girls Rock world…

  • Does your organization use culturally relevant materials, either as learning or marketing tools? Can Black girls of all walks of life relate to your programs? Do you showcase Black girls in ways that make them starkly obtuse
  • Do you provide opportunities for cultural exchanges?
  • Do instances of upliftment outnumber those of admonishment of Black girls?
  • Do you regularly have conversations around race that are neutrally moderated?

If you’ve answered no to any of the above, I offer you a passport into the #BlackGirlsRock world. For a full tour and guide, please follow @MrsgirlsLikeMe on Twitter. Also, check out Voices of Advocacy Radio for more tips and resources from our expert guests. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any successes OR any barriers you have encountered in intentionally engaging Black girls.

Courtesy of BrandNewz.com

Courtesy of BrandNewz.com

La’Keisha Gray-Sewell, is a nationally recognized urban girls inclusion advocate, media literacy expert and speaker, whose transformative programs and trainings empower girls to navigate beyond stereotypes to become global legacy builders.  She is available to facilitate faculty trainings on Diversity and Inclusion. She also facilitates media literacy and empowerment workshops for urban girls as a part of her Girls Like Me Project curriculum.

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Whitney Houston: Queen of the night forever reigns

I saw the AP Breaking News tweet, but my mind would not allow me to believe it.  I was hoping and praying that it was another of the weekly Twitter RIP hoaxes. Not for many hours after did I accept what the news outlets and social media buzz was saying. Whitney Houston had died in a Beverly Hills Hotel.

The realization has left me somber and deflated. To understand my anguish you have to know what Whitney’s gift gave to my childhood and ideal of love and romance. Fighting back tears while at times writing through, I tried to put it into some sensible words using titles from her hits, but below is the best I can give at this time…please receive with all the love, respect and admiration I had for what God shared with us in human form as Whitney Houston…

The scene from the happy days of my childhood is so vivid. Singing. In the living room. In the church choir. In the bathroom. At the dinner table (before being silenced by receiving a stern look from my mother or Granny, cause it was a cardinal sin to sing at the table).

Yes those memories stand out. I would fling my Diana Ross big hair and wrap fake boas around my neck singing with combs, brushes, brooms or mops as my microphone. But I never had a song.  I mean Miss Diana was old…all her songs were from Doo Wop and disco days. This was the 80s and I had never sang any words that I felt were mine.

Until I heard the voice of Miss Whitney Houston.

That voice. That persona…it connected to something within me. So The Greatest Love of All became my song. The words encouraged me and spoke all the things I wished the adults around me would say. Whitney sang that song as if she was the saving grace for every brown girl child who ever breathed. And that voice singing those words awakened a belief inside of me that has never been shaken since; that the greatest love of all is inside of me, and if it is indeed inside of me I was destined for greatness. I am greatness. That’s what Whitney told me, and I believed her.

But beyond that voice, that pure, sanguine, fluid, yet mighty voice was a girl who was my reflection. In a culture where being skinny (or bony as its called in the Black community) is ridiculed and mocked, yet here was Miss Whitney looking poised and regal, sweet and fun, sexy with all the world watching her. I was a pair of those eyes watching- looking up in celebration and awe. Instantly I recognized Whitney was a girl like me.

So I donned a wardrobe change with my idol as inspiration…. coached along by my step mother I sang at talent and fashion pageants.

I was a swirling motion of high-volumed hair, shiny lip gloss, neon bright singing sensation saving all my love for that one moment in time when all my cares melted and I just wanted to dance with somebody, singing like I knew things, tears streaming from my pubescent eyes, I got so emotional.  Just a girl child but felt like I was Every Woman with the greatest love flowing through me. It was a force, somebody bigger than me had given the world this angel, and I studied and learned from the best what poise and inflection and crescendo and perfect pitch meant.

Step by step of my life, there is a song from Whitney to give peace, encouragement, love, clarity and a good time. I felt it deeply then that we had something in common. I recall the early years of college when things were getting serious with my boyfriend, I’d asked him to listen to the words from Run To You, because if he could truly hear those words, if he  got the song then he’d get me. He got it, no wonder he is now my husband.

I Want to Run To You

Now today is one of those days when the world just doesn’t make much sense. Finding myself so emotional in a different state of being. I didn’t know Whitney, but every time she sang I felt like she knew me. Thinking back on what she gave the world, I marvel thinking didn’t we almost have it all. Maybe she gave us too much, it lead to entitlement. Her voice, relationship and struggles weren’t enough, the cameras and fans and media always wanted more. The queen of the night told us who she was, left herself wide open…she was a miracle of our time. The greatest.

And now Whitney Houston is gone. Something just doesn’t feel right, but it’s okay because we can look to her marvelous works. She definitely lived life with passion and on her purpose. We can listen to her gift and savor that million dollar bill feeling…Whitney made us feel large didn’t she?

So diva, I ain’t got nothin’ but love for you.

Rest in peace and power in your next realm. I pray for peace and comfort to blanket your family and all those who truly shared in your life with you.

There will never ever be another Whitney. Salute!

 

Take a look back at some of my favorite Whitney songs. Please share your memories and songs that touched you, too!

You Give Good Love

Every woman

Miracle

Queen of the Night

All the man that I need

Greatest Love of All

One of those Days

Something In Common