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

 

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

 

 

Vision Boards: Perfect Project for National Mentoring Month

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

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

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

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

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

Vision Boards can help girls:

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

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

A little inspiration….

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

Gift it!

New Moon Magazine

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

Work it out!

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

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