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.

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.

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

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

Courtesy of chikaoduahblog.com

Courtesy of chikaoduahblog.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Lupita’s full speech:

Shawty Lo’s Baby Mamas ain’t the problem…You are!

all-my-babies-mamasI’d been debating with myself for weeks whether or not to write this post. But then in the middle of the night the entire post  came to me fully written out…it was concise. It had the most perfect transitions and its prose rang with clarity. Of course this was all in my head sans pen and paper or laptop. So here I am trying to serve up something remotely as good to express my two cents on this Shawty Lo fiasco…and all the damnation that is Reality TV.

Early last year, along with Bessie Akuba of the She is Me Program, I co-founded #girlsmediachat. It was to be a Twitter chat to dissect and dialogue about the media images portraying and shaping girls’ identity. A few weeks in and it was the same…passionate, ambitious, creative and conscious sisters would tweet to death all that is wrong with media. Invariably reality TV was our angst. For obvious reasons. But if you need illustration, please reference any episode of Basketball WivesReal Housewives of AtlantaLove and Hip Hop or any variation of the aforementioned. There’s this trending word that the kids label it… Ratchet. Yes it is quite appropriate.

Well. I grew a bit weary of pointing out the ratchet on television. I’m so beyond it. It is taxing on my nerves, and makes me want to act out in ways that are so not befitting a passionate, ambitious, creative and conscious sister. Hmph…so I simply refused to watch the witchcraft. Thus what I am tagging the latest travesty to hit the airwaves titled Baby Mamas, and all ratchet forms of reality TV…it is witchcraft.

And seeing that I cannot realistically reach through my television, put a hex on their spells of ignorant pageantry nor shake some sense into any of these characters, I will do what my life assignment calls for. That is to lift up the ones I can touch, show them affirmative ways to communicate with other girls; be an example of how to honor their bodies and beings; and present tools that help them navigate the weird world of relationships sans mental manipulation, patriarchal oppression, misogyny, or physical abuse. Because my investment and energy moves beyond getting a show pulled. The bigger picture is to interrupt the behavioral patterns little girls are exhibiting today that lead them to become implicit in the witchcraft….go from girls to women behaving badly. We must touch the ones within our reach daily: that means the young sisters riding beside us on the buses/trains, baby girl who lives next door, your daughter’s playmates…and some of us need to check the little girl still inside of us. Ahem. Yes. I went there. Truth is what is on “reality TV” is played out live in living color in many homes with young girls as audience to adult women acting stupidly and making foolish, misguided decisions. I promise you I attended an event just last weekend with women who are college educated, many members of sororities with successful careers and who are MOTHERS refer to each other (out loud) using the B word as a term of endearment. For real. Who does that? Still in the midst of this was baby mama drama to boot. For real.It was all quite fascinating in a Discovery-Channel watching sort of way. But, sadly it was not a television show. It was indeed real with no cameras.

So again, I’m less frustrated with the tube these days. I want us to fix the everyday sister who believes its okay to address another girl/woman in any derogatory fashion. It is reckless dishonor to share a boy/man and engage in unprotected sex…no SEX PERIOD, knowing he shares his goodies with another. It is outright flagrant indecency to put your hands on another to express your anger or insecurities. Geez. The list of ratchet behavior is much too long…and quite frankly unproductive.
If the objective is to transform lives of our girls, this must be our priority. If not, we have only our real life selves to blame for what they see/hear in media.

Change the Game:

Sign the petitions like this one to get shows pulled from the air
Support organizations like Girls Like Me Project, Inc. book the workshops for your school/org.
Join the #notbuyingit movement to let advertisers really know how you feel about their endorsement of such foolishness

And on the last note, I have heard many people excuse the “entertainment industry” and “celebrities” of all accountability for being role models or accurately portraying the complex telling of the Black American experience, especially as it relates to our women and girls. Well. That is arguable, for some. What I do know for fact is that the “entertainment industry” is  yet a politically correct misnomer given to what we know is an exploitation monster. Given that, we should only expect the entertainment industry to exploit our lowest lows for profit. It is simply time we raise the bar.

How do you think we should raise the bar for our girls?