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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Chicago Girls stepping out for their Day

GIMPI Facebook Banner final with age

Once again it’s on! The world stage is set to celebrate the 2nd annual International Day of the Girl on October 11 as declared by the United Nations.

For the first Day of the Girl, Girls Like Me Project joined a collective movement to celebrate International Day of the Girl as millions of girls and women around the globe participated in the movement to advocate for, as well as, educate girls. From now moving forward this day remains a day to shed light on social and political injustices impacting girls.

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GLMPI was proud to host a local event to connect inner-city girls to this movement because so often their voices are missing from this international dialogue.

Like the fact that the face of sex trafficking victims are almost always foreign girls, when there is a prevalent majority of cases involving local girls as illustrated in this recent Chicago Sun TImes article by Mary Mitchell.

And there has been low attention paid to the increasing crisis of drop out rates among girls, which the National Women’s Law Center reports Illinois as having 22% of its girls drop out before graduating high school.

Or the discussion around the grave teen birth rate in Chicago which remains one and a half times higher than the national average.

And perhaps the most influential factor of all that needs actionable discourse, is that female characters are disproportionately stereotyped and sexualized in media popular with youth which feeds a vicious cycle of exploitation and paints a false portrayal and devalues what girls bring to their spaces.

This is why Girls Like Me Project, Inc. and our partners are committed to hosting another Chicago Day of the Girl event.

This year’s International Day of the Girl theme is Innovating for Girls’ Education.

Right here in Chicago, GLMPI is hosting 2nd Annual Chicago Day of the Girl: Stepping Out for a limited group of 150 adolescent girls ages 13-18. The free event is scheduled for Friday, October 11 from 6-9:00p at Pilgrim Baptist Church, located 3300 S. Indiana. The evening will feature community resource sharing, food, thought-provoking programming including performance by Ayodele Drum and Dance, spoken word by Def Jam Poet M’Reld Green interactive fun games, raffle prizes and giveaways, plus an engaging panel discussion, as well as intentional engagement with prospective mentors.

Here’s just a sample of the rhythm the night will bring:

Don’t miss out. Add this to your calendar and spread the word!

All attendees must register by October 5, 2013. RSVP by email to glm@lakeishagraysewell.com or call 773-599-3490.

We are thrilled about having Chicago girls step out and dream big for Chicago Day of the Girl!

Follow ##RoadToTheDayOfTheGirl for other celebrations across the country and around the globe!

Tell us what you have planned for Day of the Girl 2013….

Support us!

If you cannot attend but would like to support Chicago Day of the Girl or other GLMPI programs, feel free to make a donation and share the information with your networks.

Shutting Down Rape Culture and Chief Keef at CPS Proms

Delivering 522 signatures  to CPS to ban rape culture from proms and school functions

Delivering 522 signatures to CPS to ban rape culture from proms and school functions

Girls deserve to BE and FEEL safe. That’s it. That’s all. Especially in spaces that are sanctioned by adults. Especially in institutions whose primary purpose is to advance their development and well being.

So moving the needle forward, my initial utter disgust and shock at the heinous lyrics of yet another Chief Keef song prompted a petition to ban his music from Chicago Public School proms and other school events. We were very successful in exceeding our target of 500 signatures. Not only did we get those signatures, but local and national media helped facilitate the discussion. The petition had amazing support from Moms Rising, a vanguard in issues that pertain to mother’s rights and issues as well as policy.

In the midst of the momentum of growing support for this particular petition, CPS made an unprecedented move  to become the first district in the nation to mass-close 50 schools, a move that will surely affect safety, academic pursuit, and socialization of Black and Brown students. This politically charged turmoil almost daunted our focus. But with wisdom and encouragement from Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka (a Mom’s Rising Fellow) we pressed forward and delivered the signatures; trusting that for this cause, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett along with other CPS officials will take heed to public opinion and yield to moral obligation to ensure girls are safe; safe from verbal assault, safe fro the threat of rape and sexual violence, safe among male students.

Our timing could not be better, because it appears Chief Keef is hell bent on publicly threatening any woman/girl he comes in contact with sexual violence and battery…His latest was a violent rant against pop celebrity, Katy Perry. Clearly he is a socio-path. Yet while it may be a slow battle to get his songs removed from radio airwaves, we are taking the small steps to disempower he bravado, and mic check his dangerous platform. Not only are we demanding all of our children not be exposed to music that promotes rape culture, we are also emphasizing the need to implement cultural programming in schools that allow students to become media literate…to provide a critical lens by which our young people perceive media messages.

While our students have to navigate treacherous streets on their way to school, we affirm it only right they be kept safe inside the building and spaces occupied for CPS functions.

  1. We want media literacy programs in schools such as programs facilitated by Girls Like Me Project, Inc.
  2. DJ/Audio entertainers hired by school administrators must adhere to policy developed for & in collaboration with students which outlines SPECIFICALLY what rape culture encompasses
  3. CPS must adequately support music/arts programs which foster positive outlet of creativity for its students
  4. Parents and adults must take an active role in understanding how to manage their child’s media intake
  5. Schools should host forums to discuss social implications behind music that promotes rape culture
  6. Join national campaigns against rape culture in media, like Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now Mail (FAAN Mail) Talk Back movement 

We know CPS can shut down anything it puts its mind to…it is time they shut down Chief Keef and all music that promotes sexual violence against our girls… for all of our babies.

Where do we go from here?

The World's Fallen Angel, Hadiya Pendleton
The senseless murder of Hadiya Pendleton finally captured the attention of the nation. Heartbreaking and tragic, her death attracted thousands of mourners to her home going celebration. The sanctuary filled to capacity included First Lady, Michelle Obama; Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and a host of “dignitaries.” There had to be a designated standing-room only overflow section, while still hundreds more lined the street outside to pay their respects. It was a ceremony fit for a princess…our sweet angel Hadiya was laid to rest in a royal purple gown, her high school band playing for her ‘til the end.

Initially, outrage and frustration at the lack of urgency in response to the senseless violence taking the young and innocent from Chicago as well as countless urban cities around the country prompted me to ask How many dead Black Children does it take to get a Sandy Hook response?

And the Black Youth Project started a petition to summon President Obama to come home and deliver a speech on gun violence. garnering more than 45,000 signatures, the petition seemed to have worked. POTUS will be in Chicago on Friday, February 15, 2013 to answer the call.

If we know our POTUS, we know the man is eloquent with the wordplay. His speeches can ignite the most stubborn will, inspire hopeless apathy, and challenge the harshest critics. This is what we come to expect from the 44th President of the United States.

But what happens after the speech.

Where do we go from here? It is commendable for BYP to demand POTUS address gun violence, yet we know all too well that what has cost us the lives of so many of our young children is much bigger and drastically more complex than gun violence. For the last time all eyes were on Chicago for the brutal murder of one of our babies was in 2009 when Derrion Albert was beaten to death and speeches were given, funds proposed. No gun play involved in that heinous homicide. In fact, let’s really look at the crime stats of homicides in Chicago. Lives are taken by those wielding deadly fists, knives, boulders, pipes, sticks, and yes guns.

See gun violence is symptomatic of the myriad of social issues infiltrating the poor Black and brown neighborhoods of Chicago. Systematic injustices designed more than 50+ years ago are now manifesting. It’s a spider web of oppression which has turned in on itself.

So yes, the POTUS should definitely come to Chicago and hold up the mirror to our nation…force us all to peer at the ugliness racism, segregation, forced evictions, criminalization, war on drugs, unemployment, failed public education reform, and host of human rights violations that our governments sanction with failed policy after another. Gun violence, then, should be but a fragment of the conversation.

Still after we gaze purposefully in that mirror, how about we come back to the table with intentional change. There needs to be a federal commission to research and investigate what causes urban violence in concentrated areas of our major cities. The answers won’t be so pretty and neat, I can guarantee.

Then there absolutely must be infrastructual supports in the form funding for jobs; recreational zones; urban youth development.

A major component that absolutely cannot wait is support for mental health prevention/treatment. Our babies have been through trauma! Living under siege of gun fire where a walk to school can result in death of you or a friend; seeing blood splatter from a body sprayed by gun fire on your corner? Can anyone deny our children are dealing with PTSD?

And then the people. Our people. Those who have lost sons and daughters to the madness. The victims….and the perpetrators of crime. The everyday people.

It is time to be our own vanguard. It is time for us to build our own institutions with education and culture at the forefront; where every Black youth-serving organization/agency synchronizes and collaborates to bring about effective and SUSTAINABLE investment. We are overdue to reinstate the village concept where every stable minded adult is mentoring and nurturing at least one young person outside of their immediate family. The time is now for churches to move their private “classist” ministries (undercover social clubs) from within the four walls of their “sanctuary” to the streets. The clock has struck on the hour for the college-educated business folks to show up at work in the community. It is high time our academia with its scholarly debates to move the dialogue beyond the college campuses and lecture halls to the classrooms in the hood. Time for mothers and grannies to practice tough love. And we are almost out of time for fathers to repent and restore their homes.

The alarm is ringing!

Don’t ignore, or else you will soon answer that dreadful call saying this time it has touched your household.

Please, let us not allow this child’s life to have been in vain. Let her death be the catalyst that shines light through the oppressive fog we find our community today so that we honor all of our children, the fallen and the survivors.

 

Girls Like Me…so official!

There are no words to capture the emotions that have swept me up this morning. I do know I’m feeling supremely elated and humble all at the same time. I have wept tears of pure joy, fell to my knees in prayer and rejoicing. Shouted out Glory in my empty house. It was almost like I’d had an outer body experience when I saw myself doing this celebratory fast jog in place…I’m so excited! Why? You ask…well on this day, April 26, 2012, something that I have devoted my life to for the past 3 years has elevated to the next level…The Girls Like Me Project is fully incorporated as a not-for-profit in the State of Illinois!

This moment reminds me of only a few other major life events like giving birth to my children. But then too it is akin to my wedding/marriage. Although I have been dedicated to empowering Girls Like Me through workshops, book clubs and advocacy work for a few years, today is the day when that work gets the solid, legal standing, a position for expansion and influence. Just like my wedding day, I had dated my college sweetheart since I was 18, committed to our love but our wedding day was a day of joy as we continued building the foundation for an institution. This feels the same.

Still there is this critical voice of mine who always whispers to me, that girls like me are small time, not major league. Even as I type, a voice of criticism is sneaking in saying “people establish 501c3’s everyday, what’s the big deal.”

Well, the big deal is that this was the vision I set for myself to actually accomplish in 2012. It was one of the first things to go on my vision board. Today is yet another indication that what we believe for ourselves truly manifests, that if you speak your desires the universe will guide you to it.

Then there is this divine order that answers you and sends you every single person/circumstance you need to BE the Higher Power you claim to believe in…the universe gives you the chance to live in that power.

Why am I so ecstatic? Well because again, this is only one of the visions I have for Girls Like Me, ahem I mean the Girls Like Me Project ( I have to get used to saying that, after all, that is the official name). If this is any indication of how dreams come true, the rest of my visions are mind blowing—world changing. Now I’m in position to play the game.

This shifts things majorly. For instance a grant I was chosen for had to be diverted to a fiscal agent simply because I was not incorporated. Resources can now go directly to benefit programs that serve hundreds and eventually thousands of Girls Like Me around the globe.

And when I think of how far I’ve come, the little, skinny feisty Black girl who has been speaking up and out against injustice since I could talk, often times misdirected until my early twenties, can now empower my daughter to begin advocating for herself at a much younger age than I, with proper training and organizing. She will influence  her generation.  I can give my baby girl a legacy, start her out as the inaugural President of the Junior Board of Directors for GLMP, trained and set to lead an institution.

The things God has prepared are beyond this world’s understanding. So I silence my critical voice and embrace this major milestone and say YES to the universe. Thank You Most High for divine order, grace and mercy.

Oh and what would accomplishments be for a Girl Like Me without the famous shout out moment? Shouting out my husband, my other half who lets me go out in the world to be fearless only cause I know he’s got my back. I don’t have to spend my days doing anything I don’t feel serves my purpose because he provides my safety net. My Granny, who lived 86 long years, for making sure I understood the power of God. And my momma who loved me ferociously, acknowledged my voice and fed my spirit of independence. And my Daddy who was my first safety net, believing in my dreams and paying the price for them. lol

So many more people to name, but I’m too full to think clearly.

Thank YOU for reading this blog, commenting, retweeting, and liking. I hope we stay connected through this journey!

Stay tuned for more information on how you can support the Girls Like Me Project, Inc.

For now just keep me in your prayers…and bring the Girls Like Me Project to your school or youth organization.

Moving forward to serve, heal, transform Girls Like Me all over the world.

I’m not a Nicki Minaj fan on any level, but this song sums it up: