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:

 

Trick or Treat…Pseudo Independence Day Safety for adolescent and teen girls

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So it is Halloween. Many girls have outgrown the infatuation with dressing up as their favorite Disney character and going door to door with giggles and baskets in hand anxious to squeal “trick or treat” at every door that opens for their excitement.

 

And while the enthusiasm wanes as our girls enter middle and high school, they secretly hold a desire to “celebrate” and have fun in the name of halloween. Sans the parental sentry. Of course it is time to let them have this taste of independence. Which is why there must be due diligence in keeping safety a priority.

 

Here’s a little advice from Girls Like Me Project:

 

For adolescent/teen girls…

  • Choose age-appropriate costume. What is age appropriate? Take a look at Mighty Girl’s Girl Empowerment Costume Guide.
  • Have a destination: Identify what you want to do and find the specific address for the scene of your fun. Just standing outside, loitering is an invitation for trouble. (A few ideas: Go to haunted houses, amusement parks, adult-supervised house parties, community center events, church “Hallejuah” parties, after-school parties, hang out at the mall, go to watch a scary movie, host a spooky slumber party).
  • The saying, safety in numbers is true. Group outings are always fun AND keeps you with others who all can have your back if something happens. if you go with a group, STAY TOGETHER.
  • Let adults know exactly what your plans are. If possible, have an adult drop off and pick up. Carpools are cool, too.
  • If a group is known for troublemaking, make a decision to do only positive activity. Find an alternative group/activity.
  • Establish a secret code word for you and your parents to use in case you are in an uncomfortable/dangerous situation and need your parents to pick you up immediately. (dangerous situations may include: unwanted sexual advances from boys/older boys at your event; alcohol and drugs being passed around; guns/violence breaks out; police harassment).

 

DO NOT SNATCH CANDY BAGS FROM SMALL CHILDREN.

DO NOT GO IN VACANT HOMES/BUILDINGS.

DO NOT CAUSE HARM TO ANYONE.

DO NOT DAMAGE ANY PROPERTY.

DO NOT CONSUME DRUGS OR ALCOHOL

For adults and caregivers…

 

  • Make sure you know what your child’s costume is.
  • Know exactly what your child’s plans are.
  • Make the time to coordinate with other parents/caregivers about drop off/pick up.
  • Get the names and contact information of all parents of your child’s friends.
  • Establish a secret code word for your child to use if they are in an umcomfortable or dangerous situation and need you to come get them immediately

If you have any recommendations on fun and safe Halloween fun, please share in the comments. Also, please tag @GirlsLikeMeProject in your halloween fun pictures on Instagram. Follow us on Twitter, too! @GirlsLikeMeProj

Enjoy the night and be safe.

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.

I Got 99 problems w/POTUS, his Chicago Speech ain’t One!

CT-MET-OBAMA-VISIT-JMP_CTMAIN 0216 SRPresident Obama answered the demand for his to visit Chicago to address the violence plaguing his hometown.
Although an online petition garnered more than 45,000 collective signatures from across the country, the reception for such a visit by actual Chicagoans was mixed. Some who simply wanted validation that the hundreds of lives lost to violence be recognized as a national concern welcomed the attention POTUS’ presence would bring to the city. Others, who think of themselves as radicals for the hood, wanted no parts of the politics that surely would accompany the POTUS.  Still, there were those who believe the death of Hadiya Pendleton should no more warrant a reaction from the leader of this nation than the other children who lost their lives prior. Then there were those like me, who fully grasp how the POTUS’ presence would yield the demand that the lost lives of Chicago’s children be included in the national discourse on child welfare and violence, as well as abide a common-sense acknowledgement that whatever work we desire to see, whatever healing required to heal our city wracked with so much blood shed and pain, requires on the ground organizing and work.

While acknowledging the above sentiments, it is kind of perplexing to me that the ones who seemed to have the most vocal outrage and disdain for President Barack Obama’s speech to Chicago are not even from Chicago. Go figure.

I find the outrage quite disheartening for a number of reasons.
1. People seemed to be disappointed that gun violence wasn’t his main focus. But didn’t he tell us what he came to discuss?

Further more, everyone wants to focus on gun violence and thrust Chicago into that conversation. Yes, we should have a bookmark. But our problem is beyond gun violence. It is stifling segregation that plays out in housing and education which feeds into joblessness and poverty. It is classism. It is loss of mental health care. It is the inertia of political will and fortitude. Violence, whether by gun, knife, pipe, fists; is yet a manifestation of it all. He addressed all of that.

“That’s what I’ve come here to talk about today…raising our kids. I’m here to make sure we talk about and then work towards giving every child every chance in life. Building stronger communities and new ladders of opportunity that they can climb into the middle class and beyond. And most importantly keeping them safe from harm.”

Now, I did not paraphrase. That is the exact words of POTUS.

2. I completely understand there are those who resist the traditional view of family and what they consider to be “hetero-normative.” But puh-lease! This was no ivy-league, university campus sequestered lecture debunking feminism nor a woman’s right to be an independent single mother. But  since some lead us down that road, I must ask…how’s that working for us?

The President was speaking to the issues in the hoods of Chicago….the various communities where households lack ANY resolute male presence, for generations inclusive of fathers, grandfathers and uncles. He wasn’t specifically addressing marriage (though if he were what is wrong with that?) But yes, if you want to discuss heterosexual privilege…um let’s ask how many of the single mothers how their children came to be?

I cannot count how many of the girls who are in my programs share that they have either never seen their father, haven’t seen their father in more than a year, or don’t have any respectful relationship with their fathers.

Now for those who had a problem with the POTUS remarks, when’s the last time you spoke to a group of Chicago youth and asked how they feel about their father’s presence in their lives?

In his words, “No law or set of laws can prevent every senseless acts of violence in this country. When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child’s heart that  government can’t fill, only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole.”

Is this flipping the script on what we have known, and subjectively purport; that is starts at home? That we learn our values and sense of self from family/community first, then school, media, etc?

Y’all mad because he said families and solid parenting are the foundation to setting a child on a path that does not lead them to hopelessness and destructive behaviors? Don’t claim that he “blamed” single mothers for violence. He spoke on the unfair and unforgiving policies that penalize young people. He spoke about lack of jobs. He spoke about education reform…

It sounds like folks cherry picked the points they wanted to hear and ignored the others. Before President Obama even mentioned fathers, he said, “There are entire neighborhoods where young people, they don’t see an example of somebody succeeding.”

I don’t know. Watch for yourself.

3. What really gets to me is that this address was local…folks had the privilege to see it via a livestream from a “local” ABC affiliate. From the very beginning I think he made that clear…I mean do you know the relationship between Woodlawn and Hyde Park high school? Can you decipher the dynamics of those communities? Do you have an inkling to the generational ties to street organizations that sprouted from Woodlawn? Do you know history of federal funding that has come into this city to solve this very problem more than 30 years ago and the outcomes? These small details are a HUGE part of what is happening today.

Listen, POTUS was not providing the blueprint for the Nation. This was not for you, really. It was for Chicago. A do-for self reminder. Or is Kwanzaa only relevant in December? People only seem to be able to handle the truth when it’s in a lie. Or only when Minister Farrakhan marches a million Black men into the Nation’s capital to tell them they need to step it up as fathers and keepers of the community.

What I’d like to offer is this. As a nation, if you care about Chicago’s violence and the and continuing decline in moral fortitude of our people across this country, then let’s do this. Let’s halt the reactionary impulse to get caught up in the semantics of the message. Let’s focus on the truth. The truth is we are far off the path that our ancestors laid for us. We are even further from the inherent greatness our Creator has instilled in us. The truth is we are not living up to our Divine principle. The truth is , while we live under oppressive systems that teach us to hate our selves and inflict harm on one another, WE KNOW BETTER. And the truth, plain and simple is that far too many are not doing their part to transform. They’d rather pontificate on the problem and the words of a messenger. While you are dissecting POTUS address for your next “university” lecture, how much time will you spend serving the youth in the hood? How much time are you giving being a mentor to a young person?

It’s almost a level of poverty pimping. Yes I’m going there. Folks will do mad lecture series around the country visiting cities like Chicago and never once go to a struggling school while there. Nope. Nice hotel, straight to campus where your “topic” is not even present. Or how about those amongst us who have college degrees, abc’s behind our names never been out of a job or homeless in our adult lives, travel the world, yet we continue to perpetuate and sing that sad song to brothers and sisters struggling that the system ain’t fair and won’t let them succeed. Hell, how did you make it?

Folks want to stay in the misery talk of how oppression is the culprit and it’s the “man’s fault” that we don’t love ourselves and make bad choices. Yeah. The man playing his part. Still, you know the song and still do the dance. So…

I’m ready for real solutions.

How about we all build a unified voice of demands that result in a federal probe into the root causes of inner-city violence. Then we can really get to the crux of poverty and hopelessness.

What if we all supported inner-city youth programs with our time, finances, gifts? Are you a journalist, attorney, accountant, professor, entrepreneur? You are needed in the hood!

Let’s just stop talking about it, stop tweeting about, stop commentating and BE about it!

Thought I’d share a little Goodie Mob with you….The Experience!