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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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.

Hair We Go…Again. Open Letter to our Babygirls

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I’m tired. Sick and tired, really. It is rather exhausting to constantly debate the value and beauty of girls like me, whose very basic existence from our names to our physical traits (hair, skin complexion, facial features, anatomy) deviate from the european standards of beauty and respectability. Whose melanin and pigmentation seem to cast a shadow of doubt about our worth in this society. Every month, it seems we are confronted with yet another viral, insensitive, and highly offensive incidence of degradation aimed at Black girls. From the curious case of Gabrielle Douglas twitter chatter, to the unforgivable Quvenzhane Wallis verbal cuts, to the shaming of Willow Smith, to the sickening Rachel Jeantel reactions. I could go on and on. And these are only the highly visible cases, no way to capture the thousands of shaming episodes Black girls endure in classrooms, doctors’ offices, sports arenas, media messages, and households on a daily. I swear, if we added up all the hours of blogs, commentary,discourse, debates, rationales and confrontations dedicated to fighting misconceptions and narrow perceptions when it comes to our little girls’ hair and image, we’d have a year’s worth of classroom instruction.

In case you need to revisit, here’s how a historic moment became a trigger of pain for an innocent Gabby Douglas

I have devoted a huge chunk of energy doing combat work, trying to get folks to acknowledge our girls. And while I feel strongly about resisting the stereotypes and stigma as I did on CBS Atlanta, d.i.v.a Downloads, Perri Small Show WVON, Lady Dee Mind Magick Radio, it is so draining.

It always makes you wonder how much more we can take, that is until the next time we hear an atrocity such as the recent cases of 7 year old Lamiya Cammon whose teacher had the audacity to cut her braids in class and 12 year old, Vanessa VanDyke who is facing expulsion because she chooses to wear her hair in its natural state.

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How can one even begin to give voice to the anguish and defeat of the young lady who could no longer own her name, because it was not acceptable in her environment. Now one Keisha has become Kylie.

Sigh…

So here’s what time it is.

It is time to stop draining ourselves and fighting a losing battle. No more of the Kanye West outcry for validation in places we will never gain acceptance or respectability. From now on, my energy will be spent affirming our girls. Teaching them and empowering their agency. I will speak to their power, their beauty, their legacy, their heritage and their future…their life.

And so I penned this letter…

Dear Babygirl…

There is so much I want to share with you. So many things I wish you could truly know and believe. All the things us as your mothers and aunts tell you make us sound like we rode dinosaurs to the homecoming dance, and kind of make it hard for you to trust that we understand. I bet you believe we don’t have a clue what your current situation is like.

And you are right. We did not go through puberty last month. We didn’t have our first kiss last week. It wasn’t just yesterday when we were trying to study for the U.S. Constitution or ACT exam. Nope.We didn’t do our homework on a computer while texting our teachers if we had a question. Most of all, we are not sitting in our rooms trying to think of a way to get permission to go hang with our friends without cleaning the dishes.

Still, there are some things that are just the basics. You know, that stuff that never gets old.

The stuff of life that every girl child in your family, dating back to at least 6 generations, has had to navigate her way through.

1. You are the most special, most important person in your life.

You are a gift who was pre-ordered and given a due date much like your favorite album. The universe waited for your arrival on your birthday. That’s right, everything shifted and fell into place just for you to get here. When you were on your way, during your mother’s labor, nobody in that hospital/birthing room mattered as much as YOU. You were the center of attention. The doctors, nurses, midwifes/doulas, your mommy…everyone in that room focused on you, your safety and survival. Listen, honey, Rhianna, Beyonce, Nikki Minaj, and any other famous person you can think of could have been in the hallway outside of that delivery room, and they would have not mattered. So you must remember and hold on to that truth everyday. Remember you were born with a purpose and the older you become, the more power you possess to live on purpose.

2. The media is NOT your mirror

You are bigger than an image. And you are not in competition nor have any need to conform to a standard of beauty which exalts your silky-haired, narrow nosed, purt-lipped, nasal-toned counterparts. There are some forces in the world that would have you turn down so they can turn up trying to BE like you. There is no need to pretend or exaggerate your worst behavior to be recognized. Be your best self. That is what will make a lasting and powerful impression.

3. Love yourself

Take time to pause all the static and noise from your iPod, TV, smartphone, magazines and even your friends. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing and what makes you happy. Write it in a journal.

4. Move beyond the block

Remember your zip code does not define YOU. Even though where you are from, city or neighborhood, can be a simultaneous badge of honor and shame, you must understand what you were born into is not who you were born to BE. Your current situation is just that…At this point, it is more than likely due to your parents choices/decisions. Your future depends on what you see for yourself. Visualize yourself in the space you want to be. Then everyday believe in your heart you are already there. Let every thought and action be considerate of that space. Step into it fully. Set the intention to grow there and blossom to your fullest.

5. Love your sisters.

“Girls keep up too much drama.” Heard it a million times and have to admit I have said it before, too. But that was before I realized what I speak of “girls” is what I am speaking of myself. So no more of that negative talk about other girls. We attract what we give to the universe. Stop the competitive behavior, do not believe that anyone can take any opportunity from you, what is for you, you will receive abundantly. (That goes for the cutie you are dating) Recognize in other girls the same good things you like about you. I promise you will get along much better.

6. Speak your name.

Say it LOUD. Think for a second of how special you were when your mother took the time to think of a phrase/name that would pour all her love into you, her precious gift. And no matter what ANYONE else says or thinks of YOUR name, you own it. It is the first thing you will ever own. Honor and respect why it was chosen for you.

7. Celebrate yourself.

I know you love to talk about your favorite celebrity. You follow them on IG and watch their YouTube channel all the time. You root for them to win all the awards. But it’s time to focus some of that energy on you. Standing in the mirror, honor yourself for all the good choices you made today. Take this moment to clap for yourself.

8. Game recognize game

Adults get it wrong. And we don’t have all the answers. But there are many of us who love and care about you. We want the very best for you and will use all our resources to get what you need. Look for mentors all around you whether it is a teacher, neighbor, librarian, church member, or coach. And when you see an adult who appeals to your ambition, it’s okay to ask questions about their life journey…what were some of their challenges and successes. On the other hand, when you see adults acting the fool, in real life or on TV, find another example to follow.

9. An Educated mind is the key to the world

Inquiring minds want to know! Ask questions about EVERYTHING. Why? How? You can find out anything you want to know just by reading credible and factual sources. (Books, Articles, etc). It’s fun to watch music videos, but look at some documentaries and read some historical fiction, too.

Each day you are alive and breathing the air of this earth you will hear and see messages that take your mind off of celebrating you. From the ads on the public transportation to the sounds coming from your iPods and smartphones, to the images bouncing before your eyes on the screens, it will all try to turn down your applause for that girl in the mirror. But if you practice the above, you are winning the game.