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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What’s Beef to Girls Like Me: The Reality of a Remy Ma and Nicki Minaj Rap Battle

572fe05f72767-imageWhen the fabric of your everyday work is woven with the heartbreaking, tragic outcomes of the all too common beef between girls, well then you tend to find it challenging to dismiss verbal assaults between two very public and influential Black women as merely an industry byproduct.

If they didn’t know before, just about anyone with an internet connection and an ear to the social media streets has learned who Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma are… or at least that they don’t like one another. In fact, if one was not familiar with their chosen career paths, the pop culture chatter might have one believe that someone had literally been physically assaulted, murdered, and decapitated. Especially when most of the related conversation is violent, even has inspired a reference to the homicide investigative-style television series, The First 48.

Still, it’s all been chalked up to fun and games…just a little lyrical wordplay between two rap artists. Nothing to see here. Just classic battle rap.

Yet perhaps if the names and lives of Myzhane Flourney, ShaMichael Manuel, Amy Joyner, Endia Martin, or De’Kayla Dansberry were a fabric of more people’s everyday consciousness, there would be less applauding the spectacle of Black women verbally assaulting one another for all the world to hear, and more concern about the impact on real life child’s play.

Some of us are all too familiar with the very real funerals processions, real flowers, real mourning  for the too early dead lives of Black girls on the other side of loud arguments, instigating peers, and bruised egos. A few of the girls named above can tell you about the ugly truth of girl fights…but some of them cannot. They are no longer here. Beaten. Stabbed. Shot…to death. Following an exchange of words.

I personally find it a bit perplexing that there is a measurable contingency of people (Black women specifically) who are irritated by those of us who live with this devastating truth at our center and therefore have raised flags on the gleeful adulation over glorified interpersonal girl conflict. There seems to be a compulsive addiction to Black girl drama…sadly even Black women/girls are here for it. It is normalized as acceptable, even expected. All this with complete disregard to what we know has been bared out by research and empirical evidence; that celebrities and media influence teens as strongly as peers and parents.

I’ll save the judging for others who find their validity in that lane. I’m not angry nor berating anyone who disagrees with my stance. My only goal is that if we clap for bad girl behavior, we take some time to find a young impressionable vessel and ask her perspective of the all too accessible “rap beefs.” See how far she can separate fantasy from real life. Be sure to follow up and ask her how she responds to interpersonal conflict? What she would do if she were in the shoes of your latest rap heroine?

And in hopes that it is not too much to ask, can we consider that just maybe the energy we give to this low frequency behavior does indeed lend to the vibration of society.

Then too, I remember when for me there was a limit to the number of words exchanged before contact was made…especially those fighting words. Beyond that, though, hatred and violent speech sends the same message whether from a politician or a rapper. Someone is listening. Someone is emboldened to enact the sentiments.

And it’s never a game.
No, #BlackGirlMagic is not about being perfect and righteous at all times. But what it is about is setting the intention to be better. That’s the game I want us all to win. Get better. Be better.

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.

PushOut Comes to Chicago

Flyer (1)Seems as if the weeks don’t pass when some form of schoolhouse trauma does not shake up the life of a Black girl. It is such a prevalent happening, and there seems to be no age limitations as babies as young as four years old are harshly reprimanded, punished, handcuffed, expelled, and at worst pushed into the criminal justice system straight from their classrooms.

From brilliant science projects to emotional breakdowns, Black girls are denied their right to experience their full humanity without becoming engaged with law enforcement. The most recent story we’ve heard is the case of 6 year old Madisyn Moore who was handcuffed for allegedly “stealing” a piece of candy from her teacher’s desk. And none of us can forget the atrocious sight of the video showing a “school resource officer” slamming and dragging a Black girl from her desk in Spring Valley.

Hard as we try, we can’t seem to remove from our consciousness the images of savagery committed against Black girls in classrooms across this country. And while those raw images replay in our minds like the latest cinematic thriller, sadly it is a reality far too many actually live through every single day. In fact, the African American Policy Forum released a report, Pushed Out: Over Policed and Under Protected which outlines the numbers of Black and Brown girls impacted by the systemic injustices that have stripped their humanity, leaving them to be treated like wild animals in the very spaces that are supposedly dedicated to their development and protection. This report gave way to the social media and online activism of #BlackGirlsMatter, which curates story after story of girls violated by the concerted efforts between school administrators and law enforcement.

My story is among them. Though my situations took place more than 20 years ago as a Black teenage girl, the trauma of yesterday connects me with girls like me who a generation later are further entangled in policy that  seeks to over-criminalize and under-educate them.

That is why when I learned Dr. Monique Morris would be visiting Chicago, I jumped at the opportunity to host a discussion and community forum for her book, Push Out: Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools.

Girls Like Me Project, as a member of the South Side Coalition on Urban Girls, will host Dr. Monique Morris on Wednesday, March 30th at Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, located 1060 East 47th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60653. Forum begins promptly at 6p. I am inviting you to join us!

Before we get the conversation going, check out the latest episode of Voices Of Advocacy Radio which discusses this very grave matter.

More about PushOut: Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools

Book overview: Black girls represent 16 percent of female students but almost half of all girls with a school-related arrest. The first trade book to tell these untold stories, Pushout exposes a world of confined potential and supports the growing movement to address the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures.

For four years Monique W. Morris, author of Black Stats, chronicled the experiences of black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged—by teachers, administrators, and the justice system—and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish. Morris shows how, despite obstacles, stigmas, stereotypes, and despair, black girls still find ways to breathe remarkable dignity into their lives in classrooms, juvenile facilities, and beyond.

 

What girls do you see?

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As International Day of the Girl fast approaches, the focus on girls’ issues is being held up for examination. And rightly so. Girls all over the world face injustices directly related to their gender. Those injustices become much more perilous and detrimental to their development if they are poor and/or girls of color. The issues run the gamut from poverty, structural violence, sexual exploitation, stereotypes and misrepresentation in media, criminalization, limited access, health inequity, sub par to complete lack of education, obesity, and the list can go on and on.

All around the globe there is a movement to empower girls, and galvanize advocates on their behalf. Various institutional organizations have been able to attract heavy hitting allies and funding for their efforts. That support has also raised the profile of the girls they serve.

Still, there remains so many whose marginalized experience has now been marginalized from the global girls movement. The funding appears political, and the conversation seems to exclude grassroots voices. it is time for this to change. I’m hoping to influence this change my connecting the voices/narrative of urban American girls who face identical hardship, parallel to their counterparts on the other side of the world.

When United Nation’s resolution 66/170 declared October 11 as International Day of the Girl, it provided the perfect opportunity to work towards our organization’s mission, which is to partner with organizations and institutions to better navigate the negative stigmas and media messages that influence African-American girls.  Our power is in providing girls the tools that transform communities and foster global sisterhood.  

I am proud that we’ve been able to host Chicago Day of the Girl event since 2012 where we’ve connected more than 300 girls to the monumental purpose of International Day of the Girl. We get connect them to a global community that s otherwise distant and out of reach; celebrate and advocate for their success beyond the myriad of circumstances that stifle their potential.

In Chicago, our Day of the Girl is filled with fun! From cultural performances to spoken word and giveaways we make it exciting. Yet there’s the serious business of panel discussions and resource sharing.  Ayodele Drum and Dance will set the tone for us. She’s All That teen models will showcase women/girl designers. and so much more.

Here’s some video of previous years. And our FB page has photo highlights.

How are you celebrating International Day of the Girl where you are?

Which Girl Issues Matter?

I hate to call this out, though I won’t apologize for it. Sadly this thing that is pressing me is centuries old. It is the thing that causes many good-hearted, well-intentioned, folks to glaze over and ignore the glaring hardship of others. It was the motivating factor behind the infamous, now known to be falsely attributed, Sojourner Truth quote. And though we are more than a century from the first National Women’s Rights Convention and suffrage movement, there’s still yet another generation who could rightfully beg the question…”Ain’t I a girl?”

Here we are in 2015, in the midst of a swelling, impassioned, global movement for girl empowerment. This movement is an appalled examination of the way girls are treated around the globe. It is a clarion call commanding attention to the majestic & transformational force girls can be in their communities if given the required developmental tools, most important amongst those are demonstrative love and genuine concern. The movement is a celebration of the greatness and resilience inherent in being born a girl.

Which girls matter?

As with most movements, while fueled by thousands, there are always a number of personal narratives held up to advance the cause. There are those whose faces and stories pull at the heartstrings to bring about awareness and connect with stakeholders, and those with the power to bring about the desired change. Oftentimes we find that that power translates into money.

And here is where we find ourselves in a conundrum. This tenuous space where women advocate for Black American girls heartily cheer for girlhood, and enlist their efforts in the fight for the equality and empowerment of all girls; yet the faces and stories of girls they fight for and alongside everyday are seldom, if at all, the ones highlighted or propelled into the public movement discourse. The stories and faces we do get to know seem to make their way to us from far across oceans. We become familiar with those from other continents through very determined and concerted efforts by those coiffed with power and access who are right here stateside along with us.


Somehow those persons of power and access appear oddly unfamiliar with the girls who are standing right on their same continent, in their same country…often in their same cities.  So we become intimately familiar with stories of child marriages in Uganda or sex trafficking in Sri Lanka; not the girls in Chicago and the other 13 American cities listed by the FBI as “high-intensity child prostitution” hubs. We know very well names and faces that connect us in a real way to the lack of access to education in Pakistan; but can’t identify personal stories of girls from the mass school closings in cities like Chicago which impacted mostly Latino and Blacks. The poverty narrative is well pronounced and easily identified with girls in just about any developing country, while muted are those who are living in nine of the worst food deserts. Chicago being chief amongst them cited by the United States Commission on Civil Rights as “
not simply a public health issue, but an urgent civil rights issue.”

blackgirlsmatterSo there remains the experiences of girls who come of age in the urban strangleholds of violence, poverty and systemic injustices within American cities but for whatever reason are left out of this powerful girl movement. They are disconnected from the conversation. The various reasons why that is are burdensome. Some quite suspicious.

We have to ask, is this movement inclusive of Black girls who hail from systematically impoverished American neighborhoods.? And if so, what is their role?  Is it simply to observe and fight for others, or do they get to tell their stories and have others fight for them, too? Perhaps they are to be treated (as we’ve seen) as mere footnotes and asides.

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I personally sought to include their experiences producing the annual Chicago Day of the Girl in observance of International Day of the Girl as designated as October 11 by the United Nations. Since its first declared celebration in 2012, we have connected more than 500 Chicago-area girls to this movement, ensuring activism and global sisterhood was our focus. The goal is to show girls that they are not alone in facing issues that debilitate their quality of life. That they can stand in solidarity with their sisters beyond their blocks and neighborhood, beyond their cities and their own country. This very grassroots effort, and others like it, need to be supported and embraced by all who claim to advocate for “all girls.” We need to provide a pathway for power brokers to look their way. To look and see the girls who have been left out and marginalized, whno are not traditionally associated with the illustrious, well-funded, institutionalized girl organizations.  Fund programs birthed in their communities by women who have found their way out and now selflessly serve on behalf of girls. See their need as a state of emergency and aid in the resolution of their issues.

And the list of needs/issues is long. We can choose from any of the those listed below to begin. Then we can consider the impact of incest/molestation which take on different levels of generational trauma in certain communities.

Finally after that, ask ourselves, is this important to me? How will I help.

The reality is, girls are living in the margins of our society in plain sight of privilege, access, prosperity, and quality living. They can see it, hear it, and smell it. Yet there remains a glass wall blocking them from touching it.

Let’s all break the glass!

  • Disproportionate school disciplinary actions and overcriminalization of Black girls as examined in African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality.
  • According to Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), “Fifty-two percent of females’ commitments to IDOC youth facilities of 13 to 16 year olds were for offenses against a person and 35 percent were for property offenses.
  • The FBI labeled Chicago as one of 13 locations of “High Intensity Child Prostitution.”
  • Black children are more likely to have an incarcerated parent, and twice as likely to have both parents incarcerated.
  • Mainstream media has placed Black girls outside the realm of standard beauty, describing them as “less classically” beautiful and manly-looking.
  • Black girls are disproportionately dehumanized and otherwise portrayed in media as sassy, hyper-sexualized, and violent.
  • In 2011, the U.S. Commission on Civil rights reported that “the food desert neighborhoods are almost exclusively in African American neighborhoods. Therefore, the problem of food deserts in Chicago is not simply a public health issue, but an urgent civil rights issue.”
  • Based on the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) which monitors six categories of priority health risk behaviors among youth, dating violence is a serious issue for teens.  A staggering 18.5% of Chicago youth surveyed reported that they had been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Rates are highest for African American girls, with 22.6% reporting that they had experienced dating violence.  Overall, this is a significant increase from the 2007 data.
  • A new report from The World Health Organization (WHO) landmark report, Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative, reveals suicide kills more girls between the ages of 15 and 19 than any other cause—more than pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, road injury and diarrhoeal diseases.
  • Violence and misogyny are tantamount in media influencing and consumed by youth, which includes an overwhelmingly large female population.

Mayweather’s baby girl and boxing out mean girl behavior

It seems no matter how much we insulate our virtual networking walls or the lengths we go to safeguard our online communities, this culture of Black girl aggression seems to penetrate. The latest viral infection is the video of Floyd Mayweather’s  daughter, Iyanna, in a school fight…well, it can’t honestly be called a fight as it appears she was jumped by various girls. Having that video show up in my timeline along with others like it pulls us back into the stark and unfortunate reality that our girls, no matter where they are, can find themselves pulled into this ugly world where violence is normalized.

As a mother and girls advocate, I instinctively felt compelled to reach through my computer and pull all involved into a sister circle to find out what caused them to lower themselves to physical fighting; to bring about a resolution. Hopefully the parents and school officials give the type of redirection and support that is desperately needed.

Yet, I understand the fighting itself is just a manifestation of a larger societal problem; the societal problem that exploits a mean girl culture of aggression and pain. I explored this very phenomenon with clinical therapist, Lisa Butler, on Voices of Advocacy Radio a few weeks ago.  Comes down to simple math, hurt people hurt people and the number of those hurting is evident in the staggering statistics of girls engaged in physical violence against other girls.

Still, moving beyond that we must question what is the impetus for these videos constantly making their way into cyberspace. What is the curator trying to share? Are they really conscious of the implications, both to the individuals involved as well as those who view the videos? Furthermore, why do we reward with our reposts, shares, and comments?

During my “OMG: Mindless Social Media Behavior©” workshops, it always intrigues me to hear how little girls think about the consequences of their social media culture. The shock they experience when they come to understand much of what they are engaged in online has criminal repercussions including harassment, accomplice to a crime, fraud, defamation, and aiding in suicide.

Sadly, by the time it makes it to my social networks, an adult has made the very poor decision to repost, which altogether sends a damaging message about appropriate behavior. Not to mention, when our girls are inundated with media messages that glorify gossip, yelling, threatening and physical confrontations as normalized woman-woman interactions; we are presented with an urgent need to have consistent and targeted conversations about media literacy and healthy interpersonal relations. We’ve obviously sunk to our lowest vibration when this type of posting makes it as a headline for online “news” outlets.

Too often this behavior is typical for teen spaces, be it school, community centers and I’ve spoken with several pastors of churches who have shared this same type of situation has infiltrated their youth ministries. So, the question remains: who’s having the conversation? Who are our girls looking to for their mirror?

Solutions:

  • Talk to girls about appropriate online behavior
  • Create peer-resolution councils to help interrupt conflict
  • Get passwords to ALL social media accounts
  • Check out Common Sense Media for more tips on teaching teens’ good digital citizenship
  • Become familiar with #BlackGirlsMatter and issues that impact Black Girls
  • Girls Like Me Project, Inc. offers the following workshops: Media is Not Your Mirror© and OMG: Mindless Social Media Behavior©

*This blog does not repost videos depicting violence of any kind*

By the Grace of God…Here I am!

1459215_10201816861135154_1471421347_nIt’s hard to pinpoint any instance in particular, but this latest tragedy of violence that has taken the life of yet another child in Chicago has to be one of the most senseless and illogical. Endia Martin, a 14 year old freshman at Tilden High School was shot to death as a result to an argument over a boy with her former friend, another 14 year old girl. The argument apparently involved some cyber cat-fighting and eventually played out on a south side street that is all too familiar with gun shots and hopelessness.

While more than 50 children have died by violence this year alone, it is not typical to hear that the suspect is a teen so young…definitely not a girl. This is different. But is it really new?

Like so many, I too have asked the question of just what in the world transpired that would cause a 14 year old girl to shoot her former friend. Is that hate? Is that anger directed at an individual? How much vitriol disregard can you truly have for someone who just months ago you were cool with (in adolescence rationale).

You begin to research, to make a personal connection to the children involved. You hear family anecdotes and friends’ reflections. Facebook photos surface. More questions.

Then you remember what your life was like at 14-15…

This is my story.

I remember the fall day like it was yesterday.

It’d been a long week. Another day walking the halls in a school I abhorred…sitting in classes with only one other person who looked like me, in front of teachers who expected nothing from me, and amongst peers who (in my mind) were so simple (they all believed this stupid bogeyman perception that kids who grew up in the “city” were extremely poor and  deviant. Too boot these “suburban kids were the poorest materialistic folk I’d ever met) it all  felt so pathetic. I only hung out with seniors.

Just as in previous days,while passing one another in the hall I’d  bumped shoulders with my arch nemesis…she liked my boyfriend; and truth be told I know some colorism was at play on both our parts. Too bad for us that on this particular day, my tolerance was on empty. She walked past my locker as I was talking to my boyfriend and made a snarky remark. I told her I was going to fuck her up. Oh yes. No filter… I had a potty mouth and could hang with the best of drunken sailors. We argued on the bus ride back from our predominantly white suburban school to our all-Black suburb. She got off at the first stop. I remember thinking. Okay. Good. I don’t feel like fighting anyway and really just want to go home. But when I got off at my stop (about 3 blocks) I see her and a group of instigators running towards me yelling my nickname (which became infamous against my desires). Oh shit. She is still on this b.s. Okay, she want a fight, a fight she is going to get. I ran home, dropped my book bag at the door, ran into the kitchen got a steak knife and dashed back up the street. She was still there talking big stuff. I let her swing first, then I popped her one good time… then landed a couple of more. The knife connected right below her temple.

I saw the blood. Instantly I felt remorse….I said I was going to fuck her up, but I didn’t consider her blood. All I could think was that I fucked up. I don’t remember what happened…if I walked to the police station that night  myself or if the police came to school the next day (maybe both).

Court date came and went…don’t even remember how I plead but God’s favor was all over me. Case dismissed (I think). But that would not be the end of my woes for the two and half years I lived and attended school in the suburbs of Chicago. Other scenarios filled my teenage angst. I loved NWA and had my mother confiscate my cassette tapes (which I dubbed from friends). I constantly mouthed off to racist/prejudiced teachers and got detentions and suspensions. And more fights…mostly 85%  not as the aggressor.

But that doesn’t matter. Aggressor or not, fighting is still fighting. And in the heat of the moment, especially when weapons of any kind are involved, can end with someone seriously hurt. Or dead.

So I can understand why so many question what leads our girls to this behavior, what is going on today? I keep in mind the times long ago but not far away when even before I moved out to the suburbs and lived on the Low End of Chicago, it was pretty common to hear of girl fights involving locks and box cutters.

WE look at these girls’ Facebook pictures today and question their parents’ involvement and guidance…their morals; yet I can attest to being a girl throwing up gang signs OFTEN, my mother even found a picture of me on a bus full of SUBURBAN Black kids, all “gang banging.”

What I know for sure is this…there but for the Grace of God here I am. Today I am an advocate for urban girls who are growing up in similar environments as me and in a time when NOBODY seems to care about their very being. When the only time Black girls matter is if it is an exotic story from a world away. This is a time when not even the school house can be a refuge full of teachers who fight tooth and nail to educate and give life to your full development. This in a time where local politicians sell out kids for a dollar or even at a price as low as a handshake from the mayor. Today guns  pass through U.S. customs and land in the hands of 14 year old girls in economically stifled neighborhoods but never make it to their polar opposite neighborhoods…even while obscure people like Bin Laden can be found in caves or missing planes can be tracked to ocean floors across the world

See folks LOVE to play the righteous role…like their whole life has been an angel’s walk. Not my story.  lovnd and own their place as change agents in this world…I choose this work over a career that could easily yield me $60K+ a year. This work that I am lucky to earn $10K  a year. Why?

Because I remember. Because they are girls like me and I know what they can be IF we invest in them making it to the other side, successful, wounded healers bettering their community. Feeling loved. Being love.

Stop judging our babies. Stop treating them like they are just another headline or case study of the day. They are still yet babies with a whole lot of growing up to do. See their value. See how you can increase your value by investing in them.

Please. There is no future that we do not nurture.

*I had completely come to a different understanding of my worth by my senior year of high school. I avoided physical conflicts. I spent time with productive friends who had ambition and dreams. I was ALWAYS surrounded by a loving mother/grandmother/father/stepmothers, extended church family….this all made a difference.

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.

Kill the Noise! Silence Chief Keef and Team Sosa

Chief-Keef-Gun-Range-585x584-580x579I am appalled! Through no desire of my own, I have been exposed to Chief Keef’s music. It always leaves me disturbed and in a mourning state. Mourning for the minds of children who produce this sick filth “music” because it is evident their entire short lives have been filled being misguided and unloved.

But I have never been as livid as I am after getting wind of his latest threat on wax glorifying  sexual violence and murder against a girl for not performing fellatio on him against her will *growl* You know this rampant and incessant obsession with violating women/girls is beyond despicable.

Not only did I hear the lyrics, I also saw the video of Chief Keef’s disturbed buddy beating and stumping a girl who did not want them in her home.

It is truly time for a counter-movement that kills all this whack, destructive hateful noise! It is past time to silence Chief Keef and all the other #TeamSosa derelicts. Time to send a clear message to the overgrown men like Rick Ross (U.O.E.N.O), Lil Wayne (Karate Chop), Jay Z (Monster) or any “rapper” who thinks it is acceptable to make music about raping women, or sexual violence in any fashion.

First things first! 

There has to be some defense against exposing our children and young adults to these messages that promote slaughter and gender violence.

I created a petition asking Chicago Public Schools to ban any Chief Keef music from school functions. That means although students may request this music from DJs themselves, the responsible adults will accept their moral obligation to set boundaries.  PLEASE SIGN NOW then come back.

Next, start a petition to your school district as well. We can silence this crap one school district at a time.

No way should hormonal boys be sent out into the night with their prom dates after getting drunk off of Chief Keef’s potent rape lyrics. Can we imagine the sense of entitlement? The belief that refusing to perform sex acts is punishable by physical harm…

Nor should girls be verbally assaulted on the dance floor; trepidation that their date might  actually carry out Chief Keef’s logic fueling their interactions of compliance.

We can’t allow that.

Industry A& R

Interscope records, who has signed Chief Keef and  who has been pilfering death into the eardrums of our community for decades now, must be held accountable. Time for some new A&R (accountability & responsibility) up in the record company offices. There is a trail from the owners of record labels connected to those who own news outlets, book publishing companies and all forms of media that have indoctrinated messages of destruction…which oddly seem to disproportionately adversely effect African-American culture.

How long before we say, and show, enough is enough?

Please take a moment to sign the petition on Change.org.