Writing the stories of Black girls in America

“I am always mindful of who’s in the room and who I’m speaking with,” Renee Watson told WNYC’s cultural critic Rebecca Carroll. “You write the book — and that’s a lot, to put all that energy into making these characters and being in their heads. And then having to go on a book tour and talk about these issues with young people, with their teachers, with their parents — it’s a lot, when you’re explaining and talking about race and what it means to be a black girl living in America right now.”

Watson has penned several young adult books addressing issues surrounding race and identity. Her most recent work, Some Places More Than Others, tells the story of a black girl from the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, who discovers Harlem, New York for the first time. Watson, herself from Portland, said she writes books about navigating white spaces and being introduced to black spaces, culture and history because it speaks directly to her own experiences growing up, some of which were very painful. She told a story about being in a grocery store as a child with her mother, who is fair-skinned, when a white woman asked Watson, who is darker-skinned, if she was adopted.

Listen to the story and read more on WNYC.org

What Toni Morrison’s, The Bluest Eye, Taught Me About Being a Black Girl in America

In 1994, I was a 4th grader with an imagination that often found me daydreaming myself far, far away from the confines of my windowless classroom, from the boring, incomplete or inaccurate history lessons and the math that was becoming increasingly difficult to perform. Though I loved books, I also found myself in need of escape from the overwhelmingly white children that dominated so much of the literature my all-Black classmates and I were tasked with reading.

Leisure reading gave me the freedom to seek representation on the page, but that wasn’t always the easiest task. There were some options crafted for young African-American readers, but the vast majority of pre-teen lit was about white kids. I found some common ground with the members of The Babysitters Club and the “perfect size 6”-wearing twins of Sweet Valley High when I could. But they were no match for the magic of seeing the world through the eyes of Black authors, even if most Black-penned fiction was written for adult audiences. I had to find myself where I could, and it was that search for stories that felt like they were penned with me in mind that led me to The Bluest Eye, the first novel of Toni Morrison, the Nobel prize winning author who died last week at the age of 88.

Read more at Refinery29. 

This Short Film Examines How Young Black Girls Navigate Biases Around Their Hair

Even in 2018 there still aren’t enough representations of the complexities and nuances that exist in our community, especially when it comes to beauty. Thankfully, young Black creatives are on a mission to change that.

Rebeca Ortiz and Alicia Harris’ latest project PICK is a short fictional drama about an 11-year-old girl who wears her afro to school. The film follows Alliyah as she deals with subtle racist comments and microaggressions about her hair.

Read more on Essence

Jesmyn Ward: ‘Black girls are silenced, misunderstood and underestimated’

The author of Sing, Unburied, Sing, had a tough childhood in Mississippi, survived Hurricane Katrina, and became the first woman to win two US national book awards for fiction.

If Jesmyn Ward’s fiction tends towards the epic, that is maybe because her life has been marked by monumental events. “I fought from the very beginning”, she says. Born prematurely at just 26 weeks, she was badly attacked by her father’s pit bull as a small child, her younger brother was killed at 19, and, along with several generations of her family, she sheltered from Hurricane Katrina in a truck. Yet today she is the first woman to win the US national book award for fiction twice, hailed by a leading reviewer as “one of the most powerfully poetic writers in the country”. And on the morning we meet, it has just been announced that she has been shortlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction for her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing.

Read more on The Guardian.

The 10 must-see pieces at the African American Museum’s ‘for colored girls’ exhibit

The African American Museum in Philadelphia is giving us another chance to see the i found god in myself: the 40th anniversary of Ntozake Shange for colored girls exhibit. But this is your last chance to go see it. And you should definitely go.

The show celebrates the 40th anniversary of Ntozake Shange’s award-winning  for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, the landmark poem and play featuring women of color, represented by various hues, reciting monologues that touch on race, gender, sexuality, and love.

i found god in myself was created by Harlem journalist and curator Souleo, who first put on the show in 2014 with only 20 works. In collaboration with the African American Museum, the show expanded to more than 40 pieces in which the artists take on their own interpretations or translations of Shange’s pieces.

Read the full piece on Philly.com.


Soy Yo’: A Young Latina’s Debut Anthem of Empowerment

It’s already amassed some 1.5 million views on YouTube in less than a week; thanks to one catchy tune, a message of empowerment, and its confident 11-year-old star.

Sarai Gonzalez, of central New Jersey was selected among hundreds of young girls who auditioned at a casting call this summer for Grammy-nominated Colombian band Bomba Estereo’s new “Soy Yo,” [It’s me], music video, earlier this summer.

It’s Gonzalez’s professional acting debut and her smile, dance moves, and sheer enthusiasm have captivated audiences, both young and old, online with the trending hashtag “#SoyYo.”

In the music video the young girl is seen confidently exiting a beauty salon, sporting glasses and 90s-style hair, and then dancing down the streets of Brooklyn; standing up to bullies on the basketball court.

For many on social media, the song and Gonzalez’s breakthrough performance is an anthem for Latinas who are coming of age.

Billboard describes the music video’s appeal as being a product of a “very confident little girl who is proud of who she is and what makes her unique, despite what other kids or people in her neighborhood might think.”

Gonzalez is thrilled with the reception the music video has been garnering online on social media. She believes one of the main reasons the now viral clip is resonating with audiences is because of the authenticity she brings to the role; she was previously bullied at school.

Read the full article on NBCNews.com.

Muslim Girls Making Change Spread Messages Through Poetry

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Four girls from Vermont are using their voices and powerful performance poetry to get their message out about being Muslim in America, stereotypes, and other issues near to them.

Five months after forming their slam poetry group, Muslim Girls Making Change is competing this week in the Brave New Voices international youth poetry slam competition in Washington, DC.

“We write poems about things that we can’t keep inside of us anymore, so things that we care so much about,” said Kirin Waqar, 16, of South Burlington, whose parents are from Pakistan.

With titles like “American Dream,” ”Welcome” and “Chameleon” the girls address their parents’ expectations coming to this country, the Syrian refugees and their own challenges balancing their American identity with where their family is from.

Like in the poem “Chameleon”:

“We will never be white only pretend to be. We hide behind big mirrors and lies unsure of who we really are. African American or the other way around? Pakistani first, American?,” they say. “Tears roll off our face. The droplets form a perfectly curved rainbow. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, which one am I?” they say voices rising. “Which one are we. Maybe we’re a mix. Maybe we are many. A combination of colors … Maybe we are one.”

Read the full story on WTOP.

Destroying Asian-American Stereotypes

When you think of an Asian woman, what comes to mind? A tiger mom? An anime fantasy? A manicurist talking about you in another language? For Asian women, these stereotypes are frustrating, disheartening and downright depressing.

Instead of letting those feelings fester and rot internally, Rhode Island School of Design students Olivia Park and Esther Fan decided to do something constructive. Late last year, they started Sad Asian Girls Club, a collective of Asian-American girls aiming to break the culture of passiveness and silence through discussions of racism and feminism, providing more representation for Asian girls of all types and backgrounds around the world.

While technically the collective consists of just Fan and Park, Sad Asian Girls Club has evolved into a community in the most modern sense of the word — a stark red, black and white-tinted place they’ve carved out online on Tumblr, Instagram and YouTube. The Internet is where you can find vitriol and hate in abundance, but it’s also where you can find empathy and solidarity from people who’ve had the same experiences as you.

So who is the “Sad Asian Girl”? According to Fan, “She’s any Asian individual identifying as female who is struggling to fit into some kind of mold perpetrated by both Western society and Asian society. There are different expectations from both sides that we constantly have to choose between or just be isolated by both.”

Read the full story on the Huffington Post.

Photography Helping Black Girls Define Their Voice

Photographer and youth organizer Scheherazade Tillet first had the idea for “Picturing Black Girlhood” about seven years ago, when she was visiting the Chicago Art Institute’s “Girls on the Verge,” an exhibition on adolescent girls. The show included work by photographers like Sally Mann and Lauren Greenfield, showcasing images of that precious and bizarre moment of being not a girl and not yet a woman.

However, Tillet couldn’t help but notice that in the exhibition there were only one or two images of people of color.

“I felt like their voices weren’t there,” Tillet told The Huffington Post. As the founder of A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit organization that uses art therapy to inspire young women and protect girls from violence, Tillet works closely with women in her Chicago community. “I wanted to take my girls to see the show, but how could they identify with it if they didn’t see themselves represented?”

As an organizer and a curator, Tillet felt moved to curate an exhibition of her own, one that told the story of black girls in America today. As a photographer, Tillet wanted to do more. “I wanted my girls to tell and archive their own stories,” she said. “How do they define girl culture themselves? I knew a true story had to come from within.”

Ever since, Tillet has been collecting and archiving artwork depicting black teen girls, including photographs taken by the girls themselves. “I wanted to bring to life what it meant to be a black girl,” Tillet said. “When you’re in an exhibition you’re in their world as opposed to just looking at their world.”

Read the full article.