While serving as a Presidential Appointee, specifically the Assistant Director to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans I led efforts to address the unique and diverse needs of Black women and girls. My leadership included designing and hosting the AfAmWomenLead Summit to center the experiences of Black girls in policy efforts to support such needs. Understanding the need to support literacy development and to nurture a love for reading among Black girls, I led a series of literary events including a reading party with Marley Dias, Founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks and Marsai Martin, actress on ABC’s Blackish as well as a Princess Reading Party for girls of color in foster care with Jordan West, Founder of Princess for a Day. Each of these engagements were informed by research, included the consultation of Black girls most directly impacted by decisions made by adults and was designed to affirm and celebrate Black girls. For example, the reading party for girls of color in foster care included more than 100 Black and Latina girls in foster care throughout the DMV. Each, dressed in their finest Disney princess gowns, were affirmed intellectually, physically and socially; enjoyed talking about the importance of having a plan for success in school and in life; and were reminded of how special they are in spite of living in foster care.

The #AfAmWomenLead Second Annual Summit

On December 9, 2016 I developed and led the Second Annual #AFAMWOMENLEAD Student Summit to Ensure Equity for African American Women and Girls at the U.S. Department of Education. The daylong convening provided a platform for experts, 250 young Black students, to meet other students, share their stories, make recommendations for how caring and concerned adults and institutions can ensure all students feel safe, engaged, and supported, and to highlight opportunities and resources to facilitate meaningful engagement. Students and caring and concerned adults participated in a series of interactive learning workshops designed to teach the “hidden curriculum,” elevate student voice, provide a forum to design innovative solutions to contemporary problems, and develop concrete recommendations to advance the field. 

As part of their participation, 50 adults (e.g. federal government officials, educators, administrators, counselors, media moguls, after school programs) made commitments to integrate lessons learned during the convening to advance the work of supporting Black girls. Scholars participated in a full day of events featuring brilliant student experts and women who are advancing the field and making real changes in the lives of African American women and girls. The unique forum centered the voice of students as they solve the most pressing contemporary issues facing African American women and girls. Adults gathered to discuss their work and form a network that will last through the Administration change. These groups will guide the field in ensuring equity. (Summit Memo)

#AfAmWomenLead in the Action!

Recorded Stream of the Event:

Event Storify: 

Elfman, L. (2017), Second Annual #AfAmWomenLead Student Summit a Success. Women in Higher Education, 26: 6. doi:10.1002/whe.20402

The White House Will Bring Together Over 250 Black Girls for a Day of Empowerment