I have been working with/for Black girls in education for over a decade. I started mentoring Black girls in schools at the age of seventeen. As a Masters student at Tufts University, I designed Girls Rising Above Circumstances to Excel (GRACE), my own successful program to provide a space during the school day for fifteen Black girls to discuss and address challenges they faced in a nurturing, affirming, and supportive environment.
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 (Summit Memo). 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.
In 2019, I taught #BlackGirlBecoming: Understanding the Learning and Development of Black Girls in Schools. I wanted to make space for all student to thrive, but this is especially important for Black girls who live in a world that constantly tries to deny their humanity. As students read books by Black women & girls, they also watched films featuring Black girls in leading roles and read over fifty articles that told additional stories of Becoming. We had important conversations, like about what it means to feel like your presence is a threat or that you do not belong. We discussed Maddie Whitsett and McKenzie Nicole Adams, two 9-year-old Black girls who died by suicide after being subjected to bullying because they’re Black girls in America. At the end of the course, students applied their knowledge to draft a magazine called Melanin Mag, new research proposals, policies and practices.
Black Girl Power Hour!
In Summer 2020 and Summer 2021, I taught Black Girl Power Hour to a cohort of middle school scholars.
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)
In 2019, I taught #BlackGirlBecoming: Understanding the Learning and Development of Black Girls in Schools.