It is this tradition that I have taken into my time as a formal classroom educator and what shores me in my current role as a mental health professional. It is from this tradition that my care, concern, and passion for the wellness of Black women and girls that a seed was planted to figure out a way or many ways to support those of us who are the mascot for global oppression. And so ideas for and a commitment to "Black Girl" programming began to flood me. Circumstances, and perhaps the slow grace of 'perfect' timing, took over and relegated my ideas to a business plan that began drafting itself a decade ago. The commitment remained and showed itself in seemingly small but impactful ways with the students who enriched my teaching years.
The impact lived in breathed through text messages, brunch dates, hugs on the street, parent updates, social media reaches, shared projects, birthday party invites, and inclusion in traditional American rites of passage like prom send-offs and graduation celebrations. At these various stages and in these physical spaces those children and their families always looked to me for what was next. Parents would say, "You haven't seen (insert child's name) in a while, let me know when you want her." The girls would say, "I miss you! When are we going out again?" And then I'd respond, never wanting to impose, but available when needed.
As the years passed and these individual reaches occurred, a group of students I'd taught graduated from high school. And then those who went off to college struggled emotionally, academically, financially, etc. My heart broke watching it happen, offering supportive listening and words of encouragement to those I remained connected to and never feeling like it was enough. Two years later, another group of students I'd taught 6 years ago have graduated from high school. With parents asking how I'd commemorate this transition, girls reaching out to make dates because "I need your wisdom before I go to school", and my heart too invested to not step up, quick action was necessary in a short window.
That's the backstory or at least what I'm able to articulate because I'm really just too FULL to even properly express the breadth of emotions that have even lead me to this post.
Yesterday the call was answered.
Sisterhood moved from noun to verb. Young women showed up, on a Saturday in the summer, and voluntarily sat at the feet of women known and unknown to them. Their trust in the call put out was all that was needed, and they arrived without expectation to receive far more than they knew possible and eager for more. Some arrived late and apologetic, some left early not wanting to leave. The women called on arrived with schedules of their own, and like the young ladies, remained in the space through 3 downpours, 2 meal times, their own children, and close to the start of whole new day. There were hugs when tribe recognized tribe in each other, despite gaps in age. There were tears when questions were many and what remained was gratitude that SOMEONE either had an answer or was simply there to acknowledge the truth. There was gentle and loving correction for misguided notions and half-formulate ideas. There were GUTSY admissions and STRONG affirmations of some of the most self-aware young women I've ever met. There were poignant questions and fearless sharing as a conscious acknowledgement of the creation of safe space. It was the formation and strengthening of sisters, aunties, other mothers, and daughters in spirit.
There were provisions, packaged in colorful bright gift bags that were chose to speak to everything from the experience/s of growing up a Black girl in this society to an introduction to managing finances. There were t-shirts that salute their current experience and place in the world. There was food and drink. All of that was courtesy of contributions from people who went to college and remember what it was like, or believe in supporting girls and women, believe in the the power of the village in the lives of children, who've appreciated my work over the years, know my heart, or just support--and trust--my specific effort to stand in the gap. In hindsight, it stands out that the 1st round of girls didn't even open and explore their bag of provisions. They didn't come for the things and left grateful for having their spirits fed. The 2nd round got to explore the bag of provisions as kind of the conversation starter, to show them the concept of what it means to stand UP for your sisters, including those who are strangers, and to spark the conversations that specifically address the matters on their hearts and meet their needs as THEY saw them. SO MUCH happened yesterday, there's no way to run it all down. And in honor of what was shared in that sacred space, I don't know that it should be shared too specifically.
Here, this morning, many of you are waiting to see something, anything, that speaks to what happened in the space we sat in, largely sponsored by you. And even with all the word count already typed, I am really too verklempt to adequately capture the breadth of what happened at the 1st gathering of #SoWhatNow #SWN17 and I hope that my feeling of fullness is enough to satisfy your curiosity as to the success of the event for now.
Now I must go back and retrieve my own tag line as a reminder that there is always work to be done. More work to be done for and with these young women, and more work to be done to prepare for those who will surely follow. I call forth the words used as a reminder for me to pay attention to me, but also as a reminder for YOU to remind me to pay attention to me so that I may do what I am here to do. Join me as I ask, once again that you...
Watch me move.