I look at young, black, girls in the Brooklyn, New York neighborhoods. Many are struggling due to lack of finances, poor self-image and poor academic performance. It is so important firstly for parents or guardians to recognize what the particular needs are, then address them systematically in order for a positive change to take place. I remember growing up and hearing the slogan, we learn what we live. This is so true. Women are the guardians of the community, even though men are the cornerstone. So, why shouldn’t we help the women to become better guardians, rather than mediocre guardians. We have to bring together the older women to teach the younger ones. I know Iyanla Vanzant had a special she did with some sisters and it really moved me because she introduced the council of older women, and I thought this to be most effective. It’s also what we lack. It’s what our young women lack.
A positive self-image is so important. But, in our community of black people it can sometimes be like a needle in a hay stack. There are so many images out there which affects our children. I focus on the girls especially, but this does not diminish what happens to our male children. There is the image of skin complexion, the image of thin vs. thick, the image of black vs. white. So, we have to decide where we stand in all this noise of images.
I believe once a child is made to feel beautiful, none of these images should matter, but it depends on each individual. Empowering oneself is important, and it begins with how we see ourselves.
Academics is so important because you can use academics to define yourself, to strengthen who you are and stand strong. It does not work for everyone, but I believe a good, solid education makes us better people generally.