People ask me all the time about why I work so much with black males and not the girls. I tell them I have two daughters at home and that’s enough!
In the past some of my female students would say (with an attitude) “Ms. Coooooooke! When are you going to start a Women of Honor so we can have something to do after school just like the boys?
Well I really didn’t have a good answer. Yes, a majority of my educational projects have been directed towards boys. However, I love my girls but I couldn’t raise two at home and then work with them after school. So I thought.
I recently read an article co-written by a friend of mine, Dr. Adam Jordan. It stated “….but schools typically labeled as “failing” are most often found in communities of color and in communities with lower household incomes.”
We aren’t just speaking about boys, although more attention and resources seem to be going towards black males. Why are black female students left on the back burner? Is it because pregnancy rates are down? They are still at risk for dropping out, receiving lower assessment scores, getting involved with the juvenile justice system, running away, higher suspension rates…
But what’s more concerning in my opinion, is what is created by all the above. The culture we’ve created is illustrated with inappropriate and negative images that these young ladies see and believe is acceptable because it’s entertaining. There are reality TV shows on how more than three black girls just can’t get along. Rap music refers to them as a b$*#/ and they believe it’s a term of endearment.
Very rarely on television or other forms of media do we see black women portrayed as the pillar of dignity and strength that we are. We’re usually struggling financially in storylines, with less education than our counterparts, managing poor health, and responsible for several children. Often our “leading ladies” don’t have a consistent partner or even a means of survival.
This is all FALSE!
“The negative imagery of black women appears twice as often as positive depictions. Images of the “welfare queen” “baby mama” and “angry Black woman,” among other images, shame working class Black women’s struggles and reduce Black women’s complex humanity. These depictions are not just hurtful, they have an impact on Black women’s lives and opportunities.” (Essence magazine, 2013)
Not to mention issues such as equal pay, and healthy lifestyle resources readily available are all needs that focuses on black women and their families survival.
So what can be done about it? Mentoring and forming relationships that guide and drive young ladies to the future, that’s what. They too deserve someone’s time and to experience what the possibilities of life could be like. They deserved to be told the truth about staying aware of situations and unhealthy environments. They also and maybe most importantly need to be held accountable and to standards that exceed their own expectations.
Tangela Stoner-Blackwell, a teacher in Durham, runs what is probably the first elementary afterschool group for girls called Young Ladies of Excellence. The girls meet once a week (as well as during lunch for those who have not met the criteria to be full fledged members) and after reinforcing academic skills the girls participate in chess club, community service projects, and even mentoring activities with local college students.
Tangela is my answer for them asking for their ‘Women of Honor” group. In it’s inaugural year, suspensions have gone down, grades have improved tremendously, and positive friendships between the participants and the community have been cemented.
Every school should have a program like this. Every young lady should have an outlet of the reality the world assume is their future. What is there to lose? It’s time to support our daughters. It’s time to stop leaving the black female students behind. This includes my two daughters and yours.