Each year, I prepare a list of goals three to six months in advance, in addition to an overall list of all of my goals I want to accomplish for the year. My year goes from February 11th to February 11th of the next year. My birthday is my new year. This year, I told the Universe I want to speak at my alma mater Syracuse University and to also speak to a group of young girls, particularly Black girls.
(Stolen from Instagram. Search #Hashtag: #SES2015)
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Janel Martinez, the founder of AintiLatina.com, and my colleague. We are both 2010 graduates from the same magazine journalism program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She was invited to speak on a media panel for the 11th Annual “Sisters Empowering Sisters” conference and wanted to know if I was interested.
Ask for what you want and you shall receive it.
On March 21, 2015, I joined Janel Martinez and Chantel Morel, also a Newhouse Alum and founder of The New Latina Chronicles, to speak to the girls about working for yourself, black girls/women in the media, and believing in yourself.
Over 150 young girls from the Syracuse area attended the conference which had keynote speakers Astronaut Dr. Jeanette J. Epps (a Syracuse native) and veteran actress Anna Maria Horsford (you may remember her from the “classic” movie “Friday”) plus Kendra C. Johnson and Andre Hall from Tyler Perry’s “Love Thy Neighbor.”
The panel was moderated by veteran journalist Sherri Williams (who I admire so much).
Here are the top 5 things I was reminded of after participating in the panel and what I hope the young girls took away from the event:
1) Nothing is private on the internet. I mean the Library of Congress is even housing your tweets. So, it’s wise to be intentional about how you represent your e-life. If you’re over 21 and your want to pose for a picture in the club with drinks in your hand with friends. Cool. If you’re over 21 and you want to pose drinking off of your friends or doing something else you would have to apologize to your mom for…er…don’t you want to have some “secret” pictures that only you and your friends can laugh about when you’re older?
2) Black girls are the most targeted group for abuse on and offline…
During the presentation, Sherri Williams reminded us of #StopBlackGirls2013, a hashtag started on Twitter with the intention of demeaning, degrading, stereotyping and dehumanizing Black girls. This is hashtag campaign is not even 2 percent of the abuse Black girls in particular experience online.
3) …But WE clapback.
Despite the harsh place–on and offline–this world can be for Black girls, we don’t sit in silence with a fake smile. We clap all the way back. There are many Black womanists and feminists online who don’t stand for it. Like, Feminist Jones, who started #YouOkSis in response to the harsh street harassment Black women and girls experience daily. There is #BlackOUTday that occurs every Friday to celebrate Black beauty to name a few.
4) If we don’t speak for us,… then who will?
It’s evident that when an unarmed Black man dies at the hands of the police, there are a million Black women in support–starting protests, movements, dialogue. As pointed out by Sherri Williams during the presentation, it was three Black women who started #BlackLivesMatter after Trayvon Martin was murdered. But the support for Black women is so slim in comparison it’s disgusting.
5) Telling our own stories is important.
And by us, I mean myself… Janel Martinez, Chantel Morel, Sherri Williams and other Black women writers, reporters and journalists. Otherwise, we would be stuck with little representation (and/or stereotypical roles), negative images, and stories of White media calling things we’ve made popular for years a trend. We HAVE to tell our own stories by writing for us…unapologetically.
*Also, huge thanks to Nicole Watkins, who organizes this event every year. I appreciate the inspiration.