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Never underestimate the magic of a Black child.
Proof: Zaila Avant-garde. Praise for this 14-year-old Harvey, La., girl flooded my timelines after she became the first African-American victor of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on July 8. While she spelled her way into hearts across the nation, it looks like this chick was already winning big before colorful confetti rained down on her at the competition.
She’s the titleholder of three – THREE – Guinness World Records for dribbling the most basketballs at once. Her plans are to become a WNBA star or study the actual stars as a NASA employee. And people have already invested in Zaila’s future. LSU, Southern University and Louisiana Community and Technical College System have offered her full-ride scholarships.
So how can we show up and show out for other Black kids and teens? This week’s newsletter will cover just that.
Support the greatness of Black girls
One of my favorite moments of girlhood, besides figuring out what to do with my outfits and hair, was building up my confidence and sisterhood while attending multiple youth programs. It was more than just fun activities and field trips to keep us from being bored at the house during summer break. We were mentored to become the next generation of leaders.
This is also the premise of the Atlanta-based nonprofit the Power of Girls. Founder Tameka Kee combined her loves for inspiring young girls and traveling to create the organization. Every year since 2018, the Power of Girls picks about 15 middle schoolers to participate in their “Power House” curriculum. Throughout the year, girls build up their self-confidence, leadership and team building skills. The year ends with an overseas trip. So far, the mentees have only been to London. “The plague” canceled travel plans last year, but confidence building still reigns supreme. The Power of Girls and the Jr. NBA served more than 800 girls from across the globe during two virtual Girl Power Summits.
Kee chats about three things Black girls need today and how you can fulfill those needs for the Black queens in your area.
Access to opportunities, resources, exposure etc: Black girls are a whole vibe, Kee said. Her nonprofit gives her a chance to bask in the intelligence, beauty, creativity of Black girlhood. But Kee said Black girls don’t get a chance to exemplify themselves. She said Zaila’s world record-breaking greatness should have been known about before the spelling bee win. You can help by making sure every girl knows about opportunities that will benefit them. Be their village.
“If a girl has access to a program, share that program with other girls because you never know how that can change their life,” Kee said. “We want everybody to be lifted up. We want to be able to protect our girls, but we also want to push them out and be able to give them the resources they need.”
Let Black girls just be girls: The “strong Black women” trope affects our girls, too. There are studies that show Black girls are sexualized and seen as “tough” at an early age. Kee said her girls endure mental and physical struggles, but she wants them to know that they can be soft, strong and whoever they want.
Kee said Black girls need a village that celebrates them as they are. Don’t call them ghetto because they are doing something you don’t understand. And let them know they can succeed in the areas where they live.
“We have a tendency, especially in the South, to tell girls they have to move somewhere else to be somebody,” Kee said. “You should be able to be that Southern girl and be able to do your dreams in the community you’re in because that’s how you break generational curses.”
Here are other Black-led organizations that are empowering our future Zailas.
- The Lighthouse – The Black Girls Projects: Located in Mississippi, The Lighthouse is where Black girls and young women across the Southeast engage in projects that give the skills and power to combat the regressive polices that affect Black women in the South. Founded by Natalie Collier, the Lighthouse’s projects are named after Black leaders and focus on areas from political activism to community building to social justice. One of my favorite projects is the Hamer Project, which builds initiatives for the community’s holistic wellbeing, such as legal clinics and other human rights educational opportunities.
- I Am A Queen: Founded by community activist Alana V. Allen in Greensboro, N.C., I Am A Queen has touched the lives of more than 12,000 people over the past 10 years by crowning girls ages 10-18 with confidence through programs and events. The nonprofit selects underserved young women for its Queen Arise Leadership Program, which offers workshops to grow girls’ self-worth and leadership skills.
Black Magic you should keep your eyes on
Zaila deserves all the applause in the world, but here are two other achievers who also deserve some praise.
- The Blakely sisters: While many eyes will be glued to Simone “GOAT” Biles during the Tokyo Olympics, this pair of sisters are on their way to becoming the Venus and Serena of gymnastics. Skye and Sloane Blakely have been practicing gymnastics since they were in the single digits and both train at WOGA Gymnastics in Frisco, Texas. Skye is just 16 years old and is a member of the U.S. national gymnastics team. She placed first in beams during the 2021 Winter Cup (and when you see the first move in the video below, you can see why). She also qualified for the Olympic Trials, but had to withdraw due to an injury. Sloane, who is 18, signed with the University of Florida for the 2022 season after competing in multiple championships.
- The Yummy Brothers: Forget the lemonade stand. Try dominating the cookie industry before you even hit your teens! The Billingslea brothers — Joshua, Isaiah, Caleb and Micah — have been making hella dough out of their great-grandma’s cookie recipe through their gourmet catering company, Yummy Brothers in Atlanta. Not only do they sell over 30 types of cookies, they also sell dog treats and other desserts.
Woosah of the week
We are now three weeks into our “Woosah of the Week” series, when we learn how to cultivate joy through a four-part, self-paced course by holistic healer and therapist LeNaya Smith-Crawford called “I AM JOY.” Use the code “BLACKJOY” and the original price of the course will drop to $47.
The first two weeks were about how to dismantle the barriers of joy and the importance of breath work. Since Crawford also owns her own yoga studio, this week she guides viewers through a yoga flow that help boosts mood and energy levels.
So, I play around with yoga every now and again. I’m no 500-hour instructor or anything. But it gives me time to put down the stresses of my day and just focus on aligning my breath with my body movements. One interesting yoga flow I have enjoyed is bed yoga.
Yes. Yoga from your bed. It’s more than just stretches. It’s like caffeine for your body in the mornings. If you want to give it a try, here’s a quick video for when you don’t want to get out of bed by Erica Rascon, founder of Deeply Rooted Wellness + Yoga.
Stretch it out and continue to spread that Black joy. I’ll be out next week to celebrate 11 years with the love of my life. But I’m sure Ryan will get y’all together as he always does!
See ya’ next time!