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A touching campaign asks women to write letters to black girls everywhere.

#DearBlackGirl is more than a letter campaign. It's a way to connect generations.

A touching campaign asks women to write letters to black girls everywhere.

The most meaningful words are not those that the world says about us, but those that we say to each other.

The Beautiful Project is a North Carolina-based organization that creates the space for black women and girls to confront the images of themselves that they see in the media and then create their own. The single sentence above about the meaning of words is the simple idea behind their latest campaign, aimed at letting young black girls hear directly from women who look like them in the purest, simplest way:

A letter.


Photo via Pexels/Creative Commons.

They are asking women (18+) who identify as black to write a letter titled "Dear Black Girl." It can be about anything, from dreams and memories to encouragement and commentary on what black girlhood means. There's no limit on the subject as long as it's written with a little black girl in mind.

Why?

The campaign description on their site is so inspirational that it is worth a read in its entirety — but in short, many black girls grow up surrounded by criticism, discrimination, disrespect, and competing narratives about who they should be in a world that doesn't always appreciate them. They aren't exposed to an abundance of images of girls and women who look like them, nor do they easily find affirming and positive messages geared toward them in the media. All of this can lead to a unique kind of insecurity, fear, and isolation. It can make them feel invisible.

The Beautiful Project wants black girls to become as bold and powerful as they should be — and they want to solicit black women who have lived through black girlhood to help.

Photo by Steven Depolo/Flickr.

Some of the messages in the letters are directly tied to the special experiences of growing up as a brown girl — like this excerpt from Janelle Harris at The Root:

"So I went into school, which was my world back then, ill equipped for assaults against my body image and self-esteem. ... I think college—especially four years at an HBCU—was the first time I started to balance my black personhood and my black womanhood and understand them in tandem."

Some are more universal but not heard often enough, like this excerpt from Alexis Ditaway, published on My Black Matters:

"Be fearless of [the] strength you have. Even on the days that you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, just remember that if you keep pushing, the world will one day be in your hands. Your dreams, your goals, and your potential are all yours to reach. Let no one and nothing stop you; not even yourself."

The letters will be used to spark conversations with girls via social media, exhibits, and local events.


The letters are being collected through today, (Oct. 7, 2015). But even after the deadline passes, it's a letter worth writing.

My letter is below. Now it's your turn! Check out the submission guidelines at The Beautiful Project, read through some of the letters they have already posted, and write your own today!

Dear Black Girl,

I hope by now you know that you are beautiful. I want that to be a given, an assumption that the brown of your skin (however dark or light it may be), the kink in your hair (however loose or tight it may be), the curves of your body (however subtle or dramatic they may be) are all exquisite.

But your physical beauty is not your superpower.

I hope by now you know that you come from greatness. While you may not be able to trace every single gene back to the beginning of time, you are a part of a global family that has built societies, birthed rich art, math, science, and culture, and overcome incredible odds with a survivor's spirit. You aren't just from the Queen Cleopatras and Michelle Obamas and Oprahs, nor are you just from the scientists, lawyers, and leaders who are celebrated during Black History Month. You are also from the mammys and slaves and cooks and nurses and the women whose names you may not know but whose skillful hands built the unimaginably well-built country that you call home.

But your ancestry is not your superpower.

And last but not least, I hope by now we don't even need to discuss your brilliance. I hope you've already figured out that your brain is a magic box with which you can ask deep questions, solve complex problems, and invent creative solutions with the best of them.

But your intelligence isn't your superpower.

Photo via iStock.

Your superpower is the power of self-determination your ability to determine and control your life far more masterfully than anyone else ever could. Did you know that you can decide to take a left turn when others go right, to be what no one told you you could, or to try something that others are afraid to try? Did you know that you can wake up on any given Sunday and decide who you want to be and start all over, right then and there, to become that? Did you know that you can decide what to believe in and, if you believe in God like I do, use your faith to help you become your own unique reflection of Him here on earth?

I know that sounds easier said than done. How do you become who you want, do what you want, be what you want in a world that is steadily trying to shape you? Which lessons and images and influences should you believe and which should you ignore? Well, here is the key:

Only believe the people who believe, just as much as I hope you already do, that you are beautiful and brilliant and ancestrally rich. You only believe the messages that confirm what you know, deep in your heart, to be true about you.

As much as I wish I could come and help guide you into the woman I know you can be, I'm more excited to see you use your superpower to become the woman you want to be. I can't wait for you to discover exactly who that is.

And I'll be right here loving you all the while.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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