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