Last week, I wrote about a letter writing campaign called "Dear Black Girl" created by nonprofit The Beautiful Project. Today, you can get a first glimpse at some of those letters.
The project encouraged black women (aged 18 and older) to write letters beginning with the phrase, "Dear Black Girl...," to support, teach, love, and inspire young black girls everywhere. And The Beautiful Project has just begun sharing some of the amazing letters they received on their blog.
When my story went live, I hoped that it would inspire more black women to contribute to the campaign. And it did. The outpouring of love and letters that were posted right there on Facebook was fantastic. It included heart-melting quotes like this one from Upworthy reader Sharon Eli:
Dear Black Girl,
...God loves you SO very much! If he had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
I was also bracing myself for the usual barrage of not-nice comments I receive from non-black readers any time I write about something that is focused so narrowly on people of color. But that backlash didn't come this time.
In fact, a response that didn't fit within the guidelines of the campaign ended up being one of my favorites.
It was written by a non-black woman named Stephanie Borns on Upworthy's Facebook page.
In her comment, she acknowledged an appreciation for the fact that the official campaign wasn't "for her" — she respected its goals and intended audience. So she was happy to share her story in our comments section on Facebook. It was too touching not to share here, with her permission.
It began with this:
And here is the rest of the note in its entirety (emphasis mine):
My best friend in grades two and three was a black girl named Wendy. We walked to school together every day. We played together after school every day. I had supper at her house at least a few nights a week. She came to my house, we sat on each other's porches and watched Thunderstorms and chased after the big kids on our bikes in the summertime. She lived across the street from me in Verdun, Que.
My family was a mess, my father was having affairs, my parents would soon move us out of there and across the country to a place that was just about completely white and then they would divorce. So things weren't very good for me.
But things were good at Wendy's house. Wendy's mom was kind, her brothers — well, they were brothers but they let us listen with them to the records they played of comedians and musicians I would carry with me for the rest of my life. I learned to dance and to laugh at Wendy's house.
Every day, on the way to school and on the way home, the mean kids would tease us. Sometimes they'd throw things. They'd yell stupid things — the way kids do but this was in Canada (Montreal) and compared to some places, I understand now, that what we lived with wasn't all that bad compared to what happens in other places.
Still, I wanted to cover Wendy and keep her safe when people made fun of her hair or her color or her size. I wanted to be able to protect her. But I couldn't. I was just a kid, like her.
I could yell back. And so, yell I did and Wendy yelled too. We were the yellingest 8-year-olds you ever met and we weren't sorry either. We kept each other safe.
We didn't have email back then so when I moved away I lost my best friend. It felt really lonely to be stuck all the way out on the West Coast where nobody listened to the music I liked and nobody knew the comedians that made me laugh. I missed Wendy every day. I never got used to living in a place where everybody was white, I never felt comfortable there.
We both wanted to be teachers. I don't know if she became a professional teacher in her adult life but being with Wendy taught me a lot of things I didn't know I was learning.
So, Dear Black Girl, You are a gift. You are someone worth remembering, always. I hope you learn to be a mighty, yelling girl, like Wendy and I hope your friends will always take your side against the bullies. I remember you.
I will always stand up for little black girls everywhere because we're the same. We're all the same and when we lose each other, when a neighborhood, or someone's prejudice takes us apart, I'm not sure what you lose, I don't know if you ever missed me, but I know, I lost a lot.
Wendy, I hope you are well. I hope you are thriving. I loved being allowed to be part of your culture for a little while. I hope I was as good a friend to you as you were to me. You were my very best friend, you were my safe haven, and I will look for you, and try to look out for your sisters and your cousins and your daughters and granddaughters, for as long as I live.
And when the bullies start to cluster, I still yell back.
I don't want to take up space where a black woman can stand but it does seem to me that there is pretty much limitless space on a facebook comment thread so I wanted, somewhere, to go on record as saying Thank You. To know you, is to love you.
Stephanie's story got plenty of responses, but one of the first comments summed up why her letter was still worth writing, even though she couldn't participate in The Beautiful Project's powerful campaign: