The Dear Black Girl project was for black women. So here's what a white woman wrote on Facebook.

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.

Me reading the letters from our readers. GIF via "Animaniacs."


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:

Thank you, Stephanie. And thanks to the thousands of other women of all races who are committed to telling little black girls just how wonderful and magical they are.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
True

In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love 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!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."