Here's proof that rapping about women doesn't have to mean objectifying them.
Growing up in Virginia, Dominique Meeks Gombe idolized her family physician — a young Black woman who inspired Meeks Gombe to pursue her passion for chemistry.
While Meeks Gombe began her career working in an environmental chemistry lab, after observing multiple inefficient processes in and around the lab, she took the initiative to teach herself to code in order to automate and streamline those issues.
That sparked her love for coding and imminent career shift. Now a software engineer at Capital One, Meeks Gombe wants to be a similar role model to her childhood mentor and encourage girls to pursue any career they desire.
"I'm so passionate about technology because that's where the world is going," Meeks Gombe said. "All of today's problems will be solved using technology. So it's very important for me, as a Black woman, to be at the proverbial table with my unique perspective."
The nonprofit's mission is aimed at empowering Black girls in Central Virginia. The organization focuses on designing, leading, funding and implementing social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods.
Girls For a Change is one of many local nonprofits that receive support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, which strives to close gaps in equity while helping people gain better access to economic and social opportunities. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.
Through the Capital One Coders program, girls can gain early access to computer science education which can directly inspire their confidence levels and interest in computer science.
In fact, a report from Code.org says that Black and Hispanic students who take computer science classes before college are seven times more likely to major in computer science.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Meeks Gombe helped to develop a virtual curriculum that included breakout rooms with custom games and quizzes. In her role as a lead teacher for Girls For A Change, Meeks Gombe's visibility as a Black technologist and leader is helping to create a lasting impact on her students.
"Just having girls see the variety of career opportunities led by people who look like them opens up that possibility. There's a connection made when girls see me in a role that they don't usually associate themselves with. I can't reach every girl, but I want them to know that they can do this," Meeks Gombe said.
Capital One Vice President of HR Technology, Maureen Jules-Perez echoed Meeks Gombe's perspective. For Jules-Perez, who served on the organization's board for a few years before becoming the new Board Chair of Girl's For a Change this year, the mission of the nonprofit parallels her motto of "Tech For Good" which uses tech to improve social, environmental, and economic outcomes. The organization's long-term programs give girls the option to see themselves as artists, entrepreneurs and technologists, among other career opportunities.
"I came from a similar background so I feel like I'm one of those girls," said Jules-Perez. "I know what it's like to have someone champion you, but also the opposite feeling of knowing someone who doesn't think you're worthy. I'm haunted by the thought that there's a Black girl or a person of color who doesn't feel seen or doesn't think the world wants them. Girls For A Change prepares Black girls for the world."
Beyond helping girls see their potential as future technologists, Girls For A Change's CEO Angela Patton is working hard on her action-oriented vision to help realize the unmet needs of all girls in Central Virginia.
Her focus is particularly on what she calls "at-promise" youth who have natural gifts and innate potential where their circumstances don't define their identities. For more than a decade, Patton has supported at-promise girls with incarcerated fathers through Dance With Dad, a rehabilitation program founded by a group of young girls who wanted to invite their jailed fathers into their lives on their own terms and define their futures. The girls, Patton explained, wrote to a police sheriff to allow them to hold a dance with their fathers in jail. More than a decade since the program began, not one of the fathers had been reincarcerated again.
"We're teaching girls to elevate their voices," said Patton. "We want them to experience the moment where they feel ownership and empowerment so that they can change their own lives."
Girls For A Change has partnered with Capital One since 2017 to connect girls with career and life opportunities for which they otherwise may not have access or insight.
Since the partnership began, Capital One has supported 15 different programs with Girls for A Change. Seven of these programs were Capital One Coders camps and nearly 80 Capital One Tech associates have supported Girls For A Change girls over the last few years through those programs.
"For some of the girls aging out of the Girls For A Change program, they had a chance to do mock interviews with Capital One associates and get feedback for entry-level positions," said Patton. "I love that I have resources to point my girls to so that they can have a chance at better outcomes."
All together, now: who runs the world?
There are many struggles that larger people face that they don't talk about in public because it's difficult. That's why the world is blessed to have Mary Fran Donnelly and her TikTok page.
Donnelly, 27, is a school teacher and a body positivity advocate.
Donnelly has no problem talking about the issues that larger people face and bringing them to the world's attention. Donnelly has 492,000 subscribers on TikTok and over 5.2 million likes so she's really getting the word out there.
Her videos have tackled tough topics such as comments she gets from fatphobic men, mental health, and shopping in the plus-size section.
Donnelly has received the biggest response, by far, for her videos that show what life's like for plus-size travelers. They're an eye-opening look at the struggles people have trying to be comfortable in hotel rooms where the amenities are made for smaller people.
In a country where 42.4% of people are obese, why do hotel rooms cater to only half the population?
In her first video, she shows how difficult it is for her to be comfortable on a toilet because it's too small and wedges her between the sink and a wall. "As one might see, it looks normal. Would you like to take a pee or a poop?" she asks. "Don't worry, you'll barely fit."
Donnelly then shows how it's nearly impossible to wrap herself in a bathroom towel.
@itsmaryfran Because Tik Tok thinks I'm bullying MYSELF, here's the re-upload for the besties
♬ original sound - Mary Fran
In her follow-up video, Donnelly reveals that whenever she has to get a pool towel at a hotel she's forced into a real Sophie's choice. "So you get to choose, is it gonna cover the front or the back?" she asks.
Donnelly also shows how it can be downright dangerous for her to sit on a balcony.
Donnelly told Buzzfeed that her videos help her cope with the stresses of being a larger person. "I cope through humor...I was making light of a situation that is a very real stress for fat, plus-size people...my sister and I could only laugh at how absurd it was."
She also admits that those stresses prevent her from traveling and probably make others think twice as well.
"I donʻt travel alone because I worry about strangers being upset about sitting next to me on a plane," she said. "[I also wonder,] will the seat be uncomfortable? Will the seat belt fit? Will the towel fit at the hotel? Will the chairs at the pool hold me? Will the tables at the hotel restaurant be comfortable?" she said.
Donnelly thinks it'd be a win-win for the hotel industry and people of size if rooms were designed with inclusivity in mind.
"I don't think [the challenges I pointed out] cross the minds of most," Donnelly said. "But I think that it's time that [they] do. Body shapes and image have become so relevant in recent years that there isn't any excuse as to why hotel and travel industries cannot begin to reevaluate their practices. Fat, plus-size people deserve to be seen as valid human beings in an industry that should cater to everyone's size and physical needs."