Improving the lives of Black girls is as important as saving Black boys

By: Kevin L. Brooks, PhD


young black girl

Mentoring is one of the hottest topics concerning today’s youth in the United States, especially for Black males. However, the attention given to the mentoring of Black girls in the media and community forums pale in comparison to that of young males. This occurrence has stirred youth advocates to be more committed not only to developing Black boys, but to generating more responsiveness to the concerns facing Black girls.

Last February, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative as an effort to work toward enhancing the life trajectories of Black males. The initiative was created and implemented to improve Black boys’ experiences with early childhood education, college readiness and mentoring, as well as reducing their involvement with the criminal justice system and violent crime. President Obama has called on politicians, entrepreneurs, entertainers, actors, athletes, business and religious leaders, along with lay persons to provide financial and human capital to support this cause. And preliminary reports suggest some improvements are being made, particularly in regard to financial contributions.

But, the initiative has not been free of criticism. Many critics have admonished the president and the initiative for the lack of funds allocated to Black organizations that work with Black males and for not addressing adequately structural racism, as well as issues concerning mental health and gun violence. However, the most perceptive critique of the initiative is its sole focus on Black boys.

Many have argued that the addition of Black girls to this endeavor is paramount to strengthening the Black community. More than 200 Black men have composed a letter to the president expressing their concern for Black girls and calling for their inclusion in the initiative. This support of Black girls is not to take away from the challenges affecting Black boys. On the contrary, it is to raise awareness of the distressful events in their lives as well.

According to several reports, Black girls tend to battle greater stressful life events than any other group. For instance, the Girl Scouts’ 2013 State of the Girls report found that Black girls are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to: have a poverty rate that is double that of White girls, live in single-parent households, have a teen birth rate two times the national average, report being hit by a boyfriend, and be overweight or obese.

Another study, the Rise Sister Rise Project, examined trauma and resilience among 400 Ohio African American girls, ages 11–18. The results showed that African American girls are more prone to encounter traumatic stressors than adolescents of other races. To help offset this anguish, the project uses positive socialization through mentoring to improve the girls’ life chances, educational achievement and leadership potential.

The psychosocial development of Black girls has been one of the foremost concerns of their transition to womanhood throughout history. It is generally propagated and widely accepted that men are providers and protectors. This is only a partial truth, given that Black women serve in these capacities alongside men, not behind the scenes.
As mothers of civilization and culture, Black women function as leaders, activists, educators and role models. They have been the CEOs of Black communities as producers and cultivators of spirituality, generational legacies, cultural heritage, and historical knowledge, which were developed when they were girls in youth development programs such as Rites of Passage and other sisterhood programming.

It is critical that programs and initiatives are implemented not only to help Black boys maximize their full potential, but to assist Black girls reach their greatest promise too. These endeavors need to be more inclusive of the diverse needs of boys and girls individually, as well as offer a more holistic approach to their collective development.
Both Black girls and Black boys are needed to uplift and advance the Black community as well as humanity. To shed some light on the severity of the topic consider this. The Liberator journeyed from one civilization to the next instilling virtues of righteousness, faithfulness, and trustworthiness while showing grace and mercy. He carried within him the heart and spirit of woman.

As novelist Pauline E. Hopkins proclaimed in the title of one of her short stories: “As the Lord lives, he is one of our mother’s children.” Transforming the lives of Black girls is as necessary as enhancing the lives of Black boys, perhaps even more crucial.

One thought on “Improving the lives of Black girls is as important as saving Black boys

  1. Beautifully written! Women wear so many hats in which many are never taken off….to take the time to find that little girl that was a lost before womanhood/motherhood came (which oftentimes was too soon).

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