This post was submitted by NCTE student member, Thais Council.
Nurturing the literate identities of Black girls is a powerful practice. When empowered with the knowledge of who they really are, African American women are unstoppable. Just look at the history of African Americans who have defied every stereotype ascribed to them, tearing down walls and blazing a trail for others to follow. Reading about female African American trailblazers and encountering the words written by these powerful women will help the next generation of Black girls and women take their rightful place armed with an understanding of who they are, who they can be, and what they can accomplish.
We understand that introducing Black girls to these texts requires work. Many Black girls haven’t realized how beautiful, smart, and powerful they really are because the texts available in schools do not include the voices or experiences of women who look like them. What messages are schools transmitting by not including texts written by African American women? What is the media conveying to our girls when negative stereotypes of Black women and girls are perpetuated on news programs and reality television shows? These stereotypes are ones that society—including African Americans—has bought into and perpetuates in social and cultural spaces. It requires work to combat these views.
With this understanding, the all-Black female executive committee of the Alpha Upsilon Alpha literacy honor society at Georgia State University accepted the call of NCTE by diligently crafting an African American Read-In that speaks to the needs of Black girls. We have appropriately titled the Read-In Black Girls Read: An African American Read-In Celebrating the African American Female Literary Legacies of the Past, Present, and Future. Our planning process was not lined with rose petals. We faced many obstacles, and several people asked why Black boys were excluded and why we did not choose to promote literacy for all Black children. We did not take the criticism lightly but instead forged ahead, understanding the urgency to create a space that affords “opportunities for black girls to make meaning of their identities” (Muhammad, 2012, p. 205). Our planning and steadfastness were validated when we reached the maximum capacity of our venue in less than four days of announcing our Read-In.
We must equip the African American girls in our lives with culturally relevant texts that counter the current narrative in school curricula, communities, and the media. We are the women we are today because of the powerful women who took the time to expose us to powerful texts that helped to shape our lives. It is our obligation to pay it forward.
We want all who attend this event to walk away with an understanding of the literary legacies that African American women have established, and we hope every Read-In participant is inspired to continue this legacy by promoting culturally relevant texts written by and about African American women and girls. Our ultimate goal for the Black Girls Read African American Read-In is to highlight and affirm Black girls’ identities through literacy while sprinkling a little Black Girl Magic!
Muhammad, G. E. (2012). Creating spaces for black adolescent girls to “Write it out!” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(3), 203–211.
Additional links for blog posting (if necessary):
Event invitation: www.BlackGirlsRead.eventbrite.com
AUA leadership team and authors of the blog post: