“ I need ten hands,” was the catalyst to young ladies at Milwaukee Collegiate Academy learning that a recent Dove study found that 7 in 10 girls between the ages of 8-17 feel that they are not good enough or do not measure up in their appearance.
One of the contributing factors of many MCA ladies depreciating their beauty was popularized by Twitter hashtags: #TeamLightSkin and #TeamDarkSkin. At the event, MCA ladies learned that colorism, which is the construction of hate by skin tone, had historical roots that oppressed African American women by their station as field slaves; dark skin women; and house slaves; light skin women. As MCA ladies watched, Dark Girls: A Look At Colorism and Internalized Racism In The Black Community conversations sparked among scholar-led discussion groups.
Intermingled conversations not only broke down barriers for girls not knowing each other, but increased the level of disclosure to answer questions like, “Who told you, that you were beautiful? Why did they say that you were ugly? Do you feel like you accomplish what you want when you are mean to others?” By the second half of the session, MCA ladies were ready to learn 7 reasons why they should not be a “Mean Girl.”
This event showed that peer experiences and discussions allow young people to problem-solve to make better decisions for themselves. By providing the knowledge; a solid and safe structure; one MCA senior was brave enough to speak openly, honestly, and unexpectedly about her story: “I was a Mean Girl…After turning my life around, I see women in my family be mean and I cringe, because they remind me how ugly I was.” As she shared her story, a calmness filled the room and the audience affirmed her insight with undivided attention. To close the sister-building experience, every lady participated in a teambuilding activity that asked them to embrace the ladies to their left and their right, because they are not alone in dealing with questions about image, boy problems, or academics. The MCA ladies in that circle learned they had more support than they thought with being nicer to each other. #WhatIveLearned
Special thanks to National Coalition of 100 Black Women Milwaukee Chapter and TruRoyal T for volunteering as community partners.