Young women of color are constantly being influenced by the media, their peers, social media, music, politics, and a bunch of other outlets. While sometimes this influence can be good, it can also come with negative side effects that leave them wondering “Who am I really? Am I good enough?”
It’s a scary thought imagining how that question looms even louder in the minds of the youth of 2017, with a new influx of tactics which lead to low self esteem, loss of identity, and a detach from vital education. Luckily for our young girls mentors in the black community work tirelessly to provide safe spaces for personal growth, allowing them to reach their potential at new heights. One organization in particular, called The Black PEARL Program, is doing just that by pushing boundaries on what it means to be an educated black girl.
Founded in 2012 by New York native Phylicia Henry, The Black PEARL Program provides a curriculum of workshops aimed at enlightening young women of color. Each workshop covers topics such as social/emotional skills, beauty, fashion, leadership, self esteem, college prep, and much more. Henry initiated this program to dispel negative generalizations and stereotypes placed on black women, some of which even her young brother promoted:
I decided to ask [my brother] why he wasn’t dating any African American females and he replied “I don’t date Black girls.” Curious as to why a young black male with a black mother, sisters, and aunts would say this I asked “why?” He replied “because black girls are too ghetto, too loud, obnoxious, aggressive and mean. Plus, they don’t take care of themselves.”
Fuelled to incite change, she developed The Black PEARL (Pretty, Educated, Aware, Refined, Ladies) Program with the motto of “From Urban Girl to Black Pearl.”
Various weekly workshops allow girls to acquire ‘social progressive’ skills, rooted in refining their identity and self confidence. The performance of students also aids in the Departments of Educations District Review Process at local schools, by helping to cater to the developmental skills of a double minority group. Students are also taught by a curriculum which is 78% college level material, helping to prepare them for the future. Henry says:
“An overwhelming proportion of children attending public schools today are not ready for High school, let alone college. In order to excel, students are in need of supplemental education, outside of the traditional school setting to aid in the process of developing socially and academically”
Driven by her own rule of the “4 P’s” Punctuality, Professionalism, Being Prepared, and Polite, Phylicia Henry hopes to encourage young women to live and thrive by the same standards. The Black PEARL Program hopes to expand their work overseas, having already fostered partnerships with schools in Central America and the Caribbean.
97% of participating students involved in the program have shown success exhibiting changes in behaviour, increase in attendance, and even an increase in test scores. It is clear this program is a vital asset to the lives of many, showing girls everywhere that they are a Black Pearl simply waiting to be discovered.
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