Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Black Girls Code

Celebrating Women's History Month

According to Nielsen's Report, "African American Millennials are driving social change and leading digital advancement. They are more likely than all Millennials to say they are among the first of their friends/colleagues to try new technology products."  They are also the main consumers of smart- phones and users of the internet.  Unfortunately when it comes to finding employment in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related careers, African Americans especially women lag behind other groups. Black Girls Code was created to address this discrepancy. Anyone who has seen the movie, Hidden Figures knows that African American women have played an important role in the development of NASA and other science projects. Now Black Girls Code wants to inspire a new generation to make their mark.  

Their vision is to provide "African-American youth with the skills to occupy some of the 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. by 2020, and to train 1 million girls by 2040." Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code believes that their first aim is "to increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM fields, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures through exposure to computer science and technology." 

They provide workshops and hackathons across the country where young girls can learn coding, create digital programs and find a supportive community. This weekend their chapters in Dallas and New York will have special events for young girls followed later by events in Atlanta, Boston, Miami and the Bay area. To get more information and register for programs visit their site. 

Good news, young Black men will not be left out, there are plans for a Black Boys Code in the future.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dance Theatre of Harlem's New Season Starts with an Inspiring Film

Dance Theatre of Harlem 2017 started their new season with a short film, High Above that will inspire little Black girls who dream of being a ballet dancer. Yes, Black art can include ballet. Every season DTH showcases the talent of African American ballet dancers. Art is important in young people's lives, and in this story, dance is part of a healing process.

Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) is an American professional ballet company and school based in Harlem, New York City. It was the brainchild of Arthur Mitchell, the first African-American male dancer in a major ballet company (New York City Ballet.) In the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Mr. Mitchell saw the need to give back to his community. In 1969, he along with his teacher Karel Shook started a school for young children in the basement of a church in Harlem. Starting with only 30 students, the school quickly grew to 400. Today the DTH is renowned for being both "the first black classical ballet company", and "the first major ballet company to prioritize black dancers". The Dance Theatre of Harlem School offers training to more than 1,000 young people annually with its community program called Dancing Through Barriers, open to any child who wants to study dance. The company's Dancing Through Barriers Ensemble does outreach throughout the US. It accepts pre-school children up to senior citizens. The school offers specializations in children's movement, European ballet, choreography, and musicology. For families there is a Sunday Matinee performance monthly where they can explore the art of dance.

High Above is a promotion film for their annual spring engagement at New York City Center from April 19-22.  The film's title track is a collaboration with India Arie from her new single. Share the joy of dance with young people at their matinee performance on April 22. Performance includes “Meet the Ballerina” event immediately following the performance.  For their complete nationwide schedule for 2017 check their calendar.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Books N' Bros: Sidney Keys lll Creates Reading Club For Young Boys To Encourage Literacy

After a visit to Eye See Me Bookstore in St. Louis, MO, 11 year old Sidney Keys III  was inspired to start his own reading club for boys called Books N Bros.  Eye See Me Bookstore focuses on African-American children’s literature. His mother shot a video of him reading in the store, and expressing the joy he found in discovering books that reflected him. As she explained "Her son had never been to a store that housed so many books that reflected his culture."  The video garnered a lot of attention and over 63,000 views. This made him realize that there were others out there who had the same interest. “ I already love to read but it would be awesome, even better, to read with other people,” he told Huffington Post.  

Since September, the club has met monthly to discuss one book with a black protagonist, which they vote on. So far, the club has read Hidden Figures, The Supadupa Kid and A Song for Harlem: Scraps of Time, which they read during Black History Month. The group also invites Black male mentors to attend each meeting and share their experiences. With a simple $20 membership fee, the boys ages 8 through 12 get a book, a worksheet that ask questions about the work they're reading, and refreshments. Club members get to take home books for their personal collection, thanks to a donation of more than 250 books from community group, Serving with the Badge. Most important the group gets to read books, make friends and have fun.  For Sidney this has given him an opportunity to develop his skills in leadership, public speaking and entrepreneurship. Hopefully, this will inspire more great ideas. In the future he hopes to expand online so that young men who do not live in St. Louis can join Books N Bros.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Teacher Empowers Her Class To"Push Through"

"Teaching my 3rd grade black and brown babies to #PushThrough today. Due to unwelcoming, unsettling, and uncomfortable election results, this was our lesson for the day."

"In Sub-Saharan African cultures, call and response is a pervasive pattern of democratic participation—in public gatherings in the discussion of civic affairs, in religious rituals, as well as in vocal and instrumental musical expression. It is this tradition that African bondsmen and women brought with them to the New World and which has been transmitted over the centuries in various forms of cultural expression—in religious observance; public gatherings; sporting events; even in children's rhymes; and, most notably, in African-American music in its myriad forms and descendants including: soul, gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, funk and hip hop."   Wikipedia

In good times and stressful times our culture has used call and response as a way to communicate and teach.   Jasmyn Wright, a third-grade reading teacher in Philadelphia, is using this African American tradition to bring a message of hope, and empowerment to her third grade class.  Ms. Wright, a poet and spoken-word artist encourages her students to "push through" in the face of adversity.  

She uses both personal affirmations and the power of the spoken word to motivate the young people in her class. She sees her role as a catalyst to encourage her students talents and ambitions. "My students know who they are. I teach all of them every day that they are born with a gift"

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day

"Fearless Girl" The Wall Street Bull Meets His Match

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action, and the theme for 2017 is "Be Bold For Change."

This holiday has been observed for over a century. In 1975, International Women's Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations. Then in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.  The issues that women faced a hundred years ago are not that much different than the ones we face today, and the problems we face in our community are not that different across the globe. Everyone is encouraged to commemorate the day in her own unique way and work with other women to bring change. This is a year of activism, and International Women's Day is a catalyst.

"So make a difference, think globally and act locally!
Make everyday International Women's Day.
Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding."

Breastfeeding Hits Fashion Week

“Birth is the epicenter of a woman’s power. And we are so powerful! Happy Women’s History Month.”

Black Breastfeeding Week was celebrated in August but for Diandra Forrest getting the message out is important every day of the year.  We all want to give our children the best start in life but for many reasons the benefits of breastfeeding have not reached the African American community. Statistics show that less than 55% of Black mothers are actively involved in breastfeeding.  Compared to other groups the numbers are very low for breastfeeding while the black infant mortality rate is high. Black babies are dying at twice the rate (in some place, nearly triple) the rate of white babies. According to the CDC, increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates.  The CDC states that, "This persistent gap in breastfeeding rates between black women and women of other races and ethnicities might indicate that black women are more likely to encounter unsupportive cultural norms, perceptions that breastfeeding is inferior to formula feeding, lack of partner support, and an unsupportive work environment." Reasons for this might be the lack of support and the lack of spreading the word on the benefits of nursing in Black communities.

Fortunately, we have mothers like model Diandra Forrest who are advocating to change the image of birth and breastfeeding. Diandra who struts the runways of New York Fashion Week posted pictures on Instagram while nursing her baby daughter, Rain. The pictures were from a shoot called   “The Rebirth of Love,” by photographer, Joey Rosado of Island Boi Photography, and was the brainchild of makeup artist and creative director Moshoodat Sanni. Of course, there was some backlash but  Diandra who is accustom to being scrutinized as one of the few albino models in the fashion industry was up to the challenge. As she explains in a Yahoo Style interview, “I think, too often, women’s bodies are looked at in a sexual manner. So when there is a woman breastfeeding her child, which is nurturing and natural, it may seem wrong if your mind isn’t in the right place.”

The benefits of nursing, definitely, out weight the negativity.  Nursing ignites the hormones that increase the bonding between mother and child,  allows the mother's body to heal quicker, provides the right nutrition for the baby and is cheaper than formula. Also mothers who nurse are more inclined to eat healthy. However, for new mothers having a support system is most important. As Diandra explains, “I love the connection that it’s allowed me to have with my daughter and knowing that she is getting all of the nutrients that she needs. It’s important to speak about it because breastfeeding is actually very hard to do. Between the bleeding nipples, feeding every hour, and sleep deprivation, I wouldn’t have made it a week without lots of support.”

"All breastfeeding women need support, but specific interventions might be needed among populations with lower breastfeeding prevalence," suggest the CDC. To get more information and assistance visit Black Breastfeeding Week and La Leche.  Black Breastfeeding Week is all about encouraging black women to keep breastfeeding, connect with other breastfeeding moms, post breastfeeding selfies and more. La Leche has encouraged mothers to nurse for 60 years. Their mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother. Their helpline number is 877-4 LA LECHE (452-5324). As women move through their journey of motherhood there is no need to be alone and isolated. Finding and building community is an important part of the job. Women's empowerment is very important in the community. As Diandra signs off on her Instagram picture, “Birth is the epicenter of a woman’s power. And we are so powerful! Happy Women’s History Month.”

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Africa's Great Civilizations

This week check out Professor Henry Louis Gate's new six-hour series, Africa’s Great Civilizations on PBS.  Gates takes a new look at the history of Africa, from the birth of humankind to the dawn of the 20th century.  Young adults need to hear these stories even though the story of colonialism can be very disturbing. The challenge is how to empower young people to embrace their history without the anger that can be crippling. Watch it together but beprepared to discuss their questions.