The First Black Girls Think Tank, created in Columbus, recently traveled to D.C. for a meeting with White House staff and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty. The group of eight, ages 12 to 18, shared their findings on issues facing black girls.
WOSU's Debbie Holmes talked to think tank founder Fran Frazier and member Paiden Williams about their group and experience in D.C.
The below is an automated transcript. Please excuse minor typos and errors.
Debbie Holmes: So Fran, tell me how your group decided to start the Black Girls Think Tank
Fran Frazier: About five years ago, I was the principal investigator of a body of research called Rise Sister Rise, which looked at 410 African-American girls in four cities, looking at issues of trauma and resiliency. So there were a group of women in Columbus who really wanted to do something with that data.
And so over the past five years, we've had girls’ conferences, workshops, we partner with organizations like Central Community House, COSI, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women; and decided that maybe we wanted to find a way to make sure that the voice of black girls was actually going to be heard. And so we wanted to use that data to make that happen.
Debbie Holmes: OK, so tell me what did the data show?
Fran Frazier: Well actually the data showed quite a bit. In Columbus we surveyed 101 black girls, ages 11 to 18, and so the data showed a couple of things. One, that our girls are mostly traumatized by the issues that are going on in their homes, in their communities, as well as in their schools.
Debbie Holmes: Now Paiden, tell me, you know, what are some of the issues in your life that you find difficult to deal with?
Paiden Williams: Well, personally in my life, there are a number of things. For one, mental illness is something that my family has always had to deal with. We have disability, mass incarcerations, and then just the environment that we grow up in and are expected to be in 24/7 that's just, it's not a safe environment.
Debbie Holmes: You went to D.C. recently. Tell me about your visit there, and do you think that's going to be helpful in helping your group?
Paiden Williams: Oh yes, it's going to be definitely helpful. For me, going to D.C., when I found out I think I had one of the most dramatic reactions just because me, a girl like me, I would never dream to even go to D.C., walk in the White House, meet Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, and do all the things that I did.
But being with this group, it gives me hope that I can actually do these things, and for the rest of the girls like, yes, sure when we're young we all say we want to go to the White House, we want to go to D.C. We want to do these things but to actually make that dream a reality, it was just heartwarming and extravagant.
Debbie Holmes: Why is this so important, do you think, for girls of color?
Paiden Williams: It's important because, like we said, there are a lot of groups out here for African-American men. They're trying to build them up, just because it is hard out here, especially for us being African-American youth in general.
But for African-American girls, it's always, oh woah, you're supposed to do this, you're supposed to get good grades, you're supposed to go to college, but we're never taught. And we never had that support system. So like, whenever we do fall down, we tend to stay down for a while just because no one has ever taught us how to get back up and no one has ever, you know, helped us back up.
That's why I said one of the most important things to me about this think tank is that we are a sisterhood. If one of us falls, the rest of us are there to catch us and to help us back up and get us back on our feet.