How we don’t celebrate our girls and why it matters. The past few months have driven home how at least for me as a collective in Black America and in many places around the globe we simply don’t celebrate black girls or black womanhood. It is denigrated, exploited, abused and berated it seems at every turn by those inside our communities and they allow those outside the so called ‘black community’ to do so as well.
While there is no such thing as a ‘perfect culture’ (I’m sure there’ll be those who ride in to point out all the flaws in a given system) I look around and can see in other spaces how young women are valued and treated, even celebrated.
I can see how rituals, symbols and celebrations help to make women of other cultures know their worth. We simply do not do that. A sweet sixteen party (a number of which we’ve covered) is not really what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about a whole community coming together to let a young woman know what she means and will continue to mean to her family, friends and peers. I was reminded of this once again the other day. I watched with joy and sadness as siblings and BOTH parents came together for a young girl as she transitioned from little girl to young woman hood and how they celebrated HER. What a sight to see, her first high heels very much like Cinderella presented on a pillow, her father on his knees removing her tennis shoes and presenting his daughter with her first pair of grown up shoes. I couldn’t help wondering what they both thought at that moment. Not only were they both tearing up but so were the on lookers. Even the young men there in this moment stopped what they were doing, knowing they were required to pay respect to this girl, her parents and family. It was awesome to see, after the presentation, back to the tennis she went and the celebrations of toasts, cake cutting and recounting stories about this lovely young woman was shared with everyone. While it may not be a ‘custom’ in the ‘black community’ to do anything like this, I have to wonder what would happen if we started to adopt things like this for our own daughters? Really? What would happen if at 12, 13, 14, 15 years of age, they knew they were valued and loved by those in their communities? How could things change for so many young black girls, if the black community began deprogramming them from a life of hard ships and hard knocks to one of worth, value, care? The less than 1% of black girls who have ‘coming out parties’ or ‘cotillions’ are not who I’m talking about. Sweet sixteen parties are not what I’m talking about. Quince celebrations while similar to sweet sixteens are very different ‘FATHERS’ do the presentations in these cultures and while it may vary from country to country in terms of how religiously involved the ceremony is, the role of father here is what matters. Fathers participate in many aspects of the celebration and the message is clear to the young men, come with respect for my daughter or don’t come at all. I also learned if a father is deceased, a grandfather or honored uncle must play this role. What if every black girl KNEW she would be cherished, honored and celebrated in this way?