On the Importance of Teaching Black Girls Their Power

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by Brenda's Child

Growing up, there was no doubt in my mind that I could be beautiful and girly one minute and strong and fearless the next. If She-Ra could do it, so could I. Let me refresh you about She-Ra. She was He-man’s twin sister and the “Princess of Power.” One moment she was gorgeous Princess Adora, but when she pulled out her sword, she became a heroine. This cartoon was my inspiration.

As a pre-teen tomboy I was competitive and challenged the older boys on my block to everything from relay races to wrestling holds. I took a clothesline, and got right back up; I could escape a sleeper hold with ease, and my headlock was lethal. I loved to wrestle so much, I was going to try out for the team my freshman year of high school… or so I thought.

When my friend and I attempted to enter the gym, we were suddenly intercepted by the head coach. The words that came out of his mouth cut me as quickly and as deeply as a guillotine. He told us we had to be out of our minds if we thought he was going to let us on the team. Then he abruptly dismissed us and demanded we go back to class. I was hurt.

At the time I was too young to understand that I was being discriminated against, nonetheless, the feelings were there. I had never felt so excluded. All of my life my father made me feel like I could do anything a boy could do, and maybe even better. Now this man just told me that wasn’t the case. Had I known better, I would have taken up my issue with the principal or an even higher authority. Unfortunately, I had not yet developed into the tenacious warrior that I am today.

Although the circumstances may vary, this type of thing still happens on a daily basis. A girl loses her sense of power because she is placed in a box by the expectations and rules of others. Often when it happens, it undermines a young girl’s confidence in her capabilities. All of a sudden, the world that is supposed to be her oyster snaps shut on her.

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Sometimes it’s one event. Other times it’s a culmination of negative interactions that began to make us feel like we need to surrender our inner She-Ra and liken ourselves to Snow White or Cinderella. When we compromise the essence of who we are, it becomes easy for us to lose ourselves. Suddenly being a follower becomes easier than taking the lead. By marching to someone else’s tune, we aren’t alienated because we’re different. By becoming what we’re expected to be, we don’t disappoint anyone…except ourselves.

Being competitive, decisive, and outspoken is smiled on if you are male, but frowned down upon if you are female. As a young person, I viewed myself as bossy, domineering, scatter-brained, and hyperactive. Still, I didn’t run from this, I owned it. What I learned as I matured and lived life a little, is that I am driven, passionate, goal-oriented, and in control of my destiny…and I really own that.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Brenda's Child is a teacher,author, mother and mentor in a mission to inspire and empower lives.Born Latoya Bosworth she dubbed herself Brenda's Child in honor of her late mother.  This piece is an excerpt from her memoir and advice book from caregivers of girls of color. For more information visit brendaschild.com

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