Every year we talk about Black History Month, what it means, should we still celebrate it, how do we celebrate it…the debate goes on. This year, instead of just talking about it — I got the chance to BE about it.

Notre Dame stand up!

For Black History Month I was invited to speak at the University of Notre Dame by an amazing student group called Shades of Ebony. These girls were so inspired, so brilliant, so genuine…being around them made me yearn for academic life and that kind of environment of constant mental stimulation. Erdina Francillon, the current president of Shades, is the opposite of me in college. She is motivated, ambitious, organized, and amazing. I can’t wait to see what she does after she graduates!

Shades of Ebony planned a special event for Black History Month, titled BeaUtiful. The idea was to discuss and celebrate black beauty. The event was thrown by and for the members of Shades, and the intention was to also reach out to young girls from the community of South Bend, Indiana — girls from local high schools and even a few middle school girls came out despite the intense cold and deep snow, to participate in the event. My friends at Carol’s Daughter and Dr. Miracles very generously donated gift items for the girls who participated.

BeaUtiful was intended as a multifaceted event. Outreach to the girls of the community, a chance to speak and consider some of their own self-esteem and self-worth issues, and a chance to inspire (and in turn, be inspired by) each other.

Copy of Notre Dame, Hawaii 147

I was brought there as a special guest speaker, along with amazing artist Dawn Okoro. Dawn’s art is incredible just on the computer screen. In real life? Oh WOW. I just want to decorate my whole living space with her work. Click here to buy prints!

We were both asked to deliver speeches about what inspired us to do what we do, and what beauty means to us. I shared my background, my ideas about the beauty icons who have inspired me, and my suggestions for living a life that’s filled with beauty.

It was an incredible experience for a few reasons. First, I was just honored to be invited to such a prestigious institute of learning. And second, this was a big first for me. Please be gentle. This is the first public speaking I’ve ever done.

As you can hear from the response, they liked me. They really liked me! The feeling of that applause at the end…I can’t quite put it into words. It was a very, very proud moment. Could this be the beginning of a new chapter, where I do more public speaking appearances? I hope so. I feel so much less fearful than I did in the past.

Unfortunately my camera died during Dawn’s speech. So I uploaded the part that I managed to capture here.

Before our speeches, we were assigned into groups — I sat with two members of Shades of Ebony, and there were four high school girls and a middle school girl at our table. Some of these girls are experiencing things I can hardly relate to — seeing abuse in their families, getting into physical fights with boys at school, running the risk of getting suspended because of their own behavior. One particular girl who sat with me, was like a tightly closed fist at the beginning. She barely offered monosyllabic responses. She seemed so angry and tense. But after our talk, after the speeches, we broke into groups again – this time in a more intimate setting. And I do believe we had a breakthrough. This same girl wanted to share her experiences, and we were able to give her advice on how to deal with the conflicts at school that were jeopardizing her education. I know we were able to help that evening. I just hope the lessons are still resonating, and that she is now going to school with her head held high.

That’s how I celebrated Black History Month, and I can’t thank Notre Dame and ALL of the members of Shades of Ebony enough. It was an honor to meet all of you, and spend time with you on your beautiful campus.

Dawn Okoro – you are amazing, and it was such a pleasure to share the experience with you, and to get to know you as well!

Thank you to Carol’s Daughter and Dr. Miracle. The girls were so excited and ecstatic for their gift bags!

Thank you Notre Dame, for inviting me and hosting me so graciously.

I hope that this is just the beginning. It’s a year away, but already I’m thinking about fresh ways to celebrate Black History Month next year!



Bloggess says:
March 2, 2010, 12:05 pm
Amazing, amazing, amazing. Congratulations - many (more) wonderful things in store for you!!!
RiPPa says:
March 2, 2010, 12:07 pm
Good speech, and post!
Mischo Beauty says:
March 2, 2010, 12:12 pm
So proud of you, Bella! So happy you're sharing your gifts/talents/blessings!
soleilchocolat says:
March 2, 2010, 12:22 pm
Your speech at Notre Dame was very inspiring! Congratulations for all your accomplishments so far this year!
ebonys says:
March 2, 2010, 12:30 pm
I think you did great! Your audience got involved & the photos and your words seem to resonate with them. I'm thinking this is a fine beginning to many more great speeches and a fitting video for Black History & Women's History months. On to more great things 'bella.
swissmiss261z says:
March 2, 2010, 12:48 pm
Bella!! This is so admirable!!! Your accomplishments continue to inspire me to break out of my box and mold to try new things and accomplish my goals!! I wish you continued success in all your endeavors!!
Andrea says:
March 2, 2010, 12:54 pm
i loved your closing remarks defining what "beauty is as beauty does" means to you. You summed it up perfectly. Kudos to you Afrobella!
Nina says:
March 2, 2010, 12:56 pm
I think you did a great job too. It's wonderful to see you participating in events such as this one and I hope that there are many more in your future. What is most beautiful about this experience is that as a writer, you are not just providing an example or sharing an outlet, you are helping those women and girls to find their own voices and define their own beauty.
Naomi says:
March 2, 2010, 1:55 pm
wow Dawn cut her hair. i love it! fellow longhorn @afrobella u look bella! BEaUtiful post
anna12 says:
March 2, 2010, 2:46 pm
This is awesome. Shaping young minds in a positive way is the best thing to do. You looked and sounded wonderful. Keep it up.
talktotisha says:
March 2, 2010, 2:48 pm
Bella!!!!!! Congratulations - Love love loved your speech (and your accent) I just can't keep up with you! Every time I hit up afrobella.com there's more fabulousness! So excited for you!
Jasmin says:
March 2, 2010, 5:06 pm
Thank you SO much for coming! It was a great event, and Shades will welcome both you and Dawn for future events. :-)
Christine says:
March 2, 2010, 5:22 pm
I have no audio here, so I'll have to listen later, but holy moly, Dawn's work is fantastic. You think a pair of great legs over our dining table would be appropriate? I think we might have some redecorating to do! And Bella, you look gorgeous as always. Go you!
TriniStaRNew says:
March 2, 2010, 7:52 pm
I love your blog and am forever proud of you. I loved the content of the speech and yes you were a bit nervous but settled in the end.
pets says:
March 2, 2010, 9:09 pm
Yes you can do more speaking sessions - you looked very relaxed and at ease - like a professor. I can see you doing more of this and mentoring in groups. Hugs - so proud of you!
Dad says:
March 2, 2010, 9:38 pm
This is another chapter in your life that you seemed to have embraced naturally.Did it take you back to your tutoring days at UM? You seemed to have enjoyed that period also. It is an extraordinarily rewarding experience when you have touched young minds and feel that perhaps you have made a difference. Blessings and love always. D&M
Caribbean Girl says:
March 3, 2010, 12:19 am
You are amazing. Go brave!
Lady Kinnks says:
March 3, 2010, 8:09 am
You go girl! I am so proud of your success :o)
warrior11209 says:
March 3, 2010, 10:09 am
So proud of you . The speech was great and yes I do think that public speaking is another frontier for you to conquer
bella says:
March 3, 2010, 10:31 am
Daddy, mom, Petal...thank you so much for always supporting me and commenting! It really did take me back to teaching at UM, and it made me miss teaching again! Who knows, maybe someday I'll be a professor! Everyone else, thank you so much for your love and support and kindness - I was nervous when I was on stage, and for some reason, nervous when I posted this! But your response has reassured me. I really enjoyed the Notre Dame experience, and now I feel prepared to do more public speaking in the future!
nolagirl says:
March 3, 2010, 11:33 am
That was wonderful. I think you may have found something else where you can excel and share with the world. If you liked doing this as much as they liked you being there I know you will be able to do this more in 2010! BTW I love that your father writes notes. it makes me love this blog even more.
Amber says:
March 3, 2010, 1:36 pm
sandra says:
March 4, 2010, 1:01 am
Beauty is as beauty does...you did it and you are super beautiful. You did not seem that nervous and I think you have a bright future ahead of you as a public speaker. Writing, speaking, communicating: isn't that what it is about? I'll be watching you....from a senior who loves your blog.
nadine9017 says:
March 5, 2010, 9:43 am
You have inspired lots of girls congratulations.Hope this was just the beginning.
tycajam says:
March 5, 2010, 6:52 pm
Bella! You did it! You represented so well for yourself and so many. Those girls we feelings you as they should. Could you imagine them saying later in life Afrobella inspired me to go beyond someone else's expectatioin? Girl, well I can! Keep it up!
chargam says:
March 6, 2010, 1:02 am
I saw your presentation and thought you did a great job. It could have been better, however, if theaudience had been more attentive to what you were saying took it in and not felt the need to give shout outs during the presentation and make random comments as you were making a point. Some may view it as enthusiasm or relating, but it just felt disrespectful and would have made me nervous.
Mishara says:
March 6, 2010, 11:52 pm
AfroBella, It means so much to your Indiana readers and fans that you would come to our state. Especially a small (and sometimes struggling) town like South Bend. Indiana residents often (if not ALWAYS) have to travel to Chicago etc. to enjoy wonderful speakers and events. We are forgotten about in the concert and special event circuits. Thank you so much for speaking to our youngest sistas. As a social worker specializing in teen issues. I sincerely love that you took the time to do this.


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