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.
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.
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!