“They are forced into either conforming or they are pushed out of the settings they happen to be in.”

“Sometimes it’s a struggle when people just don’t understand my culture.”

“There’s not a certain archetype of what a black girl is like. A black girl can be, like, so many things.”

For two days in September, PublicSource attended the 2018 Gwen’s Girls Black Girl Equity Summit. Black girls in middle schools and high schools from around the Pittsburgh region met to create guiding principles that will help prevent or even abolish discrimination and oppression of black girls in Allegheny County.

The third annual summit was made possible by Gwen’s Girls in partnership with the Black Girls Equity Alliance of Pittsburgh.

Local girls and women joined together to determine the best ways to advance the well being and equity of black girls, to reclaim their identities and protect their rights. The attendees broke out into groups to analyze the ways that white-centered culture oppresses their peers.

They also discussed approaches they would recommend their allies adopt to help black girls achieve equity in schools, specifically as it pertains to  disciplinary measures and support from school administrators.

With the support of mentors and community educators, attendees used the provided tools and research to dig deep into their experiences. Their goal: to unearth the internalized racial oppression that had molded how they experienced American culture.

PublicSource set up a video booth at the summit and asked some attendees how they’ve navigated their blackness in school and in society at large.

The girls and women who shared their thoughts felt that black girlhood needed to be better depicted. A more holistic representation of what life is like as a black girl, they said, is what’s needed to combat misrepresentation, adultification and dehumanization of black girls.

Jourdan Hicks is a community correspondent for PublicSource. She can be reached at jourdan@publicsource.org.

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Jourdan is a senior community correspondent at PublicSource. Previously, Jourdan was engaged as a community-based educator in the Hazelwood section of the city. A lifelong Pittsburgh resident, she’s...