NABG Newsletter Issue 17: Black Girls need healing spaces and radical change

You are reading an A National Agenda for Black Girls weekly newsletter. A National Agenda for Black Girls a Girls for Gender Equity initiative focused on centering Black girls in our national policies. Want to receive more NABG insights and updates? Sign up for the newsletter here.

Our last newsletter focused on the many manifestations of grief and how to support the mental wellbeing of young people, especially Black girls, during this global pandemic. We want to emphasize that making space for grief and caring for mental wellbeing should be normalized, since such feelings will continue from youth through adulthood.

To dive a little deeper into the issue of grief and mental wellbeing, our Policy Director, Ashley C. Sawyer, interviewed Arissa Hall, Project Director of the National Bail Out, a Black-led collective working to end the injustices of pretrial detention and working towards abolition. The adultification of Black girls is one of many examples of ways that Black girls are asked to hold a great deal of the emotional labor for their communities and families, we are working to build a world where Black girls can have levity and joy.

Healing as Liberation

Ashley Sawyer: How do you and your team cope with grief and mental wellbeing?

Arissa Hall: Black women have historically been the holders of grief for loved ones and have been socialized to do immense amounts of emotional labor in order to hold space emotionally, energetically, and psychically for others. This is a theme many Black girls and women are familiar with, and this also translates into the political space.

We have calls with the local organizers and folks share their personal grief, the passing of their loved ones, people have been talking about the tragedy of the black women & femmes, the challenges that we’ve been facing to get them out in this moment. There is a lot of heaviness, witnessing with one another as people are doing this work together.

We had someone from Greensboro move us through a resonating process. Healing and grief circles as a part of our organizing. The people we’re bailing out are holding so much grief and heaviness. How do we heal ourselves as a part of our liberation? If we don’t heal, we continue to be exposed and vulnerable to criminalization.

Ashley Sawyer: How have you been holding space when you cannot touch or work how you used to?

Arissa Hall: We have weekly committee calls to create a space for people to share and bare witness with each other. We are doing one-on-one grief counseling with our organizers and our mamas, we’re trying to figure out all the ways to meet each other’s needs. We’re also going to do some celebrating, our homecoming celebration is in June — the celebration piece is so important for us. We know it is crucial to recognize all the wins, all the small things.

We want to thank Arissa for these wise words and insights!

Black girls are already disproportionately impacted by juvenile policing and the school to prison pipeline, and they will also grow into Black women who are similarly unjustly targeted. Therefore, having discussions focused on policy reform and creative solutions to policing and incarceration are imperative to supporting Black girls and the adults they will become. Federal policies must center the dignity, autonomy, and joy of Black girls in order to achieve an equitable and just future.

Federal Policy Must Center on Black Girls

A core element of A National Agenda for Black Girls is to have federal policy address issues that disproportionately impact Black girls and Black gender expansive youth in the United States. Our Steering Committee, composed of Black girls from around the country, reflected and then composed the policy issues most prevalent in their lives. These then became the six main policy areas.

  • Pass a Black Girls Bill of Rights
  • Education Justice & Opportunity
  • Access to Democracy for Young People
  • Healing, Wellbeing, and Reproductive Justice
  • Ending Gender Based Violence
  • Immigrant and Racial Justice

In order to push these policy themes, a questionnaire was sent to each democratic candidate and President Trump on how they would be advocates for Black girls. As the field has narrowed, we know that Vice President Joseph Biden will be the democratic nominee. In the coming weeks we will be holding a conversation using Team Biden’s questionnaire responses. More information to come and we hope you will join us!

As we continue through these unprecedented times, we are continuing to commit to uplift the rights of Black girls and we appreciate your continued support!

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