ARE YOU YOUR SISTER’S KEEPER?
FROM BLOG TO MULTIMEDIA POWERHOUSE
I recently had the honor of meeting Founder and Editor-in-Chief of For Harriet, Kimberly Foster. As an undergraduate student at Harvard University in 2010, Foster decided to start a blog with the aim of raising the level of discourse surrounding Black women. In 7 years, the blog has grown into a network of 5 sites that reaches 2 million women each month. In 2017, Foster and her team are on the move with a series of conversations called #blackgirlsgather.
After finishing an event in NYC, Foster flew to Chicago to welcome women of all ages to GoLucky Studios – a chic loft that also functions as an event space on the lower west side of Chicago. There were two gatherings in Chicago on Saturday afternoon; one starting at 1:30, the other at 4:30 p.m. Both, sold out.
WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?
Imagine having the opportunity to see, meet, laugh and cry with the women you engage with, in the comment section of your favorite blog. Now envision yourself breathing a sigh of relief when you hear someone in the room say, “My guilty pleasure is… Trap Music.” Then another, “I’m kind of into trash tv.” Next, a mother of 3 in the back of the room offers her perspective on having a responsibility to keep her seemingly guilty pleasures in check in order to properly parent a child that likes to test limits. Touché. (I’m not a mom yet, so I’m going to continue bumpin’ Gucci Mane on Monday mornings.)
I am notorious for being the absolute quietest person in the room – even during a “group discussion.” Actually, no. ESPECIALLY during a group discussion. What can I say? I am a professional people watcher… Well, true to form, I kept quiet and just absorbed the positive energy in the room. I scanned the room to see if I was, in fact, the only person who had not spoken. I sat back in my chair like the proud leader of some unspoken introverts only club when I saw the familiar faces of women I met on the way to the event. We held the door for each other and braved a few flights of stairs (some of us in heels) together. Now we sat in silence, together; and it was totally fine. (Silent people in social settings, unite!)
When discussing the recent tragedy surrounding Kenneka Jenkins, most in the room agreed that not only is this story devastating, it raises the question of what constitutes as being one’s friend. If you have not been following the case, the actions of Kenneka’s friends are under fire. The definition of “friend” has undoubtedly changed over time—and not necessarily for the good. Digital friends, likes and follows have taken the place of face-to-face interaction and in some cases, self-worth. The details of the case are still unfolding, but when discussing Jenkins, many women questioned if the night would have still ended this way if Kenneka was among friends who valued her safety, just as much as their own. One guest chimed in to remind us all to be slow to judge all involved in the case because, yes, we’ve all been young and potentially in situations or environments that may have been unsafe and the fact remains – that she was someone’s daughter, sister, niece and our speculation does nothing to heal the pain that her family feels; and does nothing to help solve the case for that matter.
Quite naturally, “judging” became the next topic of discussion. The exchange only lasted a short time. One woman was adamant that we as women and certainly mothers should judge constructively, not out of spite. Sitting behind me, was a woman who recently returned home to Chicago after teaching for 11 years in New York. She gave us a very touching account of her life and example of how to keep your judgment in check.
Within months of getting settled in, she realized that her cousin had a child in a low-performing school and her own sister was not checking making sure that her children were completing their homework assignments. She said her immediate response to both family members, was complete annoyance, and you guessed it, judgment.
“How do you not know the difference between a level one and level two school?”
“What do you mean he’s in trouble again for coming to school without his homework?”
She admitted that these were the questions that played out in her mind. But she took a moment to step back and think: “If I blast both of them with my criticism, what will it solve?” She said. “I wonder how things will play out if I offer to help instead?”
She decided to turn two moments of judgment into two opportunities to empower other women. She accompanied her cousin to the principal’s office after scheduling an appointment to review schools records and is now assisting her cousin in finding a better school. After asking her sister how she could be of assistance, it was decided that she would spend 3-days each week checking and helping with homework assignments.
Kimberly Foster’s #blackgirlsgather is bringing together the hearts and minds of women who believe in the transformative power of community and being your sister’s keeper.
Photo Credit: @for.harriet / Instagram
Follow the conversation on Twitter: #blackgirlsgather