Black Girls Deserve More than Just One Month
“I want to be the captain of my own ship, the catalyst of my own future.”
As black history month comes to an end, we reflect on the importance of listening to the lived experiences of black girls – and not just this month, but all year long. At Equal Rights Advocates, we ensure that the experiences of women and girls of color drive our work in schools and workplaces.
Our collaboration with Alliance for Girls and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is a product of this critical listening work. This innovative partnership was born out of focus groups with girls of color in OUSD schools about their experiences. It quickly became clear that sexual harassment was a pervasive problem that contributes to the barriers to equity girls face at school. These barriers are reflected not only in disparate graduation rates and test scores, but in school discipline statistics: for example, even though African American girls make up only 32% of female students in OUSD schools, they represent two out of every three girls who are suspended.
“African American girls are thought of as being loud, but that’s because no one wants to hear us. We have to speak up to be heard.” – Focus group participant
And now these girls’ voices are being heard. In response to the research, OUSD formed a Title IX Collaborative Working Group to review and revise the district’s sexual harassment policy and develop an implementation plan to address sexual harassment at all of the district’s 118 schools. The model sexual harassment policy that will be developed at OUSD will be rooted in what girls of color said they need from their schools and will include input from the project’s Girls Leadership Team.
We are also listening to young women of color to inform our work to close the wage gap. Over the past year, our team held focus groups of professional millennials of color to better understand how the wage gap impacts them, how and when they discuss pay with their peers, and what motivates them to take action. This research will help inform our mobilization efforts for equal pay for all women.
“A black woman, when she says she needs money, there’s so much stigma. Am I going to look weak for asking for the money? And you look weak for the whole race. Like you’re not managing your money well. Why is that under a microscope when it’s just about me getting paid what I’m worth to do the job?” – Focus group participant
Even though black history month is ending, we resolve to never stop listening to and learning from the black girls we serve.
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