- Jyarland Daniels, ConnectHER Advisory Board
The news can be awfully dispiriting these days, but one theme we’ve noticed give us inspiration: Women are taking to the streets and becoming a powerful force for humanity! In Sudan last year and now in Belarus, women have fought corruption and demanded change. The Black Lives Matter movement and the school strikes for the climate were launched and led by young women.
As we take on major challenges in the months and years ahead—to make the world more equitable, to avert the worst impacts of climate change, to ensure that Covid-19 doesn’t erase years of progress for the world’s women and girls—how can we inspire each other to speak out and show up?
A good place to start is to really listen to other women’s stories. That’s precisely what we did throughout October at ConnectHER’s International Day of the Girl screening events around the world. A big thank-you to all of our film ambassadors for making this year’s event such a success! From Australia to Nigeria, you gathered your communities together—virtually this year—to watch Stories About Girls Worth Telling and talk about issues that impact women and girls.
At the flagship event in Austin, Texas, ConnectHER executive director Lila Igram and advisory board member Jyarland Daniels of Harriet Speaks introduced “Centering the Voices of Black Women,” a program of short films by Black filmmakers. Daniels introduced the films by talking about the particular burdens that Black women carry—such as poverty, violence, and colorism’s impact on self-image. “But Black women are more than their struggles,” she said. “They are the spirit, life, joy, and moral consciousness of their families and communities….Black women have left their mark on the world….It is important that we share with our children the story of oppression and the story of triumph, because both are true.”
After the screening, ConnectHER board chair Fayruz Benyousef led an eye-opening panel discussion with guests Daniels; Nakeenya Wilson, founder of Black Mamas ATX and ConnectHER project partner; and filmmakers Bobbi Broome (filmmaker of Make Me Divine) and Amanda Gordon (Love You Forever). Broome shared how she felt as a young Black girl when she didn’t see anyone who looked like her in the media. “It wasn’t until I turned 18 that I realized that my skin wasn’t weird or ugly.” For that reason, she says, it is crucial for Black women to keep sharing their stories—and for all of us to work for media representation. Said Bobbi, “It is up to us to encircle each other, wrap us up and make us feel whole.” That representation is “especially important in children’s media, at the critical years of 3 to 6, when you’re developing your sense of identity,” added filmmaker Amanda Gordon, who echoed that experience.
What can we do to shore up girls’ self-esteem against a tsunami of bias, colorism, and lack of media representation? “It means we have to be proactive in building up the confidence of young black girls,” adds Daniels. “We can’t wait until there’s an incident to talk about it. Tell her how beautiful she is.” Wilson shared how she tried to help her daughter, who struggled with self-esteem issues in adolescence. “I was intentional about lifting her up,” she said, to let her know “that she is perfect and a child of God. But we can’t be naïve; there are still psychological effects.”
All of us have a role to play. “We need to step into our place, to say ‘It’s a human rights issue—it’s not a Black issue,’ ” says Wilson. “People of privilege need to give up stuff to center Black people. It means you go beyond what you’re comfortable with. You have to feel the pinch.” Added Daniels, “Humanity is a muscle. You have to continue to do the work to develop it.”
Let’s keep this lively conversation going! What does beauty mean to you? Is there a subject that you feel passionate about? Would you like to shine attention on an issue that impacts the lives of women and girls globally? The deadline for entries for the next ConnectHER Film Festival is June 15, 2021.ENTRY GUIDELINES