Simply put, “Black” is a social construct but should be a global identity and as a global community, an issue for “one” of us is an issue for all of us. Human right violations, like poor literacy performance in the U.S. or access to clean water in villages like Georgie Badiel’s home village of Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa, are human rights issues that are too vast for one or a few countries to rectify.
It will take a global community, more than the month of February, and for the purpose of this blog, a global sisterhood to raise arms and break generational and global literacy oppression. Founded by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926, Black History Month was created to pay homage to the tragedies survived by Black Americans and their notable triumphs in lieu of mounting systematic oppression and atrocities committed in law, politics, education and health that still reign relevant today.
Due to the intersectionality of race and gender, as outlined by scholars like Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Black girls, their educational and lived experiences must be approached critically and ethically different from their fellow students.
In 2019, The Nation’s Report Card from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that only 18 percent of Black 4th-graders scored proficient or above in reading; the figure for white 4th-graders was 45 percent. For 8th graders, the percentages were 15 and 42 percent. About half didn’t even reach the “basic” reading benchmark. Although nationwide, on average, 79% of U.S. adults are literate in 2022, 34% of adults who lack proficiency in literacy were born outside the U.S., exacerbating the need for a global and cultural perspective on literacy education.
Literacy education needs its own focus for the ascension of Black students, especially girls, because reading is the gatekeeper to functioning and succeeding academically, professionally, economically, mentally and civically. It is the gatekeeper to virtually all knowledge and is essential for Black girls and their communities to thrive, and not just survive, in a White male hegemonic society that is globally pervasive. As Black girls globally are positioned to play pivotal roles as the backbone of their families and communities, it is necessary they are properly equipped to excel in and outside of the classroom.
Inspired by The Black Women’s Club Movement that emerged in the late 19th century, Beyond Adornment Club (B.A.C.), a book club and Sis-STAR circle is a safe space for Black elementary girls in kindergarten through fifth grade to learn how to lift one another up as we climb towards mastering economic, civil, and mental literacy. Typically, these environments are created for older Black girls and women but restorative mental health, critical media literacy and a sense of economic healing as a global community is something Black girls deserve at an early age! B.A.C. hopes to reach 1 billion Black girls globally by 2031, cemented the dreams of ancestors like Marcus Garvey to truly work together beyond geographical borders and boundaries.
Nina Simone once echoed the following words in an interview with a college student: “My job is to somehow make them curious enough or persuade them, by hook or crook, to get more aware of themselves and where they came from and what they are into and what is already there, and just to bring it out” This is what compels me to compel them and I will do it by whatever means necessary In reflecting on this treasured gem from a favored ancestor of Black girls, Black History Month and yearlong advocacies on behalf of the global Black community must begin with the most unprotected sector, Black girlhood, and through means, literacy, that are oftentimes overlooked as defense mechanisms against oppression in education, mental health, law, politics, and beyond.
Author, advocate and founder of Beyond Adornment Club
Recommended Books with A Global Focus:
- The Water Princess by Susan Verde (based on Georgie Badiel’s childhood)
- Malaika’s Costume by Irene Luxbacher and Nadia L. Hohn
- Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
- Cornrows by Camille Yarbrough
- Saturday by Oge Mora
- Emmanuel’s Dream: The Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson
- The Journey by Francesca Sanna
- Rain School by James Rumford
- Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
- One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of The Gambia
- The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can by Dr. Tererai Trent
- Rocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryon
- Bintou’s Braids by Sylvianne A. Diouf
- Makeda: Queen of Sheba by Abrafi S. Sanyika
- Remember to Dream, Ebere by Cynthia Erivo
- I Am Enough by Grace Byers
- My Hair is Magic by M.L. Marroquin
- Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
- My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera
- Ambitious Girl by Meena Harris
Author: Nneka Gigi
Braid Adornment Artist, Educational Advocate & Doctoral Student