After the makeshift set went silent, Nickey McMullen sprung to life, showing off her multilayered rainbow and gold tutu and combat boots, hoping to energize her virtual audience.
“We’re always going to remind you that you have the ability and permission to be frilly and fierce all at the same time,” she said as she kicked off Girls For A Change’s virtual Black Girl Rally. “You’re here ... for the information, the elevation, the education, the inspiration of all things Black girl!”
As Black families around the country contend with the COVID-19 health crisis, economic instability and the challenges of raising children during a period of national unrest, organizers and speakers sought to connect virtually with young Black girls to motivate them to create a better world for themselves and others.
“In this space of uncertainty, what I’m certain about is that our girls still need us,” said Angela Patton, CEO of Chesterfield County-based Girls For A Change. “We have to continue to engage our girls and let them know that their voices matter and that the fight continues.”
The annual event serves as a pep rally each fall to hype up students about the new school year and the nonprofit’s programs.
Founded in 2000, the organization runs before- and after-school programs and an annual summer camp that combines social-emotional learning and instruction in such subjects as computer coding and art to help inspire and empower Black girls who are marginalized by society because of their race and gender.
Patton said the transition to virtual programming earlier this year made it easier to prepare for this year’s annual event. At the same time, she said it would be more important than usual because of the recent uprising of protests against racial injustice around the country.
With the theme of “You’re the answer, not the problem,” this year’s summer featured presentations from artists, activists, professors and organizers about identifying social issues and how to effectively advocate for change.
In an interview before she spoke on a panel for Saturday’s event, Chloe Edwards, the president of Black Lives Matter 804 and outreach coordinator for Voices for Virginia’s Children, said there’s a dual crisis for Black families and communities, as the health crisis exacerbates social and economic challenges while other injustices persist.
“We see it when there’s no justice for Breonna Taylor,” Edwards said. “These cultural, racial and historical traumas affect the emotional and mental health of our children.”
In spite of those challenges, Patton and Edwards said it creates an opportunity for Black girls and women to become leaders for a better tomorrow.