In the schools that City Year serves, there are limited resources for students. Resources such as access to extra academic, behavioral, and emotional support are often limited with budget constraints. I see the impact this has on our kids. Being a Black woman, I really relate to the impact this has on our young Black female students, in particular the need for young girls to generate their own perspective of themselves, breaking free from stereotypes.

Stereotypes are damaging to any group of people. In our society, I often see Black women being objectified or depicted as angry. When you see your community being on display in a generalized way, It makes you feel invisible and void of all individual identity.

This is where I see the importance of having a mentor and being around diverse groups of leaders. It is important for me to be a role model for the young Black girls I serve, being comfortable with who I am, striving for excellence, grace, strength, sassiness, and greatness, setting an example for my students, and allowing them to see my achievements and my downfalls. In creating relationships with my students, it is important to be real and “keep it on a bean” (“Keep it 100%” in Philadelphian). Using discretion of course, I let my students get to know me and my many intersecting identities (black, working class, cisgender woman, heterosexual, college graduate, and more). In sharing these identities, my students are exposed to a Black womanhood that is not stereotypical. They see a version of Black girl magic which can be inspiring for all.

By being their mentor, I encourage them to see excellent traits in themselves and self-reflect on who they want to be, not the constraining stereotypes that they might see around them. I really want students to see the uniqueness and greatness in everyone, especially themselves. I know with just this little bit of realization, they can go on and be and create whomever they wish.

For me, that means I deliberately insert Black Girl Magic into being a City Year Corps Member. For example, my team is currently hosting a writing contest focused on Black women. Around the halls of our school, we posted dozens of inspirational quotes from Black women. From those same quotes, our students had to choose a woman to write an essay about and her significance in American History. 

Like all students, the young girls I work with want someone to be in their corner and to advocate for them. This is why I serve here at City Year and Black girl magic at my school is so important.

Written by City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps Member, Erica Hawkins, serving at Duckrey School Team. The work of Erica and her team is made possible by Team Sponsor, Lenfest. 

City Year supports the importance of women's empowerment and promotes education and professional development for women at a young age. We have invited some of the most accomplished women in business, law, and public service to our event, the Women's Leadership Luncheon 2017. Check out our event page here

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