Beatty Community Recreation
247 N Ohio Ave
Columbus, OH 43203
Written and Photographed by Doreen Dawkins
I arrived a few minutes early to observe and get the vibe of the meeting. Looking back, I would have probably been able to blend in a little better if I didn’t wear a bright orange sweat shirt. Before I knew it Ms. Blunt was in front of me with hands stretched out welcoming me and stating she’s a hugger. This reminded me of churches that have greeters on the door that are excited that you have decided to come to worship service. The volunteers were friendly and busy setting the room up.
Tell me about Brown Girls Mentoring.
I wanted to help out the community and help girls become a better version of themselves. I want to help them avoid making the same mistakes I made and to let them know that we can get along as women. If I am uplifting another woman that doesn’t mean that I am downing myself.
When and where do you meet? Is there a typical agenda?
As of now, we meet at Beatty Community Recreation Center on Saturdays from noon to 2:00 pm. We do basic practical life lessons. We just launched a creative arts department. We cover topics such as generosity, gratitude, mental health, etc. We usually run until around 1:30, then we do a takeaway. We say our pledge, then we have a snack.
I see older women as well as young women. What is the age for participation?
This is all volunteer based. We usually have between 5 to 7 volunteers per session. Sometimes the older people you see are parents or volunteers. The mentoring piece is usually outside of the weekly meeting. Mentors are connected with families and meet on a one to one basis.
Brown girls is for girls between 5 and 15 years old.
How many young ladies typically participate each Saturday?
Between 35 and 45.
What is the criteria for becoming a mentor?
You have to have a heart and be able to pass the Brown Girls and Columbus Recreation and parks background check. It depends on what your strengths are. We have a foundational team that consists of older seasoned women who don’t work in the field per say but help with administration, social media, etc. Some volunteers are hands on during the Saturday sessions and help outside for the mentoring piece. In order to mentor with us you need to have served a year prior to. Then you can apply for the mentor piece.
How do people donate?
You can donate via paypal on browngirlsmentoring.com or you can automatically cash app us at browngirls614.
Anything that I didn’t ask that you would like to add?
We were just recognized by city council and received a certificate of resolution from Priscilla Tyson. We launched our first website this past January (www.browngirlsmentoring.org) and are launching a second chapter today in Tampa Florida (813).
I noticed you greet everyone that comes in with what greeting?
Give me my hug.
The meeting started with a writing prompt. A leader explained the importance of writing and each girl was given a journal and given the topic. After given a few minutes to write in their journal, a few girls were encouraged to share.
Sidebar: Confidence on display. I love it!
Next, everyone (including leaders) participated in an ice breaker. Participants were asked to go to the left side, or the right side of the room based on preferences. For example, coke or pepsi, Wendy’s or McDonalds, etc. Once on that side of the room, they were asked to introduce themselves to a few people in that group that they did not know.
Sidebar: Great ice breaker! There is no way a brown girl could have left the meeting without meeting a few people.
Next, they asked for a volunteer to read about Maya Angelo.
Sydney Al-Lateef recited “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelo. She has been reciting since she was 3 years old, and she is currently seven.
Sidebar: Confidence on display. I love it! I know, I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s true.
Next, each brown girl was asked to join one of three groups based on their interest. The choices were: art, writing, or dance. During that time, I talked to a few of the participants.
What was your process in getting involved? What is the impact that participation has made on your child?
It was a blessing in disguise. I saw brown girls on Facebook a few times. At that point in time, my daughter had begun some therapy sessions and was going through a tough time in her life. As her mother, I was looking for some outlets for her to just be herself. At first, I overlooked it because it was kind of far. I like to stay in my little area. Brown girls came back up on Facebook a Friday before the Saturday session. I clicked interested. Then, I received a reminder. I decided we would go. Literally, the love and the way my daughter was comfortable on the first day with Ms. Jamie particularly. My daughter is laid back and shy. She really doesn’t take to people. She usually puts up wall. I saw her hug her and talk to her.
I work with children as part of my profession. I just saw the love. The fact that they look like me is a perk.
Now here we are. I hope I have a permanent position to continue to spread love and be a part of this family; forever.
Programs like this are often looked down upon, not necessarily by those who look like me, but by those on the outskirts. They question why we need a program that is just specific to brown girls. We are not saying that we are better, we are different. And not from a negative aspect. Our brown girls need something different. Usually, we come from a different background. We have some variations to our inside as well as our outside. How we do things is different. It needs to be understood that it is not a separation, a drawn line if you will. It is something that enhances every brown girl that we come in contact with.
Why get involved with Brown Girls? Why become a mentor?
I used to get free lunch here (Beatty Community Recreation Center). My grandma still lives on Mt. Vernon. We used to walk over here and get free lunch. I made it out of the hood. Once I heard about this, it was a chance for me to serve and give back where I made it out of. It brings me joy. I came in not only wanting to teach them something but to learn something. That put me in a whole different mindset.
I get joy, peace, clarity and happiness out of it.
Are you a millennial?
Yes, absolutely I am 26. I’m a 90s baby.
From a millennial perspective, can you encourage another millennial to volunteer?
With social media, we are constantly looking at everyone else to get where they are at. Not realizing that there are people who want to get to where we are at. We have already completed things. God has brought us through. Why not help other people to get here?
Anything that I didn’t ask that you want to include?
You didn’t ask what is my favorite color.
What is your favorite color?
Black. I love everything black. It is an amazing color.
What do you want to tell me about Brown Girls?
It makes people confident. It empowers us and tells us being black is not a bad thing.
If I am shy and its my first time here, are people going to be friendly to me?
Do you come every week?
Sometimes we get to go on field trips. A while ago we went to a museum. We watched a lady that does something like poetry acting.
Is that what you want to do, poetry acting?
No. I just like drawing and doing art.
Why do you enjoy Brown Girls?
I enjoy Brown Girls because you can say stuff that is on your mind. You can write stuff in your journal that you want to express.
If you don’t know anybody, do you think this is a friendly place to come to meet friends?
Do you enjoy Brown Girls?
Why do you enjoy Brown Girls?
When I am at Brown Girls, I feel confident.
How long have you been coming to Brown Girls?
Since it started.
Has it been some months some years, help me out.
What is your favorite thing to do when you come to Brown Girls?
Next, the Pledge. The following pledge is read and repeated by each person in attendance while standing in a circle:
The Brown Girl’s Pledge
I am a Brown Girl. Starting today, I will respect myself and others. I will be a leader and not a follower. I will carry myself with class and dignity. I will strive for excellence in everything I do. I will encourage and empower others around me. I am a Brown Girl. I am bold. I am confident. I am fearless. I am excellence. I am beautiful. I am Love! I am a Brown Girl.
I don’t remember if the snack came before or after the pledge, but a snack was provided.
Next the hug line.
My take: Wonderful! Great! I wish I participated in Brown Girls mentoring when I was younger. Truth be told, I wish they had a Brown Women’s Mentoring for ages 45 to 55.