But that won’t be for a long time. And if you have a problem with that, unfollow me right now.
People without knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without rootsMarcus Garvey (via moderndaykathleencleaver)
After-school programs play an important role in the development of children, particularly their academic and social skills. This analysis arises from an ethnographic project conducted at Girlworks (GW), an after-school program in a mid-sized southern city that provided recreational, educational, and life-skills programs. The mission was to help girls achieve their potential and become productive adults through youth development. The larger study analyzes the youth development strategies used to change the cultural capital of (mostly) low-income black girls and boys. GW’s parent organization had six program sites throughout the city, two of which were primary sites of my participant observation between October 2004 and June 2006. The parent agency had a white male executive director, a white male assistant director, and an elite board of 34 white businessmen, eight white women, and one black man. Each site had direct care staff, many of whom resented the racial and gender hierarchy within the agency. Experienced black women staffers, in particular, felt mistreated by white administrators. They felt that they had to repress their anger and frustration in public, however, in order to keep their jobs. The analysis here relies heavily on the observations at GW and the interviews with staffers and volunteers who worked directly with girls. GW was the program site that served black girls between six and 12 years old.2 It was located within a predominantly black, low-income neighborhood.Ninety-five percent of GW girls were black, and they were disproportionately low-income. About 150 girls attended the after-school program daily for up to five and a half hours. GW had two full-time salaried positions: a director, who managed the programming, budget, and staff; and a physical education director, who ran recreation programs and supervised part-time staff. About a dozen part-time workers, generally college students, and a wide range of volunteers also worked with girls. GW staffers were all women, and only one or two were not black at any given time. The board, administration, staff, and volunteers all believed in the organization’s mission, but the black direct care staffers implemented the mission and had considerable autonomy over how to do so.
…The staff trained the girls to distance themselves emotionally from people who shared their background and experiences. Direct care staff, volunteers, and administrators—white and black alike—framed the girls’ cultural backgrounds as problematic, if not dysfunctional, during interviews. They viewed women as single moms who partied too much and cared too little. Warner Thomas, an experienced black direct care worker at a site for black boys and teens, described, for example, “There’s some parents that could just care less. Give me my crack. Give me my marijuana. Give me my beer. Give me my cigarettes. And that’s all I want to deal with. Leave my kid here until 8:00 [late at night].” Adults feared daughters would also become single moms who partied and devalued education. In response, the direct care staff conditioned girls to (re)interpret their background as something to reject and move past. Getting kids to not “settle” and to “lift themselves out of that,” as a white administrator and direct care worker at another site put it, meant “[seeing] beyond the walls of their community.” It meant rejecting their pasts in favor of something “more.” It did not matter if the characterization of families was inaccurate—as it often was—because what staff rewarded was the cultural orientation of moving outward and upward. They demanded that the girls want to be better than their parents:
We have so many different situations over here, parents not here and that type of stuff. But you pick up in the kids that they want to have a better life because they don’t want to do what Mom and Dad did… . And they will go to every program area, and they will come to anything you offer. And those are the kids that you know are reaching out for your help, that need just that little push. And with that little push they’re going to be well on their way. (interview with Sharice Harnett)
Staff sought out girls who “want a better life” and “don’t want to live like Mom and Dad” to give them an extra push and opportunities. Libby Stewart evaluated girls by the same criteria: successful girls used their background and struggles to motivate change in their lives:
And what I tell them is, “The things you go through in life should be your stepping stone… . If you don’t like your situation, that’s why you need to go school… . You gotta make that your stepping stone. You’re already being told by that to do more for you. [It’s a sign that you want more.] Your mom ain’t doing it. Your mom might not be in a situation where she can do more. But you do more for you when you’re able to… . Just let the things that go on in your life that you don’t agree with or you wish could be changed or wish could be better, you let that be your strength to do [more] for yourself.”
In other words, if a girl did not want to be poor and destitute like her mother, she must aspire to do more, to be more. Adults evaluated these girls as having initiative. Demonstrating their commitment to hard work and success, thus, meant creating emotional distance between the past and the future, bad and good, others and self. Distancing from problematic others was the solution, reinforcing that the girls were entitled to a better life because they were morally superior to those who shared their same background and identities.
The Reproduction of Inequalities Through Emotional Capital: The Case of Socializing Low-Income Black Girls. Carissa M. Froyum.
”It did not matter if the characterization of families was inaccurate—as it often was—because what staff rewarded was the cultural orientation of moving outward and upward…Distancing from problematic others was the solution, reinforcing that the girls were entitled to a better life because they were morally superior to those who shared their same background and identities.”
i’m here to support black girls with stretch marks on their tiddies, butts, arms, thighs, stomach, everywhere. i support y’all.
all y’all beautiful ✨