Black Girl Genius Week kicks off with concert


Elisabeth Neely

Mother Nature starts off their set with a “Black Girl Genius” chant at the Kick-Off Concert for Black Girl Genius Week at Cafeteria & Company on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.

By Gillian Dunlop, Staff writer

Black Girl Genius Week kicked off its third celebration of black girlhood Friday with a concert featuring multiple student and faculty performers at Pizza M restaurant. The week, aimed at educating the University and larger Champaign-Urbana community on the challenges of black girlhood, takes place from Oct. 21 to Oct. 28.

Founded by Women and Gender Studies professor Ruth Nicole Brown, the week is designed to bring the educational elements from Saving Our Lives, Hear Our Truths, or SOLHOT, to campus.

“(SOLHOT) is about making and building a community with black girls in Champaign,” Brown said.

The SOLHOT team meets with middle and high school aged girls to celebrate black girlhood and all of its complexity, doctoral student Porshe Garner said.

Black Girl Genius Week acts as an extension of SOLHOT, but instead of targeting young girls, it is meant to target adults.

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“One of the things I hope people get from (the week) is just the intentional awareness and thought about the issues, joys and contributions of young black girls because so often people only think of black girls through very particular stereotypes,” Brown said.

BGGW consists of multiple events including a feminist walk, an open mic night and an appearance from poet Nikky Finney.

“It’s important to have a (Black Girl Genius Week) because we aren’t reminded enough of our genius, especially as it relates to gender,” Garner said. “It gives us an opportunity to (communicate) our favorite scholars and artists and learn from them.”

Brown, especially, wanted to make the week of events fun while still being educational.

“Under the current educational system, universities have taken the fun out of education,” she said. “Learning is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to make you think, feel, move, and it’s supposed to make you question deeply held beliefs. (The week) definitely does that.”

Planning the week is not easy. The week usually requires $30,000 of funding. Although this is the third Black Girl Genius Week, this time around the team only had two months to collect funding and ultimately only raised about $16,000.

“We just make it work, and we always have,” Brown said. “It’s a humongous effort.”

Brown emphasized, however, that the purpose of the week is to transform how people think about black girlhood.

“It’s not about the number of people who show up, but the critical connections we can make among us,” she said. “The people who show up really come to learn and to contribute what they know.”

Freshman in FAA, Taylor Chism, was among the crowd at Friday’s concert.

“It’s a really good movement, and the overall message of how powerful (the black community is) is really inspiring,” she said.

Chism is not alone in her inspiration. Both Garner and Brown have also been inspired by their work in SOLHOT as well as Black Girl Genius Week.

“Black Girl Genius Week inspires me to really trust what I know and it also inspires me to articulate what I know about black girlhood,” Garner said. “I want people to be transformed in their thinking and their actions. I want people to be considering things they’ve never thought of before.”

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