My daughter takes classes at The Washington Ballet’s southeast D.C. campus, which serves a still predominantly Black community despite the whispery hints of coming gentrification. Inside, our girls are transformed by the elegance and art of classical dance. I’ve seen the younger ones go in timid, unsure, clinging to a parent before being gently coaxed to stand on their own and the older ones with folded arms, posturing in the surly way teenage-y girls do to protect their cool.
One Saturday, I watched some of those same girls—including my own Girl Child—come alive on stage in jewel-colored costumes, traditional tutus and brilliant, sparkly dresses. They were glowing, smiling, loving themselves. They were magnificent.
While they danced, I prayed for them from my seat several rows back. That they would catch hold of the joy-filled self-assurance they were experiencing in the spotlight and carry it in them wherever they went. That it would bubble up and remind them how great they are on days when they’re not feeling anything close to great at all. That they would feel as hardcore beautiful in a school uniform as they clearly did in their dance performance regalia. That, even if they don’t pursue the girlhood dream of being a ballerina as a professional or personal passion, they’ll find something that makes their hearts jump with delight and pour themselves into it.
We, their village, do and can and should speak power into them and affirm them until they know empowerment for themselves. The contagion of positivity is critical for Black girls—urgent, even—because baseless criticism and negativity falls on them so freely from so many places. Here are a few statements to inspire random outbursts of appreciation for our young ladies, whether you birthed them, teach them or just collectively love them.
1. You are uniquely gifted. No one else in the world can do exactly what you do in exactly the way you do it. That’s amazing.
2. That was a really good decision. You’re a strong decision-maker and a great problem-solver.
3. You are healthy. Your mind is healthy. Your spirit is healthy. Your heart is healthy. Your body is healthy. Because you’re healthy, you are whole. Because you’re whole, you’re prepared for your opportunities.
4. Your skin is a gorgeous shade of brown. It sparkles like gold.
5. No matter what your grades look like, you are a strong, capable student. I see you growing and making progress.
6. You are an asset to our community. You have leadership qualities all over you. You make our people and our ancestors proud.
7. You are a giving, generous person. You are open-hearted but you are also wise.
8. Your body is beautifully perfect. It is the perfect body for you. You are more than your shape or size—you’re love and joy and beauty—but you’re good just the way you are right now.
9. You are a magnet for blessings.
10. Mistakes are not the end of you. Challenges are not the end of you. You learn from them and you get better because of them. You are resilient and powerful.
11. Your hair is the perfect halo for your head. It’s stunning and strong and soft at the same time, just like you.
12. Feelings are your personal property. You have a right to express yourself in a way that allows other people to hear and understand you.
13. Your future is your own. You will have everything you need to be the woman that you’re supposed to become.
14. You make me proud and you should be proud of yourself.