When Newark, New Jersey, native A’Dorian was 7 years old, her father was murdered while leaving his store. Now grown, the college student wants to give back to local youth who have lived through similar tragedies, which directors Lacey Schwartz and Mehret Mandefro capture in episode five of ESSENCE Black Girl Magic. A’Dorian founded She Wins Leadership Institute, which teaches young Black girls to not only find their voice, but to trust it, and discover the true art of self-love. “The act of self-love isn’t easy,” A’Dorian said. “It takes time. It takes effort. But the more you dedicate time to loving yourself and surrounding yourself by people who are encouraging you to do the same, there is no such thing as a barrier.” [MUSIC] Poet Audre Lorde once wrote, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it's self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." A self-identified black **** warrior poet, Lorde saw the choice of the most marginalized groups to self-love as a revolutionary act She Wins leadership institute is a program I designed my sophomore year of college for girls in my hometown of Newark New Jersey who lost a parent or sibling to homicide like I did. My father was killed leaving his store when I was seven. I wanted to make a program that served girls who shared a story similar to my own and that would serve a direct need in our city. I wanted to give them something that I wish I had at their age. [INAUDIBLE] Here keep it up. I am going to try to come to everybody. So will go this way. I wonder if a winner thinks about the goal and not about anything else. So they keep their eyes on the prize or think about a goal as they focus. Good. A winner is a person who works hard. They work hard. Anyone else, see that I am hearing goals. You accomplish things. A winner is a person who never [UNKNOWN] they never fail. Ooh, we have an exception about this. Could you be a winner if you fail but then you try again? Yes. Everybody give me some thumbs up if you agree what we hearing. Okay, good, now I want an example I notice young black girls now more than I ever did. I'm fearful for them, as much as I'm hopeful. I see so much in them. How much they have survived or, will soon be forced to endure. The world ain't easy for a young black girl. I'm inspired by them though, for real. I notice their innocence, the light in their eyes, the potential that them simply being alive and smiling means, the hope that they bring to the world for me. In the beginning of the program, for some of the girls, the act of voicing their emotions, opinions, or fears, was the most frightening thing of all. I see it in the way many of the girls look to the floor when they speak, or sometimes opting to say nothing at all. They have learned silence and prefer it to the risk of hearing their own voice. I know what that feels like. My life has been a constant grapple with inner thoughts that tell me that I am not enough. Teaching the girls to trust themselves and their voice has been a process. As she wins, we start and end every day with a winner circle. We use a high, a low and a shout out to another girl in the group. Hi guys. All right, [UNKNOWN] you want to start? My high for the week Graduated from eighth grade, going off to High School. I had a test today and I passed with [UNKNOWN] by 13 points. [APPLAUSE] Okay. My high would be finishing my soccer season with a record of nine, three. My high is making [INAUDIBLE] By the end of the program the girls went from complimenting each other on things like new shoes to complimenting each other on showing other girls kindness and support during that day's group project. Over time they started to find the freedom to feel vulnerable. And still feel safe. But most of all, they started to believe they were enough. [LAUGH] On our three day trip to Washington, D.C., for the Girl Up leadership summit, the girls really struggled to engage or even feel confident. It was their first time being in a space Where they felt that everyone else had the privilege of being rich, suburban and white. They questioned everything, their hair, their skin, the way they spoke. I pulled all the girls to my room and held a winners circle about the fear and anxiety they were feeling. I reminded them that they were just as talented and bright as any other girl at the conference. For the net two days of the conference, I saw them return to the girls that I knew. [MUSIC] This is a community like a sisterhood, and I feel like if I'm down or if I need just a pick me up, I can go to any of y'all. It's just having And I like quote, un quote, sisters which I would be able to just lean on, if I needed anything. When I first came here I really didn't know anybody at all. When you just sit down and you talk to people you get to know a lot about them and And you create like Celeste said, a sisterhood between all you all. I think people used to like talk about me in school because I didn't really say anything or because I just sat out, or sat by myself and now I learned how to use my voice to express how I feel and fight for what's right to Say what I wanted to say. After my niece was murdered I felt like my life was over. I doubted myself, I stepped back a lot, and by joining She Wins it helped me step back up and realize that I have to be motivated and everything that I do I have to do it in my niece's name. When I first came to She Wins I was a shy mean person. But now s everybody can say I'm a nice person and I've really grown a lot and have realized that. I can't let me anger to the best of me and accept the fact that my niece has been murdered and just continue with my life. [consoling together] [MUSIC] The act of self-love isn't easy, it takes time, it takes effort but the more you dedicate time to loving yourself And surrounding yourself by people who are encouraging you to do the same. There is no such things as a barrier. [MUSIC] Every time around them and I see them I'm inspired to be better, to do better, to do more And so she went to change my life because all of my girls are winners. And they just inspire me every day. [MUSIC] For my girls, self love means believing in yourself even when you feel alone in the world and doubt creeps into your thoughts. I think of what I know now that I wish I knew years ago. I plan to tell them everything. Black girl magic needs to be radical self love. [MUSIC]

Essence.com
Jan, 28, 2017

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