Almost five years ago myself and three other friends set out to create a space for our Black daughters to enjoy friendship and books.
This past Saturday, we met for the first time since the pandemic, and it really impacted me, which led to some much needed reflection.
The Brown Girls Book Club or BCBG as we lovingly call it has grown into more than I could’ve ever imagined when God first gave me the idea for it. After our meeting last weekend, I had to share its “origin story” with the other members’ mothers. I’ll share it with you now as well.
When I had the idea for BCBG, I was so sad and disappointed with where my oldest daughter’s friendships were. We didn’t have any Black homeschool friends who had girls her age. The homeschool girlfriends at the time were white, which isn’t necessarily a problem at all. We have a ton of white friends and people who we consider family.
However, when it came to building relationships with the homeschooled girls her age, we were often met with many roadblocks. Noelle often tried to be a child’s friend without much reciprocation on the other side.
I still remember my breaking point in this regard.
We were at a play date at another white homeschooling family’s house. The daughter, who was Noelle’s exact age, didn’t care so much as to even look up from her tablet to greet us when we walked in. Noelle was so happy to see her. Yet, the little girl couldn’t even be bothered. As a matter of fact, this wasn’t the first time we felt her dismissive attitude. The mother was visibly uncomfortable with her daughter’s rude behavior. She tried to nudge the girl to greet us. She eventually did, but was visibly annoyed. Noelle looked so disappointed and sad but I knew she wouldn’t express it.
I remember thinking, “Why are we even here? Why does my daughter have to continually put herself out there to only be rebuffed by other white children?” At that moment, the momma bear in me decided to never subject my daughter to feel she had to beg someone to be her friend!
As I stated before, this wasn’t the first time we had felt this unmistakable coldness from white homeschoolers. At various homeschool group play dates, I often found myself being the person to make the first move towards a family. I’d doing the greeting, introducing, and simply inserting ourselves into the mix so we weren’t on the sidelines.
The atmosphere I often experienced the most was a tolerated dismissal. Meaning, our presence was tolerated, but we were still ignored and not necessarily made to feel the warmth of a kind welcome.
This wasn’t with every white family we encountered. There’s been plenty of times in which we were invited in. However, the bad taste of not feeling like the onus was on me to do the work of making our presence known was tiring.
I often observed other white families being welcomed in, greeted, and engaged at various homeschooling events. One might say, “Maybe they knew one another.” Or, “there’s no way to fully tell if what you felt was the case, you might have just been sensitive, and picked up on something that wasn’t there.”
To this, I would say, I cannot exactly “prove” the racial undertones to what I know I felt, however, if you are apart of the majority culture and you might have these thoughts toward my experience, I’d say, “There’s no way for you to prove this wasn’t the case.”
A white person knows what it is to be White in America, while I know what it is to be Black in America. The sad reality is that differences do exist.
From that unwelcome experience at the play date, I prayed and expressed my frustration to God. I was hurt, sad, disappointed, and unsure how to move forward. I was angry that I could not shield my child from being Black in a white world. But, I knew I could ground her in cultivating a security in exactly who God created her to be! God made her to be a beautiful Black girl with tons to offer this world!
Soon after, God gave me the idea for the book club.
Initially, I reached out to other Black homeschoolers with the idea. Many were interested, but I soon found that the ones I asked were not ready to commit. Quite honestly, that got annoying too! 🤦🏾♀️😂
I knew it couldn’t be perfect, but I did need people committed to giving our children something they could count on. My prayers began to take on more shape. I specifically ask God for wisdom about WHO I should include, instead of just asking for wisdom about WHAT I should do.
It was not long after this that I gently felt the Lord saying, “Why do you need other homeschoolers to accomplish your goal?” I realized I could look towards the friendship circles my daughter already had. My initial desire for a book club with other Black homeschoolers was limited to such a tiny box.
My daughter already had several good friends from our church. They weren’t homeschooled, but their parents shared similar values as our family. Each of the girls’ temperaments meshed very well. I didn’t realize just how important that aspect alone would be. I took the plunge and sent a text expressing my vision to three of the friends’ mothers hoping they’d say, “yes”.
These mothers responded with such joy and enthusiasm for this club!
The rest is history!
We’ve met now for five years and counting. We have changed some things and other elements have remained the same. BCBG has had to grow and evolve as our girls have done the same.
When we began, they were six, seven, and eight year olds, now they’re preteens! Their interests and needs look very different now. We’ve encouraged our girls to take ownership of their group. We want them to express what they want to do, read, and discuss.
The mothers all feel strongly that our daughters need to feel empowered to make this group what they want it to be as long as it accomplishes the purposes of fostering sisterhood, confidence in the dignity God has given us and a celebration of our Blackness!
I’m looking forward to the coming years of what these young women will go on to be and do. I’m thankful for the small role I’ve been afforded to play in the shaping of these beautiful lives!
I am so proud of who they are becoming.
Here’s a bit of what we get to observe regularly. This is a small snippet from our discussion last weekend that grew from reading the first two chapters of Becoming by Michelle Obama.
We touched on “Code Switching”, which is the practice of moving back and forth between two dialects. This is a common practice within the Black community. Amongst Black people, there’s a sort of unspoken knowledge of how to navigate interacting within white spaces or with members of the majority culture in order to be deemed “appropriate”, professional”, and/or “acceptable”. Here’s a great article about code switching by Yes Magazine.
Thanks for reading!