Page 1


Volume 1

LET'S TALK Butterfly Dreamz, Inc.

cultivating courageous conversations & action

Meet our Student Authors!

(c) 2020 Butterfly Dreamz, Inc. All rights reserved. ISBN 978-0-9961070-6-8 www.butterflydreamz.org


LET'S TALK Compiled by Joy Lindsay Illustrations by Jerlyn Thomas

For Kim, Evie, and Grandma Drea



1 3

EDITOR'S NOTE By Joy Lindsay

TO TOUCH THE STARS By Aminata Touray









By Fathia Bilewu

By Oyinwonuola Fasasi

By Mary Ingram

By Mekhi Addison






By Goldy Lomotey

By Chelsea Ebinum


Editor's Note This journal is designed to ignite action and cultivate courageous conversations between girls, women, and all who love us.

Dear Leader,

I am grateful that this journal found you and that it is making a new home in your leadership library.

I often remind my students that writing takes courage. It is not always easy to be vulnerable and share our stories and our truth with others. I hope that this journal ignites courageousness in you— that you're inspired to fill the blank journal pages with your most authentic self and share your truth confidently with the world. Thank you for reading this book. More importantly, thank you for being you.

Joy Lindsay


Our founder, Joy Lindsay, launched Butterfly Dreamz after losing her younger sister, Kimberly Anyce Lindsay, to gun violence. The vision started as a desire to turn Joy’s pain into purpose and preserve Kim’s legacy. Today we are much more: We are a 501(c)(3) organization that partners with community organizations, schools, and businesses to serve and employ young women. We are a network of resources that supports middle and high school girls in achieving their dreams and becoming leaders. We are a movement that inspires girls to live boldly, dream big, and fly high.


Founder & CEO


The Leadership Journal

To Touch the Stars

To Touch the Stars By Aminata Touray, 12th grade

Jupiter was asleep in my arms, and I couldn't help but stare at her freckle-clad face in amazement. She was beautiful in many ways, which I couldn't manage to explain. I stroked her dyed curly hair, hoping that it would take some type of pain away from her fragile body. On her chest lay black-and-blue bruises, the size of a softball, that ached for hours at a time. Yet her hand, with her broken pinky, sat in my mind. I rubbed her knuckles, being gentle not to press down too hard or she would flinch. How could someone so beautiful be so perfectly broken? I sighed, shaking my head at the damaged angel in my arms. I remembered how we used to laugh



together about the stupidest things, the crinkles in her eyes more apparent than ever. Her laugh was always boisterous, a squeal of happiness followed by the shaking of her shoulders, and she would then cover her mouth, fearing that she was too loud. She never laughed anymore‌. I met Jupiter by accident‌ literally. Stepping into class, I sat next to her in a rush to find a seat before other students came in. I looked at her briefly, observing from afar, before she caught my smoldering gaze and looked back. Maybe it was creepy, but staring was something normal for me. Everyone was a puzzle I tried to solve. My parents always told me it scared people off, but I couldn't help it. I always wanted to know the story behind the face. Embarrassed, I blushed bright red, looking anywhere but in her direction as I got my pencil case out of my bag. Flattening out my purple skirt, I ran my hands through my brown wavy hair, already believing I blew the chance of ever being her friend. But, to my surprise, she smiled before opening the conversation.

"Hi, I'm—," and before she could say anything, the bell rang, and a swarm of students came in, all chattering at the top of their lungs. The teacher settled them, telling everyone to pull out their schedules and make sure they're in the right class. I pulled mine out, scanning it slowly before my eyes widened. I was supposed to be in the class across the hall and dreaded the embarrassment of getting up and walking out. Jupiter glanced at my schedule, stifling back a laugh as she beckoned the teacher over to us. The teacher smiled at me, muttering something about first-day jitters before excusing me out of the classroom. As I gathered my stuff and headed for the door, I looked back at Jupiter. She waved goodbye before mouthing the word "lunchtime" and turning back to her desk. I smiled cheekily before making my grand exit and scurrying clumsily off to the class next door. "Hello, sorry, I'm late. I had to‌ go to the bathroom," I blurted out before I took my seat. I could feel each eye linger on my dark skin. My skin already turned heads, its deep melanin prompting stares everywhere I went. Yet, my dark green eyes seemed to throw people off and ignite whispers. 5

But my mind was elsewhere, going through the possibilities of lunch with the mystery girl who caught my eye. --We sat together at lunch, laughing, talking, and making crazy conspiracy theories about things we knew nothing about. It was something about her—her infectious joy that radiated through each sentence—that just made me gravitate toward her. She never once talked about my skin, and I listened to her every word, shocked at how unfazed she seemed. She was so bright when she spoke, whether we were chatting about lousy TV shows or botched surgery jobs. I never got tired of hearing her speak. When the lunch bell rang, we sighed in dissatisfaction, not wanting the conversation to end. Before we parted ways, I asked her name. "Jupiter. What's yours?" And to this, I snorted. "Saturn. Coincidence much?" I laughed. "Coincidence, indeed, my fellow planet." "Yeah, my parents are astronomers. So in their minds, naming each of us a planet made complete sense. And they probably will continue to build the solar system. I have two siblings, Mercury and Venus," I laughed, and

Jupiter joined in. From that day on, we became inseparable: two girls who were never seen without the other. I changed my schedule, having more classes with her than ever before. People coined us the "planet sisters," a phrase we didn't mind. It's funny how all these things could change... in a matter of months. --Jupiter was beautiful, but her inside was so broken. Jupiter's mom walked out of her life the previous year as if she never existed in the first place. One day, she was kissing Jupiter goodbye at school, and the next day, she was gone. Jupiter still had no idea where her mom could be. "She could be in Tanzania helping hungry children, Paris on a staycation, or Las Vegas trying to flip houses so we can be stable... and I still wouldn't understand why she left me," she said sadly. "I remember once I asked her why she named me Jupiter. Why not Becca? Ashley? Something simple." Jupiter chuckled before turning to me. "She told me she loved the universe: boundless galaxies, supernovas, the 7

bright Sun. Everything about it just fascinated her. She said by naming me Jupiter, her love would always flourish, no matter where on the planet she was. The universe would know that she loved me." The memory brought tears to Jupiter's eyes. I placed my arms around her, pulling her in tight. "Where do you think she could be out of the whole wide world?" I asked. "Maybe she left to touch the stars," she whispered. Shortly after her mother left them, her father became confused and angry. Soon, his anger would turn into drinking, only fueling more hatred. One night, he came home drunk, stumbling up the porch as he screamed his wife's name. Jupiter hurried downstairs, thinking that possibly, just possibly, her mother had come back. But as she reached the last step, her worst nightmare came to life. It started with a push, her father screaming irately as she tried to go back upstairs. "You did this to me, Monica! You left me here alone!" he shouted before grabbing Jupiter's foot and dragging her back down. "He started this! Burned me, bruised me, left his flesh and blood for dead! My protector left me a victim to his own hands! But you revived me, you made

the pain go away!" he screamed. The first blow came slowly, yet so fast that Jupiter didn't seem to remember. It came straight to the eye, blinding her for a second before she regained sight and tried to run away. "And you left me!!! You told me you would never leave like he did! NEVER HURT ME LIKE HE DID!! Stop screaming! I'M THE ONE IN PAIN!" he screeched as Jupiter begged him to stop. But he was relentless, pushing her down before doing his worst. Punch, kick, scream, repeat. Punch, kick, scream, repeat. What seemed like hours to her, but were only minutes, went by before the attack seized. He stumbled tiredly, muttering under his breath before going upstairs. His parting words hurt her the most. "Why, Monica? Why did you leave me? Why did you hurt me like my father did?" he cried out as Jupiter sat in silence. "You're worthless, Monica. You and your damn daughter," he spat before walking off to his room. Jupiter lay on the floor, shaking, not having the strength to get up and move. Tears flowed down her eyes 9

as she thought about her mom leaving her, cold on the floor at night, beaten and bruised. From the floor, she could see the moon, meeting its gaze before crying hysterically. "She told me I was her planet, her solar system. And yet, she left me‌ in the cold of the moon." --In the last few months, Jupiter had more bruises on her body than laughs that left her lips. Day by day, it seemed to get worse. From large bruises to healing wounds, Jupiter's body appeared to be the victim of a constant battle. Sometimes, as she slept, she would get nightmares—screaming at the top of her lungs, her arms flying up to guard her face. "Stop! Please don't hurt me anymore!" she yelled before I woke her up, shaking her quickly and holding her in my arms as she wept. I knew it was time. I stared at the counselor's office, taking small steps toward it, but ultimately freezing in my tracks. Conflict flooded my mind as I wondered if this was the action to take. If I walked in now, not only would her dad get taken away, but so would my best friend. I would go from

having all the planets in my solar system to having a part of it missing, possibly never to see it again. Jupiter would have no one, orbiting in space on her own, away from everything she knew. But if she wasn't saved now, she never would be. I'd wake up one day to her being gone, at the hands of an orbit that was supposed to keep her safe. Still, I felt uneasy, standing in the hallway awkwardly as I tried to make up my mind. I sighed, turning around, only to walk smack into someone. "I'm so sor—Ms. Blanco… hello," I squeaked out. "Well hello, Saturn. No worries. Were you heading to my office? I was just about to go back in," she said with a smile never leaving her face. "Actually, I was gonna come ba—," I started before she took my hand. "Oh, don't be silly. I'm always here for you," she said while guiding me to her room. A deep sigh escaped my body. I have to save you, Jupiter, I thought, before following Ms. Blanco. I must protect your rings.


--Two years later

My hands carried more than they could manage as I walked up the steps to my new dorm room. As soon as I reached the entryway, I dropped everything, plopping on the cold bed in exhaustion. "I know that it's a lot, especially with everything that has happened. But it's a new part of your life. You should enjoy it to the fullest," my mom said in an attempt to soothe me. "I know, mom... It's just that a lot has changed." Ever since that fateful day in the counselor's office, my life had altered. Jupiter had been irate; the look on her face was filled with hurt, betrayal, and anger. She had to be removed from her home immediately, and her dad was escorted away in handcuffs. Each day was a battle, from countless court cases to losing the person I cared for the most. But, since then, things had quieted down, and the man that brought her the most pain was behind bars. "It's all in the past now. You did the right thing, and I hope you know that. I'm gonna go grab the rest of your things, and I'll be back." Mom kissed my forehead before

disappearing into the hallway. After a few minutes of staring at the wall, lost in my thoughts, I decided to unpack. As I lifted one box, I couldn't help but smile at the first picture inside, which happened to be of Jupiter and me. She was sitting crosslegged, her eyes glistening with joy as she looked at the camera. Next to her was me, my head cocked back as I laughed, probably about something stupid. I held the picture in my hand, thinking back to our young, inseparable days, laughing and talking for hours. I just wanted her to touch the stars. Stuck in nostalgia, I didn't notice someone walk in. My breath got caught in my lungs, and I gasped when I saw who it was. Looking at me were those familiar brown eyes that latched onto my heart years ago. Her hair touched her back, dyed as golden brown as the day she sat in my arms. She was taller, for sure, not a bruise on her body. We stared at each other, both shocked at the probability that we would meet again. "Jupiter," I managed to get out. "Saturn," she replied quietly. "I—I missed you," I blurted out before turning completely red. She nodded slowly, remaining quiet. 13

"Jupiter… I had to. Your smile was fading each day. Your eyes held a pain that I couldn't stand to see in your face. I held you every day, and every time you left, I burst into tears at what he did to you. We were both parts of the universe… and I couldn't lose part of the universe at the hands of someone who was falling apart. Jupiter I—" She cut me off before I could finish. "Please… don't right now," she begged, and I immediately went silent. I sighed, feeling the room fill with tension I created. I already messed up before it began. I should've dropped it. I should've been quiet. "When I left there… the doctors told me I had broken ribs, bones, and immense internal trauma," she whispered. "I had therapy appointments, court dates, testimonies, and you know who I wished I could talk to all this time?" she asked. "You. "I was angry. Part of me just thought a piece of my mom was left in my dad. I didn't want to let that go. I don't hate him. He had his own demons. But, now that he's gone, I feel free. Like a depressing weight has been lifted. I can laugh again, I can walk again, I can move without feeling those aches. And I couldn't have done it

without you." I looked up at her again; the same face that brought joy to my heart was looking back at me. Teary-eyed, I smiled at her. I embraced her, giving her the warmest hug, and she returned it. The words that left her mouth meant the world to me. I had always felt bad; I thought I made the wrong call. But now... I knew. "I'm so sorry for what I said in the past. I say all of this just to say… thank you. Thank you for saving me," she blurted out. "I would do it again if it meant that I could see you this happy," I declared. --"What are you looking at, bobblehead?" Jupiter asked, and I instantly rolled my eyes at her question. "Well, I see a gorgeous dazzling star. After that… nothing much," I joked as she playfully pushed me. The planetarium became our favorite place—a sanctuary where we looked at stars and discovered new mysteries. When we met again, it was the first place we went and was our "go-to" spot ever since. Jupiter and I still had our moments, but we soon laughed together again as we used to and took the 15

adventure of college one step at a time. "Haha. You're so funny," she smiled and placed her head on my shoulder. And at once, the solar system came together, with Saturn and Jupiter finally orbiting in peace.


Domestic Violence What thoughts are in your mind after reading Jupiter's story? What emotions do you feel?


"You've got to learn to leave the table when love's no longer being served." —Nina Simone

JOURNAL Discuss the questions below with someone in your life. Then, select one question to write about in your journal. 1. What were your main takeaways from the story? 2. Can you relate to Jupiter or Saturn? If so, how? 3. Step into Saturn's shoes. Imagine you have a friend who is a victim of domestic violence. How would you support her?


The Leadership Journal

Leadership Challenge

SURVIVOR'S KIT Answer the questions below to create a Domestic Violence Survivor's Kit for a woman or girl in an abusive relationship.

Who to Call

What numbers can she call for immediate help?

Where to Go

What safe places can she go to for shelter?

Support Groups

What local support groups can she join?

Other Resources & Info What other resources and info could help her?



Leadership Talk DR.

MARISOL NORRIS Assistant Professor of Expressive Therapies Counseling, Lesley University | Founder, The Black Music Therapy Network, Inc. What is your personal mission statement as a leader? My mission is to amplify our human need for wholeness and the liberatory function of the arts to deepen our capacity for healing and transformation as individuals, families, communities, and societies.

Can you tell us about your current work and how it relates to some of the topics in this year's Leadership Journal?

At the center of my work are people and communities seeking wholeness and health. For some, that may be cultivating positive selfesteem, altering unhealthy relationship patterns, addressing trauma, practicing radical self-care, or restoring community. Through music, I help others to understand themselves more fully, make meaning of experiences, imagine, explore, and mobilize new possibilities, and shape their individual and collective stories, their freedom. In many ways, this work is connected to healing justice—working to offer holistic approaches that address life challenges and the relational, institutional, and systemic oppression that perpetuate harm and serves as barriers to healing and transformation.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in trying to achieve your organization's mission and your personal mission statement? As a leader, I sometimes experience imposter syndrome. I struggle with whether my work has value or if I have what it takes to accomplish my dreams. While my personal experience of trauma sometimes reinforces these feelings, these messages largely mirror the dominant society that would have me believe that I, with all my Black magic, am not good enough. Even with images of phenomenal women of color in our families, communities, classrooms, leadership, on YouTube and social media, I also see my students and colleagues experience this while chartering new courses, breaking down barriers, and striving towards their dreams.

How are you working to overcome these challenges? By surrounding myself with women that understand our collective struggles, love me for who I am, and aren't afraid to lift me up when I'm down, celebrate who I am and my successes, and give healthy critique. Continually fighting for gender and race-equity and working to dismantle oppression in all forms. Relentlessly pursuing my dreams, and remembering that my dreams and passion have always been bigger than my obstacles. Seeking healing and wholeness in my life. Going to therapy. Giving voice to experiences. Processing my pain. Reflecting my highs and lows and affirming wherever I am in the moment.

Advice for teen girls who are struggling? Remember, you're not alone. Many people have faced similar challenges you've faced and have overcome. Surround yourself with a community of mentors, sponsors, and friends that can help you accomplish your dreams. And when things don't fall into place (as they are frequently known to do), allow your experiences to teach you about yourself and others.

What's the best advice that you've received from another leader or mentor? Take healthy risks. Seek opportunities to learn and grow and allow yourself to rise to the occasion.

Who's your "Shero"? I can't pick just one. It's a community of women that have poured into me, enabled me to see myself, and contributed to my growth and understanding of the world around me. My mother, Carol, my younger sister, Monique, my friend, Sherisse, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, bell hooks, Zora Neale Hurston, Jamila Woods, the list goes on and on....

Learn more about Dr. Norris and her work by visiting www.blackmtnetwork.org


Meet the Author

AMINATA TOURAY Aminata Touray is a current senior at Newark Tech High School, but with a pen, she becomes more: a dedicated social activist who wants to motivate others to tell their story. As a volleyball player, a nursing assistant in the making, and a future Pulitzer Prize winner, Aminata finds herself infatuated with language and hopes to inspire others to become more open and determined to combat issues lingering in today's society.

The Leadership Journal

Diary of a Friend

Diary of a Friend By Fathia Bilewu, 12th grade

I wish I were there when she needed me. I wish I were the friend she wanted me to be. I wish I were there at that time. I wish! I wish! I wish! I cry.

These are the words I keep repeating in my head. "This is going to cause an earworm soon," I tell myself. I pick up the cause of this situation on the floor. This object is the cause of all my distress. This object is also one of the most special things in this world to me. This object has been an eye-opener. This object has made me



"craugh" (cry and laugh) so many times. This object is similar to mine. A square object with a lock on it is one of my most treasured items, and you may ask why. I remember the day we bought it together at the mall. Hers had pink and black polka dots covering both the front and back of the book, while mine had green and white polka dots. We both have the same key to symbolize our friendship. But guess what? We never actually read each other's diary because, well‌ we were still in the phase of friendship that wasn't really best friends yet: we could not trust each other with all our secrets. I was Sophie's only friend, I think, because I never saw her hang around with anybody except me. I put the key in the lock of her diary for the 106th time with dry, tear-stained cheeks. I am sure I have soiled every page of this book. I open the first page and see a large bold cursive handwriting that says, "Sophie's Diary," followed by "DO NOT TOUCH OR ELSE...!!!" I chuckle. I guess Sophie is just like me because I literally do the same thing.

I flip the page and begin reading…. --Hi guys, It's Sophie. For people who don't know me, I am just an average sixteen-year-old, nothing to worry about. I am black— straight-up black—no string of any other DNA!!! :) I have dark skin. I have curly kinky, like really kinky, hair—like the type where a tiny pick cannot even comb a string. Like, literally, I go to the hair salon, and the hairdresser really pulls me with the comb and says that I need to texturize my hair. Enough of that. I am the only child with two parents. (I mean duh.) I like barbecue sauce but not ketchup. Weird, right? Everyone tells me that. There is this tangy taste in barbecue sauce that I cannot describe, but tomato sauce is… yuck. Tastes like tomatoes and water mixed together. Anyway, that is all about me, I guess, for now. You are going to learn more about me—I mean, if you want to. I know from this description, you can tell that I am a very happy person and goofy. I mean… kinda… but…


I flip to the next page, anxiety growing in the pit of my inner stomach. --OMG!!! I got my first phone. I can't believe it. Never would I have dreamed of it. Thanks, Mom! OMG, I am so happy! Words cannot describe the amount of ecstasy flowing through me right now. Earlier, I pinched myself, literally. Like, am I in a wonderland where good things just appear suddenly? When she gave me the phone, I asked my mom to pinch me, too. And she pinched me so hard! "Ouch! That hurt," I said. "Well, you told me to pinch you," Mom replied. But not that hard. Geesh! I almost had to hold back tears after her pinch. My arm is still a little swollen.

--From my last entry, you must think that I have a very close relationship with my mom, and she is my best friend, and I tell her all my secrets and all sorts. But that is far from the case. The truth is that my mom does not know that I have been bullied since the beginning of middle school.

I am African. (I know, clichÊ, right?) If you must know, some things can or cannot be said in my household. The truth is that I am afraid of my parents. Most of the time, I want to tell them what is going on in my life, but I feel like they are going to misunderstand me. Like really, whenever I have issues or problems in class, my classmates would always tell me, "Sophie, go talk to your mom and dad about it." But, in my head, I am always like, "You guys have cool parents. You would not know how it feels." I remember when I was a kid and told my parents that I wanted to be a businesswoman, even though I never really knew what that meant at that time. Then the unexpected happened—they started yelling, scolding, and nagging at me. I remember my mom's exact words. "Do you think you could make it in life by being a businesswoman?" My dad interjected and said, "Sophie, don't you see my friend's kid who said that he wants to be an engineer? Why can't you be like that, huh??" Then they kept on comparing me, on and on and on, till they got tired. I remember going to my room, crying myself to sleep, having thoughts in my head no 31

teenager should have. Then, a week later, they came to me and just said, "Sophie wa je ka soro. (We need to talk.)" I followed them into the living room, and we all sat down. I started feeling nauseated. My stomach felt uneasy. I kept zoning out, and each time they spoke, I just nodded my head because, in my culture, you are not supposed to look at "someone older than you" in the eye while they are speaking to you. But I am 100% sure that one thing I heard from them was, "O les se ikan to ba wuen a ma support e. (You can do whatever you want, and we will support you.)" Then I felt terrible because I knew that they were not saying this from their heart, but saying this to make me feel guilty about it and change my decision. It did not take much thinking for me to decide that I would pursue a career in law. I made up my mind to do whatever they wanted and how they wanted me to do it. (I know I am just babbling. Sorry.) :( ---

I mean, I am the girl with excellent grades, number one in my school. I play four instruments; I am the president of three clubs, and I play multiple sports. I am everything a mother would wish for in her daughter. But the dark part about this is that nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. All they see are my "sweet" parents collecting at least a bunch of awards at every award ceremony. Seeing smiles and laughter everywhere sickens me. Parents ask me, "OMG! How do you do this?!" They ask my parents all sorts of things, like how they were able to raise such a "perfect daughter." And there I am fakesmiling all night, having no friend to talk to because my only close friend decided to ditch me for popularity. And then, there are people making fun of me for being a nerd without any social life. I try to be on my best behavior, but no one knows what happened hours ago. I repeat; no one knows!!!!!! --This is not the first time I tried it, nor was it the second time. I opened the white bottle this time and gulped all the contents without water, hoping it would do the job. This time I felt dizzy. 33

Before I could even blink my eye, the door was unlocked, and the uneasiness became stronger. This time it was worse than before. This time, it felt as if I was caught doing something wrong. (I mean, I kinda was.) Here we go again, I said in my head. My mom started yelling and screaming at me, "What are you doing?!!! Why haven't you washed the dishes? And done all your chores!!!" My head felt as if all the construction workers were hammering a nail continuously in a loop. Before I knew it, she disappeared and appeared again with the object of pain. Things just kept on happening fast. First came one lash, and then came another, then another, and, before I knew it, I just screamed and fell on the ground with a loud thud. BOOM! I just know today is the day—the day I will be free. Free from all pain. Free from all bullies. Free from life. Free from death. Free from my soul and body. I had planned everything from start to finish, from the moment my alarm rang, to the moment it happened. And you may ask why I did it. The truth is that I am tired. I am tired of the pressure. I

am tired of the comparison. I am tired of the pain inside. And, most importantly, I am tired of living in a place where I do not feel a sense of belonging. I just want to let it all out. I have no other way, nobody to listen—not even my ex-friend, nor my mom, nor my dad, nor my teachers: no one!!!! And you ask me WHY?! WHY!!!



Suicide & Friendship What thoughts are in your mind after reading Sophie's story? What emotions do you feel?


"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." —Alice Walker

JOURNAL Discuss the questions below with someone in your life. Then, select one question to write about in your journal. 1. What were your main takeaways from the story? 2. Can you relate to Sophie? If so, how? 3. Do you think things would have turned out differently for Sophie if the narrator was a better friend? Why or why not?


The Leadership Journal

Leadership Challenge

FRIEND SCENARIOS Think about the scenarios listed and write how you would respond to each one. Discuss your responses with your best friend.


I would respond by...

Your friend is cyberbullying another student in your school.


I would respond by...

Your friend is insecure about how she looks. She doesn't feel beautiful.

SCENARIO 3 Your friend just started dating someone you really dislike.

Write your own:


I would respond by...

I would respond by...


Leadership Talk CATHLEEN MEREDITH WRITER. INFLUENCER. IGNITOR. FATGIRLSDANCE™ What is your personal mission statement as a leader?

Ignitor of Possibility & Positivity. Writer of Underserved & Unheard Voices. Influencer of Powerful, Radical & Authentic Revolution.

Can you tell us about your current work and how it relates to confidence, self-love, and advocacy?

Most women—specifically women of color (WOC)—are educated, socialized, and conditioned to think of this world as limited. Expect nothing. Keep your head down, and that chip firmly planted on your shoulder. I enjoy lighting the fire of rebellion and revolution in women. I love teaching lessons on confidence, fearlessness, and power. I love explaining that not everyone is going to like it, but that's half the fun. I love changing the world through the arts: writing, dance, and spoken word. I love educating women that confidence and self-love are the strongest weapons in our toolkit against the patriarchy.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in trying to achieve your organization's mission and your personal mission statement? I do a lot of work around body positivity and fat activism. My greatest challenge is convincing the world that the mistreatment of fat people is actually negative. That we live in a world where fat jokes are still totally acceptable and "funny." That fat people do "choose" to be fat is considered a "fact." Shaming us is NOT a healthy, productive, or solution-based way to fight the obesity epidemic, but no one sees that. My biggest problem is convincing the world—even convincing fat people—that there actually IS a problem.

How are you working to overcome these challenges? Persistence. Resilience. Education. Magnifying my voice. Social media. Public speaking. I spoke in front of a room of 500 doctors and weight loss surgeons, and after presenting the evidence and the science, I even changed THEIR minds and biases. At this point, I've talked to hundreds of thousands of people about body positivity and its role in fighting the obesity epidemic. There isn't a single person I've spoken to who's mind wasn't changed by my message. Ultimately, I overcome these challenges because I am relentless, and I believe in my work. I keep going.

Advice for teen girls who are struggling? Fat or not, all women are socialized to hate their bodies. So the first thing I would tell a teen girl is she's not alone. After that, it's just like any healthy relationship: time, communication, and fun. Spend time with your body. Stare at your body in the mirror. Move your body. Say loving and affirming things to your body, even when she changes. Do cartwheels, swim, jump on trampolines, and dance. The more fun you have with her, the more you love her.

What's the best advice that you've received from another leader or mentor? It was a blog by Mark Manson. He says: What we want is ubiquitous: love, financial stability, a great career. It's more about HOW MUCH PAIN are we willing to SUSTAIN to get it? Anything worth having takes sustained pain: Great love = lots of lonely nights before we find the one. Great career = lots of hard work, sacrifice, possibly going broke. Figure out what is worth the PAIN, calculate that cost. Don't say you want this dream if you aren't ready to bleed for it. It's a reality check I live by before pursuing any goal.

Who's your "Shero"? Shonda Rhimes

Learn more about Cathleen and her work by visiting www.fatgirlsdance.com 45

Meet the Author

FATHIA BILEWU Fathia Bilewu has always loved writing and reading stories since forever. She has written more than a handful of stories and is working towards publishing a novel. Originally born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Fathia now resides in the United States, drinking hot cocoa whilst trying to write 50,000 words in a month. "No, seriously."

The Leadership Journal

Helping Hand

Helping Hand By Oyinwonuola Fasasi, 11th grade

The boy sat at a bench with his piercing blue eyes, glancing at the world around him. Leaves rustled while a local live band played in the background, their voices blending into the light spring air.   The last time I saw him was four months ago, around the beginning of the school year.   Okay, so that was a lie.  The actual last time I saw him was around two months ago. I caught him by the front of our school, with us both being juniors, and approached him with a friendly, “Hey man! Long time no talk and all… but every time I see you, I kinda get ignored? What’s up with that? If anything, it



seems like you hate me.” And then I laughed a laugh that contained, probably, an inappropriate amount of awkwardness. I think, at that moment, was where I made my mistake. He glared at me with what I believe was venom and said I should stop making assumptions. Then the boy turned on his heels and quickly stomped away from my sight. The very first time I met with the boy, though, was nothing too special. We bumped into each other in the old bookstore that was plopped right next to Annie’s Smoothie Shop. With a near-immediate liking for each other, he sat me down on the dainty chair outside, one small bowl of acai goodness in each of our hands. He explained that he’d just moved to our little town of Omaha, Nebraska, and had seen me around our high school once or twice. We sat and talked about the most mediocre things imaginable, and, yet, for some reason, it was one of the best conversations I think I’ve ever had. Looking back at it, I’m pretty sure he only mentioned his name about twice, and, although we exchanged numbers at the time, getting a new phone a week later almost ensured our short-lived friendship. And now, as I stared at his beaten, bruised body on the

side pavement behind a run-down theater, I couldn't help but think of the image of the boy I once knew. How could things have gotten this twisted? --The dim fluorescent lights and the gruesome stench of both hand sanitizer and old people did nothing to ease my worries. Shadows cast by those same lights fell over my once perfectly tousled locks, now disheveled by the shaky hands that ran through them. My hooded eyes left no tears to shed, and I had only myself to blame as more than a million thoughts raced through my mind. There was no way that I couldn’t self-destruct and blame myself, especially not when I could’ve done something— anything, really—though, funny enough, I couldn’t. My brain told me to move: dash my way to him and help as best as I could, but my body all but screamed the opposite. Nerves buzzing, hairs standing, and body shaking, I stood. And now, I have to find a way to help. “Nikolai? Nikolai Richardson?” said a voice right above me. “You’re here to see the patient, I presume?” I looked up to see a woman donned in a white coat, signifying she was yet another person who helped him even when I couldn’t. I cast my eyes downward before 49

nodding a solemn yes and was then taken to his room. I wasn’t quite sure what to say to him, nor if it was my place to say anything at all. In my gut was a strong, tugging feeling, though, one that wouldn’t let me breathe properly until I had made it right. And with that, I knocked. My hand flew to cover my mouth as I staggered back at what was before me. In the right corner of the room was the stranger, rocking back and forth in a child-like manner, his hands spazzing as though he’d just been electrified. Bits of white vomit were splattered in a trail from the bed to where he was, and, as my brain finally decided to stop lagging and process more, I noticed the nurse kneeling next to him, holding two hesitant fingers near his trembling lips where tears and yellowish-green snot mixed together to become one. My eyes darted anywhere, everywhere, desperate to get more clues before they landed firmly on an opened bottle of medicine on the table near his bed. I was just about to lean in and take my first step into the room before I felt him. Jaded, hooded eyes weighing not only my body but also my soul down. I locked eyes in an attempt to gauge his emotions.

“You.” The gasp that escaped from my lips was like none other. I wanted to say everything at once, but I found it damningly hard to verbalize what that everything was. He took my silence as a sign of acknowledgment, and I took his one-word proclamation as confirmation that he remembered who I was and maybe even of the little camaraderie we’d shared that spring day. I hoped he salvaged some sense of friendship and translated it into mercy, despite the betrayal that might have stained it earlier today. A drug deal went wrong. He couldn’t cough up enough money for his fix and received due punishment as per street conduct. What earned another wave of shock, other than the fact that the bright-eyed boy was using, was that my cousin was his dealer, alongside some goonies he called friends. And so, when my hand flew to my phone to dial the police and get help, I hesitated. This was my cousin: the guy I’d grown up with, who made ratchet sandwiches out of everything with me before fake picnics out in the yard, while our mothers gossiped in the kitchen. I didn’t want him getting in any sort of trouble and found myself torn between my love for him 51

and justice for the boy who shouldn’t have to endure such pain. In between my battle between earnestness and loyalty, I locked eyes with the boy who seemed to have had his on me the entire time, and it was then that I knew he knew. He knew I could have helped him, knew I may have been the only one who ever really could, but didn’t. And now I have to make it up to him. By this time, I’d mustered enough courage to walk into the room and assist the nurse in helping him back up and onto his bed. He was slipping in and out of consciousness, easing into his own little slumber that I hoped was blessed by only pleasant dreams. Right before he dozed off, his hand searched for mine and, when his mission was accomplished, he gave a tight squeeze that had my eyes welling for the umpteenth time that day. It was later, in the seats of the waiting room, that the nurse filled me in on his situation, assuming we were at least close friends. He apparently had no real family, living in a group home for boys after failed CPS attempts at placing him in a good, decent foster home. He’d fended for himself pretty well, from what they could drag out of him, and testing revealed that he had only started

using about two months ago and was on a steady path to addiction if someone did not intervene. Even I was annoyed at the seemingly unstoppable bounce of my knees after that. The nurse advised me to go home, since it was much later and darker by then, and promised to let me be one of the first people she’d alert if anything happened. With that, I called an Uber and trudged my way into my home into the arms of a mother, not only worried but angry. “How in the world did you forget to call, Niko?” she exclaimed, throwing her hands up every which way. The bags beneath her eyes were glistening, stained with tears and anxiousness. A bone-aching sob left my body almost cathartically at that moment, and I explained to her just how much I had messed up. Here was a situation with a boy, no older in age than I was, who just needed some help. At a time when I could have exercised acute compassion, I hesitated. And now, being given a second chance to help, I wasn’t sure what to do and how to do it, and the overbearing weight of that sent chills down my neck. My mother looked at me, love and admiration in her 53

eyes, before speaking. “One of the best things a parent could have is a kind, compassionate soul for a child, Niko, and I am so grateful every day to have been so lucky. This conflict you’re feeling, this tug of war in your heart, that’s normal. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel this way, but I want you to be able to look at this from the best possible angle. You listening, mamas?” She paused, and I looked up, soaking every word in. “In no way will you beat yourself up over what has happened and what will happen. What you have on your hands is delicate, so know that while it is good to help, you are no superhero. Help and help and help while you reasonably can, and the minute you feel it starts to exhaust you, consume you, and weigh you down, fall back. There is an extent to which you can feel responsible for others, try as others might say there isn’t, and I don’t want you to ever push beyond that extent and spiral out.” I looked down at her freshly bitten nails, knowing that all she said came from not only a place of love but wisdom. She was, in many ways, right, and I knew that to approach this and approach it well, I would have to be open, but cautious.

“And as for your cousin, I’ll definitely be calling his mother to let her know the type of nonsense he’s getting himself into. Don’t you dare feel bad, either, about getting him into trouble. This is the consequence of his actions and not yours,” she said sternly, and I knew from the glint in her eyes that everything would work itself out in the end, one way or another. That conversation supplied me with enough grit to walk into Adam’s room the next morning with some freshly baked goods and toiletries my mother helped me gather. He watched as I set things down, fiddling before I zoned in on him, voice shaking but eyes unwavering. “I know that I may be the last person you’d ever want to see here, now, standing right in front of you. But I am. And I’m offering help—not pity. Help. I’m in this as much as you are, Adam, and as long as it’s within my limits, I want to be able to do right for you. So tell me that you’re in. Tell me that you’re okay with that.” Slowly he nodded, a ghost of a smile upon his face, and I knew this road to recovery, although bumpy and rough around the edges, would be a rewarding one.



Substance Abuse

What thoughts are in your mind after reading Niko's story? What emotions do you feel?


"It isn't where you came from; it's where you're going that counts." —Ella Fitzgerald

JOURNAL Discuss the questions below with someone in your life. Then, select one question to write about in your journal. 1. What were your main takeaways from the story? 2. Can you relate to Niko and/or Adam? If so, how? 3. What do you think of Niko's mother's advice? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?



The Leadership Journal

Leadership Challenge

HELPING HAND Find an organization or support group in your community that helps individuals who struggle with substance abuse. Contact them and find out how you can support their work. Use the sample questions below to guide your conversation.

I read about the work you all are doing on your website, and I'd love to learn more about how I can support. Is there someone I can speak to about potential volunteer opportunities?

I have a community service idea that I think may help your clients and/or staff. Can I have a few minutes of your time to discuss the idea and get your feedback on it?

I love the work you're doing! Our Student Council is looking to partner with organizations to better support students in our school who struggle with substance abuse. Could we chat one day next week about potential ways we can collaborate?



Leadership Talk BRIANNA RODGERS Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, Capstone Treatment Center What is your personal mission statement as a leader?

In a nutshell, I work with individuals and families to do the head and heart work to achieve wholeness.

Can you tell us about your current work and how it relates to some of the topics in this year's Leadership Journal?

Through my work with ministry, my non-profit organization, and my therapeutic career, I have seen how these issues (addiction, low self-confidence, and depression/mental health challenges) can impact people. Where most just see the surface behavior, I see a person hurting and in need of help and healing through community, consistency, self-care, and accountability.

Advice for teen girls who are struggling?

For a girl dealing with addiction, tell a trusted adult and ask for help. Identify enablers and remove yourself from them. For a girl struggling with a lack of confidence/self-love, take a moment to think back to the confident little beautiful babygirl you believed you were before anyone ever told you that you were not...that girl is STILL in you. Write down positive affirmations about yourself and say them daily. For depression and mental health, please talk to your school counselor and/or guardian(s). Ask to see a therapist that looks like you.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in trying to achieve your organization's mission and your personal mission statement?

The biggest challenge I face in trying to work with others on their journey to healing is getting others to believe they are worthy and capable of living a whole, fulfilling, and purposeful life independent of toxic habits and thought patterns.

How are you working to overcome these challenges?

I am working to overcome this challenge by meeting people exactly where they are, working with them to set realistic goals, healthy boundaries, and doing the hard work of peeling back the layers—one by one—to address and remove contributors to the presenting issue. I am working to overcome this challenge by normalizing the discussion of these issues and having the courage to address them in platforms such as this. What's the best advice that you've received from another leader or mentor?

Please don’t minimize the power of your words just because they’re yours. Your voice matters. Who's your "Shero"? My late mom, Susan W. Rodgers Learn more about Brianna and her work by visiting www.briannarodgers.com. 65

Meet the Author

WONU FASASI Oyinwonuola, Wonu for short, Fasasi is a current junior at Science Park High School. Between being in and managing sports teams, coaching for her middle school’s debate team, sitting in Student Leadership meetings, and being a teenager, finding time to write is always tricky. Yet, when she does, she finds herself more fulfilled than ever, telling a story in a way only she can.

The Leadership Journal

Home Is Where the Dream Is

Home Is Where the Dream Is By Mary Ingram, 12th grade

My brother, Jay, has always been the star of the show. Being the intelligent one, he is nothing less than the apple of my parents' eyes. Me, Jayda, I am far from average. I'm below it. Jay was able to block out the memories, but I can't. I still remember those big red letters that spelled out EVICTION—the embarrassment of all our belongings laid out on the curb for the entire neighborhood to see—the weeks of living out of our car before Mom swallowed her pride and asked aunt Lisa to take us in—Mom begging. The memories wake me up every morning and haunt me every night.



I guess it's easy to block out a memory when you don't have to live through it. While my parents and I were living out of our car, Jay was living on his fancy campus. My parents couldn't pay for us to be in a new home because they were paying for Jay to be in medical school. Aunt Lisa's one-bedroom apartment is more spacious than our van, and, because of that, my parents say I should be grateful. They say it's our home. To me, it feels like our trap. "You have a big day today, Jayda," Mom says with a smile. Her soft voice breaks my train of thought. I look up from my breakfast plate and give her a weak smile back. She really went all out to make today feel special— pancakes, bacon, eggs, and a big glass of OJ, my favorite. Mom knows she can cook and that I love to eat. "This is a sacred moment for us as parents," Dad chimes in, as he takes out his phone and snaps a picture of me in my ironed and starched uniform. My parents are excellent at pretending. They never bring up the eviction or the fact that the three of us share Aunt Lisa's living room as our bedroom. They just focus

on "the positive," as Dad says—that they've raised one doctor and a future lawyer. After breakfast, Dad drops me off at school for what he calls "The Big Meeting." My nerves are going and going like a whirlwind. I open the door to Mr. Cole's office, and I'm shocked immediately. I imagined being interviewed by a Caucasian man, but I guess I was wrong. Mr. Cole is a Black, bearded man about the same age as my dad. "Hi, Jayda. You can sit right here. My name is Mr. Cole, and I will be your college advisor from now on. We're going to just do some assessments to put the best college plan together for you." As we talk, I feel like I can open up to Mr. Cole, but I'm still cautious not to reveal everything. I don't tell him about my internship last summer at New Hope Fertility or about how I fell in love with the job and dream about being a fertility nurse almost every day. Instead, I tell him what I've rehearsed with my parents countless times: "I want to be a lawyer." Mr. Cole doesn't seem to believe me because he asks me if I've considered any other career. Eventually, I share with him that I actually want to be a nurse, but I can't 69

because nurses are like McDonald's workers to my parents. He suggests that I "sleep on it." I wish I could tell him that I can't sleep on anything because I don't have a bedroom or even a bed, and my memories keep me up at night. I leave my session with Mr. Cole and head straight to the career day program that's scheduled for today. I swear this school always finds a way to keep us reminded that the future is not that far away. When I walk into the auditorium, guess whose brother I see on the panel. Mine! Why does Jay always have to appear everywhere I am, like a reminder that he's "the best?" Sitting down next to my best friend, Hazel, we both roll our eyes at the thought of Jay talking for the next two hours. "My parents dedicated everything to my college... I'm a successful doctor now‌." If you're so successful, you would have helped your parents get another home, right, Jay? But you didn't. You left us living in Aunt Lisa's tiny apartment, living like permanent guests. Jay offers me a ride home, but I politely decline. Instead, I go over to Hazel's house until six. When I return home, I'm greeted at the door by my

mother. "Oh, honey, come in. Your brother is here." I roll my eyes and follow Mom into the kitchen, where I find Jay telling my dad about career day. My dad turns to me and says proudly, "That's going to be you soon, Jayda! Sharing with everyone about your career as a lawyer." Something strikes a nerve. I don't know if it's my dad's excitement, Jay's presence, or my conversation from earlier today with Mr. Cole. I can't hold it in any longer. Now is the time to tell them what I've had the urge to say for the longest. "No, Dad. I'm not. I want to be a fertility nurse and go to Duke University for nursing." My dad throws down his wine glass. I have never seen him so angry. "Baby, calm down. Let's talk to Jayda," my mom attempts to quiet his rage. "No, Lauryn, you don't understand. I have ruined my whole life for these kids. Look at us. In Lisa's house living like savages. Just for her to say that she wants to be some fertility nurse." I now take a breath I didn't even know I was holding. Out of my seventeen years of living, I have never seen my 71

dad so angry. But why? Why is he mad? This is my life! "Now, you stop it, Charlie!" Aunt Lisa charges in the kitchen. "You know the real reason why y'all got evicted, so stop lying to Jayda and yourself. Those kids are not to blame for your gambling!" Gambling? I'm so confused. I look over to Jay, and he seems as lost as I am. The argument between my dad and aunt escalates quickly into a screaming match, with my mom playing referee. My heart crashes. I feel myself losing my balance, so I sit down. I've never seen my father in this light. I feel lied to. The home I called my own was torn away from me for a gambling addiction? "I'm going to be a fertility nurse!" I shout loudly, silencing the argument. "I have been pulled and twisted from everything, but, during my internship, I found comfort. I felt as if I finally had a home again, and I can't let that go. I refuse to let that go. I wouldn't be able to function right if I let that go." Everyone just sits in silence. As we end the night, I know without a doubt that I, Jayda Marie Bryant, will be going to Duke University School of Nursing to pursue a career as a certified fertility nurse.


Family Life & Homelessness What thoughts are in your mind after reading Jayda's story? What emotions do you feel?


"When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don't speak out ain't nobody going to speak out for you." —Fannie Lou Hamer

JOURNAL Discuss the questions below with someone in your life. Then, select one question to write about in your journal. 1. What were your main takeaways from the story? 2. Can you relate to Jayda? If so, how? 3. How has Jayda's family life and homelessness impacted other areas of her life?



The Leadership Journal

Leadership Challenge

CREATING A HOME Fill the inside of the house with words that describe a positive home and family life. Ask someone who lives with you to do the same. Then, discuss the similarities and differences between your houses.



Leadership Talk NANCY HICKS Deputy Director, Isaiah House What is your personal mission statement as a leader?

My mission is to lead, develop, motivate, and empower others to create the life they want for themselves. I strive to educate other professionals on the changing face of homelessness. Can you tell us about your current work and how it relates to some of the topics in this year's Leadership Journal?

In my profession, the cause of some families' homelessness is due to an addiction, fleeing from an abusive relationship, and dealing with depression, which can be due to mental illness, etc. Homelessness does not discriminate; it can affect anyone, at any given time. At Isaiah House, my teammates and I strive to be the "shelter from the storm." We do not judge people for their decisions, but we strive to teach them how they can improve their circumstances moving forward. This way, when the "storm" is over, they are able to make better decisions to prevent themselves from becoming homeless again.

Advice for teen girls who are struggling? Your happiness and your future is YOUR responsibility. Once you recognize that all you need to overcome anything is inside of you, you will be unstoppable. Never lose confidence in your ability to create the story YOU want to tell others of your journey. Make it a story that will inspire others.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in trying to achieve your organization's mission and your personal mission statement? As budgets shrink at the local, state, and national levels, there are fewer funds year after year to sustain the agency operations. Decreasing resources are challenging as it leads to limited staff with larger caseloads and sometimes, the closure of essential community programs. Another challenge we face when trying to achieve our mission is limited housing resources. Increasingly families, especially those including women and children, are homeless. With rent prices increasing annually, adequate and affordable housing difficult to find, eviction records, and minimum wage jobs not providing enough for basic necessities, it becomes a serious challenge to transition families out of the shelter.

How are you working to overcome these challenges? My Executive Director worked to develop a Board of Directors that is passionate about helping the homeless population we serve. We are working collaboratively to find creative solutions to establish new funding streams and carefully manage our funds. We create ways to provide the same level of care to the residents with a smaller budget; we think outside of the box yet still solution-focused. We also establish relationships in the community with landlords and private homeowners, to give our residents the opportunity to transition out of the shelter into their own housing unit.

What's the best advice that you've received from another leader or mentor? My mentor and Soror in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Ms. Tiffani Blake, said to me, "Every decision you make should lead to your ultimate goal." Who's your "Shero"? My Nana, the late Rev. Nancy Sinceno, and my mother, Michele Hicks.

Learn more about Nancy and her work by visiting www.isaiahhouse.org. 81

Meet the Author

MARY INGRAM Mary Ingram is not only a writer but a devoted student and a phenomenal businesswoman. Born in Newark, she is nothing like ordinary. While also being dedicated to woman and girl advocacy, Mary spends her time finding ways to bring awareness to the many problems middle and high school girls face.

The Leadership Journal

Inside, Out, In Between

Inside, Out, In Between By Mekhi Addison, 11th grade

October 12, 2019 “You can stay the way you are, you can keep all the feelings bottled up until you explode, or you can go get the help you need.”

Last week, I made a choice. I stared deeply into my reflection in the mirror and said it was time to make a choice. I chose to finally say something, to take a stand. I chose to see a therapist, and now I’m here with you. Blank pages. All the pages in this book are blank. 450 pages of undiscovered territory that she expects me to fill with the ideas that crawl back and forth through my



brain—a brain clogged with thoughts on why the world works this way, and why this happens instead of what I expect to happen. Thoughts on this boy and that girl, and why I can’t seem to find love. When I first got you, I didn't know where to start, so I decided to begin with The Day. The Day when everything changed forever. The Day I decided to be honest. What if changing doesn’t make me feel any more human? What if I lose all the people who love me the way I am? What if I don’t like boys anymore? Would it make me gay if I still did? And now I’m here alone with you. A book filled with pages where all my scrambled thoughts will go. As I sit here, I feel an odd cloud over me, the same awkward feeling I’ve felt most of my life. Disembodiment. An object filled with organs that dance within their shell. A social construct: girl. For so long I’ve been told what I am, who I am, but never once was I asked who I wanted to be. I’ve allowed my outer being, this cover-up, to define me as something I’m not and never will be. Despite this, I know one thing: I am lost. ~Tia’Marie

October 15, 2019 My family has never been easy to deal with, but my older sister has always been the one person I could rely on to give me good advice. I tried to find the right words to describe how I’ve been feeling lately, and I prepared for the conversation in my head before going to her house. I was supposed to bring up how I’ve been depressed and how I feel like I have nobody to talk to about my feelings because I don’t want to feel dismissed. I was supposed to tell her that I feel like I’m drowning, even though everyone around me is breathing, and that it feels like I’ve lost myself in a crowd filled with people who look just like me but aren’t me. I was supposed to tell her that even when my lips say, “I’m fine, thank you,” my eyes tell a different story, my heart sings a different tune, and my soul just weeps for someone to notice my pain, but no one ever does. I wanted to explain to her that people think depression is sadness; they think depression is crying and dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is a constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to life. You wake up in the


morning just to go to bed again. I wanted to tell her all these things, but when I got to her, I couldn’t speak up. I couldn’t find any of these words to say. They were all lost in the midst of the moment. After searching for so long, I just gave up and went to the bathroom because I couldn’t take sitting there, knowing that I wasn’t okay, but not knowing how to say it. When I looked in the mirror I saw somebody that I didn’t recognize. Somebody I didn’t know. I looked in the mirror and did not see the reflection of the person I was deep down inside. I saw somebody that the world saw as weak, that belonged in a house taking care of her husband and children, someone who wasn’t fit for the job because they were born a girl. I couldn’t find myself. No matter how hard I tried, nothing was there. ~Tia

October 16, 2019 I went to go see Natalie today, my therapist, the lady who told me I should use you. I told her all the stuff I tell you and more, but sometimes I feel as though the things I talk about aren’t that important. I feel like

telling her about every little thing that bothers me or that every single thing that makes me feel uncomfortable with myself is a waste of her time. Today we talked about how my mother always told me I should have been born a boy. She’d always say boys are much easier to take care of. No having to do hair, no having to get dressed up, no boyfriends, no worrying about getting attention from grown men at the age of 13, no attitudes, no periods, no girl hormones that make you emotional. I guess those are things parents don’t have to worry about when they have boys. Natalie asked me how my mother’s remarks made me feel. I told her they confused me; they made me reject myself as a girl. My mother’s remarks made me feel as if I didn’t belong in this body, and I began to internalize everything that she said to me. I told her that I don’t really believe I am supposed to be a girl, that I was truly placed in the wrong body and labeled the wrong sex when I was born. Natalie asked me if I feel rejected by my family for being a girl. I told her yes. My brothers were always treated differently: they were nurtured and loved. Me, I was isolated. I was treated as


an outsider, as if I didn’t belong, like I was a mistake. My brothers didn’t play with me like I was a girl; they played rough, as if I were their size. I never got to play dress up or have a tea party with my stuffed animals. I never owned a Barbie Dreamhouse like all my other girlfriends. I never got to paint my room pink, although pink was never my favorite color. I never got to sit between my mother’s legs and get my hair twisted and clipped with little rainbow barrettes at the ends. I never got the chance to feel like a girl. Before we ended our session, Natalie asked, “Let’s say you choose to transition; whom are you doing it for? Why are you making this change? Are you doing it for you, or are you doing it because you want to be accepted by your family and those around you? Think about that, and we’ll talk about it next time I see you.” That was never a question I asked myself until now. I guess I have lots of thinking to do. ~Tia’Marie

October 17, 2019 Being in school every day is absolutely grueling. Having to wake up every morning to the stupid baby blue walls of my room is probably worse. I used to be at the top of my class and be one of the best students in every subject, but ever since this rollercoaster began, I’ve felt far below average. My grades aren’t suffering that much—at least not yet—but I’ve stopped doing my homework, and I’m beginning not to participate much in class. At lunch, I sit with my best friend, Lexi, and all my other friends, but I don’t speak. I just sit and draw or write. Lex doesn’t really notice my lack of engagement in the conversation since she’s wrapped up with her new friend, Kianna, who transferred to our school. She and Kianna were friends before we all went to the same school, so now they’re close, I guess. Anyway, I wanted to tell Lexi about my whole gender crisis and maybe wanting to transition from a girl to maybe nonbinary, meaning not identifying with a gender at all, but I’m not sure if that will free me from the emotional distress I’m experiencing. She barely notices me, though. It’s like


we’re not even best friends anymore. Maybe she’s going through her own things at home. Even if that’s the case, why wouldn’t she tell me? We used to tell each other everything. Did I do something wrong? Maybe she’s more interested in what Kianna has to tell her now. Maybe I've gotten boring, but the bottom line is I need her now more than ever. I don’t think I can get through this without a real friend by my side. What should I do? ~Tia

October 22, 2019 It feels like it’s been a minute since I’ve been here. Not much has changed, but now I at least have something to get off my chest. About two days ago, I told Lexi how I felt, you know, not like a girl. All she said was, “What do you mean? You wanna be a boy?” I told her I didn’t know what I wanted; I just knew how I felt, and that’s all I could explain. I didn’t tell her about the depression and anxiety part because I thought it’d be too much for her to digest all at once. I thought she might at least ask why I felt that way, or what I felt like, or how she could help, but she just said, “Wow, that’s kinda weird.”

That’s it.

Honestly, when I think about it, I might have dropped a huge bomb on her, and I knew that she wouldn’t know how to react because what do you say to your best friend whom you’ve known to be a female your whole life and who then comes to you one day telling you she might want to become a boy? Shoot, I wouldn’t know what to say either, so I can’t blame her for the reaction. I still can’t help but think how she feels about the whole situation, though. We haven’t spoken since then because she keeps avoiding me. She doesn’t sit with me at lunch anymore, we don’t walk to class together, and every time I try to talk to her, she just walks away in the opposite direction. I guess I should give her some time to think. This does affect her, too, but I wish we could just communicate. Maybe we’ll talk soon. ~Tia’Marie


October 24, 2019 Notes for next session with Natalie: When I was in the 7th grade, I was touched inappropriately by one of my mother’s employees the night she came to watch me and help make dinner. I never told my mother about it, since she probably wouldn’t have believed me anyway. Her name was Camila Wells, but she told me to call her Auntie Cami because she and my mom were close. That night, my mom went out to get my brothers from practice and left me in the house with Camila to start making dinner. I guess my “aunt” saw this as the perfect opportunity for what she called “female bonding” or a “girls’ night,” depending on the time of day. She took me to my room and kissed me on the shoulder, telling me how well-endowed I was for a 12year-old. She made me touch her and do other things that I can never forget. I didn’t sleep that night. I couldn’t, after what had happened. I didn’t even go back to the kitchen to eat, and when my mom came home, she peeked in to see if I was asleep, closing the door on her way out. Little did she know I was awake the whole time. I was up all night trying to figure out

why somebody who was supposed to be like family would make me do those things to her and why she did them to me. I kept asking myself why a woman would want to do such things to someone they considered family. Why would a woman want to do those things to another girl? Our “bonding” continued for about six months before she moved to a different state for a new job. Before her departure, she gave me a gold bracelet that said, “Auntie Cami and Tia Forever.” I never wore it, but I could never bring myself to throw it out. What I went through confused me. It made me question who I was, and it still contributes to my gender dysphoria: the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex. ~Tia

October 27, 2019 Today felt off from the very start. From the very moment I opened my eyes, I knew something was going to go wrong. It was the thickness of the atmosphere


that signaled I should just stay home and hide out, but I ignored the signs and got up anyway. I looked in the mirror as I did every day: with repugnance. I can’t stand seeing my curly brown hair growing toward the sun like weeds and almond brown eyes that make other girls stare in awe when they first meet me. I loathe my wide, round hips that others tell me go perfectly with my thick thighs. I can’t forget the one thing that attracts the most attention: the huge muscles that sit on the lower part of my back. Yes, I hate the fact that I have the butt every girl dreams of. After finally getting dressed, I walked out the house trying as hard as possible to blend in—to what, I don’t know. Every day, I walk down streets filled with catcalls and thirsty grown men pointing out every attribute that makes up my being. When I finally made it to school today, my entire world burst like glass under pressure. As I approached my locker, a large crowd of people started to form, taking pictures, looking at me, laughing. The wave of people continued to grow. Lexi was there, too, just standing there, and, when I walked up, I saw it:  

“TRANNY” spray-painted vertically in enormous red letters on my locker. Every ounce of blood in my body rushed through my veins, and tears blurred my vision as I gazed at the new school artifact. More than anything, at that moment, I felt embarrassed. Who would do that? How would they know if I only told Lexi? Did she tell someone? All my worst nightmares were coming true…. ~Tia’Marie

October 30, 2019 I walk the halls of school like a shadow creeping through the night, ever since the whole locker thing happened. I haven’t been able to look anyone in the eye, so I just keep to myself. I eat lunch in the bathroom and sit in the back corner in class and go straight home at the end of the day. I never told my parents about the locker, and the school didn’t do anything about it, either. I guess that’s a good thing for now. I didn’t want them to find out about me because I hardly know about myself; how would I even explain? I’m not ready for their response, anyway, because, if it’s going to be negative, I 95

might as well avoid it altogether. I know it seems like I’m rambling every time we talk, but my brain is always scrambled. I never know what to say, so I just write whatever I feel and think at the moment. Then again, I’m not sure why I’m apologizing to a book. ~Tia’Marie

October 31, 2019 Tia and I had been best friends since first grade. We experienced every milestone of life together, from birthdays to graduations and grade socials. The next milestone was supposed to be prom, then graduating high school. Instead, it’s transitioning from a girl to a boy. When Tia first told me about how she felt, I had no idea how to react. What do you say to your best friend who’s been a girl her whole life and now wants to change her gender? I feel bad for having such a nonchalant response, but I was at a complete loss for words. I’ve heard about people being transgender, but they’re mostly adults and celebrities who’ve gone through crazy things and were depressed for most of  

their childhood. I read that some transgender people transition because they are raped and don’t want to associate with their given gender. Tia couldn't possibly have been raped. I would have known; she would have told me when it happened. All I know for sure is that Tia hasn’t been herself for a long time. She’s always quiet and distant; she never comes to lunch and doesn’t stay after school with me anymore, so I just hang out with Kianna. I think if there was something Tee wanted to tell me, she would have; so why would I force it out of her by asking? After what happened yesterday at her locker, I wanted to call her or go to her house to see if she was okay, but we haven’t spoken in so long. I have no idea what to say to her anymore. The only person I told about her transgender idea was Kianna because I honestly thought she wasn’t serious, but now I’m starting to regret doing that because somebody can’t keep their mouth shut. I really do feel bad about what happened to Tia’s locker, and I wish I could go back and change how I reacted when she first told me how she felt about being a girl. I should have asked her how I could help. I guess it’s too late for


all that now. The damage is done, and I’m pretty sure Tia will never be the same. ~Lex

November 4, 2019 All I ever wanted was to feel loved, but lately I feel dead inside. These past few days have gotten worse with each passing minute. Every day, I feel empty, like my body doesn’t belong to me, like I’m trapped in a nightmare. My chest tightens when I’m anxious, and I feel like curling up in a ball and telling myself I’ll wake up from this dream, but it never happens. The only person that really knows what’s going on is Natalie, and the only reason she doesn’t have to tell my mom is because I don’t slice myself open when I feel like it. That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it, though. I have a couple times, especially after what happened to my locker. I know for a fact Lexi told someone about me wanting to transition. It was most likely her new best friend, Kianna. I really thought she could be the one person I could trust through all this. I thought she’d be my shoulder to lean on, but I was wrong.

Choosing to see Natalie was probably the most important thing I could have done because, if it wasn’t for her, I would have definitely ended my life a long time ago rather than take the time to understand myself. I keep contemplating the question she asked me a while back. I told her I hadn’t come up with a clear answer, but that’s because I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of possibly identifying as a boy. The most important pro is that I might be more accepted by my mother and brothers, and I won’t feel like an alien in my own house. The other one is that I won’t have to experience the same trauma I did with Cami, and I’ll stop getting attention from men, at least the ones around here who are straight. But I’ve also been asking myself: Is identifying as a boy going to change what happened in the past, or will it become a shield for all the pain deep down inside? My biggest fear is changing my name and gender but not being able to change my experience. I know the past can’t be changed, but how else can I move on? ~Tia’Marie


Dear Tia, My name is Jeffery. I am an ex-transgender woman who’s heard a lot about you from Natalie. She tells me you are looking to possibly transition and wanted to hear from somebody who has lived the experience. While this may seem impossible, you and I share a very similar experience when it comes to gender dysphoria. At the tender age of nine years old, I was raped by a close family friend and was threatened to be killed if I told anyone, so I didn’t. After going through my teenage years knowing what it’s like to be manipulated and taken advantage of, I decided it was time to start a new life: not as a man, but as a woman. Similar to you, my mother always said I should have been born a girl (well before I was nine), and I took that to heart. It surely made me feel unwanted and caused so much confusion, knowing that I wasn’t what she wanted. When I turned 17, I moved to Portland, Maine, and met a group of transgender women at a bar, who said to me, “You’re so pretty!” “You’re too pretty to be a boy. You should start female hormones!” And, of course, along with all the things my mother said, I further

internalized everything that I was told regarding my gender. For a long time, I listened to these voices whispering, “You should have been a girl. Even your mother thinks so.” The turmoil and torment in my mind got so bad, I finally gave in. I just accepted it. I was so tired of hearing those lies in my mind telling me what I should have been and should be, that I just gave up. After successfully transitioning using hormones and getting surgeries, I became a prostitute and began doing drugs and drinking. I was an exotic dancer for about 20 years, until I got into a physical altercation with my roommate, who pushed me down a flight of stairs, causing me to break my face. I’m sure the story is moving fast, but this is what I need you to understand: when you make big life choices, always think about whom you’re doing it for. Always ask yourself: Is this going to make me happy, or will I be fulfilling someone else’s hopes and desires for me? Ask yourself, “Am I becoming who I want to be, or am I becoming a new and improved version of myself?” As I sat in the waiting room of the ER, all I could think about was how much I hated my life. Everything about


it. And my biggest regret was transitioning because it was never what I wanted. Becoming a woman was what other people wanted for me. As you go on your journey, I leave you with this: you are a strong, beautiful young woman who has her whole life ahead of her. Despite what you’ve lost in the past, you have the power to make a change for people like you and me, people whose voices were stolen by predators. You are already the change you want to see. Learn to define yourself! With Much Love, Jeffery! November 8, 2019 I’ve done a lot of deep reflecting about who I am now and who I see myself being in the future. I thought about why I looked at myself with such revulsion every time I stepped in front of the mirror. After reading the letter from Jeffery, I’ve realized that my desire to change was not a reflection of my own insecurities, but a reflection of the weight placed on girls by the world that attempts to define people based on gender. I’ve realized that I was rejecting my body because,

after what happened with Cami, I felt as though I had no control over it. Today, after days of deep reflection, I choose to take back that control. Today, I choose to tell the world I am transgender. I choose to be genderqueer. I choose not to allow the restraints of society to bind me to a role in the world. I choose to accept my curves that make up the valleys and hills of my being. Today, I choose to love and work on myself, to be free to dress and act how I please. On this day, I vow to see people as people. I vow not to limit anyone who identifies as male or female. I vow to be human. I am Tia’Marie Day, and I am nothing less than human.



Gender Identity What thoughts are in your mind after reading Tia's story? What emotions do you feel?


"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences." —Audre Lorde

JOURNAL Discuss the questions below with someone in your life. Then, select one question to write about in your journal. 1. What were your main takeaways from the story? 2. Can you relate to Tia Marie? If so, how? 3. Why do you think Lexi responded the way she did to Tia's news? How could she have been a better ally?



The Leadership Journal

Leadership Challenge

ALLY INSTRUCTIONS Use the space below to design a memorable instruction sheet that teaches others how to be a good ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. Make sure your instruction sheet includes guidance on actions allies can take, words allies can say, and resources allies can use to be more informed.




Program Director, Hetrick-Martin Institute: New Jersey What is your personal mission statement as a leader? Be humble and keep learning. Find your inspiration and enjoy every moment.

Can you tell us about your current work and how it relates to some of the topics in this year's Leadership Journal? Hetrick-Martin Institute: New Jersey (HMI: NJ) is an LGBTQ youth organization. We provide supportive services for youth of all gender and sexual identities. Many of the youth we see also have experienced violence, different types of abuse, mental health issues, and housing security, etc. HMI: NJ is a place for youth to find community and safety. I am humbled to get to work with youth that teach me different ways to live my life authentically in my own queer brown identity. I am so honored to be a witness to their resilience and creativity.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in trying to achieve your organization's mission and your personal mission statement?

At HMI: NJ, we believe all young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential. Sometimes it is hard to hear about youth going through a hard time, and heartbreak is also part of this work since bias and discrimination against LGBTQ people are common and come in many forms. We want to be the safe space that LGBTQ youth can count on, but at the end of the day, youth still leave HMI and go to homes that aren't accepting.

How are you working to overcome these challenges?

Self-care is an integral part of our work at HMI: NJ, and we try to model healthy coping skills and healthy boundaries for each other as staff as well as for youth members dealing with stress. The staff engage in professional development to continue refining their skills and furthering their education. We also host a Youth Advisory Board made up of youth members so they can have a voice on what HMI: NJ programming looks like so that as staff, we are not dictating what youth need without getting youth input.

Advice for teen girls who are struggling?

We are all a work in progress. When you are struggling, don't ever be too proud to reach out for help. There are so many loving and supportive individuals that are here for you. If you are questioning your sexual orientation or gender identity, know that you are not alone, and there's a community waiting for you with open arms, ready to accept you for exactly who you are.

What's the best advice that you've received from another leader or mentor?

Find your inspiration and go toward it. Your dreams are valid, and everyone deserves to do what makes them happy.

Who's your "Shero"? My grandmother.

Learn more about Alayne and her work by visiting www.hminj.org 113

Meet the Author

MEKHI ADDISON Mekhi is best known for her presence in the world of athletics, but when she’s off the cheer mat, done on the volleyball court, and finished working at basketball games, she transforms into a writer. As a high school junior, Mekhi has written numerous plays and short stories about controversial topics and issues that teenagers of color face in their young adult lives. Proud to be an advocate for mental health wellness, Mekhi strives to help readers find and share their voices with the world around them.

The Leadership Journal


Reunited By Goldy Lomotey, 11th grade

The bell began to ring, and I pushed myself off my locker and squeezed between the kids who were in no rush to get to class. Walking into my first class, I nodded my head in acknowledgment of the teacher as she greeted everybody. Morning classes quickly came to an end, and it was eventually time for lunch. Lunch was always my favorite period since we were allowed to leave the building and go beyond the school walls. I lingered through the hallways and studied them for the umpteenth time. The walls were a crisp white, and you could tell the school painted them recently since the paint smell was still



lingering in the air. The lockers were a royal blue, displaying our school blue and white colors—and they were large, and I mean High School Musical large. Our school motto was literally, "Go big or go home." We had big windows (for no reason), big bathrooms with big stalls, big classrooms with big equipment, and so on and so forth. I stopped in my tracks as my ex-best friend came into view. My breath got caught in my throat as the last day that we spent together as best friends flashed through my head. I looked over at Mecca for the first time since she finished telling me her news. I watched as tears ran down her cheeks, and I knew it was from all the emotions she was feeling. Looking in her eyes, I took her in my arms. I knew she was scared. She made it clear she was on her own with this. A tear rolled down my cheek, and I quickly wiped it away before she could see it. This was about Mecca, not me, and I wasn't about to make it about me. I shushed her and hugged her closer to my body as her once silent cries became sobs, and everything really began to sink in. Her whole life was about to change because of one night, and it wasn't

fair. I wished I could do something besides sitting beside her dumbly, but I kept my mouth shut and barely even breathed. "I'll help you get through this—I promise," I said softly, and I meant every word of it.

I stepped outside and took a deep breath. Before I could exhale, I heard the door shut behind me. "I thought you hated me." Turning toward the voice, I blinked, and my eyes focused on my ex-best friend, Mecca. "What?" I mumbled angrily. "That's why I never spoke to you again after I asked for the money," she explained softly. I nodded my head in understanding and bit my lip. Before I knew it, I felt tears running down my cheeks. "Are you okay? How was the pregnancy?" I asked, wiping away the tears. "It was good—hard, but good. I don't regret a thing," Mecca responded with a sad smile. "It hurt that you just disappeared—I never hated you, though. I always wanted to support you. I started to think that maybe it was me. Maybe I wasn't good enough, like my parents said," I admitted. 117

"I'm sorry. I just figured you have your whole life ahead of you. You know? I didn't want you to be embarrassed by me—a sixteen-year-old mother." Mecca's apology was written all over her face. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into me. We both began a full-on sob in each other's arms. "She looks like you," I informed her as we pulled away. Even though we stopped talking, I couldn't stop myself from looking at pictures of Mecca and her daughter on social media. "You think?" Mecca asked. I nodded, and she pulled her phone out to show me all the pictures she had. After grabbing lunch, we headed back to school. As we approached the main doors, I grabbed Mecca's hand in mine and pulled her into the building, happy to have my best friend back. The side looks and comments hit us immediately—I could hear whispers about Mecca, intrusive questions, and rumors about her and her daughter's father. At that moment, I got a glimpse of what it was like to be Mecca. Squeezing her hand, I pushed both of us through the crowd toward her next class. When we arrived at the classroom door, Mecca pulled

her hand away from mine. "I'm sorry," she whispered, looking down at her feet. Touching her chin, I lifted her head gently. "Mecca, you have nothing to be ashamed about. Don't hide again, please. You're my best friend, and I love you. I don't care what anybody here has to say," I reassured her and extended my arms to invite her in for a hug. Mecca stared at me with a bewildered look that grew slowly into a smile. She hugged me one last time. "See you after class?" Mecca questioned softly. "See you after class." I smiled and waved at her before heading to my own class.



Teen Parenting What thoughts are in your mind after reading "Reunited"? What emotions do you feel?


"If we give our children sound self-love, they will be able to deal with whatever life puts before them." —bell hooks

JOURNAL Discuss the questions below with someone in your life. Then, select one question to write about in your journal. 1. What were your main takeaways from the story? 2. Can you relate to Mecca or the narrator? If so, how? 3. What do you think teen parents need most from their friends and other people in their community?



The Leadership Journal

Leadership Challenge

A CHILD'S VILLAGE "It takes a village to raise a child." —African Proverb Finish the drawing below to illustrate the community members and support that teen parents and their children need. Be sure to include yourself in the illustration, showing your role in the village.



Leadership Talk DR.

BEVERLY LYNN CEO, Programs for Parents What is your personal mission statement as a leader?

To help children get the very best start in life.

Can you tell us about your current work and how it relates to teen parenting?

My personal and professional mission statements are very much aligned: to help children get the very best start in life. At Programs for Parents, we achieve this mission by providing parents, particularly teen parents, with access to helpful resources and child care. We also help train and better equip child care providers.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in trying to achieve your mission?

I would say the biggest challenge is when we have people we can't help, either due to a lack of resources or because they're not eligible to receive federally-funded benefits—when we've done all that we can do and still can't help a family. How are you working to overcome these challenges?

Partnerships. We work with other agencies to connect families to additional resources and opportunities that we aren't able to provide. Typically, we'll call a partner, discuss and assess the family's situation, and then identify a solution that will help in whatever way possible.

Advice for teen girls who are struggling?

I was a teen mom, but I had a village. I had people around to support me. So my biggest advice to teen parents is that you can make it. You can do anything you set your mind to, and there will be people along the way that are willing to help you. And if I can help in some way, I'm front and center.

What's the best advice that you've received from another leader or mentor?

That the sky is the limit—you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. Who's your "Shero"?

Two people. One is Aletha Wright. After I experienced her passion, I said, "I'm going to be just like that!" She was such an awesome person, such an advocate. And she spoke to people with such a sense of strength and confidence and love. By the time she finished talking, you'd want to pass the plate because you thought you were in church! I admired her so much. And my other shero is my grandmother. She didn't take no stuff! And she knew how to get what she needed. I remember her speaking to council members about our needs and having me attend community meetings on her behalf. She was the one who showed me there was a way to get things done to help people. Learn more about Dr. Lynn and her work by visiting programsforparents.org 129

Meet the Author

GOLDY LOMOTEY Goldy Lomotey has always loved reading and writing for as long as she can remember; it has been her escape from the real world. Goldy was born and raised in New York, where she was met with challenges and struggle after struggle—writing is her way of shining light into a dark world. She writes to give hope to other kids who face difficulties growing up.

The Leadership Journal

What If I’m Not Okay

What If I’m Not Okay Chelsea Ebinum, 12th grade

There is complete and utter silence as I sit in the gray chair next to a white wall. The smallest tap could be heard in the room, and I think it would’ve freaked everyone out. I didn’t like the quiet because it left too much room for my thoughts to be heard. The outside sounded like the perfect way to be calm, but inside me, I felt like a war was raging in my thoughts—one over the other and each one more negative and more anxious than the last. “I shouldn’t have told. I shouldn’t have told.” “I just need to do better, and everything will fall into place.”



Why did she have to tell my parents?” “It’s not like they believe me anyway. They think it’s just school being too much for me, and I’m just being lazy.” “Is there something wrong with me?” “No, I am perfectly okay in sound and mind.” “Am I really, or is it too much for me to admit?” “No, no, I’m good, right?” “You’re okay, Anna. You’re okay.” “YOU ARE GOING TO BE OKAY!” “Anna Fuyake!” the receptionist called out from her desk. I stood up and walked to her. “Dr. Wells will see you now. Just go right through that door and make a left, and her room should be there,” she said warmly. I thanked her and proceeded through the door, down the hallway to her room. Each step I took felt like a heavy weight dropping on me. Arriving at the door, I took a deep breath, turned the knob, and entered the room. “You must be Anna. My name is Dr. Irene Wells. Please have a seat,” she instructed me, using her hands as a guide. I sat down in one of her chairs, which was surprisingly

comfortable. I dreaded her next words, but I was also relieved to start this journey. “Anna, would you like to tell me why you’re here?” questioned Dr. Wells as she stared into my eyes, practically reading me. I took a deep breath and stared right back. “I... I think I may need help.” With an encouraging smile, she replied, “Where would you like to begin?” Taking another deep breath, I let out my inner thoughts and emotions. It was… an experience, I should say. I thanked Dr. Wells for listening and then headed home. As I sat in my bedroom reflecting on the visit, I remembered an idea she gave me to write down my feelings and thoughts. It seemed childish when she first mentioned it, but before I knew it, my pen went to the paper. With each word that flowed out, my mind felt calmer. Dear Diary, How do you know when you are okay? How do you know when you decide for yourself that you are okay? 133

Is it after questioning yourself and feeling that way? Is it after asking your parents and them explaining that “I’m just going through a lot and everything will be okay?” Or, is it making the choice to seek professional help and talking about it with someone? I hope and pray to God that is it. I could tell that, at times, I wasn’t really content or as lively as I presented myself to people. I was always anxious and worried about anything and everything. It would just take over my brain, and I would be so focused on that feeling, that I would feel anything I did was going to be a failure. When I did that, it actually was a failure, which didn’t make it any better. I always felt inferior to my classmates, like I was an outcast who didn’t belong. Does that sound like someone who’s okay? Yeah, I didn’t think so, either. I realized I needed to seek a therapist, mostly from one of my teachers who I trusted. She said she noticed all the signs of how I was feeling and suggested that if I felt comfortable, I should think about seeing one.

I was on the fence because she made it known that I would have to sit down with my parents and talk about it with them to schedule the visit. It was different from what I expected. I assumed that when I got there, the therapist would basically dismiss me, but I was wrong. Dr. Wells made me feel comfortable and asked me questions that made me better understand what I was going through. She didn’t outright judge me for how I felt, nor did she make me feel small. I enjoyed sitting down and having someone listen to my problems. Then she told me her preliminary diagnosis from what she heard from me. I can honestly say that I was not surprised, which is why I wasn’t angry. Sometimes, when you expect the answer to come, it still weighs on you because, even though you know it will come, it evokes a feeling deep inside your subconscious. I don’t regret seeing Dr. Wells, and I don’t regret seeking help. This is a step I took, which I hope leads to a better me.



Mental Health & Speaking Up What thoughts are in your mind after reading Anna's story? What emotions do you feel?


"If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it." —Zora Neale Hurston

JOURNAL Discuss the questions below with someone in your life. Then, select one question to write about in your journal. 1. Can you relate to Anna? If so, how? 2. What was the result of Anna speaking up and seeking help from a teacher she trusted? What do you think would've happened if she didn't?



The Leadership Journal

Leadership Challenge

CHECK-UP & SPEAK UP Take a moment to do a self check-up. Rate how you feel in each category. Then, write down any questions or concerns you have. Afterward, share and discuss your list with two people in your life.

My Ratings

My Questions & Concerns

Not Good



Not Good



Not Good



Not Good



my mind

my body

my spirit

my emotions



Leadership Talk KALEENA BERRYMAN Director, Abbott Leadership Institute What is your personal mission statement as a leader? To uplift, build, and shine a light on the beauty and brilliance that lives within our children, my people, and my community. To champion for their leadership, help them to activate their power, and challenge and remove any barriers that get in their way.

Can you tell us about your current work and how it relates to student voice and advocacy?

Young people have so much power. Yet a great deal of that power—their power, their brilliance—is left unacknowledged. Young people dream big. But their schools, particularly schools that teach black and brown children, don't consistently honor them. The systems we have in this country are fueled by racism and injustice, and my generation has spent our time trying to climb over the barriers. It is our duty to better prepare young people, not to climb as we did but to eliminate them altogether —to advocate for their rights to a quality EVERYTHING, and to make their schools and communities rise.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in trying to achieve your organization's mission and your personal mission statement?

Dependency on others to provide what we believe our children and parents should have.

How are you working to overcome these challenges?

Instilling in the young people who I serve a belief that they need to own and build for themselves. Advocating for the resources that I need to give the youth I serve the access to opportunity and development that they deserve. And, most importantly, to let them lead the way. Their ideas, not mine.

Advice for teen girls who are struggling?

Understand your power. Get to know your gifts. And find someone who sees you the way you need to see you. Go to them as a source of light. And use their belief in you to fuel you—take advantage of every opportunity possible.

What's the best advice that you've received from another leader or mentor?

You deserve to be here.

Who's your "Shero"? My momma.


Meet the Author

CHELSEA EBINUM Chelsea Ebinum has always loved reading since she was a small girl. She did often struggle to the point where her mother would make her read every little thing she could see. That's why she has such a high reading level to this day. Her favorite days are spent curling up in her bed, reading, watching shows, and spending time with her family. She is the daughter of two Nigerian parents who immigrated to the U.S. a few years before she was born.

The Leadership Journal

Forever Changed

Forever Changed By Jada Lemon, 12th grade

Taking off my apron that was covered in flour and a long day’s worth of sweat, I listened to the bustling taking place in the front, and I didn’t even bother to cover the grin that broke out on my face. Gathering my belongings and sliding on my jacket, I walked past my mother washing the dishes. I leaned over to give her a peck on the cheek, and she gazed at me with gratitude before she noticed that I was getting ready to leave. Her grateful gaze turned into a questioning one. “Where are you going? You know we close in three hours, and we have a full house,” my mother said to me as she lifted herself up on the counter with soapy, wet hands. www.butterflydreamz.org


“I know, mama.” I had to bite the inside of my cheek before continuing with my excuse. “But I was gonna go meet up with my friends from school and come back to help you close. I won’t take that long.” She sighed as she realized that I wasn’t asking for her permission. At the same time, my phone buzzed, alerting me that I had received a notification. I smiled as I pulled out my phone, taking tiny steps toward the doorway. Cutie <3: Hey, I’m at the rink. Did you make it out okay? Me: Okay, great. Yeah, I’m on my way now. Save us a table. “Hey, Adawn,” my mother called for me. I lifted my head up from my phone. “Be careful, darling.” I walked down the street away from The Safe Haven, headphones plugged into my ears and hands shoved in my jacket pockets. I thought of the guy that I was going to meet up with; his name was Jordan. He had just transferred into my class, and his skin reminded me of a Hershey Bar fresh out of its wrapper. His mouth widened whenever he spoke, and you could hear the confidence flow out of his mouth like water flowing out of a faucet, smooth and endless. From the second our eyes connected, I felt as though the world had stopped. I

knew that this was going to be the man that I dreamed of at night. Stuck in the thoughts in my head, I was unable to notice the shadow that was following mine. My town isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t known for having a high level of any sort of crime, nor any instances that would make it feel unsafe. Because of this fact, I roamed the streets without fear in my heart, even as a little girl. My parents grew up in the same neighborhood, so everyone looked out for me when they saw me. Plus, it was fairly quiet, as nobody was really outside during the afternoon. So it was an unpleasant surprise when I felt somebodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hands pull me into a dark alley that I thought I was just passing by. I let out a scream as I was slammed against the wall. The impact on my skull caused me to see stars in my vision, but I still found myself fighting off the hands that roamed my skin without my permission. My phone slipped out of my pocket, and I wished that I had a knife or pepper spray in my bag to defend myself from whatever was about to occur. The tears stung the corner of my eyes, and I felt myself too still to scream for help. I silently sobbed as I willed my body not to give up its defense, to feel the 149

danger that we faced and not to give up. With one last cry, my limbs decided to go limp, and my head lolled back. He continued to steal every piece of my innocence in those ten minutes that I went into complete darkness. I don’t remember how I got to the police department, sitting in the same torn clothes from an hour ago, and my phone with a shattered screen on it. I’m sure that I’d gotten some glass on my face from when I made a phone call, and I wished so badly that I could go home and scrub the night from my pores. I wanted to forget that I was left alone in an alley, left to fend for myself as I heard car tires gliding down the pavement of the street. I wanted to forget how lonely and helpless I felt. I wanted to be released from the regret I felt; I should’ve just stayed at the restaurant with my mom and not snuck off to ultimately walk into the worst experience of my life. And, as I stood up to face my mother, I felt my phone buzzing in my hand. The letters of the contact were slurred together, but I knew for a fact that he was calling me. I fluttered my eyes shut and pressed on my home button to stop the ringing. I opened my eyes to watch the screen resemble the darkness that I let myself succumb to. I lifted my head to connect directly with the

eyes of my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the same eyes that had looked at me with such pride now stared back with an undetectable emotion. And when she opened her arms for me, I walked straight into them, staring blankly at the wall behind us. The silence between us was loud, comforting me as I knew it was something that we had to talk about. But my mother didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t press the issue, and her embrace felt like safety to me. I wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t ever let go.



Sexual Violence What thoughts are in your mind after reading Adawn's story? What emotions do you feel?


"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Maya Angelou

JOURNAL Discuss the questions below with someone in your life. Then, select one question to write about in your journal. 1. What were your main takeaways from the story? 2. Can you relate to Adawn? If so, how? 3. In your opinion, what are the best next steps for Adawn? What about her mother?



The Leadership Journal

Leadership Challenge

SURVIVOR PAMPHLET Design a pamphlet for Adawn and other victims of sexual violence. Research resources and information to include in your pamphlet.



Leadership Talk TONYA LOVELACE CEO, Women of Color Network (WOCN), Inc. What is your personal mission statement as a leader?

To be a global citizen and to support and create spaces of wellness, nonviolence, and joy everywhere. Can you tell us about your current work and how it relates to domestic violence and sexual assault?

I wasn't necessarily looking for this work; it came to me. It was my pathway as a survivor of child sexual assault, of child abuse, of bullying, of teen dating violence, and then in adult life, of domestic violence. Even after I did the work, I became a survivor of domestic violence as a CEO. My own work saved my lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;my own organization, my own peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;saved my life. Our principles and our approaches within the organization saved my life. Then the work of various colleagues and organizations around me took on a different meaning for me. And so, I feel like I was fated for this work. And I do this work with the principles of ending violence, changing and improving systems, and having a more global perspective that creates whole communities and shifts how the world looks at various forms of violence.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in achieving your personal and organizational mission, and how are you working to overcome them?

For Women of Color Network, the funding streams that we have often have limitations that don't allow us to do the full breadth of the work, in the way that we would like. So we try to have a diversified base of funds that allows us to work within very specific spaces, but then also allows us to have a more broad and global context. We continue to try to be more strategic in thinking about how we can broaden our message, our reach, and our impact. What I would say to young ladies is no matter what type of job you have or work you do, don't put 100% of your work in that basket. Always be thinking about and looking at what are things you can do for your own fulfillment and your own path. One thing I would have done differently is really taking the time to carve out time for me. I think I spent a lot of my time pouring myself into this organization. Having a personal mission is something that just started in the past year for me, after I allowed myself to participate in other activities and get involved in a leadership group. So what I would say to young women is always have a personal mission, no matter where you areâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;always feed into that personal mission. Make sure the work you're doing passes that personal mission. Make sure that you are not comprising your personal mission and that you always have some kind of work or recreational activities that are ongoing and that support that personal mission.

Advice for teen girls who are struggling with violence or abuse?

It's not your fault that this is happening. You don't deserve it. Nobody has a right to put their hands on you, no matter what they say. You can't make someone put their hands on you, no matter what they say. And you are not alone. I know sometimes it may feel like there's nobody, but there is someone who can help. It may be that one friend who you feel comfortable with; it could be that one teacher or administrator; it could be someone in your faith space; it could be your doctor; it could be anybody. There is somebody you can trust with this who can help you. Finally, I would say that it is wrong. Believe in yourself and know that it is wrong for anyone to make you feel any less than you are. Whatever the situation is, you have a right to be safe.

Who's your "Shero"? My mama and my daughter.

Learn more about Tonya and her work by visiting www.wocninc.org 161

Meet the Author

JADA LEMON Jada Lemon is a senior at Newark Collegiate Academy, who finds the beauty of escaping her reality by exploring the art of literature. Jada fights for the voice of the voiceless through her research and writing. Throughout her high school career, she's participated in Young Women Leadership Advocacy and served as a manager/mentor of various sports, all while dedicating herself to reading. She hopes to become influential in her community and share her love for advocacy and literature.



We are forever grateful to the individuals who invest their time, money, and love into our girls and our work. We love and appreciate you!

Our Staff

Joy Lindsay, Founder & CEO Deiona Monroe, Development Manager Audris Torres, Operations Manager Dora Mighty, Program Manager Kelly Lopez, Program Manager Brittani Johnson, Program Manager

Board of Directors Heather Lindsay Tiffany Davis Michael McCartan Mario Antwine

Advisory Board

Tony Lindsay Cathy Bristow Jessica DeLucia Tashiah Singleton

Writing Mentors

Sydney Henriques-Payne Caridad Pineiro Tiffany Davis Tony Lindsay

FY20 Dream Investors The individuals and organizations who donated between July 1, 2019 and June 11, 2020.

Leslie Adkins Nellie Gottlieb Bette Bland Katarzyna Hall Gillian Bower Jane Harris Cathy Bristow Kenny Harris Gregory Brown Stephen Harris Jada Cross Nancy Hicks Tiffany & Michael Davis Patricia Hilliard Courtney Davis Sharon Huerta Jessica DeLucia Anne Hunnex Leia Desnoyer Laura Hutchison Whitney Dumeng Yakima Johnson Rosemary Fowler Sharonda Johnson Theresa Frederick Anna Keating K Miata Fuller Betty Kibble Katie Galle Traymanesha Lamy Cheyenne Gartin Catherine Lanier Sophia Goring-Piard Valerie & Joe Larkin

Heather & Tony Lindsay Amanda Mack Minnie & Mike McCartan Carla McElroy Lynne & Roy Mock Candace Moss Samantha Nakhoul Andre Napoli Jean Nolan Chigozie Onyema Catrina Palmer Melissa Perez Ameenah Poole Jo-Ann Raines Viki Rasmussen Nancy Reed

Cathy Roach Tawana Rosenbaum Khaatim Sherrer El Sarah Simon Theresa Stahly Deborah Steele Courtney Stokes Amir Thorne Mark Tomaszewski Audris Torres Aaron Turner Marc Washington Aarin Williams Freda Wright Shavonne Wyche Davis

Carolyn Jane Scott Charitable Trust

John and Margaret Post Foundation

LOCAL LEADERS Before we go, we want to shout out a few other organizations in our community who are helping girls grow as leaders! Keep up the phenomenal work, ladies. We love and appreciate you!



Their mission is to permit every girl, between the ages of 6-15 years old in the city of Newark, a chance to live, love and laugh through their fundamental workshops: Leadership & Career Development, Education, Peer Groups, Health & Wellness, and Civic Engagement.

VASHTI SCHOOL OF FUTURE LEADERS Their mission is to develop model citizens and future leaders using the kingdom principles: Love of God, Love of self and Love for others. vashtileaders.org


Their mission is to make a positive impact in every life that they touch. When people walk through the doors of InSpira, they know that they will experience excellence in dance and education, and it's a place that values character and social development.

VISIONS OF BELLE They are devoted to Building and Empowering Lovely Ladies to Excel. visionsofbelle.com


They desire to reestablish the lost art of culture and refinement for young women. Their intent is to help young women develop themselves into confident leaders and contribute to the transformation of their communities.



Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated is an organization of college educated women committed to the constructive development of its members and to public service with a primary focus on the Black community. North Jersey Alumnae Chapter (NJAC) is a local component representing Essex, Hudson and Union Counties. The Dr. Jeanne L. Noble Delta GEMS (Growing & Empowering Myself Successfully) Institute is a mentoring program for young ladies ages 14-18 where the goals are to instill the need to excel academically.

GIRLS ON BIKES girlsonbikes.co

Their mission is to encourage young women to participate in recreational activities, with a focus on bicycles. By curating safe and creative spaces, their workshops permit girls to discuss the challenges they face while exercising in public. GOB enables an environment wherein girls can help each other and even themselves, by tackling the social and political issues surrounding exercise. By doing so, girls are able to form a community amongst their peers to empower each other daily to be leaders.

SHE WINS INC. shewins.org @she_winsnj

SHE Wins is a leadership and social action organization for girls in Newark. Their mission is to build a pipeline of college, career, and community ready young women leaders from the city of Newark.

www.butterflydreamz.org @butterflydreamzinc

Profile for Butterfly Dreamz

2020 Leadership Journal E-book  

A leadership journal written by girls from Newark, NJ to cultivate courageous conversations and action. Purchase your copy at theleadershipj...

2020 Leadership Journal E-book  

A leadership journal written by girls from Newark, NJ to cultivate courageous conversations and action. Purchase your copy at theleadershipj...

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded