"You is smart. You is kind. You is important,” says Viola Davis to the little white girl in The Help. But, what affirmations are we giving to little Black girls? Black girls need to know they are smart, kind, and important too. They need to know they aren’t just “magical.” Too many people are dazzled by all the magical things Black girls and women can do, instead of figuring out ways to protect and support them. Just like the little girl in the film, there were many things I wish my mother had said that would have made a difference for me. Because what Black girls hear when they are young will affect how they hold their power when they are women. Here are few things we can add to the list of positive affirmations:
Your Hair is Beautiful
When I was a little girl, I wish my mother had told me my hair was beautiful the way it was. Hearing a hot comb sizzling on a stove always implied that in order for my hair to be presentable, it had to be straighter. Black hair is so versatile. We can coil, color, curl or crimp it. We can add hair, straighten or twist it. Yet, even in its natural state, it is beautiful. Having “hair love” is an important part of self love. We need our girls to know their hair is so magical that it can even defy gravity. Too many girls grow up to be women who are uncomfortable with showing their own hair to the world. We need to love who we are from head to toe.
You Don’t Have to Fake it
My mother used to tell me to “smile” so people wouldn’t think I was mean. As a child, this became a burden to focus on making sure everyone else was comfortable even when I was uncomfortable. Instead, I wish she would have told me: “Smile in the mirror, and see your light”. I wish she would have encouraged me to focus on building kindness within myself before giving it away to others. If a Black girl’s first love is self love, she will naturally have joy, more confidence, and won’t have to fake a smile. And, “faking it” can seep into all their relationships. When we tell girls to “fake it until you make it,” they could lose the ability to advocate for themselves or get their own needs met. Our girls need to know that they can be real and still be kind. They don’t have to smile if they’re not feeling it.
You can say “No”
I wish my mother would have taught me early the power in the word “no”. We often train our girls to be nice and agreeable to make friends. Then, they grow up and don’t know how to say “no”. They learn to “go along to get along”. They end up taking too much BS from the men in their lives to keep them, or they take on too much responsibility to fit the stereotype of a strong Black woman. Then, the people around them think they can manage all their tasks unburdened and do everybody else’s work too. We need to tell our girls early that saying “no,” “nah,” “nope” or “I am not willing to do that” (even though you're capable of doing it) is a way to take care of yourself and keep you from doing too much and minding everyone else’s business besides your own.
What we say to Black little girls can encourage confidence and remind them they are fine the way they are. It teaches them that their time and their feelings matter. We can use affirmations to remind them that they are beautiful, intelligent, and important. We can also spark the #BlackGirlMagic within them and empower them to become phenomenal women who know their worth.