Why Girls of Color Should Be Included in My Brother’s Keeper

Your Take: A group of women is appealing to the president to include girls because while the violence affecting young people of color is often framed as a problem for boys, girls are in crisis too.

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Sexual violence is a main risk factor for dropping out of school. Unfortunately, the average black girl who drops out will make $7,000 less than a high school graduate and will be more likely to need welfare than both her female and male peers. Additionally, young black women, ages 18-24, have the highest unemployment rate among women nationwide, and have a pregnancy rate twice that of white teens. Though Maia will undoubtedly try to protect her child, there’s also an increased risk that her child will also drop out of school as well, continuing the cycle.

In his recent article in The Root critiquing the letter’s signers, Walter M. Kimbrough said, “Let’s not write any more open letters, op-ed, or tweets.” Just do “the work.”  But in fact, many of the letter's signers—including people like Angela Davis, Girls for Gender Equity founder Joanne Smith and Brotherhood/Sister Sol’s Associate Executive Director Cidra M. Sebastien—have been doing the work for years. This is why my sister, Scheherazade Tillet, and I in 2003 founded A Long Walk Home, which uses art to advocate an end to violence against girls and women. We focus on supporting youth and communities of color that are disproportionately the victims of racial inequality and gender violence.

I signed the letter because I believe that girls like Maia could benefit from the attention, alliances and investment that a massive initiative like My Brother’s Keeper entails.

I signed because I do not believe our community should have to make an impossible choice—between our daughters and sons—and tell the world, ourselves and our young people that one child matters more, deserves more attention and, therefore, should be saved. I signed because I want to make it harder for Maia to remain invisible.

*Maia’s real name has been left out of the article to protect her identity.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

Salamishah Tillet is a rape survivor and co-founder of A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit that uses art to end violence against girls and women. She is also an associate professor of English studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Sites of Slavery: Citizenship, Racial Democracy, and the Post-Civil Rights Imagination. She is working on a book about civil rights icon Nina Simone.

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