Young women take initiative to dispel negative images


Girls In Motion is their vehicle for community service and personal growth.

When it comes to achieving success, Condoleezza Rice started out as a Girl Scout, Oprah Winfrey credits her very early reading skills, and Minnesota 2006 Teacher of the Year Lee Ann Stephens recalls the importance of parental involvement.

Maybe Girls In Motion (GIM), a start-up entrepreneurial organization created to develop young girls’ self-esteem through literacy, will likewise produce stellar individuals. But, whether or not the members of GIM aspire to similar high-profile positions, they’ve already achieved their mission.

Established in the fall of 2006, GIM was a natural offshoot of two independent-minded teenaged girls who looked at what clubs and other organizations were available and decided they wanted something tailored just for them.

Jazzmin Brooks, 14, and Dafina Bobo, 14, first chose to look at literacy and see what impact they could have on that issue. They distributed historical books of literary value to other girls with stories about themselves or who they would like to be.

“It’s not just about some random girl who meets this guy who plays football and they fall in love,” says Jazzmin. “It’s gotta actually mean something to us.”

A core group of five girls was formed, and they began monthly meetings and workshops. But unlike many youth groups, this one is not adult-driven.

“Our moms are our advisors, so they help us,” says Dafina, with Jazzmin energetically adding, “We give them the things that we wanna do, and they might say, ‘Oh, this might work a little better,’ and they use their connections, and that’s how we can do our events and community service.”

The two founders met as kindergartners at the Seed Academy and Harvest Preparatory School in Minneapolis. Harvest Prep’s mission statement — to instruct, empower, enable, and guide African American children to achieve superior academic, social and moral development — no doubt took root in these two girls’ spirits.

At age 14, they already have résumés and recognize the value of passing their skills and knowledge on to others. They also are cognizant of preparing for their future.

“A lot of the college scholarships want to know what your community service is, how you’ve helped in the community,” state Dafina and Jazzmin. “They want to see the dedication and sincerity.” (The girls talk over one another as they describe their involvement with GIM, ending one another’s sentences and interjecting adjectives and exclamations into each other’s comments.)

Having a résumé also helps them to procure businesspeople to speak to their group or help them with a project. As if I needed reminding, they say, “We’re not just two little girls who are just playing around. We’re serious about what we are doing.”

The core group includes Karrina Banks, 11; Gabrielle Vincent and Rochelle Vincent, both 12; and Dafina and Jazzmin. An additional six girls have participated off and on throughout the year.

Through their community service, ranging from buying Thanksgiving baskets to researching books for an artist at the Walker Art Center, they hope to dispel the negative images the public harbors of their age, gender and race. “That was my favorite activity,” says Dafina, “helping Faustin Linyekula collect books for his exhibit at the Walker.”

While Girl Scouts would seem an easy club for the girls to join to meet their goals — it’s already established with leadership and funding — it wasn’t the choice they made. Mrs. Bobo, Dafina’s mother, emphasizes, “It’s not that we have anything against Girl Scouts. It’s just that what was available didn’t work for us… The girls are open to joining Girl Scouts in the future if it works for them.”

Until that happens, however, GIM meets a need Dafina and Jazzmin have identified as crucial. Currently their organization relies on outside funding as well as their own contributions. A key supporter of GIM has been the president of their primary school, Eric Mahmoud.

“We’re leaning toward the African American community because we can relate to that,” the girls explain. “We do have our role models, and we see that there’s more for us than videos. We know that’s all that people see — they just see us shaking butts in a video and ghetto talking, and that’s not who we are.”

And in spite of the headway Oprah has made for Black women, she’s not the pinnacle of success that these girls seek.

“At a Microsoft camp we went to, everyone said Oprah is who their role model is. They claim that Oprah is the only one who’s done anything, and there’s tons of other people,” Jazzmin says as she begins to list them: “[Educator] Mary McLeod Bethune and Ida B. Wells, they both helped a lot of people. We want to show people who we really are. You never see smart African American girls on TV.

“The image that people buy is the dumb image,” Jazzmin continues. “‘I need to look good, I need to have pride, I need to have money, I need to have more.’ But that’s not what life is. It’s just not right.”

Readers can obtain more information about Girls In Motion by writing to Girls In Motion, P.O. Box 27619, Golden Valley, MN, 55427, or by calling 952-936-6395.

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