Spelman College alumna Brianna Baker is an uplifter, a disruptor, and so much more. Her experience at an all-women HBCU has contributed greatly to her work now fighting for black girlhood. While there are many issues to combat in this fight, Baker has dedicated her life to walk the walk as a social justice advocate.
Unfortunately, the need for Brianna’s work with black girls is monumental. While Black youth in general are often overpoliced and purposefully under-educated, Black girls carry an even heavier burden. Adding gender issues on top of race, Black girls, especially those in her targeted 12-17 age range, are a demographic that is particularly underprotected, underrepresented, and undervalued. In fact, Black girls in New York City are expelled 53 times more often than their White counterparts. 34% of girls are actually arrested on campus. While doing her own work to change this narrative, Brianna came across an idea that has changed her life and that of girls around the world.
Brianna has found a ground-breaking way to combine her love of teaching with intersections of gender, race, and justice. After going on to Columbia University’s Teachers College, she completed her final portfolio rooted in the work of activists Monique Morris, Delpit, and bell hooks. She volunteered at the notorious Rikers Island jail in New York, teaching women’s empowerment and liberation. When she left and started applying her knowledge into a class of 7th graders, sparks flew.“They became fierce advocates that authored their own research project entitled Justice for Girls in Schools: Race, Girlhood, Criminality & Justice,” said Baker. “They presented this project at the Teachers College DIRP Symposium and National Urban League Headquarters. This project birthed Justice for Black Girls (JBG).” This achievement was particularly valuable because they represented the beginning of a new safe space for Black girls to disrupt systems marginalizing their experience as girls.
Now a social justice brand, Justice for Black Girls affects change through 3 initiatives, a few of which are sadly named after those who lost their lives because of the color of their skin. The first is the virtual JBG Ambassadors Program, which uses education to engage Black girls aged 12-17 in academic work and policy work centered around Black girlhood. The second is called 4LittleGirls, a Black Girlhood Curriculum created to honor the 4 Black girls who lost their lives in the Alabama bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. The final program is the Freedom Fighters Fund, which was established in honor of 19-year-old slain activist Oluwatoyin Salau. The fund will distribute $75,000 in micro-grants to Black girl activists. distribution that offers micro-grants to Black girl activists.
Ultimately, the mission of Justice for Black Girls is to expand global knowledge of the ways systems of power based in the United States respond to and perpetuate the abuse of Black girls in schools, in prisons, and in protest. The Black girls involved are being given the tools for power, rather than just empowerment. “We are committed to creating space that enables Black girls to imagine a life beyond the confining structures in which they currently live,” Baker said.
Recently, JBG held a virtual conference that used presentations to highlight the criminalization and adultification of Black girls. It was called “Justice for Black Girls Means EveryBlackGirl,” and was in collaboration with EveryBlackGirl Inc. With over 1,000 registered, actress and activist Yara Shahidi gave a special message of encouragement. Activists Dr. Monique Morris and LaTosha Brown received awards.
A safe space was also created for a 15-year-old girl named Grace, who made national headlines when she was detained after not completing a virtual homework assignment during the pandemic. Grace actually went live for the first time at the conference and boldly proclaimed her commitment to Black girl freedom. She was honored with an award as well. “There are always challenges as you journey through purpose, but the challenges are always worth it,” Baker asserts.To learn more about Justice for Black Girls and support them, visit their website, and follow their page on Instagram @justice4blackgirls.