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On The Eve Of The 2nd Sisterhood Summit

Tomorrow is a big day for us. Not only is the 2nd Annual Sisterhood Summit, but it’s the kick off to a year of programming that will culminate in August, 2013. We really want to thank those of you out there who have supported us in word and deed, whether it be coming to an event or screening, hiring us to bring a workshop to you, donated your money, time or energy, buying a tee from or shop or retweeting us. We are grateful for all of our friends, followers and likes.

If you’re attending the summit tomorrow, we can’t wait to see you. If not, and you’d like to follow the going’s on of the day, follow the hashtag #BGPSS12 and stay tuned to our Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr pages for constant updates.

We’ll also be posting recaps all next week across our social media sites and will update our Flickr and YouTube pages to provide you with a glimpse inside, behind, and around the big day. Until then, grab a copy of our Summit program to catch a glimpse of what we have in store.

Partner Spotlight: Brownstone Magazine

Brownstone Magazine was founded by the wonderful Tymika Morris, a Berkeley grad and is headed up by her, Kyle Holland and Martine Rouzan — all UC Berkeley alums. Their mission is to “provide a platform that gives a voice to the untold stories, journeys, and legacies of African American girls often neglected by mainstream media.”

The site is chock full of information for young women and girls and is separated into 3 sections: Her Story; Her Journey; and Her Legacy.

Her Story
We believe that every girl has a story to tell, so this section is just for you! Join the conversation as we discuss issues affecting teen girls in Speak on It. Read inspiring stories from girls in Young, Fly, and Gifted and watch as they share their daily routines in A Day in a Life.

Her Journey
Find the right tools to equip you throughout your journey into womanhood. Check out beauty and fashion tips in the Glamorous Life. Get health, body, and relationship advice at the Brick Stop. And don’t forget to visit Stepping Stones for guidance in your academic and professional careers.

Her Legacy
African American women have such a strong history. It’s important that we not only highlight their accomplishments, but help the next generation build upon this legacy. The Brownstone Women’s Spotlight profiles professional Black women and learn lessons from life reflections in Now that I’m Older.

We’re excited to be part of the Brownstone family!

Youth in US Delaying Sexual Activity, What Does It Mean?

Originally published in RH Reality Check and written by fab board member Bianca Laureano.

A recent National Health Statistics Report has released data in a report called “Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States: Data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth.” The report states it provides national estimates of sexual activity and behaviors among men and women ages 15-44.

The data does not mention if transgender or gender non-conforming people were included. As a result, I am assuming they were not and any discussion based on gender is not inclusive of all communities and thus may not give a complete picture for all youth in this age group.

Some of the findings include an increase in youth waiting to have a first sexual encounter. This increase comes from comparing data obtained in 2002. The report states that in 2002 22% of young men and women ages 15-24 had never had any sexual contact where as in 2006-2008 those numbers increased for the age group to 27% for men and 29% for women. Specifically looking at youth ages 15-17, 53% of young men and 58% of young women reported never having any form of sexual activity. This is a seven to ten percent increase since 2002.

As respondents age their choice to engage in consensual sexual activity increases, as has been the case for decades. However, the percentage of youth who have only had oral sex and not any other form of penetrative intercourse remain low, yet as penetrative intercourse becomes a part of their sexual health history these numbers decrease. However, the reality remains that focusing on STI prevention for younger youth must still be a priority. As the report argues, some youth are putting “themselves at risk for STI and HIV before thy are ever at risk for pregnancy.”

USA Today reporter Sharon Jayson interviews several professionals in the field of reproductive and sexual health of young people and many of them make strong important arguments about our ideas about youth. Jennifer Manlove from Child Trends is quoted as saying that youth “may be more in control of their behaviors than we think.” I appreciate this quote because I think it speaks to many of use working with, raising, educating, and/or mentoring youth. There are ideas that their peers, media, and lack of supportive and affirming messages from various support networks youth are a part of influence them negatively. Yet, we rarely talk about how youth have agency, can provide consent, and are important contributing members of society.

A majority of the articles focusing on this research are interested specifically in the “virginity boom.” The Week provided an interesting list of 5 reasons why there is an “teen virginity boom.” Included in the list are: virginity is trendy, sex education is working, youth don’t have time for sex, youth desire quality, not quantity, and maybe respondents were not being honest.

I believe this is more complicated and there may not be just one answer. If we are to want our choices and experiences to be respected and to be seen as complicated individuals we must offer that to youth as well. Let us first acknowledge that the 15 year olds that were interviewed at this time may now be adults today, and their experiences may have changed. So, a majority of the respondents in this research are possibly currently sexually active to some degree.

What if we acknowledged that media images, even if not the most positive or inclusive, had an impact on youth, especially when connected to strong messages from parents and adults in their lives coupled with comprehensive sexuality education. Are we ready to give shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom some credit in providing examples and conversations for youth to witness and absorb?

Are we ready to acknowledge that some youth do value activism and education in ways we may not have imagined before? That their work is just as important, if not more, than our own as they are “insiders” to communities we have aged out of. Will any of us do anything different with this new data? And if so, will any of that include transgender youth?

Who’s The Boss {10 Ways to Start Taking Control}

Let’s just jump right in, shall we?

1. Take Good Care of Yourself It’s much easier to be positive when you are eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest.

2. Remind Yourself of the Things You Are Grateful For Stresses and challenges don’t seem quite as bad when you are constantly reminding yourself of the things that are right in life. Taking just 60 seconds a day to stop and appreciate the good things will make a huge difference.

3. Look for the Proof Instead of Making Assumptions A fear of not being liked or accepted sometimes leads us to assume that we know what others are thinking, but our fears are usually not reality. If you have a fear that a friend or family member’s bad mood is due to something you did, or that other students are secretly gossiping about you when you turn your back, speak up and ask them. Don’t waste time worrying that you did something wrong unless you have proof that there is something to worry about.

4. Refrain from Using Absolutes Have you ever told a relative “You’re ALWAYS late!” or complained to a friend “You NEVER call me!”? Thinking and speaking in absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘never’ makes the situation seem worse than it is, and programs your brain into believing that certain people are incapable of delivering.

5. Detach From Negative Thoughts Your thoughts can’t hold any power over you if you don’t judge them. If you notice yourself having a negative thought, detach from it, witness it, and don’t follow it.

6. Squash the “ANTs” In his book Change Your Brain Change Your Life, Dr. Daniel Amen talks about “ANTs” – Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the bad thoughts that are usually reactionary, like “Those people are laughing, they must be talking about me,” or “The boss wants to see me? It must be bad!” When you notice these thoughts, realize that they are nothing more than ANTs and squash them!

7. Practice Lovin’, Touchin’ & Squeezin’ (Your Friends and Family) You don’t have to be an expert to know the benefits of a good hug. Positive physical contact with friends, loved ones, and even pets, is an instant pick-me-up. One research study on this subject had a waitress touch some of her customers on the arm as she handed them their checks. She received higher tips from these customers than from the ones she didn’t touch!

8. Increase Your Social Activity By increasing social activity, you decrease loneliness. Surround yourself with healthy, happy people, and their positive energy will affect you in a positive way!

9. Volunteer for an Organization, or Help another Person Everyone feels good after helping. You can volunteer your time, your money, or your resources. The more positive energy you put out into the world, the more you will receive in return.

10. Use Pattern Interrupts to Combat Rumination If you find yourself ruminating, a great way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern and force yourself to do something completely different. Rumination is like hyper-focus on something negative. It’s never productive, because it’s not rational or solution-oriented, it’s just excessive worry. Try changing your physical environment – go for a walk or sit outside. You could also call a friend, pick up a book, or turn on some music.

If you have some other tips, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

Love

The word “love” is thrown around like a ragdoll, so much so that what it comes to true, deep, meaningful and engaging love, most folks don’t have a clue. Recently, I came across this quote:

Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. +M. Scott Peck

Ah ha! I found it. This is the (at least for me) definition of love. Love is not a noun, or a ragdoll, it is a verb, an action. You have to do love–cultivate, nurture and sustain it. It isn’t a thing that you sit on a shelf and admire, dusting off occasionally to show guests.

How many of us can say that we are willing to do what M. Scott Peck defines above? How often do you extend yourself, not just to others, but to yourself? What does it mean to do so?

I take it to mean that we knowingly go outside of our comfort zones and make, oftentimes uncomfortable, contact with others, our emotions, and desires in order to move beyond what we thought was possible. Yes, love includes caring, respect, and above all, honesty, but it’s more than that. In order to be able to truly loving, we must really take the time to examine ourselves, but most people won’t take the time to look into that proverbial mirror. Why? Because they are scared of what they might find. It’s a lot easier to make decisions based on the superficial, than it is to invest time digging deeper and let’s face it, we are a complacent and easily-pacified culture.

Besides, what in society inspires us to look inside ourselves or look past the mundane? Everything around us tells us that it’s all about the new and the now. The world is so fast paced, and we are so busy trying to keep up, that we lose track of who we are and what’s truly important. How, then, can we truly know love? How can we develop the meaningful relationships that foster and encourage love?

Sometimes, it is when we are in the most desperate, confusing, emotion-filled and trying times in our lives, that the opportunity to get to truly know ourselves emerges. It’s within this confusion, that our true selves often materialize. Seeking answers to our outward issues is often the catalyst for introspection.

I write this because I know that I do not live in a vacuum and someone reading this is either in the process of asking themselves these same questions or should be. I write this because I know what it is like to not love myself or truly love others. I write this because I  have interviewed quite a few young women who answered either “No” or “I don’t know” when I asked them if they loved themselves.

Knowing how to love isn’t intrinsic, it’s learned. You can always choose who to love, but if you don’t truly love yourself, who’s going to love you?

Partner Spotlight: Our Watchful Eye

“Watchful Eye” has built a powerful community partnership comprised of Brooklyn’s social service leaders, local elected officials; faith based leaders, stakeholders, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The mission of the Watchful Eye is to build a community level infrastructure through community mobilization and outreach that allow a cross section of community leaders and stakeholders to jointly develop programs and activities that strengthen collaborative projects to conduct and sustain HIV prevention initiatives that focus on getting people tested, educated and involved.

The “Watchful Eye” Testing, Outreach and Prevention initiative served as a catalyst to develop and execute these community actions and programmatic events providing testing, prevention and education services that reduced stigma and enhance risk reduction throughout the borough of Brooklyn and the City of New York.

It is their goal that HIV/AIDS remain in the forefront and in focus until there is a cure.  It is their aim to make it a part of every community agenda.  They believe that if individuals are aware of their HIV status, they can and will begin to affect the changes in behavior that will stem the tide of this epidemic in our communities.

Although their Community Action Partnerships are Brooklyn based, it is their goal to expand these partnerships to a national and even a global level.  As long as people are willing to work together, get involved and keep a “Watchful Eye”, this initiative can be easily replicated.

We met the founders of Our Watchful Eye at an HIV/AIDS roundtable discussion sponsored by another great organization, Human Intonation. We were immediately struck by how committed to remaining on the front lines of HIV/AIDS activism they were and they were the inspiration for our summer outreaches where we hand out information about preventing the spread of HIV and condoms.

Through them, we remain connected to community events and information to help with the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Impossible Is Just A Word

Everyone, at some point of their life, has dreamed of being somebody special, somebody big. Who hasn’t fantasized about being center stage, bowing to audience applause? Who hasn’t dreamed of being the class valedictorian or an award-winning author? And how many times have we dreamed of being rich, or successful, or happy with our relationships?

Here you go

Often, we dream big dreams and have great aspirations. Unfortunately, our dreams remain just that–dreams. And our aspirations easily collect dust in our attic. Instead of experiencing exciting adventures in self actualization, we get caught up in the humdrum of living from day-to-day just barely existing.

But you know what? Life could be so much better, if only we learned to aim higher.

The most common problem to setting goals is the word impossible. Most people get hung up thinking I can’t do this. It’s too hard. It’s too impossible. No one can do this. However, if everyone thought that, there would be no inventions, no innovations, and no breakthroughs in human accomplishment.

Remember that scientists were baffled when they took a look at the humble bumblebee. Theoretically, they said, it was impossible for the bumblebee to fly. Unfortunately for the bumblebee, no one has told it so. So fly it does.

On the other hand, some people suffer from dreaming totally outrageous dreams and not acting on them. The result? Broken dreams, and tattered aspirations.

If you limit yourself with self-doubt, and self-limiting assumptions, you will never be able to break past what you deem impossible. If you reach too far out into the sky without working towards your goal, you will find yourself clinging to the impossible dream.

Try this exercise: Take a piece of paper and write down some goals in your life. Under one header, list down things ‘you know you can do’. Under another header, write the things ‘you might be able to do’. And under one more, list the things that that are ‘impossible for you to do’.

Now look at all the headers and strive every day to accomplish the goals that are under things ‘know you can do’. Check them when you are able to accomplish them. As you slowly are able to check all of your goals under that heading, try accomplishing the goals under the other header-the one that reads ‘you might be able to do’.

As all of the items you wrote under things I could do are accomplished, you can move the goals that are under things that are ‘impossible for you to do’ to the list of things ‘you might be able to do’.

As you continue through this process, you will find out that the goals you thought were impossible become easier to accomplish. And the impossible begin to seem possible after all. You see, the technique here is not to limit your imagination. It is to aim high, and start working towards that goal little by little. However, it also is unwise to set a goal that is truly unrealistic.

Those who just dream towards a goal without working hard end up disappointed and disillusioned.

On the other hand, if you told someone a hundred years ago that it was possible for man to be on the moon, they would laugh at you. If you had told them that you could send mail from here to the other side of the world in a few seconds, they would say you were out of your mind. But, through sheer desire and perseverance, these impossible dreams are now realities.

Ask any gym rat and they will tell you that there can be no gains unless you are put out of your comfort zone. Remember the saying, “No pain, no gain”? That is as true as it can be.

So dream on! Don’t get caught up with your perceived limitations. Think big and work hard to attain those dreams. As you step up the ladder of progress, you will just about find out that the impossible has just become a little bit more possible.

Motivation: A to Z

Pain may sometimes be the reason why people change. Failing grades make us realize that we need to study. Debts remind us of our inability to look for a source of income. Being humiliated can give us the push to speak up and fight for ourselves. It may be a bitter experience, a friend’s tragic story, a great movie, or an inspiring book that will help us get up and get just the right amount of motivation we need in order to improve ourselves.

In Yellow

With the countless negatives the world brings about, how do we keep motivated? Try these tips, from A to Z.

A – Achieve your dreams. Avoid negative people, things and places. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

B – Believe in yourself, and in what you can do.

C – Consider things on every angle and aspect. Motivation comes from determination. To be able to understand life, you should feel the sun from both sides.

D – Don’t give up and don’t give in. Madame CJ Walker failed a few times before she revolutionized the haircare industry for black women.

E – Enjoy. Work as if you don’t need money. Dance as if nobody’s watching. Love as if you never cried. Learn as if you’ll live forever. Motivation takes place when people are happy.

F – Family and Friends are life’s greatest treasures. Don’t loose sight of them.

G – Give more than what is enough. Where does motivation and self improvement take place at work? At home? At school? When you exert extra effort in doing things.

H – Hang on to your dreams. They may dangle for a moment, but these little stars will be your driving force.

I – Ignore those who try to destroy you. Donít let other people to get the best of you. Stay away from toxic people–the kind of friends who hates to hear about your success.

J – Just be yourself. The key to success is to be yourself. And the key to failure is to try to please everyone.

K – keep trying no matter how hard life may seem. When a person is motivated, eventually she sees a difficult life falling by the wayside, paving the way to self improvement.

L – Learn to love your self. You are perfect the way you are and once you love yourself, you can accomplish anything.

M – Make things happen. Motivation is when your dreams are put into work clothes.

N – Never lie, cheat or steal. Always play a fair game. Whatever you do will eventually come back to you. Better to walk the straight and narrow.

O – Open your eyes. See things in two ways–how you want things to be, and how they should be.

P – Practice makes perfect. Practice is about motivation. It lets us learn repertoire and ways in which we recover from our mistakes.

Q – Quitters never win. And winners never quit. So, choose your fate–are you going to be a quitter? Or a winner?

R – Ready yourself. Motivation is also about preparation. We must hear the little voice within us telling us to get started before others will get on their feet and try to push us around. Remember, it wasn’t raining when Noah build the ark.

S – Stop procrastinating.

T – Take control of your life. Discipline or self control works synonymously with motivation. Both are key factors in self improvement.

U – Understand others. If you know how to talk, you should also learn how to listen. Yearn to understand first, and to be understood second.

V – Visualize it. Motivation without vision is like a boat on a dry land.

W – Want it more than anything. Dreaming means believing. And to believe is something that is at the root of motivation and self improvement.

X – X Factor is what will make you different from the others. When you are motivated, you tend have ‘extras’ in your life like extra time for family, extra help at work, extra care for friends, and so on.

Y – You are unique. No one in this world looks, acts, or talks like you. Value your life and existence, because you’re just going to live it once.

Z – Zero in on your dreams and go for it!!!

Partner Spotlight: IFCO

The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) was founded in 1967 by progressive church leaders and activists. Its purpose: to advance the struggles of oppressed people for justice and self-determination. For almost 40 years, IFCO has assisted the poor and disenfranchised in developing and sustaining community organizations to fight human and civil rights injustices. This work includes education about the realities of the poor in the US and the third world.

Since 1992, IFCO has worked to bring an end to the immoral and unjust US Economic blockade of Cuba and has provided humanitarian aid to the Cuban people through Friendshipment Caravans, construction brigades and educational delegations.

Through their project Pastors for Peace, IFCO carries out similar work in Chiapas, Mexico; Haiti; and other nations of Central America and the Caribbean. IFCO also provides support for grassroots community organizing projects in urban and rural regions of the United States.

IFCO is our fiscal sponsor. Instead of going about doing the administrative backend work that a non-profit or 501(C)3 requires, IFCO handles all of that for us. We send them reports and they manage everything, including our banking. All we do is give them 10% of all of our proceeds, a fair price to pay to not have to deal with the headache of all of the paperwork and we know that our 10% goes toward running IFCO and the amazing community work they do.

Make It Happen: Be A Leader

When you are at school or work, do you get frustrated because things don’t seem to be happening the way they’re supposed to be? You see people milling around but nothing gets accomplished. And in the daily hustle and bustle, do you feel that your goals remain just that–goals. Then maybe its time for you to stand up and do something about it.

Most people are content just to stand around listening for orders. And it isn’t unusual to adopt a follow-the-leader mentality. But maybe, somewhere inside of you, you feel the desire to make things happen–to be the head, not the tail. Then maybe leadership just suits you fine.

A dove

Some people believe that great leaders are made, not born. Yes, it may be true that some people are born with natural talents. However, without practice, without drive, without enthusiasm, and without experience, there can be no true development in leadership.

You must also remember that good leaders are continually working and studying to improve their natural skills. This takes a commitment to constantly improve in whatever endeavor a person chooses.

First of all, let’s define leadership. To be a leader, one must be able to influence others to accomplish a goal, or an objective. She contributes to the organization and cohesion of a group.

Contrary to what most people believe, leadership is not about power. It is not about harassing people or driving them using fear. It is about encouraging others towards the goal of the organization. It is putting everyone on the same page and helping them see the big picture of the organization. You must be a leader not a boss.

First of all, you have to get people to follow you. How is this accomplished?

People follow others when they see a clear sense of purpose. People will only follow you if they see that you know where you are going. Remember that bumper sticker? The one that says, don’t follow me, I’m lost too? The same holds true for leadership. If you yourself do not know where you’re headed to, chances are people will not follow you at all.

You yourself must know the vision of the organization. Having a clear sense of hierarchy, knowing who the bosses are, who to talk to, the organization’s goals and objectives, and how the organization works is the only way to show others you know what you are doing.

Being a leader is not about what you make others do. It’s about who you are, what you know, and what you do. You are a reflection of what you’re subordinates must be.

Studies have shown that one other bases of good leadership is the trust and confidence your subordinates have of you. If they trust you they will go through hell and high water for you and for the organization.

Trust and confidence is built on good relationships, trustworthiness, and high ethics.

The way you deal with your people, and the relationships you build will lay the foundation for the strength of your group. The stronger your relationship, the stronger their trust and confidence is in your capabilities.

Once you have their trust and confidence, you may now proceed to communicate the goals and objectives you are to undertake.

Communication is a very important key to good leadership. Without this you can not be a good leader. The knowledge and technical expertise you have must be clearly imparted to other people.

Also, you can not be a good leader and unless you have good judgment. You must be able to assess situations, weigh the pros and cons of any decision, and actively seek out a solution.

It is this judgment that your subordinates will come to rely upon. Therefore, good decision-making is vital to the success of your organization.

Leaders are not do-it-all (s)heroes. You should not claim to know everything, and you should not rely upon your skills alone. You should recognize and take advantage of the skills and talents your subordinates have. Only when you come to this realization will you be able to work as one cohesive unit.

Remember being a leader takes a good deal of work and time. It is not learned overnight. Remember, also, that it is not about just you. It is about you and the people around you.

So, do you have the drive and the desire to serve required of leaders? Do you have the desire to work cooperatively with other people? Then start now. Take your stand and be a leader today.