Over the summer of 2019, Brown Girl Diary took their first step into launching our platform. Different to our digital presence, we launched summer programming catered to young women aged 13-18 years old, where we spent time teaching them some of the most important topics we believed were impacting our identity as Indo-Caribbean women. These topics were based around common cultural stigmas including mental health, education, and leadership - and they channeled it through creative arts.
When we developed programming, we chose this age group because we knew, for most Indo-Caribbean women, this was the time period where we questioned our identity critically. This was a trying time where we desperately could have used a have used some serious sisterhood.
When the program first began, I and my assistant facilitator knew to keep an open mind and be ready for things to change. It was hard to break the ice. Whether they knew one another or just met, getting them to open up was difficult. For the first couple of weeks we spent time breaking down the different concepts and ideas we felt fit. This road block was happening because of the lack of conversations between past generations and the negative connotation of "opening up."
It is noted that in our community, we should not speak of the issues that we face. It’s a sign of weakness or complaining. When we started to break down the experience of the young women compared to our own, there was one reoccurring theme; a lack of understanding of who we are and what that means. Working with the young women, of course, helped them understand the history of their Indo-Caribbeanness, but also it created a safe space where they were represented and for once, understood. We could discuss the stigmas and struggles we all faced, and openly determine the “why”
Why are we unclear with the definition “Indo-Caribbean” and where do we go from here?
There were times when we had to scratch our plan and just vibe it out.
As Indo-Caribbean women, we face a common stigma that we are always “trying too hard.” By developing spoken word pieces, dance production, and creative numbers, the young women broke the ultimate stigma representing everything an “Indian girl from the Caribbean” should not do. They worked together to develop creative work in a shame-free environment, ultimately working in their favor. They were able to leave the summer program and enter the school year with strong bonds and a group of women they knew they could lean on. They were able to expand their learning by implementing it into class projects, assignments, and presentations. They were able to speak out about who they were with emphasis. They did it with bass in their voice because of the tribe of women that they knew were behind them.
“The richness and beauty in my skin, that makes me unique and strong.
One of the young women had described herself to me at the end of the program.
The Brown Girl Diary mentorship program helped us see the positive impact it these conversations can have on our women. We broke barriers that were blocking our personal growth, and broke the fear of feeling misunderstood. We built bonds that strengthened our community on a personal level. We were able to get a front row understanding of what Indo-Caribbean sisterhood feels like, and we now know why we need it.