Jamila Walida Simon, M.S. ’10, grew up in a time and place where children were expected to be largely seen and not heard; as an adult, she wanted to correct that, providing space for Black girls to express themselves, their thoughts and feelings, their struggles and aspirations.

Now, as part of a working group that spurs and supports the self-reflection of Black women who work with Black girls, Simon has found that space for herself.

“Whatever we’re feeling and believing about ourselves bleeds down into our work,” said Simon, a doctoral candidate in global development who mentors Black girls in Tompkins County and serves as associate director of innovation in youth programming at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research in the College of Human Ecology and the NYS 4-H civic engagement specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension. “The ongoing self-reflection is incredibly vital and important. After having these experiences, I think about my own inner Black girl and the ways I bring her into these spaces. I think about reeducating her but also bringing that Black-girl joy into the work I do as well.”

Now in its third cycle of funding from the Central New York Humanities Corridor, the working group, “Collectively Envisioning Black Girl Futures,” was founded in fall 2022 by Misha Inniss-Thompson ‘16, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Human Ecology, and Courtney Mauldin, assistant professor of educational leadership at Syracuse University. Their mission is to bring Black female scholars, activists, community workers and educators together to reflect on their childhoods and find community – all in order to better serve the Black girls with whom they work.

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