I was elated to walk behind little geniuses, Lauryn Donovan (pictured left to right), age 15, her mother Tracye Donovan, Mia Coleman-Hawkins, age 11, and her mother, Tamishio Hawkins on January 20, 2018 at the St. Louis Women’s March. Lauryn was the youngest speaker in 2017, and Mia was the youngest speaker this year.
While marching, I asked Lauryn, “Since you were the youngest speaker last year, and Mia is the youngest speaker this year, what is your responsibility for those younger than you?”
Some of her answers included, speak up for them, encourage them, and advocate for them. I responded, “Yes, those are all great answers, and what else?”
She searched for more answers and finally, with the help from a young Black trans-woman, Lauryn said “mentor them.”
I smiled and said, “YES! In addition, not only must you do all of those things, but you must also hold space for them. While we are marching, it is your responsibility to make sure that Mia always has a space right next to you.”
For the remainder of the march, they walked side-by-side and Lauryn gave Mia tips on speaking.
While the two little geniuses marched on the front lines, I walked behind them with one hand on Mia’s shoulder and an eye on Lauryn. Both of their moms walked behind me and kept an eye on all of us. We were a literal and figurative representation of what the march was all about—supporting our girls to be leaders of today. The girls led from the front and we provided support, encouragement, mentorship, and a watchful eye as they were stretched to a new level of greatness. Mia’s mom said, “Dr. April, should we get separated, you are to act as mom in my place,” and without hesitation, I said, “you already know it.” As for Lauryn, even though we just met, I told her mom, “so yea, this is our daughter now, lol,” and together we would champion her greatness. This act of other-mothering is what we, as Black women, have always done. I was honored to be chosen as a support for Mia and allowed to back Lauryn.
There were two stages. Lauryn would speak in front of the St. Louis Arch and Mia and I would speak in front of the courthouse. When Mia and I were finally called, we locked arms and walked to the mic. She stood to my right and would speak first.
A faint whisper came out of her mouth and she froze with a single tear running down her face. I placed my hand around her shoulder and began to speak.
“We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and we walk with giants like little Mia, the owner of Mia’s Treats Delight, who inspire me to be a better CEO!”
After I gave my speech, she said, louder and with more confidence, “My name is Mia and I am a Liberated Genius!” This time, she spoke louder in spite of her fears and told the crowd about her business. It was an honor to stand and support her as she worked through the fear.
Together we all demonstrated what it means to be a Liberated Genius:
- Mia acted on her genius in spite of fear.
- Lauryn accepted the responsibility to mentor and hold space for another Black girl.
- Both moms illustrated what it means to be D.O.P.E., Designers of Opportunities Pushing Excellence, by supporting, guiding, navigating and loving their daughters gently, intentionally, purposeful and watchfully to help them and all of us reach our highest and best selves. They also provided opportunities for their daughters to practice their gifts and talents while standing behind them every step of the way.
- As for me, I connected the families, because D.O.P.E. moms and daughters should know each other. Together, we are stronger and can go further.
Do you hold space for Black girls and other marginalized students?
Do you allow them to lead and provide gentle, loving and intentional support and guidance?
Are you honored to be chosen to support your Black girls, students of color and other marginalized students?
Do you have a collective commitment with the parents and communities of these students to help them reach their highest potential?
Do you advocate for them in spite of fears of being seen as going against injustice?
Who are you partnering with to be socially just for our marginalized students?
Do marginalized communities trust you?