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Cultivating divine womanhood

By Starla Muhammad -Assistant Editor- | Last updated: Jun 17, 2014 - 12:42:55 PM

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(Left photo) Nneka Muhammad (left) and Miasha Muhammad (right) gave each girl their own personal journal and spoke to them about their value and positive self-esteem. (center photo)L-R, Kimberly Harper-Young, vice-principal of Foster Park, Carmella Muhammad, presenter and John Webb, principal of Foster Park. Carmella Muhammad, a businesswoman and caterer, provides lunches for the teaching staff and when asked by the school’s principal, John Webb if she would talk to the girls about food and healthy eating, accepted the invitation. “They asked me if I would talk about food, and I said, well actually, the Nation of Islam does that. We talk to the youth all the time.” Ms. Muhammad did not hesitate to participate and involve her Muslim sisters. Photos: Starla Muhammad

CHICAGO - When Kimberly Harper-Young, assistant principle at Foster Park Fine and Performing Arts Magnet Cluster School came up with the idea for an end of school year Black girls summit for 6th – 8th graders, she had several goals in mind. One of which was for the girls to see and hear from positive and successful Black women in their community from various groups and organizations. The M.G.T. and G.C.C., who are women of the Nation of Islam under the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his National Representative, Minister Louis Farrakhan, were examples of that.

Over a dozen Muslim women from the Nation’s headquarters at Mosque Maryam were invited to participate in this year’s Young Ladies Summit, themed, “Black Girls Rock”. Nearly 50 pre-teen and teen girls attended the daylong event where they were treated to a continental breakfast, inspirational presentations and informative workshops.

The school offers a mentoring program for male students but did not have anything in place for female students said Mrs. Harper-Young. Concerned with violence in the community in which oftentimes Black girls are both victim and perpetrator, Mrs. Harper-Young, in her fourth year at the school, decided to take action.

“I said let’s have something for our girls where we talk about eating right, living right, setting goals, setting a timeline of how you’re going to get to that goal, a path that you want to go on and making good decisions.” She handles a lot of discipline issues and in conversations with female students, peer pressure and making choices were constant issues.

Mrs. Harper-Young and summit organizers also wanted the girls to feel empowered to do right and not succumb to the overwhelming pressures they often face or conform to some of the negative media images of Black women. 

“I wanted to bring a program to the school where they see positive women doing positive things,” said Mrs. Harper-Young. Situated just outside Englewood on the city’s Southwest Side Foster Park is a K-8 school with a student population of nearly 400 students. In addition to the girl’s summit, Mrs. Harper-Young said they offer several programs during the year to attend to the many needs of the students.

Under the auspices of Sandy Muhammad, student National M.G.T. Captain, the women of the Nation, adorned in brightly colored garments engaged the girls during interactive workshops and role-playing activities on conflict resolution and effective communication. Workshops on self-esteem and How To Eat To Live were also presented.   

Presenters and assistants included: Carmella Muhammad, Muriel Muhammad, Marcia Muhammad, Staci Muhammad, Khaleelah Muhammad, Tania Muhammad, Miasha Muhammad and Nneka Muhammad. Sandra Muhammad, Shannon Muhammad and student M.G.T. First Officer Kacia Muhammad were also present showing their support for the summit. The women provided the girls with take home materials including their own journals. Kenya Muhammad and Rasheedah Muhammad, both seniors at the Nation of Islam’s independently-run K-12 school, Muhammad University of Islam and Mary Burkes, a teaching assistant at Foster Park, delivered keynote addresses to the girls, sharing words of encouragement. 

After each session, the students completed evaluations on if they enjoyed the presentations, what they learned and what they would like to learn in the future. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive.

Responses to sessions on conflict resolution, included a 12-year-old who wrote, “Yes, I loved the workshop … I need help with math and how to end problems and fights.” Another student also 12 wrote she enjoyed the presentation “… because we got to act things out and we had fun.”