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A Group Of Montrealers Started An Empowering Book Club For Young Black Girls

"Our meetings feel like the only place where they feel comfortable enough to speak openly without fear of being judged."
A Group Of Montrealers Started An Empowering Book Club For Young Black Girls

In September 2020, Black Girls Gather, a book club created for Black girls ages 12 to 17, was launched.

This club goes beyond simply reading books, it has become a safe space for Black girls to discuss their lived experiences together and develop a sisterhood.

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Club members meet every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss various Black and African authors that are often not taught in schools.

Black Girls Gather recently hosted its first public event, where a group of panellists got together to discuss African and Afro-descendant literature. The club plans on hosting more events for the public in the future.

You can read our interview with Black Girls Gather's Outreach and Event Coordinator, Joanna Kanga, below.

Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.

How did the Black Girls Girls Gather book club come to be?

The idea for Black Girls Gather (A WIBCA Book Club) stems from the fabulous minds of our Co-Founders/Co-Coordinators Mariame Touré and Fabiola Ngamaleu Teumeni.

On their last night attending a social, economical and political forum at Bishop University in Sherbrooke, they wondered what they could do with all the information they had learned. Both being avid readers and having gone to a predominantly white high school where the selections of books written by BIPOC authors was non-existent, they decided it would be a great idea to start a book club.

This club centers on Black women and literary works by Black authors.

The team consist of Fabiola Ngamleu Teumeni and Mariame as
our Co-Coordinators, Khadija Dia and Samantha Nyinawumuntu as our Assistant-Coordinators, Vanessa Manroop as our Treasurer, Amélia Souffrant as our Website Coordinator, Katya Stella Assoe as our Social Media Coordinator and myself as our Outreach and Event Coordinator.

The book club doesn't only include reading sessions where we discuss the books and make an association with our personal experiences — it also includes workshops.

The activities of the club consist of movie screenings, creative writing workshops, poetry workshops, visits from special guests (authors, podcast hosts) and art sessions all revolving around the books studied.

The purpose of this project would be to expose young girls to Black literature and engage in discussions around themes such as coming of age, racism, discrimination, identity, feminism, love, family, friendship, etc. all while building a network of support, mentorship and sisterhood for girls coming from the Black community in Montreal.

What do you think the importance of this club is?

Our program created a space like no other where young Black girls can gather and find comfort in discussing their shared experiences openly and honestly.

People often overlook the struggles and difficult realities that Black girls and women go through but our program puts the Black girl at the forefront not only in society but in the Black community.

We celebrate Black girls and women and highlight their accomplishments in so demonstrating that their realities cannot be erased.

We have seen an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem within our members. Some of them who struggle with insecurities regarding their hair are starting to overcome them.

A lot of the girls are proud to be able to speak openly about topics that they usually don't feel comfortable enough
to talk about. They feel empowered that they are not alone and that they often, as a group, have shared experiences. They also enjoy the sense of sisterhood. [...]

For many of them, our meetings feel like the only place where they feel comfortable enough to speak openly without fear of being judged.

Our program empowers Black girls and women in every aspect not only regarding the love they should have for themselves and their bodies but for the space they should openly take in society.

We encourage our members in their dreams and aspirations and show them examples of Black women who are in diverse fields like politics, science, medicine, law entertainment, etc. We are changing the narrative of Black girls/women.

We are also implementing peace by denouncing verbal and physical violence done to Black girls/women not only in the larger society but in the Black community. We denounce these situations when we see them arise in books and when they
are brought up by members from their own experience.

We show them that the Black girl's mind, body and spirit need to be protected.

Who are some of your favourite authors you've read at the club thus far?

We have read a range of different authors from a range of different literary works. Our favourite authors are the legendary, Toni Morrison, the illustrious Tiffany D. Jackson, the enchanting Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.

And frankly, all the authors that took part in the writing of Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves (a collection of essays by Black women writers) and Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America (a collection of short stories).