Nicole Clark Consulting

Raise Your Voice for Women and Girls of Color

  • 10th April
    2014
  • 10

Ask Nicole: “Why Do You Only Care About Women and Girls of Color?”

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I recently received the following question from a woman who is interested in starting her own nonprofit:

Hello, Nicole.  I am very impressed with your blog and I enjoy reading it for more ways to get inspiration. 

I’m interested in creating a nonprofit organization for teen girls, focusing on empowerment, education, and sports. I am Latina, and while I enjoy working with young Latinas, I’m wondering if I should focus my business around working with all teen girls, regardless of race or ethnicity. I see that your business focuses exclusively on women and young women of color. Do you ever get asked, “Why do you only care about women and girls of color?” Do you ever feel that you may be limiting yourself? I feel that if I create a business that focuses on all teen girls I will look more attractive to potential clients and will be able to grow my business more quickly, but if I focus on Latina teens, I would feel that I have more of an investment beyond getting paid for my services. I believe deep down that I know what I should do, but I don’t want to limit myself. And I’m afraid of overextending myself. 

Thank you again for your inspiration! I look forward to your reply. 

This is a really great question, and I’m happy to answer it!

I’ve been asked “Why do you only care about women and girls of color?” in a variety of ways for a long time. I think the first time I was asked was years ago, long before I could even envision what my business would look like today. But instead of being asked by a woman, I was being asked by men, who wanted to know what makes women and girls of color more important than working with entire communities of color. I was given advice on how I can include more men and young boys of color into what I wanted to do, how young men and boys of color “have it worse” compared to young women and girls of color, and how communities of color needed someone like me to provide inspiration to all young people, not just young girls of color. I’ve also be questioned on why I, as a Black woman, focus on all women and girls of color and not just Black women and girls. 

(It’s always interesting how people who have the most ideas on what you need to do, never seem to have the time or interest in making these improvements themselves. But that’s another matter!)

I’ll answer this question in three parts: 1) Why I’m invested in all women and girls of color, 2) the benefits of creating a niche and 3) the fear of limiting yourself:

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  • 3rd January
    2014
  • 03

The Self Care Corner: How to Work Through Compassion Fatigue

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In order to raise your voice for others, you have to take care of yourself first. That’s where self care comes in. If you like this tip, be sure to sign up for the Raise Your Voice newsletter to receive your copy of The Revolution Starts with Me! self care zine for more tips and self care resources.

If you work in social services (or, as we like to call it, “the helping professions”), volunteer to help out underserved communities, are a caregiver to a loved one, or deal with humans on a daily basis, you may experience what’s known as compassion fatigue. According to  Dr. Lou Kavar, compassion fatigue is a condition that involves a gradual lessening of compassion when you are tasked with caring for someone on a routine basis without taking time out for yourself. Often referred to as “burn-out”, compassion fatigue can affect your physical, psychological, and spiritual health. 

We run the risk of developing compassion fatigue when we choose to do everything on our own without asking for help, when we aren’t able to say NO to a request on our time, and when we are exposed to the traumatic sharing of life experiences that others (including clients) share with us. 

This last piece is particularly important because, in our interactions with the world, we constantly seek ways to relate and to empathize. Relation and empathy is what connects us with others. It exposes us to human conditions we may not be exposed to in our own lives.

As a social worker, I’ve had many incidences in which I’ve taken the stories of my clients home with me. Hours later, I would still dwell on what I could have done differently, or how the trauma of sharing her/his story affected both myself and my clients. Even as an activist, I have become weighed down with the demands of the communities I’m advocating for. It’s always a great feeling when you’re able to connect with a client, community member, student, peer, or family member’s plight, but it can often come at the cost of becoming overwhelmed with their life circumstances.

There’s nothing wrong with caring for others. The key is in developing a balance between showing compassion for others while also showing that same level of compassion for ourselves. Here are some ways to work through compassion fatigue:

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  • 1st January
    2014
  • 01

How Will You Raise Your Voice for Reproductive Justice in 2014?

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(Image: Activist Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene)

Each year, health disparities run rampant in communities of color, policies are created to tell women and girls that the choices we make for our reproductive health and lives (from childbirth to abortion and even adoption) are best left up to policymakers and not between us and our healthcare provider, and young people are given inaccurate information about sexual and reproductive health and places them at a disadvantage in being able to take care of themselves. 

We’ve been doing a lot of amazing activism around sexual and reproductive freedom. Let’s amplify that work in 2014 and get even more done for sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice for women and girls, and our families.

Activism isn’t regulated to just attending rallies and interrupting politicians. Activism occurs in many ways. Teachers, social workers, healthcare providers, nonprofit program directors, students, and parents and more advocate daily for the people they care about. Also, activism doesn’t always occur in the forefront. There are many of us who advocate for others behind the scenes. From blogging, to working one on one with a client in an agency setting, to structuring a program that speaks to the community your nonprofit works for, there are many ways to raise your voice.

How will you raise your voice for reproductive justice, in 2014? Here are a few ideas to get started: 

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  • 19th November
    2013
  • 19

Women Making Moves: Interview with Natalie Dean

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"… I believe that women of color in particular have been conditioned to mask the truths of their lives, even to their closest friends, because for some reason we feel we’re in competition with one another. We don’t want to reveal our problems because that somehow correlates to us being weak and vulnerable. Whine & Cheese is for women who are strong enough to say, ‘Things may not be perfect, but I still have reasons to be happy and fulfilled.’ " ~ Natalie Dean

Women Making Moves highlights how women and girls of color are raising their voices to improve the health and lives of many in the areas of sexual/reproductive health, holistic wellness, activism, education, business, entrepreneurship, the arts and sciences, and more.

Meet Natalie Deanpublic relations manager and entrepreneur. Natalie is the founder of Whine & Cheese. What began as a girls-day-in gathering of empathy and encouragement at her home has branched out into 8 Whine & Cheese locations nationwide at the time of this interview (Read posts from the branch members and the branch leaders (affectionately known as “Vines”) here). Whine & Cheese is a great example of collective self care as well as the perfect example of how to create an affirming space for women and girls. You can follow Whine & Cheese on Twitter, read about Natalie’s first Whine & Cheese gathering, and contact Natalie to discuss how to start a Whine & Cheese branch in your area

I first met Natalie when she and I were college student volunteers for a organization in Atlanta called The Cool Girls. Throughout the years, Natalie’s sophistication, pleasant demeanor and encouraging attitude has always provided me with comfort. She’s been a shoulder to cry on and a sounding board for ideas, and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to share Whine & Cheese with you all to expand Natalie’s vision of what encouragement and support can look like for women and girls of color. 

Read more about Natalie, her experiences as a woman of color and entrepreneur, how she encourages women and of color to raise their voices, and how she takes care of herself.

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  • 13th November
    2013
  • 13

Review: “Subjectified: Nine Young Women Talk About Sex” (2013)

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One of the features of my newsletter, Raise Your Voice, is “Nicole Recommends”, where I give a brief review of a product, organization, film/tv show, service, or opportunity that has the potential to raise awareness on health-related and social justice issues that affect women and girls of color.  So when I was asked to review Subjectified, I initially planned to only mention it in my newsletter. However, I thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts on this documentary here on my blog because 1) I have never done an actual review on my blog, and 2) I wanted to get the word out about the project that’s connected to this documentary and I think they can be beneficial.

Subjectified uses story-sharing to give viewers an unfiltered look at the sexual histories of nine young women in the United States. Filmmaker Melissa Tapper Goldman describes Subjectified as “a documentary that presents a real, human picture of women’s diverse sexual experiences from around the United States. When it comes to sex, women are so often seen (on billboards or television), but their voices are rarely heard.” What we tend to see in mainstream media is often in stark contrast to what young women are actually experiencing. Other influences, such as geographic region, religion, politics, and family upbringing can also play a role in how young women take on their sexuality. Tapper Goldman set out to answer the question, “What would real stories of female sexuality sound like?”, and the young women featured in Subjectified are just as diverse and their geographic locations.

They share personal stories on varied parts of sexuality and sex, including childbirth, breastfeeding, abortion, birth control, masturbation, body image, sexually transmitted infections, sex education, and surviving sexual assault. Mariluz (age 19) was raised in the Catholic Church, and confidently talks about how her sex life with her boyfriend is filled with playful touches and comfort. Brittney (age 20) shares stories of her Mormon upbringing, being sexually active, and how she has sometimes had sex when it didn’t feel good to her. Joy (age 23) discloses being molested at age 7 and the guilt she’s felt associated with her sexuality, pressure to have sex, and to feel more like an adult. Alexis (23) shared that she was excused from sex education in school due to her religious upbringing, and how sex became real for her when she discovered that she didn’t have to behave the way that adult film actresses do in pornography. Rebecca (23) is a daughter of a southern pastor, abstinent, and shares what kind of sex life she hopes to have with her future husband. “Moree” (24) learned about sex from her father, and shared how her first sexual partner’s decision to wear a condom prompted her to become more responsible about sex. “Vanessa” (25) shares her experiences of being sexual assaulted, her need to feel loved and accepted by her romantic partners, and how pregnancy has affected her body. Jackie (age 26) tells a story of growing up in abstinence-only education in the Midwest. And Samantha (age 28) was excommunicated from her Evangelical church and discussed her attraction to women, despite being raised to believe that women were subservient to men.

I enjoyed the stories of the young women in Subjectified, but the stories I enjoyed the most were from the young women of color:

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