As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to gain traction, activists have begun to explore other facets of the African American experience. This weekend, the mini audio documentary #BlackGirlsMatter, which chronicles the challenges young women of color face in schools, will premiere on nearly fifty public radio stations across the country.
Co-producers Amma Ababio, a Harvard student, and Marna Owens, a Penn State student, came up with the idea for the piece when working on a team project when they were youth philanthropy interns for the Heinz Endowments last summer. As one of their final projects, teams were challenged to produce a radio piece.
“We wanted to be able to touch on something that not too many people look at, that not too many people pay attention to,” Owens explains.
According to the documentary, black girls make up 14 percent of the general population, but are 33 percent of girls detained and sentenced. Black girls are also six times more likely to be suspended than white girls. All of this leads to what experts interviewed in the piece call a ‘school to prison pipeline.’ This refers to the practice of removing black girls from school via expulsion which ultimately leads to a decreased interest in education, making them more likely to get in trouble. From there, these girls are funneled into the juvenile system.
The piece explains how in many cases, a black girl is perceived by authority as having more attitude and fitting the narrative of the ‘angry black woman.’ Because of their misinterpreted actions, they often receive harsher punishment than their white counterparts.
“We wanted, in this piece, to give an explanation as to the dangers of the implicit and explicit bias against black girls,” Ababio says.
Racism and sexism are significant challenges faced by black girls throughout adolescence. The piece points out the poor amount of resources available to girls who act out behaviorally as a result of sexual trauma. Ababio and Owens hope the exposure will help ignite change for girls experiencing this.
Ababio believes the success of the piece thus far is because of the topic’s newness and the public’s desire to know more. She points to the prevalent media coverage around young black men and the absence of stories about the struggles of young black women.
“It becomes more than just a radio piece. It becomes a kick starter to be able to help people actually address the root causes behind some of the violence and inhumane treatment that many black girls face on a daily basis.”
More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.