Karen Strong, what do you dream for Black girls?
“You are a Black girl with a bright future.”
Growing up, I spent a lot of time on my grandmother’s land. What we lacked in material resources, the land always provided a bounty for us. I would spend my days in the woods selecting the biggest daffodils so that my grandmother could proudly showcase them on her kitchen table in a mason jar. I would climb plum and peach trees, get scratched up by blackberry bushes, lick nectar from honeysuckle stems. I was truly blessed with a country girlhood. But being a Black girl growing up in the rural South, I would see the women in my family and their struggles to be recognized and respected. Black women had limited outlets and avenues to explore and lend their talents. The women in my family born during Jim Crow were unable to pursue their passions or move forward in their quest for a quality education. They were remarkable and intelligent women whose dreams were stunted by discrimination and misogyny.
In the total darkness of a country night, I would stare up at the stars. Even as a child, I knew that the world was so much bigger than the people in my town, my county, my state. I knew that there could be bigger dreams than the options put in front of me. I was a daughter born “at the right time.” I was different from the elder women in my family. Opportunities were opening up like never before and shouldn’t be squandered. My dreams became their dreams. This is what they told me: my mind was a powerful force that could take me beyond the dirt roads of my current existence.
So now this is also my dream for Black girls, especially for those who grew up in rural areas where we’re limited by what we see on a daily basis and what is possible. I want Black girls to know that all things are possible and I want them to reach beyond the limitations that they are given. I want them to understand that the doubts of their ability and future achievements from others are not facts but biased opinions. I want to tell these Black girls that you have to move past the naysayers to get to your dream.
I’ve come a long way from the dirt road where I spent my childhood. I know that it is possible to embrace and achieve your dreams. This is what I want to tell my fellow country girls and all girls who are emerging into the women they wish to be: it is not easy but it is possible. Water the the garden of your talents, never let the soil go dry. You are more than capable. You are a Black girl with a bright future.
Karen Strong is the author of Just South of Home, a Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Book of 2019. Her short story “The Witch’s Skin” appears in the young adult anthology A Phoenix First Must Burn. Born and raised in the rural South, Karen spent most of her childhood wandering the woods, meadows, and gardens of her grandmother’s land. A graduate of the University of Georgia, she is an advocate of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and worked in the Information Technology (IT) industry as a software engineer, systems analyst, and technical writer. An avid lover of strong coffee, yellow flowers, and night skies, Karen lives and writes in Atlanta. Visit her at karen-strong.com.