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To honor women in herstory
Robin Patricia Hickman advocates "lovin' the skin you're in"
by Robin Patricia Hickman, with Ciana Cullens
"I thought this class is suppose to help us be stronger and love ourselves. How's learning about dead people gonna help me do that?"
This was a question posed by a student last school year in the "Lovin' the Skin I'm In" class at Battle Creek Middle School in St. Paul.
While I commended the young woman's courage in asking the question with such intensity-one of the Lovin' goals-the co-facilitators and I were challenged.
I was in a "Lovin'-style-correcting zone." ... I said, "You mean to tell me you don't want to learn about the women who sacrificed-and some who died-for you to be sitting in this class,
to ask questions?" I then asked the class: "When have you been in a class where you get a credit for healing?"
One of the girls boldly replied, "Never Miss Robin, and I probably never will again!"
There was a loving lightness that came over the room. I had to laugh and we ensured the girls that this honoring women in herstory journey would be one that would strengthen us all. The class moved forward, but I still had sadness about how many of these girls, who represented multiple ethnic groups, had not been introduced to the brave, brilliant and beautiful women of the past and present.
The purpose of the "Lovin'" program, created in 2004, is to address common, often painful issues experienced by students of color, including body image and imposed standards of beauty, self-esteem and internalized self-oppression. At the heart of the program is the mission to help girls draw affirmation of her unique beauty and power from within and value sisterhood. Learning about women in herstory is one of the ways for girls to heal and gather strength that is offered by the program.
A cornerstone in my personal and professional foundation is the loving guidance of my precious mother-sister, Patricia Frazier-Hickman. She instilled in her children, and those of the "village," a deep appreciation for family legacy and those in history, whose shoulders we stand on. After a long hospital stay, we honored our mother's wishes with home hospice care, and for four days folks filled our home to love up on her. Among the many family members and friends were those Mom nurtured as a child-care provider for over 35 years. We all basked in the environment mom created, images that reflect our family legacy and rich cultural heritage.
Mom and others in our family and community were intentional about making sure we grew up knowing and honoring our glorious past. No disrespect to Hillary, but it is as the African proverb says, "It takes the whole village to raise a child." Our village elders and educators planted this seed in us: "If you know the greatness you came from, you'll believe you can do great." Mom would always say: "You're being prepared to take your rightful place in the world."
The essence of the beloved grandma Lillian Parks-Thomas, Momma, Mrs. McWatt and the spirit of Rondo, Selby-Dale, Summit-University neighborhoods fuels my calling to foster a young people's connection to legacy and history. Our responsibility is to be intentional about connecting the herstoric dots.
Last February, Lovin' program partners at East Metro Integration District engaged over 100 students in a "Discover Black Women in Herstory" project. The students adorned boxes with photos, facts and quotes of women each selected to honor.
A Caucasian, male teen expressed his deep appreciation for actor Ruby Dee, another with astronaut Dr. Mae Jameson. Lovin' sisters at Battle Creek presented a soul-touching performance honoring their
In a spoken word/song tribute to Lena Horne and others, Kiana, a student, wrote, 'Lose the attitude, we got to lose it fast. Our generation doesn't know much about the past. ...' Then the chorus, "Maybe we'd see different, if we appreciate the women and stop taking them for granted, and we'll see what we've been missing."
We all serve as "visions of possibilities." Together we prepare our young people to take their rightful place in school, community and the world ... Lovin' the skin they're in!
Robin Patricia Hickman
is CEO and executive producer of SoulTouch Productions and dedicates this story to the memory of her mother.
Tell us about a principle or practice of your leadership experience that might strike a chord with other women. Email your 450 word personal essay to
Honoring the dead
Mapping the world
Turning fear into action
The power to change
Roots of activism
My life's work, the work of a lifetime
Listening to and hearing stories
The gift of knowing
Mentors for young parents
Let's make history
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