Black Girls Gather is a new book club in our hometown of Montreal, launched by the West Island Black Community Association. It consists of a group of young Black women between ages 12 to 18 who connect weekly to discuss literary works by Black authors. This includes reading discussions, movie screenings, creative writing workshops, poetry workshops, visits from special guests and art sessions all revolving around the books studied.
The purpose of this project is to expose young girls to Black literature and engage in discussions around themes, such as coming of age, racism, discrimination, identity, feminism, love, family and friendship, all while building a network of support, mentorship and sisterhood.
A truly significant program in our community that we're thrilled to support.
Meet the Black Girls Gather Team
“Growing up in Montreal, attending predominantly white schools, I never felt reflected in the curriculum. Books were often centered around Canadian and European culture, and the authors, characters and historical figures lacked diversity. When I got to college and my English teacher introduced our class to “The Bluest Eye”, an American novel written by a Black woman and featuring at its center a young black girl, I felt seen and welcomed within the classroom for the first time. We created Black Girls Gather, so young Black girls no longer feel erased and silenced from the stories they read.”
~ Mariame Touré, Co-Coordinator
“Black Girls Gather sums up the experience, the connections and the literature I longed for as passionate young Black female reader."
~ Fabiola Ngamaleu Teumeni, Co-Coordinator
“Being from Montreal, starting here made sense. There was a need to begin the work in the community we live in, where we can have direct impact, which is all that matters. “
~ Joanna Kanga, Outreach & Event Coordinator
What does this book club represent for young Black girls?
It's a safe space that is much needed and one of its kind. The book club is not only an intellectual challenge but a cultural, emotional and moral one. It allows us to reclaim our identity and write it for ourselves and by ourselves. It allows the girls to, for once, see themselves not as a statistic or "diversity", but people with a legacy.
Tell us about one of the books you'll be reading and discussing!
“Black Enough” is the first book our 12 to 14-year-old participants will be reading. It's a collection of short stories written by Black authors and edited by Ibi Zoboi. “Black Enough” tells the stories of Black adolescents of African descent, immigrants and natives born in different parts of the U.S. The reader is shown that you can be yourself and still be Black; there is no mould that defines what it means to be Black.
People often have this image of what it means to be Black: a basketball player, a rapper, a criminal, a hip hop dancer, a loud person, the class clown, African American, etc. As soon as you don't fit into that mould, people say that you don't act Black enough. They say that you act white. For a young Black girl growing up in spaces where you are under-represented, people putting into question your Blackness causes you to question your identity, your heritage, and if you belong in the Black body you have been put in since birth.
This book makes Black youth feel seen, heard and accepted for who they are and for the colour of their skin.
How can allies support Black Girls Gather?
By sharing our initiative and donating. But most importantly, learning from Black Girls Gather and bringing that knowledge along with them to their workplace, families and any gatherings. Places where they have a voice to make things right when they're not.
Photos: Black Girls Gather