Sometimes when you least expect it, opportunity comes knocking. In my case it came from a phone call with an old friend. By the time I hung up I was inspired and motivated to get involved. My hope is by the time you finish reading you also recognize the opportunity:
Starting out my call with my girlfriend we caught up on our lives: spouses, kids, and parents but then the real gossip started. Talking about the old days in college (ahem, old school twerk team), real girl talk and best of all laughed at ourselves and each other.
One member of our group is Rakia Johnson-Marcus. We met at Valdosta State University while on the Red Hots Dance Team (yes it was a real thing) and hit it off right away. By now we have graduated, have separate jobs, marriages, lives states away from one another, kids and all else life throws at us and have gone for long periods without talking to one another. Well except for the quick like on Facebook, (and if you know me I make one or two posts a year) but we have that type of friendship that within minutes all that flies away when we do get together.
Well Rakia was tagged in a post called 500 Queens. It sounded interesting so I clicked to see if I could learn more about it. The whole time I’ve known Rakia her passion for children has been a core part of her personality. I remember she did some volunteer work with the boys and girls club and could see right away this was so natural, that children like her immediately, and that she was such a positive role models for girls especially. Knowing this, 500 Queens is her calling:
Rakia, what is 500 Queens and what motivated you to create this organization?
RM- 500 Queens is a mentoring group for young girls. Girls at my school were lost. Kids would come to me and tell me about the things they were doing outside of school and I felt we needed to find a positive outlet for the girls to be in. My coworker, Niviea Williams, and I came up with the organization.
What is the mission of 500 Queens?
RM- Queens are the most powerful piece of the chess board. The mission of 500 Queens is to mentor the girls into being the most powerful piece of their chess board called life. We want them to be the most powerful and successful queen in life. We want the girls to learn strategies and be able to navigate as women.
Our program is centered on what we call Royalty S.T.E.P.S., Striving to Empower Progress in Sisterhood. The steps are put in place to help with teaching the girls about self-esteem, good character, and life skills.
By the end of the school year we want the girls to be empowered. We want them to know that they don’t have to settle and them to be able to define who they are as a woman. We have a Queen’s Brunch at the end of the year where the girls are able to bring their families and reflect on all we did for the year.
How long have you had the program?
RM- Last school year was our first year. When we first went to the administration about it we were denied because the request wasn’t put in on time but my cofounder found a clause and my principal accepted it. At the beginning of the program we started off with 17 girls, all in 6th grade. For the 2016-2017 school year we have extended it to 9th– 12th grade.
How often do the girls meet and what are some of the activities they do?
RM-We have bi-weekly sessions where we discuss different topics and do related activities. We also have women from the community come and talk to the girls.
What do the girls have to do in order to be accepted into the organization?
RM-We want a minimum of 20 girls to participate per year. They apply by writing an essay on one of two topics: What it means to be a queen or How media portrays women and how it impacts them. We want the girls to give real and honest responses in their essays.
Where do you see the future of 500 Queens?
I’d love to see 500 Queens highlighted on Black Girls Rock. I’d love for it to grow outside of our school and go into middle schools. I’d like it to be become a non-profit organization and community organization nationwide wide.
After hearing all about this organization and everything it stands for I know my friend is on to something that is going to change so many lives. To find out more about the organization please visit https://sites.google.com/a/gcssk12.net/500-queens1/ !