Come One, Come All:
Girl Scouts Celebrates Black History Month 2010

"…in diversity there is beauty and there is strength." —Maya Angelou

Black History Month is an annual observance of the profound achievements of African Americans towards making the promise of equality a fact in the lives of every citizen. Throughout February, Girl Scouts joins the rest of the nation in celebrating the perseverance of the men and women who fought for the justice and equal treatment owed them as U.S. citizens.

In 1912, when our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, declared Girl Scouts "something for the girls of America and all the world," she meant it. And though extreme adversity and oppression would be the rule of law for many years to come, “something for everyone” has been at the heart of Girl Scouting from day one.

Looking back, our first troop for African American girls was formed in 1917, 47 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, and by the 1950s, GSUSA began a national effort to desegregate all Girl Scout troops. Not long after, in 1956, Martin Luther King Jr. described Girl Scouts as "a force for desegregation."

In more recent times, GSUSA has partnered with historically black colleges and universities, companies, and organizations including Wilberforce University, Clark Atlanta University, Essence magazine, the National Urban League, the United Negro College Fund, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and 100 Black Men of America, Inc., to make Girl Scouts a part of the African American community. These partnerships have made our Movement richer with the addition of a multitude of new volunteers and scores of new Girl Scouts.

Today, close to 300,000 African American girls embrace the values and promise of Girl Scouting, enhancing the beauty and strength of our organization along the way. Two of these girls are Jade Powers, a 19-year-old with Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, and Melanie Perry, 25-year-old troop leader, also with Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. Jade and Melanie discussed their own relationships with Black History Month and the impact of Girl Scouting on their lives.

Maris, 2009 National Young Woman of Distinction

Meet one of the ten: seventeen-year-old Maris of Girl Scouts Louisiana East.Girl Scouts of the USA just announced its 2009 National Young Women of Distinction honorees. Each of the ten young women has earned her Girl Scout Gold Award—the highest award in Girl Scouting—and has been selected as a National Young Woman of Distinction for demonstrating extraordinary leadership in the completion of her community action project.

Touched by the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, Maris, who lives in New Orleans, decided to contribute to the continuing revitalization efforts in her hometown. Her project addressed the lost tree canopy in New Orleans, as she organized and led efforts to plant 26 caliper trees in New Orleans East, a section of town north of the Intercoastal Waterway. It was the first tree-planting mission of its kind in the area. Maris's work not only beautified the land—it fostered awareness of the increasing need to replace trees in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Maris, along with her fellow honorees, will be honored at a special awards ceremony on February 27 during the Girl Scout National Corporate Leadership Meeting in St. Louis.

Three GSUSA Personalities in Ebony's "Power 150"

National Board President Connie L. LindseyNational Board President Connie L. Lindsey, National Board member Susan L. Taylor, and Honorary National President Michelle Obama were recently recognized in Ebony magazine's Power 150: an annual list of "The Most Influential Black Americans." Since 1963, the section has been one of Ebony’s most talked-about features, highlighting talented individuals whose influence shapes America. To read these three profiles, pick up a copy of the December/January 2010 issue of the magazine. (Back issues can be ordered through the Ebony Web site.)


Remembering Roots
Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee Observes Black History Month with a Fond (and Grateful) Look Back

National Board member Susan L. Taylor"On a day when we celebrate one great man, MLK, I also think it's fitting to champion lesser-known heroes who strived for the same equality and brother-/sisterhood as he," said Megan Davis, program supervisor, Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee.

Davis came up with the concept for a recent council event—a program to educate girls on the inspiring life's work of Josephine Holloway, the council's first African American staff member, who trained under Juliette Low herself—held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in honor of both the reverend himself and Black History Month, which was right around the corner.

Explained Davis, "Ms. Holloway eventually donated her family's farm to our council, and it is now our lovely, most modern and ADA-accessible campsite, Camp Holloway."

Honorary National President Michelle ObamaThis campsite is where the inaugural Josephine Holloway Day event took place, featuring a welcome session followed by two morning sessions, "lunch in the lodge," two additional afternoon sessions, and a concluding presentation. The morning and afternoon sessions were held in various onsite "houses," including the Sisterhood House, where the question "what would Josephine's girls have learned in their troop meetings?" was addressed as girls learned traditional quilting skills and fiber arts, and about their historical roots in African American history. In other houses, a Girl Scout-produced documentary on Josephine Holloway was shown, vintage Girl Scout uniforms were donned and retro poses struck for a photo shoot, and girls became "cast iron chefs" as they cooked a traditional recipe fireside and sang old-school Girl Scout songs like "Girl Scouts Together" and "Make New Friends."

Girl Scouts learn to quilt under the direction of Phyllis Hildreth, owner of Falcon Feather Fibers in the Jefferson Street Historic District, Nashville's traditionally African American neighborhood.

The event was well-attended, with 49 girls and 23 moms present. According to Davis, positive reviews poured in, and she's hoping to offer the program again next year.

Additionally, she notes, in keeping with the "national day of service" concept, the quilts the girls made will be given to community agencies of their choosing, including a local homeless shelter, Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, and the Murfreesboro Fire Department.

"There are heroes all around us."

Seems Davis said it best.

Kristen Elde