Uplifting Her Voice

Breonna Taylor’s death was the first time many Americans had heard about Black women experiencing police brutality. Maybe a few Americans had heard of the death of Sandra Bland, but the hundreds of other Black girls who lost their lives due to police brutality failed to have their stories told and receive justice for the harm done.

Throughout my life, I have seen the harms that can occur when we do not center the stories and experiences of Black girls. They lead to people forgetting the lives that Nia Wilson, Rekia Boyd, and Kendra James lived. So often, Black girls are spoken for, stripping away their agency. Seldom, do spaces advocate for and uplift the voices of Black girls. I decided to participate in the 20 l 20 Scholars program because I want to utilize this project as a platform to better understand how we can make spaces better for Black girls in America.

Within policy, programming, and organizing, we can mostly directly address the needs of those we are seeking to help when we center our work within the voices of those who will be most impacted by the problem and solution. So often, individuals who are not situated within the context of the problem believe that they can offer the best solutions. However, when people are not keen to all of the factors that shape one’s experiences, they may end up doing more harm than good. When we ask Black girls, “What do you need? What does a better and more just world look like for you,” those answers can allow us to craft solutions that best meet the needs of the group that we are seeking to serve. Black girls are the experts of their own experience, and stakeholders need to understand and believe that when crafting programming and policy.

My participation in the 20 | 20 Scholars program will provide me with a platform to better understand how we can make Black girls’ voices a priority in all decision-making spaces that affect any aspect of their lives. I want to engage in conversations that promote an understanding of how we work to provide justice, freedom, and liberation for Black girls across the United States. Even more importantly, I want to better understand the national landscape for working to promote justice for Black girls.

I have often thought, what am I willing to sacrifice to better the lives of Black girls, and it is my labor. So often in social justice work, we say that it is unfair or unjust to put the labor on the oppressed to educate the oppressor. Personally, in the work that I am involved in, I am willing to be the person who works alongside both the oppressed and the oppressors to educate the oppressor so that we can work towards a solution. Too often, I have been the only Black face in so many of the spaces that I occupy. I was conditioned to be the one to speak up for my community. Though this was sometimes a lot to ask of a young student, it has now become a passion of mine. I find power in speaking up and being a voice to educate. So, while this feat can be draining, I find joy in knowing that I can work to make spaces, communities, and systems better for Black girls.

Gabrielle Battle is a second-year student from Oakland, California, majoring in Public Policy. She is deeply passionate about racial justice and has worked to advocate for marginalized communities, both in her hometown and at Duke. On campus, she is involved in the Black Student Alliance’s Advocacy and Caucasus Committee, and she recently served on the Presidential Council on Black Affairs. She also serves as a research assistant for the Last Child Project at the Kenan Institute, as well as a research assistant at the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke Law School.

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