By Darlene Donloe
CARSON — Black Joy is described as anything that inspires, supports and uplifts Black culture.
That’s the blueprint event producers are using for the upcoming California Black Girl Joy Festival, being promoted as a day full of celebration, empowerment and pure joy.
Created by the California Black Women’s Collective Empowerment Institute, the inaugural festival, designed for junior high and high school girls, is an all-day event that celebrates, uplifts and cherishes Black girls. Free for all participants, it will focus on loving and providing a safe space for girls to celebrate each other, network, learn and discover new things about themselves.
About 300 girls are expected to attend the festival taking place from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 12 at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Kellie Todd Griffin is the president and chief executive officer of the California Black Women’s Collective, a coalition of Black women throughout California with a goal to amplify their voices and show their collective strength in the political process. The collective partners with the California Black Women’s Health Project and Black Women Organized for Political Action.
“The collective’s mission is to uplift the issues and voices of Black women and girls,” said Griffin, the mother of two boys. “We felt that Black girls needed something positive to celebrate their specialness. This event gave us an opportunity to show them how important they are to us. It’s called Black Girl Joy because the event is anchored in joy and because we are curating a joyful moment in a safe environment.”
Griffin, who attended the University of Texas at Arlington to study communications, said the organization recognizes that Black girls don’t see themselves in a positive light in the media.
“We wanted to shower them with joy and laughter, allow them to lay their burdens down, and give them a chance to exhale,” Griffin said. “Black girl joy is in our realness. It’s about lifting up one another.”
Programming for the festival includes leadership workshops, mental health exercises, a paint and chat workshop, mentorships, music, dance, an innovation institute, social media hub, a masking workshop, a self-esteem workshop, self-defense, sound baths, yoga, meditation, double dutch, hula hoops and more. All of the girls will be given a “joy journal.”
A local expert will lead them in strategic journaling. There also will be an opportunity for participants to create their own T-shirts and launch their own online business.
There also will be a lunch panel with experts from the beauty, music, health care and sports fields.
“We wanted to craft an event just for Black girls,” Griffin said. “We curated a program that includes inside and outside activities. The inside focuses on their mind and spirit. The outside focuses on their body.”
Griffin describes the festival as a “mental health event.”
“We wanted the event to be just before they go back to school so that we could give them the armor they need,” Griffin said. “We wanted them to know they are exceptional. We also wanted to give the moms of these girls a chance to exhale as well.”
Growing up, Griffin said she often wished she could exhale. She wanted to produce the event because “it’s something God put on me.”
“As a child, I remember giving my shoes away if a girl needed shoes,” Griffin said. “My mom would be furious. I watched my mom struggle as a single mother. She had mental issues that were never diagnosed. If she had support and resources, things would have been better and easier for her.
“She passed away at 43 with undiagnosed diabetes. My father passed early as well. I always thought we as Black people can do better as a whole.”
Griffin said that’s why she’s thankful for the California Legislative Black Caucus, which provided funds to create the California Black Women’s Think Tank with Cal State Dominguez Hills as the academic partner.
“They helped us secure $5 million,” she said. “It’s a policy think tank exclusively focused on Black women and girls. We are important. We’re about Black women excellence, which is Black women being their authentic selves, doing things they can thrive in, taking care of kids, balancing their lives, and showing up every day.”
The California Black Women’s Collective and Empowerment Institute recently completed two reports, which Griffin said showed that Black women were in crisis in California.
“There is a real concern around the way Black women experience life in California,” Griffin said. “We have the highest unemployment rate, the highest wage gap and a high wealth gap compared to our counterparts. We suffer from chronic diseases and we die the most in childbirth.
“We have the lowest rate of home ownership. We are struggling. We live in California, the liberal state and Black women are still struggling. We intend to lift up Black women’s issues. The Black women’s voices are not at the table. We aim to change that.”
Griffin said county Supervisor Holly Mitchell’s office is one of the festival sponsors.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.