I met the incredible Tracie Berry-McGee during the second cycle of The Awakenings Project-STL. She is doing incredible work with young Black women in arenas of mental health and mentorship in the St. Louis Metropolitian area. But the dopest thing about her? Tracie has seen a need, and made space to fill it!
In the African-American community, there is still a stigma around mental health. There is still an emphasis on prayer, and not outside practice. As a woman of faith–whom, too has a therapist–I can say you can have faith in a higher power as well as therapist! There is absolutely nothing wrong with faith and therapy. Too often, we as Black women shoulder burdens, weights, stressors and triggers we didn’t ask for and may not know how to handle!
What I want to call attention to is Ms. McGee’s brainchild of the I Define ME Movement. Their mission statement is:
The I define ME Movement is all about women and girls taking the pledge to define the moment, defining your voice and not allowing society to define you as a statistic, a label or view you through the eyes of television, radio, magazines or social media. Take the pledge and join a movement that allows you to become a SistaKeeper to issues that impact our local, national, and global communities! Define your voice and together we will Define the Movement!
I want to call attention to this movement seeing that mental health is not a topic often spoken about. Women, especially women of color and Black women, are supposed to soldier on regardless of the pain we are in. We are expected to house pain, regret and sorrow in expensive bags, dope shoes, making more money, buying more stuff and fly hair. The sadder part is we pass those same coping skills to our daughters.
Being able for a little girl, a little Black, a girl of color, to be able to define herself? Without the harmful and critique of the world hellbent on ignoring or minimizing her? That is monumental. Visibility is always a just cause! Just because a woman is seen as strong enough to hold up the world, doesn’t mean she should always be expected to do such!
I think of the work she is doing on par with farmers or those who plant nurseries. This is what we are taught the wise do: plant! Tracie and the iDefine ME Movement is a orchard being planted one tree, one girl, at a time. The gift of this is she may be blessed to see the one tree grow, even see the flower in her lifetime.
From her seeds, from her time and effort, will–does–come the orchard. With shade, and strength from those that planted these trees. Who gave of their time, love and resources to those coming after, walking in their footsteps. These young women and girls whom may never see those who cared enough about them to prepare for their coming. Whom looked at their own lives, and pulled out wisdom to give to girls whom looked like them.
Tracie Berry McGee is planting trees for young girls she may never see. Yet, knows they are coming. And are here. For that, she is an activist and a #Torch.
[image taken from the SistaKeeper-I Define ME Girl Movement Page’s Facebook Page]