Read, Write, Breath and Love
A Revolutionary Summer (ARS) is an intensive critical reading and writing program dedicated to shifting harmful narratives about Black women and girls through art, literature and self-inquiry.
For eight Sundays in the summer, up to 20 “daughters” gather to discuss and experience the creative works of consequential Black women artists. They do so under the guidance of authors, community activists and teachers. Workshops begin at noon and end at 4PM. Each session concludes with a yoga class. Light snacks and refreshments are provided (though full plant-based meals are on our wish list). Daughters are gifted personal libraries, iTunes gift cards, and a month's subscription to Netflix (for access to the music and films we study). They are encouraged to participate in the end-of-program presentation. In years past, they’ve published their original writing in ARS’s online literary journal, recited their work at a public reading, and performed Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf. This year they will perform excerpts from the anthology I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.
Authentic Stories and the Space to Be
A Revolutionary Summer’s mission is to present Black girls with authentic representations of themselves and to simultaneously convince them that they are more than those representations. That’s a tricky feat—to demonstrate both the power and limitations of story.
In June of 2017, the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law published the first study focused on the “adultification” of Black girls. The study, Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood reveals data indicating significant bias toward Black girls. A snapshot of the findings appears on the report’s executive summary page and notes the following adult perceptions of Black girls:
Black girls need less nurturing.
Black girls need less protection.
Black girls need to be supported less.
Black girls are more independent.
Black girls know more about adult topics.
Black girls know more about sex.
The report goes on to link these perceptions to disproportionate rates of punitive action and disparate treatment in public systems like education and juvenile justice. These findings are devastating. ARS might feel hopeless were we charged with tackling these systems. We don’t feel hopeless, however, when charged with supporting Black girls with resources, tools, and mechanisms for navigating them. We certainly don't feel helpless knowing we can provide respite from their everyday battles.
Black women authors and artists do a tremendous job of telling the truth about Black existence, and because we know the power of story, we believe part of our duty is to ensure Black girls have ready access to authentic tales about themselves. This is why to date revolutionary daughters have read over 30 carefully selected books. But over time we’ve discovered that any story—constructive or injurious—requires defense. To believe you deserve novels and paintings and albums that reflect your experiences compels the fingers to gather into fists. Don’t get us wrong: there is no more noble fight. But it is equally as important to us that Black girls have a space to just be the baby bit of the universe that they are. They need the space to examine their small, capable hands holding a book; the space to curl their toes upward, toward the sun; the space to inhale and to exhale; the space to connect with all the world’s other trying beings—plants and animals and men and women with much different stories.
Spaces that honor the difficult, complex nature of trying to both live within your story and beyond it can be hard to find. A Revolutionary Summer uses literature, art, yoga, mindfulness, deconstruction of thought and self-love strategies to create, hold and honor this space.
ARS is run by a small team of Black women who not only understand the power and limitations of story but have depended on art, literature, mindfulness and self-inquiry to unearth and destroy stories that do not serve them and to cultivate those that do.
Andria Cole directs A Revolutionary Summer, but it would not exist without the support of coordinators Arnie Better, Shamoyia Gardiner, Nicole Karikari and Nichelle Calhoun. Bilphena Yahwon and Barbara Sherrod lead our teacher team.
What a Summer Costs
Per daughter, A Revolutionary Summer costs:
$400 stipend (daughters are responsible for raising the additional $100)
$135 books + media subscriptions
$170 food + drinks
$455 performance (costumes, venue, royalties, etc.)
$75 team building retreat (this year, we're taking a trip to Virginia)
$200 guest speakers and authors
$140 workshop venue & learning supplies
$180 across-the-seasons activities
Help Make ARS 2018 a Possibility
A Revolutionary Summer exists because of the people. Each year we welcome and are sustained by hundreds of individual donations. We are honored by every single contribution—those that make us clutch our pearls and those that make us nod Amen. We are also emboldened by the support; it has pushed us to think bigger. In years past, for instance, we did not offer a stipend. Now we're just crazy enough to think we can give daughters a little green appreciation. We've also challenged ourselves to create an excellent end-of-program presentation—a meaningful, visually stunning demonstration of the beautiful ideas our daughters earn, replete with costumes, set and a passionate director.
You can help guarantee that A Revolutionary Summer 2018 provides rigorous reading and writing workshops, publishes a gorgeous literary journal issue, produces a top-notch play, and feeds our daughters good things to eat by making a contribution that matches your heart and budget.