Taken October 20 2012 in Philadelphia, PA at the 2nd annual Penn-Knox Harvest Festival.

For colored girls whose needs have been ignored

If you’ve been watching television news here in Philadelphia over the last two weeks, you’ve probably seen the mug shots of Najee Bilaal, Zaria Estes, and Kanesha Gainey.

The three girls were arraigned in connection with a series of attacks on Temple University’s campus, one of which featured a woman being it in the face with a brick.

None of the girls lived anywhere near Temple University, all of them are going to be tried as adults, and none of them have turned 17 yet. In fact, Gainey and Estes are just 15.

[blocktext align=”right”]”The arrest of these three girls–girls that have barely entered puberty–makes me ask a question that often leads me down the road to Argumentville …. When are we going to start focusing on our girls?”[/blocktext]Now over the last month or so, there have been all kinds of programs unveiled with the purpose of helping black and brown boys.

Don’t get me wrong. They’re needed. We need President Barack Obama to start a “My Brother’s Keeper.” We need Mayor Michael Nutter and the members of the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males to make good on the recommendations presented in the commission’s report. We need all of the mentoring and educational programs that have been created for black men and boys to bear the kinds of fruit that will make things better for our community in the long run.

But the arrest of these three girls–girls that have barely entered puberty–makes me ask a question that often leads me down the road to Argumentville….

When are we going to start focusing on our girls?

Black girls need help, too

Usually, my demand that we focus on black girls and boys simultaneously tends to be met with what I like to call, “The Girls Are All Right” response.

Because statistics show that more black girls are in college, fewer of them are in jail, and things appear at least on the surface to be okay for young women, the men I find myself having this argument with tell me that this provides the impetus to throw everything at the needs of black boys.

Now since the whole “The Girls Are All Right” discussion winds up being one that centers on statistics, let me share a few.

According to a study done by the African American Policy Forum:

  • Black girls are suspended from school at a higher rate than all other girls and white and Latino boys;
  • Sixty percent of all black girls have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of a black man before turning 18;
  • Despite being only 8 percent of the population, black women account for 22 percent of homicides at the hands of an intimate partner;
  • Sixty-seven percent of all black girls said they felt sad or hopeless for more than two weeks straight compared to 31 percent of white girls and 40 percent of Latina girls;
  • Single black women also have the lowest net wealth of any group with a median wealth of $100 and 55 percent of them have never been married.

If those statistics haven’t made you depressed about the State of Black Womanhood (and if they haven’t you’re a much stronger person than I am) here’s another one: One out of every 100 black women are in jail.

In light of these statistics, “all right” is relative, I guess.

But what makes me the angriest about all of this is how much we’ve invested in solving the problems of black women and girls.

Black girls see unequal resources

In the last decade, philanthropic organizations like the Knight Foundation, Pew, William Penn and others have spent $100 million on educational, mentoring and other initiatives to help black and brown boys.

Meanwhile, the issues of black and brown girls have gotten less than $1 million.

To say that this isn’t balanced is an understatement, but it kind of lets me know where our priorities are. As usual, those in my tribe get short shrift.

I’ve covered a lot of events related to the efforts that have been put forth to help our boys. In my teaching work, I’ve introduced the young men in my classes to some of these programs and it’s helped some find the right path and turn their lives around.

For the girls, however, there’s little if anything.

And if we have learned nothing else from the fact that three girls under the age of 17 decided to go marauding on Temple University’s main campus and are about to get adult time for some rather adult crimes, it should be that something needs to be done.

I’ve taught young women in my media arts classes who have been late for class because they were, literally, fighting with their Significant Others in the street.

I’ve broken up fights between girls who knew of no other way to problem solve.

I’ve been to baby showers for girls who are far too young to be parents and that I know will never finish high school, much less college.

It breaks my heart.

We can’t continue as a community to work on only one side of equation when it comes to our kids. We need to recognize that while statistically black boys still have it worse, life for black girls is nowhere near a crystal stair.

It’s something that we can’t continue to ignore no matter how badly some of us may want to.

We have to do something. Our community’s survival depends on it.sj favicon 3

Click here for a list of initiatives that help black and brown girls. If you have a similar program that’s not on the list, please add it in the comments section.

Featured Photo by Tieshka Smith

denise clay 2Denise Clay is a journalist and adjunct professor. She is an active member of the National Association of Black Journalists and PABJ. This is her first column for Solomonjones.com


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Excellent article – long overdue. I teach in a Philadelphia GED program and I fully agree.

Veronique Teresa

Though I agree that we need to do more with our Black and Brown girls, I must disagree that there are a lack of organizations. In Philadelphia there are many programs, the issue is that the girls do not want to participate or are not aware of them. The retention rate of girls in these programs are high, so it’s more of an issue on how to assure that the programs attract and retain the girls as well as advertise in the right places to bring more awareness to these programs. it’s about working more effectively with the school district, where in some cases has been very hard to get them to buy into programs coming to the schools to meet the children where they are at.

Solomon Jones

Okay Veronique – Homework assignment. Go to the contact tab and click it. Email us a list of these organizations with contact info and we’ll publish it. That’s a first step. I’ll talk next steps with the team after that.

Veronique Teresa

Absolutely, I will pull together a list of organizations and sent along.

Solomon Jones


Denise Clay

First of all, thanks for taking the time to read my piece. And thanks to you Solomon for running it. And I agree with you Veronique. There are probably a lot of resources available to our young women that we just don’t know how to connect them to. I want to be a conduit for that because teaching in an alternative program showed me just what happens when they don’t make those connections.

Solomon Jones

You’re welcome. Looking forward to seeing more from you, Denise.


Community Legal Services recently published a report on young women of color with criminal records and the need to focus on connecting these young women with employment opportunities. http://clsphila.org/learn-about-issues/young-women-color-criminal-records

In many cases, these women are punished twice: once for their crimes, and once for not acting the way society expects a young woman should act. It makes their job opportunities very limited.

Solomon Jones

Thanks for sharing your report.

[…] CLAY made an impassioned plea for black girls in her column titled For colored girls whose needs have been ignored. Her basic argument–that we can’t leave girls behind in our quest to help young men of […]


Hi there! FYI: The links on your Initiatives page aren’t clickable, and copy & paste is also disabled.

I typed them in to check em out. Project ALOE, appears to about cosmetics and skincare. Uniquely You Summit is unclear what it’s for/about. Ladies of Verity’s web site doesn’t load. Tomorrows Girls doesn’t appear to operate today (their latest update is from 2006).

That all proves your point, of course.

For outside the US, there’s http://www.girleffect.org. But yeah, I couldn’t find anything local that you don’t have. It’s hard to believe.

Here’s the best one I know of, focused on empowerment & job skills (not immediate aid): http://www.blackgirlscode.com

They’re in NYC. Maybe they can be persuaded to open a local branch here.

My husband and I give monthly to Donors Choose (http://donorschoose.org) specifically for projects to help high poverty Philadelphia school kids get books, science equipment, art materials, and cultural opportunities. Donors Choose is a registered (tax deductible) charity and they ensure that your donations go to where & whom you select, and for the stated purpose. It’s a way to help out school kids (50%+ girls) directly with the things the government refuses to provide them. The lack of services and funding in Philly is unconscionable, a civil rights violation.

It’s not specific to just girls, but perhaps it’s worth a mention.

Solomon Jones

Thanks for the update. We’ve updated the page to make the links live, and we’ve removed Ladies of Verity for now. The rest of the programs are listed. Thanks for sharing Girl Effect, blackgirlscode, and Donors Choose. They sound like great initiatives. We’ll be sure to check them out.

[…] Jones reacts to Denise Clay’s column, For Girls of Color with a list of helpful resources women of color can turn to. Clay argues that “because […]


A lot of them act sick in the head. They are ready to stare good black girls down and fight us just because we have our stuff together. Don’t blame me for choosing to be an honor student over a jump off! Michelle Obama should be their role model, not Niki Minaj!!! It’s ashamed that women breed 4-8+ offspring and then complain about not having resources. Its not fair to the babies and its not fair to the public when they are unleashed on the streets!!!

[…] Click here to read more from Denise Clay. Featured image © by Tieshka Smith […]


This has been going on for 60 years. My mother left West Catholic in the 40s because girls were beating up kids on the streets.

Solomon Jones

First, what the heck are you talking about? And second … delete

Dontfear Thehoodedman

These girls are monsters! Any and all excuses for this animal are voided and unacceptable. She hit another girl in the face with a BRICK! If she were white, it wouldve have been a hate crime.


glad that Zarias Estes is gonna serve hard time in lesbian state prison, she is an animal who if were a pitbull would have been euthanized to protect society


no mention of getting help for the girl whose face was crushed in, has to endure multiple surgeries and had to quit college to rehabilitate her face…

Tracy Thor

i love how you make excuses for bashing innocent people with bricks. why can’t blacks take responsibility for there own actions?

Solomon Jones

First, what the heck are you talking about? And second …. delete.