I first met recent Chestnut Hill College graduate Gina Booker at an open mic event hosted by band leader Rich Tucker at Relish restaurant in West Oak Lane.
This phenomenal woman who works for the City of Philadelphia as a Behavior Health Specialist and Horsham Clinic in Horsham, Pennsylvania, had an idea, she had a thought, and then it turned into fruition.
The program focuses on young Black girls and their mental health and well-being.
I met with Booker at her first Conscious Queens event, which was held at the Finley Playground in Mount Airy. The room was filled with 30 young Black girls from the ages of 12 to 16 and the program that she shared with them was superb.
cj: What is Conscious Queens?
GB: Conscious Queens is a program I created on the strength of young Black girls in need of mental health and wealth and awareness, just to understand who they are and their being: how to balance their mental health, anxiety, diagnoses, anger, stress, and how to manage it. A lot of times they go throughout their day, week, and lifetimes not understanding who they are or why they do the things that they do. Conscious Queens was developed to share with young Black girls various techniques and methods that they can utilize every day, [such as] how to practice managing their stress, anger, and anxiety, not to mention depression.
cj: Why do you feel that this program is important for the future of these girls?
GB: Our young Black girls are growing into women eventually and sometimes we come across women [who] are so angry, often depressed, [and] a lot of women are managing single households with their children not understanding how to manage their relationships with men and their relationships with their children. I just felt like there was a need to address and introduce this awareness to these [girls]. The young Black girls that we see used to be who we were, and sometimes [are] who we are now.
cj: How do you feel that the children are different from when we were growing up?
GB: When you can’t communicate on the level of an adult, you can feel overwhelmed. We have children in the classroom, and you sit and just observe their behavior, you don’t know what these children have experienced or are experiencing. You know that some children are managing their households, have been considered to be “parentified,” and they are taking care of their siblings. They may not have the finances to do it, but they wake up in the morning, they cook for their siblings, [and] they clothe their siblings, all because the parent or parents are absent, abusing drugs, or may have depression, a symptom, or a diagnosis of their own. [There] is so much going on in these households; just look at the news and the age of these criminals are getting younger, younger, and younger: ages 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14. I was playing with dolls when I was age 10. I was not even thinking about walking the street — I couldn’t. Times have changed so much and society, to me — just a personal thought — society has changed.
cj: What do you feel has changed today in comparison to 50 years ago?
GB: Our lifestyles and how we raise our children, what we can say to them, and what we do for them. Also, how we do it. They are dictating how we raise [them] and who these children are becoming. If that wasn’t the case, then just to compare now to the time period before, like I said, I was playing with dolls. These young Black girls don’t even know anything about a doll. They are playing with boys now — they are playing with human beings.
That is what Conscious Queens is about — being aware and being conscious of who you are, why you are doing the things that you are doing, and how to manage if you are not feeling well. You might go through a time period, [such as when] a young Black girl might always have a headache once a month, [but there is] no one around to share with her that that could possibly be a symptom of her monthly cycle coming. Parents aren’t sharing these things with their daughters, so they don’t know how to manage it. So, they are asking their girlfriends, using YouTube, Google and all. Technology is their best friend and their first source of reference. All types of information that they are gathering is not coming from [the] actual family member that is raising them. So it says a lot about the relationship in the household and who is actually raising our young Black girls.
cj: Why is it important for our young Black girls to be conscious?
GB: It is important for them to be conscious so that they can grow into women who are aware so that they won’t have to deal with some of the issues that are out here. They will know the things that they should be looking for when in a relationship with a man. They will know the questions that they should be asking when it is time to fill out an application for a job. They will [also] know when they are being disrespected by another human being.
If you are conscious and you are aware of someone’s tone, the language that they are speaking to you, that means that you have studied yourself and you are aware, conscious of yourself, and aware of your emotions. You are physically in tune with who you are. [You can ask yourself], ‘Did what he or she say affect me?’ ‘Did what he [did] to me — did that affect me?’ ‘Have I been traumatized by that?’ ‘What does trauma mean?’
So these are things that no one has talked to these young Black girls about and they need to be conscious of it. They need to be aware of how these issues that they are dealing with as a child will affect their lives as an adult woman.
cj: How can we find you?
GB: At [email protected]. I am trying to consciously connect with everyone, all populations. I started with the queens, [because] as we rule the world, we set the tone — and without a queen, there can’t be a king.
If you have a young daughter, niece, or know of any young Black female who is in need of some guidance, and is just trying to improve her life, school work, self-esteem, relationships and more, consider getting them involved with the Conscious Queens program. Until next time….PEACE!
cj is a poet, educator, motivational speaker, and inspirational writer who resides in Philadelphia. If you were moved by this piece, shoot cj a “like” or comment at: [email protected].