The "To My Unborn Daughter" Project Sends A Powerful Message
Human Interest

The "To My Unborn Daughter" Project Sends A Powerful Message

Remember when the guy's of Yale University's Black Men’s Union did something amazing when they brought the #BlackLivesMatter movement to the Ivy League institution, by way of preparing letters to their future sons?

Well, with the rising deaths of Black women at the hands of suspected police brutality and prison neglect (from Sandra Bland to Ralkina Jones), women realized their stories needed to be heard too. So what did they do? Spoke up–for themselves, and on behalf of their future daughters.

Created by Shavontae Patrick, Danielle Gaines, Heaven Imanchinello, and Ashleigh Shackelford (all undergraduate students at the time at Virginia Commonwealth University), the "To My Unborn Daughter" project was an initiative created in hopes of shedding light on the racism and police brutality that directly affects Black women and gender nonconforming people. Although the project was birthed last year, it's making it's rounds on social media once again because it's just that powerful.

Black Women, conforming and non-conforming, are taking a stand in the fight to be recognized and not be forgotten in the "Black Lives Matter Movement," too. Still walking alongside all those involved in the fight against the wrongful deaths of Black men in the BLM movement, the female-counterparts in these movements are speaking up too.

This includes cisgendered women (those women determined to be women by way of anatomy and society deeming them women solely because of said anatomy and science), transgender women and non-gender conforming women–all can find a place here and share a story for themselves and the women that will one day live in a world where they may not be welcomed. The group focused on Black intersectional issues in hopes of cultivating engagement within the community.

According to Black Action Now’s Tumblr page,

“We created this project to respectfully address that every 28 hours, a BLACK PERSON is killed. And everyday, a BLACK PERSON, is oppressed and marginalized for their existence intertwined with intersecting identity components. It’s not just about Black men; not just our fathers, not just our brothers, or our sons. That includes Black women, Black gender-nonconforming folks, and Black trans folks. It’s imperative that we keep the conversation going and discuss our experiences and concerns when it comes to the liberation of Black people.”

Some of the letters, written on poster boards, include:

"To my unborn daughter, You will defy their odds, their stereotypes, and their system. Just like your hair defies gravity. -" Danielle Gaines

"To my unborn daughter, I pray they allow you to be unapologetically black. I pray they don’t silence your right to anger. I pray your name isn’t absent in the mouths of protesters." - Shavontae Patrick

"To my unborn daughter, Being big and black and a woman is beautiful. Your body is not worth less than anyone else’s. Take up as much space as you want, because society won’t even offer you a seat." - Ashleigh Shackelford

For Ashleigh Shackelford, the movement is long overdue. She recently opened up to xoNecole to say:

“Our work, our humanity, our experiences, and our voices are overshadowed by the focus on Black men. Historically, this has always been an issue in the Black Power movement. We talk about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, but we never talk about Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, or Assata Shakur.We don't center the foundation of this movement with the people who actually put in the most work and theorized most of the experiences and power structures we navigate.”
Ashleigh holding u her letter to her daughter

In addressing her own letter to her daughter, Ashleigh said the need to say something stemmed from being a Black woman raised by a Black woman who may one day raise a Black woman. In openly addressing the marginalization of her identity, she confidently says she refuses to be forgotten and isn’t willing to use her own privilege as a cis-woman to exclude Black transwomen and those who identify as gender nonconforming.

“In penning my sign, I was addressing other fat Black girls like me. Fatness has so much to do with my navigation as a Black woman and as a queer woman. I am constantly marginalized in my identity. But I also refuse to use my privilege as a cis-woman to leave my Black trans and gender nonconforming fam out of the conversation.Black transwomen are being murdered at higher rates than anyone else and we're not talking about it. We are constantly in a state of emergency in our community, but we must broaden our fight to include all victims. Who we dedicate marches to is political. The less we bring awareness to Black trans women's dehumanization, the more we perpetuate the basis for this violence. We can fight for the Mike Brown's without forgetting about the Shade Schuler's.”


See the photos from the project in our gallery below.

What would your letteer to your unborn daughter say?




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