Girls Write Now’s Founder and Executive Director, Maya Nussbaum, was recently honored by the White House for the Champion of Change Award on September 30th in Washington D.C, making this Girls Write Now’s third honor from the White House in the last few years. Members from the Girls Write Now community joined Maya on this historical occasion for the organization, including 10-year mentor Josleen Wilson and mentee alumnae Brittany Barker and Nishat Anjum. Brittany wrote about the experience.
The following blog post was written by Brittany Barker, Girls Write Now Mentee Alumna, Class of 2010
“Look for the need…where do you see the gap? Do you think you can fill it?” responded Founder and Executive Director of Girls Write Now, Maya Nussbaum, after a fellow attendee of the 2017 Champions of Change ceremony asked the award winners what has driven them to create such riveting organizations. Maya’s statement was one of a plethora of thought-provoking and goal-shifting statements made during this year’s Champions of Change ceremony. Several of the nation’s trailblazing women, including Black feminist activist, Michaela Angela Davis; BET’s CEO, Debra Lee; Black Girls Rock! CEO, founder, and the event’s keynote speaker, Beverly Bond, and of course of our own, Maya, plus many more, gathered in the South Auditorium of the White House’s Dwight D. Eisenhower building to discuss women’s empowerment and organizational activism.
Our Journey Back to the White House
After receiving the privilege of first attending the White House with Girls Write Now for the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities Coming Up Taller Award and then the American Poetry Celebration, it was truly an honor to return!
Maya, Josleen, fellow mentee alum, Nishat, and I left Penn Station at 5:30 AM — a time apparently too early to begin snapping whole-group selfies. The more we whispered Maya and Josleen’s name to pose for us, the more Nishat and I recognized that we must have been the annoying paparazzi that everyone wishes to avoid. We settled down, watched Maya unload Girls Write Now anthologies and t-shirts, and slept as long as she and Josleen conversed — most of the ride!
At Union Station in D.C, we shamelessly asked strangers to take group photos of us — then rushed to the White House!
What We Heard
“It’s better to build strong girls than to restore broken women”
Award winners, such as Clemmie Perry, founder of Women of Color Golf, figuratively shook the room when sharing their “How I Got Here” stories. Many of the award recipients transcended socially-oppressive restrictions and boundaries, and have dedicated themselves to diminishing those obstacles for next generation. The most inspirational aspect of it all was the common trajectory these women shared — they wished to build safe, secure pathways and provide opportunities for younger women. The rent that they pay is the endless service they have and still are providing for girls who look like me and Nishat. Their unconditional humility and generosity has already indeed modeled what they envision us to be. As one of the winners said, “you can’t be what you can’t see!”
The event was so delightful that we all lost track of time, and missed our train! A blessing in disguise: It allowed us the chance to share our experiences and bond over a special dinner in D.C.
Improving The Lives Of Our Girls
Award recipients and attendees were inspired and reenergized to continue doing philanthropic work. Young women who had business ideas but didn’t know how to get them started left with first draft action plans, and even I had new concrete steps for actualizing my personal projects. This work is bigger than us. It always has been. Girls Write Now, in partnership with our fellow honorees, makes the problems that plague women bite-sized and possible to eradicate.
Until next time!
Brittany is a Girls Write Now mentee alumna and Posse Foundation Scholar who recently performed her first one woman show. A Dickinson College graduate, Brittany is now teaching in New York City and working towards her master’s degree.