Through July and August 2019, community changemaker Ashley Abdul ran the Brown Girl Diary (BGD), a program designed to help young South Asian and Indo Caribbean women explore their identities through spoken word and creative writing in order to develop a voice for their community, and instigate self love through understanding the stigmas and challenges they, as brown women, face.
How did the program start? “Growing up, I always felt out of place. As a brown Indian woman with a family from Trinidad, I wasn't sure where I fit in. I felt as though I was on the borderline of being West Indian (specifically Afro-Caribbean) and South Asian. I was unclear of what being an Indo-Caribbean meant. This created an extreme loss of understanding within myself, causing me to struggle socially and emotionally. At a certain point, I established that I didn't feel represented under the term ‘woman of colour’ and this contributed to my lack of confidence and understanding of self. But, I couldn't let that continue. Once I determined the issue, I wanted to create representation for the young women a part of the culture; since were probably experiencing the same issues. Through this, the Brown Girl Diary was born”.
This 2019 ArtReach-funded round of programming served young Indo-Caribbean and South Asian women living in East Scarborough. “It’s important that we target this community because there is a lack of programming for this specific demographic. Culturally, young women in this community often do not have the space to create art and talk about the issues they face in their lives. Whether they hail from South East Asia or the West Indies, this community is often bonded through cultural and societal pressures, rules, traditions, and expectations with little room to explore their own ideas. Art is often not encouraged as providing viable opportunities in life which leaves these young women voiceless and lacking space for self expression”.
Able to offer over 20 skill and capacity building workshops to participants, this round of BGD programming was a great success. Reflecting on benefits the project had on youth, Ashley notes, “these young women were able to create a collective and strong sisterhood, and we still continue to connect. They have grown an interest in who they are and where they came from culturally. They were able to come together make friends, and create relationships. Their common ground of not knowing how talented they were when entering the program and growing to figure that out, brought them together, and kept them together”. The program also culminated in a showcase at the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, drawing over 100 community members to celebrate what was achieved through the project.
So what’s next for the Brown Girl Diary? Ashley hopes to secure further funding to continue running community programming, and is working on a podcast for young women.
Learn more about Brown Girl Diary and stay up-to-date with offerings at their new website https://www.browngirldiary.com/