Research shows black women are held to higher standards in the workplace, and when they make a mistake they’re more harshly punished. But one Virginia based nonprofit is trying to change the way the world views black girls, and they recently enlisted a local artist to help with the cause.
Hamilton Glass, an artist, stands on the corner of a busy intersection in Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood.
“You could pretty much call it the Harlem of Richmond,” Glass said. “You can’t stop gentrification, but you can remind a neighborhood of where it’s from.”
And that’s what Glass aims to do with his newest mural. It’s striking. More than a 100 feet of vibrant flowers, surrounding the faces of African-American women.
The mural was inspired by the nonprofit Girls for a Change.
“Black girls, especially girls in marginalized communities, they're not heard,” said Angela Patton, CEO. “They’re not seen, and they’re definitely not celebrated.”
Girls for a Change empowers young girls, connecting them with opportunities. One of their goals is to change the way other people view black women.
As Patton puts it: “We prepare black girls for the world and the world for black girls.”
That struck Glass, an artist, as something he could help with. He teamed up with another local artist, Austin Miles, and together they worked with group of high-schoolers to design and paint the mural.
The girls drew inspiration from magazines and decided to show a variety of faces, with all sorts of expressions.
“What the girls are trying to say is that you see us one way all the time and then when these images pop up I see myself, I see a friend. I see a person I want to get to know,” said Patton.
When she looks at one of the faces, Patton sees a grandmother -- with a broad joyful smile. Hamilton Glass stops in front of another of the girls, strong jawed and defiant.
“I think the look on her face is a stern ‘Don’t mess with me.’ And I think that is something that a lot of black girls honestly get stereotyped for. But that is a look of familiarity to me, it’s a comforting look almost, for me. My wife looks at me like that a lot,” Glass laughed.
Patton agreed, saying that’s usually seen as a negative thing.
“But what I try to tell people in my work with black girls, that’s their process,” she added.
A lot of the girls Patton works with have to grow up fast. Some are homeless, others responsible for younger siblings. Sometimes they’re just trying to say to the world ‘I got this. I’m resilient.’
“And so many will look up at this mural and see that and say ‘Thank you for understanding the space I was in at that moment and being able to put it out there to celebrate it and not to put it down or make it become another barrier in my life,” said Patton.