Dear Gabby: You are forever our champion
Sisters launch #PrettyBrownGirls4Gabby Campaign to uplift Gabby Douglas despite negative media during Rio 2016 Olympics
Pretty Brown Girls 4Gabby — 10 and 11-year old sisters, Laila and Aliya Crawley, share heartfelt message for Gabby Douglas to stay strong despite hurtful social media commentary about her hair.
By Lauren Bealore
NATIONWIDE — Every four years, the world of sports brings us a showcase of some of the most awe-inspiring athletes that use their bodies to be advocates for their country and help us all be patriotic cheerleaders for a national dream. This year, like any other, I sat in front of the television screen, searched for representation of my own ethnic and genetic make-up, and proceeded to be their biggest supporter. However, this year during the 2016 Olympics in Rio felt different. There was a different sense of victory that took place. I found that I was not cheering on a young Black woman in one specific category or simply one specific person.
I was presented with multiple Black women of all shapes, sizes, and sports that gave me this sense of pride for the historical Olympic Games like never before. To see this upward mobility of Black women dominating not just sports but the highest honor of this industry was beyond fulfilling and helped me to be a patriot for an internal dream. Unfortunately, my uplifting spirit did not coincide with the social media critics that shared the same ethnic and genetic make-up, which has led to an eye-opening conversation about self-awareness and appreciation.
In the Black community, mainly for women, we have experienced decades of being desensitized to criticism. Our multi-faceted, Afro-centric, anti-European looks have never been glorified by society, even when reaching the highest height of success, we are still held in captivity by the sub-conscious mental imprisonment of mainstream standards of beauty and acceptance… and unfortunately the most recent victim was our former American media princess Gabby Douglas.
Gabby entered our lives and stole our hearts in the summer of 2012, the first African-American woman in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion, and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. Currently, Gabby and newcomer to our lives Simone Biles are the only two American all-around champions to win multiple gold medals in a single Olympic Games. Although these two young women are equally very accomplished and Gabby proved to the world that she has the athleticism to be an inspiration for years to come, there was a dark cloud of separatism that took place.
This year, we witnessed greatness from several Black women, two even on the same team, yet only one was targeted to create defeat rather than triumph before she could even compete. A 20-year-old successful Gabby Douglas representing a country and community in which some have decided to treat her as a catty, high school cafeteria bundle of gossip and ridicule for nothing more than a laugh at a very cheap expense. Both Gabby, Simone, and several other young women have shown us that collectively, we are a great asset to the world of sports but instead, we saw the use of divisive support in order to secondarily marginalize a woman within her own community.
It is apparent that there is a sense of dual consciousness with women of color: the idea of wanting representation to matter to further our identity in society but also helping to push the negative stereotypes that catapult our perception in society.
This unfortunate media blitz has resulted in an organization advocating for young girls of color to take a stand and create a call to action of support. Pretty Brown Girl, successfully launched by Sheri Crawley in 2010, is a social enterprise whose mission is to encourage girls to celebrate the beautiful shades of brown skin all over the world while inspiring positive self-esteem and confidence. Inspired by her two daughters, their scope focusing on positive imagery of girls and women of color has created a buzz in several national publications including the Associated Press, NBC online, USA Today online, and Huffington Post online just to name a few.
More importantly, Sheri and the Pretty Brown Girl Movement have created a platform and voice for negating the lack of confidence in standards of beauty for women of color. The mission is vital to today’s society, especially with the emergence of social media attack strategies, where strangers verbally abuse and tear down a new person in the spotlight weekly.
“We are saddened that Gabby did not want to even go online to any social media platforms during the 2016 Olympics because of all of the negative news and commentary. Every night as a family we would watch the US gymnasts and I sense that Gabby was carrying heaviness beyond her smile. When she expressed her hurt, our daughters wanted to wear their hair in ponytails and clips just like Gabby and make posters for her with #PrettyBrownGirls4Gabby, when she does come back online, she will have a message of love and support. Pretty Brown Girls is calling for 10,000 girls of color worldwide to join in unity to show Gabby Douglas love with the hashtag #PrettyBrownGirls4Gabby”, says Crawley. 10-year-old Aliya Crawley says, “Gabby Douglas is an inspiration to African American girls and she shows us that if we try hard enough we can reach our goals and be a champion.” 11-year-old Laila Crawley wants Gabby to know that she has the same hair texture saying “Please do not let others get underneath your skin.”
The #PrettyBrownGirlsforGabby campaign has immediately kicked off following the negative attention given to Gabby Douglas. Pretty Brown Girl successfully creates national initiatives including a revolutionary K-12 After-School Program that addresses adverse social issues that girls of color face. Pretty Brown Girl also collaborates annually with organizations, colleges, universities, churches, and communities internationally for a day of dedication to young girls of color. Similarly, Pretty Brown Girl wants this hashtag to be a viral movement of support for Gabby to show that we do not simply use the Black women of our community temporarily and cast them aside but that we forever embrace them so that they can be encouraged to lift up another young woman coming behind them. The #PrettyBrownGirls4Gabby campaign is for every Black girl and woman that has ever felt defeated, torn down, excluded, and defined by others rather than having the ability to define themselves. Stay strong and encouraged Gabbies. We need you.