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Illustration of three women standing together in context of Black Girls Literacy Project information.

Sophia Parker looked at the array of photos of Black women in front of her, thinking carefully. The 16-year-old from North Philly picked up one of a middle-aged woman dressed to impress, and another of a younger woman with her family. Parker then told the other girls participating in the Black Girl Literacies Project last fall why she was drawn to those images, she recalled.

“When I get older, I want to see myself being a classy woman with my pearls and just being happy with life, knowing that I succeeded in some type of way,” she said. “One day, I would like to have a family and see [them] grow and be successful.”

The other girls did the same that day, using the photos to talk about how they saw themselves and what they wanted out of life. It was a different kind of practice than Parker had ever heard of, but over the course of several weeks in the program, she came to understand herself better.

“It gave me a new outlook on ways to love myself,” she said.

 The Black Girl Literacies Project is a free program for Black girls in Philadelphia, where participants explore different ways of loving themselves. Registration is open for the project’s Spring cohort, which begins on Feb. 15 and meets every other week. The program is for Black Philadelphia girls ages 14 to 18, and meets at the Penn Women’s Center, but also holds additional sessions at places such as the Colored Girls Museum in Germantown.

Barrett Rosser, the creator of BGLP, is a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania after previously working as a Philadelphia school teacher for over 10 years. She started the project in 2020 as part of her doctoral dissertation. “[Black girls] sit at the intersection of racial and gender [oppression],” she said, explaining why it is essential for Black girls and women to practice self-love.

colorful Illustration of women sitting around a coffee table

“A Place I Could Be Myself”

The Penn Women’s Center celebrates five decades of providing advocacy, advising, refuge, counseling, company, and tea. From its origins in the struggle against campus sexual