If you’ve ever spent a Valentine’s Day evening with your girlfriends, or watched “Parks and Recreation”—the political comedy television show that coined the term for the unofficial holiday—then you’re probably familiar with Galentine’s Day. But this year, Cambridge put its own spin on the up-and-coming holiday.
The AFCOST Middle School Network (MSN) partnered with the Cambridge Youth Programs Middle School Activities Club to host the first-ever #Galentines2020 celebration on Feb. 20 at the Google Headquarters in Cambridge. The event welcomed all middle schoolers who identify with girlhood in Cambridge.
The popularization of Galentine’s Day was sparked by an episode of “Parks and Recreation,” where the main character Leslie Knope decided to spend Valentine’s Day with her “gals.” The celebration of girlhood in this episode is precisely what the #Galentines2020 event in Cambridge set its sights on. “[The event] is about celebrating friendship,” says Damilola Oluwole, AFCOST youth connector and #Galentines2020 event organizer.
Oluwole says this event is necessary for young girls in the Cambridge area because of the lack of programming available to them otherwise. She and her colleague at MSN, Medjine Lucien, worked with Cambridge Youth Programs to provide an event that shows their support for the young girls in Cambridge.
“It is important for them to know they have a large network and support of the community,” says Oluwole.
“[Dami and I] saw this need for programming for young women, especially young women of color, to feel like they’re in spaces where they can feel loved and connected to each other and other women in the community,” Lucien adds.
The day mixed fun, hands-on activities with important lessons about skills necessary for young girls. Learning how to problem-solve is crucial for everyone, but this event recognized that people learn in different ways. From hip-hop to sewing to journaling, the event was filled with activities meant to “touch each person differently,” says Oluowle.
With programming that lasted until Feb. 22, the Galentine’s Day event also hosted activities and seminars with various leaders and speakers, like Google executive Taylor Lasane, who spoke about personal branding. Other speakers came from the local historically black sorority Sigma Gamma Rho, and the Cambridge-based educator Emily Kronhaus discussed conflict resolution.
The Keynote speaker Ayesha Wilson from the Cambridge School Committee spoke to the young ladies about the importance of having a network.
“Her hope is that the young ladies are finding mentors in the Cambridge community, so that they have someone to look up to and someone to discuss their goals with,” says Lucien.
Other workshops included step with Akhere Gbenebor, who has been stepping in Cambridge since middle school, sex education with Joanne Edouard and Fatima Sammy, and another session of quilting and journaling. Before saying goodbyes, the #Galentines2020 event ended with a closing circle.
Most of the activity leaders were intentionally selected from Cambridge.
“We wanted to make sure that young people would be able to have access to these people that they were seeing. So, if they really enjoyed step, then they would know that Akhere is in the community,” Lucien mentioned.
Around 50 girls were in attendance, as well as many community volunteers who made sure the day went smoothly.
Lucien’s goal of fostering connections was met, as she says she saw many of the girls befriending each other throughout the day. For example, she observed a young girl who appeared shy at the beginning of the day later say that, by the end, all of the people she met had helped her feel more confident.
When asked about whether or not MSN might consider bringing the event back next year, Lucien was quick to say, “Definitely. We already have questions about when the next one is.”
The event organizers even received questions about similar programming for boys, too, which Lucien says is also a possibility for the future.
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