At BBBST, we work directly with young women in order to help them develop their confidence, life skills, and increase their odds of a successful future through our life-changing mentorship programs.
We sat down with Alicia Harris, a Big in our community based 1-to-1 mentorship program, to talk about the importance of being an adult female role model to her Little, Tamia.
Q: How important is it for young women to have a successful female role model that’s not in their family to look up to?
Alicia: Society has silenced women’s voices since forever. Especially at a young age, it is so important to have people in your life to combat the negative messages that are subconsciously seeping into your heart and brain, whether it be from the media or people around you. Having strong outspoken women to look up to can help girls see that these are traits they also have inside of them, and they are capable of being great leaders and doing anything they set their mind to!
Q: How have you been a strong female role model for Tamia during the pandemic?
Alicia: By being a friend. It is a strange time which has created a plethora of feelings that change daily as things have changed. Because we talk every week, I’ve been there to listen to how things have been affecting her, and providing her with something new and different to look forward to in our weekly chats!
Q: Martika (Tamia’s mother) mentioned that Tamia is very interested in the arts. Do you think that having you as a Big, given your successful career in the arts, helps create new opportunities for Tamia?
Alicia: Tamia is a very gifted artist! We have had many virtual drawing sessions and I’m always blown away by her creations. She has a wonderful imagination, always coming up with interesting characters in her work too. I firmly believe in “if you see it, you can be it.” I am a successful working artist and I hope that through my mentions of my work and my job, Tamia can see that should she want to go into the arts as a career, it is 100% possible!
Q: Did you have any strong female role models growing up? If so, how did they contribute to your success?
Alicia: My mom was (and still is) my strong female role model. She taught me how to be resilient and strong, and I’m so grateful to have had her believe in me and support all of my choices in life. She gave me the space to follow my dreams. Even though I didn’t know her personally, Mariah Carey was (and still is) a huge role model for me. A successful woman who worked from poverty to make a name for herself in music, she sang about being biracial and feeling like you didn’t fit in. I found a lot of comfort listening to her songs, and reading her success story.
Q: As an organization, we provide life-changing mentorship that empowers youth to thrive later in life. How do you think you’re helping empowering Tamia to have a successful future?
Alicia: Tamia is already very polite and well spoken, and I can see her communication skills growing and developing through our conversations! I hope she also feels encouraged to follow her dreams and believe in herself, and when the time comes – go into a career she truly loves. I hope she will be encouraged to always stay true to herself, and as she is encouraging me to do too, face fears and try new things (like when we went skateboarding!). Lastly, I believe in her, tell her how much I love her drawings and creations, and show up for her. I hope these things will remind her that she is worthy of all greatness.
Q: Martika and I spoke a lot about how it was important for Tamia to have a female Big that was also black. How important do you think it is for young, racialized youth, to have a successful racialized person as a role model? Do you think it enables greater opportunity for them?
Alicia: I think it is important for all youth to have role models inside of their race, and of course for Black girls to have Black women to look up to. Even though some strides have been made, Black people are still underrepresented in many careers and in the media. Having someone that looks like you to look up to is necessary in building a positive image of yourself. There are many harmful stereotypes about Black people and sometimes that leads to internalized racism and self-hate. As someone who grew up with a lot of insecurities about being Black, having Black hair and my skin colour, I don’t want another generation of Black girls to grow up with those insecurities and doubts about themselves. I hope to be a positive image of Black women for Tamia.
Q: How do you approach your role as a mentor and role model for Tamia?
Alicia: My approach is to be an empathetic listener, and try to build space for Tamia to feel comfortable to be herself. I do this also by being unapologetically myself! On our video chats Tamia sees me as me, many different hair states and looks. I tell Tamia about things I’m excited about, things I’m working on, and share my own dreams and fears. I talk to Tamia as if she is one of my friends (which she is) and we have built trust where we can share and be ourselves.