1. I use the terms Black girls and young Black ­ women interchangeably. Black
girls is how the young ­ women in this text referred to themselves and one
another. Black girl is also a very evocative term that calls up pop­u­lar cultural
notions of girlhood and its supposed attendant attitudes and behaviors in
ways that can be alternately empowering and degrading. The Fresh Start
residents, however, use Black—­not African American or West Indian Ameri-
can—as a term of collective pride and signification. And girl, as one sixteen-­
year-­old shelter resident told me, just flows better than young ­ w oman. Saying
young ­ women suggests that you are trying to be polite and official, but it
sounds like you have done something wrong or are in trou­ble with author-
ity figures. I use Black girls to res­pect the young ­ women’s self-­definition and
because it does flow better, and young Black ­ women because I think it more
often accurately describes the age range of the residents.
2. See Imani Perry’s discussion of the power of stories to convey deeper social
truths (2010, introduction).
3. There are im­por­tant organizations and individuals across the country
working on behalf of Black youth, and Black girls specifically. Their ser­vices
include information gathering and dissemination, support ser­vices, artistic
engagement, and skill building. Please explore the work undertaken by Cathy
Cohen’s Black Youth Pro­ject; the Crunk Feminist Collective’s workshops
for Black girls; Black Girls Code; the Feminist Wire’s Elementary Feminisms;
Aisha Turman’s Black Girl Pro­ject; Brotherhood/Sistersol; Reina Jerman’s
Black Girl ­ Everything Pro­ject; Alexis Pauline Gumb’s Indigo Geniuses, which
is part of her larger pro­ject, Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind;
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