Souls of My Young Sisters: Young Women Break Their Silence with Personal Stories That Will Change Your Life

Souls of My Young Sisters: Young Women Break Their Silence with Personal Stories That Will Change Your Life

by Dawn Marie Daniels, Candace Sandy

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A Souls of My Sisters Book

No woman comes into this world with all the answers, but every woman can learn from her sisters.

In the Essence® #1 national bestseller Souls of My Sisters, strong, successful black women shared their unforgettable personal stories of faith, hope, and healing. Now, a dynamic new group of young sisters with


A Souls of My Sisters Book

No woman comes into this world with all the answers, but every woman can learn from her sisters.

In the Essence® #1 national bestseller Souls of My Sisters, strong, successful black women shared their unforgettable personal stories of faith, hope, and healing. Now, a dynamic new group of young sisters with hopes and dreams, fears and struggles, just like you, tells their stories of triumph over adversity for the generation coming up. . .

Being a young woman today means belonging to an ever expanding global community, filled with new opportunities—and complicated challenges. With change comes choices, and making the right ones isn't always easy. The journey can seem overwhelming—but you're not alone. Whether you're dealing with issues of self-esteem, dating, domestic violence, cyber stalking, or racial profiling, within these pages a diverse gathering of women, including entrepreneurs, activists, and entertainers, have words of wisdom, inspiration, and practical information for you. So if you're headed to college, in the midst of your quarter-life crisis, or getting your career or family started, look to your sisters and their heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, but always encouraging real-life stories.

"Souls of My Sisters let all women know it was okay to tell your story and now Souls of My Young Sisters helps young women struggling through life's challenges tell their stories and heal all of us. A must read for all women!" —Kyla Pratt, Actress

"If you can't reach a girlfriend to pour out your heart, read Souls of My Sisters. . .Souls is just the thing when you need an extra boost."—Heart and Soul magazine

Dawn Marie Daniels brings a spirited array of professional credentials to her role as editor of Souls of My Sisters books. She was the editorial force behind a number of award-winning authors, and has utilized her position and power as one of the book industry's premier editors to ensure that African American projects get the attention they deserve. Daniels has established a commanding presence in adult nonfiction with such books as In the Meantime and One Day My Soul Just Opened Up, both New York Times bestsellers by Iyanla Vanzant. She utilized her years of publishing experience to bring new talent to the surface and helped push them to the forefront of the publishing industry. Daniels' authors have been published by various imprints such as Prentice Hall Press, Fireside, Touchstone, S&S Aguilar, Scribner, Simon & Schuster, and Pocket Books.

Candace Sandy is the President of Candace Sandy Communications, a multimedia cooperative targeting women. For over ten years, Sandy has also served as the communications director for Chairman Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) of the Sixth Congressional District, a member of the House Foreign Service and Financial Services Committees. In her capacity as communications director, Sandy has managed both national and international media campaigns in countries that have included Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, China, Colombia, Cuba, Great Britain, India, Israel, Malaysia, Peru, and Venezuela. A frequent lecturer who has served on several high-profile political campaigns, Sandy has worked tirelessly on behalf of women's issues, including poverty, domestic violence, youth prostitution, anticrime, financial literacy, and reentry into New York City. Sandy is the former general manager of New York University radio station WNYU 89.1 FM. As a former Radio Advertising Bureau Mercury AD/LAB Fellow, Sandy covered the 1993 and 1997 Presidential Inaugurations and the 1996 Summer Olympics, and has conducted radio interviews with numerous celebrities, including Pam Grier, Stevie Wonder, and Will Smith.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The latest in the “Souls of My Sisters” series geared to African-American women features new celebrity contributors and essays on faith, family, career, self-esteem, friendship, and love. As the Communications Director for Congressman Gregory W. Meeks and president of her own company, Sandy has worked on women’s causes throughout her long career, and Daniels is a long-time book editor. Here they have brought together a new collection of essays from over 40 women, including a few icons of Black America, to illuminate some of the issues that young women face today. Contributors include singer-songwriter Lalah Hathaway, who urges you to “Start trusting your intuition now” and TV personality Dee Vasquez, who wants you to “Dream big for yourself.” Interspersed with quotes from the likes of Halle Berry, Dionne Warwick, and Beyonce Knowles, these personal chronicles from small business owners, students, activists, artists, and academics is about empowerment for women by women, though most often with a little help from above. (June)

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Souls of My Young Sisters

Young Women Break Their Silence with Personal Stories That Will Change Your Life


Copyright © 2010 Souls of My Sisters, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-3160-4

Chapter One

Who Am I ?

Yes, I am from the 'hood, but I'm a work in progress and I hope to continue to grow. -Keyshia Cole

Young or old, who we are is an evolutionary process that can change from day to day. As a teenager you are often told, "You don't know what you're talking about." You also hear, "Wait until you get older, then you'll understand." You feel like you know what you're feeling is real and how dare older women like your mom, aunts, siblings, or at times strangers tell you what you know to be real and how you will feel about your decisions later. We honor your feelings and say it's okay to feel the way you feel, but we ask that in this moment you keep an open mind and ear to the lessons other women have for you.

When you get into your twentysomething years, it really seems like the reins have been loosened and it's your time to show and prove. You are given the freedom with what seems like less criticism, and you are ready to conquer the world. You may have some doubts and insecurities, but you're not letting anyone see you sweat. You may be more open to the advice of your fellow sisters during these years, but you are still firm in the belief that you and only you feel the way you feel. We just want to let you know we understand your feelings and would like to share ours with you.

As you are on the south side of your quarter life and fast approaching what you once thought of as old, you have been through a few things. You have gotten your feet wet-some of us have even been fully baptized in the water of life and think we know a thing or two. You definitely know something at this point in your journey, but there is still so much more to learn.

No matter where you are on your journey in life, getting to know yourself is in every step you take. Part of growing into the woman you will become is looking at other women as examples. The more open you are to hearing other women's life journey stories, the more opportunities you will create for yourself to understand who you are and where you would like to go as a woman. It is said that the true test of intelligence is not whether you can learn from your own mistakes, but whether you can learn from the mistakes of others. There are women who went before you who have paved the way for your success, whether they knew it or not-it's important that you know it. The journey to self-awareness, self-discovery, and self-esteem has been mapped out for you.

Whether you have been told you are a queen in the making or you've never been given words of support and encouragement, you have the power to shape the woman you want to become. If you are reading this book, the first thing you need to know is that you are making the choice to be aware of the experiences that women have had. The women who have chosen to share their experiences know that you are worthy and ready to receive the lessons that they want you to learn. Knowing who you are at all stages of your womanhood will determine the woman you will be tomorrow. Know that who we are is the essence of our beings, the truth of our intentions, and the substance of our souls, and enjoy the journey ahead of you.

Little Women

By Raegan L. Burden

My perception of physical beauty was formed by the visual landscape of women in my family. I suspect we all look to our mothers, aunts, and grandmothers as a reflection of ourselves. They validated that we, little black girls, are beautiful! Growing up, the Burden and Wilson women reflected the color spectrum-every shade of ebony God created, from café au lait to a smooth, dark chocolate. They were short and tall, with hair that was long or short, pressed, relaxed, or natural! Yet they had shapely, curvy bodies.

In fashion, their bodies would be described as hourglass, full-figured, top-heavy, pear-shaped, or plus-size. To me, that was Mama, Cousin Pearl, Great-aunt Queen, Aunt Edna, my second cousins Sparkle and Keisha, and my tall, statuesque aunt Ludia. Some of my fondest memories of my grandma Gladys are those reassuring hugs from her full, soft body. I would observe men eyeing them as they walked by. I couldn't wait to grow up! I was ready for my rite of passage!

By the time I turned sixteen, my reflection in the mirror horrified me. I had no problem being 5'2", but where were my mother's full, perky breasts (the ones that men would gawk at), or my sister's ample tush that could fill out any pair of jeans? Where was my body? Of course, my mother told me I was going to be a petite woman and that I resembled her (without the voluptuous boobs, of course). She'd even point out that I favored my great-aunt Margaret, who was 4'11". However, she was in her sixties, going through the shrinkage I thought all elderly women went through. I was completely devastated.

I believed God had given me the right mind and heart, but mistakenly put them in the wrong body.

Misconception of Being "Skinny"

Now, I'm sure a few of you are laughing at this scenario. How could I possibly have a problem with being a "skinny" girl? By and large, black America didn't buy into that Eurocentric philosophy of body image. Our community's picture of physical beauty has always been different from the mainstream. Oh, we might've killed ourselves at the gym, got on Slim-Fast, and cut back on the soul food, but even my friends will tell you, "I'll never be skinny, but I can be healthier." Our sheroes are Coretta Scott King, Dorothy Dandridge, Diahann Carroll, Tyra Banks, and Jill Scott. I didn't embrace the Twiggy standard of beauty. Why would I? That didn't reflect the women that I wanted to emulate.

I think self-acceptance would've come easier had the comments from black males been more welcoming. I distinctly remember several white boys thinking I had a nice shape, while I was ridiculed for my petite frame by the brothers. Maybe you, too, have heard some of these comments:

"You're cute and all, but brothers like some meat on their bones!"

"If you'd gain some weight, you'd get more play!"

"Are you sure you're a sister? I mean, you shaped like a white girl!"

"Black women have boobs, bootie, or both-how come you don't?"

Can you imagine hearing this, routinely, at fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen from classmates? Those are the most formative years in your life as a young woman, and as a teenager your peers can have more of an effect on you than your parents. No matter how smart, sweet, or interesting I was, I simply felt I wasn't good enough. Maybe you've felt that way as well.

If you are "skinny" or know people that are, at least half of them have had this battle of the mind. We don't speak about it, many times out of fear. Can you imagine talking about this in the company of curvy or plus-size teens or women? The eye rolls would be endless.

The simplest way I can explain it is this: Some black women think they're too big, and some little women think they're too small; we're all trying to get to the middle. Either way, it hurts. Personally, I never liked being called "skinny." It always sounded like a curse word, as though something were wrong with me. I was healthy, ate heartily, and loved being outside.

The Smart, Funny Girl

I inherited a boisterous sense of humor from my father, and I was an honor roll student. So I morphed into the "smart, funny girl." In fact, some of you were labeled the athlete, tomboy, or quiet one. Although I felt unattractive, I really wasn't. Though I had flattering features, it's amazing how I became so focused on what I didn't see. Many times, the negative comments drowned out the positive words and attention I got from brothers in middle and high school.

I've met girls who wore baggy clothes (to mask their petite frames), never wore shorts (to cover their small legs), padded certain areas of their bodies (to appear bigger), or would buy enhancement creams and pills from magazine ads. Even I, during my freshman year of college, overate as much as possible to try and gain weight. I had bad indigestion, high cholesterol, and excessive fatigue, and only five pounds later, I was still petite. I knew it was finally time to start the process of acceptance.

If wanting to fit in can lead you to mask your body type, I believe that lack of self-esteem can hamper your thought process. Maybe you'll start drinking with peers after school, skipping class, or engaging in sexual activities sooner than you're emotionally ready to handle. If you don't believe you fit in physically, you'll find a way to fit in behaviorally.

Thank God you don't have to continue viewing yourself in this distorted way! If I had known then what I know now, I would've been a lot happier with myself.

You're a Complete Package-Just as You Are

Having walked some of the same emotional roads, let me begin with one sentence: You are attractive and good enough just as you are. Of this I am certain! To get you started on the road to accepting what you see in the mirror, here are a few things I want you to start meditating on today (and yes, I've done every one and revisit this list when I need a reminder):

Memorize this scripture, and recite it when you get discouraged.

(Psalm 139:13b-14) "... you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well." Since God spared no detail when he formed us, little women are just that-God's creation. You have a specially designed body made just for you!

You are more than body parts!

The size of your hips, breasts, and derrière doesn't define who you are, nor is it an indication of what you have to offer the world (much less a young man). Stop looking at those video girls, thinking they're somehow better than you! If we could put a microphone up to their thoughts, you'd be shocked and comforted to know that they struggle with the same insecurities. It takes more than a pretty face to capture a man's heart and respect. The beauty of black women is that our looks are so diverse. God hasn't made you unattractive to brothers. On the contrary, he's designed them with preferences as well. Believe me; I've met plenty of men who adore petite women.

Seek out peers whom you admire and respect that have the same body type as you.

No, I don't want you to exclude friends or loved ones if there's no physical similarity, but sometimes it's easier to receive praise and encouragement from people you can identify with. One of my former roommates and I used to discuss our body image, and I always felt better after confiding in her because we could relate. From a distance, I have long admired Jada Pinkett Smith. This sister is feisty and intelligent, a family-oriented woman, who just happens to be-petite! Even more, she's lauded as one of the world's most beautiful women and celebrated actresses.

Find the song "She's a Bad Mama Jama" by R&B singer Carl Carlton-dance to it at home!

I believe we always need a positive soundtrack playing in our heads to speak life into our issues. Since this song was released in 1981, it's "old school," but ask your parents or any of your aunts and uncles, and they'll know exactly what you're talking about. I want you to close your eyes and dance until you feel it-no, really feel it! I want you to hear this song and know that all your little curves are beautiful. Be confident, and walk in it!

Even as an adult, I still have those days where I feel self-conscious. That's just part of being a woman! I have embraced my petite frame and have grown quite fond of my appearance. I no longer want to change anything about my external physique. If anything, I'd rewind the clock to 1994 when I was sixteen years old. I'd close my bedroom door, turn on my CD player, and belt out the chorus to "She's a Bad Mama Jama"-while I point at myself in the mirror.

* * *

Raegan L. Burden is an Atlanta-based writer and managing partner of Raegan / Robertson Productions, a media development and TV production company. Her professional endeavors reflect her passion for exploring contemporary / pop culture, women's issues, politics, and religion. Raegan is an alumna of North Carolina A&T State University and holds a master's degree from the University of Georgia.

A Young Woman's Cry

By Niyah Moore

I developed low self-esteem when I was a teenager. By the time I reached high school, I managed to make more enemies than friends. With my snotty attitude, I hid behind my own insecurities of being overweight. Once I made the cheerleading squad, I bonded with other girls on the team. I was happy that I made the squad, but I became my own worst enemy behind closed doors because I was heavier than they were.

Everyone had a boyfriend except for me. I made it my mission to have one, too. The friendlier I became with my male peers, the more I discovered it didn't matter how pretty or how long my hair was. I was still a little thicker than they wanted me to be.

I pretended as if I wasn't sad at a size 13. An older basketball player noticed my low spirits and told me I was one of the prettiest girls and if I lost a little weight I could have any boy I wanted. He gave me a spark of hope and I ran with it, drinking water and taking vitamins. I starved myself, ignoring the hunger pains, and after a while the smell of food made me sick. With the rigorous training from cheerleading practice and camp, the fat melted off.

When I returned to school for my junior year, I was completely different, wearing a size 7. I wasn't the same chubby girl from the previous school year, and everyone noticed. I made out with more than a handful of popular cute jocks, but that sparked a new problem. I lost a lot of their attention almost as quickly as I gained it because they thought I was a tease.

The same boy who suggested I lose weight in the first place pursued me. He didn't want to be in a relationship, but he wanted to have sex with me. Instead of saying no, I gave in. For the rest of the school year, he ignored me, but would climb in my window any time he wanted to. After every visit, and with him ignoring me in front of his friends, my self-esteem was lowered once again.

My friends were in serious relationships, and just the sight of them with their boyfriends made me upset. I went through a few more short-lived sexual relationships until a starting player on the varsity basketball team revealed he had a crush on me. I didn't really like him at first because he wasn't attractive looking. Everyone in the school knew him for his bad attitude, but they respected him.

Our relationship blossomed and we became inseparable. Once I was in college, a few fraternity brothers pursued me. Because of the attention I got from the new guy, I didn't want to be with my boyfriend anymore. Every time I tried to break up with my boyfriend, he would verbally abuse me and blurt out he was cheating on me anyway. I think he knew I wanted to be with someone else. After hours of arguing, he would cry and beg me to stay. I would feel guilty, blaming his abuse on my own unstable feelings. I kept telling myself that he only wanted to love me and yet I wanted to be with another man.

After hearing the rumors about my boyfriend and other girls, I had enough. The final big fight left me with a concussion and a permanent thick scar on my upper lip where he busted it. We were officially over, but the ugly scar made me self-conscious, and it hurt to smile for a long time.

I confided in a male friend, vulnerable and in search of comfort. His kind words gave me the feeling that he could care for me in a way previous boys hadn't, so I gave myself to him sexually. The very first time we had unprotected intercourse, I got pregnant. Ashamed and afraid, I faced my responsibility, dropped out of college at nineteen years old, and moved in with my child's father. He was selfish and did very little to help me with the baby.

I slipped into a deep depression and had postpartum blues. My weight ballooned to the biggest I'd ever been, a size 18. We finally married and had a daughter after five years, but I couldn't change him or my unhappiness.


Excerpted from Souls of My Young Sisters by DAWN MARIE DANIELS CANDACE SANDY Copyright © 2010 by Souls of My Sisters, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Dawn Marie Daniels was an editor for eight years at Simon & Schuster, where she worked on adult nonfiction such as Iyanla Vanzant's New York Times bestsellers In the Meantime and One Day My Soul Just Opened Up.

Candace Sandy serves as the Communications Director for Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY). She was recently awarded the prestigious 40 Under 40 award for her civic and professional work for NBC. Dawn and Candace have also been honored with the 2002 Amazing Woman Award for their literary efforts.

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