Dissatisfied with the reading choices offered to them as high school students in Quebec, two young west islanders Fabiola Ngamaleu Teumeni and Mariame Toure, decided to launch a book club for 12-18 year-old girls that would introduce them to Black authors and help them explore a new world of literature.
The Black Girls Gather book club is being launched out of the West Island Black Community Association (WIBCA), where Fabiola and Mariame together with a team of young women, all on a trail of academic excellence, are hoping to inspire young readers by exposing them reading choices that were not available to them as high school students.
“We went to a predominantly white high school, so a lot of the literature we read were oriented towards Québécois culture, so we didn’t learn about Black people at all, we didn’t celebrate Black History Month and that kind of affected our experiences during those (crucial years)” says Mariame, one of two coordinators of the project. She is 20 years oldand a second year student in the Faculty of Law at University of Montreal, where she is completing a Bachelor’s in Civil Law.
“So we thought that if we are able to create a book club for Black girls where they could read books written by Black authors, discuss these books and also talk openly about the different ways the books may have touched their lives that it would add to the Black experience and to empowerment for them.”
The club will be launched in the fall and members will be categorized in two groups, the 12-14 year olds and those who are between 15-18 years old.
“We want to give them an opportunity to explore literature at their level,” says 19-year-old Fabiola, the other coordinator, who is in her final year at CEGEP André-Laurendeau in Social Science department with a Psychology profile.
She added that the club would be providing the girls with free books:
“We also want them to build their own libraries of books by Black authors.”
Fabiola and Mariame are part of a team of high achievers who are working diligently to make Black Girls Gather book club an empowering experience for members.
The club’s steering committee also include:
Laerna Charles-Pierre, a 19 years old, second year student at McGill University who is working towards her Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering with a minor in Software Engineering. She is serving as an assistant coordinator.
Twenty-year-old Khadija Dia, who is completing her Bachelor’s in Educational Psychology/Psychoeducation at University of Montreal is also an assistant coordinator.
Joanna Kanga a 21 years old McGill University student who is majoring in Political Science with a double minor in Economics and Communications is the Outreach and Event coordinator of the team.
Twenty-two –year- old Vanessa Manroop, a first year student at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business majoring in Human Resource Management and minoring in Marketing is serving as treasurer.
While Katya Stella Assoe, a 20-year-old who is entering her third year at the Faculty of Law of University of Montreal, completing a Bachelor in Civil Law is the social media coordinator and 19-year-old Amélia Souffrant, a second year McGill University student in the Faculty of Law working on a Bachelor of Civil Law and Juris Doctor with a minor in Sociology, is the team’s website coordinator.
While the primary motivation is to explore areas of literature that are not readily available to Black girls and to help strengthen their “black identity,” the Black Girls Gather team is also hoping to submit a report to various school boards after the first year, on reading suggestions for the students across the island.
The Black Girls Gather Book Club will have its first meeting on September 24 at WIBCA offices. More information can be found at their website; www.blackgirlsgather.wibca.org and www.wibca.org