Photo by Guy Gerrard.
Inner City

Inner city: bring back our OWN girls

T-awannda Piper

Bring Back Our Girls...headlines, hashtags, Facebook statuses cry out all over the globe.

There were warnings that the state of Borno in the northeastern region of Nigeria was under attack. 15 soldiers would be on the lookout for about 200 Islamic extremists who were equipped with weapons, various modes of transportation, and a deep motivation to destroy the Western ideals of education. The townspeople were advised to hide in the hills with hopes that all would survive this viciously planned attack.

A local leader advised the soldiers of the Boko Haram's evil intentions which led to a standoff. The standoff lasted about an hour and a half with the expectation that additional forces and help were on the way. Help never came, resulting in the kidnapping of 276 school girls. Seduced by the deceit of the Boko Haram these young women were deceived with words like "We are soldiers," "We will not harm you," "We will protect you."

How can such words lead to slavery and isolation?

It would be nearly a month before the news of this horrific crime would go viral. The global community became outraged. The Bring Back our Girls protest swept U.S. cities. Nigerian citizens demanded that international leaders take aggressive action and plan a rescue.

Why did it take so long for the world to know about the school girls in Nigeria? Could it be that their skin is not fair enough?

From Nigeria to India to urban communities like Chicago … girls across the globe are confronted with the harsh realities of being UNDERVALUED – leaving them unprotected, abused, and seemingly forgotten. And when the complexities of "girlhood" are coalesced with gender-based discrimination, economic and healthcare disparities, and sexual violence, the undervaluing of our girls is devastating to people everywhere.

Even in the great city of Chicago where I live, the everyday hardships of black girls are overshadowed by the assumption that resources are readily available, viable support systems are intact, and decision/policymakers have the "best interest" of the African American girl at heart.

Yet on any given day, 16,000 women live as victims of human trafficking in Chicago. Many of them are enslaved because of the same vulnerabilities as the girls in Nigeria, i.e., abuse and/or violated trust by authorities. Those who appear to come to their "rescue" are leading them away into another sort of false safety in poorly funded schools, food deserts, limited access to healthcare, high unemployment, and violence.

While the Church in America has cried out against the atrocities of Boko Haram, let's not forget about the undervalued girls in our own backyard.

While the clarion call to "Bring Back Our Girls" is very much warranted and respected, inner-city laborers and advocates have been begging America to hear our cry for years on behalf of the "black girl" in our urban distressed communities.

In the same way that Nigerian nationals were slow to take action on the part of the Nigerian schoolgirls, we in America have forgotten or turned a blind eye to women of color in our own communities. Just as we took action after hearing about the Nigerian girls, we need to take action on behalf of vulnerable girls in America's inner cities.

Where are the hashtag campaigns, outraged leaders and headlines for girls in the inner city? Where are the voices of the Christ-like Ones, Jesus Freaks, and Servants of the Most High, True Worshipers, and the Blessed & Highly Favored?

Why is there so little attention or action?

When are we going to "Bring Our Own Girls Back"?

Does this stir something in you? Get involved in the inner city ministry of Cru.

T-awannda Piper is a former staff member with the Inner City Ministry of Cru and has great affection for God's work through Cru on Chicago's Southside. Committed to youth advocacy, development, and service, T-awannda has 16 years of experience in capacity building, leveraging resources, and community collaboration on behalf of youth in high-risk populations and communities impacted by social and economic crisis. A recognized social change agent on Chicago's Southside, she has a huge passion to see adolescent girls make a successful transition in womanhood and discover how the message of gospel can transform them and the communities in which they live. Her specialty is utilizing public arena platforms as a bridge and connector for sharing the life-transforming message of the Gospel with youth that live in urban distress communities.

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