Someday You Could Be a Scholar Activist, Like Aiesha Turman

By JUSTIN LAMPORT, age 11, Introduction by IndyKids Staff

PHOTO: Aiesha Turman
PHOTO: Aiesha Turman

Are you passionate about promoting healing and knowledge within your ethnic community? Or, are you interested in supporting a community as an ally? Scholar and activist Aiesha Turman founded a non-profit called the Black Girl Project to give voice to African-American women and girls and to provide healing from cultural trauma of the black experience.

Justin Lamport: What is the focus of your scholarship and activism?

Aiesha Turman: The focus of my scholarship and activism is the role of the arts in helping to mitigate cultural trauma and historical grief among African Americans, particularly women and girls. Cultural trauma is when something happens to a group of people from the same or similar cultural background and it has negative effects. Historical grief is the psychological and emotional aspect of cultural trauma. In my case, the cultural trauma I am interested in is the system of American slavery.

JL: What is your guiding philosophy and how is that expressed in your work?

AT: My guiding philosophy is that everyone has something to contribute to the production of
knowledge, regardless of age or formal education level. This is expressed in my work by being able to “meet people where they are” and hold the space for them to contribute. As an educator, I see my role as more of a facilitator. While I may have a large body of knowledge, I am by no means the lord and master of a particular subject and in all honesty, I learn just as much from my students as they do from me.

JL: What is the Black Girl Project? Why did you start it and what do you hope it achieves?

AT: The Black Girl Project is a small non-profit that I founded that bridges my scholarship and activism. It began as a documentary film where young women of African descent talked about their lives. I was inspired to make the film because we don’t see a lot of diversity in the media when it comes to African-American women and girls. They are usually stereotyped and I wanted to show a different side.

The organization came about because I wanted to have outreach and community engagement around the film. I hope that the Black Girl Project is able to help build intergenerational connections between women and girls and lessen the effects of cultural trauma while helping to build young leaders.

JL: What advice do you have for kids interested in a creating similar projects?

AT: Just do it! If you have an idea, write it down, plan it out, and get to work. I taught myself how to make a film, but knew it had to be made. I then kept at it, asking for advice along the way. Everything that has ever existed began as an idea, and if you have an idea, it’s up to you to make it real!

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