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‘BeaUtiful’ event promotes self-esteem in teenagers

| Friday, February 21, 2014

Shades of Ebony, an organization of female African-American students at Notre Dame, sought to empower local South Bend high-school students with their BeaUtiful event in the Coleman-Morse student longue on Thursday.

Shades of Ebony vice-president Deandra Cadet said the BeaUtiful event brought together Shades of Ebony members, guest speakers and around 50 female African-American students from Washington High School for an evening of group discussion and presentations centering on individuality and self-esteem.

“This year the theme is “Believe in Your Beautiful.” We will focus on believing in the beauty of yourself, of others and your future,” Cadet said. “Our goal is to mentor and support the girls and provide them with tips and advice for self-esteem, image and the future through the words of exceptional speakers and discussion.”

Cadet said planning for the annual high school outreach event involved community engagement on and off campus.

“We reached out to the guidance counselors from various South Bend schools and visited to send permission slips, flyers and waivers,” Cadet said. “As far as funding, many dorms have generously donated to support the success of this event.” Sophomore Lena Madison, the club’s treasurer, said this year’s event focuses on promoting individuality.

“It’s important because it’s empowering women to be who they are,” Madison said. “The goal is to make sure that these young women know that they can decide who they want to be, as opposed to having society decide who who they ought to be.” Freshman Arielle Flowers, a committee member of Shades of Ebony, said the event’s focus on individuality is much needed.

“The problem is that society propagates stereotypes about being an African-American, and a woman on top of that,” Flowers said. “But this event is about being what you are, saying what you feel and fitting in the skin that you’re in.”

According to Madison, the role of beauty and image formed another focus of the event.

“Right now in society, it’s easy to think that you need to be perfect in every way. So when we look at body image, we’re trying to say that you’re in the skin that you’re in and the things that matter are what people don’t see at first glance,” Madison said. “Appearance is nothing compared to what someone can be inside and as a person.”

Guest speakers and Notre Dame graduates Arienne Thompson (class of 2004) and Jocelyn Allen (Class of 1991) helped impart the group’s central message of individuality and self-esteem. Thompson, who helped found Shades of Ebony in 2004, and Allen spoke on the themes of believing in self, others and destiny.

In addition to the BeaUtiful event, Cadet said Shades of Ebony hosts other events targeting community engagement, inclusion and sisterhood.

“Our biggest event, started last year, is Women’s Week and is co-hosted by the Gender Relations Center,” Cadet said. “It is a weeklong event in celebration of Notre Dame women focused around spirituality, service, discussion and community,”.

The club also meets routinely every other Wednesday in the Walsh Hall basement to discuss issues such as those focused on high school students.

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About Charlie Ducey

Charlie Ducey is a senior who studies English at Notre Dame. He is currently a big fan of alternative German rock music.

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