UNC Charlotte researchers, community organizations advancing ‘The Charlotte Girl’

Thursday, August 3, 2017

“The Story of the Charlotte Girl” is one of opportunities and resources, and it is the focus of a nearly yearlong initiative of UNC Charlotte’s Women + Girls Research Alliance.

Through a series of public talks, book club discussions, multimedia presentations, podcasts and research publications, UNC Charlotte and a number of community partners will explore issues that affect the lives of Charlotte’s girls and their families.

 “UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research university, and we have the ability to harness the power of discovery to respond to the needs of our community,” stated Heather Brown, director of the Women + Girls Research Alliance. “During the past year, University faculty, staff and students have been working across academic disciplines to conduct research on topics related to ‘The Story of the Charlotte Girl.’ Our yearlong series provides forums to present this research, in conjunction with our community partners, to program and policy leaders to move toward developing the next steps to mitigate challenges of poverty, violence and teen pregnancy, for example.”

Historically, research finds that women have been disadvantaged economically with greater numbers of single women with children and older women living in poverty. Globally, the correlation between greater numbers of educated girls and women and stronger economies is compelling, observed Brown.

One of the first events of the yearlong “The Story of the Charlotte Girl” is a book club discussion set for 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 8, at the College of Health and Human Services, Room 128. Body image is the focus of the event, and Brown will lead an exploration of Julie Murphy’s “Dumplin’: Go Big or Go Home!” This young adult novel is the story of Willowdean, dubbed “Dumplin” by her former beauty queen mother, who has always been comfortable with her larger body frame. This event is free, but registration is requested.

In September, “The Story of the Charlotte Girl” turns to economic mobility. MacArthur Fellow Lateefah Simon will deliver a public presentation on that topic at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21, in the Barnhardt Student Activity Center Salons. Simon, a “genius grant” recipient, has more than 20 years of executive experience in advancing opportunities for communities of color and low-income communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently, she is president of the Akonadi Foundation, which, according to its website, “adopted an ambitious purpose: to support and nurture racial justice movement building to eliminate structural racism, with a specific focus in the City of Oakland.” 

At age 26, Simon received the MacArthur Fellowship while serving as executive director of the Center for Young Women’s Development, an effort to guide “troubled girls from delinquency and poverty to healthy and productive adulthoods.”

Renee Watson’s “Piecing me Together” will be the September book club selection. The work tells the story of Jade, a high-school junior, who believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she's ever going to succeed. A discussion of the book will be 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 12 (location to be determined). Final details will be posted to the web.

October will focus on violence and how it affects girls; November will deal with teen pregnancy and parenting; and December will address the stressors of growing up in poverty.

Planning for monthly programming for 2018 is underway and will conclude with the UNC Charlotte Women + Girls Research Alliance Summit, scheduled for April; the summit is held every two years.

“The 2018 summit will be focused on bringing researchers, community leaders and policy makers together to discuss how to use the research shared over the previous months to lessen barriers to success for Charlotte’s girls,” said Brown. “We also will engage the community in discussions about issues such as social capital, research and evaluation collaboration, and why it is important to engage girls in research on girls.”