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Reclaiming Black Girlhood with Hand Games (

"Hand games were a major factor in how we experienced the world as black girls," adds Halyard, a lawyer with a background in education and child advocacy. She and her Hand Games Project partner OnRaé LaTeal, a professional music producer and youth educator, discovered the widespread influence of games like Mary Mack with female friends near and far.

Beyond back-in-the-day nostalgia, Halyard and LaTeal see hand games as an underused but potentially powerful tool to teach resiliency, connection, and safe touch. By casting familiar childhood games in a social-emotional learning frame, LaTeal and Halyard are working with communities to challenge biased perceptions of black girls as defiant, aggressive, and promiscuous.

"We're trying to change the master narrative around black girls being loud, mean, promiscuous, and defiant," says Halyard. "We want to flip that question of, 'What is wrong with you?' to 'What has happened to you?' and provide the platform for black girls to speak with their own voices." Likewise, Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality has launched the Trauma-Informed Schools Learning Network for Girls of Color as a space for youth-advised resources to better serve girls of color in school.

To read more of Laura Varlas' article, please click here.

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