Moms Making Waves: She's Fighting for Equality for Young Black Women

'Our goal is not only preparing black girls for the world but preparing the world for black girls.'

By Kara Murphy, publisher of Macaroni Kid Erie February 5, 2019

Who she is: 

Angela Patton is the president and CEO of Girls For A Change in Chesterfield, Va., and the founder of Camp Diva Leadership Academy. She is also a mom to two.

How she's making waves:

"Our mission is to inspire black girls and other girls of color to visualize their bright futures and potential through discovery, development and social change," she said. "I am working every day to leave a legacy behind that shows I have played a part in building up these girls, who I know I can pass the baton onto, who will fight for true equality and true justice every day -- just as my ancestors did. Our goal is not only preparing black girls for the world but preparing the world for black girls."

Why girls of color?

"Our black girls face unique struggles. If you’re not a person who did your research or who has spent time with black girls it would be very easy based on the messages you see to put them in one little box," Angela said. "But these girls remind me every day they are all individuals, each with their own experiences, and they’re all going to contribute their own little special spark to the world."

Angela Patton with students taking part in Girls For A Change programs.

The work:

"We start with girls as early as first grade and work with them until their college years. We pride ourselves with staying around until our girls are successful. We're in this with them," Angela said. Specifically, the Girls For A Change programs include:

  • A before and after school program for girls in first through eighth grades that focuses on STEM education. "These are girls who sometimes, in their schools and in their community, don't feel like their voices matter or are heard. We offer a safe space where they can lead, take charge, and build confidence," Angela said.
  • Girl Action Teams for girls in grades 6 to 12. During this 12-week program, girls tackle social issues they feel passionate about, coming up with solutions with guidance from their coaches. The girls present their issues and solutions to the community.
  • Girl Ambassador Program, a four-year workforce preparedness program for high school students to help them acquire job readiness and leadership skills. "At the same time we are also working with companies to help them diversify their workforce and talk to them about black women's experiences and challenges," Angela said. "We want employers to know what implicit bias means so we can all break this cycle we have."
  • Camp Diva Leadership Academy, which despite its name, is a summer camp focused on STEM learning, along with health and wellness, financial literacy, green living, character development, and leadership skills. Angela named the camp for a friend's 5-year-old daughter who died as a result of gun violence. 

What she does on 'those days':

"Fortunately for me, I have a very strong network, a tribe of other sisters and other women who own their business and understand that struggle," she said. "I also have an amazing husband and I’m very fortunate to have my mother and father still living nearby. They’re an amazing resource. This was not an easy task I signed up for. But It's a rewarding vision for me. Because there is no blueprint for our work, it makes the work challenging, but I am I hoping to change that. We need more programs like Girls For A Change offers."

What keeps her going: 

"We are focused on helping these girls be whole. I can create the best chemist in the world, but if she cries in the dark every night, I’ve done nothing to help her spirit," Angela said. "We want a whole girl who can show up and take on challenges and support another girl. We know the world is going to knock them down. We want to help them find their voice to get back up."

The history that keeps her moving forward:

"It's Black History Month, and it's a good time to reflect on my ancestors who did so much for me with so few resources," she said. "I think about my own ancestors and what they have done to get us on the bus, to get us in schools, to get us educated. They never gave up. Now it's time to say that black girls need some special attention, and we're not going to give up on that either."

Learn more about Girls For A Change and how to support the nonprofit's initiatives.