Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Q&A with Tamara Winfrey Harris


Photo by Grace Michael Photography


Tamara Winfrey Harris is the author of the new book Dear Black Girl. She also has written the book The Sisters Are Alright, and is the founder of the Letters to Black Girls Project. She is based in Indiana.


Q: What inspired you to create the Letters to Black Girls Project, and to write Dear Black Girl?


A: Two dear friends, Dr. Tyffani Monford Dent and Dr. Carolyn Strong, and I hosted an intergenerational workshop in Indianapolis back in 2018. The goal was to get Black women and girls in a room for a half day to explore how we can love each other better.


In preparation, I asked some Black women on social media for 12 letters to give participating Black girls as a parting gift. I asked them to write letters that were loving, truthful, vulnerable, feminist, anti-racist, body positive, LGBTQ+ positive, anti–respectability politics, and pro–Black girl.


Black women really showed up for black girls. The call went viral! Instead of 12 letters, I got more than 50 from all over the world. (And I continue to receive them.) I read the first one and, after ugly crying, knew this had to be a movement and not just a moment.

Q: How did you choose the letters to include in the book?


A: I was very intentional about selecting letters from a diversity of Black women. It was important to me that the book represents Black girls in all the ways they show up in the world.


I started with letters I had already received, but then proactively reached out to women to make sure that things like biracial identity, queer identity, a variety of family relationships and issues like surviving sexual assault were covered.


Q: What themes do you see running through the letters, and what do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: I want every Black girl who reads this book to know that she is loved, that she is valuable, and that she is supported by sisters that care about her well being.


Q: What impact did working on this project have on you?


A: Like many of the letter contributors, I found this project cathartic. No matter how we age as women, there is a piece of our little girl selves inside us that needs love and healing. The girl in me felt loved by the way the women in the book opened their hearts and shared their stories.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am finishing up the manuscript for the second expanded edition of my first book--The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America, about the impact of enduring stereotypes on Black women's lives.


It is forthcoming this fall and will include new interviews and a chapter on Black women, power and politics.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I'm proud of the Reader Experience Kit that is available for free download from TamaraWinfreyHarris.com. It has questions Black girl caregivers can use to dialogue about the book, tips for successful intergenerational conversation, adorable paper dolls, and a fun playlist!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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