My Black Girls Lead Experience

Kamari Barnett, an Atlanta Teen, Takes Us Behind The Scenes at Black Girls Lead

By: Kamari Barnett

There is much to be said about the Black Girls Rock conference. It is empowering, inspiring, and overall a great experience that provides a bunch of knowledge for young black girls from all over. The convention, held in New York, took place at Columbia University Barnard College. Coming from Atlanta, my mother and I thought the 13-hour drive would be worth it. However, I feel some kind of way about all of this.


My mother, sister, and I stayed in a hotel nearby the college. Because I was not staying on campus, I was considered a commuter; many opportunities were not offered to me like the other girls who stayed on campus. Unfortunately, the BGR team never communicated this to me or my mom.


I found out, the girls that stayed on campus enjoyed morning nature walks, morning yoga, and much more. It seemed unfair that it was required for me to pay an extra $600 for me to have the same experience as some of the other girls. This lack of communication was also a problem for other commuter girls.


Although the convention was inspiring, I couldn’t tell whether they were excited to welcome our new class or if it was just “business as usual.” There was just something that was “off” right from the beginning. When I first met the counselors and the infamous Ms. Beverly Bond, their energy seemed entirely different from what they advertised, and it made me feel uncomfortable. However, I chalked it up to being the first day of the conference, and everyone was getting to know each other.


As time went on, my suspicions about things became more accurate. For example, one of the counselors told me that there was not going to be an open mic. Although this person, who will remain unnamed, looked me in the eyes and told me there was not going to be an open mic, the next day it came to my attention that there was, in fact, an open mic. A few of the girls confirmed this that stayed on campus as well as from some of the counselors. I was devastated. You see, I’m a musician, and it was a critical decision for my mom to pay for me to attend because I’d get a chance to share my music. I wasn’t informed that not staying on campus would disqualify me from this activity. I felt lied to; I am not certain as to why.


The schedule for the conference was very tight. It was often never on time. What also sucked, was that it was a classroom setting, where 100+ girls had to sit in a room for 10 hours. The speaker line-up was incredible, and we heard speeches from powerful black women and men. Personally, I enjoyed those messages, but it would have been amazing to get a “camp” experience considering school started back for me, the Monday afterward.


The classroom setting of the conference was very off putting. Sitting there listening to presentation after presentation became very tiresome. Many girls I knew fell asleep due to boredom. We were required to sit through each presentation, with the little leisure of going to the restroom. There weren’t things provided to us throughout the convention such as water or snacks even though we all paid a pretty penny to attend.


Other things that caught my attention as concerns was that overall it seemed poorly planned. We congregated on the campus of Columbia University, which is a big and very beautiful campus. It would have been great to get a tour or to have interactive activities or more one-one-one conversations with mentors and other attendees.


On a brighter note, the conference was packed with inspiring messages about self-worth, creating a plan for your path to success, learning how to save and invest your money, building your brand, and much more.The Black Girls Rock conference did what it was intended to. It was created to empower black girls all over and help them understand their #BlackGirlMagic. Unfortunately, due to lack of planning, many girls had a poor experience.


Though I did not enjoy the classroom setting, being hungry or thirsty, the long hours or how inactive each presentation was, I did learn about my “black girl magic,” overall, and will try to help other black girls learn their magic as well.

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