Jamie Blunt: Black Voices Project
"We say that if you leave as a better woman after volunteering with us, not only did we do our job with the girl, but we did our job with the woman too. Because I feel like we're all women who are still healing that little girl, right from whatever happened, whatever we did not learn or we did not get. We're still basically a work in progress."- Jamie Blunt
Mrs. Jamie Blunt is the founder and visionary of The Brown Girls Mentoring Program, an organization designed to create a safe place for young girls and women to become better versions of themselves. The Columbus, Ohio native found her calling in helping set the authentic standard for young, brown girls. Jamie’s impactful life lessons are continuing to help her on her own journey to self-actualization and are central in the Brown Girls Mentoring program.
The Brown Girls Mentoring Program aims to be a catalyst for the changes needed in our community, leaving a legacy and giving girls the tools to pay it forward.
We spoke to Jamie in the winter of ‘21 and fundraised over $2,000 with the help of our Amplify Black Voices Shoots in the studio and where we talked about overcoming some of the challenges covid posed to the program. To keep up with the girls while in-person meetings proved impossible
“...We started a phone tree. Every other week we assign our Volunteers to reach out to our girls and get them on the phone. How you doing? How's school? How's Mom? Put her on the phone....We talk to everyone in the family. It's important to keep up. It's even important for the Volunteers to touch base with one another." You can find more from our previous conversation here.
Now that those obstacles have shifted, how is the program doing two years later? When Jamie came into the studio I told her that I wanted to photograph her celebrating # BlackJoy, that I wanted her voice to once again be shared but also show the joy that can come from doing the work that she does every damn day. So we cued up, the good tunes and danced our hearts out with her kiddos watching and making sure she didn't "crease" the sneakers. So good, and so fun.
So I know in 2020 there was obviously a lot swirling around. And now that we're in 2023, I'd love to hear a little bit about what you've been up to.
So when I first met you, we were at Beatty and Beatty alone. Now we're at Linden community center. Last year we were rebuilding, and now we're consistently at anywhere from 20 to 25 Girls in our cohort, which is a good thing. And now we're building up our presence back in the King Lincoln District, because when we came back from COVID, we started at Linden Community, really just really hone in on being intentional with growing the community in Linden and Beatty.
Right now, we have an opportunity to partner with the after-school program through Columbus Park and Recreation which will be kicking off in March. So we're expanding our territory because that'll be at another Recreation Center. So that would be a total of three for Brown Girls Mentoring during Saturday programming. So two centers will be doing Saturday programming. And then the one we'll be doing after-school programming it is exciting and scary at the same time. It's just getting past that nervous hump. And then not only that but expanding our reach. So we need more volunteers because we are expanding our reach. That's the newest thing.
When you look for a volunteer, what are some qualities or attributes that you're really wanting to find within those volunteers?
More or less, dedication and consistency, we definitely need that. And somebody who can make the commitment to the every other Saturday, we hold about maybe anywhere from 18 to 20 meetings. So if you can at least be present for half. That's great.
And the mentoring piece, which is more involved with the family and the girl, you may not be able to commit to, but you may be able to commit to coming in on those Saturdays, and possibly helping the back office part, the administrative part, people that communicate with you. If I can't, they can respond to an email, or if they can help us with paperwork. I mean, any administrative tasks. We always need that social media presence. I remember at one point in time, when we first started, I was so gung ho on people being able to volunteer on Saturdays. But now that we're expanding, we need people's eyes on social media, we need eyes on emails, we need eyes on all these different areas that may not require you to be at a Saturday session. Maybe you can assist from the outside or a fundraising coordinator. I mean, those are positions that necessarily wouldn't have you in a building on a Saturday.
This is such an incredible opportunity for people to be able to give back to the community and to learn more about themselves when it comes to volunteering.
We say that if you leave as a better woman after volunteering with us, not only did we do our job with the girl, but we did our job with the woman too. Because I feel like we're all women who are still healing that little girl, right from whatever happened, whatever we did not learn or we did not get. We're still basically a work in progress.
What would be something that you kind of learned about yourself doing Brown Girls Mentoring?
Healing development, growth development, and making sure my girls have the tools and making sure that the girls who we serve, understand it's okay to be who you are, no matter what that looks like, right?
**As she looks over at her girls and grandbaby who joined us for the shoot.**
How do you create time for yourself?
A million-dollar question, especially this year. I'm trying to find that happy space of networking, but still self-care. So I will say that to be intentional about everything, like everybody's not going to get my time because “I feel like I should have done this, I should have done that.” I just honor those small pockets of time right now, because I believe also too, that this year that we’re ready to go to another level with Brown Girls.
What can we as the community do to help provide those opportunities for that to happen? What can we do to help?
Word of mouth, word of mouth in any way that anybody can serve to any capacity. And like I said, I'm not so much boxing, the volunteer commitment. Yeah. Reposting a post is sharing, and furthering the cause….stop by a session to bear witness and lay eyes on yourself, you know, to see the work that we're doing.
Is there somebody in particular who helps you navigate this balance between Brown Girls Mentoring, organizing volunteers, and opening up centers, who helps keep you grounded?
My husband and my kids bring me back down to reality real quick. My husband and my kids, but most importantly, like the health aspect is definitely Ms. Faith [Dickenson]. I can lead with heart and passion, because of course, this is my baby. Yeah. But she can bring them back down to reality. I say she's my wing-woman. For sure. She’s a third-year volunteer that’s now the program manager too. She's really, really good. Amazing. We've been in the game since 2016. But we've been established as a 501 since 2019. It's amazing. So she's six years old.
Is there anything that you want anybody to know? Or is there a mantra that you live by? Or an intention?
Be the change you want to see. Oh, yeah, I definitely like that. It's from our ancestor Gandhi, and it's just true. So I think that that's one thing I tell my team, “be the change you want to see.” So we have these young ladies in front of us, it's our opportunity for them to see us in a different light not perfection but progression because none of us are perfect right?
So we want to mirror what we want them to be, and then they’re going to be that x2.0. I'm looking at my daughters and I tell them all the time learn from me right and learn from my mistakes you see that the healed me now, but know that you're gonna take it 10 times further. The generational things that I battled and broke for y'all, now y'all have to do it. You're charged to do it with you and your offspring and your marriages and all that other good stuff. You have the tools to go even further. Yeah, so be the change. For sure.
Please be sure to check out Brown Girls Mentoring. You won't be disappointed.
Jamie, thank you for your time and energy. It's always a pleasure to have you in front of my camera. I appreciate you!
All photos are taken by Emma Parker Photography
For more information, please contact Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Emma on Facebook | Instagram