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Karen Dace, vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Indiana University–Purdue University in Indianapolis, grew up in Chicago in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church.
As a single woman, she realized early on the importance of female role models when she overheard a girlfriend’s daughter telling her mother that she wanted to be like “Miss Karen” when she grew up, because “Miss Karen” owned a home, had a nice car, a fur coat, “and didn’t no man give it to her.” “Older women are supposed to teach the younger women,” Dace says.
Commenting on an article about a black male celebrity with a white partner, social worker Dawnlena Deans-Malone observed, “What I dislike (passionately) is this subliminal message being sent to black girls by men in the entertainment business (actors, athletes, musicians) that black girls are not good enough to marry.” I recently interviewed four young, African American women, all pastor’s kids between the ages of 15 and 19: Deja and Destiny Perkins and Moriah Bryd and her stepsister Naylah Williams.
At a time when families as a whole, and black families in particular, are seriously unraveling, young black women are facing a maelstrom of conflicting messages about their bodies, identities, and especially their relationships.
“The black church has a history of holistically discipling people,” says Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, and that discipleship is key to the future of black women.
Together, black fathers, black mothers, “other mothers,” and “other fathers” are the pillars of the African American Christian community best suited to instill resilience against flawed self images.
Now as a married, middle-aged woman, I try to be intentional about reaching out to younger Christians, especially women still finding their way in relationships with men.
Although Scripture exhorts older women like me to disciple the younger (Titus 2), black fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, cousins, boyfriends, and husbands are also called to play a pivotal role in encouraging and affirming single black women.
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Research on online dating indicates that black females get much less interest than women of other races.