Jackson State University’s Margaret Walker Center has received a $300,000 grant from the NoVo Foundation to work with young women of color throughout the South in conjunction with the Lighthouse project and its creator Natalie Collier.
Founded by a gift from businessman Warren Buffett, the NoVo Foundation – “Novo” the latin word that can mean to make anew, refresh, revive, change, alter, invent – states that its mission is to foster a transformation from a world of domination and exploitation to one of collaboration and partnership, according to the foundation’s website.
The Lighthouse project—to be housed at the Margaret Walker Center on the campus of Jackson State University—targets southern girls with a responsibility “to be a revelatory, unflickering light for black girls and young women in the southern United States by providing a safe space and focused programming to address their personal, social and leadership development needs.”
Collier will direct The Lighthouse project. She has spent the past five years doing young women’s leadership development, curriculum design and grantmaking at the Children’s Defense Fund – Southern Regional Office and Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice (CDF – SRWBI).
“When Natalie approached me about the participation of the Margaret Walker Center in this project,” notes Dr. Robert Luckett, center director. “I jumped at the opportunity. It seemed like a perfect fit for us and our work to promote the African-American experience.”
The renewable grant gives Collier the opportunity to incubate and leverage her experiences working with young women and girls in the South. It also will allow her to focus more fully on creating a more balanced, equitable world by changing social attitudes, relationships and institutions that perpetuate injustice for girls and young women, especially black southern ones.
“I’m so fortunate to have this opportunity to expand the work I’ve been doing for the past several years—affirming girls and young women through the CDF and SRBWI,” Collier says. “I look forward to learning more, teaching more and partnering with individuals, organizations and institutions committed to the success and uplift of girls and young women, who are the backbones of so many of our communities.”
As Collier sees it, “a falsehood has pervaded American culture as fact: Girls are fine. Because of this, girls and young women are too often neglected to focus on boys and young men, and this is especially the case when the conversation focuses on girls of color.” She continues, “This negligence provides a false choice and assumes that advocates, activists, organizers, and thought leaders aren’t sharp enough to focus on both. What is certain is girls are not and cannot be fine if no one is paying attention to them. The Lighthouse will redress this issue.”