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Mentoring program 300 for 300 continues to support girls of color in Louisville area

Chastity Dotson, founder of 300 for 300, a program to mentor and help foster self expression in girls of color in the Louisville area, in the temporary art exhibit for families to celebrate recent graduates of the program. On the walls were portraits of the girls, taken by Dotson.
Aprile Rickert
/
LPM
Chastity Dotson, founder of 300 for 300, a program to mentor and help foster self expression in girls of color in the Louisville area, in the temporary art exhibit for families to celebrate recent graduates of the program. On the walls were portraits of the girls, taken by Dotson.

For the past three years, Chastity Dotson has been working toward an important goal — helping to lift up the voices and stories of young girls of color in spaces long overshadowed by others.

In 2020, Dotson, a Los Angeles-based actor and writer, watched on the news as thousands took to the streets in Louisville to protest the police killings of Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans.

She wondered about how what was happening — the reckoning for police violence in Black communities, as well as the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — was affecting young people.

“I thought about the young girls in that community and I thought about what they might be feeling,” she said. “I wondered if they felt devalued by what was happening, and if they felt unseen.”

Dotson wanted to help teach them how to write and use their voices.

She bought three laptops and flew to Louisville, delivering them to three girls from a local church. Around the same time, she took on a challenge to run 300 miles for 300 girls in Louisville, with plans to raise funds to help more.

Now, she’s modeled the evolving program into a six-week free course that helps girls grow in their confidence and self-expression through art, writing, movement, and meditative exercises — like mantras and mental health support.

Chastity Dotson, founder of 300 for 300, a program to mentor and help foster self expression in girls of color in the Louisville area, in the temporary art exhibit for families to celebrate recent graduates of the program. On the walls were portraits of the girls, taken by Dotson. "We hope that these girls who feel unseen and unheard will come and find a safe space where they are seen and they are heard and through these images, they are able to experience the beauty and the magic that I've seen them reflected back to them."
Aprile Rickert
/
LPM
Chastity Dotson, founder of 300 for 300, a program to mentor and help foster self expression in girls of color in the Louisville area, in the temporary art exhibit for families to celebrate recent graduates of the program. On the walls were portraits of the girls, taken by Dotson.

"We hope that these girls who feel unseen and unheard will come and find a safe space where they are seen and they are heard and through these images, they are able to experience the beauty and the magic that I've seen them reflected back to them."

“We're constantly trying to find new ways to get them to try on new ideas about themselves that allow them to expand the concept of who they are and who they can be in their homes, how they can show up in their community in their school and their families,” Dotson said.

She wants to help shake the barriers and biases — being told to be quiet, being told not to express themselves — that prevent girls from feeling like they can be their true selves.

“There's this idea that because they're girls of color, because they're Black girls, that they somehow should be stronger and more mature, or they should know better,” she said. “That stops them from expressing themselves, that stops them from their nature of being kids.”

BrookLynn Bowman recently graduated from the program. She said she’s always been into arts and crafts, and she loves to sing. She’s attending Western Middle School — a public performing arts school. She said the 300 program gave her more confidence and sharpened her creativity. She also made new friends.

Now, she’s been writing more and focusing on songwriting.

“It’s given me a lot and just makes me want to stand out more than fit in with everyone else,” she said.

“I feel like as a girl of color, people don't listen as well … to us.”

A photo of 13-year-old BrookLynn Bowman at a temporary art exhibit in Clarksville for families to celebrate the most recent class of 300 for 300, a program that helps girls of color grow in their self expression. Chastity Dotson, founder of the program, took the girls' photos.
Aprile Rickert
/
LPM
A photo of 13-year-old BrookLynn Bowman at a temporary art exhibit in Clarksville for families to celebrate the most recent class of 300 for 300, a program that helps girls of color grow in their self expression. Chastity Dotson, founder of the program, took the girls' photos.

Dotson took photos of each program participant. The portraits show the girls as Dotson sees them and how she wants them to see themselves — their faces bright, shining, happy and proud.

They adorned the walls of a cottage in Clarksville as a temporary art exhibit to celebrate with the families.

Under each was something the girls wrote, including their first memories.

“Love her for she is beautiful, kind, special, amazing and nice,” an excerpt from Bowman’s reads. “Cherish her for she is amazing, one of a kind, and unique. Believe in her because she will do great things. She will help people. She will change the world. Her name is BrookLynn, and she is in full bloom.”

Supporting these voices is important because representation matters, Dotson said. She said girls of color don’t see themselves reflected as much as others in society.

“I Googled ‘happy girl’ and I didn’t see a bunch of beautiful Brown faces,” she said. “And that’s why it’s important to amplify these stories and images. They need to know that they are part of that story.”

To learn more about the program including how to apply or help support it through volunteer efforts or donations, visit 300for300.org.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

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Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.