Knowing that the middle school years can be a difficult time for young people, Black Girls United, a group dedicated “to engaging and developing strong girls of color to positively impact our world,” has been an important place for girls in Madison to gather and enjoy sisterhood. Now, the organization is looking to grow. 

Ruby Clay, founder of the group, started Black Girls United back in 2017 to give Black girls in the Madison a place to share their voices in a safe place to be heard. The group promotes youth-to-youth communication, multicultural bridge building in enhancing leadership development among young people. 

Pre-coronavirus pandemic, this group of middle-school-aged African-American girls would come together each week for sisterhood, support, and some community activism and volunteering. But Black Girls United has been on hiatus due to COVID-19.

“We couldn’t meet in our normal space. Now things are opening back up and we are swinging into phase 2,” Clay tells Madison365. “We had been getting requests from Second Harvest and River Pantry to come and volunteer but it was a big ask of the parents to let the girls out to volunteer during COVID-19. But now folks are ready and I’m like, ‘Let’s get things going.’”

Community outreach and volunteering are big for Black Girls United who, right now, have 10 girls in the group, but Clay expects that to grow. In fact, she’s planning on seeing it grow and she is reaching out to the community to help with that.

“As things continue to open up, I plan on doing some more recruiting and bring more girls in,” she says. “For so long, it’s just been me supporting the group – buying all the snacks and planning all the activities. A couple of weeks ago, I finally filed for Black Girls United LLC so I’m just waiting for all the paperwork to go through.”

Ruby Clay, founder of Black Girls United

Through its short existence, Black Girls United has mostly been funded by Clay herself.  “I really wanted the organization to grow and I decided that it was time to find out what we could really do with the community support behind us,” she says. 

Now, Clay is reaching out to the community. That’s where the new Black Girls United gofundme comes in. The goal is to raise $10,000 that will really give the group a boost. So far, they’ve raised $3,400.

On top of the gofundme fundraiser, Black Girls United is currently asking for support from the community with the following items: food/snacks, guest speakers, art supplies, laptops, gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, and gas that is needed to get to and from volunteer sites.

“So now I”m excited as I wait for that about being able to do some bigger things for the group,” she adds. 

Clay encourages group participants to explore their personal identities and talk about their experiences with oppression and privilege. It can be a very tough age for middle school girls. 

“This is such a very important age for girls to keep these middle schoolers and high schoolers on a positive flow. There are a whole lot of things that they could be doing,” Clay smiles. “I think this group is important for them.

“Some of the girls work and I try to work around them so I can be consistent in their lives. That’s what I want – I want them to have that consistency – once a week, or twice a week or whatever the girls want,” she adds. “But I also want them to be out in the community and helping others. I think that’s also a key point in building character and integrity.”

Black Girls United is not just an opportunity for young women to come together to discuss conflicts and issues in their lives but to also make an impact on the community that they live in.

“The girls love the volunteer work. Most times they choose to do it,” Clay says. “So many times when we meet I ask them, ‘Are we here or are we out in the community today?’ and they say, “Ms. Ruby, we are out!’” So, they love it and they love being out there. 

“I think it’s important for them to be out there to let them see that they can make change and they can be game-changers in this world,” Clay adds. “I want that for them.”