Chicago sisters Jazzy Davenport and Jessica Davenport-Williams were preparing for a special sisters’ retreat making an informal announcement on social media when their friend, Khadija Warfield, chimed in. Warfield, a West Side native works for YoungLives, a nonprofit organization that helps teen mothers and their babies at Simpson Academy. After exchanging ideas of doing something that would invite Black women to gather in a safe space to build a common bond, the three friends immediately planned a special event called Black Girls Break Bread.
Jessica Davenport-Williams says, “We thought of a name and put it on Eventbrite the next day, and it came to be. Within an hour, the event sold out. Within four hours we had 50 guests. It also stems from a place for togetherness, sisterhood, coming together and feeling liberated.”
Jessica and Jazzy grew up on the South Side, and both attended Beasley Elementary School. Both went to separate CPS high schools with Jazzy traveling across town to attend Lane Tech College Prep High School and Jessica going to Kenwood Academy. After achieving collegiate success at Fisk College, Jazzy earned degrees from Columbia College, DePaul University, and Dominican University. She currently teaches English at Kenwood Academy and is an adjunct professor at the City Colleges of Chicago.
“Jessica had finished a 21-day fast, and we were all in this place of ‘what’s next?’ We just felt that we weren’t the only Black women feeling ‘some sort of way’ during the presidential election.” Jazzy explains, “Black Girls Break Bread is a place for Black women to come together. It’s certainly not something I had coming up in college. Now, that I’m a young Black professional, it’s not often that I encounter many similar events. This is what we wanted to provide for other Black women.”
Jessica works as a financial administrator at Columbia College.
“We initially wanted to have a dinner in Chicago for any adult woman who wanted to attend. Since we’re involved with colleges and universities, we saw a need to bring this concept to college campuses, elementary schools, and high schools,” said Jessica. “Our format is the same, whether we’re meeting with six 8th graders or 50 college-age students, staff or faculty; we always come together and commune over a meal.”
The group has hosted events at Columbia College and other CPS schools, at times bringing together young women of color.
“They still have that space to be able to express themselves — to have an outlet and a sense of community. It allows them to interact with each other and with staff. They feel like they come in and pour out their hearts and will not be judged. This allows them to feel empowered. They are grateful and willing to support us,” said Khadija.
More importantly, the women feel it’s important to share the message of empowerment, motivation, and understanding with young Black men.
“We’ve had young males come into our space on high school campuses, and some of the same things come up. Being a person of color, how do you operate in that space, how do you stay motivated and how hard do you have to work? Identity and supporting one another as Black people,” said Jessica. “Uplifting and empowering. Even though our targeted demographic is girls, some of us are raising boys. Some of us are in partnerships or relationships with Black men,” she said.
The group focuses on helping to address various issues that can hinder one’s ability to heal through the problems. Black Girls Break Bread helps to break through the emotional barriers through the simple gesture of sharing over a meal.
Jessica adds, “In our culture, that’s how we communicate. That’s how we engage. This is how we share with one another, and that part of BGBB was important to us. We discuss topics that range from mental health, identity, goals and inspiration, fear, and survival. It allows all age groups to know it’s okay to be ‘not’ okay. We help each other, but we also celebrate each other. Because of how well received it has been nationwide, it motivated us to expand to go to Atlanta, D.C., New Orleans, New York and Los Angeles to begin those conversations.”
Only eight months since creating the BGBB program, they have received a grant from the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities. Also, they have worked with Georgia State University and have received invitations from Georgia Tech and Spelman College to extend their programming.
This year, Black Girl’s Break Bread will have a booth at the Essence Festival’s Celeb Zone—selling their merchandise and spreading their message from June 29 through July 2 in New Orleans. In the fall, BGBB will host their biggest Chicago gathering in October—inviting 300 attendees.
The goals of BGBB have grown beyond their wildest expectations in a short period.
Jazzy is pleased with feedback received by various groups of Black women. “It’s an intergenerational community where many times there are different groups of people who are silent and don’t know how to speak up to use their voice. We’re trying to empower everyone and give people an equal opportunity to share what they have.”
For more information, visit: http://www.blackgirlsbreakbread.com