Black women are faced will all kinds of unique stressors in life and sometimes have no outlet to vent or even explore the issues that concern them. But in Chicago, they do now. Jessica Davenport-Williams, 35, Jazzy Davenport, 28, and Khadija Warfield, 35, have launched Black Girls Break Bread to give Black women a safe space to communicate.
The organization launched its first event in December, a dinner with the theme “A Seat at the Table,” inspired by Solange Knowles’ album of the same name.
“Solange had an album release event in New Orleans and release photos of it where there was a single linear table with ambient lighting,” Davenport-Williams told NBC News. “It struck me that everyone was given a seat at the same table. I wanted to incorporate that concept so when our 50 guests attend our events, whether on a college campus, high school or public events they can expect to be seated together in a linear format. We dine with one another and have a moderated discussion.”
The trio had 20 tickets available on Eventbrite for that first dinner and they sold old immediately, so they bumped it up to 50 seats, which also sold out within four hours on the same day.
Among the topics of discussion during the dinner were colorism, mental health, fears, hopes, and dreams. “We had all been individually yearning for a sense of togetherness with other women—a safe space to reflect and feel rejuvenated with other women who could relate,” Davenport-Williams said. “It was important to create this space for black women in Chicago. As natives of Chicago ourselves, we understand the void and segregation that exists in this city…We are of course dining with each other, but we are also here to dispel the myths that black women can’t support each other.”
According to NBC, “Black Girls Break Bread plans on hosting public events quarterly and have (sic) even developed partnerships with universities around Chicago, such as Columbia College, which is Davenport’s alma mater. They reached out to the Multicultural Affairs department to propose programming for Black identifying students, staff, and faculty and the idea carried on to other academic institutions.”
The organization also partnered with Loyola University to host high school girls for its First Star Scholars youth program.
“We have begun partnerships with Gear Up and City Year nonprofit organizations with Chicago public schools,” Warfield said. “We are looking to start by attracting visitors from other cities, and talk about our startup model and how they can create their own satellite affiliate.”
This June, the group will host a garden party and the trio sees many, many more events ahead.
Said Warfield, “From middle school girls to middle-aged women, the response has been the same—this liberating experience. They are able to discuss challenges and triumphs in a room with people who look like them, understand them and celebrate them. Do you understand what that does for a person to be celebrated and understood? It is pivotal! We are creating a culture shift.”