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Community foundation leader expands equity work with new book ‘Dear Black Girl’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Tamara Winfrey-Harris tells people not to just talk about diversity, but to “be about it” as she does as a leader at the Central Indiana Community Foundation and as an author who writes about Black women and girls.

She said Black women and girls often don’t see a lot of representation of themselves in mainstream media. She said working with the community foundation was the first time that, with her work, she can highlight the way Black women and girls have been marginalized and give them a voice.

Her latest book is a collection of letters called “Dear Black Girl.”

“We are sisters, Black girl. We have to take care of ourselves and each other. You are me, I am you and we are all right,” Winfrey-Harris read from the book.

Winfrey-Harris is the vice president of community leadership and effective philanthropy for the community foundation. The agency recently changed its mission to create equitable opportunities for community members of all races and genders. Her passion for community is what drives her.

“A lot of organizations talk about diversity, especially now. But, I am excited that the passion and the work that CICF is putting behind it to actually change culture,” she said. “Not just talk about it but also be about it and use our social capital to make change.”

She said Black women often face two challenges: racism and sexism. “Dear Black Girl,” Winfrey-Harris’ second book, takes aim at that and more.

“I wanted Black girls to see themselves in the book, and all the ways they show up in the world. And so, I found women to talk about friendship. I found women to talk about work. I found women to talk about relationships with their parents or being in a nontraditional family, being raised by grandparents or being adopted. I found women to talk about being trans or being queer. Women to talk about having dark brown skin. I want as many girls as possible to feel like this reflects my experience.”

“Dear Black Girl” feeds on some topics in Winfrey-Harris’ first book, “The Sisters Are Alright”: drawing focus to core stereotypes about Black women that impact how employers, partners and the world see them. She said the Central Indiana Community Foundation and other community foundations have a duty to address that in communities by talking to community members.

“If you were a counselor, if you were a teacher, I think very often the reason I write my books is very often people talk at us or talk about us, but don’t listen to what we have to say. So, I think one of the first steps of anyone who thinks they are an ally is to listen, into listen to what these Black women have to say,” she said.

The idea is simple: Let girls and women know they are whole as they are.