Rania Al Abdullah, Queen of Jordan,

Rania Al Abdullah, Queen of Jordan,

Rania Al Abdullah is the beloved Queen of Jordan. The outspoken critic of honor killings has championed women and children’s rights on the board of the United Nations and through her highly-visible platform. This week, Al Abdullah penned a beautiful letter to girls around the world. It was her contribution to CNN’s “Girls Rising” project.

Her missive encourages girls to renounce gender roles and forge a path toward their life’s purpose. The letter reads in part:

Some of you will be familiar with the childhood rhyme, “What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of.”

Marketing and stereotyping combine to have us believe that you’re also made of pink dresses, pigtails, dolls, ringlets, ribbons, bows and tiaras. That you like cupcakes. That all you will want to be are wives and mothers. That you’re more “inclined” to the arts and “better suited” to caring professions like teaching and nursing.

And, maybe, that’s true for some. But my daughter Salma teaches me every day that there’s so much more to you — and for you.

Salma is 13, and I can count, on one hand (in fact, on one finger!), the occasions she’s worn a dress — and they’ve never been pink! Dolls always stayed on the shelf. She’s happiest dribbling a soccer ball past her brothers and scoring goals or building model airplanes with her father. She dreams of being an engineer. That’s my Salma; that’s why I love her.

So, when I think about girls rising, I think of girls like her and her sister, Iman. I think of the millions of courageous girls all over the Arab world and beyond who, every day, summon inner strength, surmount barriers and make a difference in their communities.

Al Abdullah also urges powerful women to mentor girls, so they can see what women are capable of. Her concluding sentence is poignant and captures the spirit of the Girls Rising campaign: “If one girl with courage is a revolution, imagine what feats we can achieve together.”

The queen’s letter is addressed to girls around the world, but it is catered to those of the Middle East. Al Abdullah’s words prompt me to consider the plight of girls of color in black bodies.

The woes that face the Quvenzhané’s and other black girls differ from the plights of girls in the Middle East. Little black girls must exist in a world that undervalues them and renders their pain invisible.

I offer this for those little black girls:

Dear little black girl,

You are amazing. There will be times when those words will seem like a lie. You live in a world where sometimes you’re not enough. You’re not intelligent enough. You’re not worthy enough of accurate media images. You’re not pretty enough to be loved, valued and appreciated. None of that is true. You hail from the lineage of queens. You are enough.

You are enough.

You are enough.

You are enough.

And whenever that’s in doubt, there are legions of women that will affirm and uplift you because we’ve also been little black girls. We know the pain. We see it, recognize it and will offer enough love to heal it.

You are enough.

United in love and sisterhood,


Chime in Clutchettes. What would you write to little black girls?

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  • Me

    Great letter.

  • Ms. Kay

    What would I write to little black girls? Hmmm. We always tell them to make better decisions, but we don’t always say what they are. I think I’ll do that.

    To start:
    You should take this time in your life to be selfish. Now, I don’t mean that you should be rude and can’t share or fail to treat other people in the way you feel you should be treated.

    When you are still in school, it is a time for you to grow as a human being and as a young lady. You are supposed to be considering what it is you want to be when you grow up and what you need to do to achieve your goals. You have NOT been put on this earth for the sole reason to be pleasing to your equally young men. That is NOT your job. Sure, it’s okay to have a boyfriend. It is NOT okay for you to abandon who you are for him. If he doesn’t like it, there are other boys who will respect what you have to offer as a person, not sexually. And you don’t owe any man your body.

    Yes, many women have made great strides and achievements as single mothers and that is commendable. But the fact is that when you have children when you are still in school, ALL of your choices have been decided for you. Every choice you make, each goal you wish to set must take a backseat to this child who has only you. I would say WAIT to have children until you can afford them. WAIT until your life is where you want it to be. The luxury of your youth is that you can travel light and pick up at a moments notice. I once had a conversation with a friend who had young, stroller aged children, she asked me didn’t I want to have kids. At that time in my life, the answer was no and she asked me why. Because, I said, I just decided that I am going to Toronto tomorrow, I’m going to pack tonight and be on a train by 9AM tomorrow morning. You cannot do that with kids. And some of you know how hard it is to find a babysitter for an evening, let alone a weekend. There’s nothing wrong with being a single mother, but you don’t have to do it at age 16, so take some precautions at least for yourself so that you can become a mother when you want to not when you have no choice.

    Carry yourself with respect. Being able to ‘twerk’ is beneath you. Yeah all the boys will look at you if you do it, but that isn’t always the kind of attention you want or need. You don’t have to wear the low cut blouse or short short skirt. I’ve worked in a field where there are more men than women and you would be surprised at what they say about the low cut, high hemmed girls. It’s rarely flattering. Revealing clothing do not tell anyone how capable or smart you are and after that, it is very hard for them to take you seriously.

    You are smart and intelligent. You can handle what is thrown at you. You do not have to be the one who is turning the table over in a public place. That. Is. TACKY. God save us from reality television. This is not how a person should behave in public. Don’t let other people get you to act stupidly because the people looking at you are thinking that you don’t know how to behave in public, not that you told someone off.

    In closing, in this political climate, women need to have their stuff together. All you have to do is watch the news to see how women are regarded by some in this society. Never give someone else the means to tell you who you are and reject you for nothing. And if they do, go on to the next opportunity because everyone will not reject you. Be the wonderful person you are and that you can be. And like Langston Hughes says: “they’ll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed. I, too am America.”

    You can do it. Control your own destiny.