The Flower Girls bloom

BY JOYCE NANETTE JOHNSON, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — The mission of The Gathering of Women Flower Girls is to create a positive outreach program for girls that address their current issues and concerns but include old fashion values and etiquette that their mothers and grandmothers were taught.

The Flower Girls, a workshop under the umbrella of the Gathering of Women organization, was launched Sat., Oct. 25 at Childs Park YMCA.

Today’s young ladies are assaulted daily by questioning their own self-worth, filled with doubt and are exposed to harmful, negative images both outside and sometimes even in their  own homes. Grace, elegance and manners seem to be reminiscent of a time long ago but still fondly remembered and wished for.

The Gathering of Women Flower Girls’ message states that they “will be engaged in etiquette, community involvement, health, merit, praise dancing, the arts and sisterhood. They will explore and share their hopes and dreams through creative projects, journaling, group presentations and team building exercises.”

The workshops will cover six major components:

The Arts: Singing, drama/acting will be offered for building characterization.

Etiquette: Teaching young girls the fundamentals of social skills and etiquette.

Creative movement/ Music: Introduction of various genres of music, ballet, tap, theatre dance, hip-hop, rock, jazz and gospel.

Community involvement: They will be involved in a project that addresses a community problem they believe is important to change.

Sports: Physical Fitness, stronger bodies for stronger minds

Building relationships: Appreciating people different from them, trusting the reasons behind what other people do.

The Flower Girls were named in honor of Rene Flowers, a community leader, activist, former city councilmember and now the newly re-elected Pinellas County School Board member of District 7.

“I named the program after Rene because she represents leadership and education and has a voice in setting the direction for our schools,” said Samantha Richardson, chair of the Gathering of Women. “Learning and achievement for all students is her primary focus. These are education key factors that we want our Flower Girls to be involved in.”

Flowers said she was elated when she was informed that a program was being named in her honor. “This will be a legacy to me,” she stated.

She feels that today’s young girls are faced with different challenges than she and her contemporaries were.  “My mom was my elder woman and stateswoman,” she explained.  “She was my mother she was not my friend. That would come later when I had become a woman.”

Her mother, the late Juanita Robinson, was the former assistant deputy director of Head Start and Flowers explained she always instilled in them to remain in character, dress appropriately and to not always speak what was on your mind but to listen first.

Flowers hopes the Flower Girls will always learn to respect themselves, to be proud of their black heritage, to be confident that whatever they decide to do they can do it; to set goals, partner with people and stay on point.  Most importantly she wants them to learn from their mistakes and then move forward.

At the sign-in and first general meeting, girls aged 5-13 accompanied by a parent, checked in. The room was filled with excited giggles, toothy grins and a few faces showed hesitant shyness not sure of what to expect.

Patrice Davis brought her daughters Sa’Qoia and Andriana Middlebrooks to the kickoff.

“As a young girl my mother influenced me to be in Precious Jewels and I loved and enjoyed it,” Davis said. “My daughters are like sponges and I want them to learn etiquette and respect. I want them to stand on their own feet and know the importance of being a woman.”

Participants of the Gathering of Women Flower Girls: Kennedy Dade, Jasmine Edmonds, Jada Edmonds, Sa’Qoia Middlebrooks, Adrianna Middlebrooks, Johnnay Williams, Bianna Bynum, Quincy Butler, Bran’dreshia West and Mariah Evans.

The Flower Girls will meet on a bi-weekly basis on Saturdays from 9-11 a.m. The 2014-15 program will be six months from October 2014 – March 2015, with a finale Flower Girl introduction to family and society ceremony. The summer/second session will begin in May.

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