‘Black Women Heal Day,’ started in Madison, empowers women around the world

‘Black Women Heal Day,’ started in Madison, empowers women around the world

Saturday was Black Women Heal Day, an international movement that started in Madison in 2015. Locally, girls met with women to discuss what the issues that most impact them as black women.

Lilada Gee founded the movement to raise awareness about the impact of sexual abuse on African-American women.

Research shows that up to 65 percent of black girls in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18 .

When Gee shared her own story as a sexual abuse survivor with her church, other victims started showing up at her house.

“They’d come in my living room and we’d talk and we’d cry and we’d pray,” Gee said. “Because people don’t talk about it, people don’t know how to heal. They don’t know how to get out of that dark place.”

So Gee started a program called Lilada’s Living Room to help girls traumatized by sexual abuse. She leads discussion groups with high schoolers throughout Dane County and also meets with younger girls between 10 and 14 years old.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for African-American girls between the ages of 10 and 14, according to the CDC.

Gee is working to change that. She said it’s her calling to empower girls and create a safe discussion space for them.

Tamiya Smith, a Verona High School student, said she values the relationships she has formed as a member of the discussion groups. “It’s nice to have the women around me that I can connect with and look up to,” Smith said.

Gee said she tells other black women “if we don’t look out for black girls, nobody else will.”

“We need to take care of our babies,” she said.