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Why Rapper Azealia Banks and Other Females Need Mentors

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents:  On the “A” w/Souleo

Amanda Seales, Damali Elliott, Shontelle, Rocsi Diaz and Chrisette Michele

A few positive words of encouragement were all it took to brighten the faces of the young women at the Petals-N-Belles’ LIMITLESS 2012 one-year anniversary. Witnessing that moment was a testament to the vision of founder, Damali Elliott whose organization provides year round mentoring programs for participants. During the event held at Greenhouse, attendees reflected on the mentors who helped them succeed in life.

While host and TV Personality, Rocsi Diaz noted admiring women such as Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Jennifer Lopez it was BET executive, Donna Anderson who made the greatest impact on her. “Donna Anderson has helped me realize that my purpose may be greater than I had ever imagined. She has encouraged me to be an advocate for young people,” she says.

The plight of young women is also what drew event chair and Essence Magazine editor-at-large, Emil Wilbekin to the organization. “Young black girls are under fire right now and the media is against them. So to connect professional women … with young girls is really important.”

Apparently others agree as the event met its target and raised over $10,000.

Raising money was also the goal for the Figure Skating in Harlem benefit gala held at Wollman Rink in Central Park. Now in its 15th anniversary season, the organization, founded by Sharon Cohen empowers young girls by combining educational, artistic and fitness opportunities through the discipline of skating. The iced carpet featured a surprise appearance by Diana Ross in support of her daughter and one of the evening’s honorees, Rhonda Ross Kendrick. While walking in ice skates, Cohen revealed that a permanent indoor ice-skating rink might be coming soon to Harlem.

“We have our stakeholders ready to go once we find a space. Upper Manhattan deserves an indoor space for the whole community and we hope to accomplish that in the next three years,” she says.

One of the most exciting occurrences over the past three years has been the resurgence of the female rapper including Harlem’s rising artist, Azealia Banks. Source magazine has noticed the shift and celebrated with a “Women in Hip-Hop” panel at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. One of the primary topics addressed was the perceived lack of mentorship and camaraderie between females in front of and behind-the-scenes in hip-hop.

“Younger women don’t feel that camaraderie ’cause it is competitive and they’re vying for the same spot. I was competitive too, but as you grow older you mature,” states panelist and Source editor-in-chief Kim Osorio on the subject.

Still not everyone reaches the same level of enlightenment as Osorio, which is why mentorship from an early age is so vital. For those considering becoming a mentor you might want to heed the words of Bevy Smith delivered at the Petals-N-Belles event.

“There are many ways to mentor without it being formalized,” she advises. “When you talk to a young person on the street you mentor them. When you expose them to something great you mentor them.”

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