Meet Tania De'Shawn, The Featured Author In The BPL's Upcoming Program On Adultification Bias And Protecting Black Childhood

A young woman (Tania De'Shawn) with a large afro in a two toned long-sleeved pink shirt poses on a bench, smiling. In the background is a mural of black beauty shop that is bright and colorful featuring black women getting their hair done.

In 2017, the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality's groundbreaking study Girlhood Interrupted released revealing data: that adults view black girls as less innocent and in need of less comfort and protection than their white peers, also known as adultification bias. 

Tania De'Shawn Russell explores the effects and consequences of adultification bias on black girls in her debut poetry collection be gentle with black girls

You may remember Tania De'Shawn as the second-place winner of Bards & Brews April Fool's Slam. But that night was just a sample of her talents and accomplishments. 

Tania De'Shawn is a writer, teaching artist, and entrepreneur. Her poetry collection invites readers to witness the humanity of black girls and the erosion of their childhood by being identified and treated as women way before their time.

be gentle with black girls was nominated for the 2022 VIP Heavy Hearts Neighborhood Award, and her poetry has also been featured at:

De'Shawn also practices choreopoetry and keeps the legacy of Ntozake Shange alive by teaching choreopoetry to artists of all ages and backgrounds. Her co-choreographed choreopoem "Sister Circle" debuted at the Berea College Kinetic Expressions showcase in 2018.

As the founder of Element Agape, she nourishes artists by awakening their dreams through the arts. De'Shawn volunteers with Flourish Alabama in her free time, which is an organization that helps young artists bloom. 

All of these passions to help others connect, express themselves, and grow in a supportive environment culminate in her reaffirming collection of poetry. 

Intended for young adults and older, be gentle with black girls is a reminder that black girls are deserving of love, protection, support, and nurturance.

In "Galactic Sisters" from the collection, De'Shawn writes:

black women are no small creations / we are nebulas   places stars go to form / in space you cannot hear a sound / so, every 'you ain't nothing but a fast-tailed girl' / 'why you actin' so masculine' / 'put your head down' / 'ain't no man gonna deal with you attitude' / 'you should know better' / 'you must not know you black, girl' / cannot reach us / maybe that's why we're extraterrestrial in sci-fi movies

If you like what you read here, be sure to join us on Thursday, September 22, starting at 6:00 p.m., at the Central Library in the Grand Reading Room for "be gentle with black girls: Addressing Adultification Bias and Protecting Black Childhood." This program is intended for young adults and older.

Hear more from be gentle with black girls in a live reading with the author Tania De'Shawn, followed by a panelist discussion with:

  • Lauren Whatley, a Women's Studies professor at the University of Alabama and an expert on race, gender, and systems of oppression

Patrons can also participate in an Oriki station (Praise Poems from a West African tradition, affirming oneself through relationships between kinship and destiny), a story station to contribute their own stories of black girlhood, and a raffle to win a copy of be gentle with black girls

Learn more about adultification bias in this video and hear the findings and breakdown of Girlhood Interrupted in this one 

This project is supported by the Alabama Humanities Alliance, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the Alabama Humanities Alliance or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Follow the Birmingham Public Library on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn for more updates on be gentle with black girls.

Follow Tania De'Shawn Russell on Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Medium to see more of her writing. 

By Cheyenne Trujillo | Library Assistant Ⅲ, Public Relations