The season of giving may be over, but Dr. Ni’Cola Mitchell, founder of the Girls Who Brunch Tour, has found a way to give back in a meaningful way through her nonprofit all year ’round.
“I’ve 100% grown with Girls Who Brunch, so I know any girl that comes definitely can and will,” said 17-year-old Naomi Grace, a dancer, choreographer and entrepreneur who has participated and been involved with Girls Who Brunch for over six years. “I just want to cry because it’s always so beautiful to watch all the girls who come and really take in everything.”
Grace along with over 100 girls and young women accompanied by family members joined Mitchell this past November at Wyandanch Memorial High School for the New York stop of Mitchell’s national Girls Who Brunch Tour. This is the first time the tour has come to New York.
“Everybody wanted us to come but nobody would follow through on how to get us here,” explained Mitchell. “So Renee Williamson, Darlene Williams, the principal and superintendent of Wyandanch schools made it happen for us.”
“We all have gifts starting to form at that age. I’ve always had the ability to move the people around me,” said Panelist, Girls Who Brunch Indianapolis Committee Chair, Life Coach and Founder of the nonprofit Redemption Outreach Services Inc. Demetrice Bruno during the first panel. “I would tell my 12-year-old self to take that influence that’s developing, and use that to the best of everybody’s influence. You’re never too young to start making a difference. Even at the space that you’re in. Be that positive person in your circle.”
The day-long event consisted of several vendors, panel discussions, breakout sessions touching on topics like financial literacy, dance performances, swag surfing and more. Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean Pierre who represents New York’s 11th district spoke and gave praise to the organization before handing over the microphone to Mitchell and the program. One prominent and appropriate question asked throughout the event was, “What would you tell your 12-year-old self?”
Other panelists would have encouraged their younger selves to listen a little more to their elders and not give in to peer pressure.
“I would tell my younger self the people who are before me, adults of sound mind telling me things that I want to sass them about because I thought they were old-fashion, listen to them because they have wisdom,” said Panelist, Author, Entrepreneur and Personal Development Coach Darlene Williams. “I would also tell my younger self to not give in to negative peer pressure because there is positive peer pressure.”
Another running theme throughout the discussions was distinguishing one’s self and embracing the qualities that make someone different yet special.
“Be you,” said Panelist, Literary Agent and Editor Latoya Smith. “I know that sounds so cliché, but ever since I was a kid I loved to read. I didn’t watch TV and was called weird and strange because I didn’t like the same things everybody else liked. Reading pays my bills now. It was something that I loved. It was something that nobody understood including my parents. Embrace the things that make you different. I promise you it will be your number one strength when you get older.”
Sisterhood is something that was also highlighted during the five-hour long brunch and conference. According to an 85-year study conducted by Harvard University, positive relationships can keep us happier, healthier and help us live longer. Founder of the Butterfly Club and Wyandanch High School Educator Renee Williamson credits her personal relationships with helping her become the woman she is today.
“I encourage you to find that person and I hope you have that person in your life that you can be very personal with,” said Williamson during the second panel discussion of the day. “Let them know what you’re thinking. We all have a story. Don’t just see what we are now. We’ve all come through something, we’re just not doing it by ourselves we’re doing it with each other.”
The conference yielded moments of thought-provoking wisdom and reflection. It also energized the young girls and created an atmosphere of fun and excitement. Midway through the event, the girls came to the front of the auditorium for a short but vigorous Zumba session. Further dancing included swaying from side to side to F.L.Y. (Fast Life Yungstaz)’s classic swag surf.
There were also plenty of raffles, but not done in typical fashion. Once a girl’s name was drawn from the picking, they had to dance for their prize. With support from fellow peers, whether it was through cheering them on or jumping up front and dancing with them, girls danced, had a good time and succeeded in winning their prizes. Timely and upbeat music was provided by DJ Ciarah Hayes a.k.a. Mz Hayes.
This nonprofit and these unique empowerment events started initially in 2015 with just Mitchell. The organization has now blossomed to a full team with support from across the country servicing over 33,000 girls globally.
“I saw the opportunity to volunteer because this is something that is very near and dear to my heart and it’s pouring into children,” said Chandra Robinson, a New York City educator who has been working for over 25 years and jumped at the chance to volunteer for the event. “I think it’s so important for them to have experiences. I’ll take experiences over expenses any day. They need to understand these experiences give them something they can share with others. It levels the playing field. It allows them to feel comfortable in certain spaces. When they go away to college and they don’t have to feel like ‘Well I’ve never done those things.'”
Even though the nonprofit is dedicated to assisting girls and young women, the organization came about after the passing of Mitchell’s son.
“I had a son, he would be 9,” said Mitchell. “That’s when Girls Who Brunch was born, out of his death. My mom died two weeks later.”
Mitchell has overcome several hardships as being a teenage mother, dealing with uterine and cervical cancer and surviving domestic abuse. She has gone on to not only create this nonprofit, but has become a successful entrepreneur and author with a doctorate of Philosophy in Humanitarianism from Leaders Esteem Christian Bible University. Not to mention, Mitchell has been recognized and awarded by several organizations such as Black Enterprise, L’Oreal and Forbes to name a few. She has also had her journey documented in the Lifetime biopic “Giving Hope: The Ni’Cola Mitchell Story.” Mitchell served as the executive producer for the project and was played by Actress and Long Island native Tatyana Ali. However, the CEO claims her proudest moments are sending her daughters to Prarie View University and Savannah State University.
“My best and greatest accomplishment is putting two girls through HBCUs,” said Mitchell. “I was 15 and 19 when I had them. For them to now be 30 and 25, and they make a lot of money, they do a lot of things, I broke every generational curse that was bestowed upon me and my kids.”
Mitchell uses her story to inspire young girls who may have gone through similar obstacles to push forward and want better for themselves.
“We use the same blueprint every year, but we have added to it a little,” said Mitchell. “Every year I want them to feel like they’re at a different event.”
For the latest tour, new topics of discussion that have been included revolve around safety and fitness training. Mitchell hopes these events will help girls who attend build long-lasting and meaningful relationships with potential mentors and their peers.
“Sisterhood, that has no boundaries,” said Mitchell. “No matter what color the other baby is, no matter what background she, is that’s your sister. I kind of use the blueprint of sororities with how they love their sisters. But now you don’t have to join the club. As long as you’re in the room that’s your sister.”
After the first panel discussion and break out sessions that occurred throughout different classrooms in the building, brunch was provided in the cafeteria. During their meal, girls were asked to share with the group what they have learned from the day’s events.
“I think one thing to know about Girls Who Brunch is that when you come, and I know a lot of people see girls’ empowerment events and are like ‘Ugh God more,’ but it’s so much fun,” said Grace. “I think that it’s just the best environment. You don’t feel pressured. It’s such a comfortable event.”
Every girl left the event with connections, knowledge and gift bags containing sanitary napkins, hair care products and other essentials. Mitchell also left the girls with powerful parting words of encouragement.
“I suffered from anxiety and seasonal depression,” revealed Mitchell. “I was raped the first time in church when I was 14. Then I was raped by a couple of other close family friends. I was introverted and felt displaced. I felt alone. Whoever goes through those things, you can be better than me.”