“Babies raising babies,” is how Tracey Wilson Mourning, a former journalist and wife of retired Miami Heat basketball player Alonzo Mourning, describes the group of teenage girls carrying their children near her neighborhood in Florida to The Root.
“I wondered, ‘Which one am I?’ out of that group, had it not been for the mommy I had, had it not been for the amazing women in my life,” she says.
This questioning led Mourning to start a mentoring group for young black women called Honey Shine.
Since 2002, the organization has been reaching out to young black women in Florida, offering group mentorship, a six-week summer day camp and bi-monthly workshops focused on education, health, nutrition, sex and drug education, and making goals for the future. The participants are called “Honey Bugs,” and sharing warmth and affection among the generations is a big part of Honey Shine’s mission.
Honey Shine turns even fun events into learning experiences. For example, a back-to-school shopping trip sponsored by Forever21 that helped 100 girls pick out clothes for school was also an opportunity to teach the Honey Bugs about budgeting and “shopping smart.”
Mourning tells The Root that these girls benefit from guidance in all aspects of their lives. “I know a lot of these young girls don’t have that mom that I had, don’t have those people pulling them up by their coattails or taking them outside of their neighborhoods,” she says. “We have girls that come from neighborhoods called ‘the Graveyard’ where two out of 12 are graduating from high school. Not on our watch.”
Most of all, Mourning wants Honey Shine to show the girls the possibilities that await them if they stay out of trouble and get an education: “[Women] run companies. We own companies. We influence the world,” Mourning says. “And if our girls see that, what a difference that makes. Self-esteem is a powerful tool. We all make dumb mistakes when our self-esteem is low, and I don’t know anyone immune from that, but I feel like if we build self-esteem in our young girls…it makes the world of difference.”