Black Girl Advocate

Shamaria Jordan in sweater reading "Black Girl Advocate"

Shamaria Jordan ’21 first went abroad as a senior at North Central University, traveling through Israel for three weeks. That experience—seeing sites important to her religion and experiencing a different culture—inspired her to help other young Black girls travel and see new places.

“Some of these girls have never been out of Minnesota, never been out of Minneapolis,” Jordan says. “That small experience of them even being able to get on an airplane—that was significant for me and I know it’s going to be significant for them.”

Jordan, who received her master’s in Youth Development Leadership from the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development, founded a nonprofit called Black Girl Advocate. 

“Black Girl Advocate was born out of me being a Black girl and being in situations where I didn’t have anybody to advocate for me,” says Jordan. 

She explained how when she moved to Minnesota in ninth grade, her new school didn’t want to accept her transcripts from Illinois. The school tried to put her in classes that she had essentially already taken, instead of putting her in the same honors track she had been in previously.

Jordan’s mom, who had never graduated from high school, struggled to stand up for her.

“My mom didn’t know what to say to make sure that I was in a place where I could actually grow and actually develop,” Jordan says.

Jordan wants to make sure other Black girls have someone to advocate for them. 

“I didn’t have the best home growing up,” says Jordan. She lived with her mom, who struggled with alcoholism, and grandma, who used drugs. They spent several years homeless.

“I would always tell myself I’m going to become a social worker, make sure kids aren’t in the position I am,” she says. “I would tell myself that I wanted to be the person that I didn’t have.”

She decided to go into youth studies, aiming to help underserved youth. 

“That was what I wanted because that’s what I was.”

Going from North Central University, a small religious institution where she had majored in youth ministry, to the University of Minnesota, with its more than 50,000 students, broadened Jordan’s view of what she could do with her future.

“Just being able to be in a school where there’s so many different people from different backgrounds, different views, different belief systems, and they’re all working with young people in different ways. ... There are so many more things that I could do with young people than I originally thought,” says Jordan.

Jordan started her nonprofit after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. She had ordered some shirts emblazoned with “Black Girl Advocate” but kept them in her room for months, doubting whether anyone would want them. She wore one on a trip to Nashville, and a woman commented on it, saying she wanted one. 

“That same day, I decided to put it out there and see what people do,” Jordan says. 

Sales of the clothing are helping her bring five girls to Nashville over spring break to experience life outside of Minnesota.

She has arranged tours of five colleges: American Baptist University, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee State University, Fisk University, and Meharry Medical College. At each school, the girls will also hear from a panel of current Black female students.

Jordan hopes the panels will help the girls understand the full reality of being in college.

“Most of these girls being first-generation college students, they don’t really prepare you for the emotional or mental difference when you’re on your own,” she says. “I really want them to get the full experience.”

This story was adapted from M Global, a platform highlighting global engagement at the University of Minnesota.