In 1993, Girl Talk, a program for girls, ages 12-17, who are detained in the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center (JTDC), came into being as the brainchild of some very dynamic women and their sponsoring organizations, the Children and Family Justice Center of Northwestern Law School (CFJC) and Chicago Women’s Health Center. A survey of the girls, conducted by CFJC, found that they faced a number of serious concerns on a daily basis, including sexual assault and other forms of violence, relationships and conflict resolution, education and employment, legal rights, and a wide range of health issues. Programming and services related to these issues were almost non-existent through the detention center, and Girl Talk, a name chosen by the girls themselves was one answer. Girl Talk started as an eight-week pilot project and quickly grew into a weekly year-round one.
It grew over the years and was eventually led by Wenona Thompson, a young woman who had spent time within those walls herself as a teenager. Eventually Girl Talk developed a program called Talk Out which extended the program to the girls once they were released from the detention center. Girl Talk ended in 2005 and Wenona Thompson tragically passed away way too young at the age of 32 in 2008.
In 2007 and 2008, Dr. Laurie Schaffner and her students from UIC carried forward the spirit of Girl Talk by organizing a summer film series for the young women at the JTDC. They showed films and then followed those with creative activities that included mask-making and dance.
In late 2010, a group of women partnered to revive Girl Talk by launching a bi-weekly film series that is followed by creative activities for the girls at the JTDC. We called this initiative Girl Talk as a way of continuing and honoring the legacy of that program. Girl Talk is coordinated by a leadership team of young women of color and is facilitated by volunteers.
The first session of the revived Girl Talk took place on Saturday January 15th 2011 and continued every OTHER Saturday after that.
Project NIA is proud to be incubating the revived Girl Talk. For more information about Project NIA, visit http://www.project-nia.org.