Jewels gather support from students

By Alexandra Kukulka

“You a stupid hoe, you a you a stupid hoe,” sings a 13-year-old girl walking down a hallway of Basil Elementary School, paying tribute to her idol, Nicki Minaj. She dances, skips and sings to the beat, while her older mentors look in horror, wondering if she knows what she is singing about.

Six young women have created a Columbia chapter of Jewels Inc., an organization with a mission to reverse the sometimes negative connotations associated with being an urban girl. Every Saturday morning, the Jewels go to Basil Elementary School, 1816 W. Garfield Blvd., in Englewood on Chicago’s South Side to mentor “Junior Jewels,” girls in sixth to eighth grade.

Jewels Week was held Feb. 20–23 at Columbia. During this time, the Jewels raised awareness in order to recruit more members. Throughout the week, the young women gathered with interested students during a media discussion, game night and two information sessions.

“We focus on urban communities,” said Cozetta Smith, a journalism student and president of Columbia’s branch of Jewels Inc. “Right now, we are on the South Side. We really feel like those are the areas where these young ladies need [mentors] and where they are really being tested.”

According to Smith, the work Jewels mentors put in every week is influential to girls who need someone to look up to. However, there is much work to be done and not enough members to accomplish it. In order to achieve their future goals, the Columbia Jewels are looking for support.

Jewels Week started with a media discussion Feb. 20 during which participants held an open conversation about how the media portray women and how that affects young girls. The majority of the 25 student attendees agreed that women are represented in a negative way, which is something sixth- to eighth-grade girls pick up on, including songs such as “Stupid Hoe.” The group also focused on its role as future media creators.

“When it comes to our jobs once we leave [Columbia], we are supposed to be people who are appealing to consumers, who are media influencers and who are makers of media,” Smith said. “Where do we draw that line of making money?”

Those who attended agreed that the line is difficult to walk. But they ultimately decided that people who work in the media,  should be aware of the messages they send to their audience.

On Feb. 21 the group had game night, with 11 girls in attendance. According to Smith, the night was designed to be a mixer between current Jewels and aspiring members in order to get to know one another.

Krystal Robertson, executive director of Jewels Inc., came to the game night to check on the girls. Robertson, a graduate student majoring in arts, entertainment media and management, brought Jewels to Columbia once the group decided to expand to Chicago.

“At first, there was the thought that [Columbia] students are so art-based and they are into their craft,” Robertson said. “They won’t have time for community service, maybe they don’t have that kind of passion for it. But something told me to just do it, and it worked out beautifully.”

The last two days of Jewels Week consisted of information sessions focusing on assisting new members who wanted to become Jewels.

Those who attended the sessions learned more about mentoring, the history of the organization and the responsibility and commitment it takes to be a member, Smith said.

“It is a professional organization, and it’s a big deal,” she said. “We want to make sure that before they do full applications and before they come to an interview, they know what they are getting themselves into because it is a job.”

Jewels member Elsie Jernigan, freshman art and design major, said she enjoys giving back to the younger girls and helping them become confident women.

“My hopes and wishes are that they take everything that they learn from team building, leadership, self-esteem and self-identity,” Jernigan said. “I hope they just take everything, learn it and apply it to when they go to high school and college.”