Sunday night I attended a viewing of the documentary “The Souls of Black Girls.”

The event, held at Sadie’s Soulful Southern Experience restaurant, was a fundraiser to benefit Beautifully Made, a nonprofit founded to promote self-empowerment for young black girls.

Gia Atkinson, founder of the group, is on a mission. After viewing the movie months ago, she said it made her so angry she knew she had to do something.

The documentary deals with how the media, movie, music  and advertising industries often portray black woman in an unfavorable light. Images of black women, half-naked in music videos, or images of white women with long blonde hair and blue eyes, are often the only images many young black girls see.

This pattern, the documentary says, reinforces the idea that black women are either “ho’s” or simply aren’t good enough to be included in mainstream advertising. These depictions help explain why so many young black girls are lost and question their own beauty and self-worth.

Atkinson said that growing up, she’s felt like many of the girls depicted in the film. She was teased and called unattractive because of her dark skin. She believes that by showing the movie to as many black women as she can it will help break the cycle of self-hatred.

“It allows woman a chance to have dialogue and talk about the issues,” she said.

In turn, she hopes that the woman who see the movie will help re-educate young girls about their self-worth, whether they be daughters, nieces or family friends.

The discussion after the movie quickly turned into a therapeutic session as many of the women shared their own feelings and experiences.

A 50-year-old woman stood to say that she had hated herself for her entire life because of the negative stereotypes society has put on black woman. The movie and discussion that followed, she said, would help. She also said she was grateful for the experience of watching the documentary with other sisters.

Most women agreed that the positive images of First Lady Michelle Obama, in the media and on magazine covers, will give black girls hope.

Beautifully Made, which is still in the final steps of formation, will host a six-week program working with girl ages 10-16. Atkinson said her goal is to bring in other professionals to teach them etiquette, grooming, cooking and financial management. These components, she says, will help the girls develop self-esteem and learn that beauty starts on the inside. Atkinson said she hopes to one day be able to take the girls on trips.

“It’s an opportunity for me to give back,” she said. “Giving back in important. I want the young girls in the world to be better than I was growing up.”

Atkinson is planning to show the movie at least two more times this year. For more information, email, or call 704-890-1235.

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