'Building tomorrow's leading women': Rubies & Pearls offers mentoring to Black girls

·4 min read

Shalonda Palmer describes her mother, Ruby Pearl Palmer, as a "mighty missionary."

Ruby would take her family shopping during the holidays for gifts to give out to other families. She was the district officer at Women's Home and Overseas Missionary Society and instilled values of community service in her children. Her mantra to them was: "Make sure you serve."

"When my mother saw a need, she would fulfill it," Shalonda Palmer said. "There were things she did that we didn't even know about. That's just the type of person she was, and that's just the type of heart she had. And so I've come from a family that is very involved in the community and it's just second nature to us just to give back."

Ruby Pearl Palmer died Oct. 17, 2013, but it was not the end of her family's community service. On that same day, Rubies & Pearls For Girls Inc. was formed to help honor her life giving back to the Black girls in the community.

Nikya Bryant has been part of Rubies & Pearls For Girls Inc. since 2018 and has felt being in a sisterhood helps her express herself and connect her with girls who understand her.
Nikya Bryant has been part of Rubies & Pearls For Girls Inc. since 2018 and has felt being in a sisterhood helps her express herself and connect her with girls who understand her.

Rubies & Pearls For Girls Inc. was founded by Shalonda Palmer, her niece Alexandria Palmer, and Asia Lovelace, one of Ruby's granddaughters. Alexandria Palmer had long felt there was a need for young Black girls in the community to have more mentoring, and Ruby's death prompted the group to spring into action.

"We are big on building tomorrow's leading women," Shalonda Palmer said. "So anything that can promote and help that, we try to go with it. We promote leadership, resilience, and we're an active advocate for education, academic excellence and social development."

The program provides girls from ages 8 to 18 with opportunities to learn life skills through activities like self-defense classes, mental health discussions and etiquette workshops. Once girls reach the 11th grade, they are linked with outside resources that can help them prepare for college applications and standardized testing.

Rubies & Pearls is guided by a five-point compass that focuses on academic excellence, self-efficacy, leadership, sisterhood and community service.

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Tyana Gray, who has been part of Rubies & Pearls since 2015, is a 13-year-old who appreciates what this group has given her, even as one of the youngest members. Gray said she has felt alone because of her age, but the older girls have been there to support her.

"I like the bonding because we do a lot of things together and we get closer and learn new things about each other every day," Gray said. "It's just nice to have sisters you could go to when you're feeling down."

Rubies & Pearls has a yearly cultural awareness trip to cities historically important cities like Atlanta, Memphis, Birmingham and Montgomery.

Rubies & Pearls For Girls Inc. was founded to provide mentoring, academic excellence, self-efficacy, leadership, sisterhood and community service to young Black girls in the community.
Rubies & Pearls For Girls Inc. was founded to provide mentoring, academic excellence, self-efficacy, leadership, sisterhood and community service to young Black girls in the community.

"History is very important, especially Black history," Palmer said. "I feel like they need to know the roots. They need to know the culture and how often the things that started and why things are the way they are."

Their trip to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is situated around Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Nikya Bryant, a 15-year-old who has been part of Rubies & Pearls since 2018, felt it has been one of her most memorable trips.

"They had a hotel set up exactly how Martin Luther King's hotel was before he passed," Bryant said. "It was like literally a cup of coffee there that was half finished. It was really mind blowing."

This past Thanksgiving, Rubies & Pearls handed out 50 meals to homeless people in the community through a partnership with local churches. The group will also participate in the Milton’s MLK Day Parade on Monday.

Everything that Ruby Pearl instilled into her children and grandchildren is what the mentorship program also tries to instill into the girls.

In the future, Palmer would love to expand Rubies & Pearls into a girls' school. But right now, she is comfortable with the progress they have already made, noting there were no programs of this nature when she was growing up. She noted that although programs like the Girl Scouts exist, there is nothing that focuses on specifically on Black girls.

Alexandria Palmer, one of the founders of Rubies & Pearls For Girls Inc., wanted to remember her grandmother's acts of service by mentoring and supporting young Black girls in the community.
Alexandria Palmer, one of the founders of Rubies & Pearls For Girls Inc., wanted to remember her grandmother's acts of service by mentoring and supporting young Black girls in the community.

“I'm really good where we are because we get to touch so many lives and it sets them up for womanhood," Palmer said. "And so if (the school) never happens I'm really good where we are: just being solid mentors."

Those interested in signing up for the program can attend Rubies & Pearls For Girls' next interest meeting at 5 p.m. Jan. 19 at Pensacola Library, 239 N. Spring St.

To find more information about Rubies & Pearls For Girls Inc. visit their Facebook page.

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Rubies & Pearls For Girls in Pensacola mentors young Black women

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