Charise L. Thomas wants this generation of young girls to realize that they are royal princesses who have God’s love and complete access to their heavenly Father.
That’s why in 2007, Thomas created God’s Gurl Inc., a charitable and religious organization that works with approximately 50 young women teaching them the life-changing message of wholeness and healing and to reach women across generations and teach them to identify their spiritual identity and empower them to fulfill their God-given purpose.
|SOME OF THE GOD’S GURLS BOARD MEMBERS (Photos by J.L. Martello)
“God’s Gurl strives to teach young girls and women that they are valuable in the eyes of Christ,” explained Thomas, who grew up in Duquesne, but currently resides in Wilkinsburg. “Most of our girls have broken families, particularly missing a father figure. This leads to other things and people like celebrities, fashion and other trends that come out of similar backgrounds and cannot lead them properly. God the creator is the final authority over our lives and He is the ultimate being to receive affirmation, unbiased acceptance and to follow. He will never lead them to degrade themselves to gain acceptance or anything else.”
The genesis of God’s Gurl came from Thomas’ long-time search for a concrete relationship with her father, who she did not get to know until the age of 8. The pair tried to forge a father-daughter relationship, but her father was incarcerated and later passed away from a heart condition leaving Thomas angry at God.
“I felt cheated and angry and I was teaching middle school at a local charter school and I was noticing that the tween and teen girls that I taught were needing the same thing I needed. They were looking for their identity in things and people like I was with my dad. I questioned God and asked Him why He let me get a little close to my dad and then took him away from me. God didn’t directly answer my questions, but I felt that He was indeed with me,” Thomas said.
Armed with words from Psalm 45:13, which says in the New King James Version that “The King’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is woven with gold,” Thomas created a T-shirt line with the middle schoolers she taught as the target audience.
“It is trendy as a Rocawear or Baby Phat tee,” said Thomas. “Since the T-shirt creation, I have met a core group of people that were insistent on my going beyond the T-shirt and truly providing ministry to women and girls. It has grown in very small increments over the past four years, but the growth has proven to be a sure foundation for God’s Gurls.”
Last month, God’s Gurl held its first Rally Point event at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. The event featured identity-building workshops, a makeover contest and a live dance performance.
“It is our desire to gather women and girls together, teach and train them and to send them back out to accomplish their dreams with a renewed sense of purpose,” Thomas said.
Those positive goals are what made Latifa Miller decide to bring her God daughter, five-year-old Jasmine Smith, of East Hills, to the Rally Point.
“It’s important to me that we are a positive influence to our young girls, that we teach them from our mistakes so they can go further in their lives,” explained Miller, a mother of two who runs Daughters of Zion, a mentor program. We went through a series of time with people having children very young so we lost that generation of grandmothers pouring wisdom into our young ladies, so unfortunately we have three or four generations of very immature young ladies. Programs like these allow us to come together as a village and pour into their lives to better equip them for success.”
Fantasi Beasley, a Wilkinsburg mother of three young daughters, attended God’s Gurl Rally Point event with her daughters because of the positive messages the organization provides to girls.
“I want to involve them in as many positive things as possible,” Beasley said. “African-American girls need to know what it is like to be treated like princesses because that’s what they are.”
Riding off of the success of the Rally Point, God’s Gurl’s next event is a father-daughter dinner dance. Details are not definite on the event yet
Thomas hopes that this year God’s Gurl is able to secure stable funding to establish more opportunities to share the organization’s mission with other like-minded women and girl-related organizations.
“We want to build relationships within the city that will produce immediate change in the way that our girls serve, work and live in our city,” Thomas said.”We are teaching them the truth about themselves. We reinforce the skills and talents that they inherited, learned and desire to learn to broaden their horizons and expand their thinking about their abilities.”