Here’s an idea ladies, instead of being emotionally affected by whether you’re dating the man or woman of your dreams, why not use the loving inertia of Valentine’s Day to give back to your community? With wit, frank advice and a big heart, that’s exactly what Damali Elliott has done through her organization Petals-N-Belles.
“I began Petals-N-Belles after experiencing a crisis of purpose in 2009, I was a publicist and all of the young girls in my life were falling apart,” Ms. Elliott, founder and Executive Director of the Petals-N-Belles, says. “I was getting them on track and getting to know them along with some new young women and that began my path toward mentoring. These young women were coming from middle class backgrounds like me, but were facing challenges I’d never faced.”
The tragic stories Elliott heard while advising local teens were sobering.
“One girl was sent to the hospital because she lost her mind and it all stemmed from a four month relationship with a guy, that made me realize something serious was going on,” Elliott recalls. “Another girl had been raped by her father, and he’s in jail, but she has this child, and is living in the projects and I wondered, ‘Who is advising girls like this on how to face these social challenges?’ ”
Elliott’s heart strings and counseling experience led her to begin Petals-N-Belles, an organization pairing young women at two schools in New York City, NYC iSchool and Chelsea Career and Technical Education (CTE) High School, with powerful and positive women who offer a different perspective, even if it’s as simple as encouraging the teens to think beyond their surroundings.
“The biggest thing I want for our girls is for them to realize their power and be dynamic dreamers,” Elliott says. “I don’t want them selling themselves short because people around them don’t have or become more.”
To that end, on Monday (February 13), Elliott and Petals-N-Belles Board Member E. Isis Adewale are hosting a Pre-Valentine’s Day self-love party for the 24 Petals-N-Belles girls, where the participants will be encouraged to think about ways to value their self-worth and make sure their happiness is more important than impressing the opposite sex. Guest speakers include pop culture personality Amanda Diva, who will perform scenes from her upcoming play Death of a Diva, along with artist Jasmine Solano. In addition, Petals-N-Belles is the recipient of a Target sponsorship and is preparing to celebrate their anniversary with an event called Limitless on March 28 at New York City’s Hotel Gansevoort. For more information, or to lend your services to Petals-N-Belles, check out their website: PetalsnBelles.org