Dressed elegantly in an evening gown, poet Monique Stubbs-Hall stands center stage holding a microphone. She recites a series of verses as mixed age girls dressed in couture suits, long gowns, white satin gloves, and wide brim hats sashay down the aisle. They strike poses exuding grace, confidence, sophistication and poise.
It’s her tribute to ladyhood that originated as a poem she penned in 2006. She’d grown frustrated watching girls behave rudely, promiscuously, and wear tight, provocative clothing; behavior that had replaced the once-revered custom of civility and etiquette taught by generations of mothers.
She’d adapted the poem into a handbook. But with the ongoing influence of graphic music videos, explicit song lyrics, and "R-rated" television, she wanted to make a greater impact. “Ladihood” had to be more than a performance and handbook. It had to be a call to action.
"Ladihood is not charm school,” says Stubbs-Hall, 47, speaker, author and mother of four children. “It is grooming our young girls into well-rounded ladies of substance."
In 2013, Stubbs-Hall created a quarterly four-week course for girls ages 9 to 18 and their mothers to learn about self-development. “It's a journey of self-discovery combined with etiquette and image, the importance of health and fitness, and the coping mechanisms to deal with stress,” she says.
The two-hour sessions, led by facilitators who counsel on bullying, teen dating violence, suicide and self-mutilation, was also created for mothers and daughters to bond. “What I'm realizing is that the dynamics of motherhood itself has changed,” she says. “I find that in this generation we have children that are raised by single moms who had to work two to three jobs to hold things down.”
After completing Ladihood, Stubbs-Hall says her participants are happier and openly communicating. “I have more mothers in my classes who are crying and saying, ‘I wish there was something like this when I was growing up. I just learned so much. There was so much that I didn't even know.’”
For Stubbs-Hall, she remains inspired by testimonies such as a suicidal teenage tomboy who self-mutilated and was stripped of her JROTC rank. After Ladihood, she was reinstated and attended her prom and military ball.
“When I saw these pictures, I literally was in tears because when I say transformation…” she says, choking up. “The comment they sent to me was ‘Thank you, Ladihood.’ And that’s what it boils down to.”