Pretty Brown Girl Club


January 26th, 2022

20 mins 46 secs

Your Hosts

About this Episode

Mercy High alum Sheri Crawley created a club exclusively for black and brown girls to give them an empowering place to call their own

(00:03) Mercy High School alum, Sheri Crawley was celebrating her daughter’s birthday at the Chicago American Girl store where the girls were allowed to each pick out a doll to sit with them during the birthday brunch. To Sheri’s surprise, the four black girls in the group didn’t choose dolls that represented their own reflection; instead, they came back with blonde-haired, blue-eyed white dolls. Sheri realized to her dismay that the only black doll available was of a former slave.

(2:00) The experience at the American Girl store prompted her to take action and find a way to help little black and brown girls see and believe in their inherent dignity and change the narrative being fed to these girls.

(2:30) In 2010, Sheri was a successful, social entrepreneur living in Chicago with her husband and two daughters. After receiving bad news about a family member’s health, Sherri found herself uprooting her family to go back to Detroit to start anew. Sheri realized that whatever she did next, she needed to help others and make an impact on her community.

(5:10) Sheri’s family relocates to a suburb outside of Detroit, where her daughter started kindergarten. In their new primarily white suburb and school, Sheri saw her intelligent daughter’s self-esteem plummet, something that Sheri herself could understand having been one of the few black girls at Mercy High back when she was a student.

(6:30) Sheri overhears something which inspired her to start the Pretty Brown Girl Club and she buys the domain name and forms a business plan. Inspired by the experience at the doll store, Sheri decides to create a line of brown and black dolls, offering an alternative to the European standard of beauty pushed in magazines and even toy stores, With no products yet in hand, she brought the idea to the Detroit community to an overwhelming reception and show of interest.

(9:00) Sheri realizes that the need for Pretty Brown Girl is bigger than she originally anticipated. Sherri decided to expand beyond dolls and merchandise and create a club model that would educate girls of color and create self-acceptance and social, emotional and intellectual well-being.

(9:40) Within 18 months of formation, the club membership soared and over 200 clubs formed across the United States. Since then, membership and clubs numbers have increased exponentially.

(10:40) Sheri discusses why it's important for girls of color to have this type of representation, especially from a young age. She talks about the false narratives fed to young girls of color and how she wants to reach these girls to help them understand their inherent dignity and beauty.

(13:10) The narrator introduces one of the newest chapters of Pretty Brown Girl and the first-ever at a Catholic school to host a club – Sheri’s alma mater, Mercy High School.

(13:20) We hear from Traci Smith, the first director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Mercy High School about the demographics of the school. Traci was instrumental in bringing Pretty Brown Girl to Mercy.

(15:00) Sheri discusses how having the club at a Catholic school allows the Christian principles that went into the founding of the club to be spoken allowed in ways that they couldn’t be at a public school.

(15:40) the narrator introduces Aisha Cunningham, a school counselor and the facilitator of Mercy’s Pretty Brown Girl Club. Aisha said that at the request of the girls, the club’s first topic of focus was mental health.

(16:40) The Mercy club is now full of girls who are finding success and giving back to their communities, including Alexis Roberts who was the recipient of one of Sherri’s scholarships allowing her to attend Florida A&M University – Sheri’s alma mater. Alexis discusses how the club helped her grow and reach outside of her comfort zone.

(18:30) Traci talks about how Sheri Crawley’s experience at Mercy High School is an example of the value society gets when we pour into young women and women of color, bringing it full circle as to why the Pretty Brown Girl Club is so important not only to Mercy but nationwide.