Girlhood Unfiltered – the ground-breaking book creating space for the authentic voices of young Black girls to be heard

This October, GUAP had the great privilege of meeting Ebinehita Iyere's Milk Honey Bees, young girls from across London who have come together to leave a literary legacy, narrating and documenting the real life experiences of Black Girlhood, Unfiltered.
by ELSIE CULLEN Nov 8, 2022

Girlhood Unfiltered is a ground-breaking anthology of essays, letters, and creative work authentically reflecting on the multifaceted experience of Black girlhood by an inspiring group of real teenage girls from South London-based organisation Milk Honey Bees and their founder, Ebinehita Iyere.

To celebrate the release of the book the team at GUAP created a short film celebrating the young authors with cinematic depictions of black girlhood in all it’s rawness, realness and beauty; overlayed with gentle recites from the book itself. The book is available now and can be purchased here.

Before we learn more about the book, we have to introduce the founder of the deeply healing and necessary safe space, Ebinehita. Ebinehita is a passionate public speaker, mentor and advocate for young people across London, and is currently completing her PhD on the complexities and flaws in the education system as per the experiences of Black teenagers. She founded Milk Honey Bees in 2017 as a creative and expressive safe space for young Black women and girls in South London.

Growing up, Ebinehita faced her own difficulties with education and housing as told in the introduction to Girlhood Unfiltered, leaving home at just 15. Following some extremely difficult years through her late teens, without a stable home or support system, she defied the odds and secured a scholarship to study Criminology and Youth Studies at university. Though far from the end of the challenges she faced, it set her on a path to start working to help young people in her own community. The first young girl she was introduced to was 16-year-old Disnee; for Ebinehita, it was like seeing herself in the mirror – their stories were near identical. She provided Disnee with the support and care that she needed. At one of their meet-ups, Ebinehita gave her a copy of Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur – a day later, Disnee had finished the book and told her how much their relationship had helped her better express herself and view herself in a new way. Between them, the idea of a sisterhood, a safe haven for girls, was born – named Milk Honey Bees, inspired by Rupi Kaur’s book.

MILK HONEY BEES is a creative and expressive safe space for Black girls to flourish and put H.E.R (Healing, Empowerment, and Resilience) first. Milk Honey Bees is rooted in the creativity, celebration, and liberation of Black Girlhood by amplifying the voice and visibility of Black Girls in all facets of life, opening doors that can often be closed to Black girls, and ensuring that they are able to put both their Blackness and girlhood at the forefront, enabling them to discover not only their full potential but also who they are. It’s more than just an organisation, it’s a sisterhood, a family.

That’s why when we found out about the organisations collaboration with publishing company Knights Of, we were extremely overjoyed and immediately recognised the great importance of this project.

Organised into three sections entitled HEALING, EMPOWERMENT, and RESILIENCE (H.E.R), which form the foundation of Milk Honey Bees’ ethos, the collection features first-person narratives and creative work exploring a wide range of topics; from adultification and the perception of Black girls, to friendship, school, and home life, to the joy found in dance and drama, and the importance of self-acceptance, love, trust, and support. All contributions from the twenty girls share a central thread of finding understanding, acceptance, and community at Milk Honey Bees and act as a love letter to the difference Ebinehita and this sisterhood has made to the lives of so many girls. This powerful and important collection is book-ended with an introduction and a series of letters by Ebinehita, contextualising the intentions and origins of this book and all her life-changing work with young people.

PRAISE FOR GIRLHOOD UNFILTERED

“All too often this world wants the various experiences of Black girls to be wrapped in a neat bow, so everyone else can feel comfortable. It is time to get all of it, finally, unfiltered.”

KELECHI OKAFOR

“Their powerful writing will give rise to countless others, which is why I’m excited for the world to read their words.”

RUPI KAUR

“The essential starter pack for self-belief, self-confidence, and self-empowerment. . . I wish I had this as a Black girl growing up in the UK.”

NELLA ROSE

“My younger self is both healed and exhilarated by Milk Honey Bees, a space made for us, by us. I try to imagine what our lives would’ve been like with access to this kind of support, guidance, love, inspiration, and community.”

WARSAN SHIRE

Girlhood Unfiltered makes space for the authentic voices and stories of real young Black girls to be heard. Milk Honey Bees have partnered with Sony, Barbie, Superdrug, Vans and The Black Girl Global Justice Initiative.

Credit list

Creative Direction: Milk Honey Bees

Directors: Elsie Ayotunde Cullen and Helena Opuama

Producer: Elsie Ayotunde Cullen

DOP: Shane Duncan

Editor: Ibrahim Kamara

Digital Photos: Shenell Kennedy

Film Photos: Ibrahim Kamara

Stylist: Rashida Taylor

Runners: Milk Honey Bees

Talent: Milk Honey Bees