Deidra O’Neal, a resident of Plano and mother of four, noticed something as her kids began participating in extracurricular activities: They were usually the only – or one of the only – Black children in the group. One of Deidra’s fondest and most transformative memories of her own childhood in Los Angeles was the opportunity to be a part of a predominantly Black youth organization.
There, she was able to connect with friends who looked like her. On top of that, through learning about her own culture and history, she says she was able to confidently develop her identity as a Black woman.
Diedra wants that same opportunity for her children, and for any African American children living in Plano, so at the start of this year she created Young, Black and Suburban Kids, or Y.B.S. Kids. The nonprofit organization offers Black children free programs and activities that teach necessary life skills, build confidence and help develop relationships through cultural awareness that lead to lasting connections.
“When I started the organization, we were having in-person meetings. Once COVID-19 hit, I’ve been having to do courses online,” shared Deidra. “The most recent one was for girls and their mothers. We had a guest speaker who spoke to moms and daughters about how to take care of themselves, take time out and relax, and for the moms – how to teach those skills to their daughters.”
In July, Deidra has planned a workshop surrounding financial literacy. She will offer a 30-day challenge to each child to see how much money they can save. She has also launched a July summer reading list filled with classic literature by African American writers.
“Primarily, I have been focusing on third, fourth and fifth grade. I wanted to tap into that age before they get to middle school, before they really begin to form their identities. But I have had more middle school kids show up, so I might have to expand,” Deidra said.
In January, Deidra hosted a vision board party with those who have joined Y.B.S. Kids. “I wanted to explain to them what it means to have individual goals – not what your parents want or what your school wants, but what do you want for yourself? The feedback I received is that they’d love classes on hygiene and self-care, so that’s something we’ll be doing as well,” Deidra said.
Deidra wants to engage the entire Plano community with her organization. She hopes to invite police officers, firefighters, council members, Mayor LaRosiliere, engineers, business professionals and entrepreneurs to speak so kids can learn about what those careers might look like.
“My own kids inspire me to create these programs. As you progress through school, you want to know where you came from. You want to be comfortable with your identity,” said Deidra. “I want these kids to be more aware of their roots and heritage, and I want them to meet people in their community.”