The theme of our 2023 Young Minds Matter (YMM) conference was Transforming Our Communities Collectively. Over 300 attendees came together to share their youthful energy and their experiences as change-makers and leaders in community transformation.
In this episode, recorded on location at the conference, guest host Nakia Sims interviews Brandie Meister. Nakia is a member of the Hogg Foundation’s Contributor’s Circle. Brandie is the vice-president and co-founder of the Austin-based nonprofit Real Queens Fix Each Other’s Crowns and a presenter at this year’s YMM.
Supporting Women and Girls
Founded by Bria Mays on Facebook, Real Queens Fix Each Other’s Crowns (Real Queens) began as an online support group for women.
“It became really popular,” says Brandie. “There was a lot of great content, and a lot of great conversations were happening among women who were looking for encouragement and motivation. The success of the online group led Bria to establish Real Queens as a 501c3 nonprofit organization.”
Brandie joined the organization in 2020 and helped redefine its mission and find opportunities for growth. Real Queens’ work now focuses primarily on supporting the mental health of women and girls.
“Because Real Queens focuses on what mental health looks like in young people developing into adults, we felt it was really important for us to come to the Young Minds Matter conference to talk about how we can build upon our youth’s mental health and give them the support that they need,” says Brandie.
Rooted in Lived Experience
Bria and Brandie’s decision to focus on mental health emerged in part from their awareness that mental well-being is essential to overall wellness. It also grew out of a desire to give girls and young women the kind of mental health support they lacked as youth.
“I didn’t have the support I really wanted, especially from my friends or other women. I was eventually able to find mental health support for myself. But it wasn’t easy,” says Brandie. “When I became an adult, I wanted to make sure I was one of those supportive people that I didn’t have when I was young.”
“My book sprung from times of going through turmoil, difficult situations, and chaos. These experiences led me to a lot of journaling that turned into poems that eventually turned into a book,” says Brandie. “When I published my book, it was exciting at first and then I felt really exposed to the world. But being creative is an outlet for me and I want to continue that, so I want to become comfortable with that vulnerability.”
Collaborating with like-minded organizations is a priority at Real Queens, says Brandie. They recently hosted a trail hiking event in partnership with Tough Cutie, a Black woman-owned outdoor apparel line. The business focuses on “giving back to organizations that provide a sense of belonging for women and children in the outdoors and help lower financial barriers for underrepresented communities to get outside.” Events like the trail hikes not only provide a space for partners to promote their own work, but they also bring communities together to exchange information and ideas and provide mutual support.
“Partnership is a very important part of ‘fixing each other’s crowns,’” says Brandie. “I believe bringing in other women who look like us, and just other women period, helps us connect. We want to build a bigger and broader community for Real Queens to expand and have all the resources women need.”
In the coming year, Real Queens plans to create new programs to complement their existing quarterly wellness workshops.
“We want to add programming for our youth, such as the 10-week Real Talk program, a guide for young women’s mental health,” says Brandie. “We currently have a partnership with Huston-Tillotson University to host this program for young women to learn about their mental health, influences around their mental health, and healing strategies for mental health. We’d like to expand the program to other colleges as well.”
Growing the organization’s funding streams is another goal for the coming year. With additional growth and funding, they hope to provide a mindfulness and wellness retreat in May for Mental Health Awareness Month.
In the long term, Real Queens envisions having a permanent, centrally located space to provide services.
“Five years from now would look like having a wellness space where we could bring communities together,” says Brandie. “When we’re looking at our funding and we’re looking at our events and we’re looking at our community, we’re looking at having a central space where women can come to get the support they need and get the mental health treatments they need.”
- Real Queens Help Fix Each Other’s Crowns
- Young Minds Matter 2021 Resources: Healing, Justice, and Connection for Mental Wellbeing
- Young Minds Matter 2019 Resources: Communities Connecting for Well-being
- The Mental Health Cost of Being a Strong Black Woman
- Into the Fold Episode 142: Empowering Our Girls in 2023
- Into the Fold Episode 135: Black Maternal Mental Health
- Into the Fold Episode 124: Changing the Landscape: People, Parks, and Power
- Into the Fold Episode 56: Police Violence and Black Women’s Health, Part 1 of 2
- Into the Fold Episode 56: Police Violence and Black Women’s Health, Part 2 of 2
- Mental Health Awareness Month 2023
- Minority Mental Health Awareness Month 2023
- Tough Cutie
- Open to the Moon, by Brandie Meister