By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For the Birmingham Times
Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, meant envisioning something meaningful that would leave a lasting impression on her peers and her community, said Joya Peasant, an Alabama School of Fine Arts class of 2020 graduate.
For her, that meant producing a podcast through which teens and young adults could discuss experiences related to race, politics, stereotypes in the media, gender roles, and more.
Peasant, who will begin classes at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, this fall, spent her 2019 spring break working on her “Black Without the Magic” podcast (available on Podcast.com and iTunes).
“I wanted to create [a podcast] for people to talk about certain things they face in the community that we don’t usually talk about,” Peasant said. “Colorism, gender stereotypes, what we do and don’t see in the media, and how that can be a stereotype for [people of color]. I wanted to create an outlet for that because I didn’t see any other [communication outlets] geared toward that.”
Each girl earning the Gold Award demonstrates excellence through a leadership project totaling at least 80 hours.
“Eighty hours seemed difficult to clock at first,” Peasant said. “I recorded the podcast within two hours, but with planning and working with my advisors and coming up with topics and questions and editing, the hours added up very quickly.”
“Black Without the Magic” episodes focused on topics such as careers, college, race, and peaceful protests.
“My first episode [was called] ‘The Division Between Non-Black Americans and Black Americans,’” the 18-year-old said. “[Topics were] mainly about race-related issues within our community. It didn’t matter what type of race-related issue it was. It could have been more political, like when we did an episode about Democrats and Republicans, or it could be something not particularly race-related, which could be about [media representation].”
Peasant, who completed her episodes before the current civil unrest in the country, said she plans to cover the topic when she records a second season of her podcast during the second semester of her freshman year at Spelman: “The topics I would definitely do [in Season 2, would cover] police brutality, what civil unrest is, Juneteenth, and a Part Two about protests,” she said.
Peasant has earned Girl Scout Bronze, Silver, and Gold awards.
“When I started high school, I remembered some other girls in my troop who earned the Gold Award, and I decided I would go after all three awards, too,” she said.
An only child who has been committed to Scouting since age 5, Peasant said she has been inspired by her mother, DeNedra Peasant, who got into Girl Scouts at age 11.
“[Girl Scouts] gave me an outlet to find more girls to play with, and the stories of how [my mother] met most of her childhood friends during Girl Scouts made me want to [join],” said Peasant, who began as a Daisy and progressed through the Brownie, Junior, Cadet, Senior, and Ambassador levels; she also was voted onto the board of the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama as a Girl Liaison at the age of 17.
Peasant hadn’t always intended to stay with the Scouts for so long.
“Once I got older and met more people outside of my troop who stuck with it, it made me want to stick with it more, [as did] the activities we did that I fell in love with, like going camping with my troop members and selling Girl Scout cookies together,” she said.
Reaching the Gold
Although Peasant loved tackling tasks and initiatives with her fellow Girl Scouts, she also enjoyed having full control and being solely responsible for the success and completion of her Gold project.
“With the Bronze and Silver awards, you had other team members working with you, but this one was my idea,” she said. “I had to come up with all the hours by myself. I had to come up with an advisor who was not a member of Girl Scouts. And I had to come up with my own budget, plans, and everything myself—with the help of an advisor.”
Her advisors were Courtnie and Jonathan Anderson, who are family friends and fellow members at the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in south Titusville.
Peasant started her project in November 2018, planning out the podcast’s first season, which consisted of eight episodes and launched in spring 2019. She received the Gold Award in May 2020. One of the biggest takeaways from the project was learning patience with mastering new skills.
“One episode took about six hours to edit,” Peasant said. “After I did it multiple times, it became rewarding. I sat back and saw that I learned to do it myself, and I felt like I could do anything because of that.”
With high school and the Girl Scout Gold Award completed, Peasant and her parents, Patrick and DeNedra, are looking forward to her freshman year at Spelman College.
“As of right now, we don’t know if we’re going to be going to Atlanta or if I’m going to be at home doing virtual classes, but my hope is that I can go to Atlanta,” Peasant said. “Realistically, I know that that may not happen because of the increasing COVID-19 cases, but I’m still holding out hope that I will be able to go to school in the fall with the new friends that I am going to make.”
Peasant plans to major in psychology with international studies as her minor: “I want to be a psychiatrist,” she said. “And the reason I chose international studies is because in the event that I want to travel and move to a different country, I’d be able to work in different countries.”
Completing her Girl Scout Gold Award project has given Peasant the confidence to accomplish anything in life.
“I know I can work in different organizations,” she said. “I can become the president of different organizations at Spelman, and I can come up with a plan to work on my business for the clinic I want to have as a psychiatrist.
“It’s made me more competent in public speaking, my ability to talk to other people, and my ability to voice my opinion on everything, communication-wise, and know that my ideas can make a difference in the world.”
Joya Peasant is one of more 10,000 girls and more than 3,900 adults in 36 counties who are Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama. To learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award, visit girlscoutsnca.org.
Updated at 6:53 p.m. on 7/10/2020 to correct name of the church.