When Annette Jeter Jean-Jacques moved to Evanston in 2011, she soon found it difficult to find her friends who lived half an hour from Chicago.

So Jeter Jean-Jacques turned to Facebook to create a group that could connect black women nearby.

“I’m like, ‘Wow, it would be really nice to meet other women here, locally, so I can just go for coffee or lunch and have a space where I can find other people who look like me, and we have things in common,” said Jeter Jean-Jacques.

Since its founding in 2017, Jeter Jean-Jacques’ Black Women of Evanston Facebook group has created a sisterhood among more than 400 black women and she says it has had a positive impact on the community.

Jeter Jean-Jacques said the group’s mission is to provide a safe space for black women in Evanston and other surrounding areas while focusing on service, community and self-care. She organizes monthly events like dining out, volunteering, photo shoots, pop-up shops and workshops to bring women together and create networking and learning opportunities.

The group recently met in Fountain Square for a photoshoot, dressed in their favorite outfits from actress Tabitha Brown’s clothing line. After hearing that the members got their hands on the clothes before they were sold at Target, Jeter Jean-Jacques said she had to put something in place to allow women to connect and enjoy the company of the other.

“It’s really to show black women that we’re here, that we’re beautiful, that we’re happy, that we’re excited, that we exist. We are here in a positive light,” Jeter Jean-Jacques said. “That was the inspiration behind the photoshoot. It made everyone feel good.”

The group also received recognition from Brown, who shared one of the photos on his Instagram Story.

BWoE member Andrea DeBerry (Communication ’14) said she joined the group because when she moved to Evanston she felt like an outsider in the tight-knit community. Because she didn’t attend Evanston Township High School, she said it was harder to form friendships as an adult.

“It’s not easy to make friends when you get to a certain age because you make friends because you’re in the same class or you’ve been in the same school for 12 years together,” said DeBerry. “When you become an adult, it all ends.”

Even at the height of the pandemic, Jeter Jean-Jacques said the group continues to thrive and uplift each other. She hosted virtual peer-to-peer classes that allowed members from different backgrounds to offer their expertise. They have facilitated classes on fitness, goal setting and vision boards, financial literacy and more.

This fall, Jeter Jean-Jacques said she hopes to coordinate an in-person financial literacy workshop to empower women and provide them with information about credit repair, home buying and hustling.

Jeter Jean-Jacques said a significant portion of his time is spent planning events, and while there’s no financial cost to that, it’s a “labor of love.” She said she was working on registering the group as a nonprofit and once finalized she hopes to find grant writers to help with funding.

Group member Jhmira Alexander said the ability to seek out services and support from other black women is invaluable. She said it might be hard for people who aren’t like her to understand her experiences, and when she gets advice from another black woman, she feels like it’s “one layer thinner.” “that she has to explain.

“I feel seen by my sister when I’m being advised, and I don’t feel like I’m gaslighted or that my experience is minimized,” Alexander said.

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Twitter: @iamkaitlinb

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