For years, Tracy Mourning has been working behind the scenes to make a difference in the lives of young people. In 1997, she and her husband, former NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning, founded The Mourning Family Foundation, which inspires youth through advocacy, education and enrichment services.
In 2002, Tracy felt the calling to start another nonprofit, this time catering specifically to young women. With nearly 13 years of influence in the community and close to 1,000 girls affected by the organization, the Howard alum is now ready to expand her mentoring program, Honey Shine, Inc., beyond the Miami area in an effort to positively impact young women across the nation.
BlackEnterprise.com chatted with Tracy about the start of Honey Shine, her goals for the young women whom she refers to as “Honey Bugs” and where she plans to take her nonprofit next.
BlackEnterprise.com: What prompted you to start Honey Shine, Inc.?
I used to live in South Florida as a little girl and when my husband’s job came back here I would visit this lady who used to take care of me, and I would see young girls with babies on their hip and God placed it on my heart to do something about it. I didn’t act on it right away, but eventually me and a few girlfriends got together and started Honey Shine.
Tracy Mourning: Where did the name Honey Shine come from?
When I was little we used to say “honey child please” and I have a company called Honey Child and then Honey Shine just came to me. That was supposed to be the program. I feel like God whispered it.
What role did mentorship play in your life as a young girl?
I was born in Cincinnati and after living in Florida, we moved back to Cincinnati. I remember a young woman whose mom was a teacher and she took us to a pizza spot near a university in Cincinnati. I remember seeing a lot of women out and having a good time and she said this is a college. So that was my first incident of seeing something outside of my neighborhood and wanting to know more. I have an amazing mom and amazing women in my life who used to take care of me, and that one in particular, where the young woman’s mom took us outside of our neighborhood to the university in Cincinnati, made me know from there I was going to college. I wanted to see more.
Your program is for girls ages 8-18. Do you guys have a strategy to keep in touch with the young women after they’ve grown out of the program?
Yes, we maintain our connection with our Honey Bugs. We have girls in college now who’ve been through the program and come back to work with the program, often as a counselor, so maintaining that relationship is important.
How are you looking to expand your program beyond the Miami area?
It’s time to expand. Of course we want to expand through South Florida, but our next step is to go to D.C. because I went to Howard so that’s like a second home. I also grew up in Vegas so we’re starting there in January. Growing up in Vegas you always wonder how did you turn out okay.
What’s your ultimate goal for every young woman that participates in Honey Shine?
What we say is we encourage young girls to shine as women. I just want our girls to have that self-esteem that is lacking in so many young girls and even our women. I just want them to know they can shine in any aspect they choose and I want them to want to give back.
Also, I want them to know that education is key. It changes lives and I want them to have a love for learning where they just want to grow as individuals and follow their passion in serving in some way, shape, or form.
Why do you think it’s important for organizations like Honey Shine to exist and focus specifically on helping young women and not all youth?
If we take care of our girls, we take care of this world. I just feel that there is this attack that’s taking place on our young girls, especially young women of color and we’re passing it by as entertainment. Whether it’s how we are portraying ourselves in TV or music we’re passing it off as okay because it’s all we have. So when they see women on TV acting foolish and showing out and fighting each other it just doesn’t sit right with me and I feel like not on my watch can I just sit back and let it happen. We’re entertained by it, but we’re so much more than that.
To learn more about Honey Shine, Inc. and how you can get involved visit HoneyShine.org.