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'We can all be princesses': Chicago friends at the heart of 'The Birthday Princess' movement

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There are certain things that come with your birthday, like a song, a cake and a celebration.

But CBS 2's Joe Donlon went to an event that went beyond all that in Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood.

There was a cake and singing, but this party included a homecoming, princess tiaras and a message. CBS 2's Joe Donlon says it comes courtesy of two friends and a book that's won a "Mom's Choice" award.

This is a story that started with a birthday, but it has grown into a book and a movement that celebrates little girls and the art of self love.

"It's not just about birthdays. It's about that internal self-confidence and self-love."

Claudia Martin met Tatyerra Mikell when Tatyerra was just three. that's when they realized they shared the same birthday: December 21st.

"She said, 'oh no, you're going to have to get you another birthday,'" remembered Martin, president of Chi-Cook Officers.

As a compromise, Martin asked to be birthday buddies and that seemed to stick, but Mikell took it even farther from there with this suggestion.

"You're too old to be the birthday princess. No. You're the birthday queen. I'm the birthday princess," Martin remembered.

The celebration was born and now, it's a movement.

"That ability to celebrate myself started me wanting to celebrate other people and other women and other girls like that, and I started to write," Mikell said.

She wrote The Birthday Princess about the special bond these two formed more than 25 years ago. Now they're spreading their message to the next generation, starting with the second and third graders of Barton Elementary School in Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood.

"We even knew people growing up that didn't have the same opportunities we had, so we always want to come back home," Martin said.

She grew up with Tatyerra's mom, one of the many bonds that live on in this story. Like the bond Martin shares with her law enforcement colleagues who joined the party to crown each princess.

It's all part of the celebration making sure everyone's special day comes around more than once a year.

"We all can be princesses, and that'd make me feel happy and excited," said second grader Amia Moore.

The author said it was a full circle moment for her. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to pour all this inspiration into young girls from her neighborhood.


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