Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WLP IN THEIR OWN WORDS: FUTURE OF FEMINISM REVIEW



Coming into Consciousness
By Miani Giron 
From The Feminist Wire (2012)

In the three years that I’ve been involved in the Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) my awareness and outlook on social issues have been positively impacted. Before I joined I was unaware of issues like HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and de facto segregation and how they directly affect my community. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I was ignorant of the issues that have the potential to destroy my community, because it’s not my fault that no one ever took the time to educate me on these matters.  WLP has made me aware of issues that degrade women; as a result, not only am I conscious, but I am outraged and determined to actively do something about it. My participation in WLP increased my interest in talking to young women in my community to raise awareness. I’m encouraged to advocate and be active in my own school-community. While all the social issues we discuss in WLP are of great importance to me, the issue of mainstream media and female representation really concerns me. The media degrades women and decreases a woman’s value by displaying them as sex symbols…I feel like I have to rise above the stigma associated with my community. Hopefully, my activism and decisions to pursue a college education will encourage my younger peers to follow the same path.


First in the Family
By Liz Soria 
From, the Women’s Leadership Project blog (2012)
I think of the Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) as the light in the darkness. As a senior at Gardena, I had no hope or desire to go to college before WLP. I used to think it would be impossible for me to attend college because I’m undocumented. The program was something special for me because WLP mentors helped me understand the pressures and obstacles we face while encouraging us to attend college. I see all the hard work they do by teaching us about equality, the rights of women, and other things they bring for us to learn. Ms. Hutchinson is my role model because she has inspired me to value educating young women.
Who Defines Black Hair and Blackness?
By Marenda Kyle
Women’s Leadership Project blog (2014)

As a little girl my mother braided my hair as way to stay in touch with my African-American roots. As someone who continued to wear and became fond of braid culture, seeing my peers bleaching and straightening their hair made me feel like an outcast. In the January 2014 Big Holiday and Glamour Issue of Sophisticate’s Black Hair Styles & Care Guide, I was relieved to see the advertisement of a Braids and Natural Hair mini-magazine. However the Black Hair magazine’s definition of “black hair” was light and straight hair opposed to what real black hair is, which is braids and natural hair in the mini-magazine.

Who defines black hair and Blackness? As I looked through the magazine I realized that most of the Black models and actresses were light-skinned with light hair. Most of the pages promoted weaves and chemicals to lighten and straighten hair. By these examples, the magazine is conveying the message that is what black hair is supposed to look like.  As a proud wearer of braids I encourage people to stick with what they have. To quote India Arie, “I am not my hair.”





Clay Wesley: From Foster Care to College
 
Women’s Leadership Project blog (2015)
“Many of us have no one in our lives discussing sexism, domestic abuse or going to college.”
Anyone who meets Clay Wesley can’t help but be impressed by her intellectual fierceness, wry wit and deep sense of compassion. I first met Clay when I was teaching a Life Skills workshop on racism and identity at Gardena High School in 2007. She was outspoken about social justice issues and shone as an inquisitive mind and forceful debater. When she began participating in the Women’s Leadership Project she dove right into our school-community outreach on sexual assault and sexual harassment, HIV/AIDS prevention, intimate partner violence and college preparation. During the 2008 election cycle she was a strong voice at our student debates on Proposition 4 (which would have required parental notification for abortion) and Proposition 8. Clay’s support of choice and reproductive rights was inspirational to other young African American women who have been bombarded with shaming religious messages that abortion is sinful and immoral. Responding to the loss of friends and family as a result of gang, drug, intimate partner and anti-LGBT-related violence in their communities, Clay also helped organize a Day of Remembrance with her peers. For Clay, WLP was formative because, “many of us have no one in our lives discussing sexism, domestic abuse or going to college.”



How Peer to Peer Engagement Addresses Sexual Harassment
By Kennedy Moore
From Ebony Magazine (2016)
While the majority of Black women I know experience sexual harassment, and too many experience sexual assault, we often don’t acknowledge sexual harassment and violence for the problems they are. When we don’t step back and question these behaviors that diminish our sense of self worth and power, we accept them in our daily lives. Even though we understand that such behavior is unacceptable, we often face numerous obstacles in speaking out about the harassment we face. Learning how to step forward and speak up requires asking questions. That’s where peer-to-peer education — lessons led by students for other students — becomes important. No one can empathize with the problems Black girls face more than Black girls, so naturally we are the ones best positioned to find solutions for our own problems.


Sexual Violence and Rape Culture
By Cheyenne Mclaren 
Women's Leadership Project blog (2017)
Sexual violence is an important issue for communities of color because women of color are seen as lesser in value than white women and women of color aren’t getting the justice they deserve. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Denim Day '17: Youth Leaders of Color on Ending Rape Culture and Sexual Violence



YMS/WLP leaders Folarin Oguntayo, Ashley Rojas, Deaven Rector & Sidney Onyenachi


On Denim Day, April 26, 2017, 10th-12th grade students from the Women's Leadership Project (WLP) and Young Male Scholars' (YMS) programs at Gardena High School and King Drew Magnet of Medicine and Science conducted sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention workshops with over one hundred and twenty students in health, math, social studies and Advisory classes.  Students discussed the prevalence


of sexual violence and harassment on school campuses and communities, the stereotypes associated with rape and sexual assault victims, and the normalization of violence against women and girls of color in mainstream society. Despite being marginalized in  mainstream media representations of sexual violence victimization (which tend to foreground the experiences and lives of white victims), African American women have some of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, with nearly 60% of Black girls reporting sexual abuse victimization by the age of eighteen. 

Students engaged in debate about the implications of victim-blaming and victim-shaming for sexual violence victims and survivors, as well as the often fraught issue of giving consent in a relationship.  Speaking as male allies, peer educator leaders from YMS stepped up about male responsibility for being aware that "no means no" and being conscious that sexual violence can happen across gender identity and sexual orientation.  Students were informed about the low rates of reporting among African American women
 
WLP/GHS Gardena on "victim-shaming"
 
 
violence victims, the prevalence of social media predation, cyberbullying and sex trafficking as well as recent examples of sexual harassment in sports, entertainment and politics with high profile offenders like Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump and Bill Cosby. Students also
Markell and Markease Harris break "coercion vs. consent" down
 
 
underscored the role homophobia and transphobia play in silencing male and LGBTQI sexual violence victims and addressed the lack of safe spaces for male survivors in the dominant culture. The similarities, nuances and pervasiveness of marital rape, date rape, familial rape/incest and statutory rape were also addressed.
 
WLP coordinator Issachar Curbeon and peer educator leaders Sidney Onyenachi, Deaven Rector, Ashley Rojas, Markell and Markease Harris, Jasmine Townsend, Folarin Oguntayo, Zorrie Petrus, Eva Mancias, Lucina Ambriz, Shondrea Wooden, Dawnyai Hardy and Adebayo Ojute did
WLP King-Drew Adebayo, Drea & Dawnyai on queer youth & sexual assault
 
 
an outstanding job of debunking myths and misconceptions about rape culture while educating fellow students about resisting and protecting themselves against sexual violence and sexual harassment.   

Friday, October 14, 2016

Step Forward Sexual Harassment Prevention Campaign video



Students from Gardena HS' and King-Drew Magnet of Medicine and Science WLP 2015-2016 program discuss the impact of sexual and street harassment on African American girls and women.


Monday, April 11, 2016

WLP Alumni Achievements: 2016





Congratulations to WLP alum-interns Clay Wesley & Lizeth Soria, recipients of the L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable's Spirit of the Kings' award for their work w/foster care & undocumented youth. 









Women's Leadership Project alumnus Miani Giron, will be attending UCLA Medical School in the Fall of 2016.  Miani is a 2016 graduate of Syracuse University and a 2012 alumnus of Gardena High School. Miani was president of WLP from 2011-2012 and is the first in her family to go to college. She wrote this piece about WLP for The Feminist Wire in 2012:

Coming into Consciousness
http://www.thefeministwire.com/2012/03/coming-into-consciousness/
By Miani Giron
In the three years that I’ve been involved in the Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) my awareness and outlook on social issues have been positively impacted. Before I joined I was unaware of issues like HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and de facto segregation and how they directly affect my community. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I was ignorant of the issues that have the potential to destroy my community, because it’s not my fault that no one ever took the time to educate me on these matters.  WLP has made me aware of issues that degrade women; as a result, not only am I conscious, but I am outraged and determined to actively do something about it. My participation in WLP increased my interest in talking to young women in my community to raise awareness. I’m encouraged to advocate and be active in my own school-community.
While all the social issues we discuss in WLP are of great importance to me, the issue of mainstream media and female representation really concerns me... 



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

WLP Kicks Off Step Up/Step Back sexual harassment & sexual violence campaign


WLP & Young Male Scholars GHS present @ Sexual violence & media forum

Women's Day King-Drew present @ Sexual violence & media forum


WLP GHS discussing Step Up campaign

WLP 2014-2015





By Issachar Curbeon
We are excited about putting together a powerful visual project to spread awareness about the sexual harassment and verbal abuse young Black women are experiencing in the LAUSD. The campaign will be developed during January-March 2016 and will include Gardena HS, King-Drew Medical Magnet and Crenshaw HS.

To provoke conversation In November 2015, during our first session with Women’s Leadership Project's Women of Color in the U.S. class, we administered a survey to gauge the self-esteem of the girls in the class. The survey was designed to find out if young women felt safe, supported and respected on campus

Unfortunately, we were not surprised when the survey revealed that more than half of the girls had been sexually harassed on campus or in their communities; and that more than half of the class recognized disrespect towards Black girls as a major issue on campus. 

To create a sense of sisterhood among the girls we decided to do an adaptation of an exercise called Step Forward, Step Back tailored to show them that they were not alone in their experiences of harassment on campus. 

Step Forward, Step Back is traditionally a privilege exercise where participants stand in a straight line in the middle of an empty space and respond to statements about their personal social class experiences. With each true statement (i.e ‘step forward if your parents went to college) individuals either step forward representing experiences and circumstances that have afforded wealth, education, health, and wellbeing; or step backward representing experiences that frustrate educational, economic and social advancement. 

The exercise reveals that success in our society is not an equal race, there are in fact, experiences that marginalized people face due to racism, sexism and economic inequality that act as major obstacles to resources and opportunities to succeed. 

The campaign will involve the following elements:



Ongoing 

Slogan tweets and posts (via Instagram and Twitter)
·         Descriptions of forms of sexual harassment
·         Responses to harassers
·         Images on street harassment, sexual harassment and sexual violence
·         Stats on sexual violence affecting Black girls, Latinas and other girls of color
·         Short video clip observations on what can be done to stop harassment
Short blog articles (via Facebook and WLP blog)
·         Reflections on a harassment experience
·         Poems and spoken word challenging harassment and the responsibility of men/boys to get involved as allies*
Interviews
I.                    February 23-25 (King-Drew Medical Magnet & GHS)
Hip Hop, Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Forum
·         Student-facilitated discussion on sexual harassment, sexual violence and media images in hip hop and popular culture
o   Participants:
§  Women’s Leadership Project/Women’s Day
§  Young Male Scholars
§  Media Done Responsibly

II.                  February 11-March 10th
Video piece
·         Small group discussion about images of Black women and women of color in the media
·         One-on-one interviews about WLP members’ perspectives
·         Whole group “Step up/Step Back” exercise with filmmaker Elizabeth Bayne