Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Women of Color College Panel

WLP College Panel 2012

Although record numbers of women of color are entering colleges and universities, persistent barriers still exist.  Institutional factors such as massive cuts to K-16 education, limited-to-no access to college preparation courses, nonexistent college mentoring, high student-to-college counselor ratios, and sexual abuse hinder opportunities for youth of color (particular first generation college students) to go to and succeed in college.  On December 10th, Washington Prep High School's WLP will hold its first 2012-2013 Women of Color College Forum. WLP and Washington Prep alumni will discuss their experiences negotiating the college landscape as first generation students challenging stereotypes, low expectations, sexism, and access inequities.

Location: Rm B6, 10:30

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Women of Color Speaker Series: Heather Aubry meets Washington Prep

When or IF urban high school youth are encouraged to go to college, they are seldom ever talked to about the politics of what it means to be the first in their family to go to college.  They are seldom counseled on what it’s like to be one of a handful of young people of color to attend a competitive four-year university. Yet, students of color, particularly those from economically disenfranchised communities, are expected to maneuver and thrive in environments that are replete with gender, sexual orientation, and racial politics. This is one reason why they have some of the lowest college graduation rates in the nation.

On October 23, Deputy City Attorney Heather Aubry answered questions about race and representation from an audience of Latina and African-American students at Washington Preparatory High School. The talk was part of the Women’s Leadership Project’s Women of Color Speaker Series.

Twelfth grader and aspiring attorney Victory Yates commented on how she “liked how openly Ms. Aubry talked about the lack of African-Americans in Law School… you think it might be like this but no one talks about it.”

These are issues that mainstream America views as obsolete given that we exist in a so-called “post-racial era” in which an African-American president has been re-elected. Many contend that young people don’t see race. In fact, youth of color like the young women who attended the lecture by Ms. Aubry understand and experience race, class, and gender politics on a visceral level. When the students asked Ms. Aubry what it was like to be a young African-American woman of color attending UC Berkeley and UCLA they were asking for guidance on how to achieve and succeed in environments they have been led to believe they will never belong in. 
Ms. Aubry related that one key to her success was finding mentors of color who helped guide her throughout her career.

After the talk, Ms. Aubry handed out business cards and was invited to upcoming events at Washington Prep.  She listened to the college aspirations of a cluster of young women who immediately encircled her and thanked her for coming. Victory was especially inspired:  “After listening to Ms. Aubry I think I can make it through law school too…I felt much more motivated to pursue a legal career. ”

Monday, November 5, 2012

Women of Color Speaker Series: Dr. Kamela Heyward-Rotimi

Dr. Kamela Heyward-Rotimi

On November 13th, Kamela Heyward-Rotimi, Ph.D., will discuss her work and journey to becoming a cultural anthropologist with Women's Leadership Project students at Washington Prep HS.  Dr. Heyward-Rotimi holds a B.A. in English from Spellman College and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  A Los Angeles native and graduate of LAUSD schools, Dr. Heyward-Rotimi is engaged in work that bridges academia, advocacy and public scholarship.  A Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Osun State University in Nigeria, her research looks at issues around race, science and technology in North America and Sub Saharan Africa.  She is currently conducting research on the 419 advance fee fraud culture in Nigeria.  Dr. Heyward-Rotimi is a recent winner of the annual book-proposal contest sponsored by the University of California Press and the Center for Public Anthropology. 

Contact info: Sikivu Hutchinson, shutch2396@aol.com.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day of Dialogue: Talking About Sexual Harassment, Homophobia & Racism


On November 1, 2012, Day of Dialogue sessions will be held in room 1306 (Social Justice Lecture hall) on campus climate issues such as sexual harassment, black/brown conflict, homophobia, developing respect between youth and adults and improving academic outcomes.  The sessions will be led by trained student facilitators from the Women’s Leadership Project, "No Haters" club and the Gay/Straight Alliance.  The sessions will occur during periods 2, 3, 4 and 5.  The event is sponsored by the L.A. County Human Relations Commission and the Wellness Center. Students will present the results of the dialogue session to faculty, staff and student stakeholders at the end of the month.

Contact: Sikivu Hutchinson, 213-703-6982 or Angela Rodriguez, Wellness Center

Saturday, October 20, 2012

WLP Voter Registration 2012

WLP students register voters at Washington Prep HS and Duke Ellington Continuation School in South Los Angeles

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

WLP Fall Speaker Series: Deputy City Attorney, Heather Aubry

Heather Aubry, Esq.

Women's Leadership Project (WLP)

According to Black Enterprise magazine, the legal profession continues to be one of the most challenging industries for African American women and other women of color.  Although the number of women of color in law school has skyrocketed over the past few decades, women of color need strong mentoring, academic preparation, and institutional support to overcome sexist, racist barriers in the legal profession.  

On October 23rd, the WLP is proud to present Deputy City Attorney Heather Aubry at Washington Prep High School.  Ms. Aubry is a native of South Los Angeles, a former National Merit scholar, and a graduate of U.C. Berkeley (B.A., Political Science) and UCLA Law School. In addition to serving with the City Attorney’s office for over twenty years, she is currently a member of the State Bar's Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluations, which evaluates candidates for judicial appointment at the request of the Governor.  Ms. Aubry will discuss her distinguished career as a prosecutor, advocate with the John M. Langston Bar Association (the local African American Bar Association), and community member.  

The talk will be held in Lecture Hall, room 1306 at 8:45 a.m. For further info please contact Sikivu Hutchinson, shutch2396@aol.com

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dreamer Activist & WLP alum Lizeth Soria

Liz Soria, WLP alum
Hello Friends, family, and Allies:

Hope you've had a great summer.

My most exciting day so far was June 15th, when president Obama announced Deferred Action. Deferred Action is a progressive policy change that will grant undocumented youth the ability to work legally, obtain a Driver's License, and walk through our neighborhoods without fear of being deported for at least 2 years.

In California, we also have the California DREAM Act (which will allow undocumented youth to access financial aid) going into effect in January 2013.

While these are huge and exciting steps for undocumented youth, Deferred Action may be revoked if President Obama doesn't win a second term and the California DREAM Act only allows undocumented students to access funds that are left over after citizens and residents have been awarded financial aid.

So, I have decided to do the next best thing and fundraise my college tuition by recycling and/or asking for donations. Last year I met an undocumented college student at UCLA who fundraises over $2,000.00 each semester by recycling cans and plastic bottles--so I know this is  something I can accomplish, especially with your help.

Can you help me get to college by thinking green and recycling?


Aside from collecting cans and bottles on my own, I am asking my friends, allies, and family to collect your own recyclables on my behalf.

I will collect your cans and bottles the last Saturday of each month.

Or, if you want me to stop by your home or work earlier that that, please call me at 424-731-6953 or email me at lizeth.soria@aol.com

If you don't have cans or plastic bottles you will and you would like to help me I am more than happy to accept donations.

Please let me know if you can make donations for $15 or more.  I will be very grateful to you.


Liz Soria

Lizeth Soria
Lizeth's Blog

WLP Fall Speaker Series: Devin Waller, Planetary Geologist

Women of color are severely underrepresented in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. In 2008, African Americans who’d received Science and Engineering doctorates were only 4% of the faculty at U.S. colleges and universities. At Cal Tech, one of the leading science and technology institutions in the country, African Americans are less than 1% of the faculty. They are 4% of the faculty at MIT. African American students are also underrepresented in the key Advanced Placement and college preparation science classes they need to gain admission to a four year college or university.
On October 9th and 17th planetary geologist Devin Waller (B.S., Physics, UCLA, M.S. Planetary Geology, Arizona State University) will join WLP students at Washington Prep and Gardena High Schools to discuss her path as a budding scientist in a white male-dominated field. Ms. Waller will introduce students to the field of planetary geology and explore the barriers that keep young women of color from pursuing STEM degrees and careers.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ten Impact Micro Awards for Women's Leadership Project


WLP Scholarship Winners

The Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable announced the award of ten Impact Micro Awards to students in the Women’s Leadership Project on Wednesday, June 27. The ten student recipients have been accepted at colleges locally and nationally. The awards will help defray college expenses. The awards will be presented at the organization’s annual recognition luncheon Friday, June 29. The Impact Micro Awards are part of our Building Self-Sustaining Communities Initiative. The initiative aims to support organizations that have a proven track record of commitment to building community sustainability projects, activities, and service. The awards are given monthly. Wells Fargo Foundation is a major partner with the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable’s Impact Micro Award Program. WLP's mission, work and accomplishments are spotlighted on the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable website: http://www.laupr.org/

Friday, June 15, 2012

Twice Towards Justice

By: Karen Carrillo- 11th grade, Washington Prep.

"Another time i had to go to the optometrist downtown. My dad and I got to the office early- I was the very first patient. There was only one chair in the waiting room. The doctor told us to leave and come back at the end of the day. I didn't understand why until I overheard my dad telling my mom when we got home. The optometrist wasn't gonna let me sit in that chair until all the whites had sit in it first. He knew no white patient would ever sit in a chair that he's seen a black sit in." (pg17)
I chose this passage because it's ridiculous how they arrived at the doctor early and had to come back until all of the other patients had sat on the chair. Wouldn't the white people have to sit in that same chair the day after she sat on it? The advice that I would give to a young girl of color growing up in this community 100 years from now is to never give up and always keep fighting for what they believe is right. They should never give up because at the end of the struggle they might accomplish their goal. What I didn't know that I know now before I took this class is that women face a lot of challenges in their daily life, some choose to put up with it meanwhile others fight to hear their voices heard or to keep up with the rest of the world. Many choose to keep silent due to intimidation or because they simply don't want to be judged by the rest of the people. I also learned about HIV within  the young people of color like that Latina women are discouraged to tell their partner to use protection because of machismo and their culture. Some of the many things i also learned in this class is about today's feminism with young women of color, Denim Day, sexual harassment among youth, women remaining docile and subservient like in the movie Real Women have Curves, and stereotypes that people have about other races. I would still like to learn about the women who have been through struggles and have spoken out about it. Are they helping other women face their every day life or are they just happy that they helped themselves. I would also like to learn about people who have fought to make a change in the world and have either failed or succeeded... How did they feel when they were going to take the challenge? Was it emotional for them at a certain point? At the end of the day someone somewhere is fighting to overcome an obstacle and hopefully they get to where they want to.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What Shaped My Life: Claudette Colvin, Twice Towards Justice

By Vanessa Lopez
Claudette narrates her life looking back as an adult. Many life changing and important events occurred in her life that shaped who she is now in life.  Now its my turn to look back at my life and decide what things shaped my life.  Growing up it was hard for me because I did not grow up with my family.  I  grew up with my uncles.  They took care of me.  You might ask yourself why wasn't I sent to my parents?My dad worked out of state and he could not take care of me.  My mom was illegal and for that case she could not be with me.  Even though I was small I understood my parents' situation and I knew that what they where doing was to give me a better life.  Now I am 19 and I look back at the things that happened to me as a child and I know these things that happened made me stronger and independent. I learned that every thing that happens to us helps shape who we are in the future. I believe that if people go back to their childhood/teenage years they will find what shaped them.

Inspires ME

By Olivia Christon, 12th Grade, Washington Prep H.S 

In the book “My Sister’s Voices” Lisbeth Pelayo, 16, writes in the article "Racism":

"You also get stereotyped, such as when I went to my cousin’s house. Her friends were there, and they were white. When they saw me, they immediately started to ask me questions like what gang I was in. I said, 'What? I’m not even in a gang.' They said, 'oh, sorry.' But they were still afraid of me because I told them I go to school in East L.A. I felt put down a little, but it didn’t matter to me because I don’t really care what a bunch of white girls think of me, as long as my family and I know it’s not true. That’s all that matters."

I chose this passage because I understand where she's coming from. I go to Washington Prep H.S and when I talk to someone new they ask me what school I go to and when I say Washington Prep they assume the worst. They say you go to that trash and violent school where they always get into fights during school functions like games.

Some advice I would give to a young girl of color growing up in her community 100 years from now is do not be influenced by peer pressure.  I don’t care what people say about you as long as you know what the truth is.  And if a guy says the words, “but if you loved me you would," run in the other direction. Don’t walk, run.

What I did not know before taking Women of Color in the U.S class is that the main stereotypes for African Americans used by whites are Sambo, mammies as women who are overweight, very dark-skinned, middle age, loyal servants, very happy, and loud. Pickaninny is a derogatory term for black children, and coon plays to the dated stereotype of a black fool for an audience, particularly including whites. What I'd like to learn more about is why Native American women have a higher percentage of sexual assault. 

The Day Has Arrived

The day has finally arrived
It’s our graduation time
As my life comes and goes,
College come I am glad,
Soon I will be free as the wind

From now till then, we’ll look back on the
dploma knowing that we reached this far,
knowing that we can do anything if we just
put our mind to it

So let’s enjoy this very moment
Classroom bells and noisy halls,
Watching the clock as last period crawls
Rooting for your team at a big game
Pep rallies, homecoming and prom

So put on your cap and your gown
And stand tall

Through your graduation’s done;
Your whole life of education that has
only just began

By: Olivia Christon,12th Grade, Washington Prep H.S 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Reproductive Justice Could Save Lives In My Community

By Brenda Briones

“My parents would kick me out the house if they found out I’ve had sex.” 

“I think I need to see a doctor about my period but in my family we don’t talk about sex or sex related things.”

Recently, I asked a few ninth graders if their parents talk to them about sex? Most of them responded that they weren’t allowed to have a boyfriend and they were expected to marry as virgins, in accordance with the Catholic or Christian beliefs of their families. We should all be outraged that this is the extent of the "sex talk" in many Latino households. Sadly, these experiences are very common amongst my peers in the working class Latino community I am from. Roughly 50% of Latinas become pregnant before reaching the age of nineteen, according to a study by California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. We also have the highest teen live birth rates in the nation. The prevalence of unprotected sex in our community is a serious matter that we must address or expect devastating health consequences. Just as alarming as our pregnancy rates are our communities' live birth rates. These unplanned pregnancies more often than not lead teenage girls to dropout of school and have babies they are not prepared for financially or emotionally. A few girls I know who are my age or younger and have become pregnant never considered abortion. Young women in my community are trained to believe that sex is a sin and if an unplanned pregnancy happens, then we have no option but to have a child. This kind of thinking sacrifices young women. Young women who are raised to believe they have no choice are also raised to believe that their reproductive abilities are more important than their dreams, their education, and their ability to determine their own destinies. Statistically, more than half of households headed by single mothers live in poverty.
I wonder if pregnant Latinas teens came from a community where reproductive justice was valued and recognized, would they have become pregnant in the first place? Reproductive justice recognizes that women of color are impacted by a lack of access to reproductive health services and outdated machista views of sex and sexuality in our communities.  It is a human right for a woman to choose when and or if to have children. I have no doubt that if my peers who dropped out of school  because of unplanned pregnancies were taught to value their lives and what they can potentially contribute to this world, they would have been able to choose a better future for themselves.
In addition to changing the ways our youth are educated we must also change the views of sex and sexuality among many adults in our community.

“Ese es mijo!” Mi hijo tiene muchas novias”

“That’s my boy!” “He’s got a ton of girlfriends”

I have heard many Latino fathers brag about their promiscuous sons.  I have never heard a Latino parent brag about a promiscuous daughter. “Good daughters” are expected to stay virgins until marriage. In many Latino households, teenage daughters are forbidden to even have a boyfriend. This double standard makes boys think that young women are sexual objects that can be used to prove to the world that they are “true players.” When we as a community, uphold these views, we tell young women that their value is rooted in their sexuality and not their talents or intellect. If a young woman decides to have sex, there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is a general view that sex is dirty. When parents approach sex and sexuality this way, they tend not to talk about sex at all with their children. What parents don’t understand is that by not talking to their children about sex, they are putting their children at greater risk for teen pregnancy and STI transmissions. The prevalence of unprotected sex in our communities have increased our HIV/AIDS contraction rates. If we are to reverse this trend, we must begin having conversations about sex that don’t shame young women or set up young men to believe they are more of “a real man” as they rack up more partners. Conversations about STD and HIV/AIDS prevention are not dirty they are life saving.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Peacemaker Mother


Peacemaker Mother

Independent like a bird who learned how to fly
Talkative, outgoing, and confident is how she’s described
Within forty-two years of her life she overcame many obstacles
Sitting down
I look at her and see nothing but a smile
Courageous like a tiger is what she’s become
Sweet like a candy bar
Reminds me to disregard the ones who judge
but challenge them
To show them who I really am
So generous she’d give the little that she has to help the ones in need
Nothing compared to a world full of diamonds
‘Cause she’s determined in every challenge
To me she’s irreplaceable and priceless
Always strikes for the best and nothing less
Her advice to me is one of a kind
Every time I want to give up, it pops up on my mind
All the things I do are dedicated to her
Yet I know that for me she does way more
Her motto is never let your weaknesses take over you
‘Cause you’re strong enough to face them
She’s my one and only loveable mom!

By: Karen Carrillo, 11th grade, Washington Prep.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fun in the Sun

By Olivia Christon,Literary Analysis, Grade 12 Washington Prep HS

An important place to me is the beach where I go every year in July. I associate the beach with my family and friends. The significant events that happen at the beach are on July 4 where everyone comes out to eat, talk, relax in the sun, swim at the beach and build sand castles. The place is located at the lagoon at Playa Del Rey across the street from the beach. The smells at the beach are barbeque that is cooking on the grill, fish from the ocean, and rice and beans with chicken. The sound at the beach is the water crashing on the rocks, the children laughing in the background, and the seagulls cawing while they fly overhead looking for food. The color at the beach is the blue ocean, light brown sand, the green seaweed in the ocean smells fishy and different color clothes that people are wearing.  The beach relates to my sense of identity because it reminds me of my bedroom a place where I can relax and listen to my music, school where I talk with my friends, and a movie theatre.  This is a place where you can see people being happy and having fun. My friend and I are like family.  We go across the street to the beach with her little sister to play in the water and make sand castles.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Peace of Mind

Peace of Mind- “I AM”

By Dazia Ratliff, 11th grade Washington Prep HS

When asked to discuss a place that relates to my identity, at first I felt a little perplexed. My whole life I never connected places to identity; however, for this assignment, I was asked to identify that unique place.

After searching for ideas of locations, I finally came up with the perfect spot: Venice Beach!

Venice Beach-the place that was once called “Muscle Beach” is where I am free.

It’s a place where I go by myself and relax, listen to music, and let all my emotions out while gazing at the waves.

Here, I can chill with my friends, family, boyfriend, brothers, and sisters. The events that can happen at Venice Beach are picnics, family reunions, parties and more.

The sounds I love to listen to are the sounds of the waves crashing, the laughter of my friends and family, and when we start to sing a song. The smell that I love is Bar-B-Que’ and the smell of chocolates melting on the graham crackers. The colors that I love to associate with are the blue water, the light brown sand, the light blue sky, the multi-color shacks, and the multi-color blankets, and more. The last time that I went to Venice Beach was two weeks ago with my best friend and I had to let go of all my emotions.

I identify with this beach because it allows me to forget about the pain and suffering that is inescapable at my home and school. There is no yelling there, no fighting, and no belittling there…it’s just one happy island….a place to get peace of mind.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Do the traditions of our parents affect us nowadays?


By, Karen Carrillo, 11th grade- Washington Prep. High School

Many people nowadays are still facing most of the traditions that their parents taught them when they were young. Some of these traditions include: men controlling women, children obeying their parents-no questions asked, and women remaining docile and subservient. Even though we have progressed a long way as a country, we still have a lot more to do.

To begin with, in Hispanic culture men have control over the women regardless of whether they want to or not. According to the Yasmin Davidds Garridos' article, "Facing the Truth about Our Traditions," “men want to be able to control the income, independence, and outspokenness of their women.” I conclude that there isn’t any justification for men to have control over what a woman should or should not be able to do. In the movie, Real Women have Curves, Ana, the protagonists, dad has complete control over her mother. He tells Carmen when she can or cannot talk. Just because you are married to a person doesn’t give them the authority to control women.

Just as the men have control over the women, they both also expect their kids to follow their rules. In the article, Norberto’s mother tells him that what he is doing is wrong... that he’s the man of the family and it should stay that way. Just because "he’s the man of the family" doesn’t mean that he should follow their traditions. In the movie, even though Ana wants to go to college, Carmen, her mother wants her to work in the factory. In my opinion, Ana's mother should let her go to college and have a brighter future than the one she lived.

Several factors contribute to children not talking back to their parents. In the movie, when Ana contradicts her mother about not being pregnant, Carmen slapped her. Why does the mom get so angry when Ana tells her that she's hallucinating about being pregnant? She gets angry because the children that she has are grown up which probably makes her feel lonely. She might also have the desire of having another child to keep herself busy and distracted from realizing that shes aging.

In the article Facing the Truth about Our Traditions, Yasmin talks back to Norbertos mother about him taking her last name. The dad tells her to not disrespect their family like that. Only because the fiancé was telling the lady that she wanted to keep her maiden name, they took that as disrespecting their family, or talking back.

I partially dont relate to Ana because my mom is open minded about things. For example, I can sit down with her and talk about something I see wrong in my house and figure out a way in which we can fix it. In contrast, Anas mom is demanding about things that she wants done and constantly argues with Ana.

In other words, Carmen tells Ana not to go to college but instead worry about becoming La Buena Mujer.  My mom is the opposite of Carmen, she tells me to go to college and get a better life than the one she had. Lastly, my mom thinks like Yasmin: of keeping my maiden name if I get married one day. In my perspective women should not tolerate the “machismo” that men have towards women.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Silence Still Equals Death: Sexual Violence and Young Women of Color

By Sikivu Hutchinson
April is sexual assault awareness month.  It also marks the global observance of Denim Day for sexual assault survivors.  Black and mixed race women have some of the highest sexual assault rates in the nation. Yet, recently, when young women of color in my class spoke on the disproportionate number of women of color victimized by sexual violence, they initially trotted out stereotypes like “mixed race women are more likely to be raped because they are the ‘prettiest’ and “black women get assaulted more because they have ‘big butts.’ This intersection of internalized racism and sexism is most potent when youth grapple with how representations of young women of color in the media normalize sexual violence.
The normalization of sexual violence breeds silence in the classroom.  In the clockwatching ten minutes-before-the-bell-rings clamor of my peer health workshop of 11th and 12th graders there is silence, deafening and thick as quicksand. I have asked them a question about the widespread use of the words “bitch” and “ho” to describe young women of color on campus.  Several boys are holding forth in response. They are the same four opinionated boys who have been the most vocal throughout these sessions, always ready with a quip, a deflection or, sometimes, serious commentary that reveals deep wisdom. They are bursting with perspective on this topic, but the girls in the room are silent. Some twist in their seats, some study the tops of their desks in calculated boredom, transporting themselves outside of the room, slain by the language of dehumanization. Finally a few girls chime in and say they use the terms casually with friends, as in “my bitch or my ho,” supposedly neutralizing their negative connotations akin to the way they use the word “nigga.” Some claim the words are justifiably used to describe “bad girls” who are promiscuous and unruly, not realizing that black women have always been deemed “bad” in the eyes of the dominant culture, as less than feminine, as bodies for violent pornographic exploitation. When I wondered aloud whether white women call themselves bitch and ho as terms of endearment I got uncertain responses. My guess is that they don’t, not because white women are necessarily more enlightened and self-aware than women of color on gender, but because white femininity is the beauty ideal and hence the human ideal. Despite the misogyny that pervades American culture there is inherent value placed on the lives of white women. Every aspect of the image industry affirms their existence, and the spectrum of culturally recognized white femininity extends from proper and pure to “sexually liberated.”

This is exemplified by the tabloid media’s obsession with missing white women and white girls. Plastered on websites like AOL, relentlessly rammed down our collective throats in titillating morsels with whiffs of sexuality and scandal, poster child Caylee Anderson and company are a metaphor for Middle America’s Little Red Riding Hood fetishization of white femininity. Tabloid narratives of imperiled white females highlight the suburban virtues of white Middle America and not so subtlely evoke the social pathologies of the so-called inner city. Indeed, the spectacles of grief, mourning, and community outrage trotted out on CNN and FOX not only program viewers to identify with the injustice that has been done to the victim and her family, but to her community. In the world of 24-7 media these victims become our girls, our daughters, while the “bitches” and “hos” of the inner city symbolize the disorder and ungovernableness of an urban America whose values must be kept at bay.

In many regards this is part of the same “post-feminist” trend that tells women to sit down and shut up, to internalize the values of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, and stay in their place. A generation of Bush militarism and corporate reign over media has turned sexualized violence against women into a billion dollar industry, as illustrated by global romance with gangsta rap, violent video games and Internet pornography. Yet the desensitization of young black women to these trends is perhaps the most painful. When I talk to my students about the staggering rates of sexual assault and intimate partner abuse in black communities they are quick to judge themselves and their peers for inciting male violence. Unable to see themselves and their lives as valuable they slam other girls for being “hoochies” and sloganeer violent misogynist lyrics without a second thought. Awareness about the relationship between pervasive violence against black women in the media and male behavior is lacking.  This year Women’s Leadership Project students will conduct training in classroom on gender equity and sexual violence; challenging their peers to critically examine the media, school, and community images that promote sexualized violence against women of color. But unless we change the self-hating mindset of many young black women, silence—as the gay HIV activist saying goes—does equal death, and we are poised to lose another generation to a media-colonized sense of self-worth.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

College, Media Lies, and Gender Politics

Commentary By Sikivu Hutchinson

Recently former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum called President Obama a snob for having the audacity to suggest that going to college should be a priority.  As a privileged white male college graduate on big government’s payroll Santorum’s message to youth of color is: why go to college when there are unskilled sub living wage jobs selling oranges, cleaning houses, washing cars and shoveling French fry grease awaiting you in the ghetto?  Santorum’s anti-college diatribe comes in an era when the need for a college degree has increasingly been questioned by both right wing policy makers and mainstream media.  Yet, college-going continues to be one of the bedrock civil rights issues for youth of color in the U.S.  Over the past several years the wealth gap between black and Latino households and white households has widened.  Over the course of their lifetimes college graduates earn nearly one to several million more than do high school graduates.  However, in California, Latino youth have the lowest college going rates among youth of all ethnicities despite the fact that they comprise over 50% of students in California schools.  While college-going for African American students has increased college completion for youth of color overall remains abysmally low at major colleges and universities.  Historically, colleges and universities that have few African American students and few culturally responsive on-campus resources have lower black graduation rates.  According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, “Curriculum differences also play an important role in graduation rates. Carnegie Mellon University and Cal Tech are heavily oriented toward the sciences, fields in which blacks have always had a small presence. It continues to be true that at many high-powered schools black students in the sciences often have been made to feel uncomfortable by white faculty and administrators who persist in beliefs that blacks do not have the intellectual capacity to succeed in these disciplines.”
For youth of color who are the first in their families to go to college these challenges are compounded by the disproportionate number of black and Latino students who are in foster care, undocumented, homeless, and/or formerly incarcerated.  Only 44% of LAUSD graduates go on to four year colleges.  And the percentage of South Los Angeles high school graduates who do so is significantly lower.  Due to budget cuts, inept professional development and institutional racism, culturally responsive college counselors, A-G college preparation courses, and highly qualified teachers are in short supply in high poverty schools.  During a recent college forum at Gardena High School four activists from the Women’s Leadership Project and FUEL, CSU Long Beach’s undocumented youth advocacy group, discussed the importance of knowing how to prepare for and navigate college.  All of the young women on the panel were the first in their families to go to college.  The panelists discussed study groups, mentors, taking the time to meet with professors during office hours and tuning out the distraction of social media and peer pressure.  Although the college-going rates of women of color outpace their male counterparts, college-educated black and Latina women continue to face steep obstacles in the job market vis-√†-vis sexual harassment, employment discrimination (particularly within the private sphere), and pernicious wage gaps. Indeed, although black men have higher overall unemployment rates than black women, rates for black men improved at the end of 2011 and worsened for black women due to deep cuts in public sector jobs.  The panelists addressed confronting sexist low expectations in school-community climates that normalize misogyny, teen pregnancy, and the model of black and Latina women as self-sacrificing caregivers.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

WLP Presents: Women of Color College Forum

On March 16th Gardena High School's WLP held their first annual Women of Color College Forum. Current college students discussed their experiences negotiating the college landscape. They addressed the specific challenges young women of color face getting to and staying in college, and provided details on their success experiences as emerging young leaders for social justice. Check out clips from our forum featuring panelist Marlene Montanez, Imari Moses, Mayra Borunda, and Clay Wesley.

Janeth Silva on the WLP Retreat

Janeth Silva is a senior and member of the Women’s Leadership Project at Gardena High School. She is co-founder of AB-540 Crew, a club advocating for the educational equality of undocumented students at Gardena High School. Janeth has recently been admitted to Cal State Los Angeles, where she plans on pursuing a degree in education. Janeth recently participated in the WLP retreat sponsored by the L.A. County Human Relations Commission's zerohour program.

This year I started my spring break by going off to the WLP retreat held at the Thousand Pines campgrounds. I was so excited because this was going to be my first time going on a camping trip. My friends Liz, Ronmely, and I had a whole cabin to ourselves! The workshops we had were fun and educational. During the opening ice breaker activity, we were asked to find someone with a positive male role model in their life, I was very surprised to see that I was one of very few women of color attending the retreat who have a such a person in their life. I feel very privileged to be able to count my father as a positive and supportive presence.

Another thing that really stood out to me was our discussion on abortion. At the beginning of this workshop I was totally against abortion and so were the majority of the other girls, some were so against abortion they decided not to participate in the conversation at all. By the end of this workshop I came to understand that abortion is a human right and that all women should have this option. I also became very aware that the politicians who fight against abortion the most are predominately white males. I think males who fight so hard against abortion are afraid that if women see abortion as a human right, then many women will no longer be shamed into not becoming as educated and powerful as men. I think men who don’t believe in a woman’s right to choose want to keep the women in the house taking care of the kids. Although I am still not completely for abortion I understand there are circumstances where an abortion is truly women's last option.

A third conversation that was eye opening for me was the discussions about how the LGBTQ community is treated in our society. I had never really stopped to consider how many rights straight people have that gay people don’t. I think it’s it wrong and unfair how gay people are treated. This workshop made me very aware of how in all my years of attending school I have never come across a positive or historic depiction gay/lesbian/bi people.