Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Who Defines black hair and Blackness?

By Marenda Kyle
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. I did come across a page that glorified braids, but that acceptance was short-lived because the next page had a light-skinned model advertising the KOEE Skin Lightening System. This holiday issue of Sophisticate’s Black Hair Styles & Hair Guide is telling black girls that if you want to be festive for the holidays, wear your hair like this and look like this.
I have now came to the realization that braids and natural hair are a thing of the past and if you want “glamorous” hair you have to straighten, bleach, or do anything it takes to achieve the desired European look. As a proud wearer of braids I encourage people to stick with what they have. To quote India Arie, “I am not my hair.”

Marenda Kyle is a 12th grader at Gardena High School. She has volunteered over 400 hours and is passionate about teaching individuals to love themselves.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Reflection on "American Terror" and Homophobia

By Danielle Woodcock

In health class a few days ago, we were given articles that we were supposed to respond to. I chose to respond to "American Terror", a response to the death of Carl Walker Hoover, a "gender non-conforming" youth who was bullied to death.

I agree with what the girl who wrote the article was saying. LGBTQIAP+ youth are far too often terrorized by cis-heterosexual people that are conditioned to dehumanize people who don't fit in with our heteronormative society. Often times, their only argument is the slogan "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve". Sometimes their arguments aren't even arguments at all - they just call the LGBT community fags or do unmentionable things to them. A simple Google search can give you an idea of those things.

Throughout history, our heroes are thought to be cis and heterosexual, as if the notion that LGBT people exist is a completely new and foreign concept. No one stops to think that maybe George Washington was bisexual, or that James Buchanan could have been gay or asexual, or that Hapshepsut really was trans*. No, according to nearly every history book out there, everyone was cis and straight, there were definitely no identities other than these two, and even if there were, there were laws against that kind of behavior. Because of this ancient ignorance, there are still laws that inhibit LGBT progress.

That's to say nothing of society's apparent obsession with harmful heterosexual relationships. Men often dominate their female partners in the media, their female partners' lives revolve around these men, and women who actually exist are expected to idealize these kinds of relationships. In all honesty, who would rather see the relationship between Bella and Edward, one of the most toxic relationships in the media today, praised, while the relationship between Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, a loving real couple with two beautiful children, is said to be ruining the sanctity of marriage?

This behavior of homophobia is instilled and put into action as early as elementary school; often times it starts even earlier than that. This is all because blurred gender and sexuality lines cause children to harass their peers, or so we're told. In reality, people's identities don't subject them to harmful behavior from others; people who are unwilling to accept these identities do.

Danielle Woodcock is an eleventh grader at Gardena High School.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Inspiration

By Jennifer Gomez

On a gloomy Saturday morning my father asked if I wanted to see my brother. I was eight years old and very close to my fourteen year old brother, Martin. Martin had disappeared from one day to the next. I had wondered what had happened to him and no one would answer when I asked. Instead of explaining to me that my brother had gone to juvenile hall, we arrived at an ugly building and proceeded to the waiting room. I sat alone. I felt scared as I noticed lots of policemen patrolling the mostly Brown and Black mothers and children in the waiting room. My father returned to tell me I was too small to visit Martin.

No one would ever explicitly tell me what happened but I figured it out. I wouldn't see Martin for weeks but was aware that he desperately wanted to come home but my father insisted he stay and learn his lesson. When he came home he was a different person.

As a recent immigrant family my parents worked long hours and were unable to provide the support and guidance they have shown me. At school Martin was perceived “as just another” misguided Latino kid. He was ignored by a school system that should have cared more and could have provided meaningful intervention.

The injustice of how Martin’s life was altered by mistakes that are not uncommon for boys to make, has motivated me to pursue a degree in criminal justice. I wonder if Martin had been surrounded by people who cared more, what his life would be now?

Jennifer Gomez is a senior at Gardena High School. In the fall of 2014 Jennifer will become the first in her family to go to college.

A Typical Latina

By Yvonne Arechiga

As a seventeen year old Latina living at home with both of her parents, I feel how high the expectations are for me. Due to the fact that only one of my parents completed a high school education and the other didn’t, I feel the pressure to go beyond high school and make them proud. Being a young female of color can be so stressful. As my father’s oldest daughter, he spends much of his time worrying about the decisions I make in life, which I don’t blame him for. Topics that are constantly being brought to my attention are success and boys.
Boys are my father’s biggest fear. Whether I am having sexual intercourse seems to be constantly crossing my parent's minds. Regardless if I am sexually active or not they remind me constantly that I have to be careful with all boys. My parent’s warn that boys will sweet talk me into a stupid decision. Although my parents have never said, “DON’T GET PREGNANT!” in our culture you’re taught to read between the lines. My response to them every single time they bring this topic up is that I am focused on my future and no boy is on my mind at the moment.

Staying focused in school and not losing track of what I have to do can be a bit difficult given the gender and cultural expectations I experience.  Like most Latinas I know, I’ve been raised to limpiar, cocinar, y cuidar (clean, cook, and care for the household and its members.) and not expect thank yous in return for my contributions. Unlike most of my Latina peers I have found mentors who believe I can achieve great things. I am determined to use my work experiences in catering gained over four years to one day achieve a Master’s degree in business. After business school I plan to become CEO. 

Yvonne Arechiga is a senior at Gardena High School and is proud of working at the Alpine Village swapmeet since the age of thirteen. She hopes to one day have her own catering business but is open to being influenced by other industries as she goes through life and college.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blacks in STEM Panel Tackles Myths and Stereotypes

Who fits the stereotype of scientific or mathematical genius? Traditionally, racial and gender stereotypes influence who "conforms" to mainstream society's image of scientific proficiency and intellectualism. Although one of the most well known contemporary scientists in the world is African American physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the dominant culture still portrays science, technology, engineering and math as disciplines that only white and Asian males can master.

On Thursday, November 14th at Gardena High School, Devin Waller of the California Science Center and Brandon Bell of Children's Hospital discussed the challenges of being STEM professionals in a sector that has historically been inhospitable to African Americans. As the only black female astrophysics major in her graduating class at UCLA, Devin dealt with prejudice and stereotyping in her predominantly white and male science classes. Brandon encountered similar issues when he attended Princeton after graduating from the acclaimed King-Drew Medical Magnet in South L.A. During the discussion, he commented that he rarely saw African American faculty at Princeton outside of Ethnic Studies departments. And because he was an African American male from a South L.A. school some of his professors and deans reflexively assumed that he couldn't cut it in rigorous courses.

At 12% of the U.S. population, African Americans are severely under-represented in the STEM fields. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, "The percentage of African-Americans earning STEM degrees has fallen during the last decade. In 2009, they received just 7 percent of all STEM bachelor's degrees, 4 percent of master's degrees, and 2 percent of PhDs." Indeed, "in a typical year, 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of either sex receive Ph.D.’s in physics." This disparity is informed by the egregiously low number of black students taking college preparation, honors and Advanced Placement classes and tests. For African American students, the absence of quality college prep instruction at the middle and high school levels is one of the most significant roadblocks to college access. At Gardena High, African American students are 27% of the population but only 4% are enrolled in AP classes.

As a black woman in one of the most elite science disciplines in the world, Devin commented that she felt the weight of sexist discrimination most acutely. She would frequently be shut out of study groups and get quizzical looks when she was in upper division science classes. Despite all of the so-called post-feminist advances in academia there are still few female role models of color in the sciences. In a recent New York Times article entitled "Why are There Still So Few Women in Science?" Author Eileen Pollack reflected on attending a Yale University event where five female physics majors talked about their academic challenges. She noted that one "young black woman told me she did her undergraduate work at a historically black college, then entered a master’s program designed to help minority students develop the research skills and one-on-one mentoring relationships that would help them make the transition to a Ph.D. program. Her first year at Yale was rough, but her mentors helped her through."

Both Devin and Brandon stressed the importance of having mentors in high school and college. Although King-Drew has a strong college-going culture, Brandon had not been prepared to deal with being one of the few students of color in a massive lecture hall. Finding mentors, navigating the complexities of subject requirements and keeping afloat academically are a natural part of being in college. But these challenges are often even more daunting for African American students in STEM departments where there are few tenured African American faculty and administrators. Over the past several months both faculty and students at UCLA have confronted the administration on its lack of diversity, hostile climate for faculty of color and "micro-aggressions" against students of color (there are only 48 African American male students enrolled at UCLA in this year's freshman class). For many black students in STEM, the absence of tenured professors of color in their departments intensifies their sense of marginalization and invisibility. Both panelists attributed their success to having supportive family members and faculty mentors outside the STEM fields.

The Blacks in STEM panel is part of the WLP college and academic justice series and was attended by AP Physics, Biology and Algebra classes.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gardena High School WLP Student Receives Prestigious College Scholarship

Betsy Casas, a 4.0 GPA student at Gardena High School in Los Angeles, is a finalist in the prestigious QuestBridge scholarship program. QuestBridge provides low income, high achieving students with full four year scholarships to leading colleges and universities of their choice. QuestBridge partner colleges include Ivy Leagues like Yale, Princeton and Stanford. Betsy is a former foster care youth who wants to pursue a degree in environmental science. Her top college choice is Stanford University and she will be the first in her family to go to college. According to QuestBridge, “Over 84% of high achieving low-income students don’t even apply to top colleges and 44% don’t go to college at all.”

For the past two years, Betsy has participated in the Women’s Leadership Project mentoring program, a feminist humanist civic engagement initiative that provides first generation young women of color with community leadership and public speaking opportunities while preparing them for college. In addition to QuestBridge, WLP alumni have received scholarships from the prestigious Posse Foundation and Horatio Alger Foundation. QuestBridge scholarship recipients are notified of their college admission status in December.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Secular Woman interviews Women's Leadership Project

WLP Women's History presentation

SW: Why do the girls participate in the program?

WLP: The girls participate because they feel empowered by learning about the social history of feminists of color and connecting them to their lived experiences. Many feel as though they’ve been shafted by mainstream public education’s drill and kill high stakes testing regime that shuts out meaningful critical engagement with the contributions, social capital, cultural knowledge, and liberation struggle of communities of color in the U.S. and beyond. For example, during our annual Denim Day outreach we don’t just address the objectification and abuse young women experience in their daily lives and relationships but also examine the impact of media and social imaging of women of color. Because white European women have always been constructed as the universal beauty and human ideal, Black, Latina, Asian, and Native American women are sexualized in ways that European American white women have never been. Pretending like "all women" are oppressed by sexist exploitation ignores the role racism, segregation and white supremacy play in the way black and Latina women are brutally marginalized in the workplace, denied access to reproductive health and demeaned/ marginalized in media portrayals of "proper" or even so-called empowered femininity. When we address sexual harassment and sexual assault we contextualize them vis-à-vis the history of exploitation and commodification of the bodies of women of color through slavery, imperialist occupation and dispossession.

SW: What is the program focused on accomplishing?
WLP: We educate young women of color in feminist humanist practice. We empower them to take ownership of their lives and communities by connecting the struggles of previous generations with their present and future. We specifically develop curricula on women’s rights, social histories and activist traditions. The program also focuses on peer education and training on HIV/AIDS prevention, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, reproductive justice, media literacy and safe space creation for LGBTQ youth. We also provide college resources for financial aid, tutoring, scholarships, job and internship opportunities and undocumented youth resources.

More @ http://www.secularwoman.org/wlp_interview

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sixth Annual Youth Media Education and Leadership Conference

At the end of the spring semester, over one-hundred students from South and East Los Angeles attended WLP's sixth annual Youth Media Education and Leadership conference at Cal State University Dominguez Hills. Attendees participated in youth-led workshops on homophobia, feminism, juvenile justice activism, and anti-bullying strategies. The conference was sponsored by the L.A. County Human Relations Commission and kicked off with a skit by Women’s Leadership Project students which spotlighted racial discrimination in discipline policies. The skit featured the case of Kiera Wilmot, a black female eleventh grader from Florida who was expelled from school after a science experiment she conducted exploded. As WLP leaders Betsy Casas and Ariana Mercado concluded the skit the middle and high school student audience listened with uncharacteristic intensity. Afterwards, WLP students led a discussion on how racial and gender stereotypes inform cultural perceptions about achievement in science and higher education. While students of color are routinely criminalized, overrepresented in prisons and juvenile detention facilities, they are sorely underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields where expectations of white or Asian male scientific “genius” and innovation are pervasive.

Nationwide, black children are disproportionately suspended and expelled. They spend more time in the dean’s office, more time being opportunity transferred to other campuses and more time cycling in and out of juvenile detention facilities than children of other ethnicities. Nonetheless, black students DO NOT offend at higher rates than other ethnicities; a national travesty that has been documented in numerous public policy studies. Responding to this travesty, students in the audience noted that they or their friends had been targeted unfairly by harsh discipline policies. This discussion was an important step for allowing the participants to critique and challenge insidious stereotypes which mainstream media imposes on youth of color.

Many of the conference sessions encouraged youth to take ownership of their image and plug into activist networks in the South L.A. community. Presenters contextualized demeaning portrayals of youth of color vis-à-vis social justice, racism, sexism, homophobia and economic disparities in their communities.

During the South L.A. Social Activists session, radio commentator and activist riKu Matsuda facilitated an interactive Q&A with South Los Angeles activists Brandon Bell (Wisdom from the Field), Eugene Durrah, Edna Monroy (undocumented youth advocacy), Onyenma Obiekea and Nourbese Flint (Black Women for Wellness) and WLP alumnus Clay Wesley. What followed was a captivating discussion on each panelist’s journey toward becoming involved in community organizing. They also delved into the personal obstacles and sociopolitical climate young people of color must navigate in order to defy the high college drop-out rates of youth of color.

In one of the most heated sessions of the day, Washington Prep High School’s Women’s Leadership Project and Gay/Straight Alliance groups led a workshop on “Confronting Homophobia, Creating Safe Spaces”. The presenters introduced an interactive exercise where students were asked whether or not they’d defend a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender friend who was being attacked because of their sexual orientation. While most participants agreed that they would defend their friend, a few others felt that they weren’t obligated to. Presenters Jamion Allen, Destiny Davis and Imani Moses spoke passionately about having a moral obligation as an ally. When the subject turned to marriage equality the youth presenters got into a debate about whether the marriages of atheists and LGBT folk could rightfully be recognized by Christian churches. Rounding out the session, the presenters expertly prodded their peers to analyze the lack of representation of LBGT people—particularly LGBT people of color—in history and in the media. Participants discussed how this void can lead to the demonization of LGBT families, communities and children.

Another workshop was conducted by the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC), a South L.A.-based organization that addresses juvenile justice public policy and prisoner re-entry initiatives. YJC presenters talked about racist sentencing policies, media stereotypes and the limited opportunities available to youth of color in a school-to-prison pipeline culture. The session was eye-opening for many of the participants who’d never had a public forum to discuss the impact of prison pipelining on their lives. In addition to spearheading public policy around sentencing, YJC advocates for equitable jobs, education, housing and training programs for youth ex-offenders and their families.

The Washington Prep’s No Haters Here club conducted a workshop on anti-bullying strategies and ally-building. Gardena High’s WLP led a session which addressed the marginalization of women of color historical figures and activists in mainstream media, textbooks and cultural representation.

Friday, May 31, 2013

How WLP Has Changed Me

Leticia at work facilitating Wash Prep's Day of Dialogue

By Leticia Patton, Grade 11

To me, WLP means addressing vital issues that plague our community and our school. The group stands for something that our youth need today. The most enlightening experience for me would have to be the Days of Dialogue because they allow students to voice what really goes on so that we can help change the school for the better. I have learned some of the harsh realities of my school campus so now I am not blind to the actions of the teachers, students, and staff on campus. I plan to use the skills and lessons I have learned in my professional and social life. I plan to become an OB/GYN and a strong figure in my community so this has been great preparation to jumpstart the future. The group has caused me to have more respect for myself, women of color, and women in general because I have decided not to use derogatory language to downgrade my peers.

Leticia Patton was one of the top ranked 11th graders at Washington Prep HS and was recently nominated by WLP for a Posse Foundation scholarship.

Jamion at the Black College Expo

By Jamion Allen, Grade 12

WLP has meant so much to me; it has meant uplifting myself and others. WLP has helped me share my knowledge old and new with people of many different backgrounds and personalities. For this I will always and forever be thankful and honored to have been a part of this great organization. 
My Best Experience……… I’ve had so many great experiences being part of WLP but I have to say the most enlightening was just recently at WLP’s annual youth conference. We were having a discussion on various topics and the topic of LGBTQ marriage arose. A person  that had some very different views than I did was expressing her opinion in what I felt was a somewhat disrespectful manner. Though I was getting angry, through my training with WLP I was able to defuse the the situation, but it was a tough one.
I hope to take everything I’ve learned and taught with me through college and in my adult life . I know that with these lessons and skills I can go far because the sky is the limit. 

Jamion Allen will be attending El Camino College in the fall after she graduates from Washington Prep HS.  She was recently the recipient of a Los Angeles County Volunteer of the Year award.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day of Dialogue at Washington Prep High

On May 20th, over 150 students participated in a school-wide Day of Dialogue at Washington Prep high school. Using a survey developed with input from faculty and students, the DOD allowed a cross-section of students a rare forum to express their concerns about campus security, college preparation, sexual harassment, homophobia, and adult-youth relations. Students from the Women’s Leadership Project and Leadership class facilitated. A recurring theme throughout the sessions was differences in the way certain groups of students were treated when it came to college preparation, college access, and mentoring. Some students felt that adults actively encouraged college-going among students in special programs such as the Magnet and AVID. Others praised individual teachers and counselors for providing guidance and concrete support by steering them to AP courses, tutoring, and scholarships. The majority felt Washington Prep did not have a college-going culture and that only the most motivated students were pushed to go on to a four year college. Another prominent issue was the lack of classes on racial/ethnic cultural history. Students felt that this kind of culturally relevant education would increase consciousness and defuse tension amongst different groups. One student expressed frustration that all Latinos were identified as “Mexicans” -- thereby ignoring the diversity of Latino heritage on campus.

The need to pushback against a culture of normalized sexual harassment at the school was a subject that polarized students along gender lines. After much prompting, girls articulated their outrage over the culture of casual harassment and sexualization that they experienced. Many girls were hesitant to identify their experiences as actual harassment (often assuming a blame-the-victim stance) but came forward with anecdotes about inappropriate comments teachers had made about girls’ bodies. One heated discussion prompted a group of boys to jeer that girls brought rape and sexual assault on themselves. Abuse and harassment by campus security was another persistent issue. During last November’s first day of dialogue session, some girls revealed that they or acquaintances of theirs had been contacted by campus security on Facebook and other social media. While girls were targets of harassment, several male and female students described being body-slammed by security. Students also addressed persistent homophobia on campus, with many believing that it was “ok” for girls to publicly identify as lesbian or bisexual while agreeing that a double standard existed for boys. The day of dialogue results will be tallied and reported to school staff, faculty, administration and students as part of the 2013-2014 school year climate assessment.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Youth Media Education & Leadership Conference

The sixth annual Youth Media Education and Leadership Conference will be sponsored by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission and the Gardena Healthy Start Collaborative on Thursday, May 23rd at California State Dominguez Hills’ Loker Student Union. Women's Leadership Project, Youth Justice Coalition, South L.A. Youth activists and No Haters Here groups will present their culminating work. The conference will be attended by students from Gardena and Washington Prep High schools and Hilda Solis and Bret Harte Middle Schools. Conference highlights include youth workshops on sexism, misogyny and homophobia in media; masculinity and gender role stereotypes; leadership and social justice organizing; LGBT youth advocacy; juvenile justice, undocumented youth advocacy and college preparation.

*Featuring a special performance by the award-winning Washington Prep Theatre Group*

Lunch will be provided
Contact info:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Madonna:Plantation Mistress or Soul Sister?"

By Karly Jeter

Madonna constantly maintains her peculiar image in the media by mocking her “pathological” counterpart, the Black female. She uses the stereotypical aspects of the Black woman to help herself maintain her image in the media, but the only difference between her and a Black woman is that a White woman can maintain her “innocent” “quintessential” image, but the Black woman is portrayed as a “fallen” woman. This is frustrating news since there are multiple Black women who attempt to display themselves as the good girl and bad girl in the media but instead they are crowned the image of a sexual goddess who is unable to change her ways. This is disappointing because I am a Black female who is aspiring to excel in Medicine, but instead I am always portrayed as the second class, ignorant female who is unable to succeed in any career even if I am determined. So for a White woman to act as though she is a stereotypical Black woman is insulting and derogatory. Madonna’s image portrayals as a stereotypical Black woman should not be praised because no matter the audience who is watching her they will always degrade her counterpart as the worthless and ignorant female.

Karly Jeter is a senior who attends Gardena High School, she plans to attend Hobart and William Smith Colleges located in Geneva, New York.

Friday, March 29, 2013

WLP featured at Teen Skepchick

WLP leaders Jamion Allen, Clay Wesley and Janeth Silva are discuss racism, feminism, school climate and media images of women of color in the Teen Skepchick Interviews series:

By Kate Donovan

"TS writers talk with amazing women scientists and skeptics about life, the universe, and everything. These three women are part of the Women’s Leadership Project, a feminist service learning program in South Los Angeles. The WLP has been in operation since 2006, and helps encourage and guide young women of color in their own advocacy projects, including activism around race, gender, and LGBT equality. The WLP is sponsored by the L.A. County Human Relations Commission and the Gardena Healthy Start collaborative. Interviews were compiled by WLP program coordinator Diane Arellano. I was introduced to the Women’s Leadership Project when Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson spoke at DePaul University last year, and have followed its work ever since. I am deeply flattered that Jamion, Janeth, and Eclasia responded to my questions– and I wish I was so articulate and assured in conversation..."


Monday, March 18, 2013

Beyond White Feminism

In their landmark book Some of Us Are Brave, Gloria Hull and Barbara Smith argue that in historical representations of women's and civil rights struggle, "all the women are white, and all the blacks are men." Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Betty Friedan. Gloria Steinem. Often, when "women's history" or feminism are portrayed in mainstream American textbooks, heroic white women take center stage. The women's movement is de-contextualized from the radical struggle for human rights, citizenship, visibility, and enfranchisement. There is little examination of the contemporary implications of white suffragists' racist, xenophobic opposition to the Fifteenth Amendment, the debt women's suffrage owes to abolitionism and Iroquois societies, or the modern civil rights movement's roots in black women's fight against domestic sexual terrorism. So how is feminism culturally relevant to young women and men of color today? On March 20-22nd Women's Leadership Project students will explore these issues at Gardena and Washington Prep High schools. Where: Social Justice Hall and Room H1 When: March 20-22nd 8:45-12:25.

Friday, February 22, 2013

WLP Scholar Karly Jeter: Passion for Medicine

Women’s Leadership Project student and Gardena High School senior Karly Jeter recently won a prestigious Posse Foundation Scholarship to attend the Hobart and William Smith Colleges in the fall as a pre-med student. She is a cancer survivor, and her experiences have inspired her to be an oncologist. Although she is passionate about science and medicine, Karly is typically only one of two or three black students in her Advanced Placement classes at Gardena. Reflecting back on her junior year, she recounted when her AP English teacher excluded her from a list of students (all Asian and Latino) he predicted would pass the mock AP exam. When she was one of the few who passed he accused her of cheating. In her chemistry class she and other African American students were routinely criticized by their teacher as having no other ambition in life besides playing sports. What are your career and college ambitions? I’m excited about going to a small campus and having small classes. I feel that I’ll be able to talk to professors more easily. I’m looking forward to studying abroad. I want to go to Korea or Japan. I took Japanese for two years. I don’t believe that Gardena has prepared me to go to college. Going into a medical program I’m expected to already know Calculus and Physics. Although GHS has these courses the teachers were mediocre. It will be complicated for me. Most of the students in my Posse are of color so they have similar experiences. How has being in WLP shaped your perspective on the issues that confront young women of color? It has opened my eyes to new realizations and allowed me to understand social issues better. I feel as though women of color are still downgraded. Today I interviewed a woman who was in the Iraq War and she was demeaned. I think that being African American has a lot to do with the way I’m perceived as not being capable enough. My teacher was shocked that I wanted to be an oncologist; he expected me to be a pediatrician. I’m not that fond of children anyway. I get that kind of prejudice very often. I only have one female oncologist and she is not taken as seriously as she should be. I feel that tension and I know that I will feel that in college because of the stereotypes that women of color don't have those aspirations.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Youth of Color College Panel: Talking Social Justice

Nationwide, youth of color continue to bear the brunt of the economic downturn. Young African American males have the highest unemployment rates in the nation and young black women are not far behind. According to the Pew Research Survey, whites have twenty times the wealth of African Americans and Latinos. In a 2003 study conducted by Princeton University researchers, white job seekers with criminal records were more likely to be offered a job than African American job seekers with no records and college degrees. Now more than ever before, equitable college access for black and Latino youth is a human rights imperative. On Wednesday, February 27th, youth of color graduates from Princeton, UCLA, USC and the California Institute of the Arts will discuss their paths to college and the challenges they've encountered vis-a-vis becoming academically prepared for college, encountering racism, sexism and homophobia on campus, finding college mentors, succeeding as an undocumented student and taking the next step to graduate school. Where: Washington Prep High School, Social Justice Hall, 11:25

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Everyday Struggles of Young Women of Color by Ariana Mercado

When I read ME by Sandra Manzanares, I could identify with her until the middle of her story where she falls victim to the roles society has placed on her and others and starts doubting who she really is. Sandra starts her story by saying “My heart, soul, brain, persona, eyes, smile, hair, skin-it’s all me. It’s what makes me.” I could identify with her up to this point because I also value myself and accept who I am and everything else that is part of me. The point in the story where I could no longer identify with Sandra was when she started to doubt herself because of what society led her to believe. She states in her story, “ I admit, sometimes I wonder if it would be better if we were all blue-eyed and blonde”, as I read this it sounded to me as if Hitler were talking because that is how Hitler envisioned the world to be perfect. I was shocked to see Sandra reiterate this very damaging standard of beauty that people of color are constantly measuring themselves against. I find that Sandra is working very hard on trying to understand identity as constructed by society more or less on her own because most adults (teachers, mentors, and parents) don’t want to talk about the effects of racism on us (young people). Perhaps adults believe if they just don’t talk about gender or racism, then it won’t exist in our lives. The truth is, that we see the effects of racism and gender bias everyday on television, on the internet, in the beliefs of teachers, friends, and ourselves. 

I'm Mixed Race by Ashley Jones

Recently, we (WLP members) read a passage on being mixed race by Sandra Manzanares published in a book called My Sisters' Voices. Sandra identifies as Hispanic and Black and talks about the difficulties of being part of different racial identities. 

I am of mixed race too...being Black and Thai, I understand some of the things that she went through. For example, if I do good on a test or in class, then some people will comment, "that's your Asian side." Although I am no longer surprised by such ignorant and uninvited comments, they have caused me to think about how young people perceive race and intelligence. If you were to ask these same people about race, they would tell you we are all equal and anyone can achieve anything they set their mind to, but when you listen to them talk at nutrition and lunch, you hear Blackness being constantly associated with violence, " being ghetto", and lack of intellectual abilities. Blackness is not the media stereotypes that too many youth of color confuse for authenticity. 

Things like this would sometimes get on my nerves, but I don't let it bother me now. I know who I am.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Jamion Allen on Dr. Kamela Heyward-Rotimi

On November 13, 2012 Dr. Kamela Heyward-Rotimi visited Washington Prep High School. She spent lunch with us, the Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) talking about her career, interests, and what its been like as an African-American woman pursuing her doctorate degree.

I enjoyed meeting Dr. Heyward-Rotimi. She is intelligent and sees certain things just as I do.
She talked to us about living in Nigeria. She was very honest about her experiences there. She related to us, that as an African-American she was made to feel out of place by Africans. She talked to us about how some Nigerians don’t believe that American born black communities have culture.
What stood out to me most about our conversation was when I mentioned to her that I want to leave my mark on this world.  She told me that I should set my sights on whatever I want to do because if I believe in myself and have a strategy to achieve my goals, then I will.

I will never forget meeting Dr. Kamela Heyward-Rotimi.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

WLP 2012 Highlights: Our Feminist Future

WLP LAUP/Wells Fargo Foundation scholarship winners
Class of '12

WLP/GSA Washington Prep, Day of Dialogue

2012 was an amazing year for WLP students and alumni.  Our girls made tremendous strides in leadership, public speaking, writing, college matriculation and academic excellence. In an era in which girls of color are routinely demonized in mainstream media and the dominant culture as hypersexual vixens and "baby mamas," WLP students have been leaders for feminist social change in their communities, teaching about and pushing back on gender justice. 

Leadership Outreach and Peer Education
WLP Wash Prep & GHS developed and facilitated Days of Dialogue, HIV/AIDS, reproductive justice, sexual assault awareness, AB540, media literacy and voter awareness presentations

WLP Wash Prep students registered new voters at Wash Prep and Duke Ellington HS
WLP launched Wash Prep's Gay/Straight Alliance
WLP students and alum developed and presented at the HRC’s annual Youth Media Education Conference
WLP alum joined with community partners Black Women for Wellness and FUEL to conduct four college panels at Wash Prep, GHS and Cal State Dominguez Hills
WLP Wash Prep president Jamion Allen spoke before the LAUSD Human Relations Commission on bullying and harassment
WLP presents on the 2012 election,
health & reproductive justice policy
WLP Wash Prep sponsored Chicano student movement activist and change agent Paula Crisostomo for Women's History Month & the Women of Color Speaker Series
Karly Jeter, Posse Winner '13
WLP GHS alums (class of '12) Janeth Silva, Brenda Briones, Liz Soria, and Jimena Villa formed a post high school AB-540 group called The Five DREAMers.  
Academic Excellence
WLP GHS member Karly Jeter (class of '13) won a full four year Posse Foundation Scholarship to the College of William & Mary in D.C.
WLP Wash Prep member Victory Yates (class of '13) was a finalist for a Posse Foundation Scholarship to Grinnell College
WLP GHS president Miani Giron (class of '12) won full scholarships from the Posse Foundation and the Horatio Alger Foundation
WLP GHS seniors & alum Lizeth Soria, Janeth Silva, Imani Moses, Brenda Briones, Mayra Burunda, Clay Wesley (class of '10), Miani Giron, Jimena Villa and Ronmely Andrade received community leadership "First in the Family" scholarships from the L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable and the Wells Fargo Foundation

Mayra Borunda (class of '10) made the President's List at CSU Long Beach during her first semester with a GPA of 3.8 and is currently on the Dean's List with a GPA of a 3.67.

Brenda  Briones (class of '12) got a 4.0 during her first college semester
WLP alum Liz Soria with
Diane & Sikivu
WLP Wash Prep, Victory Yates
Posse Finalist, '13
"In my home and in my community I have always understood that a higher education is not as important as having kids and staying home to clean and cook like a “real woman/ wife” does.
I think of 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."
                                                                       --Liz Soria

“After listening to (deputy city attorney) Heather Aubry talk about the challenges facing African Americans in the legal field I think I can make it through law school too…I felt much more motivated to pursue a legal career. ”
                                                                     --Victory Yates

WLP interns and alums,
Marlene, Imani, Mayra & Clay
Class of 2010 & 2011

“I never really questioned how the media portrays women of color. So, having WLP teach us how to observe and analyze the media helped me understand why young girls feel pressured to have ‘that long hair,’ ‘those blue eyes’—even if they are contacts, and “that nice body.” Aside from learning how to recognize these issues, we also did a lot of work to fight things that like sexual harassment. I know some people may say, ‘oh, just ignore it,’ but it’s not ok to ignore sexual harassment because by staying quiet, you begin to normalize it.”
                                                                                          --Imani Moses, Class of ’11 (CSULB)

Media & Publication
Articles by WLP GHS members Janeth Silva, Brenda Briones and Miani Giron were featured in the Feminist Wire, L.A. Progressive, USC Intersections and KPCC blog
Articles on WLP’s work by Sikivu Hutchinson and Diane Arellano were featured in the Feminist Wire, Racialicious, Arizona State University’s LeadCast blog, the American Humanist Association, Free Inquiry, Black Agenda Report and Alternet
Brenda Briones, author,
"Repro Justice Could
Save Lives..."
"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."

Janeth Silva, author,
"Undocumented & Unafraid"

"It is difficult to put into words the feelings that come over me each time I see military recruiters targeting my fellow peers. I’ve learned to recognize that look in their eyes when they know they’ve spotted an insecure senior who doesn’t have top grades and isn’t sure what to do after high school. From my point of view, they look like hungry lions hunting for meat. They lure students with false promises and use our hopes and dreams against us."