Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Future of Feminism 2017

WLP feminism panel
On May 25th, approximately 130 youth and adult attendees participated in the “Future of Feminism” conference for girls of color and allies of all genders at the Foundation Center in South L.A.  Spearheaded by young women of color with a focus on intersectional feminism, the L.A. County Human Relations Commission and Women’s Leadership Project conference was the first of its kind in South L.A.  Participating schools and organizations included Dorsey High School, King-Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, Gardena High School, Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, Fremont High School, LAUSD School Police, David & Margaret Youth and
Family Services, Barrio Youth in Action and the L.A. Commission for Children and Families.  Students attended youth-led workshops on the intersection of sexual violence and homelessness; media representation, mental
MC HS: Intersectionality, Sexual Violence & Homelessness
health and intimate partner violence; combatting every day sexism, racism, colorism and heterosexism at school campuses; redressing the school-to-prison pipeline through transformative justice; and deconstructing transphobia and homophobia through the examination of social norms such as dress, speech and gender-coded
behavior.  Partner organizations Youth Justice Coalition, Media Done Responsibly,
Clay Wesley & Kennedy Moore
Peace Over Violence and the GSA Network (in collaboration with Fremont HS and the Trans Youth Support Network) provided support.  The conference was emceed by WLP alums Kennedy Moore (2016) and Clay Wesley (2009).  WLP health educator Issachar Curbeon opened the event with a video highlighting WLP youth perspectives on intersectional feminism.  Issachar and former WLP intern Marlene Montanez co-
Challenging 'Isms: Heterosexism, colorism & sexism
moderated a feminism and advocacy panel featuring WLP college alum from UCLA, UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, Mt St Mary's University, CSUN, CSULB, El Camino College and UCSC.  Panelists Miani Giron, Liz Soria, Marenda Kyle, Dercy De La Cruz and DJ/activist Kumi James gave their perspectives on identity, colorism,
GSA/Trans Youth Support Network Gender Box museum
navigating racism/sexism and white supremacy in academia, pushing back against Eurocentric beauty standards, and community activism.  The event concluded with a commentary and presentation by King-Drew Leadership and Feminism Club students on the Vagina Monologues and its significance for women's rights, civil liberties, free speech and feminist self-determination.  The reading was based on a student-led production mounted at King-Drew during the spring semester for Women’s Day, a mandatory
school-wide event focusing on gender justice and anti-sexism.  St. John’s Health Center, the Youth Justice Coalition and the Positive Results Corporation provided informational resource tables for conference participants. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


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.