Women’s Leadership Project 2022 Year In Review
By: Kimberly Ortiz, WLP alum, 2022
Our annual WLP recap is here! As 2022 comes to an end, we would like to share our gratitude for the continuous support and growth we have had this year, especially from youth and community partners. We hope to continue improving our ways of giving back to the community! Now, without further adieu, let’s jump into the most memorable moments of the Women’s Leadership Project!
Missing & Murdered Community Action Rally
Starting with our Missing and Murdered Community Action Rally back on April 2, 2022. This event was sparked by the thought of drawing attention to the fact that there is little to no media coverage on the thousands of missing and murdered black girls, women, and queer youth. The #Standing4BlackGirls coalition worked with a coalition of Black gender justice groups in order to target this demand. The initiative allowed youth and the community to partake in bringing awareness of the problem and at the same time educate the minority on the dangers they continue to face with the lack of resources provided. The disproportionate media attention given to women of color and white women is significantly visible everyday. A crisis of Black Femicide exists due to the negligence of law enforcement. This pattern has impacted the negligence in media coverage, especially with an increase of narratives and stereotypes towards the Black community. Eradicating these narratives and spreading awareness of the crisis was the purpose of this event which was led by young activists and supported by the community. While the event took place WLP held an art-making station which consisted of creating posters to promote awareness so that when it was time to walk around Leimert Park everyone could hold signs up.
Press Source: Missing & Murdered
#Standing4BlackGirls Wellness Initiative
As we move forward, the Women’s Leadership Project continues to further implement the #Standing4BlackGirls Wellness Initiative. This initiative was a result that emerged after WLP youth Kimberly Ortiz (author) and Mariah Perkins created a survey and concluded that a majority of African American female identified students that had been survivors of sexual violence at local South L.A. high schools were not receiving any form of culturally responsive care. This became one of the demands we challenged ourselves with which has been in process since 2021 in partnership with Open Paths Counseling to continue to provide free individual counseling for LGBTQI+, Cis, Straight, Fem, Black, and BIPOC Girls across all LA County from ages 16-24 that are in need of it. We know there is a lack of resources in our community but what better way to provide support to survivors of violence than by giving them an opportunity to heal, seek peace, and cope with the trauma that is left behind. Allowing people to have the opportunity to better their mental health state is of significance which is why we continue to encourage you all to use these resources if you need them! Female-identified BIPOC youth can sign up to receive free therapy from Women of Color and BIPOC queer practitioners (for minor youth, the service is confidential under California’s minor consent laws).
Application and info: https://bit.ly/3hwrwTi
Classroom Presentations & LGBTQ/GLSEN Survey Outreach
The escalation of transphobic and homophobic assault has had a huge impact on the mental health and wellness of queer, trans, and gender nonconforming youth. During the spring semester, students led classroom presentations focusing on LGBTQI+ school climate, identity, and allyship. Utilizing GLSEN’s (Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network) school climate survey, to emphasize the power of pronouns, respecting the authentic gender identities of queer and transgender youth, and advocating for social justice change in their communities. Students came to the idea that schools should have an increase in consciousness about how there are more than two genders and implement this to their peers. The survey presentations were designed to assess social acceptance, inclusion, and representation of LGBTQI+ students on school campuses. Students are asked questions about the prevalence of LGBTQI+ affirming curricula at their schools, the existence/accessibility of teacher and administrator allies and the existence of safe spaces like GSAs, as well as incidences of bullying and harassment (across sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, and ability). 10th, 11th and 12th grade students Dafne Embarcadero, Lizette Nsilu, Mariah Perkins, Kaysea Duarte and Jasmine Onyeagoro led the charge during these presentations.
WLP students also continued with sexual violence and sexual harassment prevention education presentations at King-Drew Magnet High School. The youth focused on specific examples of sexual battery, rape, and harassment in dating relationships, friendships, marriages, social media, and school settings. They explored the dangerous impact that victim-shaming, blaming, gaslighting, and silencing have on sexual violence and harassment survivors, especially for girls of color and BIPOC queer youth.
We also covered these topics during our spring LGBTQ+ Youth of Color Retreat (pictured above), which was attended by middle and high school students from L.A. County: https://womensleadershipla.org/black-lgbtqi-youth-retreat-in-december/. It is important for us to recognize that change only happens when we do something about it.
2022 Lorraine Hansberry Humanist Scholarship
During July of 2022, the Women’s Leadership Project and Black Skeptics Los Angeles awarded scholarships to students who demonstrated excellence in BIPOC feminist leadership, organizing, activism, and academics. Graduating High School seniors received $1000 and continuing college students received $500. These multi-year college scholarships are designed to support WLP and Young Male Scholars’ youth through graduation. The majority of the recipients are first generation college students seeking to improve their community and pursue their goals. This scholarship is designed to continuously support the hardworking youth and help them achieve excellence. With the lack of resources given to students in the South LA community, we aspire to motivate students in fulfilling their careers. Opportunities like these provide them with guidance and mentoring when they most need it. We hope to provide this opportunity annually in order to emphasize the importance of education! The scholarship was generously supported by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Harrington Family Fund.
Here is how this scholarship has impacted some of our WLP students:
Kimberly Ortiz-Sanchez (author), 18 years old, Cal State University of L.A.
“When the #Standing4BlackGirls Task Force coalition was created, I remember gathering with all of our members and coming up with demands we wanted for this task force. The mentoring and guidance from Dr. Hutchinson and Clay Wesley led us to reach for more because we knew we were capable. One of the most significant #Standing4BlackGirls events we’ve had thus far was held at Leimert Park this past April. It focused on raising awareness for missing and murdered Black girls because media resources and the community were not doing enough to amplify a voice for these missing women. Feeling a passion for this type of change is what inspired me to pursue my dream profession. In the fall I will be pursuing a Criminal Justice major and minoring or double majoring in Chicano Studies. I love embracing hope and aspire to become someone my family is always proud of. Thank you to the Lorraine Hansberry Scholarship for providing me with the opportunity to continue these goals and thank you to my wonderful WLP family for always supporting me and making each meeting a positive place.”
Ashantee Polk, 19 years old, L.A. City College and Antioch University
“I aspire to earn a doctorate in Psychology. The most important WLP activity to me is when we conducted Young Women of Color Health and LGBTQI+ empowerment surveys at my alma mater King/Drew Magnet High School. Safety for Black and Brown women is not talked about at schools enough and in particular at my high school. Microaggressions occurred, and we’re never highlighted, but WLP changed that and helped shed light on this issue of Black and Brown women on campus.”
October #Standing4BlackGirls Task Force & Rally (Photos by Bluegreen and Zorrie Petrus)
This was our 3rd annual #Standing4BlackGirls Task Force Rally Community Action to End Rape Culture. As mentioned before, raising awareness about the prevalence of sexual violence, domestic violence, and sexual abuse has become essential. Black women and girls between the ages of 15–35 are more likely to die from domestic and intimate partner violence than are non-Black women and girls. Approximately 60% of Black girls have experienced some form of sexual abuse by the time they are 18 and Black girls report in-school sexual harassment at higher rates than other groups. Globally, domestic and sexual violence rates have skyrocketed since the pandemic began, highlighting already existing socioeconomic disparities within vulnerable communities of color where access to preventive health care is limited. The message we are trying to give out is essentially that girls of color matter, specifically Black girls and women. So many missing and murdered women are silenced and ignored. The sexualization of women on social media, and toxic narratives about Black women, criminalize them and make them go unheard. We want to shut down that mindset and narrative which revolves around the coalition name, #Standing4BlackGirls. If you’re interested in participating in the coalition or supporting this annual rally, feel free to contact us here or check out our website for more info: www.womensleadershipla.org. We welcome anyone and everyone.
Recap on October 22, 2022 Rally, by WLP alumni Zorrie Petrus:
Our demands continue to be developed and implemented as part of our tasks. We would like to further add onto what we have listed as our main demands and focus on other issues that may come. For the past year, WLP alumnus Brianna Parnell has served as the #Standing4BlackGirls coordinator.
Black & Youth of Color LGBTQ+ Retreat and Institute (Design by Brianna Parnell)
Our annual Youth of Color LGBTQ+ Institute occurred on December 3rd to establish a Black queer-affirming space for middle and high school youth in our communities. Although it is becoming more common for Black youth to identify as queer, there are few safe spaces for Black LGBTQIA+ youth in our communities. Black and BIPOC youth from L.A. County participated in a youth-facilitated retreat focusing on mental health, social justice leadership, safe space creation, yoga, music, literature and artmaking. The session was a pilot for a Black queer youth camp in 2023. Many of the students were able to learn about different perspectives on beauty and cultural identity and educated themselves more on how they all deserve to be heard, seen, and loved. As the event came to an end, everyone had the opportunity to learn the history of Ballroom and vogueing culture. Youth also had the opportunity to explore the outdoor space and photograph things they found beautiful or felt at peace with.
Here’s a recap video on the event by WLP alumnus Zorrie Petrus:
Heart of Humanism, Positive Results Center and Supervisorial District 2 Awards and Recognitions
This fall, WLP and Dr. H received several awards of recognition for our community advocacy, gender justice, and health prevention education work. In September, Dr. H received Go Humanity’s Heart of Humanism award which “recognizes an individual who exemplifies humanist values”. We also received recognition from the Positive Results Center (pictured above) for our work on domestic and intimate partner violence prevention education. WLP also received a scroll from Supervisor Holly Mitchell’s office during our #S4BG rally.
Heart of Humanism Award Acceptance Video:
Youth Political Education Forum on the 2022 Midterms
Gen Z youth played a huge role in turning the tide of the November 2022 midterms by beating back a GOP onslaught. On November 4th, WLP youth spearheaded a forum to raise awareness about racial and gender justice issues that were not being widely discussed in mainstream media. During the event, WLP youth engaged with their peers, activist-journalist Slauson Girl and the Black Women’s Democratic Club on California propositions, health care, homelessness, LGBTQI+ rights and abortion rights. Youth speakers Lizette Nsilu and Brianna Parnell spoke about the impact of disproportionate policing on communities of color and the importance of mental health care for LGBTQI+ communities and youth of color.
Forum video excerpt by Zorrie Petrus:
WLP Commentary on KPFK’s Rebel Alliance News
In December, WLP was invited to provide commentary for KPFK 90.7 FM’s Wednesday evening Rebel Alliance News by producer/journalist Angela Birdsong. WLP youth leaders Ashantee Polk, Mariah Perkins, and Jadyn Taylor were the first commentators to be featured. They spoke on Black girls and sex trafficking, colorism, and skyrocketing rates of femicide in Black and Latinx communities across the globe.
A long time WLP community partner, Ms. Birdsong is a Los Angeles native who is shaking up the media space with her groundbreaking media production company, MTAS (More Than A Sparrow) Productions and her online podcast, Conversation Piece. Along with Conversation Piece, heard weekly on RadioJustice.org (now on hiatus) and select segments on Pacifica’s award-winning Liberated Sisters, Ms. Birdsong brings over a decade of multimedia experience. Her portfolio includes news writing, news production and editing, anchoring, scriptwriting and her signature, syndicated Weekly Community Calendar for programs on Pacifica Network Los Angeles’ 90.7 FM-KPFK Radio. She has also been published in the national press and California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services for her news reporting on the United States Census, Hunger in America, and Health Impacts of Climate Change in the USA and Worldwide, to name a few print and broadcast news reports.
We spoke to Ms. Birdsong about her decision to invite WLP on and the direction of Rebel Alliance News:
Why was it important to include WLP on KPFK’s Evening News?
With an opportunity to bring in topics and voices that are not heard on mainstream media nor on community radio locally, nationally or globally, I knew without a doubt Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) would and could deliver based on the training and education WLP provides to its students, the serious subject matter of their blogs and reports, and the grassroot’s community organizing they consistently do, along with the fierce leadership of Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson and her staff. WLP talks it and walks it! It is time for this generation, for WLP to be heard on a larger platform like KPFK Rebel Alliance News.
KPFK Rebel Alliance News is excited to bring back progressive news to Southern California and connect with the local community! Hour-long evening newscasts produced locally with international, national and state inputs but a strong dose of the beats that are shaping life in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, with periodic reports from Orange County, Long Beach, the Inland Empire, Ventura/Santa Barbara and San Diego. This is an all volunteer news-gathering, editing and broadcast operation, Monday through Friday at 6 PM, complete with commentaries and cultural coverage and your audio letters to the editors.
As we conclude our Year in Review, we would like to share with you our 2022 New Year’s resolution and reflect on everything that was successful this year! We aspire to continue bettering our mindset and persevering in everything we do. We want to continue seeking solutions and implementing an action plan to our demands. We believe it is important to have clarity in our strategic plans so we will implement new goals and strengthen our work where it is needed. In addition to all of this we will continue practicing self care and emphasize the importance of mental health, especially to our youth. Bettering ourselves will not only strengthen us but our community as well. We want to spearhead many more events successfully with the help of you all. Thanks for the support of the California Black Freedom Foundation, Black Skeptics L.A., Open Paths Counseling, the Harrington Family, Bredvold Foundation, Freedom From Religion Foundation and community donors. Happy Holidays!
Remember to stay up to date with some of our main social media platforms:
Check out some of our WLP videos: https://womensleadershipla.org/videos/
Happy New Year!!
Hi there! My name is Kimberly Ortiz, I’m an 18 year old WLP Alum. I’ve been working with WLP for 3 years (Class of 2022). I’m currently a first year college student at Cal State University of L.A and am working towards becoming a Criminal Justice major. Some of my personal interests include: reading, painting, site seeing, and volunteer work. My involvement with WLP has led me to enjoy working with students and providing mentoring and tutoring assistance. I enjoy working with people and providing them with a safe space to make them feel comfortable because I think that’s important. I’ve recently done research work exploring the injustices towards women and POC who face street violence and sexual exploitation due to poor working conditions and being excluded as low income minorities. Overall, I am working to improve both myself as a person and my community. I am excited to see what the new year brings and look forward to working with WLP to create more events.