Women’s Leadership Project 2023 Recap: Defining Ourselves, For Ourselves

S4BG June 22 press conference

By Kimberly Ortiz

As 2023 comes to a close, and WLP prepares to start the new year, we would like to highlight important events that shaped the year:

GLSEN LGBTQ+ Survey Presentations 

Lawnie and Dafne discuss the Genderbread Unicorn

Since 2019, WLP has conducted GLSEN (Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network) campus climate survey presentations at our partner schools. The GLSEN survey is based on LGBTQI+ school climate, curricula, allyship, and identity. It focuses on the power of pronouns, respecting the authentic gender identities of queer and transgender youth, and advocating for social justice change in their communities. In addition, 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). Survey presentations were conducted at Gardena High School and King Drew Magnet HS. 

Some of the questions covered in the survey include: 

  • When homophobic remarks are made and a teacher or other school staff person is present, how often does the teacher or staff person intervene or do something about it? 

  • How many books or other resources in your school library contain information about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, history or events?

Black Women in Journalism forum at King-Drew HS

Black women in Journalism

 

On February 23, 2023 WLP hosted a forum on Black Women in Journalism at King-Drew Magnet High School. Black women writers and publishers are severely underrepresented in print and broadcast journalism. Although trailblazing activist-journalist-publisher Ida B. Wells challenged white supremacy, misogynoir, and respectability politics in American publishing, the underrepresentation of Black women is still visible in the world of journalism. The forum connected Gen Z Black writers and journalists with Black women mentors who are centering Black women’s voices and stories in local, national, and international journalism. The event featured journalists Angela Birdsong, Abene Clayton and Tina Sampay, aka “Slauson Girl”. 

Check out a clip of the forum on Instagram: @wlproject_

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CpvYD0is9P2/?igsh=NmJiYWZiY2E0Mg%3D%3D

For more information on this visit our website: https://womensleadershipla.org/problem-children-disrupting-toxic-narratives-about-black-students/ 

Black Queer Generations Forum at King-Drew HS

On March 15, 2023, WLP and Black Skeptics L.A. youth facilitated Black Queer Generations mentoring forum at King-Drew HS featuring Black Millennial writers and filmmakers Donnie Hue Frazier, Vanessa Lewis, and Deana Williams discussing their challenges and triumphs growing up as Black and queer while navigating homophobia, transphobia and anti-blackness in their school-communities, forging successful creative-activist careers and pursuing their life goals. King-Drew alum Vanessa discussed the difficulty of navigating homophobia, sexism, and anti-blackness in high school and South L.A., and the importance of finding mentors and allies: “I wanted to use my writing to have hard and difficult conversations that we don’t talk enough about.” Donnie shared his film work on uplifting the stories of HIV positive Black gay men and discussed the importance of finding one’s voice in art.

Black Queer Generations Youth Forum

Please check out excerpts from the forum here:

Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Peer Education Trainings and Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQIA+ Youth Trainings

Brianna Parnell, Zorrie Petrus and Imani Moses (GHS/WLP alumni)

During the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years, WLP adult and peer educators conducted four-to-five week health class training modules that centered on four subject areas: intimate partner violence, sexual violence and sexual harassment, sex trafficking and creating safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ youth. These interactive sessions were held weekly, and posed some of the following questions: What constitutes a healthy relationship? What is the difference between coercion and consent? What media images and messages normalize sexual and domestic violence against Black girls and women of color? What are victim-blaming, victim-shaming and gaslighting? What is sexual battery? What is bodily autonomy and why is it paramount for Black girls and Black queer youth? How can Black girls and girls of color maintain their self-identity, mental health, and wellbeing in school and community spaces that systematically devalue and adultify them? How do toxic homophobic and transphobic stereotypes marginalize male victims of sexual violence? How can men and boys be allies in disrupting rape culture and domestic violence?

In an informal 2020 survey with Black and BIPOC female-identified South L.A. youth, a majority of respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment and intimate partner relationship stress, underscoring the need for wraparound culturally responsive prevention education.

In order to combat homophobia and transphobia on their campuses, WLP youth peer educators speak candidly about the importance of respect, boundaries, critical consciousness, chosen family, and creating intentional safe school-community spaces for Black and BIPOC queer youth. Youth also discuss the role the media, society, and organized religion play in vilifying queer communities, and how youth can combat these toxic dynamics. Check out how some of the youth and adult mentors at our spring LGBTQ+ Youth of Color institute put these methods into practice!

For more information on scheduling WLP’s youth-focused prevention education outreach and instruction at your school site, please contact jessicarobinsonwlp@gmail.com.

#Standing4BlackGirls Murdered and Missing Rally 

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On April 15, 2023, the #Standing4BlackGirls coalition held its second annual “Missing and Murdered” rally to amplify the lives of Black women and girls who have gone missing and/or been victims of homicide.  Black women are 2.5 times more likely to die from homicide than are non-Black women; most often at the hands of someone they know. Dr. Ronda Hampton was a featured speaker at the rally.  For over a decade, Dr. Hampton has been unwavering in her efforts to raise awareness about Mitrice Richardson, her former mentee. Mitrice was a 24-year-old African-American queer young woman who went missing on September 17, 2009, after police released her from a jail in Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. Mitrice was subsequently murdered by an unknown assailant(s) and her case remains unsolved amidst allegations of misconduct by the L.A. Sheriffs’ Department. 

The following is an open letter to Mitrice by Dr. Hampton:

“Happy Birthday Mitrice, I still think about you every day. I continue to strategize ways to get the LASD to re-open your case , if it was ever really opened in the first place. I spoke at an event recently, #Standing4Blackgirls, and told your story. What I did not know at the time you went missing and your skeletal remains were discovered was that although Black women are disproportionately likely to go missing, murdered and victims of human trafficking, we are the least likely to get media coverage or attention from law enforcement. Along the way I learned the phrase “Missing White Woman’s Syndrome” – I did not understand that term in 2009, but now it all makes sense why Dr. Phil and his team approached us about doing your story but only under the condition that we lie about the circumstances of your missing status to bring in more ratings. When we would not lie, he flew to Virginia to cover the story of a missing white girl. 

The lack of concern and attention to missing and murdered Black women also explains why Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and other prominent Black leaders were not interested in having rallies for you or assisting in any way. Gloria Allred, the defender of women’s rights, also refused to help. I can even remember begging Mark Ridley Thomas from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to reinstate a reward in your name – he refused. Mark Ridley Thomas was recently found guilty of bribery and conspiracy. He is facing prison time. Former Sheriff Lee Baca, who was the sheriff when you went missing, served time in federal prison for corruption as well as Paul Tanaka the former undersheriff. I pleaded with both of these men to assist with your case and they just stood by and protected the department. That also goes for former Sheriff Alex Villanueva who vowed to assist in your case if elected, he was elected and I assisted his campaign in many ways but after he was elected, he became drunk with power. He did not get elected for a second term and now we have a new sheriff, Robert Luna, who really has no interest in your case at all. Sheron Cummings, the jailer who released you in the middle of the night has recently retired from the department. Maybe she will now come forward with what she knows and she knows something. Tom Martin, the captain of the Lost Hills station who hid the video of you when you were in custody was accused and investigated for rape. He denies the accusations and of course he was investigated by his own department and cleared. He is retired. Tui Wright, the head of the Malibu Search and Rescue team and who made no effort to steer the searches for you in the area you were last seen and subsequently found, retired under a bit of scandal when he interfered with the investigation of the murder of Tristan Beaudette. 

The officer who arrested you, Armando Loureiro, is in a lawsuit against the department because he was suspended for 20 days after terrorizing a minor on a bicycle and then stealing the bike. 

As for me, I have found some peace in helping other families of those who have gone missing and I wrote a children’s book called Amber Goes Missing which will be released May 7th (now available on Amazon). The book is actually part of a book series which features The Skool Kids which is focused on safety issues. I self published the book for many reasons. I call the publishing company Mitrice Media Inc.

Take care my friend,

Ronda” 

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WLP takes this rally as a form of bringing attention to the unsettling situation of Black women that go missing and whose lives are never covered on any form of media. Every year, tens of thousands of Black girls go missing, while four Black girls or women are killed nearly every single day in America. Black women are only 14% of the population, yet we make up over 40% of those who are missing. Now, if this isn’t alarming, I don’t know what is. According to vpc.org, Black women are three times more likely to be murdered than white women. 56% of these homicides are committed by a current or former intimate partner, and 92% of these killings are committed by a Black man against a Black woman. So, not only are Black women targeted more, but also more likely to be murdered by people they trust and people that come from the same ethnic background or race. That is not acceptable. #Standing4BlackGirls seeks to be a voice to change these conditions. 

Here is a video on a performance during the rally by Zorrie Petrus and Sikivu Hutchinson: 

Here is a video showing a recap on our Missing and Murdered Rally:

 LGBTQIA+ Youth of Color Institute 

On April 27, 2023, WLP and community partners held the Fifth annual LGBTQIA+ Youth of Color institute at Stoneview Nature Center. The session was facilitated by WLP alumni youth leaders Brianna Parnell and Jadyn Taylor. Students participated in sessions on filmmaking and writing, healing justice, spoken word poetry, music and social justice advocacy. 

Filmmaker Donnie Hue Frazier, Grief doula Nina Bailey, writer and artist Vanessa Lewis, spoken word artist Curly Dynamite, and REACH L.A. ‘s Victor Marroquin provided powerful mentoring presentations. Shout out of thanks to partners Amaad Institute, Reach L.A., Gender and Sexuality Alliance Network (GSAN) and the Black LGBTQ+ Parent and Caregiver group! 

Here is a link that recaps a day in the LGBTQI+ Youth Institute with WLP:

Malibu Lagoon State Beach Field Trip

During the month of May, WLP students, alum, and staff had a great time visiting the Malibu Lagoon State Park with the Community Nature Connection Program hosted by Zee Zetino. The trip was an environmental education excursion in which youth learned about Indigenous coastal environments, native plants, and wildlife. The trip also taught students about the water cycle and why conservation is critical for BIPOC communities. 

A fun fact that students learned while on this trip was about the historical significance of Malibu land itself. Malibu Lagoon was once known as Humaliwo Lagoon and its name means: “Where the surf sounds loudly”. Humaliwo was the name of the Chumash village that was located on the land now commonly known as Malibu. Students also had an opportunity to practice writing haikus about the environment.  Haikus are a type of short form poetry that consists of three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.  

Lorraine Hansberry Humanist Scholarship Awardees

In June, nine WLP and YMS students received $500-$1000 scholarships for their consistent advocacy and civic engagement. Congratulations to Asha Kent, Ashantee Polk, Mariah Perkins, Lizette Nsilu, Lizeth Tecuapetla, Deaven Rector, Brianna Parnell, Zorrie Petrus, and Kim!

#Standing4BlackGirls Press Conference 

On June 22, 2023, the #Standing4BlackGirls coalition held a press conference at City Council District 8 headquarters in South L.A. to amplify the surge in violence against Black women and girls in L.A. and call for mental health, safe spaces, and violence prevention resources. Black women and girls are 4.3% of the City of Los Angeles’ population, yet according to the City Civil and Human Rights and Equity departmentthey represent between 25-33% of female violence victims, experiencing record rates of gun homicide, rape, and domestic violence. In response to the City’s lack of accountability to Black women, Black girls, and Black gender expansive communities, the #Standing4BlackGirls coalition is calling for targeted prevention, mental health, and youth leadership initiatives for Black women and girls across sexuality. WLP was joined by the Positive Results Center, the California Black Women’s Health Project, the Young Women’s Freedom Center and activists Suzette Shaw, Dr. Ronda Hamptona and Kathy Evans. Speakers emphasized support for Black queer youth and expressed the need to bring greater awareness to these outrageous statistics by focusing resources on Black girls, who also have the highest rates of domestic sex trafficking in L.A. and in the nation. 

Lizette Nsilu, Jessica Robinson, Brianna Parnell and Kathy Evans

Video on the press conference by WLP alumnus Zorrie Petrus:

Video on Sikivu Hutchinson’s speech on Violence against Black Women:

WLP at the L.A. City Council on #Standing4BlackGirls

On August 9th, Sikivu, Jessica and Tomorrie spoke on the #Standing4BlackGirls coalition and WLP during public comment at the L.A. City Council meeting. Earlier that month, WLP and #S4BG launched a youth-focused letter writing campaign to Mayor Karen Bass. The letter outlines eight demands to create dedicated funding for targeted prevention education programming, mental health supports, and safe spaces for Black girls and Black gender expansive youth. Community members who are interested in supporting the campaign by sending in a letter, can check out our template and instruction guide to submit and support. 

Stand Up for Black Girls

WLP interns Kimberly Ortiz and Lizette Nsilu submitted their letter in support of the campaign. 

Kimberly’s letter stated, “As an 18 year-old student activist member of the Women’s Leadership Project,  and a first generation Latina college student from Watts, I am concerned about the surge in violence against Black women and girls because suicide rates among middle school and high school aged Black girls ages 12-14 increased by 59% from 2003-2019. This is a statistic that grounded me more in the aspect of how little attention is given to Black and Brown girls’ mental health. Reflecting upon South L.A., we are in need of serious support that can empower the community to be more united. Growing up, I have been a witness to the struggles of poverty, lack of energy due to stress or anxiety from school, or simply feeling constant exposure to violent crime. Suicide is not something that should be taken lightly. Oftentimes, the “signs” or “symptoms” never even showed because  people repress them . Unfortunately, the reality is that there is little to no culturally responsive therapy available to young girls of color in our communities. The mental health resources that are available in our communities are not inclusive and don’t make  young women and girls of color feel safe. I would personally love to witness the impact that culturally responsive mental health resources can have on the lives of  young girls like me and my peers.

Lizette’s letter stated, “As an 18 year old first-year college student and a #Standing4Black Girls and LGBTQIA+ activist, I am deeply concerned about the surge in violence against Black women and girls in L.A. During my 10th grade year, an old peer of mine from middle school committed suicide. Her death had a negative effect on my peers and everyone who knew her. Nationwide, suicide rates among middle school and high school-aged Black girls (12-14) increased by 59% from 2003-2019. These statistics hit harder when the people you pass every day in the hallways fall victim to it. From the perspective of Black girls, seeing another Black girl commit suicide, whether you know them or not, is becoming alarmingly “normal.” Consequently, one of our coalition demands centers on creating dedicated funding for targeted prevention education programming, mental health supports, and safe spaces for Black girls and Black gender expansive youth. This could have a big impact on decreasing suicide rates for Black girls who look like me.” 

For more on campaign letters please visit our website: www.womensleadershipla.org 

Here is the link to footage of WLP statements made during the meeting:

 

 Summer Youth Art Institute at Stoneview Nature Center 

On August 4, 2023, The Women’s Leadership Project sponsored an Art Institute, OUR ART, OUR HEALING, OUR POWER, at the Stoneview Nature Center in Culver City, CA. High School and Middle School students from Los Angeles joined in a safe space to explore Art as a tool for healing, empowerment, and fun. The Institute was enthusiastically led and facilitated by WLP student interns Kimberly Ortiz, a sophomore at Cal State LA, and Lizette Nsilu, a freshman at El Camino College. 

Approximately fifteen students began the day with an outside breakfast and an affirmation Ice Breaker, where each participant shared a personal affirmation. WLP member and Hamilton High School student Jasmine Hutchinson Kelley shared, “I have the courage to be vulnerable in my artistic expression.” Other affirmations included, “I deserve safety, peace, and abundance” and “I am worthy of all the love I receive.” Breakfast was followed by a Yoga session under the Nature Center trees, led by the Yoga Tree co-op. 

Hip hop artist and African American Studies professor IFe JIe was the first guest artist and presenter. She began her presentation with an original rap performance. The presentation titled #RealBlackGirls Women in Hip Hop detailed the history of Black women Hip Hop artists who embraced their power in the male-dominated Hip Hop world. IFe JIe ended her presentation with the audience participating in a dance circle.

Jai Ferrell is a therapist and representative from Grow Ur Potential, an organization committed to ethical mental health support for youth and families; they work with community organizers and award financial scholarships for strength-based, culturally responsive mental health resourcing. Jai discussed how visual art-making can be used to free tension and aid in mental health. During a break-out session, Jai allowed students to create a painting on a canvas, using different colors to express emotions. 

After a catered lunch,  Donnie Hue Frazier, actor, activist, and filmmaker, led a powerful discussion titled “Our Stories Have the Power to Heal.” Donnie shared how screenwriting and producing his original work is therapeutic for him and, at the same time, inspires others. Students gave examples of stories and films that inspired them. They were encouraged to tell stories in multiple formats, such as filmmaking, writing, and visual and performing arts.

Before dismissal, Jeremy T. Mitchell, also known as Jet Finley, showcased his talents with a Vogue history and dance class. Students, Interns, Chaperons, and presenters participated in the live voguing class. The class culminated with a Vogue Battle, where a WLP member Bri, was awarded $100 for the win! 

#Standing4BlackGirls Theme Song Video Shoot

Zorrie Petrus, Jasmine Mcgruder and Sikivu

We would like to mention that we released the #Standing4BlackGirls Theme Song at our Art Healing Institute which was filmed at Stoneview Nature center as well. If you would like to check out the song on Spotify or watch the video please click here: #S4BG Theme Song

WLP/BSLA DC trip

In early October, representatives of Black Skeptics Los Angeles and WLP, traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the 2023 Peer – to – Peer National American Rescue Plan (ARP) Grantee Convening. The team, led by founder Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Program Director Jessica Robinson, Program Manager Tomorrie Cook, and Program Coordinator Eclasia (Clay) Wesley, spent 4 days at the beautiful and lush Omni Shoreham Hotel, meeting, and networking with like-minded professionals in the field, exchanging best practices, and discussing the importance of culturally specific programming and storytelling as key aspects of fighting sexual and domestic violence. 

WLP Staff, Tomorrie Cook highlighted the trip on WLP’s website. She stated,  “The American Rescue Plan, enacted in 2021, was a critical piece of legislation designed to address the immediate and long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this initiative, significant funding was allocated to support organizations working to combat sexual and domestic violence in culturally specific ways.  The peer – to – Peer Convening was a platform to connect individuals and organizations working towards the shared goal of eliminating sexual assault and domestic violence in their communities and across the United States.

Ujima, The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community , who administer the Building the Capacity of Black Programs Initiative funding to Black Skeptics Los Angeles, Women’s Leadership Project joined with other prominent national organizations including The Alaskan Native Women’s Resource Center, The Asian Pacific Institute on Gender Based Violence, Esperanza United, Mujeres Latinas en Accion, The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc., and The National Organization of Asians & Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence to host agencies and advocates from across the nation, highlighting the diversity of cultures represented. Each day began with a celebration of diversity, and most of the workshops centered on exploring ways in which agencies provide services that are responsive to the unique cultural needs of the communities being served or the specific challenges that communities of color face. As Jessica Robinson noted, “honoring culture was definitely the theme! I loved connecting with people from all over from – Guam to Idaho! And I am looking forward to attending more conferences so that we can stay fueled to do this work!” 

The workshops were informative and poignant and offered various daily sub-sessions so that anyone from Executive Leadership to those new to the work could tailor their experience at the conference to meet their needs. Among the favorite workshops was Addressing Anti Blackness: Framing Culturally Specific Programming, Community Engagement, and Organizational Sustainability presented by Dr. Aleese Moore-Orbih, Executive Director of California Partnership to End Domestic Violence in Sacramento, CA  who pulled no punches about being unapologetically Black (and why she hates the term BIPOC which lumps people and their cultural differences all together), and the challenges that Black organizations continue to face including limited access to funding. 

Tomorrie Cook shared that in addition to participating in lectures, workshops and roundtables, another highlight for her was visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, stating, “visiting the museum really contextualized why it is important for us to continue to Stand for Black Girls! Walking through the exhibits was sometimes a painful reminder of our history in this country, but also a testament to our resiliency and beauty.” 

According to Dr. Hutchinson, participating in the Convening “reinforced the validity and critical impact of our work.” While Clay remarked that she enjoyed it all, even spending time recharging by the pool and eating good food. She was left “inspired and ready” for the upcoming Fall and Winter activities that WLP has planned.  

#Standing4BlackGirls Rally to end Rape Culture and Sexual Violence

On October 28, 2023 the #Standing4BlackGirls coalition held its fourth annual community action and rally to end rape culture and sexual violence against Black women, girls and queer youth in Leimert Park. According to the Black Women’s Blueprint, by the time they are 18, approximately 60% of Black girls will have experienced some form of sexual abuse. Artist-musicians Lizzy Jeff, Ife Jie, and Honey Blu participated, in addition to community partners Planned Parenthood, Young Women’s Freedom Center, L.A. Trade Tech BSU, Blended Berries, and Butter Influence. Coalition members Suzette Shaw, Dr. Ronda Hampton and Kathy Evans were also featured speakers.

According to the CDC, teen girls are experiencing record levels of violence, sadness, and suicide risk, 60% reported feeling perisstent sadness and depression, relative to teen boys. These traumas are attributable in part to the high rates of sexual harassment and sexual violence girls are experiencing across the nation.

Clay Wesley (WLP, 2009) and Imani Moses (WLP, 2011)

Dr. Ronda Hampton

L.A. Trade Tech BSU and Ife Jie

Sikivu and Honey Blu

From my perspective as a WLP intern, “I am really proud of how far #Standing4BlackGirls has come. I remember when we did our first rally we tried our best to get as many people as possible to participate and show support to this community involved event especially knowing we purposefully placed ourselves in a predominantly Black area where people tend to support each other more when things like this happen. I love seeing how the Leimert community always celebrates with us whether that is by honking their cars in support, or taking pictures of us and chanting with us. All of that love attracts more attention. This coalition has taught me so much in regards to the lack of awareness and media attention and I definitely want us to be able to expand more. I noticed in the last two years we have started getting more  attention from local news sources and more vendors have started wanting to work with us in support. All of these small things make a huge impact and just like that #Standing4BlackGirls will make an impact on someone. I am happy to be a part of something like this and these rallies really can change someone’s life.”  

Young Women’s Freedom Center organizer DeAnna Pittman and colleagues

Rapper Lizzy Jeff

Our #Standing4BlackGirls coalition also aims to remember the victims of sexual violence, rape, and domestic violence. Many women are often targeted and labeled by society. Oftentimes many may hear harsh sayings such as, “she asked for it” “she deserved it”. Black women and women of color are more likely to suffer from sexual and domestic violence. The unfortunate situation is that in areas where these kinds of abuses are occurring, there are no resources to help victims and sometimes the signs are not visible at first sight. Some are afraid to speak up for fear of being shunned by society, or fear of getting killed by their abuser. In addition, 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.

Black LGBTQIA+ Youth Institute

Reach L.A. presentation

On December 1st, the Women’s Leadership Project, Black Skeptics L.A., REACH L.A., Project Q and other community partners held the third annual Black LGBTQIA+ Youth institute at Stoneview Nature Center in Culver City. The session was facilitated by WLP youth interns and alumni, Ashantee Polk (Class of 2020) and Brianna Parnell (Class of 2019). Forty youth and adults participated in group mental health and wellness activities, school and community climate assessments, music therapy, theater, prose writing and yoga workshops that focused on culturally responsive Black LGBTQIA+ community building and safe space creation. Community partners Project Q and REACH L.A. presented their work. Under the direction of WLP project director Jessica Robinson, WLP King-Drew students Lawnie, Nazir, and Kaysea performed an introduction to the forthcoming youth theater performance #PRIDE. #PRIDE amplifies BIPOC queer and feminist identities.

Poetry workshop with Sikivu

Students also had an opportunity to view a Black LGBTQIA+ history lesson video by Cynthia Ruffin of the Amaad Institute and discuss George M. Johnson’s groundbreaking “queer memoir-manifesto” All Boys Aren’t Blue. Middle and high school students from King-Drew, Mann UCLA and Hamilton HS attended and expressed that they felt “seen” and “affirmed”. One Hamilton student commented, “I wouldn’t improve or change anything about the (institute) sessions. I think they were amazing and they (WLP) need to continue this further.” The institute capped off a busy three weeks for WLP/BSLA LGBTQIA+ focused programming. 

Our institutes strive to provide safe spaces for students, teach them about different aspects of life, and expose them to new settings that allow them to engage with nature and the environment. Oftentimes, our institutes allow them to bond with their peers and the community. We also want to highlight that we bring care to our students by providing meals and fun prizes as a reward for their time and love!

Here is a video highlighting what a typical Black LGBTQ+ Youth Institute day is like:

 WLP’s Women of Color Book Club highlights All Boys Aren’t Blue and King and the Dragonflies

Jessica, Brianna and Tomorrie at Stoneview Nature Center

On November 26th, WLP held a book club discussion on Kacen Callender’s riveting LGBTQ+ YA middle school novel King and the Dragonflies. The discussion was facilitated by WLP program manager Tomorrie Cook and centered on identity, family and friend relationships, coming out, navigating homophobia and racism, as well as grief, trauma, and the emotional bonds between siblings. This particular session was a follow-up from our end of the summer kick off discussion on King in September. Earlier this year, our book club focused on George M. Johnson’s “memoir manifesto” All Boys Aren’t Blue, which is one of the most banned books in the nation. Johnson’s book focuses on his upbringing as a gender nonconforming Black youth in a loving extended family. The book has been lauded as a major influence for families who are looking for queer-affirming strategies to support LGBTQIA+ children.

Book Club

WLP’s Virtual Homegirl Podcast Marks its Second Year in Production!

WLP Virtual Homegirl Cover Art

We started our first youth podcast during the pandemic in 2021. Our “Virtual Homegirl” Podcast is based on compelling conversations between our members on a range of issues that are relevant to girls and women of color across sexuality. We explore how you can be your authentic self in a world that doesn’t affirm you, in addition to dealing with discrimination, self love, body image, politics, school and home life, and media representation. Virtual Homegirl does it all. We want to be the homegirl you call in the middle of night and share vulnerability with. We cry, laugh, and get real. Sometimes we highlight mental health, personal development, and small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves. 

An episode I’d like to highlight from 2023 was titled, “How to be a Better LGBTQ+ Ally”. In this episode, we celebrated Pride Month by discussing data from surveys conducted by WLP students on LGBTQ+ school climate, homophobia, transphobia, and curricula in South L.A. during the 2022-2023 school year. Furthermore, WLP defined Pride Month for listeners and unpacked key terms such as “rainbow washing”.  We also discussed ways to become a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community and concluded with sharing the work of our favorite queer artists. 

You can access all our previous episodes on Spotify

A Few Final Thoughts on 2023

Liz Tecuapetla (WLP, 2022), Zorrie Petrus (WLP 2019), Alondra (WLP, 2022) and Kim Ortiz (WLP, 2022)

There are many events we did not highlight but we would like to take the time to appreciate each and every one of you that went out of their way to support and encourage us this year. Our motivation comes from the community and our amazing students! We will continue to do our best each and every year and come back even stronger. This is only a farewell to the end of the year but our work ethic will be the same. 

If you would like to see us do more for the community and help boost this work, please feel free to donate to our website. We would appreciate any help. We were fortunate to have the support of the Ujima National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community! We also want to thank our supporters the Bredvold Fund, Harrington Family Fund and community donors. Thank you for being informed and taking the time to be here with us. 

Happy New Year!

Kimberly Ortiz, WLP 2022

My name is Kimberly Ortiz, I am 19 years old and I currently attend Cal State LA as a Pre Criminal Justice Major. I am working to gain experience in law enforcement and community relations. I love working with the Women’s Leadership Project. WLP has been a second family to me since early high school as well as role models and mentors. I have been writing our “Year In Review” articles for the past three years and each year there is more and more progress, which makes me happy! I hope WLP keeps growing, and everyone stays blessed, safe and happy. Shout out to all the students putting in effort just like all the staff. Shout out to Dr.H, Ms. Jessica and Ms. Tomorrie. Shout out to Bri and Clay for working hard as coordinators and shout out to Zorrie for the content she made for us this year! I am forever grateful for all the bonds I have made in WLP. 

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