By Tomorrie Cook
In early October, representatives of Black Skeptics Los Angeles and the Women’s Leadership Project, 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.
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.