In Solidarity We Rise: Healing, Opportunity and Justice for Girls

In Solidarity We Rise: Healing, Opportunity and Justice for Girls

In Solidarity We Rise: Healing, Opportunity and Justice for Girls (In Solidarity) was an extraordinary event held in Washington, DC in October 2017.

Together participants were able to explore diverse and innovative ways to support health, economic security and civic engagement for girls and young women that were creative, intersectional and two or multigenerational. In Solidarity offered a diverse selection of learning opportunities from Deep Dive Learning Sessions to Innovation In Motion Sessions to Front Porch Conversations and Plenaries that were informative, inspiring and uplifting.

In Solidarity participants represented all 50 states and 8 federally recognized Tribal Nations: Standing Rock Lakota Tribe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Twenty-five percent of In Solidarity participants included cis and trans girls and young women of color and gender non-conforming youth under the age of 25.

The National Crittenton Foundation is committed to providing opportunities to strengthen this movement. As such, they will be hosting the next In Solidarity un-conference in 2019.

We’re pleased to be able to share some of the keynotes and sessions from this powerful conference.

Day 1: Opening Breakfast Plenary

Keynote with Dr. Nadine Burke Harris 

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris has earned international attention for her innovative approach to addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, a risk factor for adult disease such as heart disease and cancer. Her work has demonstrated that it’s time to reassess the relationship between early childhood adversity, child development and health, and how the practical applications of the adverse Childhood Experiences study can improve health outcomes.

Click for Transcript: Day 1: Plenary Breakfast

Speaker 1:                              Good morning and welcome to In Solidarity We Rise. Please welcome to the stage president of the National Crittenton Foundation, Jeannette Pai-Espinosa.

Jeannette P. E.:                  Okay. That was totally weird. It's kind of weird for me. Welcome. You know who I am already. Welcome to In Solidarity We Rise: Healing, Justice and Opportunity for Girls. You're an amazing lucky group. I think you know that.

I'm going to give remarks later. I just wanted to say that we have chosen to begin this conference recognizing the destructive results of colonialism, exploitation and oppression. We begin by paying deep respect to Piscataway Nation on whose stolen land we sit.

Today, through our opening ceremony we come together to heal, to celebrate and to honor those who have come before us. I could read you a long list of things that Sandy White Hawk has done but that's not really how he rolls. She doesn't really care about that. That's not how she measures her accomplishments or her life. I will just tell you that she's my trusted colleague and friend, a woman of honor, of compassion, a healer, and someone who knows well the power of laughter.

It's my pleasure to ask Sandy White Hawk to join me on stage to guide us through the opening ceremony.

Sandy W.H.:                          Good morning everybody.

Audience:                               Good morning.

Sandy W.H.:                          I'll just start by introducing myself in the traditional manner that we're taught when we stand before the people. [foreign language 00:07:58]

I just said good day my relatives and it's become more and more apparent to me how we are all indeed truly related in some way or another. If we sit and visit with anyone, eventually when we find that commonality even if it's that we just like hotdogs or potato chips and they bring us the most pleasure. We feel a bond and a connection and that's how we're relatives through our spirit and through the life that we've been given and especially as women.

When I say that I'm a [foreign language 00:08:49] says that I'm from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota but I live in Minnesota with my husband George McCauley.

Yes. Let's hear for it them. The man behind … I wanted to mention that also I'm glad that you responded to my mentioning my husband. What an amazing time we're going to have or already been having sitting here with all this beautiful women energy that we have. We're going to, in this next while, we're going to really embrace that, enjoy that, celebrate that. I mean if you were to just look around you and see the beauty in this room but we don't stand at the expense of our men.

As indigenous women we know the importance of standing side by side with our men and holding them in a regard and respect for the role that they play in our lives. Let's remember that as we move through the next day today and tomorrow, greet each other with a smile and a hug and just celebrate all the beauty that we have as females and when the few men that are lingering bravely about us. Let's make sure that we greet them as well and acknowledge that it takes both of us to make this world this beautiful place that it truly is.

I also want to mention before we begin our drummers and singers who are here, the Zotigh singers. They came to us via the phone. I never even met them until this morning. It was all through the phone and email but here they are. I want us to really be thinking of gratitude when we hear them sing as they help us bring in this morning because it's not a glamorous life singers lead. It really isn't. They get a phone and get told, "Come here." They get an address. They don't know what they're really going to go sing for. Sometimes, they get fed, sometimes, they don't but they got to tell work, "I'm going to be late or I'm going to take off sometime."

They have to fight the traffic then they go back to work and then they got to come back tomorrow and they got to do the same thing but they do that out of the heart because they were given this gift to sing and what were taught as indigenous people that when we have the gift, we're to share whenever asked however we can.

Thank you, singers and you'll notice that there are … I think it's two, the last time I saw two females there. Really, I suppose I saw somebody waving and I got sidetracked. It's just like it says with people that have ADD, we talk and talk and talk and boom. That person's over there waving and I couldn't process it in my brain that that wasn't for me because I am the center of the universe, right? Shoot. I was so cool up until that point. What we're going to do for you, ladies and the gentlemen that are here with us, we're going to begin this conference in a prayerful sacred manner in the way that we've been taught.

We want to thank Jeannette and the planning of the Crittenton Foundation Conference to give us this great honor and it's been an interesting process because when Indians do step, we take a long time and they told us that you've got five minutes, and I'm I just agreed and smiled. I've been taught well. Yeah, we can do that but we should be within our timeframe fairly well. At this time, what we are going to do is you'll see our jingle dress dancers come in and they're going to come in a way, the way we used to traditionally from time immemorial when we've had gatherings, we've always had protocol.

Certain things always came first, honorings are always acknowledged and whenever we had gatherings, whether it was just within our own nations or nation-to-nation when we gathered with our neighbors, our warriors always cleared the way, cleared that space and as it's kind of as a metaphor when we gather that we know that we need our warriors to go there before we do in a way of protection. What we do today is we have our warriors come in and do the same clearing that space and in that spirit, we are doing it with our jingle dresses.

Now, our jingle dresses were given to the Anishinaabe people through a dream. During a time of great hardship and sickness a young woman was very, very ill and had a dream and in that dream, a dress was shown and a protocol and a way to use that dress for healing. All of these young women and elder women that are wearing these dresses today have to live their life in a certain way, take care of that dress in a certain way, and when they have it on, their prayers that they say are for the people, they're for you. As they come in, this is what they'll be thinking about. This is where their mind will be focused on clearing that space.

For those of you who come here, it says, "Healing opportunity and justice." Each of you had been brought here for a reason. You may know what that reason is, you may not know but we're going to pray, when we bring this in, that you'll find out what that is while you're here. At this time, I would ask the drum to give us an entry song, please, and out of respect if we could all stand for our veterans and our jingle dress dancers as they come and clear the space for us.

We have entering the arena [Shannon Doyle, Alice Elmer 00:15:59], Sisseton Wahpeton, Santee Nations, master sergeant, retired air force, Iraq-Afghanistan combat veteran. Behind her, Juliet Kelly, Crow Nation, command sergeant major, retired army, Iraq combat veteran. Misty Jackson, Bad River, Anishinaabes, staff sergeant army, retired, Iraqi veteran.

We say, "Thank you," to our veterans. We say, "Thank you," to these women warriors who took the oath to lay their life so that we can stand here in the freedom that we have. They have families, they're mothers and had to leave them behind and fulfill their commitment and came back and today continue to serve, continue to protect and continue to participate in the healing of our people just as their ancestors did.

Our women had been part of conflicts supporting our men since time immemorial. We have always had women warriors and falling in behind Misty Jackson is Terry Yellowhammer, Standing Rock, Dakota and White Earth Nation. Jingle dress dancer for many years dances for the healing for our people.

Falling in, [Nina Birkeland 00:18:02], Northern Cheyenne and Oglala, young warrior woman, just 18 years old and is already a youth organizer for Honor the Earth, has already motivated and organized her young people to go to Washington to bring awareness of the protection of our water. We say, "Thank you, ladies, for all that you're doing for us."

We're giving them just a moment to catch their breath before they dance for us one more time but one of the things I want us to remember is as they stand before you, really, any woman that wears a jingle dress is instructed to carry herself in a certain way. She is to be humble, she is to be helpful, and she is to be prayerful and you'll see at pow wows and gatherings other style of dancing. You'll see women with shawls dancing and we call that a fat woman's fancy shawl dance and you'll see women who move just up and down and no fancy footwork are women, traditional women dancers.

These jingle dresses didn't come because of style, remember they came as a medicine so they're here. We prepared through prayer and talk and discussion and laughing and we wanted everyone here to experience what we experienced when we came together and decided how we were going to come in and how we're going to offer our healing ceremony tomorrow and what we hoped for you aside from what I've already mentioned is that we get to laugh a lot because laughter and humor is so healing.

At this time, I'm going to ask our drum to offer us a woman song. While these women are dancing, again, this is going to be a thoughtful prayer for all of you that are here, for your families that you left behind. Every time we leave our homes, we know that back home like I was wondering, I wonder if everybody is eating even though they're grown, right? But I'm not there so I know they're not going to eat very good. They're going to order pizza and pizza and pizza. We leave them and sometimes when we come here to where we are meant to be, it's that sacrifice. Maybe we have relatives back home who aren't well and we worry about them and we're all here.

Real honestly, sometimes when we come, we have left in a hardship in a relationship. Maybe our husbands don't want us to be gone. Maybe they think we're gone too much or you're growing in your relationship and I know this, my husband mentioned it one time. He said he heard a woman on the phone at one of our conferences and he heard her having an argument with her husband while actually she was defending herself. We know that there's all kinds of situations that bring us here and you're here for a good healing reason. We want to remember that and pray for those who we'd had to leave behind that while we're gone, their needs are met and they're taken care of and comforted. At this time, ladies and our singers, take it. Two times through singers.


Thank you. Thank you, singers. Thank you, dancers. I forgot one of our most important parts. I'm going to now bring forward Dorene Day, an exceptionally beautiful and good friend of mine, sister, there she is. I want to tell you guys this really quick even though Jeannette said I didn't have time. It's important. Dorene is going to sing us a prayer song. She is a [inaudible 00:24:24] woman. Her responsibility is to care for the water and she commits herself to this way of life by going to ceremonies four times a year for approximately 10 days to receive the teachings that she then shares with us. There's very few of us that have that kind of commitment. She's going to bring to you today her beautiful voice and sing a prayer song for us, Dorene.

Dorene Day:                         You can sit. [foreign language 00:25:10]

My relatives, I introduce myself to you in my sacred language. I am going to say a brief prayer and I've asked that that not be recorded but I'd also like to sing a prayer song and that can be recorded. Prayer, no recording. I just have to make that clear.


(flute, singing)

Jeannette P. E.:                  They're leaving. Singers, you can be excused. We're having problems with the mic. I'm going to keep moving back. Okay. There's an example of how we don't need to speak the same language to understand each other and we are to remember that throughout the times. How many people cried? Yeah. My eye makeup's all gone. Just a couple of comments before I have the honor of introducing our keynote speaker.

Why are we here? I actually think you can feel it in the air. I think that this moment in time and this event is different. It's about movement building, the power of the collective, the voice, the grit, the determination and the leadership of girls and young women, the possibility of lasting change. It's about hearts and minds in synch. It's about thinking and acting passionately, about transparency, about laughter, about tears and the hope and energy that springs for being centered in our power and knowing that someone who may be different, very different from us has our back.

We can do this, we must do this and together we will do this. Thank you all for coming because in these uncertain times and difficult times, there is nothing we need more than each other.

Today, we kick off in solidarity. There are 152 people registered from 50 states. In this room, there are representatives from every state. From Alaska, to Hawaii, to Florida, to Montana, to Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, everybody is here. Roughly 22% of people registered are under the age of 25 and I think if we push that age up to the age, old age of 26, we're probably at about 35%. We had a goal of getting a thousand people here and we had a goal of having 50% of attendees be under 25. We didn't get there but we made an amazing start and because you are all here together, we know that the next time we'll hit those goals but this is just the beginning.

This is just the very, very beginning, the tip of the iceberg. Why? There are two things I can share with you. I am pleased to announce that the National Crittenton Foundation trustees yesterday gave approval for the next In Solidarity We Rise. Can I ask the trustees to stand for a second? They have green tags so thank them when you get a chance. We're announcing today that the second In Solidarity We Rise will be in February of 2019 in a location yet to be determined, maybe south of here and stay tuned for the dates and the location once we have that all figured out. We didn’t want you to leave here without knowing that this is not the only, it's the first.

Because of that, we know that if you all bring a friend in February of 2019, we'll be at 1,036 and the year after that, if everybody brings a friend, we'll be at 2,072 so you get the point. Each year the movement grows, right? How many people are going to bring a friend next year? For everybody who brings two friends, we'll hit that third year goal in one year so that's one. The second is we're going to take this opportunity to start a conversation. We're going to start a conversation about four big key questions and these are the questions in brief. What issues are important to you and to your community? What are the unintended barriers to building a unified movement? We know they're out there, they're the elephants in the room, we need to bring them out so we cannot let divide and conquer win.

If we were to start fresh today, fresh today with young women at the table, what would the safety net look like? What would the systems look like if they were at the table to create it? We're going to start that conversation. The last is what kind of support do we need as individuals and movements to heal and grow and thrive and to ensure that justice for girls is actually achieved. You're going to be able to respond to these questions through the app and then after the conference, we're going to send you a link so that you can do it on the website if your phone is too small like for me. You have two ways of participation.

Now, I want to quickly recognize the TNCF staff who better all be in this room. [Holly 00:33:21], come out from behind the screen. Sarah, okay. I want to recognize, we are, they're hating me right now, too bad. Come here, Holly. She really hates this.

I'm going to introduce the whole team. I don't know where you're sitting so please stand when I call your name. We were a staff of five or six up to September. We're now 10 so we're small. We don't have a thousand people, we don't have a hundred people, about four people planned this event. I really want to recognize them.

Jessie, where are you? He's over here. That was Holly. Holly has led the conference planning effort. She was really excited in the beginning, she's really tired now. Shakira Washington, where is she? Samantha Lopez, right here. Elena Roscoe, where is she? I can't see her. Is she here? Natalia Roscoe and yes, they are sisters. Consuelo Zaragoza and Jasmine Henderson. That's the TNCF team.

I also want to ask another group of women to stand. I like the bold women to stand. These are our youth advocates who keep getting older. These are the women, I tease them, right, because a lot of them couldn't go into the reception until 5:30. They started with us when they were 14, 15, 17 and now, they are much older. Stevie, you didn't stand. Thank you. Thank you, Stevie.

Now, it is my very, very great pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker. I've introduced Nadine before, she's laughing. Let me just say this. I stopped counting her awards at 18 on her website last night knowing that I wasn't going to actually recite all the awards but knowing I was just going to embarrass her by saying, "How many awards there are on the site?" I think most of you who probably know who Dr. Nadine Burke Burke Harris is. She's an amazing person. She is, I have a great of admiration for Nadine and I would say that Nadine continues to be a little bit surprised about her newfound celebrity because Nadine and her husband are the parents of four children ages 20 months to 14 and I like to think, I think Nadine is a woman warrior.

She's a pediatrician. She started working with kids and families and she became a woman in search of a root cause because she saw patterns. She saw generational afflictions and chronic diseases for no real apparent reason that she could find through her medical expertise. She kept digging and she kept digging and then she discovered the adverse childhood experiences. Since that time, that has been her call. Her call is for us to know it, to speak it, to share it. She's a believer that knowledge is power, that we shouldn't be afraid of sharing knowledge. She's an amazing person and I call her to the stage, Dr. Nadine Burke Burke Harris.

Nadine Burke Harris:      Thank you, Jeannette, for that very kind introduction. When Jeannette told me that The National Crittenton Foundation was having this event and asked me if I was willing to speak, there was no way that I could say anything but an enthusiastic yes because I believe that you all, this audience, young women and especially young women of color, you have the power. This generation, this information is so critical to this generation and I believe that the work I and my team have done over time has been just to light the flame and that it is up to you all to take this work forward.

I'm going to start by just talking a little bit about adverse childhood experiences, the adverse childhood experiences study and then talk about how we can take this science, this information and use, harness that power for healing. To start off, how many folks here have heard about the adverse childhood experiences study? Oh, my goodness, that is fantastic and how many folks are familiar with the term toxic stress? Excellent.

I'll go over it just briefly but I'll start by sharing a little bit about how I came into this work. This work started for me about years ago now when I finished my residency at Stanford, my pediatric residency at Stanford, and I wanted to be in a place where I could make a difference. I came to work in a very low-income underserved neighborhood of San Francisco. Yeah, a lot of people like I didn't know San Francisco had a low-income underserved neighborhood but I hung a shingle in Bayview-Hunters Point because-

Audience:                               Yeah.

Nadine Burke Harris:      Yeah, HP! I wanted to be in a place where I was needed, in a place where I could make a difference and where I could use my talents to improve the lives of young people and improve the health of the community.

As I was doing this work, a really interesting thing happened. Patient after patient after patient was coming to see me. They were referred by their teachers, by their principals, by folks who were running afterschool programs and folks would say to me, "Dr. Burke," this is before I got married. "Dr. Burke, can you please see Jimmy. Jimmy is falling out in class, he's not paying attention, he's hitting the kid next to him. Dr. Burke, he's got ADHD. Can you please put him on some Ritalin?"

I said, "Of course, this is why I'm here, send him down, I will take a look," and when I did what I was trained to do, right, which is to do a thorough history and physical exam, what I found was that for most of my patients, I couldn't make a diagnosis of ADHD, attention deficit because it just seemed like there was something else going on, it seemed like there was something I was missing. Now, in addition to all these patients who were being referred to me for ADHD, I also noticed another kind of interesting and weird pattern, which was that I was seeing all of these kids who had all these other illnesses, right.

For example, I was seeing a young girl who had terrible asthma and I had put her on some very strong asthma medications and I was sitting down with her and her mom yet again to say, "Okay, what could your asthma triggers be. Do you have pets in the house? Could there be cockroaches? Are there other allergens? Is it the dust?" This mom sat there and said to me, "You know, doktora, I noticed that my daughter's asthma tends to act up every time her dad punches a hole in the wall." For me, that was really powerful and when I was seeing these young folks with very high rates of asthma and rashes and other illnesses, very high rates, epidemic rates of attention deficit, there is something in me that didn't buy it. I didn't believe that these kids were just sicker. I didn't believe that our families in Hunters Point were somehow constitutionally less healthy than families on the other side of town.

When you start off believing in the fundamental worth, the fundamental integrity of every child that when you see our kids who are not thriving, you have to look deeper. As a doctor, it was up to me to take any talents, any little bit of anything training that I had over the years and try to understand how I put that to work for our community. As I was going through all this research, going through all the research papers, that is when I came across the adverse childhood experiences study.

My colleague walked into my office one day and he said, "Have you seen this?" He handed me this research paper and when he did, literally, it was like my mind was blown because this really helped me understand what biologically I was seeing in front of me and that is what gave me tools to be able to understand how to address it.

The adverse childhood experiences study, it was published in 1998, it was done in Kaiser San Diego and it wasn't done in a low-income population, it was done at Kaiser San Diego, their population was 70% Caucasian, 70% college educated, right. The two researchers who did this study, they were actually observing a very similar pattern to what I was observing. Was that individuals who had high history of childhood adversity seemed to have more health problems.

They created a study, they asked 17 and a half thousand people about 10 categories of what they called adverse childhood experiences or ACEs and these include physical, emotional and sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect or growing up in a household where parent was mentally ill, substance dependent, incarcerated, where there was parental separation or divorce or domestic violence. For every yes, they would get a point on their ACE score. What these two researchers found was that, number one, even in this population of Kaiser patients, ACEs were incredibly common, two-thirds of their patients had at least one adverse childhood experience and 12.6%, one in eight individuals, had four or more adverse childhood experiences.

Since that study was done in the last 20 years this research has now been replicated in 33 states. It's collected on a statewide population level in 33 states across the United States and what they all show is that between half and two-thirds of the population have at least one adverse childhood experience and between 13% and 17% of the population have four or more ACEs. In California, what we saw, to my surprise actually, was that across the state, if you looked among different racial and ethnic roots the levels were very similar among whites, African-Americans, Latinos and Asians in California, we saw very, very similar rates of ACEs.

What we also see is that although ACEs happen in every community, right, if we look here at those individuals who have four or more ACEs, those who have the lowest income had almost twice the risk of having four or more ACEs. We see for those with an income less than $15,000 here versus more than $50,000 here, there were twice as many individuals who had four or more ACEs. When The National Crittenton Foundation looked at ACEs among their young women and girls, what they found was that 53% of all girls and 61% of young mothers had ACE scores of four or more, 82% of young mothers in residential treatment had ACE scores of four or more and 74% of young women, young mothers in the juvenile justice system had ACE scores of four or more.

When we look at ACEs in different communities, in New Haven, Connecticut, what they found … what one study found was that in a study of urban adolescent girls, this study was 88% African-American, right, 38% had witnessed domestic violence, 49% had been a victim of physical violence and 37% had been a victim of sexual assault. Our team at Center for Youth Wellness look at ACEs in urban high school girls, right, about 80% were Latino, African-American or biracial and the average ACE score, the average ACE score was 4.49, 51% had experienced emotional abuse and 41% had experienced physical abuse.

What we know is that our young women of color are number one at high risk, are number two are deeply affected. The other thing that we know is that adverse childhood experiences are happening in every state across the union. This is not something that we have a monopoly on. As I mentioned, the original ACE study was 70% Caucasian, 70% college educated but we know that our young women are more greatly affected and right now, right now in the United States, there are 34.8 million children who are being impacted by ACEs.

Why is this important, right? It's really common I think for us to understand, we make this intuitive link between early adversity and difficulty with mental health or behavioral outcomes but what the ACE study showed us was that, and the second finding that the researchers found, was that ACEs are really strongly associated with health outcomes. Here's a list of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States of America. Having an ACE score or four or more doubles or more your risk for seven out of ten of the leading causes of death. For heart disease, it doubles your risk. For cancer, it's 2.3 times. For chronic respiratory disease, it's triple. For stroke, it's two and a half times. Alzheimer's, 11 times. Diabetes, one and a half time. Suicide, 30 times. This is from the most recent global data looking at more than 20 countries across the world.

We understand that without intervention individuals with six or more ACEs have an increased risk of early mortality. Six or more ACEs s associated with a 20-year difference in life expectancy. Twenty years, that is an entire youth.

When I saw this information it was really scary for me. I wanted to understand how do I use this science to interrupt this progression from ACEs to poor health and life outcomes. In order to understand this I had to dive in to understanding the biology. Hey, I'm a doctor, that's what I do. It's also really important because when we know how it happens, when we know why it happens then we can use that science to target our interventions.

It goes a little something like this and for all of you who have seen me speak before, just don't ruin the surprise, all right.

Imagine you're walking through the forest and you see this guy. Are you scared? What happens? What happens in our bodies? Immediately, your brain sends a signal to your little pituitary gland, which sends a signal to your adrenal glands that sit right here on top of your kidneys and it says release stress hormones. Your body releases adrenaline and cortisol. Your heart starts to pound. Your pupils dilate, your airways open up. Your body starts shunting blood to your big strong skeletal muscles away from that teeny tiny muscle that holds your bladder close so you may pee your pants. You are ready to either fight that bear or run from the bear. This is what is called our fight or flight response.

Now, if you were to think about it, fighting a bear wouldn't seem like such a good idea, would it? That is why when our fight or flight response is activated our brain temporarily turns down the prefrontal cortex. This is the part here that's responsible for executive functioning, learning, memory and turns up something called the noradrenergic nucleus of the locus coeruleus or as I like to call it, it's the part of the brain responsible for I don't know karate but I do know crazy.

This is the within the brain stress response and it's responsible for getting the ants up. Now you got all this. Your heart's pumping, you got oxygen coming into your lungs. Your muscles have a lot of blood and nutrients. Your brain has turned off any capacity to think rationally and you are ready to take on that bear.

Now, one other thing, very important thing happens that's less obvious which is that when you activate your fight or flight response, it also activates your immune system. That's incredibly important because if that bear gets his claws into you. You want your immune system to be primed. To bring inflammation to stabilize that wound so that you can either fight long enough to beat that bear or somehow get away.

It's this incredibly elegant system. It's brilliant. It's beautiful. It was evolved over centuries to save our lives from immortal threat. I'm going to have the images come back up here. The question is, what happens when that bear comes home every night and this system is activated over and over and over and over and over again? It goes from being adaptive or lifesaving to maladaptive or health damaging.

This is what our bodies were designed for. This system is supposed to say our lives but when there's something in our environment that activates it too many times then it can ultimately impair our health and shorten our lifespans. What we see are multiple changes throughout the body. We see long-term changes to the fight or flight response. It becomes overactive. It's a little too primed to go a little too often and it's hard for us to calm ourselves down. We see an overactive fear response, stuff that normally shouldn't be scary so now we're seeing threats all over the place. We see changes to the brain's structure and function that can interfere with learning over the long term and we see changes in brain biology that increase risk of addiction and high-risk behavior.

I want to pause there real quick because when the original researchers did this research, they were looking there trying to figure out, "Okay, well, do these people have this greater health risk because they're more likely to drink and smoke and do all this other stuff?" They are more likely but what people don't understand is part of the reason that people are more likely is because when you're exposed to high doses of early adversity the reward center of your brain, it's called the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens. That's not important. I just like to remind people I'm a doctor sometimes, you know.

This part of the brain that is supposed to … it's our pleasure center, it's activated by everything from cocaine, heroin, even marijuana, high sugar, high fat foods, like sweets, sex. All these different things activate this part of the brain. When you're exposed to high doses of adversity this part of the brain gets slightly less pleasure from activities that should be pleasurable.

In order to try and get that same feeling you have to get higher and higher doses of whatever it is to try and feel good. That is a direct effect of early adversity on our brain biology. We also see long-term changes to the immune system, to our hormonal systems that can affect everything from our growth, to our menstrual cycles, to our weight, to our metabolism. We see all of these things add up to put us at increased risk of heart disease or cardiovascular problems. One of the things that's really important is … sure. When I read all the science I was like okay, I get it. If you're a kid and you're exposed to these things and activates all these things in your body, everybody knows what it feels like to be scared. I know that feeling.

What about when folks leave the house? I mean when you're talking about grown folks left their parent's house, they're no longer in that situation of adversity. How do these things mark us for a lifetime? When you're exposed to early adversity repeatedly in childhood, one of the things that's important to understand is that children's brains and bodies are just developing.

When children are exposed to early adversity it can change their developmental trajectory, it can change the direction in which they grow and develop later on. Part of the way this happens is changes in the way our DNA is read and transcribed. Now, that sounds pretty powerful. We're talking about early adversity changing the way that our DNA is read and transcribed.

All of these long-term changes together is what we call, scientists now call toxic stress. This is a toxic stress response. These responses can be seen in kids as early as infancy with trouble with sleep, difficulty growing, development, increased risk of all these different health problems. The reason I talk about the health problems in kids is because sometimes kids come to me and they don't say, "Hey, I've got some real rough stuff going on at home." You have a little kid they maybe four, they maybe five, they maybe younger than that. What happens is they come in and they say, "Oh God, I got these tummy aches. I've been having these headaches." They have trouble with their asthma. Even if they are not having behavior problems in school, it's really important for us to know that when kids are exposed to high doses of adversity that it can show up in different ways. That piece is really important.

Now, that we have all the science, what the heck are we going to do with it? Well, that's a good news. The good news is that understanding the science helps to empower us to break the cycle. There are some really important ways that we can do this.

Now, number one I have to say this, I just have to say this. You remember I was talking about the DNA and the way that early adversity changes our DNA in ways that put us at increased risk of health problems throughout lifetime. Well, guess what the science also says? The science also says nurturant caregiving has the ability to reverse those DNA changes.

Nurturant caregiving, safe, stable and nurturing relationships like what I see happen in the front row with these two little ones right here protects our children, protects their DNA, protects their brains and bodies and can actually reverse the harm of early adversity.

What are we going to do right now? Number one, join our voices with others to raise awareness and promote solutions that support our community. If there's one thing I've learned in talking about ACEs and toxic stress across the United States, as I mentioned before, there is no community that is spared. I think right now in our society there are those who would have each of us in our own experience of suffering turn to others who maybe don't look like us and say, "Hey man, if I'm suffering it must be because of you. If you've got something it must be at my expense. I believe that's BS. I believe that we're all suffering. What I see when I go around the country is that there is no community that is spared.

We can either spend our time fighting each other and listening to people telling us that it's us against them or we can recognize that it's time for all of us to come together. It is time for all of us to unite our voices. To recognize that you are not the enemy, adverse childhood experiences are a common problem that we need to pull our resources and our voices together to find solutions.

We need to advocate for routine screening in the primary care at home at the pediatrician's office and evidence-based interventions. We need to support best practices including home visiting, mental health, social work, and two generation interventions.

Listen, you all, we know these things work. We have the evidence to show the things like home visiting improve long-term outcomes and all that is just as much as there's so much science to say that early adversity affects our health. There is so much science that tells us that when we do take some basic steps when we care for each other, when we care for ourselves that it can reverse these effects.

We need to advance the science and advance the research and we also need to work to enact ACEs-informed policies and practices in health care, housing, education, child welfare, mental health, juvenile justice, workplaces, you name it, tell me what I forgot. Everywhere, we need our entire society to be thoughtful and mindful about how we put this into practice.

How do we do this? I'm going to talk a second about building a public health movement. Number one is that we have to shout it from the rooftops, you all. We need to sound the alarm on this public health crisis and it is a public health crisis. The reason that I talk about it and talk about the health outcomes and listen 10 leading causes of death and all that stuff is because guess what, those 10 leading cause of death they're expensive and I want that money. I want that money for prevention. I want that money for solutions for our communities.

If we want to we can keep spending $3 trillion a year on health care but I don't care which side of the aisle you're on, wouldn't we rather spend that money investing in and empowering healthy communities.

The next piece is in terms of how do we do this because we got to package the message. It's really important for us to put these messages out in ways that continue to go and work so that we can be home taking care of our kids. As much as I like to come out and speak and talk and connect directly to audiences, there is no way that I would be able to directly speak to three million people but the TED Talk that launched in February of 2015 has had over 3.1 million views at this point. We need to put the message out there in ways that can help it go viral. Then we need to engage our champions and our partners.

Again, reaching out across the aisle, across communities to partner with folks in diverse communities. There's a writer by the name of J. D. Vance. Everybody read his book the time of the election because they were trying to understand the Trump phenomenon. He was writing about low-income folks in Appalachia and Kentucky and Ohio. At the end of the book he talked all about ACEs. His life was all about ACEs. He talked about the need for us to find solutions.

It is critically important. This is me and my home girl, a young woman who we worked together with who's one of the high school students who participated in the research study that the Center for Youth Wellness did and that we ultimately presented at the White House. This is us at the White House with Jeannette. Young people have to take this on. Not have to take this on. You guys are the ones who are going to take this across the finish line. That is where the power and the energy and the excitement is. Guess what, here's the good news, it's working you all. This is a Google Trends study for the search term adverse childhood experiences. In 2015, after that TED Talk launched you can see that the number of Google searches for adverse childhood experiences went way up and it's continued to go up ever since then.

Not only are the Google searches going up, the research, the scientific publications on the topic of adverse childhood experiences are going way up and the number of news coverage and media articles around adverse childhood experiences is going way up. We are doing it, you all. We are doing it.

What we want to keep in mind is that the issue is still being viewed through a narrow lens. When we talk about ACEs even though that we know that certain communities and particularly vulnerable communities are more deeply affected, in the media they want to talk about it like it's only a low income or socioeconomic issue. We know that's not the case. We know that this everybody. We know for those folks in Congress, those policymakers across United States, if they feel like oh, we'll do it for those people. Then it is going to be difficult for us to get very far. When we join our voices and say, "Listen, you all. I know you are doing it, not only for vulnerable communities, but for all communities."

Brother [Mann's 01:11:10] sitting in Congress right now may be twice as likely to have a stroke and he don't even know it. You got to do it for yourself and for your spouse and for your brother-in-law and for your kids and for your grandkids. When each of us is making that connection and we're joining it to the broader audience then we see this forward progress. Often times though when we talk about ACEs, if you look in the media, most of the time they only talk about the mental health or behavior outcomes. Lamar Odom finds himself … found passed out or in distress in a brothel and wherever he was and what's the first thing they talk about? His ACEs. Oh, his dad was a heroin addict, his mom this, he dah, dah, dah, all these different things.

When someone is found using substances in a difficult situation or ODs or something like that, people talk about ACEs. When someone like … and I don't know this guy so I'm just going to say I don't know anything about this person's medical history. When someone like Steve Jobs was also known to have a couple ACEs in his background, when he died of pancreatic cancer, nobody talked about his ACEs and we need to continue to make that link. When all the Steve Jobses in the world, if they want to prevent that from happening, they need to put money into solving this problem.

We need to be talking about the health consequences. The science tells us that early intervention and nurturing relationships make a big difference. What do we do if can we bring up the slides? Number one, it starts with screening. I am on a mission, you all, to make sure that every doctor in America is screening every child that they see for adverse childhood experiences.

Once it's identified, we can dedicate the resources to enhancing protective factors doing intervention and appropriate treatment. When we talk about treatment, what are we talking about? My research team just finished looking at 16,000 research articles, a lot of research articles. By the way, it just happens to be that my entire research team is women, young women. Power house set of women.

What we understand is that the things that help to reverse the biological changes, all the biological changes I just talked about, sleep, exercise, nutrition, mindfulness like meditation, mental health and healthy relationship. All of these things reduce stress hormones, reduce inflammation and enhance neuroplasticity and they also protect our DNA and reserve the impacts of cellular aging. Sleep, exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, mental health and healthy relationships. Now, all of these things, the earlier that we start them, the more likely they are the powerful they are in terms of being effective, but it's never too late. It's important that we do this not only for our children but also for ourselves.

Last night, I was flying over here, every time you get on a plane they say, "In case of emergency please put on your own oxygen mask before attending to your child." You all, we need to put on our own oxygen masks.

If there's one thing I can leave you with today is that self-care is not selfish. It is what we must do in order to be able to be that buffer for our child. Just one thing that research tells us, even kids who are growing up in situations of adversity if they have the benefit of a safe, stable, nurturing relationship. If they have a parent who can help them make meaning, comfort them and help to … It will, it will biologically buffer their stress response and it makes it so that all of those stress hormones that happen in the child's body can reduce. We actually don't see those negative impacts when kids have that biological buffer. In order to make that possible, you all, we need to be whole and healthy. That means we need to look at our own ACEs. We need to understand.

I guarantee you there is not a single person in this room who is more than one degree of separation from someone who has significant aces. We need to practice caring for ourselves and that sleep, exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, mental health and healthy relationships works just as much for us is just as important for us as it is for our kids.

As I mentioned, I am on a mission to make sure that every pediatrician in American is screening for adverse childhood experiences. Our organization just launched an initiative to help pediatricians learn how to do this. It's called the national pediatric practice community on a ACEs screening and the whole goal is so that pediatricians can be part of this learning community, share what they're doing and learn from the community.

In addition, our organization is doing something called the California Campaign to Counter Childhood Adversity. This is a group of now over a hundred organizations. It started in 2014 with 20 organizations. We're now over a hundred organizations across the state of California that's looking at this issue of adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress. I wrote it down here. Oops, almost got stuck in stage. I wrote it down here.

Across the United States this issue is taking off. Just last month, Tonette Walker, the first lady of Wisconsin, held a convening for first spouses, spouses of the governor, about adverse childhood experiences. The spouses of the governors of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin all got together to have a convening to say what can our states do about adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress. The movement is happening.

You all, whatever capacity you are in, if you are in education, if you are in home visiting, if you are a parent, if you are a teacher, if you are an auntie or an uncle or whatever capacity that you are in, I implore you to use your voice because your voice is powerful.

There are so many resources and so many ways to get involved in this issue. If you are a doctor you can check out what we're doing at the Center for Youth Wellness. If you're a home visitor, see what they're doing at Thrive Washington. If you're a two gen practitioner, the National Crittenton Foundation has done an amazing ACEs toolkit for providers.

If you're a mental health provider, there is resources for mental health providers and there's a group called ACEs Connection and it's an online meet up for communities in any of these fields to be able to set up connections and have online communities around ACEs and toxic stress. We have the power to interrupt the intergenerational cycle of adversity. We have the power. If we're waiting for someone else to come in and do it for us, if we're thinking that any day now folks will just show up to solve this problem. I think we'll find that we might be waiting a long time except to us we can do it.

Ten years ago when I opened the baby child health center I was looking around saying, what are we going to do about this? Now, 10 years later here is where we are. I am really, really proud to be here in front of you and now I pass the baton to all of you sitting in this audience today to take it out and run with it. Thank you so much.

Jeannette P. E.:                  All righty. I have some quick details for you. We also want to let you know that Nadine is releasing a book the first of the year so we'll make sure that you get that information. Just some details and then we have another quick closing performance.

Self-healing is a radical act. A lot of us are saying that now. We took that to heart when we decided to have a self-care room that will be open most of the duration of In Solidarity, I want to recognize Burke Harris Apothecary and ask him to stand so you can see who they are. I'm looking that way. We are very, very fortunate. Very, very fortunate to have them in our self-care room and also they will be [smudging 01:22:35]. Some of the folks you saw this morning will be doing smudging. Be sure to stop in there.

This is where everybody hands me pieces of paper of things I'm supposed to say. Remind you all to download the app. We know there's some glitches in it, if you find them go to the registration desk and let them know so they can get it fixed. The session sizes were designed to be small and interactive so when you get in there and they're not a million people there, that's a good thing. Remind you about the core principles you all agreed to, they're in the app and they're in the program. You got a stack of postcards in your bag, there's instructions. Those postcards were designed for you to write messages for your congressional representatives. If you want to fill them out and mail themselves, that's great. If you want to fill them out and drop them at the registration desk we'll mail them later all in mass.

There are two deep dive sessions this morning that have been canceled. They are the Unprison Project and Cultural Factors in Preventing and Addressing Teen Pregnancy among Latina Young Women.

Sorry. There is a misprint in the program. The You Are Not Alone session will be held in the Monroe Room not the Piscataway Room. Join us for the Crittenton celebration. That's open to everybody and you are part of the Crittenton family now so we expect you to be there for dessert.

We're going to honor some young women, we're going to honor some change makers. Dr. Burke Harris is going to be honored and we're going to have six performances of young women groups. We have a cappella choirs. We have spoken ward. We have some drama. Please don't miss that, that's tonight. Sessions start at 10:30 so everybody relax, there's plenty of time.

We're going to close. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I might cry right now, but I'm going to ask a young woman who is connected to the Young Women's Freedom Center in the Bay Area. Suzanna died on September 30th due to an act of domestic violence. I'm going to ask us all to observe a moment of silence for Suzanna and for all the women who have died because of domestic violence.

Thank you. If you are interesting in supporting her family, we will either put in the app or tweet out a link to make sure that her family has support.

Now, it is my great pleasure to have as close. I'm going to [KI and Lucero 01:25:06] from the Young Women's Freedom Center to come and close us out.

KI:                                                Good morning.

Audience:                               Good morning.

KI:                                                How you all doing? How you all feeling?

Audience:                               Good.

KI:                                                All right.

Lucero:                                     This is a line by June Jordan. We are the ones we have been waiting for. Who will join this standing up, me? I am Lucero, the Northern American blood. The mind, a warrior, and the ones [inaudible 01:25:38] company and always putting me down and not believing in me, we are the ones we have been waiting for.

KI:                                                We are the ones we have been waiting for. The frontline for ourselves and the voices that are silent, trapped, misheard and ignored. No hesitation is necessarily, but our voices and demands are. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Lucero:                                     You will sing and sing and talk about it to the world how I've changed, how I made a difference in my life and others. No more is she being corrupted. I come strong ready for the fight what is right, no more silence in my life and I will sing like that sad lady singing. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

KI:                                                We are the ones we have been waiting for. Not just the right moment time and place, but to be the unexpected and unapologetic about our struggles that have been muggled by the uppity's sake so patriarchal structure that cause construction of false fuckery. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Lucero:                                     Back into the mountains and if necessarily back to the forest, the Mother Earth, the land, the land you took from our people and I am rooted with a strong foundation to the top, to the branches, to the leaves on my head. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

KI:                                                We are the ones we have been waiting for. Look into the mirror young warrior, I see your rich spirit that refuses to be broken and token. Look into the mirror, young warrior. I am proof of poverty that will overcome that property of poverty, freedom of life, freedom for us, women and girls and our peoples. You are the ones we have been waiting for.

Lucero:                                     Even under the sea, calm like the wave, strong like the current, many confuse me with the little mermaid. No, I am she, the black sheep you once called. I am she the one who speaks out loud and strong and ready to speak the truth and make a change, make an impact. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

KI & Lucero:                          We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Jeannette P. E.:                  We'll see you all in the session.

Day 1 : Lunch Plenary & Women of Standing Rock Panel

Asia Gilbertson Black Bull, Rosebud Sioux Tribe at Standing Rock
Madely Big Crow, Rosebud Sioux Tribe at Standing Rock

Terri Yellowhammer, Indian Child Welfare Law Center

Mallory Moon, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Angela Bibens, Red Owl Law

The fight against the Enbridge pipeline incursion near the Standing Rock Tribal Nation in North Dakota drew international attention to the depth of the commitment of those protesting the pipeline and the rights of Indigenous people to their homeland. Panelists share their experiences and describe how women and girls played an essential role in the stand at Standing Rock and the breadth of alliances created there.

Click for Transcript: Day 1 Lunch Plenary & Women of Standing Rock Panel

Speaker 1: Good afternoon. Do I look shorter? The heels are gone. Only this morning. So, welcome. Were the sessions good? It looked good. I was able to peek into a couple, and they looked really great. So, just a couple things, we'll go right to program. I wanted to recognize our sponsors, and they're all named in the program. Normally, you would introduce them, you'd make them come up and our sponsors are so great, they just want to sit out there with all of you and enjoy. So say thank you to them as you run into them.
I think there were some people who chose to sleep in this morning, and maybe weren't in the morning session. So, just a couple things about who we are. This morning, we were at 518. We're now at 525 people. We still represent all 50 states, and if you missed the announcement this morning, the board has approved a second In Solidarity for February 2019. We'll get back to you with the dates and the location.
Again, just a reminder to join us at the celebration tonight to see six acts of young people, and hear people being honored for their great work, including young women.
One other thing I don't want to forget. How many of you love the T-shirts? How many of you are crazy for the T-shirts? Well, Ebony Morris, the artist who did the work is her now. I'm gonna ask her to stand up. Thank you Ebony.
I now have the pleasure of introducing our board chair, and I think some of you heard of him last night. Some of you met him at the luncheon yesterday. Ron Waterman is the chair of the National Crittendon Foundation. He lives in Helena, Montana. He is a retired attorney. There is a lot I could say about him, but I'm gonna leave it at, you could look a long, long far away and not find a more honorable, or compassionate, or just man. I'm pleased that he's my boss, I'm thrilled that he's my boss, Ron Waterman.
Ron Waterman: What I'm trying to figure out is how we can bottle this enthusiasm. Because if we can do that, and send it around the country, then this movement takes off like a rocket. Thank you so very much for all of your attention, and for where you have come from, your willingness to share, your readiness to listen, and your presence. This is a phenomenal, phenomenal gathering. Thank you all.
I have the pleasure of introducing Terry Yellowhammer. She is going to be our panel leader, and I will let her introduce her panel. I asked Terry just a little bit ago, just to sort of trip out for me what it was that she had accomplished, and one of the things that she highlighted, which I think is the most of all of the various things that she was able to accomplish in her life, she said most critically, she's a grandmother. She, in tribal cultures, contains the wisdom that she can share with other generations, and that's the benefit of having those tribal elders share with us. I have learned in Montana, that as we look and we understand our tribal people, we look to those elders, because they have the wisdom for us to tell us that they think not about today's generation, or the next generation, but they think seven generations out. And they protect the land and they protect the people by doing that long-term care giving.
Terry is an attorney. Terry is an appellate judge. Terry is a grandmother. Terry Yellowhammer.
T. Yellowhammer: Good afternoon. I'd like great you in one of my tribal languages. (foreign language)
Good afternoon, my relatives, I greet you with a warmhearted handshake. My English name, Terry Yellowhammer. And my Lakota name is Good Star Woman. It was given to me by one of my aunts, my elder relatives have since passed on. I come from the people of Standing Rock, which is where I am enrolled. (foreign language) is Standing Rock in our Lakota language. When I thought about what I wanted you to know about Standing Rock. I came up as an attorney. I'm thinking about all the hard facts, and there are many about this movement that really took the country by storm in 2016, and ended in early 2017. But I figure you can go to Google for that. And what I'd like you to know as a woman who is really an urban Indian. I never grew up on either my mother's reservation, on the White Earth Nation in Northern Minnesota, or my Father's reservation on the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock Lakota Tribe.
But as a member of a vibrant Indian community in the city of Minneapolis. Standing Rock came to mean, and I hate to use this word, but it captures it, a pilgrimage of sorts. Everybody was talking about Standing Rock. There was so much going on on Facebook with Standing Rock. Everyone was going there. And so I too went there with my parents who will both be 80 in a couple of weeks. And I went with my husband. I was amazed. Even with all of the pictures that I had seen, the articles that I had read. The shock that I had felt that here was my home tribe on the world stage. I was amazed at all of the people at Standing Rock, how big it was. How highly organized it was.
And what really truly touches me as someone who tries to be a bridge builder to other cultures, to other people to have that big, warm, open heart was the diversity of people there. There were people from the Black Lives Movement, Black Lives Matter Movement. There were people from all different countries. So it was an international thing. It was interesting because some of the campers who were there for real, I mean I stayed at a hotel with my parents. Once I hit 50, I'm not going to be uncomfortable at night if I can help it. They said, "Oh, yeah, by the river. That's where the Dutch people like to go." Or the Germans are all camped over there. So they had all organized where they were.
But the organization went even further. There was a school organized for the children there. There were all the clothes, all the things that folks had donated. Everything there for everyone to share in communally.
So, some things we know about Standing Rock is it was a movement that grew to be thousands strong. What I learned recently was it was actually a movement that was started by a young woman. So this is a youth-led, woman-led movement. Some of the hard things we know about Standing Rock is the violence that was used against the peaceful water protectors. As a Native person, what that tells me is that we put our hearts and our minds and our bodies, together, we are still taken very seriously by the US Government.
But this meant more than any of that. The violence, the terrible things that we've heard about, and we knew that it was more than just us who are members of the Standing Rock Tribe, and even more than us just as tribal people. This is all of you. This is all of our allies who came together.
We know too that Standing Rock is the largest single gathering of Native Americans in over 100 years. In preparing the panel of wonderful water protectors, my relatives who I am going to ask to come join me in a minute, one of the things that I asked them is think about two things that you would like the people listening to us to take away. And so I talked to each of them and talked about some of the things folks might want to know. And one of them told me, "You know it was life changing, it was pivotal, and it's not over."
Now, while we're talking, you're also going to be seeing pictures on these big screens. And these are pictures taken by the panelists, by myself. So these are personal pictures. There's some more beautiful ones, but these are very personal ones, and they're going to show what we saw when we were there. Some of us were there longer, and they'll be able to tell you their stories.
So, rather than me introducing them, I would like them to introduce themselves. And I like to ask you to come up ladies, and I'd just like to start by saying (foreign language) for the sacrifice you made on behalf of the water, on behalf of our rights as tribal people at Standing Rock. So thank you.
Asia Gilbertson: Can you hear me? Is my mic on?
T. Yellowhammer: Is it on? Okay. Great. When we first thought about the order we should go in, my inclination as a mother and a grandmother is we should make the older ones go first, because the younger ones might be nervous. But I was overruled. They said, "Well, these young women don't seem like they're afraid of much of anything." So, we're going to start with them. And what I had asked if they would talk among themselves and decide which order you would go in. And the basic questions I wanted to ask first was who you are, your tribal affiliation, where you live now, and what took you to Standing Rock? Why did you go?
Asia Gilbertson: (foreign language) Hello, my relatives. I greet you all with a good heart and a warm handshake. My name is Asia Blackhole Gilbertson. My Lakota name is (foreign language), which means drowning woman. I am from the Rosebud Sioux tribe. I am a teen mother of a young, handsome one-year-old boy. I graduated high school early, so I am in college, and I am expected to graduate next year with my Associate's Degree in Human Services. Go ahead.
Madeline V.: Hi, my name is Madeline Vickeral, and I am from the Rosebud Sioux tribe. I'm 17 years old and I'm still in high school.
Nina Bergland: (foreign language) Hello, everyone. My spirit name is Northern Light, but my government name is Nina Bergland. I am an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, but I'm also a (foreign language) Lakota from South Dakota. I currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I thank you all for letting me speak in front of you and I thank my elders for letting me share my experiences. I'm very grateful to be here. Thank you.
Malorie Moon: (foreign language) Good day, everyone. My name is Malorie Moon. My spirit name is (foreign language) and that means brings-light-from-darkness woman. I'm an enrolled member in the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and currently I live in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
Angela Bivins: (foreign language) Good afternoon, my relatives. I great you with a warm heart and a happy handshake and I am Angela Bivins, I'm an attorney. I live in Denver. I am a defendant. My dad was an enrolled member of the [inaudible 00:15:58] Sioux Nation in Northeast Nebraska. (foreign language) by heritage, and I'm happy to be here. I was the ground coordinator for the water protectors legal collective for six months at Standing Rock.
Doreen Day: (foreign language) My relatives, my government name is Doreen Day, and I reside in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I am from Northern Minnesota, a reservation called Boys Sport or also known as Net Lake. We have the best wild rice. I have been, I followed the footsteps of my mother, who was also an activist in the early '60s, when she relocated our family to Saint Paul, Minnesota. In looking at my life and what I have worked to do, it's really an extension of my mother's work, and so I remember her today. Her name was Charlotte Day, and she was the founder of The Red Schoolhouse in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the first indigenous-controlled school in the nation. And so I remember her today, and her Nishnabe name was (foreign language), so it's with her will and her courage that carries me forward in the work I do. I went to Standing Rock to pray for the waters.
T. Yellowhammer: Thank you ladies. So, Asia, when were you at Standing Rock, and why did you go?
Asia Gilbertson: My first trip to Standing Rock started in August last year. We heard about the women of how our water is about to be effected by the cycling. And the reason why I went, as I already told you, I'm a teen mom. And I thought it was important to make sure my son has water. Before I get started, how many of you have children? Can you please raise your hand? Okay. How many of you drink water? Okay, everyone drinks water. Almost everyone in here has a child, and I'm pretty sure everyone has family. Of course, how are we all here.
But with that being said, that's why I went to Standing Rock. Yes, I knew my son needed water. My family needs water, but also everyone needs water. And I wasn't doing this because this ... On our way going up there, everyone was like, "Why are you making it a big deal?" Like, "Don't go up there, there's plenty of pipeline." But I was like, "No, this is gonna affect our earth, and everyone needs water."
So, why I went up there is not just for me, not just for my tribe, not just for my community, but for everyone to have water. So, that's why I went up there, and that's how I heard about. I went up there in August. I didn't get to stay through the whole encamp. I went up there almost every weekend when my family was able to take me up there.
T. Yellowhammer: Madeline, when were you there and why did you go?
Madeline V.: I was always there since August of last year like Asia. And Standing Rock to me is a place of hope and peace that we as young Lakota, we were drawn to come and protect not only the water, but our way of life. I get nervous when I talk.
T. Yellowhammer: No, you're fine.
Madeline V.: When I heard of Standing Rock, I knew that's the place where I needed to be. I get so nervous.
T. Yellowhammer: Just as an aside, we knew because this is an emotional issue for us, that we might get emotional. And I think we're taught so much to be in control of ourselves, that we forget how healing our own water that our body produces is healing. So, it's okay. It's okay to cry. It's okay to get emotional about something as important as our water.
Madeline V.: I saw firsthand all the beautiful indigenous people from all over the world uniting, helping to protect the water for our future generations to come. I thought of my two baby nieces and my grandson at the time, and that I want to help access clean water, not just for them, but for everyone else, because we need clean water too actually.
T. Yellowhammer: Thank you Madeline. Nina, when were you there and why did you go?
Nina Bergland: I had the great opportunity to go out as many as four times for a span of a week or so. And it was really complicated too, because of going to school. I was in my senior year last year, so I had to focus on graduating. But I understood really through my spirit and through my heart how important this was not only for me, but to all of my people. How detrimental this whole movement was, because we were not focused on ourselves, we were focused on the future. Because the impact of this pipeline might not affect us in 20 years, but 60,70, 80 years down the road, when we are old grandmas and (foreign language), those little ones are going to be drinking that water that's contaminated by that pipeline. Because it's not if a pipeline breaks, it's when.
So I really got to go there and see the different stages of the camp got to go thorough. I went there like them who spoke before me, I went in early August of last year. And we got to actually go into the digging site less than 15 minutes after they were digging, and the people who were there at that time, they halted construction for time of three months. So I got to be there and experience that. And that was the most impactful time was before the big camp, was before there was a lot of people, it was just a couple people, and that made the most impact on me.
I also got to go many times with many different kinds of people. I got to go with a Mishika group from Saint Paul, Minnesota. And they got to share their dances and their culture with the people at Standing Rock, and that's when the camp was really in full force and there was a lot of culture and love there. And you could feel that in the air.
We got to go again with our mentor Mitch Walkingoff, when it was getting colder and we got to see the transition how people were starting to think about the winter time. And I'm really grateful for the time I was able to be out there, because words that were said from our mentor was, "Sometimes you just have to do what's right and you just have to go. Whatever it is that you might be doing, work, school, our people are more important, because our people will be here longer than anyone else. Our future grandchildren."
That why like was earlier said, we think about seven generations ahead. So we try to live that every day. We took a commitment to save and protect our water for our grandchildren, and that's what we plan to do. Because our ancestors started the fight, we will continue it, and our grandchildren will end this fight, because they deserve clean drinking water. Thank you.
T. Yellowhammer: Thank you, Nina. I'd just like to ask these young ladies another question before we move on, and that is, how has this affected your work in your community. And I know you young ladies from Rosebud in South Dakota have been active in your community, particularly with past boarding school children who had died, and the repatriation. Do you know much about that? Could you talk about that a bit.
Asia Gilbertson: Yeah, the fire. In all, everyone getting together and getting you out there, we need to sign up for our water. Also drove me, our community members, and our youth council on our reservation in Rosebud. We need to do something. Now that we have the media and now that we have the publicity, because a lot of people didn't know us indigenous people are still here. A lot of the indigenous people are just talked over, or talked really bad about. And we're living in the second poorest county in America, and having high rates of suicide. We're resilient on our reservation. And the media doesn't show that. It's just frustrating, because all we hear is negative stuff about ourselves, and the media never wants to cover all the positive stuff we're doing. Standing Rock really put that out there. Yeah, if you look up Standing Rock, you're going to see a lot of negatives like them throwing tear gas at us, them attacking us with dogs. But, you know, they didn't show, some articles showed, but not a lot of them. What they should be is that we're there and we're uniting and we're there for one reason.
There's people all over the world that came and flew out and stood by us. And our youth counsel was able to visit Standing Rock. And a lot of our tribal members and stuff went there. So the youth council saw that. We need to work together. Let's bring change.
What she wanted me to talk about also was our Carlisle Repatriation act. We're doing ... Me and Maddy are from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and our youth council within ... There were able to visit Carlisle, Pennsylvania. How many of you know that Carlisle, Pennsylvania is known for the boarding school? Carlisle, Pennsylvania is two and half, almost three hours away from here. And the boarding school was brought up, and General Pratt was the founder. How many of you know who Pratt is? Do you know the saying, "Kill the Indians, save a man"? Well, he's famous for saying that. And he went down, the government went down to our tribe and said, "Give me your kids or else we're going to starve you to death."
And they sent our kids to a foreign place. And our families still to this day have been feeling that. Have been feeling the grief, have been feeling the loss, because they had no place to send their kids away, and you don't know if they're alive or if they're dead. And our families and our whole reservation is still struck by that. We're still living in that old cycle of unhealthy relationships and the mourning we're in.
So, our repatriation act is we're bringing our kids home, and we're gonna get our relief we need. We're gonna get the healing we need from bringing our children back. So that's what we're doing for our repatriation act.
T. Yellowhammer: Thank you, Asia. Nina, was there anything you'd like to add about what you're doing in the community, how your work might have been affected?
Nina Bergland: Since standing Rock, I became informed locally about a pipeline that will be running through Minnesota, from Alberta, Canada all the way to Superior, Wisconsin. And it will affect the wild rice beds in which the OJY community views as a sustainable life, to sustain their life with a traditional method of using in prayer and using just in their everyday lives. So, I really had to take the flame that was sparked in Standing Rock to my own people to where I lived, because this pipeline, as the Dakota access pipeline was going to affect these people, these communities that are already struggling with poverty, with drug addiction, with alcoholism, and this will just be another thing added on. So, I'm very fortunate to be able to work with Honor The Earth really to address pipelines in our Native communities, because along with these struggles, these pipelines are adding on to that oppression, the systemic racism that we see time and time again going through these court process, going to these different hearings, going to these different things.
We really try to bring awareness, especially to the youth, because like I said earlier, us youth are going to be dealing with the consequences in 60 years when this pipeline becomes ineffective. And if you do not know about the line three pipeline, there's an existing pipeline corridor already in the ground, and they do not plan to clean it up. And it's causing damage every day to our people up there, to the wild-rice beds, because once that oil seeps into the ground, that wild rice can no longer grow.
And I really tried to make it known to the youth how important it is to think seven generations ahead. We always try to adjust that when we speak, because it's something that we live every day. Something that we talk about with our children every day, because we care about the future. Us, as young people, we do not care about ourselves. We care about our future. We care about our future grandchildren's future, and what they have to deal with, because they're going to be the ones dealing with the effect that the people now, the decisions that are made now, they're going to be dealing with that effect.
Another thing that I've been lucky enough to learn about was the doctrine of discovery, and the Papables that were issued by Popes long time ago, in the 1450s. That was when Columbus landed, and he came here with the intent to kill these pagans, to kill infidels, to rape these people and take their lands and convert them to Christianity. So all these things are related. And so our youth group has done research. We've talked to people. We've talked to elders about this, because it continues to be used in the court system, in the criminal justice system against our people to seize our lands and take it for their own.
So our group of 12 youth, we've been ... It's the Indigenous Youth Ceremonial Mentoring Society for the Twin Cities. And we learn our traditional ways and we learn our traditional teachings. So we learn these songs and we learn our traditions and we learn our culture to get back what we've lost from boarding-school era to the Indian Children relocation. All these different things. It all ties together in one way or another.
So, we've been fortunate enough to be in contact with an attorney somewhere in Europe, and in New England, and to be able to hopefully have an audience with Pope Francis here in the coming months to address the Doctrine of Discovery and to have it abolished.
T. Yellowhammer: That's awesome. Thank you, Nina. All right, moving on. Malorie, when were you at Standing Rock and why did you go?
Malorie Moon: My family moved home to Standing Rock in the beginning of August, and we stayed there through the middle of February. So I lived there for seven months.
T. Yellowhammer: You were camping then?
Malorie Moon: Camping.
T. Yellowhammer: You were sleeping on the ground?
Malorie Moon: I went home to Standing Rock because I'm done surrendering, period. And that statement really is rooted very deep in my DNA. My ancestor, his name was Chief Big Head, he was at the White Stone Hill Massacre. It was one of the largest massacres in US history. And he had to wave that white flag of surrender. My family has carried that pain for a long time. My ancestor, Chief Big Head, he also signed the Fort Laramie Treat, which includes the land where the pipeline crossed. My family reminded me before I came here that our last relative to come to Washington DC was on the state in 1888. Chief Big Head came here to negotiate the very same land that I'm talking to you about right now. And I share that because this is the same movement that it's always been. At the heart of it, we just want to live on this earth the way our creator intended us to do so.
So, we need our sovereignty, we need our rights, our resources, and most importantly our water to do that. So I went home to Standing Rock to heal. I went home to Standing Rock to protect the water. And I went home to Standing Rock to be a warrior like my ancestor was for me.
T. Yellowhammer: Thank you, Malorie. And I would just note that Malorie was on the front line facing all these armed security people with military weapons and a lot of hostility. She's a very brave woman. So thank you. Angela was the head of the Water Protectors Legal Collective, which I visited when I went out there with my family. My father and I introduced ourselves and met up with her, and I was really impressed with the sacrifice that she made. My jaw dropped when I asked her, "Where did you sleep, where do you sleep?" She said, "I sleep in my tent." And I said, "You must one heck of a sleeping bag," and she said, "I sleep in my coat." So I know that you sacrificed a lot to be there, and so I'd really like you to tell your story about when you went and why you went.
Angela Bivins: Sure. I have a friend, an indigenous reporter, Jacqueline Keeler, she talks about ethical colonialism. And, obviously, when I look in the mirror, I don't always see an Indian. I have one great-grandfather who was a settler in Souther Vermont, who was a Dairy farmer, and one great-grandfather who was a prisoner of war during the Dakota wars in Mankato, and was removed to the Santee Sioux Nation reservation prisoner of war camp in Northeast Nebraska. And so I take the fact that when I look in the mirror, I see the colonizer and the colonized very seriously. And I went to Standing Rock because I was invited, and that was very important to me, knowing that in some spaces I move as indigenous and in some spaces I move as ally. When this pipeline kept coming in to my view, and this speaks to the power of social media, and social movements, civil rights movements, it wasn't until May of 2016, and it kept coming at lodge, it kept coming at ceremony.
And I met Demmy May Laylock, who was in one of the pictures that flashed up on the screen. She grew up in [inaudible 00:37:45], and her sister, Wania Laylock has been a good spokes person for the movement as well. And I met her with her mom, and we were going to go into Lodge, but she was so worried. She was like, her mom is [inaudible 00:38:01]. She was like, "My little pocket-sized mom is gonna chain herself to a bulldozer." And I said, "Well, if Auntie Dorothy is gonna do that, she's gonna need a lawyer." And I said, "I'm not sure what I can do." I had taken a break from my law practice, because what I've done for the last 10 years is mostly juvenile law. I was a public defender defending kids in the delinquency system, then I turned to be guardian ad litem, and now I defend parents in the child welfare system, with a focus on the Indian Child Welfare Act, because I didn't know my culture. I didn't know my dad until I went to law school, and I found him Yankton, South Dakota.
And that began my journey of coming home. And Standing Rock really for me was the homecoming that I needed. Was the instruction and finding my elders and my relatives that I needed to grow in my culture, to grow in the defense of my people and stand up for not what we're entitled to, what is inherently ours.
There is no word for sovereignty in Dakota. This is a colonized word that's been place upon us. But there are many words for freedom. And I what I learned is that freedom means to be on your land, with your people in ceremony.
And that's what I stood against, because I can take my white passing privilege into the courtroom. Without my regalia, I'm like Ninja Indian. And I did. I defended water protectors, over 800 who were arrested. I did all your rights training. I did all your rights training in camp, so people would know how to interact with law enforcement when they're being arrested as to not further incriminate themselves, but that standing up for clean water should not be a criminal act. Standing up for defense of your homeland should not be a criminal act.
We have a lot of work left to do. We need our alleys in this fight. This is your land too, and that's what we talk about when we talk about ethical colonialism. That we make alliances, that intersectionality is what is going to propel us into the future for our own children. So, with that, I'll turn it over to my Auntie here.
Doreen Day: Thank you Angela. I went to Standing Rock in September of last year. I think it was mid-September. I went with a group of Water Women. And tomorrow I'll be talking about that, my life as a Water Woman. It's really a spiritual vow to pray for the water in our Mideowen Faith. It's not religion per se, it's a way of being in the world, and to translate Mideowen that means, "The Heart Way." So that's why we went. There was a band from Wisconsin and a band from Minnesota, and we went on a long weekend. We arrived on Thursday, and we departed on Sunday. And during that time that we were at Standing Rock, we were able to help host and lead three or four ceremonies.
One of the first ones was a prayer ceremony for the water with our sacred drum. It's called the Water Drum. And we took that to the center where everybody gathered for morning prayer at 9:00 AM. And they gave me the mic to speak in our language, and then the Ojibways that were at the camp came out of everywhere, it was really great to them say, "I heard you on the radio and I heard my language and I came right here." So we were able to our ceremony with our brothers and sisters and give them support and love at Standing Rock. In that way, we were able to send our songs and prayers to the water. We were able to sit in sweat lodge and we were able to stand on the bridge and actually have a ceremony to communicate directly with the water there. It was a very moving experience.
One of the things that we know of in our history is that we have always been a spiritual people. Most of the movements that we have had within our short four or five hundred years is that let's go back 2,000 years we were here. We were a spiritual people. We were following the original instructions that were given to us by the creator. And then we zoom forward to 500 years ago. We were still a spiritual people. We were killed for being a spiritual people. And so here we are in Standing Rock, and we're standing, singing, praying and we were still a spiritual people.
T. Yellowhammer: Thank you, Doreen. I know one of the things-
Doreen Day: Just-
T. Yellowhammer: Okay.
Doreen Day: Every movement that we've had has been led by our elders who have asked the young people or the young adults to stand up. Our grandmothers asked the American movement to stand up. Our grandmothers asked the men, "If you don't walk, we'll be in front of you." Our men said "No, we'll walk in front of you." And that is how that movement has been. The vast majority of our society today doesn't know what that means. They don't know that the work of the American Indian Movement is a spiritual movement first. (foreign language)
T. Yellowhammer: So, Doreen, thank you for that. And are your tears dried, because I'd like to ask more of your wisdom-
Doreen Day: Yes.
T. Yellowhammer: ... to be shared. One of the things that Doreen shared when I was preparing her for our talk today, was that there are camps springing up, she said, all over the place. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Doreen Day: Yeah. Some of our elders in the American Indian Movement, when I was a teenager, like these young women, their age, they said, "We're in a spiritual renaissance." And here we were, protesting, walking down the street of Minneapolis, because we had to. When our parents relocated to the city, to make a better life, we had to live in dilapidated housing. We couldn't get a job because the placards on the business said, "Indians don't need to apply." There were so many things that were happening at that time. We weren't allowed to be on what is now known as Welfare, because the government still believed that we were wards of the government and we still received money from the government, which we never have. And so there was a lot of discrimination and racism even then. And so our elders always had to protest. And this is something, because that's the only way that we could bring attention to all of these things that were happening to our lives when my mother came to the city.
And the elders would talk about that, and they'd say, "We are in a renaissance." And what they meant by that we will always work from a spiritual place, because we are still connected to our land. We still have a relationship with the animal life that have helped us as a people. We still have a relationship with the water. The water has a memory, and I don't know if you're aware about these water walks that have happened all across this country and in Canada, but there have been Native women that have walked the full length of the Mississippi. From its source at Lake Itasca in Northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. And then again from the Gulf of Mexico back to the source of the Mississippi river. They have walked the Missouri River, they have walked all of the Great Lakes. We have a grandmother, her name is Josephine Mendamen, and she began these walks in 2003. She's 74 years old and has walked around the Great Lakes, all five Great Lakes. She has walked around the Lakes, praying for the water.
And because we knew this time was coming. There were prophesies that our people received hundreds of years ago. And one particular prophesy that I want to recite is that the prophet said, "There will come a time when the rivers run with poison, and the fish will no longer be fit to eat. And they will not understand." And that is Inishinobi (foreign language) prophesy from hundreds of years ago that was passed down through our oral tradition. And so what happens for us is that whether anybody understands or not, we understand our relationship to the land. We understand our relationship to the water. We understand our relationship to the spirit, therefore that work is being done. That is work is being done on behalf of all life that walking, those grandmothers walking with those copper pails. They're praying like I prayed this morning. Every step is a prayer. And so it's a very powerful movement, but because society doesn't value that, it's not known. It's not common knowledge that there's a group of indigenous that are doing that work.
So I think that's why I'm saying it here, because it should be known. If you go onto your computer, look up Mother Earth Water Walk, and you'll see the many journeys that have been had. You'll see that one journey for the Missouri River just got completed about two weeks ago. My sister, Sharon Day walked the full length of the Missouri, with, of course, a lot of other water walkers, right?
But what's happening, and when these elders say that there's a renaissance, they're talking about that innate relationship as indigenous people to the land, to the water, to the spirit. So all over Indian country, there are camps that are going on. There are camps just like Standing Rock. But they're camps that reacquaint our young people with the land, with the water, with being upon Mother Earth to get to know her. And these camps are full of elders that are speaking our languages. And so those elders are reacquainting our young people with our traditional practice, our belief system and our language, because the language is like the thread that ties it all together.
And these camps are everywhere, they're in Northern Wisconsin, they are in Eastern Ontario, they are in Montana, they are in BC, they're in Vancouver. These camps are camps that are protecting the land. And in order to protect the land, you have to be on the land. You have to sit there and hopefully, like in Bad River when the people stood for the train system going through their land over their graves, the men sat there for three months. And they could have been killed, because the trains barely stopped.
But again, it's us fighting for the respect of our way of life. Fighting for the spots in this beautiful earth that we've been given. We were put her on Mother Earth, on this location, in Turtle Island, and we didn't come from anyplace else.
T. Yellowhammer: Thank you Doreen. One thing I would just like to add. It has always really bothered me that Indians are considered, or Natives ... I'm from a generation, I prefer American Indian just because it's so politically loaded. I know that my kids and the younger folks don't like that. They like that or the proper name is their own tribal nation. But we're considered quiet or passive, and I heard a young Native man say recently, "You know, we were traumatized the longest." And what happens when we're traumatized, you know, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris talked about how our cells remember. Doreen you just talked about, and made me think of this. The water having a memory. Our bodies have a memory. Now we have a fancy name for it called epigenetics. And we know it as blood memory.
And so what's so wonderful about this reawakening, and our young people leading this, we're not quiet. We're not quiet and we are fighting. So thank you. Thank you for listening to us.
We're all done. All right, that concludes our panel and well, I think we have one minute. Is there a question anyone wants to yell out before we exit.
Group: [crosstalk 00:52:38].
T. Yellowhammer: Thank you.
Group: Water is life!

Day 2 : Lunch Closing Plenary with Panel: Catalyzing a Movement: Lessons Learned

Kalisha Dessources, Former Policy Advisor to The Obama White House Council on Women and Girls; Jordon Brooks, The United State of Women, Former Deputy Executive Director, Obama White House Council on Women and Girls

The former staff of the Obama Administration White House Council on Women and Girls share lessons learned about building a movement in support of girls. This includes centering the voices and leadership of girls and a conversation about the importance of focusing on girls of color. Their advice and inspiration for the way forward closes the In Solidarity conference.

Click for Transcript: Day 2 Lunch Closing Plenary with Panel

Jeanette: Good afternoon.
Crowd: Good afternoon.
Jeanette: That was kind of weak. Good afternoon.
Crowd: Good afternoon.
Jeanette: Thank you. So, it's kind of with a heavy heart that I say this is the last session of In Solidarity 2017, but we have 2019, in what month?
Crowd: February
Jeanette: February, okay. So, I'm actually going save my reflections, actually, I'm not going do reflections. We altered the program a little bit, so after the panel, we put some mics up so that you all can share your reflections on the last couple of days, so, we'll get there in a bit.
I am going do, really, a series of announcements and then we are going welcome the panelists up on stage and keep moving. A couple of announcements, actually quite a few. There was a glitch in the app, so the session evaluations didn't make it into the app until this morning, so if you think about it and have time, please go back and do evaluations for the sessions that you were in. In addition to that, we had so many great suggestions already for 2019, we are going be sending an overall event feedback survey to all of you, so please complete that survey and include any suggestions you have for 2019.
I know some people were a little bit concerned about the small session size. That was done intentionally to facilitate discussion, and to make sure that everybody was comfortable, but also if you have feedback about that, put that in the survey.
Don't forget to complete the In Solidarity For Girls survey questions. They're in the app. I talked about it in the opening, and we're also going send you a link so you can do it on your computer instead. So, the t-shirts sold out. I think everyone knows that. So, we are going to do another print and we'll be making more t-shirts available.
The other thing we heard from a lot of you is, we want a poster. So, we are going print 10 by 17 posters of the graphic on the front, of all the young women. We'll send you a link. You'll hear more about that. We'll tell you how can get those after we figure it out. Yeah.
We'll be making all the PowerPoint presentations available. The soonest way we're going do them is either through Dropbox or something else, but by November, they'll be on our website. Additionally, by November, on our website will be videos of the [plannery 00:02:34] sessions and we also partnered with ... We're working with a partner to create a podcast series out of some of the sessions that were videotaped.
So, we hope to grow that in 2019. The other thing is, you probably already figured out that the photo area is out of paper, and boy, some great photos there. I got to say. Please continue to take the photos. There is a selection, you can email them to yourselves and we're also downloading them into the app, so you can access them there too.
There is lip balm provided for young women by Butter Up, which is a small younger woman-owned, women of color business. They're out at the registration desk, so if you are under 25, go get one. There are also more philosophy facial cleansing cloth, so you can pick those up at registration too.
So, since you are all listening so quietly to my announcements, I'm not taking it personally. It's now my pleasure to introduce our panelists for this afternoon. I have the pleasure of introducing the former White House Council on Women and Girls staff, Jordan Brooks and Kalisha Dessources. Unfortunately, Kim Leary is not able to be here. Many of you saw her here yesterday. She tried to take a train back, and fly back this morning, and she missed her flight. She is not going be able to join us.
Let me introduce Jordan and Kalisha. And, I have to say, I said this to them when they got there, these are two women who you can plan your panel by text as they are on their way here and not worry about it, cause that is how they roll. It was great. And, also, I forgot. Jordan Brooks spent nearly eight years in the Obama White House in various capacities, from the Office of the Vice President, to the Office of the First Lady, and the Office of Public Engagement, with her final position being the Deputy Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
Kalisha served from 2015 to 2017 in various capacities in the Obama White House. Her final position being policy advisor to President Obama's White House Council on Women and Girls, where she was responsible for directing the Obama Administration's work to advance equity for women and girls of color. I welcome you to the stage.
Kalisha Dessour: I'll say it.
Jeanette: Sit wherever you want.
Jordan Brooks: Oh jeez. Okay.
Jeanette: Center stage.
Jordan Brooks: Hi.
Moderator: It's so great to be here with you.
Jordan Brooks: Thanks for having us.
Moderator: It's usually, you're here and I'm there, so this is a good change. So, I wondered if you could start by just talking about your trajectory to the White House and a little bit about what you are doing now.
Jordan Brooks: Want me to start? Hi, everybody. I'm Jordan. Thanks for having us here today. It's really great energy in the room, and walking around earlier, I'm sad that I couldn't be here for the last couple of days, but I just ... It is lovely and very good for the soul to be here with you guys, so thanks for having us.
I would say, my introductory is a little interesting. I went to college, didn't really know what I was going do. I was a political science and gender studies major, which, you know, I was like, I really care about women and girls. I really care about making sure that they have equity across the spectrum, but I was really focused on international issues, and I wasn't sure what I was going do after college, so I volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008 when some of the younger people in the room were probably very young, and I worked really hard. I got hired and worked on the general election. I was a field staffer in Southern Virginia, Southwest Virginia for Barack Obama, which was extraordinarily interesting at the time. I like to say that I learned more on that campaign than I learned in the previous 21 years of my life, prior to that, so much about people, so much about really what people need and what's effecting people in this country.
I was lucky enough to come back to Washington, work on the inaugural committee, and then started to work in the White House. There's about 30 of us that were hired as sort of fellows in February of 2009, former field staff, really just to help because they needed help. They didn't have an intern program yet, and so they brought a bunch of us in, and about six months in, in about June, Jay Carney, who was the White House Communications Director at the time, called me into his office. He said, I have this job. It's the photo editor to the Vice President, and I have no photo editing experience. I don't even know what a photo editor does. But, he said ... asked me a bunch of questions and sort of said, do you want this job? I said, of course, I want this job. Of course, I do. I want to stay here in the White House.
So, I took that job. Learned very quickly what a photo editor is and what they do. I did that for a while, but really, all the time, really wanting to do the job that I ended up doing in the last two years, and the reason that I was so excited to be there was mostly because the President and Vice President had such an incredible vision for the country and really cared about women and girls, and so I took a bunch of risks by asking people if I could help them.
The first ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women lived and worked in the Vice President's Office at Lynn Rosenthal, who I hope some of you know. She's an extraordinary woman, and so I just went into her office and asked her if I could help, because that was the stuff I cared about, so I ended doing both the photo editor job and sort of as her assistant for many years. Through that, met Tina Tchen, who hopefully some of you know, who is in that picture with us up there as well, and I was her assistant for many years after that, and finally one day, she said, I need to fill this position, running the Deputy Director position for the Council on Women and Girls and I think you should do it.
I took it and ran with it, because it was really the job that I wanted to do, and so that sort of led us to starting the United State of Women, which ... Thanks guys. Which Kalisha and I spent a lot of the last year of our White House life working on and now lives on the outside, where I'm the managing director and we are really trying to organize women, women's organizations, and people around the country towards some common goals, really trying to bring equity to a number of women and girls.
So, that's where I am now. That was my trajectory, and that was a long story. So, Kalisha should go.
Kalisha Dessour: I think, definitely similar themes in our stories and just saying yes and doing things that you are, at first, very uncomfortable doing, so I actually started off ... I think there are kinda two streams of people, main streams of people coming into the White House. A lot of folks from the President's campaign who did organizing, and then, interns as well who end up staying in the Administration in some capacity. I actually started as a White House intern in 2014. I had graduated. I had been working as a teacher in Philadelphia for a few years, and I think for me, and I was really not a political person. I was grounded in issues. I cared a lot about education. I cared a lot about immigration. I cared a lot about communities of color. I am the daughter of two Haitian immigrants. Those issues have always been important to me, but I was not a political person.
I was very happy and mesmerized by President Barack Obama. The only time I ever saw my father cry was the night he was elected, and I realized how much it meant for an immigrant who came to this country, really unable to see a man who looks like him in the highest office, right?
I started off as an intern. What inspired me to apply to the White House internship program was because I was teaching at the time, and it was post-Trayvon Martin, post a lot of really hard issues that were happening, and I was trying to unpack in my classroom with my students, and learning a lot about them and their lives, I became really interested in what policy means and what it means for policy to be announced somewhere like Washington D.C. and how it actually impacts and effects their lives, and so that is what really inspired me to apply to the program.
I started off as an intern for the President's Liaison to the African-American Community. Started the same week that Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, and killed in Ferguson, and really was a part of seeing the White House's reaction and actions to everything that unfolded after that.
After my intern, I thought I would be in and out for five, six months in D.C. Chief of Staff to Valere pulled me into his office and said, hey we want you to stay. Wasn't really clear on what and presented this job to me working in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, so I basically would be working with the team who was the President's Liaison to governors and mayors and other elected officials. I was so intimidated by that job. I was like, Johannes, I literally know who Andrew Cuomo is and like that's it. I have no one else to tell you in terms of governors. Just understanding issues and the issues you care about, but then also the issues that you are less familiar with, the economy, transportation, and trade, and having to work with elected officials across all of these issues.
Then, also that being a super, super white and male space. I had been in so many rooms in that position where I was just like, does anyone see me in here? Can anyone see me? But, I said yes, and I stayed in that role for eight months as a staff assistant, and then Kim Leary, who was supposed to be with us today, was leaving to go back to Harvard and she's the person who kind of stood up this woman and girls of color work at the White House, and I got pulled back into the office, and Johannes literally told me. I think you are maybe too young and inexperienced for this job, but I think you can do it, and I want you to talk to Valerie, and I want you to just tell her that you can do it.
That's a very intimidating thing to do, so I met with Valerie, and then I started with the White House Council on Women and Girls, and those last two years with Jordan were history.
Jordan Brooks: We had a lot of fun.
Moderator: Truly they were. So, I know we have talked about this before, but you're relatively young. You are way younger than I am, and I know that created some challenges. Right? So, could you talk maybe about what it was like to be as young as you are and working, as you said, in environments that are [inaudible 00:13:45] for the President?
Jordan Brooks: Yeah, so I started in the White House, I was 22 years old, and I think the thing that I realized very quickly was that being that young, sometimes, to Kalisha's point, people don't hear you. People don't necessarily listen to you, but the way I found that I ended up getting people to listen to me and to hear me was really knowing what I was talking about, and really being very prepared. So, making sure that I always had an answer to the question that someone was going ask me, and if I didn't have an answer to the question, that was okay, but making sure that I said, I am not sure about that. Let me get back to you, and making sure I did follow up and get the answer to that question.
I think that was always the thing that was really important to me was being prepared, but it was hard. I would say the other interesting thing about where we worked, and you can talk about this a little more, but the Office of Public Engagement is also filled with people like us, which was great. So, for us, there were all these people in the surrounding environments in the National Economic Council and the National Security Council and all these other parts of the White House that were old, but there were a ton of young people, and so I think in the Office of Public Engagement, it was also an extraordinary diverse community, because it was a community of people representing communities of people throughout the country, it was for us, I think, finding our allies, and finding people who really believed in us, and believed in each other, so that we could all help each other, and lift each other's voices up in meetings, and in events, and things like that was also really important.
Kalisha Dessour: I would definitely say that it starts from the top. I think the President and the First Lady really trusted young people in a really huge way. I don't know if that is like communicated out to people as much. They didn't say they trusted young people.
Jordan Brooks: They did.
Kalisha Dessour: They truly trusted young people in a real way. And, I think you guys will see, in how things unfold with the Obama Administration and the focus that the President is taking in the next years, which is really on grassroots, young organizers and getting them the resources that they need, but I spoke about Johannes pulling me into the office and saying, maybe you are a little too young, but I know you can do this. Johannes at the time was 28 years old and Valerie's Chief of Staff, and Johannes ended up being a Deputy Assistant to the President by the end, and he was the youngest Deputy Assistant President in the Obama Administration, and I would believe in any White House. 31 at that time, right? He believed in me because he was also in those positions. So, he knew that our generation really can bring something to the table that the Obama Administration really was trying to leverage.
I would also just say, Valerie and Tina, our direct bosses, really trusted us in a real way and it's really interesting because I think they were such special bosses because I can remember all the times that Jordan and I, both of us had moments where we are like in tears, like, Valerie is never going speak to me again. I made the biggest mistake. Trying to work together and deal with all of, how do we manage both of them and how do we do this big huge role that we were brought here to do, but Valerie had really high expectations for us, but she also just really trusted us and trusted our gut and our word, and I think it really showed through with the summit and us being able to really build out what that space and what those days looked like, and her really just letting us know that we can take it and run with it, but just don't make any big mistakes.
Moderator: So, do you have memories or are there certain kinds of pivotal events or experiences that you feel like fundamentally changed the way you saw things or the way you do things to this day?
Jordan Brooks: That's a great question. Kalisha and I were talking back-stage about this a little bit. Do you want to talk about one of our favorite ones?
Kalisha Dessour: Yeah.
Jordan Brooks: And, I'll talk about something else.
Kalisha Dessour: I like that one of our favorite ones-
Jordan Brooks: It's the same, yeah.
Kalisha Dessour: And, also, just tying the last question in with this question. I think a lot of the things that you see on ... I always thought about what happens at the White House and then I try to go on social media and try to consume things as if I wasn't there and just try and see what everyone sees.
A lot of things that you see, for example, like White House being lit up, first same-sex marriage. I don't know if you guys remember, but the day that, this is the one we wanted to talk about, the day all the black girls from D.C. were at the White House for Black History Month and they were taking dance lessons and they performed for the First Lady, and you see all these things on social media, and those ideas came from, like both of those two things that I just specifically named, came from young women of color, right? [Adetee 00:18:38], who was like 29 at the time, was like, let's light up the White House, and like, the fact that was actually able to happen, and Stephanie, who was like, let's bring girls in to dance.
You're also working in a system where you have to convince people that this a good idea, right? That's also really difficult. And, everyone thinks that everyone wants to use the President and the First Lady's time in some way, but those ideas came from young women of color, but that day, where we had 50 or 60-
Jordan Brooks: It's amazing.
Kalisha Dessour: Black girls from Washington D.C. come into the White House and take dance lessons with [Nae 00:19:17] Jameson and Fatima Robinson and then perform for the First Lady, I think was just a magical day. It was magical to be with them throughout the day and to understand how they were understanding their position that day, right? I remember getting two girls ready to go on stage and I took them to the restroom. They were in the two restroom stalls, and you know how you talk to the person next to you in the restroom stall, one girl was like, oh, I'm so nervous, and the other girl is like, don't be nervous, and then they were just talking about how I can not believe that I'm at the White House and one of the girls said, you know, this basically means I can be President one day because I was in the White House.
And, this was totally a conversation I was like eavesdropping, not even supposed to hear it, but I literally heard a nine year old say that she thinks she could be President one day because she was allowed, she had the access to step into the White House. It reminded me of what it means and how many young women we were able to just let into the White House to occupy space, to be on stage, to be on panels, to meet with people, to have lunch with interns, whatever it is, just what the process of like, I'm walking into the White House means, and I think, the moments where you were able to see the reactions from girls, right, that's one of them, but all of those moments where we were able to see. Seeing Mikaila Ulmer, who's the CEO of Bee's-
Jordan Brooks: The Bee's Lemonade Company
Kalisha Dessour: Lemonade introduce the President at the United State of Women's summit, but seeing her interaction with the President, like before she introduced him-
Jordan Brooks: It was really cute.
Kalisha Dessour: Yeah.
Jordan Brooks: They were dancing back stage. It was pretty adorable.
Kalisha Dessour: So, just those moments, I think, were huge.
Jordan Brooks: Yeah, and I would say the other thing is probably a little wonkier, but the thing we really got to see was the power of, also a lot of young women working in federal agencies across the government doing really extraordinary work and, I spent a lot of time in the beginning of the administration working on a lot of the policies combating sexual assault on college campuses and in high schools, and a lot of that work took years, and took much time with a lot of federal agency policy and people sitting around rooms, but us really bringing in students and bringing in parents and bringing in young women to say, this is something we want to be talking about. This is something we really care about. We really want to be doing things to make sure our young women are safe and feel like they can speak out when they are not.
One of the other really big important days for me was the day the President and the Vice President stood in the East Room and announced that they were starting the It's On Us Campaign to end sexual assault on college campuses. I don't know if some of you know it, but the things that the President said were, I think, I'm going butcher it, but he said, we know so many young women have come forward and we are standing on your backs to be here, and I want you to know that we have your back as survivors. The reason we are doing this is because you have spoken out, and seeing all the people being able to speak out since then has been really impactful to me, and it's the stuff that we could do inside to really lift up the voices of young women and lift up the voices of people that may have had struggles is, I think, really incredible and that was always really important to me too.
Moderator: So, a couple more quick questions. So, two more questions. So, what did you learn though about the complexity of supporting and growing a movement for girls and particularly centering girls of color, and I'm going ask them to you at the same time to save time. The second piece is, what advice would you give to all the young women out here who want to be up here when they're your age talking about what it was like working in the White House.
Kalisha Dessour: So, I think one of the big issue is that we can't just center girls and girls of color as activists and organizers in community. They have to be centered across the board in a number of different spaces. They need to be centered in the corporate space and in academia. So, I have since gone on to get my PhD and it's different being back in the academic space, but I think one of the big ways that it is different is because you really feel what it is again to be in this institution that was not built for people like you. So, every day you are trying to navigate this space where people in power do not look like you, people in general do not look like you, and what does that mean?
Well, it means that the research that's being done on communities, communities of color, on girls and girls of color is not done by people from those communities, so I think a big piece is how do you both center girls in communities as activists and also try to center girls in these institutions, girls of color in these institutions that have just a history of leaving them out. I think one more practical thing we saw all the time, being in the Office of Public Engagement, doing the work around girls of color, is how divided still a lot of movements are, even around racial justice, gender justice. There are a lot of women's organizations who only decide to focus on girls of color for this small little portion of what they do, so they are not doing racial justice the right way.
There is a lot of racial justice organizations who are not thinking about women in every single thing that they do, and gender equity that they do, and even within the women and girls color space, we saw how divided, having the President Liaison to the African-American Community, to the Latina Community, to the API Community, to the Native American Tribal Community, how segregated a lot of those communities are as well, so what does it even mean when we are talking about a movement that is focused on women and girl's of color, right? And, there have been times where we done events that were broadly around girls of color, and we realized that there was still groups left out of the room and of the conversation.
So, I think it is being able to also, within, especially now, in today's climate, with all the different issues and all the things that we are at war on, figuring out a way to really ... This word, intersectional, right? Like, what does that really mean across race and gender and place and issues, and it's hard. It's a challenge, so I think that is a big piece too.
Jordan Brooks: Yeah, and I would say, for me, it was a lot about, as a white woman particularly, always making sure that I was listening to everyone, and to always making sure that we were finding the voices of women and girls, women and girls of color, that we really wanted to lift up. What Valerie always says is, you can't be it if you can't see it. And, so for us, it was because we had this extraordinary platform, being able to lift up as many voices as we possibly could every day was really important to us, and for me, it was also, similarly, I think we both learned a ton when we were sitting in that office everyday talking to each other about all the conversations we were having because it's true.
I'm still finding this every day at the United State of Women, we really feel very strongly about making sure that we have the most intersectional agenda as we possibly can, but making sure we are bringing every voice to the table is hard to do, but the effort is the most important, to dig deep and find all the people who are doing extraordinary things in communities that people may not know about. And, I think the other piece of that is learning from each other is so important, so saying if ... There's no reason to reinvent the wheel, I think the way we really found that's helpful is, if one company is doing a really good job on hiring women and hiring women of color, why can't they help another company figure out how to do that, that's similar. And, I think, we're trying to make some of those connections and I think that's really important advice.
Kalisha Dessour: I just remembered that-
Jordan Brooks: I know exactly-
Kalisha Dessour: I hope you do. The time when were making up all the panels and breakouts for the United State of Women's summit and Jordan was really invested in making sure that we really did it right and included voices from every single community and there came a point where Jordan was like, no we need to include this and this, and we need this. I was like, Jordan, we can also have white women on the panel too. They can be on the panel too. [crosstalk 00:28:33].
We can include all people. I think that was a huge challenge for us is, when you walk into a room and I have, and you clearly see a voice is left out, right, you know you have responsibility and ownership in that, and you know what it feels when people walk into that room, so you want to make sure that you do it the right way, and also, I think a huge burden was, we weren't doing this for us. Like, the summit we did, and any conference or any convening we did at the White House, it was representing the President and the First Lady, and there was that additional burden then to make sure that you were doing it the right way.
Jordan Brooks: I think the other piece, sorry, I just keep on thinking about this sort of stuff. The other piece that is also really important is remembering when you are having these conversations, that you definitely don't know the right thing.
Kalisha Dessour: Right.
Jordan Brooks: And this was definitely really important was, that we need to be listening to the people whose lives are being affected by these policies to make the policy. That was what the Obama Administration did in a way that I think was very different from many others, was that they brought people in from the communities of the policies that they were affecting to say, we don't know the right thing, what's the right thing we should be doing, and we didn't always get it right, but we did a lot of work to try to make sure that was the case, and I'll pivot to your next question.
Moderator: So, words of wisdom from [crosstalk 00:29:55].
Jordan Brooks: Yeah.
Moderator: So how many young women here want to work in the White House one day.
Kalisha Dessour: When it goes back to, you know.
Jordan Brooks: Yeah, in a different time.
Moderator: [crosstalk 00:30:05] I think I said one day.
So, words of advice, quickly.
Jordan Brooks: I would quickly say, do not, on that point a little bit, don't be discouraged about what's happening right now, really. There are days where every day is really hard, especially when you do this work. You are seeing attacks all the time, as you are scared, I'm scared, we're all scared, but I really think don't set government aside. Don't think it is not for you because of what you are seeing right now. We can tell you that it is. We spent so much of our very young lives really dedicating ourselves to public service and it's one of the most extraordinary things you can do, and so I would say, don't be discouraged by this. There are so many extraordinary people still working there, but I would also say, to Kalisha's point earlier, say yes to things. Take risks. Do things that bring you out of your comfort zone a little bit. We both did and that's the reason we ended up where we were.
I decided to leave my entire life, drop literally all my stuff at my parent's house and go work for President Obama when we didn't know what was going happen and 10 years later, I ended up the Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls and that is a pretty extraordinary thing, so taking risks and saying yes is really something you should try to do.
Kalisha Dessour: Yeah. I would say, don't let people define what your skill set or qualifications are. You know what they are, and sometimes you need to really dig into no and be able to explain and say what they are. You do not need a degree from a policy school to care about and work on policy, and my biggest value, there were so many times that I walked into rooms at the White House, specifically thinking about around education policy and where you had these great people who graduated from policy schools and had PhD's in this, and there were so many people sometimes who had not been in communities and had not seen that work on the ground level, and that is so important and the biggest thing I could remember the policy work we did around girls of color and school discipline, in partnership with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education.
The biggest thing I added to any conversation was talking about my role as a teacher, the relationship I had with my students, I brought my students to the White House to explain to people, like the Secretary of Education and different policy folks at the White House exactly what those experiences are, and exactly what discipline systems should look like in schools. They were the experts on that policy, so don't let anyone define kind of what you can be good at and what you can't be good at.
The second thing I wish that somebody would've told me so much earlier, don't be afraid of rejection, and I think that is so important, because I am literally here today because the first time I applied to the White House internship program, I got a nice little rejection letter and I said, cool. Let me figure out how I'm going come better and come back and show up again. I think in all of those cases, whether it's a job, whether it's school, or a program, or an internship, raise your hand, put yourself in there whether you think your qualified or not, and if somebody says no, come back and knock harder. And, if somebody says no again, come back and knock harder, and don't be afraid of those rejections. I think the one thing, when President Obama spoke to my intern class, he said that people fail to realize, he is literally the person who has probably failed the most in life to get to where he is.
If you think about his first election, wiped out.
Jordan Brooks: Badly. Just badly.
Kalisha Dessour: And he came back, and he continued to come back. Literally embracing, being comfortable and feeling good about rejection, where you get rejection and you are just like, this is going make me better for whatever I do next.
Jordan Brooks: The only other thing I'll say is, in all of that, take care of each other. The only reason the two of us are sitting here right now is because we sat in an office together.
Kalisha Dessour: It was about this big.
Jordan Brooks: It was about this big.
Kalisha Dessour: Like one big [inaudible 00:34:25].
Jordan Brooks: And, throughout the hard times and throughout the failures, and throughout the rejections we were there for each other to say, you are going be fine. Keep going. So, make sure that you are, with all your friends sitting with you, make sure you are there for them too, and reminding them that they are valuable, that they have extraordinary skills. That they have really amazing people, and they can do this. That's really important too, especially in this time where you are not hearing that as much as you should, and I'm here to tell you, you're amazing, and you should really continue to do that work, continue to push forward. You can do anything you want, really.
Moderator: Thank you both.
Jordan Brooks: Thank you.
Moderator: By the way, Kalisha is at Yale. She didn't say that. Thank you both for sharing your wisdom, and to the young women in the room, these two women are incredibly accessible, so if you have a dream-
Jordan Brooks: Come talk to us
Moderator: A hope, or a desire, talk to them.
Kalisha Dessour: For sure.
Jordan Brooks: Yeah.
Moderator: Thank you, guys.
Jeanette: Alright, so we're almost done. Thank you, magically the lights go up. So, we have just a few minutes to hear some reflections from folks in the room if anybody wants to walk to a mic and just share what they felt, what they observed, anything they want people to keep in mind as they leave. There is a mic in the front and there is a mic sort of in the back. Nobody?
Evanee: I will.
Jeanette: Sorry, I don't have my glasses on. I didn't see you running.
Evanee: I was running. Hi.
Crowd: Hi.
Evanee: Okay, so my name is [Evanee 00:36:08], for those who don't know my name, but everybody knows my name. So, my name is Evanee, and I just want to say that, I had an amazing time and thank you everybody who came to my workshop. Thank you for those who didn't. It was okay. And, I cannot wait til next year, well two years, when we do this all over again.
Jeanette: 16 months, not two years.
Evanee: Right, okay. But, it's going be so amazing, and there is so much beautiful people. Sorry, she's trying to take a picture of me. And, there is so many beautiful people here, and keep your same energy when you go back to your offices because you guys are amazing. I love you. That's it.
Jeanette: Thank you. Anybody else?
Deborah Wilson: Hi everybody. My name is Deborah Wilson, and I'm from Michigan. I just want to say that I'm truly blessed to have been here and to experience and feel the energy that everybody had to offer and I'm really impressed by everyone's tenacity and the motivation that we all have to do the work and to educate and to just really love each other, so I want to say that, as we leave today or whenever you leave, that do what you do and love.
Jeanette: Anybody else?
Andrea Birdson: Hello, I'm just Andrea Birdsong from Soul Sister Leadership Collective. We are based in Miami and we have a branch in New York. I just wanted to say that, technically, I wasn't supposed to come to this event but I'm glad I ended up coming, I'm leaving with so much knowledge and wisdom, and I just wanted to thank all the youth that came out. I'm 16, any more youth out there? Yeah, that's us, and yeah, such a powerful presence. Thank you guys so much for having this.
So, I wanted to say happy birthday to Cassandra. She is a part of our organization. She's also youth, actually 18 today, so. Okay.
Smitha: Hey all. My name is [Smitha 00:38:28]. I just want to say I'm so blessed to have met as many of you as I have and I hope to meet more before I go, but I explicitly I wanted to shout out the Crimson Foundation for providing support for youth to get here and to get them in the room, because really, the youth we often end up hearing the least from are the ones who aren't able to be at the table, and you brought us here and we are having really great conversations, so thank you.
Jeanette: Thanks Smitha.
Bookie: Hey y'all, I'm [Bookie 00:38:59]. I reside in Idaho. If y'all don't know me, I was the one dancing this entire conference, so I was like in the hallways, but, I was talking over there in my group, and I just realized, this is probably the first time since birth, I was born in Nigeria, that I've ever been surrounded by this many women of color. Again, I do live in Idaho, in one room, and to come here and just share my stories and realize that even though I do live in Idaho, I'm struggling with y'all in Maryland and Delaware and Rhode Island and Pittsburgh and Tennessee and Vermont, and we all struggle together, and yet, we still rise and come [inaudible 00:39:45] opportunities like these, and we walk out of here more powerful than ever, and I just feel so affirmed and I just want to thank y'all deeply for just giving me a space to thrive like I did this week, so thank you.
Jeanette: Last one.
Marcia Recon.: My name is Marcia [Recondiago 00:40:06], and I just want to thank everyone that's been in this space, as a grandmother, this is the kind of place that I want to bring my grand baby to. So, she's seven. She'll be eight in about another month, but I wanted to thank the Crittenton for the space to fully bring my full self into the circle, to see my relatives here with the drums and the jingle dress, it just makes me feel that I could bring my full self to this table and participate fully, so thank you.
Jeanette: Thank you. We got time for one more.
Jackie: Good afternoon, my name is Jackie. Some of you guys know me, some of you don't.
Jeanette: Oh. Okay. Two.
Jackie: I was actually at the White House last year when they had this, and I was 22 and I was going through a rough part of my life, but I want to give a shout out over here for Rights for Girls. They were able to relocate me and do an amazing job for me through this program and through what they did at the White House, so, when I went to the White House, they actually were the ones that actually invited my mentor, who saw me at my lowest of lows, and now coming here, and I was invited through here, through that, so, it's kind of the ripple effect. So, Rights for Girls is kind of what showed me at the White House that, I'm a girl that matters too, and gave me a voice that nobody gave me.
Darlene Johnson: Hello. Hey everyone. My name is Darlene Johnson. I'm Associate Director at the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice, and Jordan, I wanted to say, thanks for a shout out for public service. I started at the Department of Justice at 18, graduated on a Friday, started public service on a Monday. I just wanted to say, girls do rock and I'm feeling so empowered, there's so much energy. There's so much to learn and to have a platform where we can come together to share that willful knowledge is just like no other. I'm just really intrigued and overwhelmed, and I just wanted to say thank you.
Jeanette: Thank you, Darlene. So, just one reflection from me, and then I hand it off to our closing ceremony. So, the work is amazing. The work is hard. Sorry. Go ahead.
Nelly: I'm so glad I got to come here. I heard about other people's stories. My name is Nelly and I'm 11 years old. I got to hear a lot of people's stories that are similar to mine, and I feel like everyone has a different story to tell and everyone is unique. Thanks for having me here.
Jeanette: Thank you for stopping me for that. So, just one quick reflection and that is, there are so many advocates here, and there is so many folks who are on the road all the time, and I'm one of them, and I see a whole bunch of you out here, that I just wanted to take a minute to think about and to thank the people who are at home, when we're out on the road. My husband is here, having a cry. He doesn't travel with me that often, but this one is one I didn't want him to miss. So, thank you all family members, Holly's crying, Holly, her family doesn't know who she is anymore. They will reconnect next week because we're closed. Don't try to call us next week, we're closed. So, just that. Thanks all the people who support us in doing the work that we need to do.
Now, with that, I'm going ask Sandy and Darlene to come back up. I believe they need no introduction, so I will make none.
Sandy: Oh, this is much better to be down hanging out with you guys. Was this just an amazing experience or what? I wish we all got to see a view of what you all look like all at once, all this collective color, all this collective beauty, all sizes, shapes, heights, and weights, and let's just own that. That we are beautiful in the way that we were made, and the way we are here today. Isn't it just beautiful? No more comparing, just accepting, right? We are who we ... Man, I spent half my life that way, if you can come to terms with your body is beautiful and perfect just as it is, please work to get that, because when you are 63, you are going go, what the hell was I worried about.
I wasted a lot of time, sucking it in, tucking it in. Isn't that the truth? The first time I went home to the reservation and I saw all those round, brown, beautiful bodies, I literally went to the bathroom and cried because I finally saw me. And, I'm round and brown, what can I say, and I finally love it. We have men over here in the corner and you guys love that too, don't you.
So, right now at this time, pay no attention to these people who are following me. I'm not really popular. This is, [inaudible 00:46:18], I thought Leia ... Leia is back here, she is a young native woman who just won an Emmy on her documentary on our sacred tobacco. She won an Emmy in Minnesota, let's hear that for her. Right now, she's doing a documentary on Vietnam veteran. I'm not a Vietnam veteran. I am a veteran. I am a Vietnam-era veteran, but because I do have a story, they're following me around and I'm just trying to pretend that they are not here.
So, at this time, what we are going do is go into our closing ceremony. So, what we are going do is calm ourselves. We are going stop eating. We are going stop texting your friends and checking Facebook, please. And, if your phone rings, we are going ignore it just for this little bit of time.
We gathered the jingle dress dancers, our other indigenous sisters that are here, our veterans, and our sister Darlene here, she wanted ... Well, first, our sister Terry. She wanted you all to go away with something that would connect us collectively as women. So, she thought about the water, that is something we can, all of us came here in water, whether or not we carried a child or not, we delivered in water, and so, that was something collectively we could identify with, and so, Terry wanted ... and, she is the jingle dress dancer over here who is helping us. She said, I really want to have a water ceremony, so we asked our sister Darlene, [Maduwen 00:48:05] Water Line Woman to come and help us with that. So, it has to go quickly.
Normally, Indians, we just take our time. We could be here til 5 o'clock, and y'all wouldn't care. You all would go away happy, but somehow, we have to work together to do this somewhat quickly. So, what you have done, we first passed out what ... each person should have a tobacco tie. Does everyone have one? So, girls can you look and help and make sure we have tobacco ties. Oh, the red ties over here. Yeah, pay attention to the color around here. It's red and, what was back here?
Speaker 16: Yellow.
Sandy: Yellow. Red and tan, yellow. So, we had to use some real ingenuity to make these. Thank you, helpers for that. Everyone over here has one. Alright. So, hold it in your left hand, please. We hold it in our left hand. That is the side that is closet to our heart. And this tobacco is a medium between ourselves, our mother, the Earth, and the creator. There is still some tobacco ties out here. And, what we are going do at this time, is say a prayer collectively, and you'll take this tie with you back to your homeland. You may want to take it apart and put the tobacco down here. It's wherever you feel, you would like to lay down your prayers.
For those of you who do not have a belief, I guess, if you want to say atheist, we respect that, and ask during this time, that you just send and center the most loving, healthy, healing energy you have, because that is powerful and that is how you can collectively be part of that with us, so we want to make sure that you don't feel like you are being forced to do something you don't want to do, but we do know that we all carry an energy, and all we ask is that that energy be centered in a healing, loving way and project that. We thank you for doing that with and for us. There she is.
At this time, [inaudible 00:50:51]. So, this song, we are going sing is for the tobacco, so you are going hold this in your left hand, and the song is in Ojibwa. It's a beautiful song that was given to a man who was fasting in Canada, and he was fasting for many things, but one of the things he was praying about, he was still smoking and at the end of his fast, he heard this beautiful song, and he was singing along with, but then, all of a sudden, he realized he was singing by himself and when it came time for him to leave his lodge, his fasting lodge, he asked his spirits what he should do with this song now that I heard it, and he said, share it with the people.
So, he came back to the lodge and sang the song and shared it, and the part that I loved, that connected that beautiful song to the people was, he said, I have been abusing my relative [foreign language 00:51:52], tobacco. It wasn't meant to be smoked, in the way that we're smoking, and he said, because of that, I stop today. He took his cigarettes and put them in a bucket, and he said, if anybody else wants to quit, I invite you to put your cigarettes here, and so that changed his relationship he had with tobacco, and that is when Darlene actually, stopped smoking as well.
Darlene: Ten years ago. Got ten years.
Sandy: This song is a beautiful song that talks about, your tobacco is leading you, and it's leading you around, your prayers circle and go around the earth and into the sky realm, and your prayer is heard. So, we are going sing this. Do you want them to stand?
Darlene: No.
Sandy: You don't need to stand. You just need to be prayerful, and at this time, you can be thinking about whatever it is that is in your heart, whatever it is in your heart that you would like to petition, and we'll sing this song.
Darlene: [foreign languagae 00:52:58]
Sandy: Okay, relatives, it's really important that you take care of this between now and the time you return it to the ground, so you have to treat it as closely as you do yourself your cellphone, because you always know where your cellphone is, right? Keep it that close, and for those of you who know what this means, a good safe place is your Indian purse. I know my women of color know what that means as they are taking care of ... Alright. There we go. Even the guys know what that means.
Darlene: You don't necessarily have to put it upon the ground, or put it down right away. You can take it home and contemplate the experiences and the energy, the knowledge and the love that you have received here at this time, and you can take a few days with it to put your thoughts and prayers together, and then put it down near your home or in a place that you love and take care of that tobacco in that way. [foreign language 00:56:14]
Sandy: Yes. And, before I forget, somebody said it as I was walking around the setting things up, one of the ladies here on the panel said whatever you do, do it in love. Do you know how when we all greeted each other in the hall, we knew we were part of the conference and we said hi, how are you, I like your dress. I like this. I like ... Let's keep doing that. Let's do that to strangers. Let's uplift women with each other. We are really the only ones that can lift each other up, because in that female energy, that is what's healing to us. We need it from someone whose older. We need it from someone whose young. And, I'm telling you, I busted out of my fear of hugging strangers and all of that, because I didn't like hugs. I didn't like people to touch me. Now, I'm just a hugging fool and it feels really good.
So, if I can hug people, and if y'all knew me like three years ago, you'll go, she's hugging and kissing people? It's healing, and we need that as women. We need it from each other. We all experienced difficulty from both sides, but we have that special nurturing energy that we can give each other, so let's make sure we keep spreading that love, and we got a good foundation here at this foundation of practicing that for a day and a half. Let's continue. Maybe that's just a small part of why you're here is to take that back with you.
So, at this time, you see that we have our jingle dress dancers placed in the four directions and then one in the middle. We're now going have a water ceremony and we had to adjust it a little bit in order to do this with a large group of people we have. So, at each table, you'll see that we have our helpers standing there, who will help you with getting your water that you have, or that you'll be drinking. I'm going have Darlene, in a moment, explain the water and why we are doing this, and how the water becomes medicine.
You know, for those of you who have not been exposed to this, or have not been around. I always wondered to myself, maybe the Catholic people got that from us because we have been doing this since time immemorial. We had holy water for a long time, and we just called it medicine. It's in that same realm, where we are going petition the spirits to come down and make this into medicine, and I have had a lot of physical healing as a result of these ceremonies, so that is the time you really can pray for yourself, some healing you may need when you take that water.
While we do that, at the other point, the dancers are going be here, and [Mai 00:59:07] explained earlier how these dresses are medicines. So, they are here. We prayed together as a group as we prepared for this, and we thought about all the things that each of you are bringing from each of the directions of North, South, East, West of this United States and what you will be taking back with you, so we are praying for you, the time that you had here, and we're praying for you as you return and ask those prayers to continue to keep you strong, and everything that you touch will grow in the way it is meant to grow.
Darlene: [Foreign Language 00:59:46] Sandy. So, we have water in the four direction. We have our medicine dress, our jingle dress, and when you hear the sound of those jingles, it sounds like icicles, it sounds like water, and that is the healing that the dress brings by the sound, so we have our water, and there is a phrase that we have that was given to us by our grandmother, Josephine [Madama 01:00:15], and when she prays for the water, she says this. [Foreign Language 01:00:20].
And, what that says in our language is that, I will do it for the water. So, I will walk for the water. I will pray for the water. I will look after the water. I will care for the water. All of the things that we do as indigenous people to look after that water, so it's a very powerful statement, and I ask you to take that with you as well.
So, we're going sing a water song and pray for this water, and when we petition, in my workshop, those of you that were there, you remembered me saying that we petition to the grandmothers, who at the time when the earth was new, removed the water to a very special, very sacred place, where it was promised to the [Injicba 01:01:15], that we would be able to call upon them and ask for that blessed, pure water to become the water that is in the vessels that the women will hold up, and our vessels for ceremony are copper. And so, I'm going ask at this time, that the ladies that are going be holding the water, that you come in your directions in the corners and come up towards the people, and to hold that water up. This is the way that it is done when we make this petition.
Right after I get done, I'm going ask my brothers at the drum to pick up when I quit singing, so that our jingle dress dancers can begin to dance. And so, this water will be held up to prayer, along with their song as well. So, we have our women holding the water. So, you don't need to have the ladle in there at this time, but we want you to hold it securely-
Sandy: You can put the cloth down, Mallory.
Darlene: You can put the cloth down and just hold the water. Hold it up, and hold it strongly so we are not spilling anything. So once I'm done singing, then you can start so the jingle dress dancers can do their healing work with their dress too.
Sandy: Four times through.
Darlene: [Foreign Language 01:02:40]
Sandy: Singers. You can put your bowls down now, ladies and be prepared to serve the people when we are done.
Singers: [Foreign Language 01:04:49]
Sandy: Thank you, dancers. Thank you for those prayers that you said for the people. You can come back over here, dancers, and take your spot over here. And, at this time, before we break for the water, we are going hear one more time from Jeanette ... Would you want to say a closing deal.
Jeanette: No, that's good. Literally, one statement. I would like the board of the National Crittenton Foundation, the staff, the agency representatives, and the bold women to stand, just stand, that's all you have to do. So, on behalf of all those who are standing, and all those who could not make it, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for coming.
Sandy: I would like to thank you for being willing to go along on this small spiritual journey that we hopefully either added to, or woke up, or just a small part of that with you. So, we are going to at this time, this is our close, our official close, so, this section over here will go over here to grab a water, section back there will go with that table back there, and this section over in here will take water from over there, and this section here will receive water from this table up here.
So, what we need you to do though is, still stay ... Well you can laugh, you saw Darlene and I laughing, right? That's because I can't [inaudible 01:09:31] and bounce at the same time without losing my beat, so I'm just and I can't. So, you can laugh a little bit, we can do that in ceremony. Walk reverently, quietly, kinda like you are going to communion, but, only you can laugh. You know, I don't mean to bash. I have to be careful. I don't mean to bash. It's just that we like to have a little fun about how things are similar and a little different at the same time.
All prayer is a good prayer. All prayer means well, and we need every single prayer from every single faith.
So, at this time, I say thank you. I want to say thank you to the drum who is going ... So, singers will have a song while they are getting their water, and then when they are done, you can sing one more traveling song after the song that you do. I want to thank everyone. Thank my husband, I have to say this publicly, because, you know, our men who help us and support us when you go back home, do you have an uncle, a grandpa, do you have a brother or a cousin or some man in your community who you know you always turn to and go, he'll do that. Make sure you acknowledge him. Make sure you fix a dinner for him. Make sure you build him up, because if they weren't contributing that, we can't be doing what we are doing. My husband helps me a lot. I have a lot of health issues. I need a lot of support. And he helps me emotionally as well, and plus he's just a lot of fun to be with.
Let's remember that. As women, we are in our best place when we are honoring everyone. Thank you. Alright singers. And you can begin to get your water.
Singers: [Foreign language 01:11:35]
Crowd: [inaudible 01:12:11]

Pushed Out! Held Back! Put Down!: The Obstacles To Wellness And Academic Success For Teen Girls Of Color And How We Can Help Empower Them To Overcome!

with Pam Jones, Leteria Bailey, Tia Dolet, Josselin Panameno, Nyla Roy & Nicki Sanders, Florence Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, DC Department of Health

Alumnae discuss the real-life experiences (from school discipline, sexual harassment, gender bias, and trauma to community violence) that they faced on their path to college and careers. Then, Crittenton and community experts take the stage to discuss programmatic outcomes. Closing out, the mic opens up to the audience to share the ways they help empower teen girls of color.

Click for Transcript: Pushed Out! Held Back! Put Down!, The Obstacles To Wellness And Academic Success For Teen Girls Of Color And How We Can Help Empower Them To Overcome

Pam: This is exciting. I get to see all my friends, all my peeps. So welcome. Thank you so much for coming to our program. We are Crittenton Services of greater Washington. What our mission is, is what we share with many of our Crittenton brothers and sisters. We empower teen girls to overcome obstacles, make positive choices, and achieve their goals.
We are serving about 400 girls annually in school based programs in middle and high school students. 98 percent are African American, Latina, and are immigrants from all around the world, predominantly from low income neighborhoods. 85 percent of the girls that we serve would be the first in their family to attend college.
So we gave you a little snapshot. You like that, me too. Give you a little snapshot of our program of our diversity because we serve two jurisdictions, Montgomery County and Washington DC. So you can see for yourself that in the city, where we're in wards 5, 7, and 8, then we are working with primarily African American girls. And in Montgomery County, we're 53 percent Latina and 34 percent African American girls.
So our programs, in a quick snapshot, sneakers, it empowers girls to navigate the choices and challenges of adolescence. Pearls, enables pregnant and parenting teens to succeed as students and parents. So about 10 to 15 percent of our programs are pearls, and the rest are either goal setting girls in middle school, or sneakers in high school.
Goal setting girls supports girls' development, social and emotional learning skills that are essential to academic career and life skills.
So what I'm really excited about today is, one of the things that sets up apart is that we have experienced experts who are dedicated to the empowerment of girls. And you're gonna hear from four of them today. Their bios are in your packet and I would encourage you to take a look. I really, really enjoy working with these women, and they teach me something new every day.
All of our programs use the model of positive youth development. They're gender responsive. They're trauma informed. They're either evidence based or they utilize evidence informed curriculum. We like to say that we serve the whole girl, not one body part. Yes, we do teach about body parts, comprehensive sexual health, healthy relationships, careers, college, STEM, 21st century jobs. You're gonna hear more of that from our ladies, but the whole girl. No one is any one bucket. No one is labeled, and no one is judged.
So we do external evaluation, and we know for both our experience and what the data tells us, that in academic success, we are very proud to say, 100 percent graduation rate for six years straight. 98 percent grade advancement for all teens, and all of our girls increased class participation and reduced suspensions.
In the healthy choices bucket, Crittenton girls are able to form healthy relationships. They know the facts about STDs and HIV and AIDS. And our programs are proven to result in significant pregnancy prevention.
Crittenton girls lead empowered lives. They themselves have the strength and the resiliency to build on their own strengths, and we're just there to help them find a pathway. The girls will speak up for their own needs, which you will hear today. They set and accomplish their goals. They use problem solving skills to overcome challenges. We like to say we are strength finders, and I'm happy to introduce you to one of the strongest, most amazing young women I have ever met, miss Tia [inaudible 00:04:06].
Tia: Thank you Pam. Good afternoon everyone.
Audience: Good afternoon.
Tia: All right. So yes, my name is Tia [inaudible 00:04:16] and I was a facilitator of the Crittenton program Sneakers for a number of years, but I'm associated with the Crittenton agency for the past 15 years as a former participant of the program. So I'm happy to be here and serving as one of the moderators for this panel.
So the first issue ... so what we did to kind of come up with this data is we talked ... we had a focus group of our participants in ward 7 in Washington DC, and those are the programs that I primarily facilitated. As Pam mentioned, the demographics of those participants were 98 percent African American, just given the demographics of DC public schools, especially in that ward.
From the focus group that we found using those students and past participants who are in college now, and their careers, that were coming from DC public schools, this is how we kinda came up with this presentation and the things that we wanted to share with you all.
So we have three different buckets, pushed out, held back, and put down. So I'm gonna be framing those three different issues for you all and providing some context, and then hearing from our panelists and their individual stories as well.
So the first one is pushed out, and just to give you a little bit of context of what that means, pushed out is a kind of blanket term. It's anything that removes a student from the classroom. In our focus study, and in my own experience, suspension was a big piece of that. As I mentioned, most of my girls were African American girls. So just to give you all some context of what that looks like for them, they mirrored the trends that we see nationally, especially in public schools.
So it's important to note, Black girls are suspended six times more than their White peers, right. So Black boys are the number one demographic for the highest rates of school suspension. Black girls come directly after. So they're the highest demographic, higher than most boys.
So these are numbers from 2010. Black girls made up about 17 percent of the public school enrollment. Those numbers are roughly the same today, but make up 27 percent in referrals to law enforcement, and over 43 percent in school related arrests. And then the study done by Dr. Jamilia Blake, who you all might have heard from one of the ... well, the main researcher on Girlhood Interrupted with Georgetown Law Center. She did a study in her hometown in Texas where she was looking at the types of infractions amongst the different demographics of girls. So what she found is that for Latina girls, they got more objective offenses, so things that you can actually quantify, so tardiness, truancy, things like that.
Whereas Black girls were more likely to be suspended for subjective offenses, so things that are kind of left up to the interpretation of teachers, school staff. When that comes into play, we have stereotyping, racial biases, so things like improper dress code. What really constitutes as improper dress code? And defiance. What does that mean? So left up to the interpretation of the staff and their own biases in that.
So in our study, in our focus group, what we found is that school discipline was very capricious in it's application. So very left up to the discretion of the teachers, of the school staff, not really in line with the state policies as well. And then too often, kids were being suspended for minor offenses. So things as dress code offenses, being late to class, rather than serious infraction. Again, all things that are removing them from the class for long periods of time.
So just to mention a little bit about my experience when working in DC public schools in ward 7 in high school and middle school, is why I really became interested in school suspension and ways to remedy this is because in the 2013-2014 school year, I noticed that the majority of my participants were being suspended for outrageous amounts of time for very small infractions. So I had a student that was suspended for five days for not having a hall pass. And then most of the offenses were subjective, so things that ... teacher would say you're talking back, you're being too loud. What does that really mean? And is that something that really constitutes you from being removed from the class?
What I found is, as I went on and I had my first group of seniors, as they were preparing for college, because of these attitudes that they'd experienced from the teachers, it really disconnected how they saw themselves as scholars, and disconnected them from school.
So just a little background on the school and where they stood academically, they had a 41 percent graduation rate that year. 23 percent proficiency in math, and 16 percent proficiency in reading. So wasting school time or being out of the classroom is not something that these students could afford, so I was very concerned with ways to keep them in class and keep them engaged. And it's not just a DCPS issue. This is something that happens ... it's mirroring problems nationwide, in majority minority school districts especially.
So the next bucket we have is held back. We categorize this as obstacles for girls and young women of color in educational spaces, also workforce development spaces, and also in the workplace. The first issue being high teacher turnover and large percentages of new and inexperienced teachers.
So, a stat that is out is it takes a teacher about three years before they really get into their stride of good teaching, and that's when you're having the most outcomes for their students, the best outcomes for the students that they're teaching. If you're in a school district with a high teacher turnover rate every year, that opportunity gap, that achievement gap becomes even wider. So this becomes a challenge in a lot of minority majority school districts, or what people have called urban school districts.
These are just two recent headlines from DC, so high poverty schools often staffed by rotating cast of substitutes. That tends to happen a lot here, and I know it's not just exclusive to the DC area. And then also, there is a school in DC actually, and one of the schools that we serve, where more than a quarter of it's teaching staff ... they lost more than a quarter of their teaching staff, which had to be replaced in a short amount of time. So again, putting the students at a disadvantage.
Another issue that came up in our focus group was not being adequately prepared for college. So having, again, the issue that we mentioned with the high teacher turnover and other issues that we'll get into from our panelists, but a lot of students might make it to college and they feel like they haven't been prepared in their K through 12 education. So this is just one of the stories that came out with a student who was at Georgetown.
And then for our students, once going to a college, particularly in a predominantly White institution, facing racism and sexism, in their school, in their workplace, so as we've all seen what's been going on with, I'm sad to say, my alma mater, American University, and just the kind of racial climate that's going on in those environments as well, and how that impacts girls in their education.
All right, and just some other findings that we found is that young mothers talked about the challenges they faced while in school. So attitudes placed on them by their teachers, by their peers, especially the adults in the building that kind of just impacted them from getting what they needed to be the most successful scholars, and then also just challenges in terms of finding daycare, affordable daycare, quality daycare.
And then the younger girls also mentioned a lot about disproportionate emphasis on the needs and interests of boys, especially when it came to sports. It might not be something ... I'm not a sports person, so that wasn't something I thought about, but when you're talking about college, especially college access, that is a big source of scholarships for students. So a lot of the girls mentioning not having opportunities to shine in a certain way, that could hinder them from getting the money that they need, the exposure, the experience they need to prepare for higher education.
Miss Nyla, I'm gonna let you go ahead if you want to go ahead and share your experience. Nyla [Voight 00:13:12] is a past participant of Crittenton programs and is currently a student at the University of District of Columbia and a medical assistant.
Nyla: Good afternoon. I'm gonna share my experience about being in the DC public school system. Just quick background information, I grew up in southeast DC and then I moved to northeast DC when I was in about the sixth grade. And growing up, I had such curiosity in the world of science. My grandmother graduated from North Carolina [inaudible 00:14:06] with her masters in chemistry, and then my mom graduated with a communications degree. But I had the love of science growing up from my grandmother fostered into me, and my grandmother and my mom, they always instilled in me how important education is.
So through my elementary school education, I always entered myself into science fairs and I always won, every year. And that love for science continued to grow, but as I continued to grow and go through the DCPS system, the public school system in DC, I found that my learning experience changed because it wasn't cultivated in the right way. Going through middle school and then going on to high school, as Tia mentioned, I was a school [inaudible 00:14:55] in ward 7. That's the only high school in ward 7 for that area, for one.
We had overcrowded classroom sizes. Teachers constantly came in and out. They always came in, they left in the middle of the school year, and they would replace them with a substitute, and then we wouldn't have a teacher for the rest of the school year. I can remember for my 9th grade year biology class, I had a teacher that came in and she stayed for about three months, if that. She came and stayed there for about three months and she left. And then we had another teacher come in for about another two months, and then she left. And then after that we had no teacher for the rest of the school year. That took a great impact on me because I love science, and the fields that I'm going into, as far as my college career and afterwards, I had to have a strong science background, science and math background.
And going through that just didn't motivate me to continue on to go through school. I motivated myself, of course, but not all students are the same. Every student is different. If you don't have that right support system to get you through those hard days, or those weeks and months when you don't have teachers there to supervise, just even teachers there to supervise your classroom, it makes learning very hard and difficult to attain.
As I continued going through my high school career, I graduated in 2012 from high school, and so I was in high school from 2009 to 2012, and my school was in a transition point. They were building a new building. And so they had the 9th graders at one school with middle schoolers and then they had 10th through 12th at another school. And the schools were pretty run down. I just didn't feel like my high school experience was ... I didn't appreciate my high school experience because I was in a school with middle schoolers. I didn't feel at home with the rest of the school because we were so far apart, and then I had to take transportation to get to my school instead of just walking right up the street.
As far as the education in the classrooms going on. We didn't have supplies in our classrooms that we would need. We didn't have the support from other staff. So say if I needed to maybe go to the doctors or something, we didn't have the right people to go to relay that information to. It was constant fights and suspensions in our school that was going on. And just the overall safety of the students there in the classroom was just bad, just plain and simple. And so really, my experience going through high school was pretty tough.
Then in my senior year of high school, I had my son, which made it a lot more harder, but I did it, of course graduated on time. And I remember one time going to my counselor, and I got really good grades, especially in my English and science classes. I told my counselor, I said I want to take AP English and AP government so I can try to get those credits done for college, and they told me no that I can't do it. I tried to ask why and they just said no. It was just too much for me to handle, because at that moment I was still trying to learn how to be a new mom, and trying to figure out going through my senior year. So I kinda just left it where it was.
But those type of circumstances happen across the board through the district. I mean, through the country. Whether you're a young parent, just a student trying to get into classes to help you for college.
Also, another thing that I experienced, not just with me but with my fellow peers, is that a lot of times the DCPS system, or the school system in the city, doesn't prepare us for college, just as Tia mentioned with the articles. So going into school and playing catch up in college classrooms. I mean, it's really intimidating sometimes being in the classroom. Ivy League school, you can imagine ... some people that I know that go to Ivy League schools, sit in the classroom in like Georgetown or George Washington, and sit in the classroom with all these students that come from all over the country, and maybe sometimes from around the world, and just being intimidated because you knew you graduated with great grades and you might've been top of your class, but you're kinda at the bottom when you go into your classroom because your school didn't prepare you.
And so now you're going to a college classroom where you have all these students that want to learn, are aware, and active, and motivated, and you come from a high school where students were constantly being disruptive, you had no teachers in the classroom sometimes, and you go from that to this. It's not even just a culture shock, it's like you have to do this whole mind shift. Being in that, and I experienced that myself, and being through high school ... not feeling in place, also, because sometimes ... I was always the student that raised my hand when I had a question, but I was always frowned upon because I had a question, and then moving to the classroom in college, it was more appreciated, more accepted.
And then I had the opportunity about two weeks ago to go to NASA at the Langley Center to work on robotics for a week, and I told my boyfriend, I told him this is the first time probably in my life where I really felt like I belonged in an educational setting. Fortunately that's a good thing, but unfortunately it shouldn't have took this long for me to be felt appreciated and belonged in an education setting. So that's my experience, thank you.
Tia: Thank you so much, Nyla, for sharing your story. Once we go through our challenge panel there will be an opportunity for you all to talk back with the panelists.
The next category we're gonna move onto is put down. So what we found is that ... the findings from the focus group fit into kinda three different categories. It was a disregard, disrespect, and harassment. So this quote is actually from a source from Monique Morris, who wrote the book Push Out. I believe she's here at this panel, or at this conference, but she said "When Black girls do engage in acts that are deemed 'ghetto' or deviation from social norms that define female behavior according to a narrow White middle class definition of femininity, they are subject to criminalizing responses." And I thought that this really fit with some of the things that our focus group expressed, and also some of the stories that our panelists will share with you today.
So just a few statistics of sexual harassment reported by 8th through 11th graders, so there is overwhelmingly Black girls reported being touched, or grabbed, or pinched in a sexual way, and being more likely to be forced to kiss somebody. So these are numbers that haven't really changed that much throughout the years in a lot of different studies.
Also important to mention kinda the impact that this has on the LGBT students of color, especially in a school setting. So 53 percent of LGBT African American students experienced verbal harassment based on their sexual orientation at school. 43 percent expressed harassment due to their gender expression, and 54 percent reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
So in our focus group, what we found, just in terms of disregard and disrespect, from the youngest to the oldest participants, were described ... participants described the profoundly negative stereotypes that they had heard about Black girls. So they were hearing this from their peers, but also from their staff and their teachers as well. And then also a lot of reports on sexual harassment. Participants described being subject to cat calls, provocative statements, especially on their way to and from school, and that continued on in the building, often from adult men on their way to school and just out in the community.
So one thing that we noted is that this is significant, the feeling unsafe in their communities for students, and also it caused girls to be reluctant to want to stay after school to participate in extra-curricular activities, so things that they're gonna need when they're applying to college, when they're just really figuring out what they like and what their interests are. There were times where we noticed that things would kinda drop off, especially when it got darker as the days got longer. So this was an important finding to us as well.
And now we are going to hear from a panelist who's gonna share her story, miss Lateria Bailey, and she is a youth development assistant with the Montgomery County Counsel.
Lateria: Thank you Tia.
Tia: You're welcome.
Lateria: Good afternoon everyone. Let me adjust this. I want to share my story about being put down. A lot of the things that were discussed in the focus group really resonated with me. I just remember being a young teenage girl and a lot of the things they were talking about is that society kind of sexualizes us in a way that we are not even prepared for. We don't know that, because we wear certain jeans we're being sexualized by adults, male and female. In your neighborhood sometimes you can't walk down a certain street because there might be a creepy man there. Just things like that, that make it harder to just be a girl.
I wanted to share a story that really impacted me. It actually happened last year when I was in a technology program. It was an IT program. It was accelerated, and I thought it would be a really good career opportunity, so I signed up. I took the test, and I got in the class. I was really excited about the class. I really liked what I was learning, but to be honest, from the first day there was a staff member that was there that just made me feel uncomfortable. Just the way he looked at me made me feel uncomfortable, but he never verbally said anything or physically touched me, so I thought it was just a feeling.
So about a week or so progressed in the program and I was doing really well. It was one incident where I was showing my colleagues that I had taken apart a computer and then put it back together because that's what we were learning, and I was really impressed with myself, so I was showing everyone else. So the guy I as speaking of, who's a staff member, he walks over and he's like "So what are you doing? What are you showing everyone?" So I showed him. I was like, I was showing them this computer that I took apart. I was so excited. And then he takes my phone and he starts to scroll through my phone, which I just thought was so inappropriate because I was obviously showing you one thing and so for you to invade my privacy, I thought it was very rude. I just kinda grabbed my phone back from him, and he was like, "So why are you taking your phone? Do you have something to hide?" Like something along those lines. And that just made me feel uncomfortable, but I never addressed it. I was just like okay, that was weird.
And then I guess a couple days passed and he was having meetings with certain people, not with everyone in the class, just certain people. He told me earlier in the day that he wanted to have a meeting with me. So I was like okay. He was the professional development guy. That was his role, so he was teaching us how to be professional. So it's kind of a blur exactly what the conversation was about because I was just so, after the fact, just upset. But I believe he was talking to me about how to behave as a professional, or how to not behave. Excuse me, how to not behave as a professional. He kind of came up to me. He was really close. Like I'm standing, and he's standing really close in my face. And then he kinda slides his hand on my hip area, and he was like yeah, so this is something you don't do to a woman. As a woman, he's telling me what not to do to a woman. I was just completely disgusted. I felt really invaded, like he invaded my space.
I was so compelled by what he did that the next day I wrote an email right before I went to class, because I didn't want him to have time to sleep on it. And so I wanted him to face me after I said what I had to say. So I sent him an email and I said, I thought what you did yesterday was extremely disrespectful, and inappropriate, and as a professional development person I thought that was the most unprofessional thing you could possibly do. And I told him that I hope in the future we can maintain a student teacher relationship, or student staff relationship. And he replied, you know, he was like I'm so sorry. I never meant to offend you.
But the bottom line was, it was offensive, and I was one of the only females in the class. It's a technology class. There was about three of us. And for him to intimidate me the way that he did, I had no doubt that he'd done it before, or that there might have been other females that came into the class that felt uncomfortable, because I'm telling you, from day one I felt extremely uncomfortable around this man. But I did advocate for myself. I actually reached out to another staff member. I said something because I felt like I should advocate for the other women that had to come through there, or for anyone else that felt uncomfortable in the past.
Unfortunately, it was basically swept under the rug. I spoke to a staff member, who then spoke to another staff member, and she came to me and was like "You know, he was really sorry. I'm sure this was an isolated incident." She basically had his back. I did try my best to take it to the next level and to get it to the right person's attention, but unfortunately that didn't really make a difference.
Just to get back to the point, it shows how women and girls can be intimidated in spaces like this where you just go there to get an education, and next thing you know there's some creep that's harassing you and you can't focus in class, and you might drop out. You might not even want to come back and continue. Luckily I did continue. I am an A+ certified technician now. Thank you. And I didn't let him stop me, but I was really proud of myself for speaking up about something that made me feel so uncomfortable, but I just know that this happens all the time, and it's really up to men to stop being inappropriate with women. Thank you. But also it would be good if we spoke up, but it's so hard to do that because sometimes when we do, we see that nothing is done, and that's really the hardest part. So yeah, that was the story I wanted to share. Thank you.
Tia: All right. Thank you Lateria. So now we're gonna here from miss Jocelyn [inaudible 00:32:32]. Did I say it right? She is a soldier in the US Army and also an IT assistant.
Jocelyn: Hello. Oh, it's not working.
Tia: Yes it is. It's working.
Jocelyn: Okay. I want to make sure you guys can here me. So my name's Jocelyn. I grew up in Montgomery County. As you guys can see, there's a lot of Latinos in Montgomery County and I'm one of them. So I got to talk about community violence.
When people think of Montgomery County, they think it's so nice. They think it's Bethesda, Chevy Chase, [inaudible 00:33:08], very nice areas. I'm from [inaudible 00:33:12]. It's a nice area as well, but I think they underestimate the fact that bad things can still happen there, because you know, it's not DC, it's not Baltimore, it's not Detroit, those stereotypical bad cities.
So I wanted to share a story. When I was 12 years old I was the new girl in 7th grade. It was kind of nice 'cause I got to meet new people, and obviously in middle school, 7th grade, everybody's talking about the new girl. I just wanted to be friends with everyone.
I remember there was this boy ... I was 12 and he was probably 12 or 13 as well, and I remember we were talking one day and I just didn't like his vibe. I guess he saw that I was being friends with everybody, I just didn't want to be friends with him. He started talking about gang stuff and how he gets into fights, and he thought he was cool. And this was a 12 year old boy. Now that I look back at it, obviously my mindset is different about it, but in the moment I was just like oh, just don't talk to me.
But one day after school he came up to me, he was like, "I know the people that you hang out with from your old school and I don't get along with them." I was just like who are you talking about? He started talking about these people's names that I didn't even know. And I remember specifically this one moment, it always replays in my head, and I think about my brothers that are in middle school now. We were in the bus, where everybody picks up the students, and everybody just comes out, and everybody goes to their designated bus.
I was a walker and he was a walker as well. So he was wearing jeans, and he pulled up his left or right jean up, and pulled it up, and strapped to his leg, a 12 year old boy, was a dagger, knife, pocket knife. It was big. And you know, I just stayed quiet and I walked away. I know I was more scared of the fact that I would be a snitch, a tattle tale, than I was brave enough to go tell an adult or a teacher.
And while I was studying community violence for this panel, I started thinking about students all over the country. I read that in the US Department of Justice reported that 60 percent of children have been exposed to community violence, and 40 percent are direct victims. And community violence could be anything from gun violence, students that get shot for no reason, there's no personal reason, it's just bad intentions.
And earlier this year, in Montgomery County, there was a ... these two high school students, on their graduation eve, that got shot in Montgomery Village just for no reason. And they ended up finding the shooters. It was like three men, and they talked about how it was four bullets in one boy, and a few more in the other one. And they were in their car in their neighborhood. I don't know. I'm pretty sure they went that whole day knowing they were gonna graduate tomorrow, and then they died. It was all over the news.
And then I also think about how that happens all the time in other cities like Detroit. I thought about all the parents that had to ... their kids are missing. There are students who are dying. They don't get to reach where I am today as teenagers and adults. And the ones that do get to grow up and make it, there are consequences with it. There's physical consequences, psychological, behavior, academic. They grow up in the streets and they see that. Their guidance is the streets. They grow up to be just like that, and it's just like a ripple effect.
I always try to put my mindset that I'm not gonna let my zip code define me, and I'm not gonna fall into that stereotype where I'm gonna be that violent person, or join a gang or something. But I don't think everybody's lucky, and nobody puts attention that. Especially 'cause in the area I'm from, people don't think about that. But yeah, that's my story. That's what I could think of, and yeah, that's it.
Tia: Thank you Jocelyn. Thank you panelists. It's one thing to talk about the different challenges, and the stories, and respecting, of course, the voices of these ladies. But really as an agency what we wanted to do is to talk, break down the solutions to kinda how we address these issues, and then also to talk to you all about how you can continue the work, and carry the work, and brainstorm about the things that you do with women, young women of color especially in your areas as well.
So we're going to introduce swap panels for our other team of experts. We have our Crittenton Services of Greater Washington staff that will be coming up. And these women have been program facilitators, program directors, and really instrumental in shaping the program as we know it today. So ladies, if y'all want, you can do your introductions as you go down and share your solutions.
Nikki: I'm Nikki Sanders, the Director of Programs with Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, and I have been with Crittenton since 2008, so I know all of these young ladies since their high school days and we're really proud of them.
One of the things that we are very intentional about doing is giving our young ladies a safe space, the space that they need to share their fears. The space that they need to get their questions answered. The space that they need to feel important, to feel special, to feel that someone cares for them. And so that is our overarching theme or our goal is to create the platform for our girls to shine. They're amazing. They're smart. They're wonderful. When they come to us, we want to make sure that they know how amazing that they are, so we hire awesome people like these young ladies here who believe in the mission, who believe in the girls, and as Pam said, we approach our ladies from a positive youth development model. So we are coming to them based on their strengths. We are not looking for their deficiencies and their deficits. We are going to them looking for what it is that they want to do, what it is that they want to show to the world, and then we just open up that space for them to be the center and be the spotlight. So I'll let these two young ladies speak and then we can talk a little bit more.
Sharon: Okay, can you hear me? All right, perfect. My name is Sharon Daugherty and I am a program leader with Crittenton, so I work directly with our girls. I'm from Washington, DC, southeast DC to be more specific. While I am from a similar location as most of the girls that I work with, actually I work at some of the schools I used to [inaudible 00:41:20], like my neighborhood schools, my lived experience is drastically different. But I understand them, and I understand some of the things that they're up against.
As a program leader, I think the most important thing ... because the information that Tia shared, the statistics, some of the narrative, it's very much so what they're dealing with on a daily basis, and it's kind of hard to recognize that girls as young as 12 and 13 are trying to navigate these spaces with this burden, this heavy load on their backs, and they want to be successful, they want to achieve, but they have so many things that can prevent them from reaching that next level that they want to go to.
So I always say that with the Sneakers program, it's more than just meeting with them on a weekly basis and going through a curriculum. My job doesn't just stop once I leave them at lunch time. So my role to kind of help them with this terrain they're trying to figure out is really becoming a presence in their life, an adult that they can talk to and have support about the different things that are facing them. Some of them can't talk to their parents about what they're dealing with in their schools because their parents may not know how to ... they may know what it feels like, but they may not have the solutions to help them get to that next place.
So I always consider myself an advocate for them, and I make sure that I build relationships within the schools to help them, because a lot of the schools that they're attending, they want to ... like Nyla wanted to be a scientist, but they don't have a science teacher for the entire school year. And so, what are the things that I can do to help them get the things that they need outside of school maybe so that they can reach their goals. And I always say that we equip them with the knowledge and the skills to just navigate these tough places.
For example, we talk about push out, we talk about the suspension rates. In our program we talk extensively with the girls about communication skills. Communication in terms of not having conflicts with their peers, so that can be a way to prevent them from getting in trouble if they're able to deal with conflicts in a positive way, but also how to communicate with the adults in the building that have this authority over them that can really predict where they can go in school and outside of school. And so we work a lot with them on communication skills and advocacy skills, and knowing how to advocate for themselves in the right way, how to speak to certain adults, how to ask for help, how to ask for the things that you need in a way that ... like solution oriented right, so not just saying I'm mad about this and this is not fair, but this is unfair but these are the things that I need in order to get what I want. So those are some of the things we focus on heavily.
We also talk to them a lot about exposing them to things outside of their communities and what they see. So it's one thing to say oh, when I grow up I want to go to college. Okay, what does that mean? What does that look like? Have you been on a college campus? So we take them on trips to college campuses so that they can see themselves in these spaces that they want to be in. We have very candid conversations with them about what it's like to be a college student. What does that mean? How do you navigate? How do you find support on your campus ... you know, our seniors and juniors, how do you find support on your campus if you're struggling with some mental health challenges, or you're struggling with racism or sexism on your campus. Who can you talk to? How do you advocate for yourself in those spaces?
I love the work that we do because we get to make an impact on so many young people, that maybe if it wasn't for Sneakers or if it wasn't for the interactions we have with them, they may have had a different outcome. And so it's always wonderful to see our program alum who are doing such wonderful things and beating the odds, quote unquote. Why is it that we have this notion that we have to beat the odds? Why can't it just be that you're doing your thing and that's just how it's supposed to be, right. But when you have to work with girls who they're constantly being told what they can't be. And so, over time you just kinda adopt that as maybe that's just what life is. Maybe I'll get out of high school, maybe I won't.
And so, I always say my role is to help them, not recognize their potential, but to help them figure out ... not just figure out what they want to be, but get them there. 'Cause it's okay to talk in theory about who we want to be, but we want to make sure they have the things they need to get there. So that's kinda where I'm thinking now. So Miss Jessi?
Jessica: Buenas Tardes. Good afternoon. My names is Jessica [inaudible 00:45:53] and I'm one of the facilitators for the past nine years of the Sneakers, Pearls, and another after school program that we used to have that focused on teaching girls on how to prepare for college, and being involved through that process with their families. From where I sit, I also grew up in Montgomery County like Jocelyn did, and so from that perspective, I think our programs do a really nice job at attracting professionals that have lived in these neighborhoods that really understand what's going on, and that really have a good sense of what are the challenges that these young ladies are facing on a day to day basis. I think that's really important, because if you can't speak to that, the girls will know that and then they'll check out immediately.
So I think our program is real. I think it's honest, and I think it's really intentional in creating this space where they can be a community of girls to just be girls, to just ask the questions that are floating around, and that they want to know. It just so happens that, as time evolves, because they're with us for not just a set ... like 10 weeks. They're with us for the whole entire year, and so the relationships that we build are pretty strong, and pretty solid. And so we're intentional about that because we know that these relationships are gonna carry them through. When they have the supports that they need, these girls can thrive in any setting. And so we are intentional about bringing in people that support that vision, people that care about girls in the same way that we do, and we're also taking very seriously that we are the role models. We model what we want them to be and what we want them to experience.
So our space is where we get to practice. How do we handle ourselves in the community when faced with difficult situations, when having to negotiate difficult conversations with mom and dad. In Montgomery County, some of the same things do occur as well, but in addition to that we also have an influx of students who are coming in undocumented and don't really have a place, or don't feel like they have a place within the school. So they're totally disconnected and disengaged, and so for us, in our program, we take it seriously that we value their culture, we value their voice and what that means, because they've experienced trauma coming here, and while here they're reliving some of that as well.
So our program, I think, is strong in the sense that we don't assume anything. We take the time to listen to our girls, and listen to what their experiences are so that we go from that place and move forward, and I think that that has worked for us very well, and I think that this is the kind of work that needs to happen across the board.
I've met many young people who have felt reassured that this is the space where they can ask these tough questions because they can't ask that at home to mom and dad, or the other experienced adults in their life. We do a phenomenal job, I think, in that sense, that for the young ladies that are in our groups, that they trust us enough to share with us some of those issues, which are very personal and very painful sometimes.
And so I think, within some of the things that we do is we try to connect them to the school but to the right resources, of course, but not everything is set up to help the young ladies that we are working with at the time. And so, I think it's important for us to help build those relationships and then teach our girls how to navigate that through some of the exercise that we do in our groups. So I'm happy to talk more about, but I know we have time.
Sharon: Can I say one more thing Miss Tia?
Tia: Absolutely.
Sharon: [inaudible 00:49:37] two more things. So the one thing I also want to highlight, is in our programs we definitely try to work with a variety of girls. And so oftentimes ... let me speak specifically for DC, what my experience is in DC public schools. A lot of the girls that get selected for programs are always the higher achievers, the scholars, the best representatives of the school. So either you get the best girl, the ones the school loves and puts all their resources into, or they give you the girls who need a lot of support who you can't really ... like you don't have the things that you need in order to be the most effective with them, right. But I take them all.
I want a diverse set of girls, but I always love working with the girls who are kind of like the ones left on the wayside, because those are the girls who need that extra push, because they're the ones who, if someone can tap into them and make them ... really let those light bulbs click that they are ... you are able, you can do it. Those are the girls where the reward is always so great because they are the ones who no one really cared about. And so that's one thing I love about our program is that we don't just work with one type of girl. We want all the girls. We want the quiet ones. We want the ones that are a little more boisterous. We want the ones who are really smart. We also want the ones who want some additional support so that they can also be successful. I always tell the girls, there's a college out there for everybody. So there's a place for you somewhere and we will find it for you.
I wanted to say one more thing, too. One more thing. So our programs ... one group can only have about 12 to 15. A lot of times I have maybe almost 20. But we can't work with every single girl in these schools. And so the one thing that I also love about the program is that the girls who are involved in the program, they always talk to their friends. I'm always comforted in like ... especially when we start doing the sexual health stuff. I can tell this one girl, these 20 girls can tell a friend, and the impact that that has over time with each person telling a friend, hopefully they're telling them accurate information, right, but at least they're sharing that information and they're having these conversations with their peers so that you do feel like the impact is also reaching the people outside of your classroom. So that's just something also I wanted to highlight about our programs.
Nikki: Can I say one thing Miss Tia? Just to piggyback on what Miss Sharon just said. One of the things that we are very intentional about is making sure that we are not judging our girls. They've been judged by teachers, peers, people in the neighborhood. So when they come to us, our goal is to create that safe space. And so sometimes before we can do that, we have to kinda lift some of those weights and peel off those labels. So many times our girls may come to us with lots of labels, and depending on the recruitment strategy at a particular school, sometimes the young ladies are informed that they should come. Sometimes they're recommended to come, and sometimes they self select. But all of us have had groups where the girls have walked in, looked around and saw who was in the room, and said something similar to "Oh, this is the group for bad girls."
And so our job is to peel back those labels so by the end of the year they know that they're amazing, they know that they're smart, they have a full support system, not just the caring, trusted adult, but they've also begun to be peer mentors for each other, and so like Miss Sharon said, they are sharing that information with others, but they have a solid support system. So we know that, for some of our young ladies where truancy may be an issue, they may come to school a little bit more on a Sneakers and Pearls day because they want that support.
So the impact that we are making is not just on academics, or it's not just around reproductive health. It really is something that is making an impact throughout their entire life. So like Pam said, we're reaching the whole girl, but then that girl is also impacting her neighborhood and her community, like these awesome young ladies.
Tia: All right. Thank you panelists. So now we want to open up the floor. Any of you that want to talk back to either women that were on our solutions panel, on our challenges panel, questions, comments, anything that you all want to share, we're here to really support you in your journeys.
Right here? All right, this young lady right here has a question.
Audience: I have something to say. I have a story myself. For me, I am ... my name is [Sharkeila 00:54:10], by the way. I'm with the [inaudible 00:54:11] Family Center Organization, and I have experienced being pushed out of school. I have gotten suspended a couple times, just from me standing up for myself for being bullied at school. And I have been put in ISD or been sent home. I have gotten five days, or I have gotten three days. So if I just stand up for myself, I be the one who get kicked out of class, not them, and what the teacher will say is that you shouted out in class without telling me. I tell them I told you before, but you never did nothing about it, but when I say something to the child, you'll put me out of class and I'll be the one who gets sent home.
And the thing is, I have been put down myself. I've been talked about a couple of times. I've been said I would never amount to anything, but I'm proving them wrong. I'm still in school. I'm 10th grade, and I'm holding on. It's tough. They say how you really into high school when you make it into 10th grade, and they're right. My [inaudible 00:55:32] classes. I'm taking [inaudible 00:55:35] and they're tough, but it takes the patient to get through the class, and I'm making it day by day.
Tia: Thank you so much for sharing that. Your family here is cheering you on. Thank you for sharing sweetie. Right here?
Audience: Hi, my name is Anya Mews and I work at Cal State East Bay. I actually do college recruitment for a specific program in California, and I think one of the reasons I wanted to come to this panel, of course, for meeting you before Pam, but also it's really important to me to see what people are doing at the K-12 level, because by the time we get students in college, a lot of students come in having been labeled, and what tends to happen is that the faculty that worked directly with the students already had this gaze casted on what students, especially students of color, are, who they are and how they show up.
One of the things that I see consistently is that the young men and women of color who come into college settings are part of our drop, fail, withdraw rate. So there's a 44 percent DFW rate at Cal State Easy Bay, for example. All math and sciences, right. And of that 44 percent rate, about 79 to 85, it fluctuates, are all African American or students of color. So then our graduation rate is, at six years, is 33 percent. And I don't believe that it's because this demographic of students are incapable.
I think that 90 percent of what we get in those results is because of the attitudes about these students as they are coming in. And if you have faculty who are tenure, it's very hard to change their pedagogy, but the pedagogical framework calls for othering folks of color. And so what I would like to kinda impart and say is, my hope is that, as you all are building these programs, when you're introducing the students to college, that you really are also introducing them to ways to navigate through college in very, very specific ways, because the students are extremely capable, but they literally ... I promise you they're coming in at a deficit, even with a 3.5 GPA.
Tia: Absolutely.
Audience: I see it all the time. I see students who come in with the grades, with the supporting documentation, they've hit all of their requirements, and this isn't just freshmen, this is also transfer students that this is happening to. So you've got students that have come in with AA degrees who are being pigeonholed, and again, it's a very scary thing, and we all in this room know what it is, and it has to be called out, but the students have to know what it is. They have to know that it's systemic racism and that they are going to places that were never built for them, but once they get in on paper, they are in and need to persist. So I just wanted to posit that.
Sharon: I just want to respond to that. Thank you so much for that. Because that is definitely something that we are trying to, as our program has grown and we have more girls who participate who are juniors and seniors, and really preparing for that next part of their life, we have ... in our focus groups that we did earlier in the year, a lot of our girls, our college students, talked about how they got to these spaces where some of them were honor roll, or great students, and they get to these classrooms in college, it's like oh my gosh, I don't know anything. And what that does to your psyche while you're in a place where you're supposed to achieve, and all your life you've achieved, and now you're in a place where you're not achieving.
And then even for some of our girls who are coming from environments that are ... maybe they were all Black or all Latino, and now you're going to a space where you're one of very few. How do you navigate that? That has a cultural impact on you. The cultural impact is significant. And so, our programs, we talk like ... in our curriculum, as we kind of build of the junior and senior programs, we do talk about when you're in these spaces, who do you talk to on campus if you need help in a class? Who do you talk to on campus if you are experiencing racism in your classroom, whether it's from a student or your teacher? What are the resources to help them be successful? Because we know what the statistics say about first generation college students. We know what they say about people of color who go to college and the dropout rates, because they feel alone and isolated. And so we definitely try to address that in our programs.
Audience: [inaudible 01:00:17] 90 percent of the failure is not academic.
Sharon: Right, it's all ...
Audience: It literally is cultural. It literally is just engagement around students, and they need to understand that. And I'll also say that I teach a course called navigating systems of oppression at [inaudible 01:00:36] college, and one of the things I think I'm gonna have to do after doing this conference is figure out how to make a webinar so that people can utilize it, because I think that waiting until you get in is also part of the problem
Tia: Absolutely.
Audience: You get in and then you have a bad experience with one professor, and it shoots everything that you've worked for.
Tia: Thank you. I saw a hand right here.
Audience: Good afternoon everybody. I'm Dr. [inaudible 01:01:05]. I've actually just started working with Pam and the team. This has been very, very informative. I want to start by saying that. And when Pam and I spoke several weeks ago in the transitional period, I expressed that not only is this something that everyone can relate to, irrespective of your background or your passion. I think, as we hear the stories from the panelists, and then from the actual staff members, you can sense the passion from everyone that's involved.
But I did want to piggyback off of what you said, and also I think Sharon, what you mentioned as well. It is a cultural issue, and I just wanted to really quickly share an experience of my own. I went to Howard University and then also Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina, for both within my undergraduate experience. I did that for several reasons, but I wanted to get different backgrounds so I also went to USC and I went to London. And the reason I share this is to say, there were cultural differences at every place.
And I remember at Howard, I was known. I was a part of a culture in which was very accepting, because I looked like everyone else. But when I got to USC in LA, no one knew me. No one took the time out to say, you're a visiting student, what has your experience been? How can we better receive future cohorts that come in and transfer in like you? And so, if I had not had this sort of, I guess, internal resilience and support, I would've left, just like you said. And so it is really not an academic issue. It really is a cultural issue.
So I just wanted to applaud you for sharing that, and applaud you for seconding it. I'm gonna third that. I really do. I mean, this is just such a great program, and I'm so thankful that you invited me. I'm thankful to be working with all of you, and congratulations to everyone that's transitioned out of the program. So thank you.
Tia: Thank you. We have a ... this young lady. [inaudible 01:03:14]
Audience: Hi, my name is Yun Simpson, and I work at Soul Programs, which is also a DC based ... we're also in DC public schools, so it's really happy ...
Tia: Oh yes, I know Soul, okay.
Audience: Yay. Yeah, it's really great to hear all of the success that's going on around, and I was wondering if you all had any suggestions on how to kind of get greater reach in the community, or with public office and things like that, 'cause I think something that we always talk about with our programs is that it's really great that we have these spaces and that our students can share with other people, but how can we make it more ingrained in the school community as a whole, and then in the city itself, and like barriers to that, 'cause I think we create really great spaces that help students thrive, but how can we create sustainable change where if our program didn't exist anymore, these girls would still feel supported.
Pam: I would just like to say, one of the reasons why we're encouraged is really because of our partnership with the department of health. What we have in the district is we have ... the leader of the department of health firmly believes that your health is about the social determinants of health. It's not about just where you have access. So the whole vision is defined integrated solutions, and it's easy to talk about it, and it's darn, darn hard to actually do.
But one of the reasons why I'm encouraged is that, when you have stability, and we've had Dr. Nesbit now for almost four years ... when you have stability of leaders like this, and a program ... we're celebrating our 129th anniversary this year. That stability brings with it things that you really can't measure. And that kind of knowledge to reach out and build those partnerships, so we want that partnerships with you. We want to talk about this with more people. We want to learn from everyone at this conference what else can we bring in. But it's not easy work.
And I just wanted to share that, there are two people on this podium who work for Crittenton, that's it. The others do not. They used to. They're here on their own time, on their own nickel. The three young ladies that graduated from out program, they're not in our current programs, but yes they are, because they are the role models for the younger girls. So that total whole girl, whole organization, those are the things we're gonna have to do more of with you, and connect more with our partners here, in order to build anything that's systemic.
But we have to do what I'm hearing this young lady do. We have to hold on. You can't give up, because it is darn hard. 'Cause it is really hard to see young girls struggle with things they should not have to be struggling with.
Audience: And I think you also, from the organizational perspective ... do you work directly with the students, or do you work ... so I think it's important relationship building, honestly. I spend a lot of time ... this year I'm in three different schools, but I spend a lot of time in each of those schools, just building relationships with the girls, with their teachers, with the people that they work closely with. And then, becoming a part of that school community really does help to have a reach outside of that space, because then you'll notice the parents will communicate with you, and you'll have relationships with them, and it's just kinda like a ripple effect. So I think relationship building is really key in having that impact outside of just the people that you work with, right.
And so I think that, the more you partner with other organizations, even if it's just like small things. It doesn't have to be a big, drawn out. It could be just like having someone co-facilitate, or something just pop in and do a meet and greet type of thing that helps to also build those connections. And we can chat some more afterwards if you want.
Audience: I just wanted to also add that, if you had the time and the resources, but mostly the good intention, I think it's also important to reach out to the parents. Parents play a very important, critical role in the lives of these young people, and if they're not involved, nothing that you do in your group is gonna translate into their world.
I know that to be true. When I was working with young people in my groups, because in their families, there's a lot of different things going on in their families too, and so if we don't engage the parents early and consistently, not just like let me send out a little flier, or let me send out a little letter. It's more than that. You have to get to know who mom is, and who dad is, and what's their situation, so that you really get to the bottom of why things are happening the way that they're happening, or manifesting themselves as you see them, so that you can effectively reach the young person and their situation, and their world.
I also think that if you have young people who are passionate and care very much about the group, that is the key also to engage in them so that they can be peer role models to other young people who are gonna carry on the message that this is why we're here. This is why you should care about girls. These young ladies are a testament of that, that they cared enough to carry on the message that girls are important, and their voices are important, and we all should care about them. And so, I think that those other two pieces are equally important too, that if you have the time to invest in mentoring, and really modeling for these other young people what they can be, the leaders that they can be within their communities, I think that's how you start to change.
Nikki: I'll add to that, actually two things. The first is related to the girls. We are very intentional about not just making sure that our girls learn how to advocate for themselves, but that they're also advocating for other girls, and they're advocating for what they know is right in their schools and in their community. So that is a huge part of our curriculum, that advocacy piece.
The other piece speaks more to what Sharon and Miss Jessi said, which is the partnership piece. And so, for us, we are privileged and glad to have a larger team, and with the different levels. So Miss Sharon is building relationships in her schools. She can be in the schools during the day and get to know the teachers, and the staff. As director of programs, I have eight program leaders, and so my job is to build those relationships at the administrative level, in the communities, and connect with the larger organizations. And then we have an awesome executive director who is wonderful at the connections and the networks with our city council, and kind of on a larger scale.
So that's a bonus for us, but in many ways, it is how we're teaching our girls is what we're doing. We're collaborating. We're connecting. Each of us has specific roles but we all collaborate together. So I was Miss Nyla's first Sneakers facilitator in 2008 and 2009, so I had not facilitated groups. For many years we did our leadership academy, and I would have engagements and interactions with the girls, and special events and field trips. But for the last two weeks I've been facilitating three groups with 6th graders. So that has been very interesting going back to 6th grade and talking with 12 year olds after school. But being back in that role has helped me to see what some of our gaps have been, and to be able to go back and say okay, we were on this path, and we kinda got distracted by this, now it's time to go back.
So being intentional and always being reflective, and always trying to improve, I think, is the other piece. So we have amazing program leaders, and it's not just their personality and their heart. They really are skilled at what they do. So I think always being willing to learn, and showing our girls that we're all a work in progress, that we're real, that we're authentic, and that we believe in them. So when we make mistakes, we admit the mistakes we made. So I think all of those things have helped us to have a greater impact in our schools and in our communities because people know what we do. They see that we believe in what they do, and then they are more open to being a part of what we do in collaborating.
So we're making an impact in ways that we may not always see, but the teacher who had really negative things to say about the student in September can be a very different person in June once she sees that you're committed, that you are there. And so just the presence of Miss Sharon, even if she doesn't say anything to that teacher, often that teacher relates to that child in a different way because she knows that she has an advocate.
Pam: And people don't ... a lot of programs come and go. So Nyla, you were in our program for how many years?
Nyla: Since 2010?
Pam: So since that time 'til now, she has connected [inaudible 01:12:41] every day throughout the school year in a program for 45 years, then as leadership model, ambassador, working with other girls, now an advocate for herself and other girls. That continuity, that depth. That is really what I think is gonna help with the systemic changes as well. How long were you in the Sneakers program?
Nyla: Since 2008.
Pam: So throughout your whole high school.
Nyla: Yeah, and middle school.
Pam: And Tia you were five years in Sneakers?
Tia: Yes, since 2003 to 2007.
Pam: Also a member of our board, until she went back to school, now with a masters degree. She's working with college students that have their AA degree. She has a hundred college students that got their AA degree when she was helping them transition to a four year schooL. But work continues, it doesn't just [inaudible 01:13:33].
Sharon: Did you have a question over here?
Tia: Right here.
Sharon: Okay.
Audience: [inaudible 01:13:40]
Tia: By all means.
Audience: I'm [inaudible 01:13:44], and I'm with the [inaudible 01:13:46] Foundation of Detroit. Thank you. And we every year do a My Brother's Keeper ... well, not every year, this past year have done a My Brother's Keeper social innovation challenge, and I'm happy to say, in this coming year we're gonna do a My Sister's Keeper challenge. And so there's talk at our organization to just do program purity. What we did for boys, we'll do for girls. And, as a gender champion I'm like no, no, no. That's not how it works.
So I was hoping you could speak a little bit more to how the program has evolved and changed over time, and some lessons you may have learned in working with girls that we might be able to learn from as we launch our next chapter.
Tia: That's a good question.
Sharon: That's a very good question. So I started at Crittenton in 2014, and so that was like my first year, and I was just kinda ... I don't want to say I was winging it, but we have a curriculum, but it was just, you know, your first time. Your first year teacher is just trying to figure it all out, right. And so I think the way that I had seen our programs shift since I started, or at least how it shifted in how I facilitate our program, is that I just really follow those youth development principles of letting it be student led, and letting them lead. So it's kinda like one of those things where you make them think it was their idea, you know.
And so I just think that working with young girls, especially ... assuming they're teenage girls that you're working with, is that they want a space where they can be leaders. And so, figuring out ways to have them lead. I don't know much about your program, but just really allowing them to lead in some way. So if you're having a workshop or something, maybe when you have ... instead of having someone talk to them, and talk at them for the workshop, having them do something interactive where they're working in a group, and then someone has to step up and be the leader of that group.
And letting them work together. I think young people have to learn the importance of working with others and working in groups. I don't think we teach them how to do that very well, and so when they get to college and all these other spaces where you're not working by yourself, they don't know how to interact with others. And so I think, with young people in general, young girls, they need a space where they can be a leader. They need to be able to learn how to work with others, and collaborate with others. Definitely need a space where they can shine, and not feel like adults are telling them what to do. And so really allowing them to come to their own conclusions, right, and letting them be independent.
I think that's what our girls love the most is just having a space where it's not a teacher or someone telling them what they need to know, how they need to know it, how they need to do it, just letting them kinda just figure it out. I think that's one of the best things I would suggest.
Jessica: And I would also add that, for me, one of the biggest lessons that I've learned during the nine years that I did programming, is the importance of connecting them to their community, having these young ladies be the spokesperson about the Sneakers program and what it can do for them. And so, I was very intentional in all of my groups to make sure that we always incorporated a service project. Some how, shape, or form, it always got done. And through the years it evolved, like Miss Sharon is sharing with you today, that it all has to kind of evolve from them and their interests, and what they want to change or target in their community, but it's something that I've learned in my practice with the young people, that they have to be connected to their community, and this is an excellent way for them to give back and to connect with other young ladies and other people that care about them as well.
Nikki: I would add to that, Miss Jessi and I actually started at Crittenton on the same day, and so we were the only two full time staff facilitating groups that year, and so much like Miss Sharon said, we had this curriculum and it was our job to kind of breathe life into that curriculum. And then the next year, we looked at what went well, what didn't go so well, and what we needed to do. Miss Sharon and Miss Tia worked together in creating a specific curriculum that was a little more tailored to the challenges that our young ladies in DC were facing that may have been different than some of the things our young ladies in Montgomery County were facing.
And so, what we do, and I would say what we do very well, is that we have a great curriculum. It's evidence informed. I hire amazing people. I'm really proud of that. I hire really good people. And they are very experienced, they're educated, they have all those things, but if you have five groups, each of those five groups operates very differently. So you have to tailor what you do to those specific girls. So hearing from them, knowing what they need, knowing what they want, giving them the opportunity to speak up and say what's important is extremely important.
And what I always tell my program leaders is that our curriculum is not an instruction manual. It's a guidebook. You have to give the girls what they need. So our main goal is to give those girls what they need. And so if we have to drop the curriculum today 'cause there's something happening in that school, in that community, that we have to address, then we drop that curriculum that day. But it works because we give those young ladies individual attnetion.
Pam: Yeah, it's always changing. The curriculum that we inherited, I started in 2006, it's very different than the curriculum we have now because it's been shaped by the experts. Sharon right now is doing an upgrade on the curriculum for the 7th and the 8th grade. We've expanded into middle school. That's a new curriculum. We took a curriculum that Miss Jessi created, it's called Foreseeing the Future, Crittenton College and Career Connection.
It was designed for middle school girls, first in their family to go to college, and she had those girls for the whole year, 8th graders and their families. She took them on college campuses. They were laying out how am I gonna navigate high school, and then what is college all about? They'd never been on a college campus. She took them to college campuses. She had to convince the mom and the daughter to collaborate, because dad would say "You're not going to college. I don't want you going on that college tour." She broke that down and made it happen. It's always changing.
And we use outside evaluators. That outside validation, we don't always like it. It is not easy to do. It is expensive, but the data that we get from measuring ourselves informs us what do we need to change, what worked, what didn't work. That's why we always say, 100 percent of the girls in our program graduate. You heard Tia say it. She's in a school where 37 percent graduate, but all the girls in our program are graduating, something's going on right there. It's because it's not cookie cutter. You can't take what you're doing for boys and do that for girls, and you can't take any curriculum off the shelf and not adapt it to your people. So I learn every day from this team, and we want to learn more about what's working for you. So please, let's not disconnect when this is over. We've got things to share.
I want to tell you about our life planner. Everyone in this group uses this in some different way. National Crittenton [inaudible 01:21:10] just [inaudible 01:21:11] out to 14 states, barred from Montana. Somebody used it in foster care. Somebody used it in private practice. It's not perfect, but it's cute, it's colorful, and the girls love it. It is a life planner. We teach smart girls. What is your goal? What is your strategy for getting here? Nyla works it. She's got a goal. It's measurable. She's got action steps. She knows it's reasonable. She's got a timeline. She was at NASA two weeks ago. This stuff works when you really use the talent of your entire team and [inaudible 01:21:48]. If you're dedicated to the girls in your community, you will succeed because they will succeed.
Audience: I'm Felicia and I'm from Charlotte, North Carolina. Hi. With the other Florence Crittenton, and I work with the pregnant teens and some of the adults team. We have other programs where women ... with a living program, independent living program. And I was just wondering, it's probably more related to the young ladies, as you can see, all the negativity in the media, and they're telling you who you are and who you are not going to be, and I just wanted to know how you guys handle all the negativity, the negative images that's always coming after you. How do you get past that, and how do you handle it?
Tia: Is your question specific to just young women of color?
Audience: Yes.
Tia: Okay.
Lateria: It is difficult, kind of wanting to be a leader and show that you are great despite what everyone in the media tells you that you are. I've especially struggled with being an immigrant in America. People assume I'm America 'cause of the way I talk, but I'm not. So growing up an immigrant, and just having two different cultures kind of telling you what's right and what's wrong, and trying to overcome both, that was difficult, but I think having people in my life that advocated for me, one, and just poured into me, it's really a big part of what made me overcome all the things that were going on.
I was always the type of student to take on leadership roles. It was just something that was put in me. My mom, she encouraged me a lot. She did not accept bad grades, from me at least. So I think having leaders like that, my program leader in school from Sneakers, there were certain teachers that were really awesome, some not so awesome. But just having good role models and also learning how to decipher what you are not, and that's hard when you're young because you have everyone in the media telling you what you are, and you're like, that's not me. It gets hard, but just learning to decipher what you are and what you aren't, and I feel like I've done that.
A lot of people judged me for who I ... they judged me because my name's Lateria. And I'm loud. But you just can't let people tell you what you are. You kinda have to have that confidence, but it's great when you have, like I said, people around you that are pouring into that leadership.
Tia: And hold on, we definitely want to hear from you two ladies, but we have five minutes, so ...
Jessica: I'll be quick. So for me, I was criticized that, since I didn't have my father in my life, I was going to easily get attached to a man and depend on him. I was always criticized, and I let that be my motivation. I think I became more prideful that I was gonna prove everybody wrong, and I did, so ... that's how I did it.
Nyla: As far as the social media aspect, for me ... of course social media is huge nowadays. For me, I would say every morning, like sometimes you automatically get on your phone and start scrolling. For me, if I even do that, like I get on YouTube and I listen to affirmations, and I give myself affirmations every single day, but that's not something that came about. That's something that had to be taught to me. Every day I give myself affirmations in the mirror. And then with the social media, if I see something bad or degrading to who I am as a Black woman, I always try to counteract it with positive information, and a positive about just who I am, or who Black women are.
And sometimes, even when you see it, call it out. It's just as simple as that. You can't just allow somebody to just post negative information on social media and you just ignore it and just keep scrolling, 'cause people do it every day. So I say, call people out on it and just tell them, hit them with the facts, and then just keep going about your day. I mean, that's just how I counteract with the social media piece.
Tia: All right. Well thank you all so much for joining us today. Our contact information is in the pamphlets you have, so please feel free to stay connected, keep in touch, reach out, let us know if you have any questions, share fun things with us. But thank you so much for spending your time with us this afternoon, we appreciate it.

Here to Stay: Immigrant Youth Organizing for DACA and Beyond

with Nithya Nathan-Pineau, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition

This session explores the strategies being used by activists to challenge and defeat anti-immigrant policies and actions, with a specific focus on the experiences and organizing of girls and young women.

Click for Transcript: Here To Stay, Immigrant Youth Organizing For Daca And Beyond

Rose: So we will introduce ourselves and then we'll go around and everyone will have the chance to introduce yourselves. Then we will do a pretty short presentation both from our individual organizations and what we work on and then we're hoping to get a little more interactive. You see there is some papers up around the room so we want to do like a little miniature gallery work and then have the opportunity for folks to talk in small groups and then for us to have some time at the end for discussion.
Nithya P: So Rose, did a great job giving you sort of the agenda. I'm Nithya Nathan-Pineau. I'm the director of the children's program at the Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition or CAIR Coalition. We're based here in DC. I have been with CAIR coalition for about three years now in this role. I'm an attorney and an immigration advocate. I've devoted my career to working in humanitarian immigration law. And also working in community education. I started my career in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, working with unaccompanied immigrant children in detention centers there. Moved to DC about five years ago and worked at the Tahirih Justice Center, which is a national non profit focus at the intersection of gender based violence and immigration law.
Now I'm in a role where I'm working sort of at the intersection of immigration law and juvenile justice. Our focus is serving inter-gen immigrant populations in detention in DC, Maryland and Virginia. And supporting those individuals who are both detained as well as their families. And helping those people have access to accurate legal information, updated legal information, which is in this climate is really important because things are changing rapidly. We're going to talk a little bit about that today. How do you stay informed? How do you make sure that you or your organization is putting out the best information to help the people that you're seeking to work in solidarity with.
And we also do a lot of representation of children and adult men and women. So that's sort of my experience and my background. I look forward to talking to you all today and hearing more about your experience and your background and what you hope to learn in today's session.
Rose: Great. So again, my name is Rose. And just so folks know, we wrote since we're not doing presentation on the screen, we just wrote up our names and pronouns, titles and organization up there to refer back to. I am the black immigration women and girls specialist at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. We are a national organization. The only national organization that focuses specifically on Black immigrants. We have been around for ... we're in our 11th year. We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary last year so that's exciting. We do offer a lot of different support. A lot of our work is focused on advocacy work. So really advocating for the laws and policies that impact black immigrant communities.
But then we also have organizers that work all throughout the country so we have folks our bases in New York. We have folks here in DC. In Atlanta, we also have an organizer on the ground in Atlanta. We have organizers in Oakland, California, in Los Angeles, California. Hello, welcome. We just hired a new organizer in Miami, which is an important place for ... and has a very high make up of black immigrant folks there too. We offer in LA, especially we offer legal support, pro bono legal support. So free support for folks who are going through immigration cases or at risk for being deported who are struggling with other areas of our core system et cetera. Then on the ground organizing. So working in coalitions with lots of other groups who are working on different intersecting issues because we know right that like all the other issues that impact the set ones and we don't get to just deal with one part of our identity at one point. And another part of our identity on another day.
I'll deal with being black later. So we try to really make sure that BAJI is an intersectional organization where we're addressing all the different things that our folks are going through at the same time. So yeah, that's a lot of what we do. Then the specific focus of my work is the gender justice component. So focusing again on the intersection, how as women are we pushed out of the conversation and invisiblized. We don't get to talk about how reproductive rights are actually ... is an immigration issue, right? So just as an example, so we don't get to talk about how gender based violence is also an immigration issue. So a lot of my focus is on how we talk about all of those things and how they intersect at one time.
Nithya P: Hey, would you like to start off or participate with introduction? Here's one for you, share a little bit about yourself and maybe one thing you're hoping to get out of today's presentation after the introduction.
Shakila Alice: Hi, I'm Shakila Alice, pronoun just use my first name. I'm with the organization All The Changes Family Center. I'm a youth leader. And what I'm hoping to get out of here, to just learn about different types of people.
Rose: Thank you.
Catherine Kumar: Hi, I'm Catherine Kumar. I am with the National Crittenton Foundation and ... excuse me. I went to Florence Crittenton in Charlotte, North Carolina when I was 17, my son was four weeks old. No, yeah four weeks old. I am originally from Sierra Leone but I grew up I Maryland, DC. And I'm actually from the PG area. I moved to North Carolina when I was about 16 and myself, Suzy and a few other girls created the program called BOLD. Bridging Opportunity Leadership and Determination meaning it's perfectly fine being I foster care but once you age out at the age of 18, you have nowhere else to turn. So that's when BOLD steps in and we help our girls and our young girls and women we try to keep them on the right path with education on mental health, housing support, anything. So it's nice to meet you all.
Rose: Thank you.
Nithya P: Thank you for being here.
Catherine Kumar: Thank you.
Estefania M: Hello everybody. My name is Estefania Mondragon and I am with Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. And my unpaid work is one of the organizations at a DACA committee at Idaho. Looking forward to gain all the information I can and bringing it back to the group.
Rose: Thank you.
Joan Idris: Hello, my name is Joan Idris. I work at DePelchin Children's Center in Houston, Texas. I am a bilingual clinician there. So what I hope to get out of here is just to help advocate and educate my clients' parents because most of them are immigrants.
Rose: Thank you.
Yessy Bustos: Hi, I'm Yessy Bustos. I'm the director on NC Field, a grass root organization based out of Kinston, North Carolina that works with migrants seasonal farm workers. Something that I hope to get out of is to how better support the youth that I work with.
Rose: Thank you.
Zanov Shah: Hi, I'm Zanov Shah or Zan. I work for the Dallas Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In a previous role I worked for a police based organization and I worked specifically with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. So I did a lot of work getting UVs and some things like that a lot of the people who came through our organization. And our state suffers a lot with lack of resources for immigrant population. So I'm really hoping to really get some information how to mobilize efforts for immigrant populations.
Rose: Thank you.
Jim Philips: Hello, my name is Jim Phillips. I'm on the National Crittenton Board. It's good to be here. Personally, my wife and I support two DACA students. And we put through college and they are both now graduated and are doing well. We just got their DACA approved for another two years. So hopefully they are safe for that period of time. We're concerned. We want to be as informed as possible. That's why I'm here, thank you.
Ruby Ragiles: Hi everyone Ruby Ragiles and I am with Young Women's Initiative of Minnesota. I am actually someone who myself is protected under DACA and I'm really into immigrants' rights and activism. So I just hope to learn more about what we can do to fight Donal Drumpf's decision to end DACA.
Rose: Thank you.
Catherine M: My name is Catherine [inaudible 00:09:40] Mendez. And I am also a member of the Young Women's Initiative of Minnesota. I'm a student at the University of Minnesota hoping to become an immigration attorney. So I just hope to know more about what I can do now as a student to help immigrant youth as I immigrated to the US from El Salvador at the age of two.
Rose: Thank you.
Emile: Hi, everyone. My name is Emile. I'm with Young Women Initiative of Minnesota. And as aspiring immigration lawyer and an immigrant myself, I want to learn as much as I can about the immigration process and how I can help other people like me get citizenship. And also have basic human rights.
Rose: Thank you.
Nithya P: Lots of people from Minnesota. That's great.
Rose: I know. On a side note, BAJI's are black immigration network next annual convening is in Minnesota next year. So I want to make sure I get you my card so hopefully I can make it out. Great. So thank you everyone for introducing yourself. I think it's super important to not just know as right because we like do this work but we are all experts of our own lives. And like folks mentioned lots of us are impacted in lots of different ways by the issues that are happening right now in this country. But also in the global context. So we want to make sure we know everybody who's in the room.
We didn't really do like any sort of community agreements or anything but I would just like to put it out there and hopefully folks will consent. This is intended to be like a deep dive which ... I don't know entirely what that means. I think we'll get out of it hopefully, we need to get out of this space but that might include folks sharing their personal stories. I myself I'm also an immigrant that was just naturalized seven years ago and was undocumented for most of my life. So I hope that this can be a safe space where folks can also share their personal stories and how we're impacted. And just know that we're not taking people's personal identities with the stories out of this room.
Nithya P: Right. So We're going to start with sort of brief presentations and this is a deep dive session and immigration law and the history of immigration rights organizing is vast. So I'm not going to pretend like in 90 minutes we're going to cover everything. And you're going to walk out of here and you're going to be an expert. But I'm hoping that we can touch on some issues that are going to be relevant to the work that all of you are doing. It's wonderful to see people from all over the country working in different spaces. And so I hope that each one of you will have something that you take away with you that will help you go back to your communities to the people that you work alongside with and feel re-energized and ready to keep going. We've made some illusions, our current political climate.
I live here in DC and so I'm part of the DC, Maryland, Virginia immigration alliance, which is an organization convened by the Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition. You might be able to tell by the names of those organizations that we believe a lot in uniting different people. Coalition alliance, we're trying to bring different people together to think about immigration rights. To think about advocacy, think about how people who aren't necessarily lawyers or social workers or teachers but people who care can contribute and be involved. And so that's really central to our work.
We have a program that's called community conversations. The purpose of that project is essentially to go into different communities spaces and to engage with people and share accurate legal information and make sure that people know their rights. And are taking sort of proactive steps to plan for their future. To protect their families and to think about what options they do have. I think sort of sharing personal experience after the election last year, it was devastating. I have been doing immigrants rights work for the last decade and did not expect the outcome of the election.
So we all sort of had to recalibrate, think about what we were going to do and how we were going to shift our focus. I think for many of us who do a combination of direct representation, community based work in terms of education and outreach and also working with legislators, we knew that we were going to be dealing with a different landscape. So it wasn't going to be a place where we're necessarily looking at comprehensive immigration reform. There are all these really ambitious great idea that people believe like eights years of momentum and then we're finally going to be able to do this in the next administration even if you look at the title of this panel, we look at DACA, right?
Does anyone know when DACA was announced by executive order? 2012, yep. And 2010 is also an important year in the DREAM Movement because that was when there was DREAM legislation, the DREAM Act introduced, unfortunately it wasn't successful. But those pieces of history build the movement, right? And got us to 2012.
So that brought us now to September 2017 where our attorney general Jeff Sessions who's been very clear about his agenda is in terms of trying to roll back any protections for women, communities of color, immigrants, LGBTQI individuals. It's very clear that he discriminates equally among all of those people who are marginalized and have all of those different identities that overlap, right? So one of the things that we saw is this announcement about DACA ending.
So the way that that's been framed is sort of, okay this is a challenge to congress to say, okay go ahead and actually put this into law. Make this legislation pass that Dream Act that we've been fighting for over a 10 years before I started doing this work. So what we saw this week for people who follow the White House and what they're doing. And one thing that is really important if you're interested in being an immigrants' rights organizer advocate attorney, you got to stand in front. Immigration law and policy is changing all the time and if you have questions about how to do that, I'm happy to talk to you about it. And good sources, people to follow, because you want to make sure that you are able to work with people and give them accurate information. That's the best thing you can do to help people.
We got a White House Statements of Principles on immigration. Is anyone familiar with that document that I am talking about? Yeah, I see some heads shaking. Yeah and so does that document affect all populations of immigrants or are there some populations that you noticed in that document that are affect more than others?
Emile: [inaudible 00:17:10].
Nithya P: Yeah, absolutely. And the White House has been very transparent about the fact that in recent years, what we've seen is that there has been a lot of migration from Central America and Mexico. So the administration earlier this summer announced the end of the Central American's Minor's Program, which is a program to help youth who've been separated from parents in the US migrate to the US through a legal path. So that was sort of a signal of what was coming. Then what we saw in this White House Statement of Principles is looking at people who arrive at the border unaccompanied immigrant children who is the population I primarily serve. And my program, asylum seekers. Family units who are seeking asylum, people who are protected under international law under treaties, under agreements that have been in law for decades. Our government is talking about stripping protections away from these people and deporting them faster under the guise of national security. So that's the frame that we have to think about when we're looking at what do we need to do? What is our work moving forward?
But it's important to see also that they are looking at expanding detention, interior enforcement and those are issues that affect all populations of immigrant across country of origin, age. It disproportionately affects people who suffer from mental illness. That is something that we as an organization focused on detention really see both in our youth and adult populations. We see young people who in the school systems are not adequately supported. They may then be funneled into the juvenile justice system. Then they may end up in immigration detention because of their status.
So that is a pathway that this administration is strengthening. The tools that ICE has to find those people who are already vulnerable and detain and isolate them. So that's really a little bit of substance but I want to talk a little bit about some of the things that are on the news everyday that are also related to the other parts of identity.
If any of you follow the ECL's blog, they posted this week about a lawsuit that they filed in Texas because unaccompanied immigrant minor, 17 year old young woman who is in federal care is being denied access to an abortion. And she has the legal right to that abortion but she's being denied access by the office or refugee resettlement, which is the agency that has custody over her right now. So when we think about immigration detention, it's not just the fact that the people are trying to present defense to the deportation, they're also trying to access other kinds of protections that are really important. As Rose said, you don't deal with one part of your identity on one day and then the other part of your identity on the next day. I think that's really important. All of this connects.
Another thing that's really important is that we see the increased criminalization of Latin American youth and racial profiling and targeting and arrests and all of this using language around MS13 and gang violence to say that there are young people who by virtue of the fact that they live in a Latino community, they speak Spanish, they may have friends who are Latino that they must be gang members or they must be gang affiliated. So this is something that ICE we have seen sort of a really significant uptake in this kind of behavior.
We see in the population of youth that we're serving. I'm meeting kids in detention who are saying to me, ICE picked me up because I was outside of my school and they told me I am a gang member but I have no idea why they believe that. And so there are ways in which policing, detention, the immigration system, our education system, access to healthcare, all of this works together. So I encourage you as you ... I see some very young faces, I see some faces that may have been around for a few more moons and so I encourage all of you to think about the way that all of those different areas of your clients' lives intersect.
I am happy to answer any specific questions. We'll sort of talk more about that. I've been wanting to give you a little bit of overview to think about what we do. How you can sort of think about immigration, all these other issues and some of the things that are happening right now that are really important to be aware of and to be thinking about when you start working with immigrant youth and immigrant families. All right, I'm going to let Rose do a little bit of brief presentation and then we're going to start talking to you guys a little bit more and less talking at you.
Rose: I think maybe we can break just for Q&A real quick because my presentation takes us to a little bit of a different focus area. So definitely folks have questions for Nithya, we can do that now and then we'll get in a little more discussion. Oh yeah, we were asked to make an announcement to please make sure to speak in the mic because we're recording our session.
Maria Kampos: Thank you both and everyone for being here today. So my name is Maria Kampos and I'm from Austin, Texas. This is Manuva Blastansio and she's with our organization as well. We work in community based programs like youth mentoring and truancy prevention programs. And 30 to 40 percent of our families are ... maybe have parents or youth from other countries. I guess some of them did come over to the States through DACA and I'm just wondering or were able to remain in the States through DACA. I'm just wondering a couple of them are concerned because ... especially our parents, some of them are parents of youth, which the older youth maybe are here through DACA and the younger youth are not. I guess I'm just wondering through Drumpf's recent efforts to eliminate that, do they have any recourse or is that still kind of up in the air?
Nithya P: Yeah, so this is ... there are sort of two things that are happening at the same time. One is the movement organizing an advocacy for legislation to actually make this. DACA is great, right? It was like a baby step in the right direction. Essentially what DACA is, it's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and it gives people access to work authorization, and that makes ... and essentially gives you a status where you're low priority for deportation. The problem with immigration policy being rolled out through executive action is when you get a new president who has a different belief on immigration, that changes.
So DACA was always something that was a little bit unstable or fluid. We knew that there was potential for change. So one of the great things about DACA is that for some people because it allowed them to have access to work authorization and they were no longer accruing what's called unlawful presence, which is sort of a legal term. Essentially if you're here without status, you are accruing this unlawful presence. So it made it possible for some people to become permanent residents. It made it possible for them to have more ... to be on the path to a more permanent status. I think what movement organizing is trying to do now is to get that more permanent status. That path to permanent residents in legislation.
Because while DACA was a baby step, it didn't get us all the way there to a green card and a path to citizenship. Because what's important to remember is unless you're a US citizen, even if you are a green card holder, you are subject to arrest by ICE and detention and deportation. So it's important that any legislation that comes out to protect these young people gets them on that path to citizenship.
The second area that's sort of connected to your question is that, I know that both the ACLU and local legal aid organizations are looking for plaintiffs to sue the administration over the recession of DACA. So that's another area of advocacy that's happening on a national level. That will also take some time to see how that plays out and how the Department of Justice reacts and defends what their position is. So there is work being done in this space and there is definitely work for everyone to do, to contribute.
But we have been encouraging people to do and in this local area, we organize very quickly to create DACA connects and sort of educate people but also to do sort of broader consultations. So in addition to helping people renew their DACA before the deadline of October 5th, helping the, do consultations to see if there were any other avenues available to them. So they could start accessing that. So we're not focusing only on DACA.
Catherine Kumar: I'm just kind of wondering if you'd be willing to explain the new announcement that Department of Homeland Security will start looking at immigrants' social media and things like that. It's something that I've been a little confused on. Like I don't know if my family and I should like delete our social media pages or what kinds of things we should be posting. Like my mom was like, "Don't post about Drumpf, you're going to get deported." I'm just like, "I think it's within my right to post about him but I just don't know if that's something that will put me and my family in danger or other immigrants in danger.
Nithya P: That's a really good question. So this is something that's new, that's rolling out, that we're just starting to see how it's going to be implemented but I'm really glad that you brought it up because it's a really important intersection with privacy law and privacy protections. And obviously we all use social media in different ways to advance our work to communicate with our clients. Like my clients only use WhatsApp and Facebook. When I try to send them a paper, letter or call them on the phone, they're like, "Wow, [inaudible 00:27:56] this is like too intense can you just like WhatsApp me later?" I get it. The ways of communication like lawyers are used to using our kind of out of day. But with these new forms of communication we have to think about who has access to that and Facebook is a very public platform, right? So when you post things publicly, you know that your name, maybe your image, maybe where you work, all of that is attached to the information that you put out into the world.
So we first started hearing that DHS was engaging in this around the first Muslim ban in January when we were in airports and we were hearing people coming out after being detained and interrogated and telling us, "They're asking for my social media passwords and I said no. Is that something that they can ask for?" So we're getting into 4th Amendment issues of search and seizure and whether to not you have a right to privacy on a public social media platform. So I think one thing you should be aware of is that even though you have the right not to give your password, not to turn that information over, things that are publicly available or are already being used by ICE, in immigration court to sort of make allegations about people. And this is a strategy that we saw in the past administration as well.
So one thing that I encourage people to do is to really engage in good social media hygiene. So what does that mean? Think about who has access to what you post. Think about what you're posting. Obviously this is not about policing free speech but understanding that when you're using a public platform that information people can just search it and they don't need your permission to access it. So even without your password they can see the things that you've posted. So sort of pass the search and seizure issue. There is the issue of like what are you putting out there.
That's something that I do with my clients. I'll sit down with them and go through their Facebook and go through their Instagram because we have seen things that people post that they sort of see as innocuous or silly or joking, ICE is using that to say, "Well, no this person shouldn't be eligible for bond because they are a gang member. Because they made this sign in this Instagram photo." And they print it out and they give it to the immigration judge. Immigration judges are now super up and social media and culturally competent. I think you can look at them and the statistics on like who are the immigration judges but they're not generally people who have come from immigrant community or immigrant experience themselves. At least the judges that I practice before in this local area. So when they see something like that they take it at face value. And they say, "Oh, this ICE attorney who is an expert in understanding MS13 the way that they work, they're telling me this is a gang sign. So I'm going to believe them." And the give a lot of deference to that.
So that's something when you are working with people and talking to them about how you use social media, you want to be aware of. And beyond that, again there is the issue, which is definitely going to be subject to litigation of people being interrogated and forced to turn over social media passwords. I think there will be more community education and there is good ... the ACLU will put out some good resources around the first Muslim ban about what you can say no to and when you should ask for a lawyer. And you should not answer questions and all that kind of stuff. But I guess my answer to yours to encourage you and the people that you work with and support to engage in good social media hygiene because it's public. Because it's easily searchable and people can find it and use it in ways that are unanticipated obviously when you create that content and put it out there.
Rose: Thank you. I just wanted to add on to that really quickly because along with my work through BAJI, like we just had a security training at our lifestyle [inaudible 00:32:09] so we take it really serious because of the type of work that we do and also to protect people's personal stuff that work for the organization. But then I also do broader like national movement work where we also focus on security a lot. Just to add to what Nithya said. It's just like people focus a lot of Facebook because a lot of us it's like our primary way that we connect with folks, that we talk about what's on our mind et cetera.
But it's not just Facebook, it's all social media. So like Twitter, Snapchat, all that. I don't if folks who use Snapchat in here, I do. I love Snapchat. I don't know ... like folks usually don't read their updated terms and agreements when they come out. They're just like whatever, I'm trying to post my snap. I agree. So for instance with Snapchat just released ... like one of the reasons people loved to use Snapchat at the beginning is because your stuff erases after 24 hours. You don't have to worry about as much of a ... your web footprint or whatever. But their new agreement ... first of all it's like their new updates are automatically downloading your content. Their new agreements too if you signed off on it, now they have their own back up drive where they're storing everything that we're posting on to Snapchat.
So even if it's erasing off of your timeline, after 24 hours, it's not erasing from their backup storage. One of the reasons that this was really important ... so not just those but like other apps too like where we sign off that they can post on our behalf et cetera. The reason that's really important is because when there is an investigation the government can go to these companies and demand that they hand over information.
So something like Snapchat that you think it's gone after 24 hours is on their backup storage that they hand over. So just like I don't like to share this information to scare folks because I'm also in total agreement that we have autonomy over our own decisions, right? And what we decide to post and how much we decide to risk with that especially it's like social justice folks but just to be mindful. Another example is like what app is good for minimal encryption but a lot of folks only use Signal for instance. For folks who don't know what Signal is, it's a text messaging app, you can also make phone calls on it but it's totally encrypted. Completely encrypted, which means the people who own Signal don't even know what you're posting. It's encrypted before it's even sent out on the airwaves and so even for personal communications, I know a lot of folks who have started using Signal just because they're like even my personal conversations. When my next doctor's appointment is like things that are going on in my personal life. I don't want people to have access to.
So those are just some other things for folks to think about as you're posting and communicating with loved ones.
Nithya P: I will do another plug for Signal. A lot of the local alliances are using Signal to communicate when there's like a need to show up at an ICE check in and mobilizing those ways and those kinds of things are important too. Because when you're putting your face out there, putting your name out there, you want to be able to reach as many people as possible who are interested and want to engage but want to do it in a way that protects those people if on that day or in that moment they are not in a space to come forward. Their name or their identity is not going to be out there too. So that's the thing is. Yes, question.
Estefania M: So one question around [inaudible 00:35:49]. One question around privacy and the intersection of immigration is in Idaho we've used kind of like a texting app. Like a mass texting app, we're putting people in danger by using that kind of stuff or like what are the best practices around mobilizing the community really fast and protecting people?
Nithya P: Yeah, and a lot of national organizations use mass texting. Like United We Dream, which I think is one of the most successful organizations in the immigration space in terms of contacting people rapidly uses a lot of social media videos, texting, all of that. So put information out there. I think when you're looking at something like that, the lists are so large. It's so many people that I am a little more comfortable with being in an encrypted platform. But I think on a local level the organizations that I work with that do community action and response, have also shifted to the Signal to sort of protect the people because it has a smaller network.
Rose: Well, just to add that, I guess it depends on what information you're sharing. So I totally agree. If it's just like things that are highly publicized anyways like an event that's coming up, remember to go vote, whatever it is I think it's fine but for instance I wouldn't send out, "Hey, if you are undocumented want to come speak at this rally. Text 555." So yeah, I think-
Nithya P: That's a really good point, is that the content of what you're sending out is really important. I think United Region is a good example again of like sending out content that is innocuous in that way. Like they say lie, "This is a call to action. These are the things you can do." It's information that's accessible and it comes out fast. But it's not personal to those individuals. It's not like, "Oh are you an undocumented woman? Show up at this place." That's not what they're doing. So it's ... for those kinds of communication where you're asking people to show up in a space or identified in a certain way, then sometimes it's better to use and encrypted phone communication.
Rose: One, you just reminded me of a point that I forgot to make earlier around when you probably want to make sure that you're using some form of encrypted or messaging is ... so we're going to do a walk around in a moment where we'll get to learn more of these things but one of the things that folks are really been fighting for, I don't know if you've heard of the protecting sensitive locations act? Anyone in here? Cool.
So it is a bill that folks are really pushing for. So there's ... to talk about this in a concise way, so there is a memo that ICE has. Like literally like a memo. Like someone sent an email one day that was like, it is unethical for you to target folks like churches, hospitals, domestic violence court proceedings, but that's ICE, it's not a memo. It's not written into law so ICE can still lawfully target folks at those places. And in the work that I specifically do like immigrant women and girls, there is been more and more cases that have been reported of women going to the doctor. And women not being scared to go to the doctor or to file any sort of charges for gender based violence that happens because they're scared that ICE is going to target them.
So I was like kind of joking earlier when I was like, "Oh you want people to know when your next doctor's appointment is." But again that is something that we should just be mindful of and aware of because those are some places that ICE might target folks. So the protecting sensitive locations act would make it more that ICE cannot go to any of those places. Schools, I think is another one that's on there. They won't be able to go to any of those places. I'm sure Nithya can speak more to this in order to arrest people.
Nithya P: Yes.
Speaker 15: First of all thank you for taking your time to listening. My name [inaudible 00:40:24] I'm 18 years old and I just have a concern with my mother of course. I'm a daughter of an immigrant. I know we all heard back then how you were easily able to get married and receive residency and I know that's not a thing no more. What are the hopes for my mom to becoming a ... for her to be legally here? Will she have to wait till I turn 21, 4 more years but what are the chances that things might switch around later on?
Nithya P: I think the hope for lots of people who are in mixed status families is comprehensive immigration reform, right? It's a way for people like your mom who've build a life here to actually have a path towards a green card and citizenship. That is common sense and realistic, right? So we're not there yet. And right now there is still a family based immigration system. So the stuff that you're talking about in terms of petitioning for family members. That all still exists, it hasn't been changed yet. What the White House put out was a statement of principles and priorities and they're talking about rolling back numbers of visas for certain categories of immigrants. But that hasn't happened yet. So that's also what I'm encouraging people to think about is what's out there is what the White House wants but what's in the law is still the law. It hasn't changed yet.
So this is a very immigration lawyer answer but you have to do a consultation and so really sit down, talk with someone who you trust in your community who can give you good advice for your family. That's the best thing to do. Yes.
Jim Philips: When I introduced myself I forgot to say where I was from. I live in Haven, California. It's a 'sanctuary' state. We're still defining what that means. But my question to a Christmas present I received this year from my kids was Alexa. I subsequently heard that there was police action trying to get this one person's Alexa because of the recordings that are on it. That they wanted to use in a court case.
Nithya P: Because it's passively recording all the time?
Jim Philips: Exactly. So we immediately unplugged ours and stuck it in a drawer. What is the latest on that and is that a significant policy issue that we should be aware of?
Nithya P: I do think that's a significant privacy issue. I don't have one of those in my home or office for a reason. To protect both myself and my clients. Any device like that where there is passive recording all the time, can be subpoenaed. Yeah, we don't have them in our office. I had a colleague who brought one in and I asked him to take it out of the office because I don't think it should be in a place where we're doing sort of confidential consultations with people.
Speaker 16: So I came to this country when I was seven years old but according to I guess the government or whatever, my siblings and I were automatically citizens because my father was. But when I ended up in foster care at the age of 16, Ashtress, my social worker and the county I was in, I wanted to just go ahead and go through the process of getting my citizenship. So they hired a lawyer and he also stated that I was a citizen. But just to be on the safe side, this was way before Drumpf. Just to be on the safe side I was like, "I just want to go through the process and have hard copies." So we went through the process and the thing that I guess keeps a lot of immigrants away from trying to get their citizenship is the cost and the time. It's lengthy. There's a cycle forever thank God, I did not pay for it. Because I think just to get the application it's about a thousand dollars.
Nithya P: That's right.
Catherine Kumar: It's like a thousand dollars for every single step. So I have ... well, my step sisters niece, she's actually trying to get it but she just don't have the money. And she does not have the time. So I think a lot of immigrants try to stick to the DACA or the green cards because they don't have the money for it. So is the American government making it expensive just so individuals cannot process on to the citizenship stage. Because I was like, thank God I was in foster care. And the county I was in paid for it. So-
Nithya P: You raise a really important issue is that the filing fees are a significant barrier. Filing fees for multiple different kinds of benefits were raised actually last year under the last administration. To my knowledge I don't think there've been any change to filing fees under this current administration but it's certainly something that happens will be an even bigger barrier for people.
Speaker 17: So my organization is somehow exploring kind of a way to help pay for those fees. Is there any like things we should be aware of when we're trying to pay for people's immigration fees and stuff like that?
Nithya P: That's awesome, first of all, thank you. That's going to make a lot of people's lives easier to know that there's a fund available that they could access to help them apply for a green card or whatever stage in their immigration process they are at. Because you're right, that's a barrier for our clients. One thing that I failed to mention when I responded to you is that there are few wavers available. Not for DACA but for some other kinds of immigration benefits. So depending on what you're assisting people with, that maybe an appropriate option that's particularly going to be applicable to people who might be receiving any kind of public benefits, WAKE, food stamps, that kind of stuff. But from a fundraising perspective, thinking about fundraising for filing fees. The only thing from a legal perspective, you have to be aware as like an attorney can't pay their client's filing fee. So as long as those funds are kept separate, it shouldn't be an issue and it will help a lot of people. And that's a great idea and I would encourage you to do it.
Speaker 18: I have a question going off of the fee wavers that you just mentioned because we were also actually ... because like before they started we were planning to start a non profit help pay for these things so I'm wondering if because undocumented immigrants can't receive government assistance if the fee wavers ... if like undocumented immigrants could also apply for fee wavers or is that just like immigrants who do have some type of documentation and are trying to get citizenship?
Nithya P: Yeah, that's a really good question. I apologize if I framed that incorrectly. So it's not limited to people that are receiving some kind of [inaudible 00:47:42] benefit, but that's one category of people that are eligible for a fee waver. Pretty much anyone who has a financial hardship, like paying a thousand dollars is a lot of money for most people in this country and that's a significant barrier. So you can apply for a fee waver even if you're not receiving [inaudible 00:48:05] benefit. And it's something that we do regularly for our clients. And a lot of our clients are living in youth transitional housing programs, unaccompanied refugee minor programs and so those programs also can help them and sort of showing that they have financial need. So that kind of support and that kind of external evidence of financial need is really helpful when you're making a case for that kind of stuff.
Speaker 19: You mentioned that it's being recorded so we wanted to see if you could talk a little bit about special immigration juvenile status. I feel like that's an option that a lot of people don't know about. Because I know we had two kids that qualified but we did not learn about it until after they had aged out.
Nithya P: Yeah. Special immigrant juvenile status is a protection that's a hybrid remedy between family law and immigration law. It was created in the 90s because there was a recognition of undocumented youth in the domestic child welfare system. Because one of the goals of foster care is to think of permanency planning and what happens to youth and giving them access to resources and connections advocates and the domestic child welfare system essentially said we need a path for these undocumented youth to have a way to get a green card. So it's a path to a green card for youth who've been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both of their biological parents. So it's the most commonly identified form of humanitarian relief that my program works on.
We work with kids in Maryland, DC and Virginia. And it requires first going into a state court that has the ability to hear cases related to the care and custody of kids. Depending on the state that you are in, that might be a different kind of court. It could be in the context of an adoption, a guardianship, a custody case even within juvenile delinquency. Basically in any instance in which a judge is making ... is hearing evidence in making decisions about the care and custody of a child, they can also issue what's called a special immigrant juvenile status predicate order or a special findings order advocates use different terms for them. That order can then be used to apply for special immigrant juvenile status.
So since it's a hybrid remedy, it is something that family lawyers or public defenders or juvenile defenders know about. And not all immigration lawyers know about it. So a lot of what we do honestly is trying to educate people and get them connected to talk to each other about the best ways to help their clients out. You're right that because most courts that hear cases of juveniles only hear them until the age of 18, there is a limitation. But under the immigration statute you are a child until 21. So there are some states where you can access special immigrant juvenile status after 18 and Maryland is one of them.
Speaker 20: Okay I have a question. So I have a friend that is illegal and she end getting married to a US citizen. Well, he's also African and she was definitely in an abusive relationship. She end up filing a police report because he had beat her so bad the neighbors called the police. So she moved in another state, she never work because she's not legal. She has two kids and he was actually trying to help her get her citizenship because now she left, he left the process. I mean he really don't care if she's here or not, pretty much. And she don't know what to do. She can't work so I don't know how to help her. So now she's just with another man in another abusive relationship but she don't know where to go.
Nithya P: I'm really sorry to hear about your friend's experience. I think if she is able to, there are lots of immigration organizations that can do consultations with her. And it sounds like there might be ways for her to protect her green card or protect the-
Speaker 20: She doesn't have it.
Nithya P: Okay. So I think her first step would be having a conversation with someone because there would be a way based on what you're describing there are some protections under immigration law for people who are in the process of applying for benefits but then no longer can proceed on that route because of domestic violence. So I want to give Rose an opportunity. Do you have any last questions in this area? And we'll keep going with questions too. We'll keep it going. But I want to give Rose a chance to give her presentation as well.
Rose: Thank you.
Nithya P: Thank you guys.
Rose: The hope is that ... thanks Nithya. We are going to do a real quick activity but the hope is that we'll also have time towards the end to continue discussion and Q&A. I want to really make sure that we have time for folks to get the most out of it. So definitely as questions keep coming up, please ask them. Nithya definitely knows way more than me about the legal side of things. So I'm super grateful for them being in the room. So my presentation is mostly up on the wall. So folks will get a chance to learn about somethings that I'd like to talk about through this next activity. But just to share a little bit about my story, I know I've been sharing bits and pieces throughout our time together. But to just really talk about what brings me to this work on a personal note.
So I was born in Panama. My family is from Honduras. And my father ... so neither of my parents were citizens but they migrated here for various reasons, mostly for education. My father had a green card and he was in the US military. So my family was stationed in Panama and that's kind of like how I got born there. I'm the only one of my siblings to be born outside of the country though I am first generation to be raised in the States. So I'm a black immigrant woman is the daughter of a black immigrant woman, who was the daughter of a black immigrant woman. My grandmother on both my mother and my father's side migrated here as domestic workers and was able to come here sponsored through families that they worked for.
So growing up I always kind of which ... I'm sure lots of us in this room can attest to, my family is from the Caribbean so growing up I always kind of have this like ... I feel like duo identity of definitely I grew up here. I'm like a black American person and also having the ... being raised by folks from a very different culture kind of feeling like I was pulled in my understanding. My political understanding of my identity in this country. So I think where I always found my grounding has been in understanding myself as a woman in the world, as a women identified person. So that's always been at the center of the type of work that I've done.
So growing up in Boston, that's where I grew up, I was part of a young women's organization called Reflect and Strengthen. We were an organization for young women ages 14 through 30 from the working class communities of Boston. We did a ton of different work. We did a lot migrants rights justice work. We did a lot of juvenile justice work. A lot of work around getting women access to things like pampers for their kids. Like supporting young women who were going through court proceedings et cetera. And I think always what really still continues to be the struggle of identity is like I was talking about earlier, constantly feeling like I'm having to choose different pieces of myself at any given time. So when I'm in room and am I representing myself as migrant person? When am I in a room and representing myself as a black person? When am I in a room and I get to represent myself as a woman? And as much as we really push and fight for our movement to be intersectional I think there's still so many ways that we can improve in that area.
So that's what kind of brings me to this particular position that I have now because I really think it's an opportunity for me to really talk about all the different pieces of myself. And how the issues, lots of what we talked about today, folks had questions about how all those things intersect just like my identity intersects. So a lot of the laws that have been used historically to target black communities in this country are the same laws that are being used to push immigrant folks out of the country. Lots of drug laws, the war on drugs, that's what is enabling police to unlawfully stop and search folks on the streets and people's cars, right? People's homes, all these immigration raids. Those are in the same family as drug raids that happen inside of black and brown and poor communities every single day.
So I really think that there's power in being able to see how not just our identities intersect on a personal level but that is how our communities are targeted as a direct representation of that. And how policies and laws are created as a direct representation of that. The system is looking at our intersections whether we're organizing within those intersections or not. So I feel really grateful to be able to do this work because I really feel like it's in so many ways impacting all of my community. It's impacting immigrant folks, black folks, poor people and women and girls and fem folks.
So for this next activity I would like to ... we're going to do groups so if you're able and willing to get up, we're going to count off by three. There's going to be three groups and after we count off I'll tell you where you'll start off in the room. So we'll start off here. You're one.
Audience: Two, three, one, two, three.
Rose: You.
Audience: Two, three.
Rose: You'll be three for now. Okay, great. So if the ones don't mind getting up, you're going to start here where this picture says population. So we're going to get up. What time is it? It's not morning anymore, you all can't use that excuse.
Nithya P: You had your coffee.
Rose: You had your coffee. I personally did not have enough coffee so I'm not shading you all at all.
Nithya P: [inaudible 01:00:05].
Rose: Oh yeah, California folks, it's early there. Ones are going to come over here to population. Thank you so much and I'll give you instructions, one second. Twos are going to come over here to gender based violence. Then the threes are going to go where it says health, school push out and criminalization. You're going to go to where it says health. Then we'll move around. So along with the opportunity to kind of just talk about the issues and what's going on, we're also hoping that, like I said, we're experts of our own lives and so we also want for you all to be able to have conversations with each other about some of these issues and what your thoughts are on them and talk through any questions you might have. Then hopefully the aim is for after this activity that we'll have time to come back and sit down and discuss a little bit more.
So we'll give a few minutes and I'll be the time keeper. In your small group, if you can just like look over the information that's on your sheet. You can decide amongst yourselves how you want to share. You can read quietly to yourself or someone can read out loud for all of you. Then just talk about what's coming up for you. Anything that you didn't know that's on there that's coming up, any questions that you have about the information that's on there and we'll give a couple minutes for each. Then this is gallery walk so after you're done talking about that butcher then you'll move to the next one as a group. Any questions? Great. Go ahead and I'll tell you when to move to the next one.
Audience: [crosstalk 01:02:08].
Rose: You have one more minute and then we're going to wrap it up.
Audience: [crosstalk 01:05:31].
Rose: Okay, so you're going to stay in your groups. So you can definitely continue your conversations but I want to move folks to the next butcher. So we're going to go clockwise, which I believe is this way. So you're just going to move to the butcher complete. Well, this group is going to move to the group's question on criminalization. They can talk about that one.
Audience: [crosstalk 01:06:41].
Rose: Okay, that's fine. That's great. So you're going to move over here so [inaudible 01:06:47] this group is going to go to population. And ones are going to move to health and two [inaudible 01:06:52]. You can just go with it or you just [inaudible 01:06:55] while moving and [inaudible 01:06:59]. So same instructions, read amongst yourselves and then we'll talk in about five minutes.
Audience: [crosstalk 01:07:13].
Rose: Okay, time's up. Again, you'll stay in your groups where you're going to continue discussing about [inaudible 01:11:33] are. We're going to move to the last ... each group will have the chance to go to the last butcher and then we only have about five minutes to wrap up and fold out, ask any final questions. So right now this group will move to health, that group will move to [crosstalk 01:11:54]. I'm glad to get so many good conversations have been going on. Hopefully some are helping you out.
Nithya P: Now [inaudible 01:12:08].
Rose: Oh yeah, I was going to [inaudible 01:12:11].
Audience: [crosstalk 01:12:14].
Rose: Okay. We're going to come back. We have five minutes left.
Audience: [crosstalk 01:16:10]
Rose: Hi everyone. We're going to bring it back. You can come and sit back down. Okay, I'm going to invite everyone to come sit back down. Only because we only have five minutes left or else I would love for folks to keep talking. It seems like some good conversations were happening, which is making me excited. So unfortunately we only have five minutes left. But I wanted to give folks the opportunity to talk about anything that might have come up in your small groups when you were going around to the different butchers. Anything that you learned from the first time that you didn't know. Anything you still have questions about. Anything, it doesn't have to be anything that was up on the butchers. Anything that came up in your group that's sparked that. But then also because we only have five minutes left, any other questions you have that might not be related to what's up on the butchers. Sure.
Speaker 22: So one of the things that we talked about specifically about population area was we have a narrative in the United States of what an immigrant is. If you look at ... like take Donald Drumpf for example, like his wife is an immigrant but we don't talk that because especially with people from Europe, they're not looked at as immigrants. If we can have something that kind of unifies what an immigrant is, then that's really powerful. I'm Pakistani and I was born in the United States but my family they are all from Pakistan.
I've had two cousins who have been deported especially post 9/11 all of that stuff. But we get left out of the conversation a lot even I have a lot of cousins who DACA really impacted. So they're not ... the Muslim ban kind of brought it up a little bit but it's not something that gets talked about on a broad scale. But so just like ... and specifically with black immigrants, it's not something that I think even think about as much just because of how we talk about immigrants in the United States. So I think that's something that really does need to be talked about a little bit more.
Rose: Thank you for that. Yeah, I think this is like some of these, when I was writing them up I'm like, "Oh, how much am I going to put up?" There's a ton more but I didn't want to bore folks. But I think this is an important piece because of what you said, right? Often times the ... well, first of all the reason BAJI needed to exist is because we needed to exist because there weren't folks who were talking about black immigrants. The fact of the matter is that because it's almost puts us more at risk the fact that we're not seen as immigrant folks because our communities are still targeted regardless. So when black communities are being targeted lots of those folks are being deported under the radar and no one ever is thinking about it or making it a part of our generalized mobilization or narrative. Which is highly dangerous.
Also, the reason I put the number up here too is just like ... thank you. It's just not true that we're not here. It's not true that we don't exist. The fact of the matter is that only one percent of DACA recipients are black immigrants. And part of that is because of poverty where we talked about folks actually not being able to afford to even be a DACA recipient. But then also I think a piece of that is like lots of black immigrant folks don't even know that there are other portals towards citizenship outside of ways that they learn to come in here. So yeah, I absolutely agree. I think it's important that we are figuring out a narrative that's inclusive of all immigrant folks. Part of that is the numbers and recognizing that lots of folks are here.
Last thing I'll say real quick, so I want to take another question and we're running out of time, is like temporary protective studies TPS, is something that we don't talk about enough even in the migrants rights work. That is an issue that highly impacts black immigrants folks coming from black countries. Like Haiti for instance, folks might have seen, I don't remember if I included it on here, maybe I didn't. But Haitian women are one of the most disproportionately economically disenfranchised groups of all groups of all demographics. So like AK Haitian women are the poorest group that exists, which trickles over to lots of other areas, right?
That means they don't have access to health insurance. That means that they don't have access to prenatal care. That means that they don't have access to preventive care. And TPS, which for folks that don't know, TPS, Temporary Protective Status is something that's granted to folks who are coming over from places where natural disasters have happened. War torn countries, broken places with broken economic infrastructure et cetera. People might have been seeing in the news too along with DACA that federal government is also ending temporary protective status for lots of these folks who are going to be deported back to countries that cannot support them. So Haiti is one of those places. Sudan and South Sudan are more of those places. Black specific countries that folks are being deported back to. So I think a part of making sure that we're including everyone in the narrative around who is an immigrant is also making sure that we're including issues like TPS that are also an important thing that's ending for us to be fighting for.
We're out of time, I'm being told. But I'll be around and I'm actually going to pass out my card so if other questions ... if you have other questions you can contact me or talk to me after the session.
Nithya P: Thank you guys for being here and being so thoughtful and contributing. I'll be able to stick around for a little while as well. So if you have any questions we're happy to talk. Thank you for spending the past 90 minutes with us.

Standing In Our Power

with Julia Arroyo & Kandy Ifopo Young Women’s Freedom Center

This deep dive session introduces the Young Women’s Freedom Center’s methodology and framework for young women from the margins, finding their voice and developing their power both as a tool for personal liberation and freedom and a tool to build powerful movements led for and by young women and girls. Participants learn: ways to increase engagement of young women; how to sustain a base when our base is in transition and trauma; tools for base building; and how to develop campaigns and organizing strategies led for and by young women.

Click for Transcript: Standing In Our Power, Young Women Leading Organizing And Advocacy Strategies

Julia: I'm gonna talk a little bit about the history of the organization. First we could get to start off by getting to know everybody in the room. So, like I said, my name's Julia and we're gonna do our name, home, and ancestor. And pronoun, if you have, and if you mind just to let us know if you're over or under 25, that would be cool too. So I'll go ahead and model it.
So, my name's Julia. I'm from San Francisco, that's my home. And, yeah, I just have some kind of connection to that piece of land, my family's been there for a few generations. I'm second generation born stateside. And an ancestor that I want to bring into this space is my grandmother Julia.
And she was actually the person that was brave enough to kind of step out, right, and bring my family to the United States and be a pioneer, kind of, for the family. She faced a lot of challenges in her life. She was born in about the 30s and there was, like, a Mexican revolution kind of happening in Mexico. And she grew up kind of around a lot of soldiers. She was, her life was really shaped this certain way, right. And I was named after her, so they would tell me, you know, oh you act just like Julia, right. She was real loud, right. She was this real loud woman. She smoked, she chain-smoked cigarettes, she drank, she was known to carry a pistol around. And what I learned later on down the line is I learned more about this woman that they said was real rough around the edges woman.
I learned that, when she was younger, to make money, cause she was this indigenous woman, that they made alcohol to give to soldiers and that's how they made a living. And they smoked cigarettes because there was a lot of bugs around and the smoking kept the bugs off. So she developed these habits. And she carried a pistol and she was very loud because, through her trip, through her migration, there was a lot of men that would attack the women. And they would assault them. And she became very rough, right. And so this was her way to kind of defend herself and be loud and it's like, "hey, yeah, I'm here," you know. And the pistol, that explains itself, too.
So I learned all these things about this woman, and I was like, "wow." I learned the history of her. And she's my ancestor that I want to bring into this space when I feel nervous or when I'm not sure of myself, I just think "what did Julia, like, what are all the things that she got through in her life?" And so, that's my ancestor.
I use "she" and "her" pronouns. And I'm actually over 25. I know I've got that youthful glow. I'm 32 years old now, so yeah. And then we usually go to the left, because we lead with our hearts. So I'm gonna pass around the mic and if we could go around and I don't mind to repeat.
KI: So pronoun, ancestor-
Julia: And home. Name, home, ancestor.
KI: Gotcha. Name, home, ancestor- [crosstalk 00:03:27]
Crea: And before that, I just wanna mention, Julia put out a tapestry. One of the other principals that we have at the center as we're going through acknowledging our ancestors, is we normally build altars. We have multiple types of altars. So, I just wanna, like, let you know you're symbolically adding your ancestor to this space. So yeah. They didn't bring altar items, but wanted to make sure everyone knew that.
KI: We wanna bring in our sisters.
Julia: Yeah, please, please come in. If there's an empty chair, if it would be really great if you would come and sit into the chair, though, to keep the kind of energy of the space. Then we'll keep a door on each side so people can come in and out if they need to take care of themselves.
Amica: Good morning, my name is Amica. My pronouns are "she," "hers." Home is Oakland, California. And ancestors I'm going to call into this space today is my mama, Joanie, who was an example to me of a leader and a visionary. And then my grandmother, Pearl Sunshine, who was a healer. And yeah. That's it.
KI: Good morning. Or afternoon. What is it? [crosstalk 00:04:48] Oh, morning. Morning, morning, morning, morning. I think it's the coffee. My name's KI. My pronouns are "they" or "them." Or my name, KI. Home is the bay area, San Francisco, California, particularly HP, Hunters Point. An ancestor that I'm gonna call on is my grandfather. I was like his pele, means his favorite. But he, and what I endure from him before he passed was to make sure love is spread. And to keep that balance. So basically, he just threw this towards me like, "hold down the family," you know. So, yup.
Aretha: So, good morning everyone. My name is Aretha Onateri. I am "she" "her." From New Jersey. New Jersey? Yes. And the ancestor I'd like to bring into this space is my great-grandfather, my mother's grandfather. My mother's mother and uncles were all rambunctious and loud and crazy, but he was a small, quiet man. And so, whenever there was a need to heal, and whenever there was a need to quiet everyone down and move everybody in the same direction, he was the person in the family that was able to calm everyone and bring healing to the family. So I'd like to bring him into the space. Thank you.
Hannah: Hi, I'm Hannah. And I go by "she" "her" pronouns. I'm originally from the Atlanta area and now I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. And the ancestor I would like to call into the room is my grandfather, Richard. He, too, had such a big, warm heart. And really spread that and set that for our family, that we were a warm and kind family. And he, too, was a public servant, and just a very special man.
Emily: Hi, I'm Emily. I use "she" "her" pronouns. I'm from Minneapolis, born and raised. The ancestor that I want to bring into the room are both my grandmothers, Cami and Ruby. And they taught me that it's never wrong to use your voice. They are both very active in a lot of different ways, particularly politically, on different sides of the aisle from each other, so that's fun for them. But I think it's just important to just remember, like, you get to speak your peace. And that's something that I took from both of them, whether I agree or disagree with either one of them, that you get to have your perspective and you get to speak your peace. Has always felt like it was welcome in my family.
Tasha: Hi, my name is Tasha and I'm newly from Louisville, Kentucky. I use "she" and "her." I don't have a lot of connection with my ancestors, unfortunately, a lot of cut off in my family. But my mother's mom, who I never met, passed away when my mom was a baby. Had 11 children, my mom was the 11th. So, I think that she goes with me everywhere. All the things that I don't know about her and the things that I'm not, I think that there's a lot of her husband was an alcoholic. And I never knew him either, and neither did my mom, so I think the questions that I have about my family are what I take with me all the time.
Crea: Can we take a moment to let our sister in the circle over here?
[crosstalk 00:08:42]
Julia: So we're doing name, home, ancestor, if you have a pronoun that you prefer to use, and if you're under or over 25. Yeah. Yeah.
Caroline: Hi everybody, my name is Caroline Laborne and I'm from Arizona. I'm Pima Native America. My mother's Pima and my father's Ho chunk, so I'm a mixture. Over 25. I'm a mother of six from 22 all the way to five. And I'm a probation officer for my tribe. Thank you.
Lindsay: Hi, I'm Lindsay. I'm over 25. I'm from New York City, but I grew up in Miami, Florida. My pronouns are "she" and "her." And I have a lot of questions that landed with me. I'm just learning about some of my family that's Jewish that kind of, that history cuts off around the time of the Holocaust before they came here, but in terms of the ones that are most present with me, and the questions, both of my grandmothers chose very different paths. One refused to go to school and just found strength in being a mother and taking care of community at home. And the other, you know, was getting her master's degree in science in the '50s and fighting to integrate public schools and get sex education in public schools. So I think they both taught me different kinds of strengths. I bring them with me today.
Angelique: Hi everyone, my name's Angelique. "She," "her," "hers." I'm from Bronx, New York. Under 25. The folks that I bring around with me, my ancestors, are my grandparents from my father's side who came from Puerto Rico to the US. And my family from the Philippines, who also came to the US to seek more opportunity, which allowed my mother and my father to meet. So I bring them with me everywhere I go.
Pamela: Hi, my name is Pamela. I use "she," "her," and "hers." I live in New York now but I'm originally from Michigan. And I today will bring with me my great-grandmother, Pearl, who I didn't know but who I understand, who I'm named for, who I understand to be incredibly creative and curious and had a real thirst for learning and growing.
Andrea: Hello everybody. My name is Andrea Samora. I'm 17 years old and I'm from Oakland, California. And an ancestor that I would like to talk about is my mom's mom, so my grandma from my mom's side, because she had 13 kids and she raised them kind of by herself. So she was like a true warrior for me, cause that's a lot. And I go by "she" and "her."
Julia: Thank you.
Kimmy: Aloha everybody, my name is Kimmy, and I'm from Honolulu, Hawaii. I'm going to bring my grandmother, Peilani Paole. She is from Kawaii. My family is from Kawaii. And I go by "she," "her," and "hers."
Lucero: My name is Lucero. I'm a research organizer at the Young Woman's Freedom Center. I'm 28 years old, my pronoun is "she," "her," "hers." My home is El Salvador, that's where I was born. My ancestor will be my grandma and my maya. She came out here and she brought my family with my aunt for us to have a better future. And she passed away when I was young, but I learned one thing when she passed away, which is, love your family before they leave because they're barely temporary. You never know when is, cause tomorrow's not promised. So just growing up, losing people, I learned to appreciate people while they're alive.
Lara: Hi, my name's Lara Kauffman. My pronouns are "she," "her," and "hers." I live in Maryland, right outside of DC. And the ancestor I'm thinking about today- Oh, I'm way over 25, in case anyone was wondering. The ancestor I'm thinking about today is my grandmother, my mother's mother, who was born in Poland and was orphaned when she was five years old. Her mother passed away and her father left. She and her sister were on the streets, eating out of trash cans and barely getting by. But she came to this country when she was 12 and built a life here. She was just very loving and she was just like a second mom to me. And I always admired her. I named my daughter after her.
Sonia: Hi, my name's Sonia Breda. And I also work at Girls, Inc. I'm originally from Portland, Oregon but I moved out here to DC to my new home. I'm under 25. And the ancestors that I'm thinking about today is my grandmother, who came to the United States from China and built her life here for my family.
Chantal: Hi, I'm Chantal and I'm from Pittsburgh, PA. My pronouns are "she," "her," and "hers." The ancestor that I want to call on is my great-grandmother, Lorrine. She was the mother of 12 children. I have a very big family and she was our queen bee. She was tough. She didn't take no mess. And she always held us accountable.
Lindsay: Hey, I'm Lindsay. "She," "her," "hers." I'm from Michigan. I grew up in Florida and now I'm in DC, so just a whole east coast, you know, whatever, life. As far as ancestors, my grandmas and my adopted grandma are the strongest women. I think of my late adopted grandma every single day. They really taught me how to be resilient and how to be brave and how to care about other people.
Nancy: Good morning, my name is Nancy and my preferred pronouns are "she," "her," "hers." Home is Pittsburgh, too, Pennsylvania. Although I grew up in New England outside of Boston. I am the daughter of Ann who is the daughter of Thelma who are the ancestors that I bring to this room, who both died very early. So I think they taught me the preciousness of the time that we have in each day and how, it was important to make a difference but not let others steal your joy. So to have both. And I'm well over 25, too.
Jasmine: Hi, I'm Jasmine. I'm 25, just made the cut-off. I'm from Miami, Florida. Miami. So the ancestors that I bring - oh, "she," "her," "hers" pronouns. The ancestor I bring with me today is, I didn't personally know her, cause she was born in 1850 and she's Sarah Bellamy. She's my great, I don't know how many great, grandmother. She was a slave at the Bellamy plantation in northern Florida in 1850 and she raised about 13 of the Bellamy kids. And the stories that I heard from my great-grandfather of the nurturing and the strength that she provided for those kids that weren't her own just inspired me to eventually become a foster parent myself when I get older. So I bring her with me today.
Alyssa: Hello, my name's Alyssa. I am from Jacksonville, Florida. I am 22. And the ancestor - I go by "she" or "her." The ancestor that I want to bring to the room is my grandmother, who is just my symbol of strength and has been my support. I feel like she is the reason why I believe that change is truly possible.
Fran: Hi, my name is Fran. "She" and "her" pronouns. I am also well over 25. And the ancestor I will bring into the room is my father, Louis Sherman, who died quite young and I named my oldest daughter after him. And he was a psychologist and a university professor. And he was actually a researcher who, in the early 70s, pioneered getting women into the police force, particularly for domestic violence kind of things. So he was a researcher and an advocate, always an inspiration.
Crea: Hi, my name is Crea. I'm with the Young Woman's Freedom Center. My pronouns are "she," "her," "hers, "they," or "them." I am well over 25. And the ancestor that I bring into this space, today I bring two. I bring my grandma Rita Lacuna and I bring my grandfather Juan Osura Gongora. And my ancestors are, my Pima sister, I'm Quixan, Yaqui, Filipino, Hawaiian, and Chinese.
Nia: Hello, my name's Nia Rankins and I'm 16 years old. And the ancestor I want to bring to this space is my grandmother, Gloria Rankins, and my grandfather, Harry Rankins, because they were both sick but they ended up taking care of each other.
Elidra: Good mornin'! My name is Elidra, I'm from Mississippi. Pronoun "she" and "her." My ancestor I wanna bring is my grandmother. She was like powerful and she was the one I look up to. And she just brought the family together with so much knowledge and stuff.
Stephanie: Hello, my name is Stephanie Clone. I'm originally from Michigan but I live in DC now. So I still consider Michigan my home, though, it has my heart. Pronouns are "she" and "her." I'm over 25. And the ancestor that I'd like to bring into the room is my grandmother, Noreen. She had 10 children, she was a single parent, and she had this quiet strength about her that you, she didn't have to come into a room and dominate but you knew she was strong, capable, intelligent woman and so I try to emulate that, as well.
Britney: Hi, my name is Britney. "She," "her," "hers." I'm from Hernando, Mississippi, so if you drive straight through it, you'll miss it. Yeah, a lot of dirt roads, but it was cool. Scary life. And the ancestors I want to bring into the room today are both my grandmothers. My mother's mother and my father's mother, Thelma and Darcus. They both raised large families and they taught me a lot. I was so blessed to spend time with them before they passed away. And they all had a giving spirit. And so I try to keep that kind of giving spirit wherever I go. And if I feel alone, I can kind of talk to them a little bit. And then I give myself a minute and I'm like, "okay. I can keep pushing." Cause if I don't, then the struggles they went through were for nothing.
Sarah: Hi everyone, Sarah. "She," "hers." I'm from New York City. Actually, I'm over 25, believe it or not. Just listening to everyone, the ancestor that I'm bringing to the room is my grandmother on my father's side. She died when I was a teenager but just, like, her cooking and just her presence in the house just made me feel safe all the time, so my grandmother's really a symbol of strength in my life.
Julia: Did everybody, yeah. Anybody else? Okay. Great.
So I just want to recognize that this is an intergenerational space. I want to notice that and notice kind of that the eldest to the very youngest person in the room and make sure that we give space for people to speak. Yeah.
So, also that, those ancestors that we brought into this space here, those are like, that's our history. Those are whose shoulders that we stand on. And just, like, maybe the organizations that we come from too, you know, there are people that came before us, too. And they have a began work and now we've been put in these positions to kind of carry on our work too, as well. So just holding those things with us.
And every person in this room holds knowledge. Every person in here is a leader. And that's something that we firmly believe at the Young Woman's Freedom Center. That, right when you come into this space, you hold knowledge that is, that makes this happen right here. This is what makes it happen.
And so I'm gonna start back of where the organization started, back around 1993. I know Crea is also a record-holder of this space so she'll kind of chime in, too, to help support me with this process.
So the organization started around 1993. A woman, Rachel Pfeiffer, she had came in and she was doing her dissertation. Is anybody in college in here? I'm starting out, too. I'm a late bloomer. So she was coming to do a study on women that were living and working and surviving every day in San Francisco.
So San Francisco, just to give you a little bit of history right now that's going on in San Francisco is, it's one of the most expensive places in the country to live. There's a lot of gentrification that happens. And, back then - but one thing, the history of San Francisco is really interesting, because it's always been a place of refuge for a lot of people. People have been able to come out there and live out their lives, you know, and there's almost like this freedom that comes with San Francisco. And it's a melting pot of everybody that's in this space.
So going back to Rachel coming into this space. What she was doing is studying the women that were kind of living and surviving, right? And what she found out, right, is that these women were living and surviving every day, some of them on the streets and taking care of themselves. And one thing that she notices is that they were perfectly capable of leading this work too, right. And so it started off as a street health based outreach, right, they were doing outreach in the community. And eventually, she left the organization to a young woman, 19 years old, Lateefah Simon. And she went on to be the youngest executive director in the nation.
In the '90s, what was happening, there was like this youth movement that was kind of happening, right? And one thing that Lateefah, who holds the MacArthur Genius Award and was really pioneering in the work, she's an incredible person if you guys want to look her up, but there are many incredible women that have touched the organization.
So Lateefah Simon had came in, right, and one thing that she spoke about, which I was a young woman in juvenile hall, right, and coming out and they're kind of introducing this work. And she begins to talk about this crack generation, right. And then something that happened in the late '80s and early '90s is this war on drugs, right. And this was the beginning of also the mass incarceration. And we're looking already into three generations of mass incarceration at this point. But at that point, she was talking about the juvenile detention centers being flooded with young girls. And a lot of us were being raised by our aunts or our grandmothers and foster care. I went in at two years old so I was like, "wow, how's this lady know me? Right, like she's talking about my story here."
And so I connected with her on this level. And I began to get kind of interested into the work. So eventually, she led the work and other women in the organization. And eventually then Marlene Sanchez came in and she's also at this conference, too. And she led it for the next years. And one thing that these started to do was move from actually being out on the streets and doing street outreach, which we still do to this day, and Lucero will talk about a little bit later, is we went inside of the actual detentions and started meeting women and meeting them where they're at.
And so one thing that we have is we have a curriculum, it's called "Lift Us Up Don't Knock Us Down." And it's one of the core things that all of us have been able to do on the inside. And the curriculum was created by a few young women that were kind of involved in the system and they were like, "hey, there were all these things that I didn't understand through this court process of what was happening inside of my life." And so they kind of developed this curriculum that we use, right.
So the first part of the curriculum that we use is personal foundation. And so that's what we led with, our building spirituality and then we move into our values system. And then we do political education. And then we do self-advocacy. So we're not really going in there like we're gonna help you, we're gonna support you in navigating that process just like a lot of us have done ourselves. And we just kind of help to support and navigate that process and doing self-advocacy, know your rights, things like that.
So our mission is to empower and inspire young women that have been involved in the criminal justice system and/or underground street economy to create positive changes in the lives and community. So underground street economy can be anything from sex work to selling drugs to anything that people do as a, it can be work that you do under the table. Any of those things that you do to kind of take care of yourself. And so our core values are rooted in sisterhood, spirituality, social justice, and self-determination. So we are truly committed to that piece of self-determination.
A lot of times, with my involvement in the system, that there was these really evidence-based, all of this plans that were created for me, right. And at the end, maybe I wouldn't do them, right. And even to this day, a lot of people were like, "I made this great plan for them and nothing happened out of it." But what was the piece that was missing was my self-determination. What was it that drove me and what was it that moved me and my life? And so that's one thing that we really try and focus is that spirit piece of it, like, "where am I moving in my life? Where am I going?" And including that person in every piece of the process. This is their process.
So that's a little bit about the work that we do. And then I'm gonna pass it along.
Crea: I wanna say one thing that's really, is really important about the history. As we were doing street outreach and as we were going to conferences like this and one of the major factors of the organization is that you are system-involved. So just, tell me what are some systems, when you think of system-involved, what are some of the systems that you think of?
[inaudible 00:29:57] Welfare. [crosstalk 00:29:59] CPS.
Okay, so raise your hand if you've ever been impacted by any of those systems. Okay. So we're talking about young women that are involved in a system, right? Involved at two, right? Some of us involved later.
One of the important changes that happened, and why we became an organization of self-determination is because, as we were going to these conferences and speaking and doing street outreach, we started to interact with the very systems that were locking us up, right? We started to interact with these systems and actually they were catching us up. They were taking our young women from the streets as we were doing street outreach. And so we had to figure out, we're providing employment to these young women, but how do we keep them safe? Especially while they're in a place of trying to change their lives.
And so we had to, because we're so youth-driven, we're driven by our members, one of the things that we had to start figuring out was how to start advocating for ourselves. And so advocacy, as Julia said, is a major component of our organization, but it's actually a major component out of our own necessity. So we had to teach ourselves how to do court advocacy. There were no manuals. There was, you know, we had a few good people. Patty Lee, who's a juvenile public defender. Kay Min, you know, we would invite people in and just say, "teach us what you know. We have a young woman that's locked up. We have a young woman that just went to a group home. We have a young woman that is being told she's getting shipped to another state. What can we do to keep her here?"
And we literally, lots of people remember the first innovation of the center being these three or four girls in these really horrible, rough suits you know, Marshalls. You know, cheap $20 suits, in a room full of - I have $20 suits still - in a room full of lawyers and advocates at juvenile hall and they'd say, "how old are you? Why are you here?" And we were literally there to say, "we're coming to get our sister."
So that's a major component of the shift between us being a health-based organization to an organization that started to work and advocate on behalf of our sisters, is that the dynamics of the young women that we were serving started to change. So it's a major, I wanted to make sure that we said that just because, as we start to talk about, and this is a really interactive, like I want you to know what you're experiencing right now is very similar to what we do at the center. And so it's a major component of a lot of the things that you're gonna hear in this session.
Julia: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Crea: Yo.
KI: As I said before, I really don't like doing the mic thing, but I'm KI and I'm a program coordinator at the Young Woman's Freedom Center, formally and originally the Center for Young Women's Development. I'm just gonna dialogue about, and if you have questions or comments, feel free to pop out, you know? Say it.
So I'm 27 and I'm just gonna talk about, have dialogue about the tools of what the center provides and why we stand in our power, why we're here, what's the purpose of our power, how did we get our power. One thing I know for sure about the center, we provide - let me just say this, we don't give chances, we give opportunities. And so it's more than an org, it's a family, it's a sisterhood. And I wasn't given a chance, I was given the opportunity to build up my experience of a program coordinator. And as a, maybe a future mentor, but down the line, I see myself as a healer as well.
And so I'm the program coordinator for Sister Rising. And Sister Rising is a 15 week program that all members, which are seven right now, they're community organizers. And the tools that we gain with them, we don't just teach them, like, we're teaching and learning with them as they teach us, it's vice versa. And so we do community outreach. We do, right now we're gonna be introducing social biography. Education of practice of freedom is huge with us, for us. It's our methodology at the center.
What gives us the power to stand in it is the opportunity that was given to us at the center. It don't matter if you're black, purple, blue, whatever. Probation, parole, you know, single moms, foster care, like we take all system folks that been in all kinds of systems. And we come together and we bring that diversity and we go hard and we fight. And we come to things like this and we share. And we just, this is our church. This is what we call church for us. How we gonna move this movement and I just wanna continue the energy we had that was set this morning from when our indigenous people set that tone this morning. And just throughout this whole conference, and as individuals, how we gonna carry out and go back home, wherever home is and lead.
Because I still have that youth in me and I'm fresh out the youth population, I still can relate to young people in a way, cause I'm fresh out, you know what I'm sayin'? But what I'm sayin' is my purpose of standin', like I can tell you why I stand in my power is because I got tired throughout my adolescence. I got tired of being played by these systems. So whoever's in this circle that are allies or teachers, just know listening is good for our young people. It is a key that we have to do and, if say you ain't never lived in the projects and you know you ain't never been through no system, I think the best tool to do that the center provides is love. Unconditionally. We love unconditionally. Period.
And one of our tools that I love at the center, we do liberation pedagogy, which is every Friday. And each of our directors has the opportunity to host it or teach us younger folks. And then, initially, we step up and do the same thing. So that's a little bit about some of the tools, if Crea wanna chime on or any of the folks from the center that are here.
Crea: So, KI is being really modest right now. KI, can you talk about ... so Sister's Rising is actually one of our major components for leadership development.
KI: Oh, okay.
Crea: So can you talk about the four components of Sister's-
KI: So we call it "The Four S's": sister skill, sister love, sister justice, and ... I feel like I'm missing one.
Crea: Sister love ...
KI: I have a brain fart, excuse me.
Crea: Sister justice. Sister skill.
KI: Sister determination. Isn't it?
Crea: I think it, self-determination.
KI: It actually is. Sister determination, sister love, sister skill, and sister just-
Crea: Sister forward.
KI: Oh, sister forward. And sister forward is an important part of our four s's, is because you're ... the basics of life that we introduce, like, how is it to learn how to be computer savvy, do administrative tasks? Or how to prepare for an interview?
Crea: How to be on time.
KI: How to be punctual is something huge right now, that we are working together. Even here at the conference. And that's an important piece, but also sister love, and that's what sister four covers. And also just embedding and improving as individuals that are in Sister Rising. We're proving in reading, proving in public speaking, just growth, you know. Coming out of your shell, sharing your story, is what Sister Forward is.
And also, too, sister love. We talk about, it sounds so, like, peaceful, right? But really, we get down about, what is trauma, what does trauma look like for us, and how do we start the healing path for our trauma that was cause for us ... And Sister Love also introduces folk that don't know their roots, ancestry, ancestors, things like that. That's what we provide as a whole for Sister Love. Going out and touching base with earth, knowing how to communicate naturally without phones, things like that, you know connecting as human beings. I noticed that we're losing, as a human race, we are totally caught up on Instagram, woo. Okay. And things like that, life is boomin' right now, we're just movin'.
And so Sister Love slows us down. And those are our Thursdays. And we just come in, circle just like this, breathing. We call in our ancestors, we sage you up, I call it sage you up. We just bounce off each other, our energies.
And then for sister skill, sister skill is an important tool because a lot of us don't have the tools that we need, such as signin' up for college, things like that. Knowing our rights, you know. It's important for our young people to know our rights, our young women and girls to know our rights. Introducing those kids of things. And we learn about, what is community organizing? Which is sister justice. Why am I a community organizer? How can I turn my experience into leading to work for our young people, or our people period. And is this my purpose? It's like, folks finding their pathway, introducing something that should've been done, that should've been our first set of mind frame from the get-go than what is happening now.
I think, sister justice, right? I covered it all? Right. So, those ... and also, this is our 25th cohort of Sister Rising. It's a big thing. I'm also new in this role, so that's why I say we don't give chances. They give us the opportunity to step int our leadership. We are a leadership and advocacy organization. Everything that my colleagues, my big sister said, is true. You better call your lawyer because you need to know this stuff. Don't just have your PO do it for you, you do it yourself.
So that's one thing I like, I love about this place. And I know that's a goal that will be knowledgeable across the globe. Self-advocacy is best, it is important. And this is what we provide, leadership and advocacy. Thank you.
I think we're gonna be -
Julia: Can I put in just a little bit more?
KI: Yeah, go ahead.
Julia: What KI's talking about is one of the core pieces of it, right. We are bringing the most marginalized people, right, the most marginalized women and girls, and we are bringing them to this center to lead this work. And I think that is something that is so unique about it, right. I mean, I was outreached to inside a juvenile hall, you know, that's where they got me at. Some of us are on street outreach and we're actually coming to the center to kind of go into this almost boot camp of, like, how do we -
KI: Soldiers.
Julia: Meet our own people. And then we're never learning something, we're not only just learning stuff for ourselves, we're also learning to teach it to the next person that comes through the door. So just like I was in a position of the program coordinator, I could never believe it. A lot of organizations, I'm one of the directors at the organization now. I literally came in through juvenile hall. I know Crea was one of the first employees hired out of juvenile hall. We are very true to bringing the women that are the most marginalized to lead, so we need those opportunities to be able to grow and make mistakes, too. Those are important parts, mistakes are important parts of our learning and our growth. And it's okay, we still move forward.
And let me just see what's on the next? Yes, please.
Amica: Oh I just wanted to chime in about the, to also add this piece of it, that Sisters Rising is, it's also a paid employment opportunity. So that is a huge component, right, is that folks are coming in and they're getting trained up, but they're getting the ability to do that by being able to hold work, right. And so economic opportunity is also one of the key pieces of opportunity, right, is that we compete with the streets survival level and so I just wanted to put that out there, that it's also a paid position.
KI: Thank you, Amica.
Crea: Yeah and the organization, it is one of the principals is that we're, you know, if we're gonna take young women out, or empower them to move beyond the current situation that's causing them survival, that they're surviving on, we have to be able to compete with the underground street economy. So currently, we pay $15 an hour for young women in the highest, most expensive city in the world right now. We know that that's not necessarily, it is a living wage, but we're looking to increase that really soon.
When I first started, I'm the first young woman that has gone through the organization. We are 25 years old. When the organization started in '93, San Francisco's minimum wage was $4.25. I was getting paid $8.50 to actually go, learn, and do street outreach. So just to show you the comparison of how a lot of organizations work, they'll get the money from the department of children youth and families, wherever your city is at, and provide a very baseline. Because we're working with a high population, we need to be able to compete with whatever it is they go out there and they do to survive.
Another major component that I just want to talk about real quick and KI mentioned it before we move on to the organizing piece, is the social biographies. So who's ever heard of Paulo Freire? He's kind of like the grandfather of the center, I'll say that. Paulo Freire is the creator-
KI: He's my grandpa.
Crea: Right, he's my grandpa, too. Paulo Freire created a popular education model and a lot of people know him from his book, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed." The center actually builds our model off of this model.
We often talk, it's one of the first things the young women do when they come in is, very similarly to the way that we asked you about your ancestors, we know and we believe that, in order for you to move forward in your life, you have to know where you come from. It's a major piece of how we root ourselves in our work and remember why we're fighting, but it's also a major piece of that spiritual practice and that sisterhood that our ancestors often did similar circles, right, as Julia said. But also, in order for us to build strength, we have be able to connect to those higher powers that push us forward, especially cause we know that oftentimes, it just doesn't come over night, right? It's not like you get a job and then you're like, "oh, cool, I'm out the system." And so to be able to connect to that.
So one of the things we often talk about at the center is that you are an expert of your own experience. Which means, if you're an expert of your own experience, this also means that you are your own best advocate. You're your own best teacher and you know better than anybody what it is that you need for yourself to be able to get out of your situations.
We've noticed that young women will come in, they'll tell us about 70% of what's actually going on in their life, right, when the reality is that, the 30% that they don't talk about is actually what continuously keeps them in that circle, often trauma, right. Often decisions about survival that they have to make on a constant daily basis, right. So in order for us to be able to get them to move beyond their experience, they have to stop looking at us as experts and start to look at themselves as experts. So this is a major component of the programming.
Sister's Rising, as our leadership development and really the core of our organization, we started off as just Sister's Rising. So when the organization started, it was eight young women and it was just an employment program. It has grown out of necessity into an advocacy and organizing organization. And I'll talk a little bit about the history before we go on to where we're currently at.
In terms of getting to that place, Sister's Rising, as our leadership development component, every one in the organization has the opportunity to either move up in leadership outside of the organization, right. So moving on to another organization and using the skills that you learned at the center. Or to actually move up through the program. Sister's Rising alum and staff and interns, can you raise your hand? If you've been through the program. So I want you to see that these are women that actually went through Sister's Rising and now they are:
KI: I am a resource organizer.
Crea: What are you?
Lucero: Oh, I was part of the Young Mother's United. It's a program for teen moms who bring their kids as well as a paid program as well. And we're able to advocate for other teen moms.
Julia: I'm Young Mother's United, too.
Britney: I'm Young Mother's United, then the Sister's Rising.
Crea: Jessie?
Jessie: I'm Sister's Rising and I plan to move on up the ladder, so ...
KI: I'm from Sister's Circle, which is now AKA Freedom Circle.
Crea: So we didn't talk about the other components, but we do have Young Mother's United, again, out of necessity. We realized that a lot of the young women that were coming to the center were young mothers. And so we realized that, just like them, they were also, as mothers, having their kids involved in the system. We know that once you're criminalized, right, you're always criminalized, unfortunately. And so we created a component that actually taught women how to support them during their reunification process, if they were incarcerated, or be able to support them if they had CPS currently involved.
And so the Young Mother's United program is actually certified to do parenting groups that are certified with our local CPS programming in San Francisco. A process that our young women did on their own. They said, "if we're gonna do these classes, it needs to mean something."
And Freedom Circle, Sister's Circle, we have different levels at the center about how we engage young women. We know that street outreach is our first, right. We're trying to connect with them on this one-on-one basis, letting them know that we can relate to them, that there are opportunities out there. Oftentimes it takes a couple times before a young woman is actually like, "okay, you cool," right. But we do invite them into the doors and one of the ways that we do that is through our Freedom Circles.
Our Freedom Circles are really spaces for them to get to know the center, but to also start talking about the trauma that they're experiencing. And getting some of those baseline skills in order to be able to do that advocacy. We also- Yes.
Audience: The parenting classes, what kind of curriculum?
Crea: We actually developed our own. And so a lot of the things about the center is, we're talking about young women who don't have connections to many people like you unless they're coming to these conferences. And, at first, we didn't. And so the young women actually looked at other curriculums and kind of picked and choose what it was that they were like, "we can use this. This doesn't make too much sense." Or they thought about it and they were like, "actually, what we really need is we need something that talks about dual diagnosing," right? Or "we need something that talks about, what's reunification look like when you're incarcerated," right? Or how to make a plan for that. Or how do I start, what goes into a letter?
And so we actually have a curriculum called, "My Life Chose Me." And it's a curriculum that was created specifically for Young Mothers United. We're currently in the process of trying to get these curriculum certified so that we can actually provide them inside. "Lift Us Up Don't Knock Us Down," actually, we do in other detention centers. It's our other curriculum.
The curriculum is really founded, similarly, on the four main components of Sister's Rising. And then Sister's Rising has its own curriculum as well. So there's multiple curriculums but they all speak to the different programming that we do.
And so, yeah?
KI: Did you mention all the programs we have yet?
Crea: No, you wanna do that?
KI: Someone had a question over here.
Julia: Yeah, question?
Audience: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about your street outreach, the canvas of it. How often do you do it? What percentage of the time, where you go, that sort of thing.
Speaker 34: So, like, basically, when we do outreach, it's for events. Sorry, I'm gonna take off my hoodie. It's for, like, when we have events, when we have, basically doing outreach for, like we have [inaudible 00:52:50] Coalition where we have outreach. Like we just opened up a five keys charter school inside our job, so also girls, they come to the programs, they can also get their GED or high school diploma while they're working, too. We just outreach for just like all of our programs, events we have coming up. Stuff we want girls to be involved in. We always for a lot of stuff, and basically, oh well go ahead. You can-
KI: Are you sure? The hardcore part of outreach as well as street outreach versus outreach in the orgs, outreaching to probation or something, outreaching to government assistance offices. We go through a critical week of training and constantly it just becomes a practice. We do role plays. Something to where, like, we do it uncomfortable to get comfortable. So we actually enact folks that are, single moms, carrying their babies, and how do we get their attention. How do we spark that little spark. And not everyone we outreach to we're gonna see, right, that would maybe come. So we double it. Or is it three times? So say we wanna outreach to 100, we're gonna make it 300. Because it's better to have more.
And outreach is a huge key of our organization as well. It's not just a number thing. It's our purpose of why we need to reach out to our young women. And Lucie's actually the one that's gonna talk about the outreach.
Lucero: The outreach, for me when I outreach, is meeting them where they're at. Like, their home, in the neighborhood, in their school, in their jobs, in the streets, at GA, at the welfare, if they're trying to get a job, we're out there, outreach. Meeting them where they're at. Even if they're just kickin' it on the corner, how can we get them to come to these events and learn and for us to teach them and them teaching us as well. So it's just meeting them where they're at.
Audience: At what point, so you do all this outreach and you're engaging them and then, at some point they start coming into the program. So they sign up for the different, like Young Mothers United, and then, do they start getting paid when they participate in the group or like how does that work?
Speaker 34: So when they come, so we have, how many programs? We have Freedom Circle, which changed from Sister's Circle to Freedom Circle. We have Young Mothers United, those are paid stipends. So usually before it would be twice a week, it would be Tuesdays and Thursdays, they come in at 6 o'clock, or is it 5 and ends at 8, or it's like an hour and a half long. And the next time they come, like that Thursday, they would get a $50 check. So basically, it's like a stipend.
But then Sister's Rising, you get paid the whole $15 an hour, so it's like an actual job.
Crea: [inaudible 00:55:42] they get hired.
Speaker 34: Like me? Or like ...
Crea: Yeah, like how do women get hired?
Speaker 34: Oh ... should I say, like, my own personal ... all right, so I came there when I was 16 and I was pregnant. And I'm 18 now. I came there and I was through Young Mothers United, like I had no support, I just got out of a group home. I was in foster care for five years, I was getting bumped around all over the Bay Area. And finally got back with my dad and I was just like, I didn't know what the hell to do. My dad's like, "all this shit's happening to you" and he's like, "how the fuck do I-" excuse me, he's like, "how do I deal with you? Like, you're just like ..." And I'm like, "dad, like, you did this to me." But then that's not really, like, my dad's just like the system, you know what I mean? Just like all of the things I was going through.
And then so then I got pregnant and I'm just like, "I don't know what to do, like I have no money, my dad's not gonna help me. He can't even help himself." Then it's like, my case manager through my school, it was a pregnancy school, they told me about the center. And then I was like, "oh man, hell, I need some shoes for school." So I was like, they had this little paid stipend thing. I was like, "okay, so if I go for a week or two weeks, I'll have the $100, I can get my little boots, right." And I was like, "okay, I'm gonna go."
So I went there and I met other teen moms and I was like, "what? This is crazy." I was like, "I'm going through the same thing." I'm trying to get on MediCal, but I can't even get MediCal or get medical to cover myself because I'm not old enough and my dad can't do it because they say my dad makes too much money when my dad barely makes minimum wage. So it's like he can't even take care of himself.
I was in that program and I just started getting hella-engaged and I started talking about, I started learning about CPS prevention. I started learning how to advocate for myself so I felt like-
Julia: She was writing grants.
Speaker 34: Yeah.
Julia: She was writing grants, too.
Speaker 34: And so I started doing all this stuff, you know. And I'm like, I'm scared, you know, cause when I see CPS, I'm scared. I'm like, "you're trying to take my son, you're trying to do something." Cause, you know, it's just that form of fear that I'm so used to that when they're supposed to be there to help you. But then it's like learning that they're supposed to be there to help you and work for you. So I feel like that helped me a lot and I just stared getting hella-engaged and hella-inspired. Like, this is where I need to be, this is my purpose. And I felt like, if I didn't come there, I don't know where I would be right now. You know what I mean? I've met my sisters along the way and I love y'all so much. It feels like a family, like we built our own family.
And then so I started getting really engaged in that. And then I went to the Sisters Rising internship. So, I'm like, what, eight months pregnant. I'm working full-term, but I liked it, you know, and it was easy, like I could bring my son with me. Eventually I had my son. He eight months now and, like, I still bring him to the center. And he would come with me to work every day to the internship. And I just started learning about all this stuff. And I started doing public speaking. I started writing grants. I started getting hella-engaged and I feel like they seen something in me and was just like, "we want you to work here with the higher staff."
So I work with the higher staff now and I'm 18 now. And I feel like my leadership is still growing, but I feel like it also could be, like, go down to the next generation for the girl, but it's also self-determination, you know what I mean? Because we're here to help you, but you gotta want the help, you know. But yeah, that's my story.
Crea: I didn't know that's how you got to the center. So, KI, do you wanna talk about how young women get hired at Sister's Rising because I think that's the piece that folks wanna-
KI: So, Amica was the program coordinator but then passed it down to me and Shai. Shai's actually in another workshop, who is the program associate. And the hiring decision was based out on outreach. And mainly direct with how Lucero broke it down, exactly what we do. And even by district, like, who's gonna go to what district. We actually go and meet our people where they're at. So that's Tenderloin, Filmo, HP, Mission.
And how the hiring process worked is, we did it. Junior staff did it. So we made this decision on hiring, on how it would happen. Such as first interviews with two of junior staffs, and then there's a second interview, it's a panel interview, with one of the directors or sometimes maybe not. It was just mainly of junior staff. More minds matter so more opinions or comments on how we take the individual that apply for the job. And how we looked at it was, one of the things that I liked was, people's needs was what we looked at first. That's what matter first. It's not about who knows more and who we think that's a leader already or who may benefit the center more. We looked at folks at their barriers and what the needs needed to be met.
There is two moms that are a part of Sister Rising. And they are allowed to bring their babies to work. And, as initially, it's not put into the curriculum where, like, everybody watch the baby. Everyone does it naturally. And it's with care and it's with love. And even those who don't really talk out popped out. That kinda rhymed. Also, like, got out of their shell and now are like boomin' and movin', so we do have SR folks here. Jocelyn is also a Sister Rising intern right now. There's two more that are in the workshops.
But the hiring process was really, really crucial. We wanted to take everybody. And we know, and one thing I'm learning at the center, we cannot save everybody. But what we can do, is we can bring you back, sister. We can keep telling you like, "we hear, we hear. We hear." And also sparking something in them and sharing with them, there's other orgs in about Frisco, too, in the Bay Area. It's going, what I notice and what I'm observing is that, all the orgs are going to work together.
Cause, as I was growing up, it always was a case management thing. And what I learned at the center, we are more of a care management. We don't sit there and do, like, "so what are you feelin' like today," you know, all of that. We let you speak, we let you scream. Go to another room and scream real quick. Go downstairs and get some air, go smoke a cigarette or something. Come back. Go for a walk.
But for the Sister Rising hiring, to get back to that. It was really hard to vote on who we wanted.
Crea: What were some of the questions you guys ask in your interviews, cause I think those are really important to the process.
KI: Yeah, one of the first question was, you know, "tell us about yourself. Why do you want this position?" And the answers was simple. One young person was like, "I need some money. What you got." I looked up at her and I said, "okay, girl. You need some money. I feel that." You know, and I was just like, you know, I debrief and whoever that was with me, I'm like, "she need some money. Like, she real." You know?
And one of the questions was, "what are you passionate about?" One girl said, "life." I said, "you know what, you go ahead girl. That's what I'm talkin' bout!" And that's all she had and we took it. And we took it like that. And so we're just like, you know, they don't have to tell us a whole story about themselves. They was just like, "I'm gonna keep it 100 with you." And so that's why our senior staff, our bigger sisters, this is the levels of letting youth lead into young adults into growing to be big sisters and elders and so forth or wherever it is that we're gonna go on our path.
And one of the other questions was, we just do it, can I say scenarios? The second - so those were questions from the first interviews. And the second questions for the panels interviews, we did scenarios. Like, you being a community organizer. And being a community organizer, it's important to have the tools of an outreach worker as well. And one of the scenarios was, you're on outreach with three people and you have outreach from four to seven. And it sounds late to you guys, it's because those are the peak hours of when things are going down, folks are getting arrested, people are on the block sellin' dope.
Julia: Getting out of school.
KI: People are, you know, getting in trouble, getting caught. So the center hours, you have outreach from four to seven. One of the colleagues are like, "yo, let's hit the corner, let's go smoke some weed." What do you do?
They kept it real. Some people said, "Imma go smoke. And them Imma go back to work. And Imma clock out." And I said, "dang. All right, cool." And one of those girls is hired. And guess what, she's improving and she's boomin'. And we didn't judge her for what her answer was. And I love that about her. Cause she's still fightin' through it and she's gonna continue to fight.
And some people is like, "oh, I'm not gonna smoke. I'm not gonna smoke. I'm just gonna be like, 'you can't do that.'" You know, so-
Crea: They didn't get hired.
KI: It is what it is, but like, whoever got programmed, just know it's best to connect with the people, the young women and girls that, when you're doing a program or you're doing hiring. I just wanted to give you all a little bit about how we do our hiring process. So we don't judge people. So I'm gonna pass it to Julia.
Julia: Wanna add in one more thing. A lot of the work, like we said too, was doing the detention work. So inside a juvenile hall, inside the adult facilities, too. And one of the things that we did was actually give people the opportunity to apply within, on the inside, that would be possibly getting out within the timeframe of when the cohort would start. So there was actual interviews that happened on the inside, inside of the jails. So people writing to filling out applications, getting the resumes, and getting the-
Audience: What kind of work do you do with the young women inside the facilities?
Julia: So we do the "Lift Us Up, Don't Knock Us Down" curriculum. We do similar circles just like this. We throw it in a circle, we-
Lucero: We talk about stereotypes, we talk about oppression, we talk about what is power, what do you think what power is to you. The difference of power, like police, the people you hire, attorney, capitalism and all that. We talk about knowing your roots, knowing your rights. Definitely knowing your rights. What's your rights when you are in jail. What are the things that you need help in there and what do you need help in court. What do you need in court. Letters, advocacy, do you need us to be there to advocate for you and sit down with your attorney so you can understand more of what's going on.
Julia: Yeah. And we're paid to do 11-25, but we open it all the way up to 34. Because we're actually looking at that transitional age, young adult as well. But it could be any of those ages inside.
Audience: It's co-ed?
Julia: No, well it's transgender, non-conforming ...
Audience: How many young people are in the cohort, in the Sister Rising?
Crea: KI just stepped out. There's currently seven? So there's seven. So something really important about that is this week we only have three young women that came. That wasn't because anybody did anything wrong, it's literally because we take the most marginalized, right. We work really hard to talk to probation officers, to talk to drug court advocates. And unfortunately, we had a number of young women who could not come because of their status, their hater probation officers who wouldn't give them clearance to step out of county or out of state lines.
But this is one of the things that we have to face as an organization that's made a commitment to this population. So we have three young women here now, but the cohort can be anywhere between three to eight people. We have had as big as 12 and we do two cohorts a year. So we, right now we're in Sisters Rising, this will end in December and then, come January or February, we start Young Mothers United. And then we'll go back and in the spring, we'll have another group of Sisters Rising.
KI: Did we say the age?
Crea: Oh, no.
KI: Oh, the age is 16-25.
Julia: I thought it was 14.
Audience: How many women have you actually had come from being incarcerated [inaudible 01:08:32]?
Julia: It's 500.
Crea: I think almost everybody.
KI: [inaudible 01:08:38] the other systems that they're involved with, incarceration, prosecutors, or homeless, or, you know. They have all those additional areas.
Julia: And we've employed over 500 women. So with the 25 years of, I mean, yeah, the 25 cohorts of -
Crea: So I'm one of the first young women to ever go through the program.
Julia: Yeah.
Crea: Yeah. And women, we have women all over the world that have gone through Sisters Rising. We have lawyers, we have doctors, we have politicians. Lateefa Simon is currently serving as the BART board of directors in the Bay Area. She's also a region for our California State University system. We have doctors that are currently in Cuba right now. Reverend Barnes is trying to help folks, oh sorry, Puerto Rico, that are currently helping with the state of Puerto Rico. We have-
Julia: Writers.
Crea: We have writers, we have Harvard graduates. We send girls to school. I actually was one of the lucky young women to receive a grant when I was at the center from the Ms Foundation to be able to go off to Fresno State. So the center really does provide, as KI said, opportunities. It's one of the things that I think makes our program so special.
Lucero: I'm a research organizer there and my colleagues, Liana, we got certified to be a research organizer. We got our RRBs to do interviews for women who's been impacted by any system, jail, prison, welfare, and we're doing a research project for five years within different five counties. And interviewing women that's been impacted, like, what's the common, what didn't work and what worked. How can we come up with these recommendations and go up to probation and say, "what you're givin' out is not working."
And we interviewed 200, 150 women, and they said this is what they need. And these are the common things that are not working and working. So how can we work together to help these women out and get them where they need to be. Instead of giving them something and you're not meeting their criteria. Half of the time, when I was on parole, they didn't meet my criteria. They kept telling me, "do this, do that." And then I gotta go back around do it another cycle and then going back in cause they're not meeting what I need. So it's like, how can we help these women out? How can we interview ourselves as a young person and get at them from the streets and get their stories?
Audience: [inaudible 01:11:04]
Crea: You cannot.
Audience: [inaudible 01:11:16] I'm really glad you mentioned that, because I was gonna ask about curriculum, because I think that there's so much knowledge in people with lived experience. But a lot of times, like when you were talking about putting together your own curriculum and kind of cherry picking from various things, a lot of times, those programs don't get funded because they aren't evidence-based because they don't do research. And so I was wondering how you were able to navigate some of that.
Julia: We are getting the evidence.
Audience: And how you put together where we, hopefully, in this room know that's where all the knowledge is, but that's not where people who are holding the purse strings like for grants and contracts and stuff. So how you navigated that.
Julia: There was a lot of advisors that went into the curriculum, per se, like lawyers and have looked over the curriculum, and it's actually in the process of being evidence-based. Because now, as Sarah, the gentrification has happened in San Francisco, we're actually studying the migrating patterns of young girls, how they're kind of moving throughout the regions. And so we are having to definitely spread throughout the regions and now we have to take the curriculums to other detention centers, group homes, any of those places. We need to duplicate it, replicating the Sisters Rising program. So that's our hopes to be able to take this on, even nationally, to be able to show this model in other places.
Because, as we move out of San Francisco, we're almost going 20 years back in time in how people serve young women and girls and gender non-conforming.
Audience: [inaudible 01:12:49]
Julia: So we are funded, one of our major ride or die funders is the Department of Children, Youth, and Family. We don't take really the grants that kind of restrict us in certain areas. But when people that have come on to fund us, is NOVO has come on to fund us. And Akonadi Foundation, we got a, you know we got a couple people that are placed throughout these foundations now that actually were Sisters Rising and part of the organizations now placed at different-
Crea: We only have a little bit of time and I actually want to get through Lucero. Before I introduce Lucero or have Lucero talk, I want to talk a little bit about us being an organizing organization, which is actually tied to our funding. So most programs like Sisters Rising and the Young Woman's Freedom Center and other parts of the country would actually get the majority of their funding from a probation department as part of their alternative to detention programing. The center intentionally does not get money from probation even though we've been asked a number of times if we want to apply for that funding. And that's a very strategic decision that we've made as a collective, because we actually organize against the system.
And so we do community organizing, we're currently kicking off, we just started a coalition. But organizing is a key component to the work we do because we know that, as much as we help young women and we help young women to be determined, there's this real big ugly monster called the system that's gonna continuously swallow our young women up. And so, it's two-prong, right. We are helping young women and we talk about it, like, this is the Frederick Douglas and this is the Harriet Tubman, right. The center is the Harriet Tubman. We are going, we are an underground railroad. We are getting young women out of the system. But we also have to be like Frederick Douglas and we've gotta tear down systems and we've gotta bump heads with them.
And so, in order for us to do that, we have to be community organizers and we have to challenge the system to get better and hold themselves accountable. So we recently had a convening called Sister Warriors. We just had an article in Teen Vogue drop yesterday about that convening where Lucero will talk about what happened at Sister Warriors.
Lucero: So we outreach and we got about 200, 300 women. And they came to the Young Women's Freedom Coalition and we talked about different systems, how you've been impacted and how can we help the women and come up with a bill of rights. How can we draft bills. What do they need when they're in there, anybody. So we got all these women from programs, from different states, from different cities, and we got together. We did peeling, we did massage, we did self-care, but we also spoke about what's needed. How can we come up with these bills and draft them and how can we change laws? Cause sometimes we go to Sacramento and we do legislation and we do, to the capital, and we see how they pass bills and how can we come up with our own to help the women out.
Crea: So, out of that convening, there was a lot of intentionality about how to get system-involved women there. Lucero, can you talk a little bit about the outreach process, where you guys outreached to, how young women came.
Lucero: We outreached all over San Francisco, we did some of Oakland. We did it in the jails, we did it in the juvenile hall. This was for women from any age, from there was a 12 year old in there to like 60-something years old
KI: She was leading a workshop. She was leading.
Lucero: She was leading a workshop, the 12 year old. So, what was the question?
Crea: So what were some of the methods that you used to organize the women?
Lucero: The methods was meeting them where they're at, going to neighborhoods, speaking to them, letting them know that we are formerly incarcerated ourselves. Like, we are a part of the system. And we wanna just get you together so we can come as sisters and come up with ideas and put all of our thoughts in there. And we are in schools, we went to Hilltop, it was a teen mom pregnancy school. We went to the GA office. We went to some jobs like career to help you get jobs. So pretty much-
KI: And we hit, can I add, just real quick? We also hit rehabilitation programs, such as FOTEP. Folks coming out of prison, we went straight there and just briefed them about what is out here for y'all and why is it important that you should be here.
Audience: So you went, you talked to the establishment, you went inside and you talked to, you weren't on the outside trying to get women coming in, right?
Crea: It was a little bit of both.
Julia: It was both, yeah.
Crea: Yeah.
Audience: [crosstalk 01:17:49] organizing, too.
Julia: Both, yeah.
Crea: Both, yeah. I think one of the major components is that we knew already, when we went to places like FOTEP, we kind of strategized around, what is gonna be the barrier, right. What are they gonna tell us that's gonna say, "no, we can't have these young women go." We knew transportation was gonna be an issue. "I'm sorry, we don't have a van. We can't bring seven women there." We knew that one of the barriers was gonna be childcare. We knew one of the barriers was just gonna be trauma. We provided a healing center at the Sisters Warriors, we provided transportation. I think we spent half a day going to all of the organizations, providing BART tickets and bus tokens. We organized Ubers to get young women all the way out from Hayward. We made sure that folks went in groups. If you had to meet at a BART station, to do that.
Julia: Public transportation. Public transportation is BART.
Crea: Oh yeah. BART transportation, I forgot, we're not in the Bay.
Julia: Yeah, we're not in the Bay.
Crea: Yeah, so we very strategical thought about some of those barriers and what it was gonna take in order to bring women to this space. And then we also did a lot of clearance, we knew if we were bringing in women from these reentry programs, that we were gonna have to clear it with the staff. So being able to make the connections with the staff. Some were friendly, some were not.
Julia: Some of them we came out of. So we were coming back and being like, "can we bring people out of those spaces?"
Crea: Or finding key people that were leaders in those organizations to be able to do the organizing for us and bring a group of young women. The other thing I think was really important is we also, Lucero did outreach to domestic violence organizations and shelters. And so we actually couldn't know the location of those places but coordinated with the administrators of that program to be able to get their young women there.
Even in our registry, confidentiality was a big thing. And so even as we registered amongst the organizations, we made sure not to put people's names if that was gonna- I mean, you don't know, it's the Trump era, right. You don't know who's looking at your stuff. So making sure that people signed up via program with their first name if they didn't wanna give other information was super important to us. Being able to make sure that we knew that some women were navigating really horrible situations, so just being able to get that private Lyft or other things to be able to get them there was-
Julia: Childcare was-
Crea: Yeah. And there was tons of food.
Lucero: We also outreached in conferences. We even had the young girls being part of commissions and reentry counsel and, I'm part of the reentry counsel and I sit with the DA, the attorney, the lieutenant, and other organizations that are part of different communities. And I bring stuff for them to pass it down to other young women, women who they come in contact with. So we also have young people being part of those tables with big people.
Julia: Yeah, I serve with a human rights commission.
Lucero: It's like being on probation and you get off and now you're at the table with them and trying to help out the community.
Julia: I got one more, too. And then also one thing that we even went to do is people that couldn't be in the conference, inside of the jails, the questions that we were gonna ask inside of the conference, we actually asked those inside the jails and lockdown facilities first, so those were actually the conversation starters on the inside. As we brought them to the conference.
Crea: So a couple of things came-
Julia: And I just wanna call attention to-
Crea: Oh, I'm sorry.
Julia: It's 11:53 and this group is supposed to end at 12 o'clock, so I just wanted to acknowledge that. Go ahead.
Audience: So I just have a quick question. So I know a lot of people came with organizations or stuff like that, but I came by myself. And what I found is, a lot of organizations I don't, I'm not speaking about you guys because I really like what you guys are doing, but how do you start something, like some of the other organizations, you know, [inaudible 01:21:47] or are in the town that I'm in, they're part of the system. They're part of the problem that we have and they're the ones that are labeling the girls and people like me.
Crea: Right.
Julia: Can I just, oh go ahead-
Crea: No, go ahead.
Julia: I just wanna say that, if you, I think I understood the question that how can you start something is, there's actually young women that have come through the organization that have started their own. And it just started off with their pitch, is their pitch of, and actually having other mentors connecting with other mentors, and they were able to start their own non-profits. I'm talking about, from day one, street outreach, coming to the organization, still living in the shelters or whatever. You know, I've stayed in shelters and everything myself, too. And it was, you know what I'm saying, and all of a sudden your idea is just manifesting into the universe and it's really coming true.
Hold on, there's probably a lot of people at the-
Emily: No, I just wanted to speak on that, too. So I don't know if you're in an area that doesn't have any non-profits like the Young Women's Freedom Center that would hire the formerly incarcerated or engage you that's not part of a system, but one of the things that I've seen other folks do coming out of jail or prison in their own communities when they didn't have organizations that were existing were starting what we call Freedom Circles. So reaching out to the other young women in your area that have gone through what you've gone through and just start posting it at a café-
Lucero: Yeah, I've done it at my house.
Emily: Yeah, so circle up, start coming together.
Lucero: Reach out to women in Chapas.
Emily: That's right, and just reaching out to each other, you can start to form your own base in your own community of people that are going through what you're going through. And then help develop something, because it is hard to try to do it all on your own, but ...
Crea: And quite honestly, I think organizations are overrated. We're an organization, but the reality of it is that we oftentimes have to check other organizations that work with us. And so I think it's really important, one, that, if you're an organization or you want to start an organization, right. And I hear you, like a lot of these programs out here aren't necessarily doing what they say they do. And I think one of the first things is calling a meeting of those organizations. And being able to say what is everybody doing at the table and how are we helping our young women. These are things that we have to constantly have these conversations around.
I think, two, is not taking probation money. If at any point, you believe that you're gonna have to bump up against the system, being very particular about where your funding comes from and the obligations to that money is super important. So being able to say and make it a commitment to that. Which means sometimes struggling or not having an organization for awhile, right, just being an entity, a group, is super important.
I think the other thing that's really important about starting a group is finding like-minded people. Like we often think that, just because we're in a small town or we're in a place where we haven't heard of a lot of organizations, that there's not some grandma or mom who's serving young people in their community and trying to make sure that they've got what they need. And I think linking up with them is super important.
On the flip side of that, you know, probation doesn't do their job oftentimes. Sorry. Well, Pima County is actually very particular, Pima County has actually done a lot of work but for programs or people that want to start programs, I think shifting that money from probation to community-based organizations, oftentimes that money is actually going for them to create another program that isn't necessarily based in community or based in the roots of community. And so if you want some of the alternative to detention money, you can apply for it. And being able to create the programming that your community needs is super important.
Last thing, just please go check out the Teen Vogue piece. It has our, we created a unifying bill of rights for incarcerated and formerly system involved women. That bill of rights actually is a synthesized bill of rights, 13 points, that came from all of the information that we got from women at Sister Warriors, that convening. And the convening the 207 women that they were that they were the Young Women's Freedom Coalition of California. So together, we are working together to do three things, very particularly.
One, position ourselves in the state of California as leaders. So being able to speak on behalf of ourselves and our needs. Two, is going after and creating legislation and countering legislation that either targets us or actually can support us. And we want to find out allies out there in California. The third is being able to organize or align ourselves with other organizations that are doing organizing work. Our sister organization, Courage, is here. We just are partnering with Courage. We are doing two bills, one on anti-discrimination for LGBTQ-IQ, gender non-conforming youth in California state facilities.
And a couple of years ago, we actually created the Incarcerated Young Mother's Bill of Rights. We're actually taking that on a state level. So we actually are demanding, in the state of California, no woman in any incarceration facility or detention center is shackled, that they receive extra food, extra recreation, that they get to see their kids if they have children. And that's not just for women, that's for everyone, but we always take the woman perspective.
So if you are in the state of California, please feel free to come up to one of us, give us your info, especially if you're down for system-involved women. We would love for you to join our coalition.
Julia: And can I just add on -
Audience: [inaudible 01:27:46]
Crea: We don't because the printer here was broke.
Julia: Okay, so if you go onto Young Woman's Freedom Center on Facebook, you can get connected to us through that way. Instagram is the @young_women_free -
Lucero: We need to take the-[crosstalk 01:28:06]
Julia: Yeah, we do, but you know when someone take our name. We gotta figure out our old password for the other one. But yeah, so ... what's that? [crosstalk 01:28:18] Oh, go to Young Woman's Freedom Center on Facebook. And then the Instagram is @young_women_free, or you could just go to the Facebook one and it'll give you the link to the Instagram.
Crea: And our website is
Julia: Yeah.

The National Girls Initiative, Using A Strengths-Based And Intersectional Approach To Juvenile Justice Involved Girls

with K. Shakira Washington, The National Crittenton Foundation, Catherine Pierce, DOJ, Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention, Marcia Ricon-Gallardo, NOXTIN: Equal Justice for All, Karma Cottman, DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Lindsay Rosenthal, Vera Institute of Justice

The OJJDP National Girls Initiative (NGI) provides training/technical assistance to those working to improve system responses to girls who are at risk of entering or who are involved in the juvenile justice system. This workshop highlights OJJDP supported efforts that use an intersectional framework to understand the complex lives of system involved girls, highlights efforts to improve existing policies and practices from a gender and strength- based lens; and lifts up the voices of girls most directly impacted by the juvenile justice system.

Click for Transcript: The National Girls Initiative, Using A Strengths-Based And Intersectional Approach To Juvenile Justice Involved Girls

Shakira W: We are waiting on one other panelist. But we're just going to let her just hop on board whenever she gets here. She might still be having lunch. I'm not really sure. But good afternoon. Welcome to our workshop, the National Girls Initiative, using a strength-based and intersectional approach to juvenile justice involvement. My name is Shakira Washington. I am the Vice-President of the National Crittenton Foundation, as well as Deputy Director of the National Girls Initiative, which is a cooperative agreement between the National Crittenton Foundation and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention or OJJDP.
Today, we have two exciting panels for you. First, we will hear from a panel of young women who have been touched by the juvenile justice system in various ways or the justice systems in various ways. But more importantly, who are now really acting as advocates for girls and young women who've had similar experiences to them. So we're really excited that we'll be hearing from them today. We will also hear from a panel of women who are working in organizations that have received funding from the National Girls Initiative as a part of our NGI Innovation Awards.
The small awards were provided to basically 11 organizations last year or I guess it was about a year and a half. For the specific purpose of changing existing policies and practices that impact the lives of girls and young women. We are fortunate to have three individuals from that group of 11 to present with us today. Before we begin, I'd like to ask my colleague, Catherine Pierce just to say a few words about OJJDP and especially the National Girls Initiative.
Catherine P: Thank you, Shakira. Welcome, everybody. Thank you. I want to specially thank the National Crittenton Foundation, everybody affiliated with it. NGI is what it is because of the National Crittenton Foundation, because of Janet who's the director, Shakira who's the deputy director, and an incredible staff of people, including a core team of consultants, many of whom are in this room, and most of whom I think are at this meeting. Just has made all the difference in the world to have this incredibly talented, devoted team come together.
I also want to acknowledge my colleague, Kathy Manning who is also with OJJDP. She is the person who manages and just works with NGI the closest and really works miracles along with Crittenton. So thank you to Kathy. Just a little bit of history. The National Girls Initiative started out as the National Girls Institute. It was really more of a research resource center-y type thing that people could go to to get some information. Really, to be honest, it wasn't moving. We changed the name. When we changed the name, things happened. We changed it to the National Girls Initiative. Then we started to gain some momentum. For the last many years, it's really only been about eight, OJJDP has had a $2 million line item in the budget.
I have to say, there are people who know the Office on Violence Against Women where I came from, there is over $400 million of grant money that goes out through OVW. Our little tiny 2 million has accomplished so much. I am so proud really because of the work of the staff and the folks at NGI. We have lifted up these innovation awardees who you're going to hear more from. Recently, we've also been able to provide direct funding to five sites around the country. That also has made a tremendous difference because NGI has been able to work hand in hand with those folks. So we do really believe that we're finally getting some traction.
The one thing I want to kind of leave you all with is that as you begin to hear from these panelists and the second panel. What we've really been able to clarify in recent years is that there are four major pathways that girls take into the juvenile justice system. None of these pathways requires the response that we give, which is to arrest and detain girls. Girls are still being arrested for status offenses, that means things like running away and truancy. They're being detained and they're being detained for longer periods of time than boys.
Girls are being arrested still for prostitution and vice, and not being treated as the victims that they are, and being detained for that as well. That is true in many many many jurisdictions still throughout the United States. Girls are being arrested and detained for domestic violence because of mandatory arrest policies that were created to respond to intimate partner violence not girls fighting with their moms or girls trying to defend their moms against a boyfriend or a stepfather or a father who's attacking mom and the kids. Girls are being arrested for domestic violence.
Then finally, with the introduction of school resource officers into our schools, girls are being arrested at school. At one point, arrest rates for girls went way up. It was these things are the things that are pushing up the arrest rate. It's kind of evened out in recent years, but the point is none of these are things that girls should be arrested and detained for. Our response should be very different. So we hope today that our conversation with these young women and with the folks that you're going to hear from who run local programs will shed some further light on that. So thank you, everybody.
Shakira W: Great. Thank you, Catherine. So we're just going to go on ahead and jump right into our panel here. I'm going to have a seat here at the table. Well, he's told me he has a mic, so ...
Speaker 3: Sure. Yeah.
Shakira W: Okay. Great. Just so folks can hear me. So we're going to do this slightly, a little bit in popcorn style. I think I'll just throw out some questions. First, before we begin, it would be great if each of you could please introduce yourself and tell us where you're from.
Maui: Hello. Hello?
Female: It's up loud, is that okay? Do I need to come?
Female: I think okay.
Shakira W: Can you guys hear in the back if Maui just ...
Maui: Can you hear me?
Male: Yeah. We're recording.
Shakira W: Oh. Sorry about that. I'm sorry.
Female: No, you're good.
Maui: My name is Maui. I'm from California.
Female: Kind of hold.
Jasmine: Hi. I'm Jasmine. I'm originally from Miami, Florida but I'm living in Oahu, Hawaii.
Monica: Hi, everyone. My name is Monica. I'm also from California, San Francisco.
Michelle DIaz: Hi, everyone. My name is Michelle Diaz. I'm from New York City.
Shakira W: Fantastic. Thank you. Each of you actually was asked to participate on this panel really because you each have had some experience with the justice system overall, whether it's just the juvenile justice system or the criminal justice system. Either you've been at risk, an actual involvement in the system or perhaps you had a parent or a family member that had been involved, sort of move from that discussion based on this knowledge.
You were also asked to participate on this panel because of the work that you have done on behalf of girls and young women with similar experiences. First, can you tell us a little bit about your history and connection to the juvenile justice or criminal justice systems?
Jasmine: Okay. I'll start. I'm coming from the standpoint of having a mother in and out of the system, and also having a father that was a police officer. At a young age, I was very just torn in between what to do. I was my mom's biggest enabler as a 14-year-old, just to protect her from going back into the system. So that's why I'm doing the work that I'm doing today.
Shakira W: Great. Thank you.
Maui: I was born into the DPSS System. My grandmothers had legal guardianship over me when I was three. Then my cycle inside the juvenile justice system and the probation system began when I was arrested at 14 for human trafficking.
Monica: For me, I can't claim an experience that I've never had. I think my greatest success with the juvenile justice system was never getting caught. That being said, having grown up as a child of an incarcerated parent and now raising a child with an incarcerated parent, it feels like my life has been so heavily impacted by the system that it feels like it's my experience now.
Michelle DIaz: I have been back forth through family court. I had been in probation, foster care, and group homes placement for five years. I was arrested for shoplifting, 25 bucks, got 18 months of probation, and not going to school, going late, running away from home, led me to several violations or probations. Until I was in a detention hall, yeah, for about six months because the judge decided that I will still run away. I couldn't be at home with my mom. So I spent a couple of years in foster care, crossing from one system to the other.
Shakira W: Thank you. So I wanted them just to give a brief overview just to lay the context. But also, they also have another context. That is that each of you has also been involved as advocates and community organizers on behalf of girls and young women with similar backgrounds. Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you have done or currently doing for girls who are system-involved or who are at risk?
Maui: I got the chance at 16 when I was in placement to testify against congress on a panel with Demi Moore. That just gave me the opportunity and branched me out to know that I really had a voice and I wasn't alone and I wasn't fighting alone, and people actually cared on a legislative board. It was so shocking and surprising because I was so nervous and scared and just never knew. But I do a lot of outreach right now with the National Crittenton Foundation. I actually live in LA right now. I'm eventually just going to start my own foundation and just branch off and start. Networking gets a lot of young broken women in LA. Yeah, so I come out to events like this that's between you guys.
Shakira W: Maui's amazing. She's been to any number of events. I'm always amazed at the work that she's doing. Anybody else next?
Jasmine: At first, at a young age I reached out to Al-Anon Meetings just to see families who are going through someone with addiction, having support group. I realized at these meetings that I was the only child. It was mostly parents there who have kids, are dealing with their drug addict sons or daughters. So that first opened my eyes. I wanted to have a girl support group. I have a network. So then I found the Poola Foundation in Hawaii. What they're doing over there, how they look at prison as a place of healing, like you're forgiven, is not punishment. I wanted to have a part of that. I wanted to be a part of that.
What I'm doing over there is doing girl support groups prevention. So girls, just peers coming together, not structured, having fun. They could relate to each other, be there for emotional support, moral support, accountability. So we have three. We have girls supporting girls, families supporting families, and women supporting women.
Shakira W: Excellent. Thank you.
Monica: For me, my involvement, it really started after I had my son, and I was 15. You've probably seen my shadow following me around here at this conference. That brought me to the Center for Young Women's Development or former Center for Young Women's Development, now the Young Women's Freedom Center. You'll see those folks here, if you haven't participated in some of their presentations already. I came in as a Young Mothers United Youth Organizer and really trying to support families in the system with reunification, and from our local outreach and grassroots organizing, from that to state-wide legislation and even federal stuff. Shakira, you brought us to DC before. That was a long time. It was kind of weird back then. Yeah. I used to freak out and cry at these things. Okay.
Anyways, doing a little better now. But through that organizing, we started doing state-wide policy advocacy and anti-shackling bills. When we started having those successes on a state-wide level, it just felt like so many things were possible. Having myself never actually needing to be ... Not needing. But actually never being involved in the system and understanding, and seeing all the people who are so heavily invested in locking up our young women, our young people, having so many people in different city systems who ... I mean I don't want to say benefit but, right, have all these jobs.
Their job is really to strip away the rights of parents, the rights of families, and have so many hands in just family lives, right. As soon as people get locked up, there's nobody there. You want to forget about these people that there are so many folks who want to put them inside. Seeing all of that led me to want to do more. Now, I work for our city and trying to figure out how we can do systems-wide coordination to understand that these are individuals and families and all of that stuff.
Female: Oh. That's so good.
Shakira W: Thank you.
Michelle DIaz: I started doing policy in the same GD program that I used to go to. The GD program had different other programs but it was more reentry, right, people that were coming out of jail or that have their alternative to be at the program instead of being in jail. I used to be around then. There was this huge trouble of their hats. Take off your hat, take off your hat.
I took it personal because then people are mean just to be mean. They take it off on you just because you have a hat but they're mad at something else which is organized with a bunch of classmates. Then we presented to the executive board. Then one of the counselors say, "You know, Michelle, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, it's looking to form their first youth advisory group." I'm like, "That sounds cool. I want to do it. I want to do. I hate when people are not treated fairly." I applied, got elected. That's when I start doing policy work. Then I got to be at different boards with the administration for children services where we also do a lot of policy. Then I got to be at other's boards. Now with CJJ, Coalition for Juvenile Justice, and like the SAG of New York, State Advisory Group.
Most importantly, I am also working with the office of mental health. So I do direct services and being there has really increased my knowledge of the people that we're putting away. Even in jail are actually shouldn't be there. They should be in a sort of like getting help, psychiatric facility. Then like the people that are actually in these facilities, they shouldn't even be there because all they have is behavioral problems. But their behavioral problems, going back to teach them, to care for them, to mentor them, teaching like coping skills. When I started to do this work, it was because I really felt that these people needed somebody to stand up just because they're afraid.
We are around people. They're disappointed at you. They say, "You're bad. You can't do this." Just like when I have heard in the conferences, when we go and check our colleges, they ask you for your communal background. So those eliminates, that put barriers in your mind. You start believing in people what people would say. Then it's like, okay, so somebody has to do something. Now, seeing people, to empower them. But most importantly, why we sit in here, it's because at the end of the day, there's someone out there, you inspire them like, "Oh because she did, I can do it myself."
Shakira W: Fantastic. Thank you. Thinking about your past experiences, whether it's personal or work-related, what do you think are some of the key issues facing girls and young women who have been in similar situations as yours? Things that we should be we thinking about and keeping in mind.
Michelle DIaz: I guess that it would be trauma. We're treating our symptoms. We're treating the consequences. We're treating the aftermath. But what happened before? Somebody don't just get up in the morning and say, "You know what? I'm just going to kill somebody. I'm just going to be bad. I'm just going to get in trouble." No, nobody wants to see that they're doing bad. It's just the lack of everything, mentoring.
My own personal experience, it's that I never had nobody to say, "You know what? This is good. This is bad." How am I supposed to know? Then when we go around and we ask people, even people that are part of gangs, you ask them why are you here. They just come and say, "You know what, at the end of the day, this is family. They have my back." So you get to look their look, what they don't have in somewhere else. Most importantly, we don't do the stuff that we do just because just that's it. There's something out there that's causing for me to act this way.
Shakira W: Right. Exactly. Anyone else?
Jasmine: What I think is when you come from an unstable family life and you're young and you're a young girl. I remember you face a lot of shame and anger, embarrassment, resentment. So you don't really want to reach out to anybody because you want to keep under wraps. People are really good at telling you what you can't do. So having someone to point out your gifts, what you do bring even if you're not even sure about your gifts, they're in you. I think that's the issue. A lot of people are really quick to pull out the negatives and not really dig deeper into why are you acting this way or having a platform for girls to reach out or having the resources at school presented so they don't feel embarrassed to talk about it with their peers or on a teacher or a guidance counselor.
Shakira W: Thank you. Anyone else? No? Okay. How do you think our systems, whether it's the education system, child welfare system, but especially the juvenile justice system fail our girls and young women? We might be here for the next couple of hours so ...
Maui: I struggle with having someone come and talk to me and ever ask me if I was okay, what did I needed, what type of direction, did I need assistance. I didn't know how to put on a tampon. I was self-taught by everything that I did and learned. I was raped numerous times by police officers, security guards, I mean everybody with a badge or like legislators. I went to DC. I would sit on a panel. It was so im-professional but it was so at right the moment. I was just telling them like, "I've probably had ..." Is it okay?
Shakira W: It's okay.
Maui: Okay.
Shakira W: Yeah. It's your panel.
Maui: I said, "I've probably had interactions with numerous people out in this audience. I wouldn't put any one faces out but it just goes to show you that no matter how high ranked people are, there's still someone always dirty." I was dealt by my social worker the most. I remember being five years old and having social workers come out to my grandmother's house. Mind you, at this time, we had doctors come out to the house because quote-unquote, "I was too bad to go inside the hospital."
So we had doctors come out to the house. I remember my social worker, my sister was an honor roll student. My social worker used to tell me how horrible and how ... I had ADHD. I was diagnosed with ADHD. So I was always on Dexedrine or Ritalin. I used to walk around like a little zombie. She used to tell me I would never become anything. I would never be anything. She just discouraged me so much that I started to believe it.
I remember when she started coming out more and more. Social workers started coming out to the house because I would lock myself in the bathroom and I wouldn't come out when the social workers wanted to come and see me. I'm like that kid that's really nutting up when you come through, walk through that door, I want you to leave as soon as possible.
They didn't give me no hope. I know probation officers and workers. I just forgot what those are called, social workers come out to the house that's actually working with other young women right now to this day. I'm just like, "Dude, nobody ever gave me gift cards or I mean vouchers." My grandmother stopped buying underwear for me when I was 12 years old. So just imagine going into a store and just stealing everything. I don't know. Just doing whatever.
Back to the question, my probation officers failed me the most. My social workers failed me the most. My grandmother, she didn't believe in my dreams and my goals. Everybody that I thought was a mentor towards me ended up using me or abusing me. I mean, that's the worst feeling in the world, to feel like you have support from somebody that has this high role and so much power and they're the main ones pushing you back or pushing you down and not encouraging you. I just want to let you all know if you all have or have any connections with any young woman out here, try to encourage them and uplift them, and motivate. I guess that goes out to your other question, like what were things that could have done.
Shakira W: Yeah, that would've been helpful.
Maui: I mean, be empowering. Try to uplift them as an individual. I had real bad self-esteem issues. I had thick eyebrows, long hair, hairy. I used to stutter. I talked with a lisp because I did a lot of drugs. I mean, I just stay uplift. I spread love everywhere so ...
Female: Okay, Donna.
Shakira W: Anyone else?
Monica: When it comes to systems in particular, and really just to piggyback off what Maui said is like as soon as you or your family becomes system-involved and have other people involved, right. That's their job, is to be involved in every aspect of your life, then your definition of a success is based on what somebody else is getting paid to achieve. I think at the bigger level, we have to be conscious of what we're saying success is, whether we're funders, right. We're giving people money or we have projects and we have outcomes and numbers. We have all these things to meet. Yeah, that's real. But you have to look at success.
I mean, for data purposes, yeah, they got to go. There have to be outcomes, but you have to look at success on a individual level in order to see a whole person. I think what a lot of people in general need is to be seen as a whole person but to understand that those successes are going to be individual, depending on any young person you're working with. I think systems specifically redefine success based on their need and their outcomes.
Therefore, push young people, families into paths that they don't need in order to get those services or successfully exit whatever system that we've decided to put them in. I think that's just something we need to be very aware of because those are people's lives. Then in that case, they're trying to achieve some idea of success that doesn't belong to them. They'll always fail. You'll always fail. So I don't know.
Shakira W: Exactly. Thank you.
Michelle DIaz: Thank you. So we talk about probation, how did they fail us. I want to go back to how did I even got involved in it. It was crazy, 25 bucks, five years of my life. Who could had done better for me? It would have been my lawyer by letting me know what I was getting myself into, by she accepting 18 months of probation. When all of that happened, I was 14. I just recently moved here from El Salvador so I didn't speak English. Keeping in mind that I had to learn a new system, keeping in mind that I do not speak your language. Then you just bring a translator just 30 seconds before we go in.
Shakira W: Right.
Michelle DIaz: How hard it is, like you're trying to listen in Spanish. Then you have all the people, the judge speaking louder in English. You're like, "I cannot even hear you. I don't know what's going on." Also, how did my judge failed me? How he could have say, "18 months is too much." But also, I remember that I would just go in for one minute. So what is the deal? Guilty? Fine, bye.
When we talk about cases, when we look at successes, you need to get to know the person. You need to know where are they coming from. Why did they do things? Having maybe my lawyer to give me more advice, to having somebody to speak my own language, to have somebody to say, "This is what's going to happen." Who's going to help you? Your probation. No, probation failed us. They would just like go there. They see you one minute. Are you there at home? No, you're not. Everything from getting in to like the back door.
Shakira W: Yeah. Exactly. Anybody else? No. No pressure, no pressure.
Jasmine: I want to say something quick. What I noticed with a lot of girls and women, especially who go back in the system is unhealthy relationships and the lack of family engagement. If you don't have a family or a support system that doesn't understand what you're going through or even let you talk about it, it's like you don't know where to channel that. I think having those healthy relationships, having a prevention program instead of funding the state that fails us for new jail systems, spend our funding into prevention programs, have that middle ground right there. That's a huge thing. Everyone talks about youth and family engagement.
It's a real thing. These unhealthy relationships, you get out. You don't know where to go to. You go back to what's normal to you, what's comfortable. Those aren't necessarily the best relationship you should go into. Again, having the peers who are relatable, who are doing good, who you can look up to and who inspire you I think is really important to have.
Shakira W: Excellent. What do you think, because all four of you, clearly you've moved quite a bit. What do you think would have been most helpful at that time and what do you think actually was helpful for you at that time that helped you to move forward?
Michelle DIaz: I think that when I got to the GD Program and having people, staff were actually people that had been through the system. This is something that I mentioned early. When I get to the stage and when I talk about me, I think about those who are going to look at me and say, "Because of her, I did it." So that's how I got to see them. When I look at the staff and they were like numerous of years that they spent in jail and I said, "You know what? I can do it as well."
But most importantly, the people that actually take their time. I remember, so now, I have three mentors back on the time, I met John. He used to help me. I couldn't even write a proper sentence, right. He would spend time. It would be while I'm working on this, I'm still going to teach you how to write. You're going to write this. You're going to talk to me. It was maybe 11 PM. I will talk to him. "I feel this way. I need to talk to you about this." Just having somebody to take their time to show you that you really appreciate them.
Even though we have a lot of people that actually do direct services. We have great people that are funding to put mentorship programs, it doesn't feel the same because you're on the clock. But when somebody takes their time and pick up at 11 AM and they don't have to, that's a life-changing. That's how I got to change my life. When this person took their time to be with me, to walk me through, to even take me to college, to say, "You know what? You can go this college. Do you need me to help you to fill it out? Do you need me to pick your classes with you? This is how you're going to do it." Just having somebody to walk you through it.
Shakira W: Exactly. Anybody else?
Maui: What would've been most helpful?
Shakira W: What would've been most helpful or what did you actually find to be most helpful also?
Maui: Um.
Shakira W: It's a little common that you do that.
Maui: Well, I feel like somebody actually telling me about the real world. I was kind of like just thrown to the wolves. I'm 25 with two kids right now. It's a struggle. I battle with the not knowing. Being a mom is the most scariest, most frightening thing I've ever encountered, and not trying to set the path that I had. I guess I just wish I had somebody so much more encouraging of the things that I wanted to accomplish and the things that I wanted to do or even ... I'm just now owning myself at 20 ... I'll be 25 on Saturday, but I'm 25.
Shakira W: 25 on Saturday.
Maui: Having encouragement is the most important, having someone uplift you, having someone guide you and tell you ... I mean, just someone telling you things are going to be okay, that you'll make it through. I used to find myself in the most darkest shadows thinking that I was all alone. Just hearing someone tell you that they love you and giving a hug or like ... Yeah, something like that. Yeah.
Shakira W: Yeah. Thank you.
Maui: So what helped me?
Shakira W: Yeah. Okay.
Maui: I write poetry.
Shakira W: That's right. Yeah. Still does.
Maui: I want to say writing and venting and just like lashing out. I'll just flip through different pages and just right FU. I hate myself today or something like that, instead of ... I know that I can lash out. I know a lot of people used to be like, "Oh, she's a problem child." I'm just like, "Well, okay. I don't want to get older and be like the problem woman." I just write down everything that I'm feeling if I just want to scream, I'll probably just go. I got a room.
Shakira W: Screaming.
Maui: Okay. So let me tell you a funny story real quick. Last night, I got a call to the room from the downstairs lady. At times, I'll just need to scream. I guess somebody next door called and said that something's going on. It was really hard to explain to the downstairs people. "Oh no, this is my meditation."
Shakira W: That's right.
Maui: It was really funny experiencing that and then having to talk to you guys today. So just different coping methods I guess.
Shakira W: Okay. That sounds good, sounds ... All of a sudden, if we look up and everybody's screaming, we get a lot of calls from the front desk, we know what's up. Anybody else? What was helpful or who was helpful or ...?
Jasmine: Yeah. When I found out, you feel like you don't have any control. You don't have any control and you're young. You're a woman, you feel like no one will listen to you. So you want to take that control and put it into what you put in your body, unhealthy eating habits or what you do with your body. I feel like having something that you have control over, like what Maui was saying. My choir teacher, singing was everything. I never loved anything more than singing and writing, making, like I've created something. I felt proud of myself. I was like, "Okay. I did this by myself."
In my room, when I felt the loneliest, I would go and just get a piece of paper and write down something and after, I would just be like, "Wow. Damn. I feel like everyone should hear this." I just felt really good about myself and proud of myself. Now, I'm just 25. I'm now ready to share it. Before, I would never even be like, my brother, he'd be like, "No. That was too personal." Now, being 25, I'm now just like, "Yeah." Not only I want people to hear it, I think people need to hear that. So yeah.
Shakira W: Fantastic. Thank you.
Monica: Just briefly, what's I mean most helpful, similar to some of those stories, like I didn't have a parent growing up. My mom knew when she was sending in a plane, she was not planning to see me again. That being said, I grew up in community-based organizations. I believe so heavily in them because no matter what, our lives are going to be a part of systems, right. We can't get rid of the school system and start over, I wish we could.
I mean, the president says we're working on it. But there's different things that are always going to be a part of our lives. At the same time, how can we have a parallel process with folks that really care about you, that will tell you that they love you, that will support you and give you enough opportunities to mess up, right, mess up multiple multiple times and still come back and have their doors open, and have those safe spaces.
So it takes a lot of money. It takes a lot of intentionality with the folks that we have doing that work, right, for who we want to best support and who needs it the most. But I still believe heavily in that. That was definitely what carried me all the way.
Shakira W: Fantastic.
Maui: Can I?
Shakira W: Yeah. Sure can.
Maui: I know I haven't spoke highly of the people that actually influenced me and that helped me. My judge, Judge Scarlet, and I am not afraid to say his name, he was one of the most horrible judge. His daughter was, I guess, raped by gang members. So any gang members that came into his courtroom, he automatically sentences them with a year or above. Any prostitution cases that he had because he had a young daughter, he immediately felt like they needed to be detained.
My predicament, my judge actually came out the chambers without his coat on. He was just like tired of seeing my face. I came back literally every three to six months. Either I was AWOL-ing, somebody helped me break out of so many places just to ... I wanted to go back to court. I wanted to go back to see my attorney. She used to give my granny checks all the time, Ms. Atty. Carter, I love her. She had my back to the fullest, she kind of encouraged me. Not to the fullest, but she did what she could do.
I know numerous of times, she was like, "I can't cross barriers and certain guidelines and things that's in place. I can't come down here and see you." I had certain probation officers at the school. Schools are very important. We have not talked about that. I don't think I talked about that. My probation officer at school, I had a couple who just didn't care because you are labeled as a problem child. You automatically are like either detained or you're in subject to do something wrong. I mean, yeah. I once had that.
Shakira W: All right. Perfect. Thank you. We're going to end it off with the million-dollar or multi-million, however much money you have question. So if someone gave you like a million dollars or an endless amount of money that you could possibly use, thinking about the needs of girls with similar experiences as yours, what would you do to help these girls and young women?
Michelle DIaz: You know what's funny, I just remember working at the psychiatric hospital, we do surveys when they go in, but when they go out as well. The last one I did, they was, "Do you have any other comments?" The young lady said, "Yes, staff should be getting paid more." I will give it to the organizations, foundations that do a lot of the right services.
Because if you keep your staff happy with everything, giving them retreats, giving them retreats, giving them whatever they need to do, you will have great outcome with the kids. At the end of the day, yeah, it's about policy. It's about direct services. Everything, it's being put together. But at the end of the day, who I cared the most is about those kids. If their staff are treating them well because we are treating them well, then we're going to make a huge impact.
Shakira W: That sounds great.
Maui: If I had an endless amount of money, Lord knows the things that I will do. First and foremost, I will start my own foundation as I told you all in the beginning. I feel like with the foundation, you can branch off and do so many things. I'm actually connected to the Orangewood Foundation in Orange County. I have seen them branch off to real estate companies, to owning their own apartment complexes and stuff like that. Like I said, it's a lot of broken women where I live that needs hope and savior. The church ain't going to always do it. The principal at this school ain't going to always do it. Your best friend not going to always do it.
Sometimes you need a extra push. I feel like divergent homes are really important. I know between 18 and 32 or maybe 35, there's a lot of women struggling on just finding housing, and finding justice, being stable. I struggle with that. I feel that is so important. There's just not enough homes out here that's giving us a safe haven, really. You'll go somewhere for a couple of months to a year to two months. Then that's it. It's like your back thrown to the wolves and find it how you're going to find it or make it how you're going to make it.
I really feel like if I had an endless amount of money, I would be making so many networks. I mean, national, no, just be going ... I don't know how big it would be but I mean, I just have so much love and passion for the young women. My heart really doesn't go out just to trafficked women. I was beat. I had been through battered women shelters. I have two young daughters, so single moms are really important to me. I feel like it can be more broad and open in the juvenile justice system, just like getting everyone together really. So ...
Shakira W: Perfect. Thank you.
Jasmine: Endless amount of money. Just like briefly, I remember, this is when I was staying with my friend's family at the time. I got a letter from the court saying, well, my dad got letter from the court saying, "Your daughter missed too much school. She has to go to a court hearing." Being the police officer that he is or was, he just handled it. No one approached me about it. No one in school approached me about it. It was just handled. It was just like, "All right. You're not going to graduate if you don't attend school for these remaining days." And that's it.
So I would make a nonprofit, have a group of ladies who go into the schools or scientists that are in the schools, and be that person who talks to the kid who's missing school really find out what's going on, having one guidance counselor for a big school, that thing just goes under the rug, that they're not paying attention to that. Having someone to be there, having a group of ladies to be there who are relatable and who are like, "Okay. Tell me what's going on with school. Why are you missing school?"
No one ever approached me. I was kind of shocked. I was like, "They don't even care that I'm missing school. So why?" I think that's important. I will spend money on that, and to make more prevention programs like girls court so we can avoid. I don't think any young girl should be in jail at all. So having that in place, I would definitely spend money on.
Shakira W: Thank you.
Monica: I don't know. The things that I think that we need the most, I don't know that money can buy. There's a whole lot of money in this world and still a whole lot problems. So I don't know that any amount of money. For me, if there's always one thing that I want to teach my son, I wish I could just teach young people in general is that idea. I know we use privilege in like a bad way, right. But that idea of empowerment that takes us all so long. We all have to beat, hate every other system and get so broken in between to become empowered from our experiences.
If I could somehow expedite that process, right, so that young people know like I have the right to be free. I have the right to expand my knowledge. I have the right be aware of everything that's ... I'm entitled to. The whole world is mine. I should explore it and make mistakes and learn and grow and do. I just don't feel like there's any amount of money that could take care of that. At the same time, we know that there's really good people doing the work to support those who are most in need. It would go straight to them because that's where we are right now.
Shakira W: All right. Thanks. Is there anything else that you all would like to add? I mean, literally, we could talk for many many hours clearly. So I just wanted to know if there's anything that you think that you would like to add while you have the opportunity to talk to this audience.
Michelle DIaz: Yeah. Something that I always say. Currently, we are not just ... The four of us are just here but back at home, back at your house, not just in the whole country but around the world, there's people that are struggling. We are just sort of representing them, right. Most importantly, what I want you guys to really think about if you guys are being the mentor to the youth that can change their life, if you are the one who's speaking up after hours and showing them that you care, if you guys are uplifting them and really following up because you guys can be a life-changing for somebody else that really really needs you. Family is not those who live with you, those who are blood-related but those who you get to choose because those are there for you.
Maui: My last remarks is don't talk about it, be about it. I am so tired of sitting down with so many legislator, congressmen, congresswomen, and it's the same subject. Yes, we are moving. But we are moving slow, honey. It is too many powerful people out here that can be making changes. Again, don't talk about it. Be about it because it start with you right here.
All these faces that I'm looking at, it start with you. I just want to thank you all for just giving us the opportunity to be on this panel and just for you all to listen to us because it's not easy. Yes, my voice always gets shaky. I always get emotional. I'm always getting emotional to the day I die because I'm passionate about it. I really appreciate you guys so thank you again.
Shakira W: Again, let's give them a round of applause. Ladies are amazing, fantastic. We are going to go on ahead and bring up our next panel. (Silence) As they're coming up, we're running just a little bit behind. I will do introductions. I'm just going to make them very brief just so that we can move things along. Then I'm going try my best to work the PowerPoint presentations for them so at least get them set up so that they can move through them.
This afternoon, we have Marcia Rincon-Gallardo who is a founder and executive director of NOXTIN-Equal Justice for All. NOXTIN is a youth justice organization providing training, technical assistance and consultation nationally on reducing racial and ethnic disparities of girls and youth of color in the justice system. We also have Karma Cottman who is the executive director of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The DCCADV provides leadership to all sectors of the Washington DC community to respond effectively to the needs of domestic violence survivors and their children, and works to strengthen city-wide domestic violence prevention and intervention efforts.
We also have Lindsay Rosenthal who is a senior program associate and gender justice fellow at the Vera Institute of Justice where her work aims to prevent and end the incarceration of girls in America. She manages the institute's effort in incarceration of girls, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming youth in the female side of the city's justice system through the New York task force, ending girls' incarceration, an effort funded by OJJDP. Okay.
Female: Oh yeah, at home.
Shakira W: We also have a young woman with us as well. Let me see. I want to be sure.
Lindsay R: Ms. Diatayja Watkins.
Shakira W: There we go. I'm terrible at pronunciation. Diatayja Watkins. Thank you very much. I'm actually going to get let you all self-select who would like to begin. We'll move forward from there. I'll set up your slides as soon as you're ready.
Female: Testing.
Marcia RG: Okay. Great. And then slide.
Shakira W: We sure can.
Marcia RG: Okay.
Shakira W: Yeah. All right. We'll just hit this little button and move forward.
Marcia RG: All right. Thank you.
Shakira W: Sure.
Marcia RG: Thank you very much.
Shakira W: Yeah.
Marcia RG: Shakira. Thank you to OJJDP for the National Girls Initiative. Catherine, you've been a champion for a very long time and back here too, to our colleagues, and all of you for being here. I have been in the field of juvenile detention reform for about maybe 20, 25 years. I have worked with the juvenile detention alternatives initiative and also for the Burns Institute. I worked in Pima County Juvenile Court for about five years where we implemented both of these two models of detention reform. When I first arrived in Pima County, there were about 200 kids in detention on any given day.
It was a 320-bed facility that had just been built with bond funds. Five years later, after implementing both of these models, we were down to 60 kids in detention. However, of those 60 kids, the majority were still Latino kids or kids of color. I knew that we could actually have been down to about 30. I also knew at that time that the line drawn in the sand have to do with staff, that it was a very hard decision to make to let staff go.
We were talking at that point about judges, probation officers, detention officers. So I come to you after having done two decades' worth of work then to now introduce to you the work that I currently do which is NOXTIN. I know it sounds like NOX-TIN but it's a Nawa word. It's an indigenous word from my ancestors.
NOXTIN stands for all of us. The reason why I used NOXTIN-Equal Justice for All is because when I left the Burns Institute, I had worked all over this country. I know that people that look like me are all over this country but yet we're still invisible to the juvenile system. Who I am mean and who I'm talking is indigenous youth, Latino youth, Chican-X, Latin-X youth. I made it a point to actually build a work and knowledge, and bring young people to the table that look like me, who have been in the system and shape that they can be the leaders in this field.
I wanted to just talk briefly then about the logic model behind my organization, which is not a 501C3 but I do a lot of work with different folks including the Crittenton Foundation and the Burns Institute and JDIA. We start with La Cultura Cura. You'll see the red circle, La Cultura Cura talks about our young people and ourselves learning about who we are and where we come from. Then at the heart, when that is part of our healing is actually to know who we are and where we come from. Even with young people or people that work in the system, that they also need their own healing.
So people that have been probation officers, people that have been judges, that they also need their own healing in order to come fully present, fully who they are and being able to look at our kids and say, "These are kids that deserve a second chance," and that this system is not the right system for them. Then you come down to the green circle which is this fellowship, the NOXTIN Fellowship. It's taken me two years to develop a curriculum that I am piloting currently. It's for again, previously system-impacted young people to learn about their history that our ancestors were actually very successful with our young people.
If you look at all the anthropological studies and all this information, you'll never see that any of our ancestors built cages for our young people, that they were successful in helping our young people be successful. If we come forward to today, then what was the history? We teach our young people, "What was the history?" What did the puritans believe in? Right? What did they believe in? Anybody? What did the puritans believe in? Anybody?
Female: That our family should come before us?
Marcia RG: That children were born in sin, right, and that we had to beat the sin out of our children, right. When you think about the juvenile justice system and its punitive approach, it comes from that history, and that this system was not built for our kids, for our native kids, our kids, they have to go into boarding schools. Everything about them was cut off of them, right. For African-American young people, they weren't sent to these rehabilitative centers where White kids that were being sent off to be rehabilitated.
So our kids of color were not sent to the same places. So we do the fellowship to prepare young people to then sit at policy tables which is then the next, the orange circle which is Youth Justice Transformation where we hold two truths. One is detention reform and the other one is the dismantling of the system, right. We hold both those truth. The last one then is the blue circle which is about research policy and evaluation that we really want to be able to bring to you the very specific types of programming that we know helps our young people, and that the approach that you might do for a one-size-fits-all maybe White kids is not the same approach for native kids, is not the same approach for our Latino kids and is not the same approach for our African-American kids. So that's what NOXTIN does.
When we received funding from the National Girls Initiative oh, maybe about three years ago, we brought together two different models. It was my Olin Girls, the fellowship, as well as [Shenatally 00:56:13]. [Shenatally 00:56:14] has a table outside in the lobby area. You can learn about what they bring. They bring a healing-informed approach to our girls have been whether system involved or not system involved. It's a beautiful healing-informed approach that really teaches our girls who they are, where they come from and all these traditional teachings that allows our girls to then have voice wherever it is that they go.
The Olin Girls is about the fellowship that I spoke about. Through that same funding, last year, it's going to be a year on November 2nd which is Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. We did the first ever conference. It was for four counties where we brought delegation of decision-makers. We brought a judge. We brought a public defender, a prosecutor. We brought law enforcement. We brought the schools. We brought organizations that work with girls, about ten people from each one of these counties along with young people, we brought young people to this conference. They were all Chican-X, Latin-X girls that we sat for a full day. We really shared about listening to what girls wanted and said that they needed.
We also brought Professor Vera Lopez who's sitting right here. We brought some researchers that have been doing very little because Latinas still get counted as Whites all over this country. We lifted that voice to say that Latinas need to be counted as Latinas. By doing this conference, we were able to find that we really do need to do a whole lot more looking at the data to see where it is that Latina girls need assistance best. The little that we learn from Professor Lopez is that Latina girls are found to have domestic violence, like a lot of other girls, but it's physical violence.
In some cases, from other research, we know that it's physical violence with moms. We also know from Dr. Angela Irvine that across the country, 40% of our girls that are detained are gender non-conforming, LGBT Queer, and in California, it's 50%. If you bring both of those things together by which we don't have research to tell us exactly that these two things live together.
But if we did bring those two things together and we say, "Okay. It's an immigrant mother who is having issues with First Generation Latina girl that is sexually, is questioning their sexuality or their expression," there is a lot of need. I can already start thinking about the thinking of what approaches to help both mother and girls be able to address those issues.
Yet because the research hasn't been done, it's hard for us to go there. So last, future opportunities. The National Girls Initiative has been so helpful to lifting up, just even highlighting that Latina girls exist, right. So beyond the conference that we did last year which was very small and regional, there is the AJFO Conference happening this coming December in Sta. Clair County.
We're going to bring the same people together again for regional purposes. But we're also thinking of doing a round table, a national round table late February, sometime in March. Then last but not least, we're looking for the funding to be able to do the first ever national report on Chican-X, Latin-X girls. So I just wanted to mention that. That's it.
Shakira W: All right. Thanks very much.
Marcia RG: All right.
Lindsay R: I'm wondering if we determine just in the interest of time and I was ...
Shakira W: Okay. Perhaps I needed to. Yeah, okay. Let's see. Not really a tech expert here, which one did you need?
Lindsay R: It should just say the Inside Your Human Rights, here, that one up.
Shakira W: There we go. Suddenly, I'm a tech person. Let's see.
Lindsay R: You're amazing.
Shakira W: All right. Turn that off and then just push it.
Lindsay R: Okay. Great. Thank you, Shakira, multi-talented here, like running everything. I'm going to try to be brief because I want to make time for a young person who's made the journey here to share with us some of her wisdom. I'm going to focus on the what and the how of what we're doing in New York City because I think we've heard a lot about why. I usually start off with the gender-bread person but Marcia already covered the just dramatic over-representation of LGBT GNC kids in the female side of the justice system.
So I just want to quickly, we always start out by saying that when we say we're ending girls' incarceration in New York city, we're talking about some kids that may not identify as girls and we're using this as shorthand. We're always meaning it to be inclusive of transgender girls. So I'll just put that out there. Our goal in New York City with the support of NGIS is to try to get to zero girls who are incarcerated. So New York City's had a lot of success with reducing the size of the justice system over the past several years, rolling out an initiative that kept kids in the city close to home and tries a different approach.
We've cut the population in half. Now, we have 307 unique girls who came into detention in 2016 and about 56 who came into placement, right. So even though it's an ambitious goal to get zero, we know that that's a small population. If we have a comprehensive targeted approach that's designed specifically for those kids, that we really can wrap our hands around this issue. It also means that we are trying to comprehensively address what's driving kids into a system.
So we have developed a collaborative approach. I want to just acknowledge National Girls Initiative I think is a fundamentally collaborative organization. We've had young people in every room in this conference. We've had advocates in every room in this conference. We've had government stakeholders in every room in this conference. The way that we've designed our initiative to get to zero, this is the how. We are making sure that we have the New York City task force on ending girls' incarceration which is comprised primarily of agency representatives from justice, foster care, mental health, legal aid, prosecutors, everyone who has a stake in making decisions for the justice system.
Then we also have an expert advisory council. We have Victoria San Martino who sits on that group today in the audience who are advocates, organizers, researchers. That group is broad because there are a lot of people in the community in New York City who have a vested stake in these issues, who work with girls everyday. They're helping us make sure that whatever recommendations are generated by the task force are informed by people who have been working outside the system and are geared towards addressing some of the common challenges that for instance, community-based organizations face when they're trying to serve girls in foster care and juvenile justice.
Then we also have our Youth Advisory Council. Diatayja is an adviser to the initiative. Through that process, we are trying to listen to girls who have all been incarcerated recently in New York City to understand what their experiences are. When we hear a recommendation from policy-makers that what we really need or like in ACS or child welfare, health. That we need respite care for instance for kids.
We can talk to them and say, "Well, what do you think about respite care?" We might hear, "Well, respite never worked for me because when I was in respite, it felt like I was locked up. If you want respite to work for me, then here are the five things you need to do to make a respite care program actually work." So through this process of listening to everybody at each point inside and outside the system, we're hoping to generate a comprehensive plan to end girls' incarceration that really actually will work at the end of the day.
I think there's a lot of slowing down to go fast. We've been bringing in NGI consultants. So we've had Fran Sherman come in. We've had Janet come in. We've had Shakira on the phone a lot, talking to her. She's going to be helping us with our focus groups. Just really bringing in key experts on different issues impacting girls and being able to be really flexible so that where we don't have the in-house knowledge, we have this huge, you can see it up there, network of people from the other demonstration sites that NGI has funded to reduce girls' incarceration and the National Girls Initiative.
So through all of this, I mentioned all the agencies that are on the task force. We have a very simple framework for how we're thinking about recommendations. So we have a triangle and at the top of the triangle are issues that, I'm sorry I don't have it up here, that directly reduce girls' incarceration. There are recommendations that improve the wellbeing of girls. That's like secondary prevention or intervention approaches, and then a broader category of primary prevention.
Our intention is to make sure that we're looking at Department of Education, Department of Mental Health, all of these key systems that serve kids and developing an approach targeted for the specific girls that are most at-risk of entering the justice system that can keep them from coming in, and that we have comprehensive approaches once they're arrested and at every point, further along in the system to keep them out of custody.
That's what we're doing. When we achieve the goal of getting to zero, we will have ended one of the deepest disparities for girls of color in New York City. The misdemeanor arrest rate for Black girls in New York City is 20 times higher than for White girls. For Latina girls, it's six times higher. Does anybody want to take a guess at what percentage of girls in juvenile detention in New York City are girls of color? So you think it's 50%? 60%?
Male: It's 90.
Lindsay R: It's actually upwards of 90. When we're talking about this issue, we are talking about girls of color in New York City. So I just want to hold that at the center. We're also talking about primarily girls who are in foster care. 53% of the kids, I said that sloppily, 53% of the kids who are coming into juvenile detention are coming from either child welfare preventative investigations or actual foster care placement.
That's at the time of the arrest, right. If we were to include kids who were in at a period of time before they were arrested but not at the time, I mean, I would wager that is probably upwards of 90% too. So kids who have had some point of contact with child welfare. So that's a problem but it's also a huge opportunity because it tells me if we transform what our child welfare system is doing to serve girls who are 11 to 17 years old in New York City, and if we get that right, then we have an opportunity to really make a huge dent in what's going on and get us down to zero.
For that, although there's a lot more I could say and I would invite all of you to talk to us about the work because as I said, it's a huge multi-faceted initiative, I want to go over there and talk to Diatayja because Diatayja has actually taken on cross over from child welfare into the juvenile justice system as the key focus of her project. So you had a statement. Do you want to read your statement about why this is important?
Diatayja W: Yes. Hello, hello? Okay. So good afternoon, everybody. My name is Diatayja Watkins. I've been working with the Vera on ending girls' incarceration in New York City. The issues of crossover is important to me because I have experienced it in both of these systems. We need to come together as sisters to be advocates for these young girls. Girls come into child welfare as innocent kids. As they go deeper into the system and are moved from home to home, it messes with them mentally.
Basically like meeting new people, getting used to new environments, repeating your life story, taking psych assessments over and over, it's really traumatizing to have to think about your story, getting verbally assaulted and physically abused. With their trauma and everything the child welfare does to them, girls are unhappy. They have all this anger inside them. They go into the community and commit things. Then the juvenile system gets involved and sends them to these placements for God knows how long where you don't know who is going to hurt you.
You are forced to become older. You are disrespected because of your history. You are not able to be a kid no longer. We need to make changes, put kids in places that feel like home. You can make it look like home and decorate it pretty. But the staff and residents have to treat each other like family. Do psyche evaluations on the staff, caregivers, look at the staff history when they were a child. Maybe there's a reason why they treat the kids wrong. Supervisor and higher-ups that run these programs needs to come to these programs them self instead of playing telephone, not knowing the truth with these girls. Treat kids like kids.
Female: Remember that.
Diatayja W: Thank you.
Lindsay R: Thank you. I have to say, I first saw Diatayja, we first met when she's saying she wrote a song which one day we'll have out there for the world I think at an NYU conference. Then subsequently, I got to know her. She's just such a phenomenal policy mind. You just heard a powerful voice.
Shakira W: Indeed.
Lindsay R: And a bulleted plan for transforming foster care. She actually has a 79-point plan. So I'm going to ask her to just focus on her one or two things right now. You said to treat kids like kids. Can you give one example of what you have in mind when you say that?
Diatayja W: What I mean treat kids like kids, just 'cause they have a history and they do older things, at the end of the day, they're still a child. Children is going go through things. We're not perfect or nothing like that. We're going to go through things. They just based us, "Oh weird. She's a bad child because she did this." But are you really looking deep down on the reason why I did that? Are you really looking at my history or you're just looking at that one thing that I did?
They want to you treat off of what you got charged with or your family history. Basically, any little thing you do, they based you off of that. So you're doing grown things outside, guess what, you're going to accountable of it like an adult. You want to be an adult, so we're going to treat you like adult. But at the end of the day, I'm still young. So how're you going to treat me like adults when I'm not even ready to be an adult yet?
Lindsay R: Awesome. You had one last thought about individualized treatment for kids and how systems can do a better job of thinking about that.
Diatayja W: I'm sorry. Can you repeat the question again?
Lindsay R: Like individualized. You're telling me about how you think kids should be interview when they come in about their interests.
Diatayja W: Yeah, because everybody is different. Everybody is individual. Everybody went through different things. Everybody is not the same. I feel like everybody should like, all right, well, you go into the system or you go into foster care or you're going to the juvenile system. I feel like it should be a test, like multiple questions instead of just locking them away. I feel like when you get locked up or whatever and you go to court, it should be like this one person who has a set up just like a table, whatever. You take a test.
If you test like in the middle of something, send them away to like a camp or something to have fun because you never know if the child was a child before. Maybe she doing the things because she don't have attention. She don't have friends. She just want to be a child for once. So she's doing stupid things in the community and stuff like that. Me, I'd rather go to a camp and have fun and stuff like that rather than to be sent to jail because basically when I went to jail and stuff like that, I wanted to be a child.
I was forced to be older. I had to take care of myself at the age of 11. I'm sorry. I had to take care of myself at the age of 11. It was really hard. I was out there doing things that I didn't want to do but I was basically forced to do it. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.
Lindsay R: That was ... I think we got it. Thank you. That was so powerful. I'm always blown away when she speaks. Is there anything else you want to add to that? You covered it so we can come back in now.
Diatayja W: I just feel like they just need to treat kids like kids and not basically based them off their history because everybody been through stuff. They just want to ... How can I say? Look at your paperwork instead of looking at the person you are because when everybody interview me, when they see my paperwork, they be like, "Oh dang. I don't want to interview this person," or "She's crazy. She needs to be locked up." When you really get to know me and really see me, I'm not that person on paper. I'm not that person no more. I try everyday to be a new person and not to go back to my old ways.
Lindsay R: So I think that's our opening, check.
Shakira W: All right. Thanks. So no we're going to have Karma.
Karma Cottman: Really? Got that. I said you all have your own agency. You guys decide, I'm sorry. I know this is powerful. Just thank you.
Shakira W: Okay. Let's see. Okay, wait. Just got to keep on right here.
Karma Cottman: Look how small. So can we take a moment again to give another round of applause? And for the young ladies who came in the previous panel, thank yo so much for sharing your story. This is why we do our work, because of their voices. They move us to action. So I feel almost like what I'm going to say is not enough because there's so much that we have to learn from you.
So I don't stand here as an expert. I stand here as a student, a student of the experiences of all the young women that we heard from, and a student of the experiences of the young women that we hear from on a day to day basis in Washington DC. I am with the Washington DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. We were funded by the NGI and so much thank you to Catherine and thank you to Shakira for bringing DC into the fold.
We were a late entry into the NGI family because there was a real recognition that there needed to be mobilization happening in the DC community. Now, I also want to thank Andrea Gleeves who is here with us from the DC Coalition. Andrea really has taken on the work of the Girls Coalition as her own and brought to bear many of the things that you'll hear in the next couple of minutes.
Really the DC coalition advances the rights of young women and girls in the District of Columbia. Our coalition seeks to empower girls as leaders and advocates, increases the capacity of organizations and agencies to better serve girls and support the creation of gender response of services. In 2016, we brought together about 20 youth-serving and advocacy organizations to begin building the foundation and infrastructure of a girls coalition. One of the things that we recognize is as a domestic violence coalition, we had a way of going about business, which you find out very quickly when you hear from young women like we just heard may or may not be right, right.
So they really challenged us to do our work differently, to really think about organizing and responding differently because their needs, as many of them said, and as we just heard, were really heard about how can I be a child. How can I be a girl? As we talked and looked at the juvenile justice system in Washington DC, we found out that girls were really just missing, missing in terms of research and physically missing.
What do I mean by that? When we looked at the numbers in the District of Columbia, we have seen gentrification happen in the city. So we saw that a city that was at one point, 80% African-American is now 50% African-American with a rising also community of Latina and Asian individuals and a huge immigration of African immigrants as well. But when we looked at the juvenile justice system, 100% of the youth in the juvenile justice system are African-American still, 100%.
So as the population has shifted, the juvenile justice system has not shifted at all. The number of kids that are being incarcerated are all children of color. When we looked at the response to girls, the challenge for Washington DC which is a federal city, so it's not a state, the challenge for Washington DC is that until 2016, there were no girls housed in Washington DC. So all girls that were picked up, that were sentenced, were shipped out of the district, usually to Arizona, very very far away.
So they lost all connection with family, friends, support here in the community. So we had to look at how do you provide services, how do you build coalition, how do hear voices of young women who physically are not here. Then in 2016, the district in taking over the local department of corrections because we also had a federal prison system, so you graduate from DYRS, you go into a prison system that is also federal so you still are not going to stay in Washington DC.
Our coalition started doing work both at DYRS so we had individuals who were doing work at our local juvenile justice system. We also have a program where we're doing work in the adult department of corrections. So we're doing group both with adult and male inmates in training for staff. In doing that, we had to sort of take all of the information that we did not have and all of the information that we could glean from that work and pull it into this coalition from girls from their voices and from the voices of the experiences of the individual youth service agencies. So I'm going to go fast. We have ten minutes. Okay.
So we found that we have five primary goals through the coalition. One is to facilitate better connections and working relationships among the organizations that are serving young women and girls. What we found is that women and girls were being bounced from organization to organization to organization. We didn't have the necessary relationships to really create a seamless safety net for them, right. So we wanted to be able to facilitate those connections. We wanted to really analyze the landscape for young women or girls in Washington DC.
We had to really think outside of just the juvenile justice system but also think about what's happening in the school system. There again, we found that young African-American girls were being suspended at a rate six times their White counterparts. We had to assume that because DCPS did not actually report any young White woman being suspended. So we had to assume that maybe there was a 1% rate, and that African-American girls were being suspended at 6 times their rate. The same for young Latina women who were at the next in terms of focus, so they were at 3% the rate.
So we were seeing young people of color being suspended at 9% the rate of young White women who according DCPS I say again, were not suspended at all. We really wanted to look at being able to build the capacity of organizations and agencies to better respond and serve young women and girls by institutionalizing gender-specific culturally responsive trauma-informed strength-based and developmentally appropriate services. The reason why we had to really focus on that gender-specific piece is because the district really didn't know how to deal with girls.
It wasn't something that we have focused on. Like I said, until 2016, we weren't even housing young girls in the city. So we had to start from a baseline of what do girls even need. Physically, how do we serve girls? Really focus then on this gender response. At the same time, in early 2017, we had this clash of things happen where there was a report on missing girls, missing Black girls in Washington DC.
There was a task force that was pulled together, a number of recommendations. Still, we didn't have anything gender-specific. The name was changed from missing girls to youth response. So we had to really then go back to ensuring that there was a focus on the gender responsive nature. We want to make sure that then also we're looking at policy recommendation and advocacy efforts. Then finally, creating and disseminating a community action plan for institutionalizing gender response of best practices.
The issue and then one of the things that we've seen is that things end up being fleeting, right. We wanted to make sure that if we did this work, as we lift up the voices of girls, as we look at how organizations can respond, it will be lasting change. In doing so, we had to start with a set of values. One of the things that Andrea said all the time to us and one of the things that we heard from the girls is that this can't just be a one-off thing but that it has to be grounded in something, right.
One of the first things we did was our organization and what the 20 organizations around the table had said, "What is going to be our value set?" Whether it's from a research perspective, whether we're looking at best practices, whether we're looking at how we will connect with each other, they had to be grounded in something. That value set was around an inclusive and intersectional framework that centers the voices and experiences of girls of color, and acknowledges that gender moves beyond the binary, right.
It ensures that transgender women and gender non-conforming youth are also centered in our work, and that ultimately, young people should and are the leaders in this work and that they know the power. We know that the power of stories can lead to changes. Finally, we said, "Okay. So then given all of this, how do we move to action, right? What's our next action steps?" We recognize that we weren't going to get it all done in a year, that in order to have this kind of lasting change, that we needed to ensure that there was a phased-in approach that really did get to something that was more institutional.
Within that phased-in approach, the first thing we recognized is that we don't know what we don't know, right, and that we're not going to just make it up. That we had to start somewhere. So we had to do some initial research. Part of that had to be led by the voices of the individuals that we're talking about we needed to serve, that it couldn't just be about looking at numbers. Then since we knew that the data didn't exist anyway, especially when we're talking about girls, that we had start with their voices.
We wanted to be able to build this coalition and build a foundation and infrastructure. We wanted to do listening sessions with young women and girls. We had this fabulous idea around piloting a youth advocacy and arts workshops. We heard that poetry was one young woman's way of expressing herself. So we figured how do we introduce the arts into their lives so that we could really expand the way that we're gathering information in a format that feels most comfortable for them.
I don't take credit for that at all. I again point to Andrea who brought in an artist in residence who spent time with us over the course of the first year, getting to know us, getting to know the girls, went into workshops with them. We came up with this fabulous book which we have here that's a collection of artwork and short stories and poems that really help to galvanize, voice around change that need to happen in the city.
The second phase which we're moving into now is really around building around relationships with systems to identify criminal and civil justice stakeholders and to develop a taskforce of those stakeholders to really look at system change and to bring them together quarterly to look at research, best practice etc. Part of that for us had to start with our systems again, are just getting used to dealing with girls and our juvenile justice system.
So we really needed to look at them at they've had only one year's practice of how they physically house girls. Our first assessment, we're already like, "Here's a change you need to make. Here's a change you need to make." So we wanted to be able to engage in a processing of learning together. Then we want to be able to assess the barriers and loopholes that disproportionately impact girls of color.
Then in our third phase where we will be is building a community toolbox and assessment tool for agencies and organizations to help them facilitate institutionalize gender-specific, culturally responsive, trauma-informed and strength-based appropriate services, recognizing that even amongst the service providers, we didn't look like the girls that we were serving. So there needed to be a recognition amongst the service providers as much as there needed to be recognition amongst systems that there has to be not just gender-specific but culturally specific trauma-informed services.
So that when those young women are seeking services from us, we know what we're doing, that they're actually grounded in their reality, that even when they come to us, that we come to them with open arms and that we're guided by what their truth is, right, because one of the things that we recognize and I think someone said it earlier is that we all end up checking these boxes. Saying we met the outcomes and really being at this place of having to meet other folks' expectations, and that we needed to recenter and refocus on who the real people are that we're serving. So with that, I think I have like two minutes. I wanted to end with a story from one of young ladies who came to our program. Thank you. Do we have that?
Shakira W: Okay. I see.
Video: Stabbed 12 times, paralyzed, always reminded it doesn't get easier. I got stronger. I'm a walking contradiction with endless possibilities. Emotionally, I'm unstable. Physically, I'm weak. Mentally, I am strong. I am a wounded healer. It doesn't get easier. I got stronger. I'm love. I smell like home. I sound like my mama's prayers. I look like I'm sure. I see beauty in a struggle, bravery. It never got easier. I just got stronger. I'm choosing to be stronger. Be a voice for those who have been silenced. Speak onto, has spoken like a phoenix, still I rise. It won't be easy, but you will be stronger. I am here. You are here. We are here.
Shakira W: Great. Thank you, Karma. So we are at zero minutes. I would love to open it up for some question and answer but I know that time, people need to switch into their next workshop. Please feel free to come up and speak with our panelists. I'm sure they would love to take everyone's cards and answer any questions that you might have. But in the meantime, thank you so much for attending our workshop and another round of applause for the amazing young women, and our amazing panel of advocates and community organizers as well. All right. Thank you very much and have a good rest of the afternoon. Thanks.
Female: If we're going to see or are you guys going to have to do those things?
Female: It's like yes. [crosstalk 01:30:54]
Male: Rolling, it's just ...
Female: What?
Male: And then play it.
Female: Okay.