By Sikivu Hutchinson
What is Black feminism and intersectional feminism and why are they relevant to girls of color in South Los Angeles? How do they disrupt white supremacy and what can younger Black, Latinx, indigenous and Asian American feminists learn from older generation feminists of color and vice versa? What does it mean, as bell hooks says in her book Feminism is for Everybody, that, “[we’re] socialized from birth on to accept sexist thought and action…[and] in order to end patriarchy we need to be clear that we are all participants in perpetuating sexism”?
Youth leaders debated and spoke to these questions at the recent Future of Feminism youth leadership conference at Cal State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). Sponsored by the Women’s Leadership Project, the L.A. County Human Relations Commission and Media Done Responsibly, the conference featured youth-facilitated workshops, videos, presentations, and a musical performance by women and girls of color from across Los Angeles County. Students from Dorsey High School, Gardena High School, Fremont High School, Diego Rivera Academy, Carson High School, King-Drew Magnet High School and Miguel Contreras Learning Complex attended the conference. The event was emceed by WLP alumni and former foster care youth Clay Wesley (WLP 2009, Mount St Mary’s University, 2018) and Drea Wooden (WLP 2017). The conference kicked off with a WLP-produced video on sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention, spotlighting the perspectives of youth from the 2016 cohort at Gardena High School. The video was followed by a student panel on the #MeToo movement featuring WLP students and alumni from Gardena, Dorsey, and King-Drew. Students Imani Moses (WLP 2011), Lizeth Soria (WLP 2012), Marenda Kyle (WLP 2014), Shania Malone (WLP 2018), Cheyanne Mclaren (WLP 2019) and Lidia Colocho (WLP 2019) discussed the marginalization of black and Latinx girls in mainstream representations about the impact of sexual harassment and sexual violence in school communities. The panelists also challenged straight cis young men to step up as allies in the fight against normalized sexism, sexual harassment, sexual violence and rape culture on school campuses.
College community partners and high school youth conducted workshop presentations on sexual violence and homelessness, Black feminism, gender justice and labor organizing, countering “fake news” and disrupting criminalization in communities of color. Students from the GSA Network, Media Done Responsibly, Peace Over Violence and the WLP alumni network presented social, racial, and gender justice youth leadership work that they have been doing at partner schools for the past several years. Former WLP intern and CSULB graduate Marlene Montanez presented on the advantages of union organizing and involvement for women and girls of color, drawing from her experience as an undocumented student activist for the Future Undocumented Educational Leaders (FUEL) group. Peace Over Violence students from Miguel Contreras Learning Complex discussed the intersections of sexual violence and homelessness vis-à-vis risk factors and challenges that confront sexual violence survivors of color. CSULA students from Media Done Responsibly examined the pervasiveness of right wing political propaganda in mainstream news and its impact on representations of women of color. WLP students from Gardena, King-Drew, and Dorsey presented their work on Black feminist cultural politics, the #Say Her Name movement, and strategies to counter victim-blaming, victim-shaming and misogynoir in sexual violence and sexual harassment directed toward Black girls. Fremont High School’s GSA Network conducted an exhibition game on the structure of the school-to-prison pipeline and its disproportionate impact on LGBTQI, queer and gender non-conforming youth of color.
The conference concluded with a powerful performance by internationally acclaimed electric guitarist and producer Malina Moye. Moye discussed her experience as a homeless youth living on the streets when she first moved to Los Angeles at the beginning of her career. She encouraged students to pursue their dreams and aspirations in resistance to the sexist expectations of the dominant culture. Youth participants also received books on the lived experiences of girls of color by feminist authors Iris Jacob (MySisters’ Voices), Yesika Salgado (Corazon) and Mahagony Browne (Black Girl Magic). In July, students participated in follow-up Black Feminist and Feminist of Color Institutes that brought youth leaders together with adult mentor artists, educators, entrepreneurs and health practitioners from across L.A. Using hooks’ book Feminism is for Everybody as a stepping stone, youth addressed public policy around abortion rights, college access for undocumented youth, underreporting of rape and sexual assault in communities of color and ending targeted searches of black and Latinx students in the LAUSD.
WLP classes and peer education outreach resumes at partner campuses in September.