The Women’s Leadership Project Review of 2012

Doctor Sikivu Hutchinson, the activist, scholar, author of what I believe to be the most important atheist book written to date, and huge inspiration to me, is amongst other things the founder of the Women’s Leadership Project, a feminist mentoring program for middle and high school aged women in South Los Angeles. I wrote about them a few months ago in my piece on the activism of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and how I believe atheist activism can and should focus its attentions more on issues pertaining to more than just separation of church and state.

They recently posted a recap of their work in 2012, and what they have to report is inspiring:

  • WLP Wash Prep & GHS developed and facilitated Days of Dialogue, HIV/AIDS, reproductive justice, sexual assault awareness, AB540, media literacy and voter awareness presentations
  • WLP Wash Prep students registered new voters at Wash Prep and Duke Ellington HS
  • WLP launched Wash Prep’s Gay/Straight Alliance
  • WLP students and alum developed and presented at the HRC’s annual Youth Media Education Conference
  • WLP alum joined with community partners Black Women for Wellness and FUEL to conduct four college panels at Wash Prep, GHS and Cal State Dominguez Hills
  • WLP Wash Prep president Jamion Allen spoke before the LAUSD [Los Angeles Unified School District] Human Relations Commission on bullying and harassment
  • WLP Wash Prep sponsored Chicano student movement activist and change agent Paula Crisostomo for Women’s History Month & the Women of Color Speaker Series
  • WLP GHS member Karly Jeter (class of ’13) won a full four year Posse Foundation Scholarship to the College of William & Mary in D.C.
  • WLP Wash Prep member Victory Yates (class of ’13) was a finalist for a Posse Foundation Scholarship to Grinnell College
  • WLP GHS president Miani Giron (class of ’12) won full scholarships from the Posse Foundation and the Horatio Alger Foundation
  • WLP GHS seniors & alum Lizeth Soria, Janeth Silva, Imani Moses, Brenda Briones, Mayra Burunda, Clay Wesley (class of ’10), Miani Giron, Jimena Villa and Ronmely Andrade received community leadership “First in the Family” scholarships from the L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable and the Wells Fargo Foundation
  • Mayra Borunda (class of ’10) made the President’s List at CSU Long Beach during her first semester with a GPA of 3.8 and is currently on the Dean’s List with a GPA of a 3.67.
  • Brenda Briones (class of ’12) got a 4.0 during her first college semester.
The students themselves had a lot to say about how their involvement with the WLP has affected them [emphasis mine]:

“In my home and in my community I have always understood that a higher education is not as important as having kids and staying home to clean and cook like a “real woman/ wife” does.

I think of Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) as the light in the darkness. As a senior at Gardena, I had no hope or desire to go to college before WLP. I used to think it would be impossible for me to attend college because I’m undocumented.”

– Liz Soria

“I never really questioned how the media portrays women of color. So, having WLP teach us how to observe and analyze the media helped me understand why young girls feel pressured to have ‘that long hair,’ ‘those blue eyes’—even if they are contacts, and “that nice body.” Aside from learning how to recognize these issues, we also did a lot of work to fight things that like sexual harassment. I know some people may say, ‘oh, just ignore it,’ but it’s not ok to ignore sexual harassment because by staying quiet, you begin to normalize it.”

– Imani Moses, Class of ’11

In my opinion, the WLP is doing absolutely incredible work, and we as a community of secularists should be bringing more attention to them. This is the kind of activism that our movement should be looking to invest in; fixing the education system using these kind of methods, using skepticism and rationality to help kids who probably never had anyone invested in their successes before care about them and help them learn. When a population realizes just how the world works, as an entrenched system of intersecting inequalities kept in place through convention and apathy, we can really shake things up.
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