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Pay It Forward: 10 Women of Color Making the World a Better Place for Girls

(Pictured left to right: Andriann Barboa, Carla Stokes, Jessica Danforth, and Ileana Jiménez)

Young girls of color are resilient, creative, and powerful. And they grow up to become resilient, creative, and powerful women who go on to do whatever they can to make the world a better, more fun, and safer place for young women of color. Anything can provide a catalyst for change–a tragic event, an everyday occurrence, or a seemingly small question–. While many people will allow for life’s circumstances to get them down and keep them there, there are plenty of women of color who inspire our young girls, make them think, and help them to raise their voices.

This list of 10 amazing women of color is just a small percentage of the countless women of color who are doing big things. Some I’ve known for years, some I’ve recently met, and some I’ve admired through their work with the intention of meeting them someday. All of them I (and many others) are inspired by. Check out their work, connect with them, share ways that you can work together, and become inspired. Last but not least, share what you’ve learned in this post with the women and girls of color in your lives. The more women of color we have making a difference in the lives of young girls of color, the more young girls of color will grow up and pay it forward.

These women really are infusing passion and creativity to improve the health and lives of women and girls of color. Read more about them and be inspired:

Adriann Barboa- Former Executive Director, Young Women United: Adriann is an amazing community organizer and she brings over 10 years of experience in organizing around gender, reproductive justice, anti-violence, education and youth justice in communities of color. Adriann has been involved with Young Women United for over 8 years. Young Women United (YWU) is a reproductive justice organization for and by young women of color located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. YWU’s primary focus is on challenging the power dynamics in the New Mexico political landscape by putting young people in the forefront. YWU’s key organizing areas include violence reduction, supporting teen parents, sex education, and immigration from a youth-centered lens. In addition to still supporting YWU, Adriann is currently the New Mexico Field Director for Forward Together, where she connects many issue areas (including gender and reproductive justice), geography and cultural difference in order to build a higher capacity and spotlight on what’s happening in New Mexico. Contact Adriann by email, join Young Women United’s Facebook page, and follow YWU on Twitter.

Amanda Wake- Forward Together : As Youth Organizing Manager for Forward Together , Amanda combines community organizing and youth programming to help young people, in particular young Asian women and men, in Oakland, California. Amanda manages SAFIRE (a leadership program for young Asian women to provide a safe space to discuss sexuality, relationships, body image, and gender) and Forward Together’s Young Men’s Program (originally piloted in 2011, and is now part of Forward Together’s integrated weekly programming). Amanda works with SAFIRE and the Young Men’s Program participants on public speaking and communication, as well as in developing action campaigns to improve sex education in Oakland public schools. (Check out this awesome publication: Oakland Youth’s New Vision for Sex Ed). (Shout out to Shanelle Matthews for recommending Amanda!)

Carla Stokes, PhD, M.P.H.,- Founder and Executive Director, Helping Our Teen Girls in Real Life Situations, Inc. (HOTGIRLS): Dr. Carla Stokes is a scholar, activist, and entrepreneur who has spent more than 15 years combining research and activism with youth programming and health education. Carla’s specialties blend HIV/AIDS, youth development, street harassment prevention, media literacy, and women and girls’ empowerment together to inspire middle school, high school, and college age women. HOTGIRLS was originally founded in 2001 as the HOTGIRLS Health Projectwhile Carla was a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, and in the last 11 years, HOTGIRLS continues to be a leader in leadership development, media education, peer health education and youth activism. In addition to working with young girls through HOTGIRLS, Carla is also a speaker and life coach , providing consulting services for community groups and organizations, as well as coaching services for young women, girls, and parents-caretakers. Through her consulting practice, Carla has worked with many organizations, including Girl Scouts of Central Indiana and Young Women’s Action Team. Contact Carla by email, join her Facebook page and HOTGIRLS’ Facebook page, and follow Carla and HOTGIRLS on Twitter.

Ileana Jiménez – Teacher and Founder, Feminist TeacherWith over 15 years as a leader in education and social justice, Ileana is helping young women in the New York City area learn more about feminist theory and social justice within the educational setting. Ileana brings a variety of topics to her students, including race, gender, class, sexuality, and street and sexual harassment (check out her how-to video on creating a anti-street harassment PSA). Ileana was named one of the 30 Women Making History by Women’s Media Center (2010) and as one of 40 Feminists Under 40 by the Feminist Press (2010). She also teaches at Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI) and is an associate faculty member at Bard  College’s Institute for Writing and Thinking. Follow Ileana on Twitter, find Feminist Teacher on Facebook, and reach out to Ileana by email to connect.

Jessica Danforth- Founder and Executive Director, Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN): Self-described as a “multiracial Indigenous hip-hop feminist reproductive justice freedom fighter”, Jessica leads NYSHN, the only organization of its kind in the United States and Canada that solely focuses on the sexual health, rights, and justice of Indigenous youth. Jessica is a powerhouse voice for the Native community, and she believes in the agency of young people to have the ability to make informed decisions about their health and wellness. Jessica is the editor of two books–Sex Ed and Youth: Colonization, Communities of Colour, and Sexuality and Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism–and has received countless recognitions, including the National Youth Advocacy award from the Assembly of First Nations – National Indigenous Youth Council. And if that alone isn’t awesome, Jessica is first Chair of the National Indigenous HIV/AIDS Youth Council and is on the management circle of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. Follow Jessica on Twitter, and reach out to her by email to connect.

Jennifer L. Reid- Founder, Shero, Inc.:   Jennifer is an instructional leader & teacher at Rauner College Prep in Chicago’s Northwest side neighborhood, and was a past instructor for Teach for America, having worked in Houston, Texas’ public school system. While in Houston, Jennifer co-founded the Young Lady in You monitorship program. She’s also directed the Uniquely You Summit in 2010 in Philadelphia before moving on to Chicago to found Shero, Inc. in 2010. As the driving force behind Shero, Jennifer helps to connect young women to their holistic health and inner confidence, as well as address the needs of low self-esteem, disordered eating, and unsafe sexual health practices. Connect with Jennifer by email and follow Shero on Twitter. (Shout-out to Lisa-Marie Pierre for recommending Jennifer!)

Kymsha Henry- Co-Director, Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition (YWCHAC): As the co-director of YWCHAC, Kymsha helps young women of color address the increasing HIV rates of young women between the ages of 13-24 through education, advocacy, media, and entertainment. Since taking the helm of YWCHAC, Kymsha has increased the cope and image of YWCHAC’s youth group, WE SPEAK, to include young men as well after she noticed the need for education on HIV for young men as well. Kymsha has also led YWCHAC’s quarterly meetings held in New York City, inviting prominent voices in the fields of HIV, sexual wellness, mental wellness, and youth agency to bring their expertise to how adults can work with young people of color in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases as well as getting young people into treatment. As the coordinator for WE SPEAK, Kymsha brings together young women of color (by application process) to learn about HIV and activism and gain feedback from the members of WE SPEAK on how to effectively outreach to their peers. Kymsha is also very good at stepping aside for the WE SPEAK members to take the lead in facilitating workshops, safer sex education parties, as well as the annual Power of My Parts Film Festival. Connect with Kymsha by email , join the YWCHAC Facebook group, and follow YWCHAC on Twitter.

Shaleah Laché Sutton- Founder & President, Uniquely You Summit: Shaleah is one of the leading activists for young girls of color in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Shaleah founded Uniquely You in 2009 because she recognized that many damaging factors that can wreck havoc on the minds and self esteem of young women of color. Shaleah fuses compassion with advocacy to meet young girls where they are and to show them a vision of what they can grow up to become. With the Uniquely You Summit, Shaleah and her team have developed an awesome curriculum that includes self esteem, HIV/AIDS awareness, life skills, higher education, and positive character building. Shaleah also makes sure to include parents as well. Shaleah has received many recognitions, including a 2011 Outstanding Young Leader nod by Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes as well as The Role Model Group’s 2011 Lady Leadership Honor. Shaleah also sits on the advisory board for “A Healthy Woman’s World” (an initiative developed by Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph & Senator Vincent Hughes). Connect with Shaleah by email, check out Uniquely You Summit on Facebook, and follow Uniquely You Summit on Twitter.

Urooj Arshad- Associate Director, Equity and Social Justice, Advocates for Youth:Urooj has over 13 years of experience in organizing within LGBTQ communities of color, particularly around issues of Islamophobia, violence, sexism, transphobia and ageism. Urooj travels throughout the United States and globally to provide capacity training for community organizations who work with youth of color around sexual and reproductive health. Urooj has developed AFY’s Muslim Youth Project, to address the reproductive and sexual health needs of Muslim identified youth. Urooj was inspired to develop the Muslim Youth Project after a trip to Germany. She noticed that there was a large gap in the representation and resources for Muslims within the sexual health movement. In addition to working with AFY, Urooj is co-chair of the co-chair of the Queer Muslim Collective (which addresses the intersectionality of the impact of Islampohobia, homophobia and transphobia), the Center for American Progress’ Women’s Health Leadership Network as well as a fellow with the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute. Contact Urooj by email, connect with her on Facebook, and her on Twitter.

Yamani Hernandez- Executive Director, Illinois Caucus for Sexual Health: Yamani joined the Illinois Caucus for Sexual Health (ICAH) in 2011, leading ICAH’s strategies on youth leadership development, legislative advocacy, youth-led and adult-led trainings, community organizing, and policy analysis. Yamani was so awesome that she was invited to become Executive Director after four months as ICAH’s interim executive director. Yamani has years of experience with working with youth, including being involved with Girls Scouts of Chicago and within the Chicago Public School System. With the support of her staff and the youth they serve, Yamani has been able to work on ICAH’s strategic vision, meet with funders, and develop better ways for ICAH to intergrate their programming. Utilizing her skills in program design, implementation, management and evaluation, Yamani works from within a asset-based approach that also utilizes her love for community organizing, leadership, and youth development. Contact Yamani by email, and follow ICAH on Facebook and Twitter .

Raise Your Voice: Do you have a woman of color to recommend? Share their name, any organizational/community affiliations, and ways we can contact them (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) below! 

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By | 2016-10-25T01:48:11+00:00 August 8th, 2012|Categories: Activism|Tags: , |0 Comments