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Stepping Up: 10 Young Women of Color Making a Difference

(Pictured left to right): Shalee Forney, Angy Rivera, Andy Marra, and Jerin Arifa

Last week, I shared my list of 10 women of color who are game changers in helping to make the world a better place for girls. This week, I’m highlighting 10 young women of color who are paving the way for the next generation of youth of color activists.

They say that young people are complacent. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Young people today (known as millennials) are influencing many social issues today: from same-sex marriage to gender rights to even technology and how we connect with each other. More importantly, young people have proven time and time again that when they stand up for what they believe in, they can bring about enormous change. As with last week’s post, connect with these young women, share ways that you can work together, and become inspired. And don’t forget to share what you’ve learned in this post with the women and girls of color in your lives.

Without further ado, here are 10 young women of color that are making a difference:

Andy Marra: Andy is the public relations director for Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, and has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community. Andy’s skills in organizational capacity building, communications, program development, and media literacy has gotten on her top programs such as The Rachel Maddow Show, NPR, Access Hollywood, The Korea Times, among many others. Andy began her involvement with GLSEN has a student organizer, and along with her work at GLSEN, Andy has served on several leadership boards, including Asian Pacific Islander Equality and the Human Rights Campaign. Andy has been honored for her work in the Asian, adoptee, and transgender communities, and is credited for the development of “Zoe” the first transgender character on a daytime soap opera (All My Children). You can contact Andy by email and follow her on Twitter. (Shout out to Bianca Laureano for recommending Andy!)

Angy Rivera: Columbian-born and New York-raised, Angy came to the United States at the age of 3 with her family. While in high school, Angy first learned of the DREAM (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, and has been galvanizing support for the act ever since. Angy increased her involvement with the DREAM Act when she joined the New York State Youth Leadership Council, the first undocumented youth led and membership led organization for immigrant youth. Angy stands out in NYSYLC with her own advice column, Ask Angy. Ask Angy, created in 2010, is the first advice column for undocumented youth, and Angy gives personal accounts and advice on everything from working off the books to ways to tell the person you’re dating about your undocumented status. Contact Angy by email (especially if you would like to ask a question or share your story of being undocumented without stigma or shame), follow her on Twitter, check out the Ask Angy column on NYSYLC, and like the Ask Angy Facebook page. 

Beth Huang: Beth is a biochemistry and history double major at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. Beth first became involved in organizing when she joined the Student Labor Action Coalition (nicknamed SLACKers) and has become a big influence on campus, serving as vice president of United Council of UW Students and as vice chair of the Associated Students of Madison. Beth was instrumental in the 2011 galvanization of student protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s plan to do away with collective bargaining rights of public employee unions, which would have preventing them from negotiating benefits, hours and working conditions. With Beth’s guidance and passion, the student protests became one of the largest student activist movements in years. With her high-profile role on campus and dedication to her peers and to the University of Madison-Wisconsin, Beth is sure to make a lasting impression in female leadership on her campus and beyond. Follow Beth on Twitter.

Dominique McKinney: Dominique is the co-director of the Young Women’s Empowerment Project, an organization based in Chicago for and by young women of color who are currently involved in or have left the sex trade industry. Dominique originally began her work with YWEP as a participant, but her skills in connecting with young women of color in the sex trade allowed her to rise in the ranks of YWEP to become co-director. Dominique overseas YWEP youth leadership development as well as its campaigns and research initiatives. Contact Dominique by email and read more about YWEP’s programming and campaigns. (Shout-out to Shanelle Matthews for recommending Dominique!)

Gaby Pacheco: Gaby is an immigrant rights activist and has been an advocate for the DREAM ACT since 2004. She founded Students Working for Equal Rights as a way to begin organizing young people, included undocumented youth, in the Miami area. Currently, Gaby serves as a consultant for United We Dream (a youth-led organizing network that promotes immigrant youth access to legal status and equal access to educational opportunities) and its END (Education not Deportation) initiative. Another cool thing about Gaby’s activism is that, in 2010, she walked 1,500 miles to Washington, DC in support of the DREAM Act (dubbed the Walk of DREAMers). Follow Gaby on Twitter.

Jerin Arifa: Jerin, a graduate of Hunter College, sits on the board of directors for National Organization for Women (NOW)  and is co-chair of the National NOW Feminist Task Force for New York State. Jerin is a staunch feminist young woman of color who is doing a lot around raising awareness of violence against women and girls. Jerin became involved in anti-domestic violence activism after hearing  the  stories of several of her friends at Hunter who experienced dating and domestic violence by men. It was also at Hunter where her activism and feminism were cultivated, participating V Day, the international movement to end violence against women and girls, and other causes on campus, and becoming the president of Hunter’s Women’s Rights Coalition. Jerin is also spreading the word about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Learn more about Jerin, contact her by email, and follow her on Twitter.

Mary-Pat Hector: Mary-Pat is the National Youth Director for National Action Network Youth Move (NAN Youth Move), a movement that provides young people with a national platform and the social tools they need to make positive changes in society) and founder of Youth in Action, a coalition of youth and young adults who are dedicated to changing the world one project at a time. Mary-Pat is an accomplished playwright and director, having written “Easy Street Ain’t Easy”, a play/novel about sexual abuse, child cruelty, and bullying. Mary-Pat travels the country, speaking on youth violence and other topics at high schools, conferences, and college campuses. Youth in Action (which, by the way, started off as a community service project) provides safety workshops for schools, and trains teens and college students on how to be effective youth advocates. Contact Mary-Pat by email, like her Facebook page, and follow her on Twitter.

Raquel Ortega– Raquel is the field associate for Choice USA, where she helps youth across the country organize around issues of reproductive justice in their communities. During her studies at the University of Arizona, Raquel led several student and social justice campaigns, including leading a petition to the successful hiring of the University of Arizona’s first ever paid director for the school’s Women’s Resource Center. After transferring to Smith College in Massachusetts, Raquel developed her passion for working with young people in a mentorship capacity. Through her involvement in Smith’s student government and residence life program, Raquel raised awareness on sexual assault on campus, reproductive justice, and became an outspoken advocate on LGBTQ issues. Raquel is also a participant in the 2012 Front Line Leaders Academy and an avid supporter for V Day . Follow Raquel on Twitter.

Ryan Walker– Ryan is a biology and psychology double major at the University of Miami, and is a member of the Young Women of Color Leadership Council (YWOCLC), a youth of color initiative by Advocates for Youth. An avid HIV prevention and treatment activist in south Florida, HIV/AIDS activism is close to Ryan’s heart as her uncle died from complications of AIDS when she was 7 years old. Ryan immersed herself in learning about the statistics of HIV in communities of color in south Florida, and this led her to join MotherWit, a peer education program for young women of color. Her involvement in MotherWit helped Ryan to begin an activist career in educating communities of color on HIV/AIDS, healthy living, and and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and it eventually led her to join YWOCLC, and group of young women of color from across the United States to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and reproductive rights in communities of color and to advocate for youth inclusion in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment program development. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Shalee Forney– Shalee is youth activist and social commentator based in North Carolina. As an avid motivational speaker and youth mentor, Shalee makes her opinions known through blogging and speaking engagements in her community, this graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro uses her platform to encourage young people and to help them raise their voices on breaking down stereotypes of youth of color, protesting black on black violence/gang violence, promoting education, and increasing motivation. Shalee has also started Project Tomorrow, a personal campaign to help young people to look beyond their negative circumstances in order to create their best future.Contact Shalee by email and like her Facebook page.

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

Related Posts

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

What Young Women of Color Really Want

Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?: Effective Messaging for Young Women of Color

Raise Your Voice: Do you have a young 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 16th, 2012|Categories: Activism|Tags: , , |0 Comments