People often ask me what inspires me. Why do I fight so hard for Black women and Black girls in the juvenile court and criminal legal system?
The short answer: I love us — all of us.
I understand how Black girls are forced to navigate their learning spaces. Being a high performer in school did not protect me from differential treatment from some of my educators. Nor did it shield me from other people policing my body and how it appeared in certain clothing. As a sexual assault survivor, I understand the effects of sexual trauma. It shapes how I read, relate, and respond to girls who are at risk for victimization and exploitation.
My personal life, more than three decades of working in the educational and criminal justice field, and four books, including most recently, “Pushout,” are emblematic of how deeply I am invested in our women and girls. Our challenges are unique. Most negative socioeconomic conditions for Black women and girls correlate with how race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual identity, ability, and other identities interact with each other to undermine equal access to opportunity.
So, we must apply an intersectional framework to developing new solutions to these critical needs. As co-founder and President of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute (NBWJI), we bring this approach to our mission: reducing racial and gender disparities across the justice continuum affecting cisgender and transgender Black women and girls.
Our work includes:
Building confinement-to-college pathways for girls
As a lead partner for EMERGE (Educating, Mentoring, Empowering, and Reaffirming our Girls for Excellence), a pilot educational reentry program for girls in the Bay Area, we are providing innovative spaces for our girls to learn. We also conduct training, research and provide technical assistance to school districts and other educational entities working to improve the quality of education for vulnerable girls. Our strategic partnerships to interrupt the school-to-confinement pathways for girls are implemented with the intention of generating replicable, systemic change.
Reducing gender-based violence in African American communities
We work with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency to increase the capacity of organizations working to reduce domestic/intimate partner violence and sexual assault in African American communities. In May, we launched a website that contains community-based and culturally specific resources and assistance for providers and advocates working to end gender-based violence in African American communities.
Expanding the opportunity landscape for formerly incarcerated women
We facilitate action-oriented and research-based processes that partner with formerly incarcerated women to develop recommendations and practices to reduce the blanket discrimination against formerly incarcerated women.
Over this past year, NBWJI’s work has had both national and international reach and impact. We are making considerable progress with our research, offerings of technical assistance, public education engagement, civic engagement, and advocacy for informed and effective policies. From public hearings to national and international conferences to over 30 trainings and presentations for schools, justice stakeholders and organizations nationwide, we are helping to raise the public’s consciousness about the criminalization of Black women and girls. Even among the Hollywood elite, NBWJI is informing conversations about equity and justice with many of the nation’s leading artists and thought leaders.
In this last quarter of 2017, we released several new reports and produced a robust calendar of events. Earlier in September, NBWJI collaborated with the Boston City Council for a public hearing to reveal our findings from focus groups held in Boston with girls of color, their parents, and school personnel. The focus groups’ purpose was to gain information on school discipline and the needs of students of color. We collaborated with our partners at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality to release the report, Be Her Resource: A Toolkit about School Resource Officers and Girls. We also collaborated with the Ms. Foundation to release the policy report, Centering Black Women, Girls, Gender Nonconforming People and Fem(mes) in Campaigns for Expanded Sanctuary and Freedom Cities. Additionally, we held a webinar series and training for national technical assistance providers who work in African American communities to respond to historical trauma and gender-based violence.
Our investment in Black women and Black girls is ultimately a demonstration in the belief that they are sacred and loved. Our voices can no longer be ignored. Our experiences can no longer be unrecognized. And our humanity can no longer be rendered invisible.
Whether you are a partner, ally, or community member, thank you for your ongoing support of this important and timely work.
We need you.
To learn more about NBWJI, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.