Julia: I'm gonna talk a little bit about the history of the organization. First we could get to start off by getting to know everybody in the room. So, like I said, my name's Julia and we're gonna do our name, home, and ancestor. And pronoun, if you have, and if you mind just to let us know if you're over or under 25, that would be cool too. So I'll go ahead and model it.
So, my name's Julia. I'm from San Francisco, that's my home. And, yeah, I just have some kind of connection to that piece of land, my family's been there for a few generations. I'm second generation born stateside. And an ancestor that I want to bring into this space is my grandmother Julia.
And she was actually the person that was brave enough to kind of step out, right, and bring my family to the United States and be a pioneer, kind of, for the family. She faced a lot of challenges in her life. She was born in about the 30s and there was, like, a Mexican revolution kind of happening in Mexico. And she grew up kind of around a lot of soldiers. She was, her life was really shaped this certain way, right. And I was named after her, so they would tell me, you know, oh you act just like Julia, right. She was real loud, right. She was this real loud woman. She smoked, she chain-smoked cigarettes, she drank, she was known to carry a pistol around. And what I learned later on down the line is I learned more about this woman that they said was real rough around the edges woman.
I learned that, when she was younger, to make money, cause she was this indigenous woman, that they made alcohol to give to soldiers and that's how they made a living. And they smoked cigarettes because there was a lot of bugs around and the smoking kept the bugs off. So she developed these habits. And she carried a pistol and she was very loud because, through her trip, through her migration, there was a lot of men that would attack the women. And they would assault them. And she became very rough, right. And so this was her way to kind of defend herself and be loud and it's like, "hey, yeah, I'm here," you know. And the pistol, that explains itself, too.
So I learned all these things about this woman, and I was like, "wow." I learned the history of her. And she's my ancestor that I want to bring into this space when I feel nervous or when I'm not sure of myself, I just think "what did Julia, like, what are all the things that she got through in her life?" And so, that's my ancestor.
I use "she" and "her" pronouns. And I'm actually over 25. I know I've got that youthful glow. I'm 32 years old now, so yeah. And then we usually go to the left, because we lead with our hearts. So I'm gonna pass around the mic and if we could go around and I don't mind to repeat.
KI: So pronoun, ancestor-
Julia: And home. Name, home, ancestor.
KI: Gotcha. Name, home, ancestor- [crosstalk 00:03:27]
Crea: And before that, I just wanna mention, Julia put out a tapestry. One of the other principals that we have at the center as we're going through acknowledging our ancestors, is we normally build altars. We have multiple types of altars. So, I just wanna, like, let you know you're symbolically adding your ancestor to this space. So yeah. They didn't bring altar items, but wanted to make sure everyone knew that.
KI: We wanna bring in our sisters.
Julia: Yeah, please, please come in. If there's an empty chair, if it would be really great if you would come and sit into the chair, though, to keep the kind of energy of the space. Then we'll keep a door on each side so people can come in and out if they need to take care of themselves.
Amica: Good morning, my name is Amica. My pronouns are "she," "hers." Home is Oakland, California. And ancestors I'm going to call into this space today is my mama, Joanie, who was an example to me of a leader and a visionary. And then my grandmother, Pearl Sunshine, who was a healer. And yeah. That's it.
KI: Good morning. Or afternoon. What is it? [crosstalk 00:04:48] Oh, morning. Morning, morning, morning, morning. I think it's the coffee. My name's KI. My pronouns are "they" or "them." Or my name, KI. Home is the bay area, San Francisco, California, particularly HP, Hunters Point. An ancestor that I'm gonna call on is my grandfather. I was like his pele, means his favorite. But he, and what I endure from him before he passed was to make sure love is spread. And to keep that balance. So basically, he just threw this towards me like, "hold down the family," you know. So, yup.
Aretha: So, good morning everyone. My name is Aretha Onateri. I am "she" "her." From New Jersey. New Jersey? Yes. And the ancestor I'd like to bring into this space is my great-grandfather, my mother's grandfather. My mother's mother and uncles were all rambunctious and loud and crazy, but he was a small, quiet man. And so, whenever there was a need to heal, and whenever there was a need to quiet everyone down and move everybody in the same direction, he was the person in the family that was able to calm everyone and bring healing to the family. So I'd like to bring him into the space. Thank you.
Hannah: Hi, I'm Hannah. And I go by "she" "her" pronouns. I'm originally from the Atlanta area and now I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. And the ancestor I would like to call into the room is my grandfather, Richard. He, too, had such a big, warm heart. And really spread that and set that for our family, that we were a warm and kind family. And he, too, was a public servant, and just a very special man.
Emily: Hi, I'm Emily. I use "she" "her" pronouns. I'm from Minneapolis, born and raised. The ancestor that I want to bring into the room are both my grandmothers, Cami and Ruby. And they taught me that it's never wrong to use your voice. They are both very active in a lot of different ways, particularly politically, on different sides of the aisle from each other, so that's fun for them. But I think it's just important to just remember, like, you get to speak your peace. And that's something that I took from both of them, whether I agree or disagree with either one of them, that you get to have your perspective and you get to speak your peace. Has always felt like it was welcome in my family.
Tasha: Hi, my name is Tasha and I'm newly from Louisville, Kentucky. I use "she" and "her." I don't have a lot of connection with my ancestors, unfortunately, a lot of cut off in my family. But my mother's mom, who I never met, passed away when my mom was a baby. Had 11 children, my mom was the 11th. So, I think that she goes with me everywhere. All the things that I don't know about her and the things that I'm not, I think that there's a lot of her husband was an alcoholic. And I never knew him either, and neither did my mom, so I think the questions that I have about my family are what I take with me all the time.
Crea: Can we take a moment to let our sister in the circle over here?
Julia: So we're doing name, home, ancestor, if you have a pronoun that you prefer to use, and if you're under or over 25. Yeah. Yeah.
Caroline: Hi everybody, my name is Caroline Laborne and I'm from Arizona. I'm Pima Native America. My mother's Pima and my father's Ho chunk, so I'm a mixture. Over 25. I'm a mother of six from 22 all the way to five. And I'm a probation officer for my tribe. Thank you.
Lindsay: Hi, I'm Lindsay. I'm over 25. I'm from New York City, but I grew up in Miami, Florida. My pronouns are "she" and "her." And I have a lot of questions that landed with me. I'm just learning about some of my family that's Jewish that kind of, that history cuts off around the time of the Holocaust before they came here, but in terms of the ones that are most present with me, and the questions, both of my grandmothers chose very different paths. One refused to go to school and just found strength in being a mother and taking care of community at home. And the other, you know, was getting her master's degree in science in the '50s and fighting to integrate public schools and get sex education in public schools. So I think they both taught me different kinds of strengths. I bring them with me today.
Angelique: Hi everyone, my name's Angelique. "She," "her," "hers." I'm from Bronx, New York. Under 25. The folks that I bring around with me, my ancestors, are my grandparents from my father's side who came from Puerto Rico to the US. And my family from the Philippines, who also came to the US to seek more opportunity, which allowed my mother and my father to meet. So I bring them with me everywhere I go.
Pamela: Hi, my name is Pamela. I use "she," "her," and "hers." I live in New York now but I'm originally from Michigan. And I today will bring with me my great-grandmother, Pearl, who I didn't know but who I understand, who I'm named for, who I understand to be incredibly creative and curious and had a real thirst for learning and growing.
Andrea: Hello everybody. My name is Andrea Samora. I'm 17 years old and I'm from Oakland, California. And an ancestor that I would like to talk about is my mom's mom, so my grandma from my mom's side, because she had 13 kids and she raised them kind of by herself. So she was like a true warrior for me, cause that's a lot. And I go by "she" and "her."
Julia: Thank you.
Kimmy: Aloha everybody, my name is Kimmy, and I'm from Honolulu, Hawaii. I'm going to bring my grandmother, Peilani Paole. She is from Kawaii. My family is from Kawaii. And I go by "she," "her," and "hers."
Lucero: My name is Lucero. I'm a research organizer at the Young Woman's Freedom Center. I'm 28 years old, my pronoun is "she," "her," "hers." My home is El Salvador, that's where I was born. My ancestor will be my grandma and my maya. She came out here and she brought my family with my aunt for us to have a better future. And she passed away when I was young, but I learned one thing when she passed away, which is, love your family before they leave because they're barely temporary. You never know when is, cause tomorrow's not promised. So just growing up, losing people, I learned to appreciate people while they're alive.
Lara: Hi, my name's Lara Kauffman. My pronouns are "she," "her," and "hers." I live in Maryland, right outside of DC. And the ancestor I'm thinking about today- Oh, I'm way over 25, in case anyone was wondering. The ancestor I'm thinking about today is my grandmother, my mother's mother, who was born in Poland and was orphaned when she was five years old. Her mother passed away and her father left. She and her sister were on the streets, eating out of trash cans and barely getting by. But she came to this country when she was 12 and built a life here. She was just very loving and she was just like a second mom to me. And I always admired her. I named my daughter after her.
Sonia: Hi, my name's Sonia Breda. And I also work at Girls, Inc. I'm originally from Portland, Oregon but I moved out here to DC to my new home. I'm under 25. And the ancestors that I'm thinking about today is my grandmother, who came to the United States from China and built her life here for my family.
Chantal: Hi, I'm Chantal and I'm from Pittsburgh, PA. My pronouns are "she," "her," and "hers." The ancestor that I want to call on is my great-grandmother, Lorrine. She was the mother of 12 children. I have a very big family and she was our queen bee. She was tough. She didn't take no mess. And she always held us accountable.
Lindsay: Hey, I'm Lindsay. "She," "her," "hers." I'm from Michigan. I grew up in Florida and now I'm in DC, so just a whole east coast, you know, whatever, life. As far as ancestors, my grandmas and my adopted grandma are the strongest women. I think of my late adopted grandma every single day. They really taught me how to be resilient and how to be brave and how to care about other people.
Nancy: Good morning, my name is Nancy and my preferred pronouns are "she," "her," "hers." Home is Pittsburgh, too, Pennsylvania. Although I grew up in New England outside of Boston. I am the daughter of Ann who is the daughter of Thelma who are the ancestors that I bring to this room, who both died very early. So I think they taught me the preciousness of the time that we have in each day and how, it was important to make a difference but not let others steal your joy. So to have both. And I'm well over 25, too.
Jasmine: Hi, I'm Jasmine. I'm 25, just made the cut-off. I'm from Miami, Florida. Miami. So the ancestors that I bring - oh, "she," "her," "hers" pronouns. The ancestor I bring with me today is, I didn't personally know her, cause she was born in 1850 and she's Sarah Bellamy. She's my great, I don't know how many great, grandmother. She was a slave at the Bellamy plantation in northern Florida in 1850 and she raised about 13 of the Bellamy kids. And the stories that I heard from my great-grandfather of the nurturing and the strength that she provided for those kids that weren't her own just inspired me to eventually become a foster parent myself when I get older. So I bring her with me today.
Alyssa: Hello, my name's Alyssa. I am from Jacksonville, Florida. I am 22. And the ancestor - I go by "she" or "her." The ancestor that I want to bring to the room is my grandmother, who is just my symbol of strength and has been my support. I feel like she is the reason why I believe that change is truly possible.
Fran: Hi, my name is Fran. "She" and "her" pronouns. I am also well over 25. And the ancestor I will bring into the room is my father, Louis Sherman, who died quite young and I named my oldest daughter after him. And he was a psychologist and a university professor. And he was actually a researcher who, in the early 70s, pioneered getting women into the police force, particularly for domestic violence kind of things. So he was a researcher and an advocate, always an inspiration.
Crea: Hi, my name is Crea. I'm with the Young Woman's Freedom Center. My pronouns are "she," "her," "hers, "they," or "them." I am well over 25. And the ancestor that I bring into this space, today I bring two. I bring my grandma Rita Lacuna and I bring my grandfather Juan Osura Gongora. And my ancestors are, my Pima sister, I'm Quixan, Yaqui, Filipino, Hawaiian, and Chinese.
Nia: Hello, my name's Nia Rankins and I'm 16 years old. And the ancestor I want to bring to this space is my grandmother, Gloria Rankins, and my grandfather, Harry Rankins, because they were both sick but they ended up taking care of each other.
Elidra: Good mornin'! My name is Elidra, I'm from Mississippi. Pronoun "she" and "her." My ancestor I wanna bring is my grandmother. She was like powerful and she was the one I look up to. And she just brought the family together with so much knowledge and stuff.
Stephanie: Hello, my name is Stephanie Clone. I'm originally from Michigan but I live in DC now. So I still consider Michigan my home, though, it has my heart. Pronouns are "she" and "her." I'm over 25. And the ancestor that I'd like to bring into the room is my grandmother, Noreen. She had 10 children, she was a single parent, and she had this quiet strength about her that you, she didn't have to come into a room and dominate but you knew she was strong, capable, intelligent woman and so I try to emulate that, as well.
Britney: Hi, my name is Britney. "She," "her," "hers." I'm from Hernando, Mississippi, so if you drive straight through it, you'll miss it. Yeah, a lot of dirt roads, but it was cool. Scary life. And the ancestors I want to bring into the room today are both my grandmothers. My mother's mother and my father's mother, Thelma and Darcus. They both raised large families and they taught me a lot. I was so blessed to spend time with them before they passed away. And they all had a giving spirit. And so I try to keep that kind of giving spirit wherever I go. And if I feel alone, I can kind of talk to them a little bit. And then I give myself a minute and I'm like, "okay. I can keep pushing." Cause if I don't, then the struggles they went through were for nothing.
Sarah: Hi everyone, Sarah. "She," "hers." I'm from New York City. Actually, I'm over 25, believe it or not. Just listening to everyone, the ancestor that I'm bringing to the room is my grandmother on my father's side. She died when I was a teenager but just, like, her cooking and just her presence in the house just made me feel safe all the time, so my grandmother's really a symbol of strength in my life.
Julia: Did everybody, yeah. Anybody else? Okay. Great.
So I just want to recognize that this is an intergenerational space. I want to notice that and notice kind of that the eldest to the very youngest person in the room and make sure that we give space for people to speak. Yeah.
So, also that, those ancestors that we brought into this space here, those are like, that's our history. Those are whose shoulders that we stand on. And just, like, maybe the organizations that we come from too, you know, there are people that came before us, too. And they have a began work and now we've been put in these positions to kind of carry on our work too, as well. So just holding those things with us.
And every person in this room holds knowledge. Every person in here is a leader. And that's something that we firmly believe at the Young Woman's Freedom Center. That, right when you come into this space, you hold knowledge that is, that makes this happen right here. This is what makes it happen.
And so I'm gonna start back of where the organization started, back around 1993. I know Crea is also a record-holder of this space so she'll kind of chime in, too, to help support me with this process.
So the organization started around 1993. A woman, Rachel Pfeiffer, she had came in and she was doing her dissertation. Is anybody in college in here? I'm starting out, too. I'm a late bloomer. So she was coming to do a study on women that were living and working and surviving every day in San Francisco.
So San Francisco, just to give you a little bit of history right now that's going on in San Francisco is, it's one of the most expensive places in the country to live. There's a lot of gentrification that happens. And, back then - but one thing, the history of San Francisco is really interesting, because it's always been a place of refuge for a lot of people. People have been able to come out there and live out their lives, you know, and there's almost like this freedom that comes with San Francisco. And it's a melting pot of everybody that's in this space.
So going back to Rachel coming into this space. What she was doing is studying the women that were kind of living and surviving, right? And what she found out, right, is that these women were living and surviving every day, some of them on the streets and taking care of themselves. And one thing that she notices is that they were perfectly capable of leading this work too, right. And so it started off as a street health based outreach, right, they were doing outreach in the community. And eventually, she left the organization to a young woman, 19 years old, Lateefah Simon. And she went on to be the youngest executive director in the nation.
In the '90s, what was happening, there was like this youth movement that was kind of happening, right? And one thing that Lateefah, who holds the MacArthur Genius Award and was really pioneering in the work, she's an incredible person if you guys want to look her up, but there are many incredible women that have touched the organization.
So Lateefah Simon had came in, right, and one thing that she spoke about, which I was a young woman in juvenile hall, right, and coming out and they're kind of introducing this work. And she begins to talk about this crack generation, right. And then something that happened in the late '80s and early '90s is this war on drugs, right. And this was the beginning of also the mass incarceration. And we're looking already into three generations of mass incarceration at this point. But at that point, she was talking about the juvenile detention centers being flooded with young girls. And a lot of us were being raised by our aunts or our grandmothers and foster care. I went in at two years old so I was like, "wow, how's this lady know me? Right, like she's talking about my story here."
And so I connected with her on this level. And I began to get kind of interested into the work. So eventually, she led the work and other women in the organization. And eventually then Marlene Sanchez came in and she's also at this conference, too. And she led it for the next years. And one thing that these started to do was move from actually being out on the streets and doing street outreach, which we still do to this day, and Lucero will talk about a little bit later, is we went inside of the actual detentions and started meeting women and meeting them where they're at.
And so one thing that we have is we have a curriculum, it's called "Lift Us Up Don't Knock Us Down." And it's one of the core things that all of us have been able to do on the inside. And the curriculum was created by a few young women that were kind of involved in the system and they were like, "hey, there were all these things that I didn't understand through this court process of what was happening inside of my life." And so they kind of developed this curriculum that we use, right.
So the first part of the curriculum that we use is personal foundation. And so that's what we led with, our building spirituality and then we move into our values system. And then we do political education. And then we do self-advocacy. So we're not really going in there like we're gonna help you, we're gonna support you in navigating that process just like a lot of us have done ourselves. And we just kind of help to support and navigate that process and doing self-advocacy, know your rights, things like that.
So our mission is to empower and inspire young women that have been involved in the criminal justice system and/or underground street economy to create positive changes in the lives and community. So underground street economy can be anything from sex work to selling drugs to anything that people do as a, it can be work that you do under the table. Any of those things that you do to kind of take care of yourself. And so our core values are rooted in sisterhood, spirituality, social justice, and self-determination. So we are truly committed to that piece of self-determination.
A lot of times, with my involvement in the system, that there was these really evidence-based, all of this plans that were created for me, right. And at the end, maybe I wouldn't do them, right. And even to this day, a lot of people were like, "I made this great plan for them and nothing happened out of it." But what was the piece that was missing was my self-determination. What was it that drove me and what was it that moved me and my life? And so that's one thing that we really try and focus is that spirit piece of it, like, "where am I moving in my life? Where am I going?" And including that person in every piece of the process. This is their process.
So that's a little bit about the work that we do. And then I'm gonna pass it along.
Crea: I wanna say one thing that's really, is really important about the history. As we were doing street outreach and as we were going to conferences like this and one of the major factors of the organization is that you are system-involved. So just, tell me what are some systems, when you think of system-involved, what are some of the systems that you think of?
[inaudible 00:29:57] Welfare. [crosstalk 00:29:59] CPS.
Okay, so raise your hand if you've ever been impacted by any of those systems. Okay. So we're talking about young women that are involved in a system, right? Involved at two, right? Some of us involved later.
One of the important changes that happened, and why we became an organization of self-determination is because, as we were going to these conferences and speaking and doing street outreach, we started to interact with the very systems that were locking us up, right? We started to interact with these systems and actually they were catching us up. They were taking our young women from the streets as we were doing street outreach. And so we had to figure out, we're providing employment to these young women, but how do we keep them safe? Especially while they're in a place of trying to change their lives.
And so we had to, because we're so youth-driven, we're driven by our members, one of the things that we had to start figuring out was how to start advocating for ourselves. And so advocacy, as Julia said, is a major component of our organization, but it's actually a major component out of our own necessity. So we had to teach ourselves how to do court advocacy. There were no manuals. There was, you know, we had a few good people. Patty Lee, who's a juvenile public defender. Kay Min, you know, we would invite people in and just say, "teach us what you know. We have a young woman that's locked up. We have a young woman that just went to a group home. We have a young woman that is being told she's getting shipped to another state. What can we do to keep her here?"
And we literally, lots of people remember the first innovation of the center being these three or four girls in these really horrible, rough suits you know, Marshalls. You know, cheap $20 suits, in a room full of - I have $20 suits still - in a room full of lawyers and advocates at juvenile hall and they'd say, "how old are you? Why are you here?" And we were literally there to say, "we're coming to get our sister."
So that's a major component of the shift between us being a health-based organization to an organization that started to work and advocate on behalf of our sisters, is that the dynamics of the young women that we were serving started to change. So it's a major, I wanted to make sure that we said that just because, as we start to talk about, and this is a really interactive, like I want you to know what you're experiencing right now is very similar to what we do at the center. And so it's a major component of a lot of the things that you're gonna hear in this session.
Julia: Thank you. Thank you so much.
KI: As I said before, I really don't like doing the mic thing, but I'm KI and I'm a program coordinator at the Young Woman's Freedom Center, formally and originally the Center for Young Women's Development. I'm just gonna dialogue about, and if you have questions or comments, feel free to pop out, you know? Say it.
So I'm 27 and I'm just gonna talk about, have dialogue about the tools of what the center provides and why we stand in our power, why we're here, what's the purpose of our power, how did we get our power. One thing I know for sure about the center, we provide - let me just say this, we don't give chances, we give opportunities. And so it's more than an org, it's a family, it's a sisterhood. And I wasn't given a chance, I was given the opportunity to build up my experience of a program coordinator. And as a, maybe a future mentor, but down the line, I see myself as a healer as well.
And so I'm the program coordinator for Sister Rising. And Sister Rising is a 15 week program that all members, which are seven right now, they're community organizers. And the tools that we gain with them, we don't just teach them, like, we're teaching and learning with them as they teach us, it's vice versa. And so we do community outreach. We do, right now we're gonna be introducing social biography. Education of practice of freedom is huge with us, for us. It's our methodology at the center.
What gives us the power to stand in it is the opportunity that was given to us at the center. It don't matter if you're black, purple, blue, whatever. Probation, parole, you know, single moms, foster care, like we take all system folks that been in all kinds of systems. And we come together and we bring that diversity and we go hard and we fight. And we come to things like this and we share. And we just, this is our church. This is what we call church for us. How we gonna move this movement and I just wanna continue the energy we had that was set this morning from when our indigenous people set that tone this morning. And just throughout this whole conference, and as individuals, how we gonna carry out and go back home, wherever home is and lead.
Because I still have that youth in me and I'm fresh out the youth population, I still can relate to young people in a way, cause I'm fresh out, you know what I'm sayin'? But what I'm sayin' is my purpose of standin', like I can tell you why I stand in my power is because I got tired throughout my adolescence. I got tired of being played by these systems. So whoever's in this circle that are allies or teachers, just know listening is good for our young people. It is a key that we have to do and, if say you ain't never lived in the projects and you know you ain't never been through no system, I think the best tool to do that the center provides is love. Unconditionally. We love unconditionally. Period.
And one of our tools that I love at the center, we do liberation pedagogy, which is every Friday. And each of our directors has the opportunity to host it or teach us younger folks. And then, initially, we step up and do the same thing. So that's a little bit about some of the tools, if Crea wanna chime on or any of the folks from the center that are here.
Crea: So, KI is being really modest right now. KI, can you talk about ... so Sister's Rising is actually one of our major components for leadership development.
KI: Oh, okay.
Crea: So can you talk about the four components of Sister's-
KI: So we call it "The Four S's": sister skill, sister love, sister justice, and ... I feel like I'm missing one.
Crea: Sister love ...
KI: I have a brain fart, excuse me.
Crea: Sister justice. Sister skill.
KI: Sister determination. Isn't it?
Crea: I think it, self-determination.
KI: It actually is. Sister determination, sister love, sister skill, and sister just-
Crea: Sister forward.
KI: Oh, sister forward. And sister forward is an important part of our four s's, is because you're ... the basics of life that we introduce, like, how is it to learn how to be computer savvy, do administrative tasks? Or how to prepare for an interview?
Crea: How to be on time.
KI: How to be punctual is something huge right now, that we are working together. Even here at the conference. And that's an important piece, but also sister love, and that's what sister four covers. And also just embedding and improving as individuals that are in Sister Rising. We're proving in reading, proving in public speaking, just growth, you know. Coming out of your shell, sharing your story, is what Sister Forward is.
And also, too, sister love. We talk about, it sounds so, like, peaceful, right? But really, we get down about, what is trauma, what does trauma look like for us, and how do we start the healing path for our trauma that was cause for us ... And Sister Love also introduces folk that don't know their roots, ancestry, ancestors, things like that. That's what we provide as a whole for Sister Love. Going out and touching base with earth, knowing how to communicate naturally without phones, things like that, you know connecting as human beings. I noticed that we're losing, as a human race, we are totally caught up on Instagram, woo. Okay. And things like that, life is boomin' right now, we're just movin'.
And so Sister Love slows us down. And those are our Thursdays. And we just come in, circle just like this, breathing. We call in our ancestors, we sage you up, I call it sage you up. We just bounce off each other, our energies.
And then for sister skill, sister skill is an important tool because a lot of us don't have the tools that we need, such as signin' up for college, things like that. Knowing our rights, you know. It's important for our young people to know our rights, our young women and girls to know our rights. Introducing those kids of things. And we learn about, what is community organizing? Which is sister justice. Why am I a community organizer? How can I turn my experience into leading to work for our young people, or our people period. And is this my purpose? It's like, folks finding their pathway, introducing something that should've been done, that should've been our first set of mind frame from the get-go than what is happening now.
I think, sister justice, right? I covered it all? Right. So, those ... and also, this is our 25th cohort of Sister Rising. It's a big thing. I'm also new in this role, so that's why I say we don't give chances. They give us the opportunity to step int our leadership. We are a leadership and advocacy organization. Everything that my colleagues, my big sister said, is true. You better call your lawyer because you need to know this stuff. Don't just have your PO do it for you, you do it yourself.
So that's one thing I like, I love about this place. And I know that's a goal that will be knowledgeable across the globe. Self-advocacy is best, it is important. And this is what we provide, leadership and advocacy. Thank you.
I think we're gonna be -
Julia: Can I put in just a little bit more?
KI: Yeah, go ahead.
Julia: What KI's talking about is one of the core pieces of it, right. We are bringing the most marginalized people, right, the most marginalized women and girls, and we are bringing them to this center to lead this work. And I think that is something that is so unique about it, right. I mean, I was outreached to inside a juvenile hall, you know, that's where they got me at. Some of us are on street outreach and we're actually coming to the center to kind of go into this almost boot camp of, like, how do we -
Julia: Meet our own people. And then we're never learning something, we're not only just learning stuff for ourselves, we're also learning to teach it to the next person that comes through the door. So just like I was in a position of the program coordinator, I could never believe it. A lot of organizations, I'm one of the directors at the organization now. I literally came in through juvenile hall. I know Crea was one of the first employees hired out of juvenile hall. We are very true to bringing the women that are the most marginalized to lead, so we need those opportunities to be able to grow and make mistakes, too. Those are important parts, mistakes are important parts of our learning and our growth. And it's okay, we still move forward.
And let me just see what's on the next? Yes, please.
Amica: Oh I just wanted to chime in about the, to also add this piece of it, that Sisters Rising is, it's also a paid employment opportunity. So that is a huge component, right, is that folks are coming in and they're getting trained up, but they're getting the ability to do that by being able to hold work, right. And so economic opportunity is also one of the key pieces of opportunity, right, is that we compete with the streets survival level and so I just wanted to put that out there, that it's also a paid position.
KI: Thank you, Amica.
Crea: Yeah and the organization, it is one of the principals is that we're, you know, if we're gonna take young women out, or empower them to move beyond the current situation that's causing them survival, that they're surviving on, we have to be able to compete with the underground street economy. So currently, we pay $15 an hour for young women in the highest, most expensive city in the world right now. We know that that's not necessarily, it is a living wage, but we're looking to increase that really soon.
When I first started, I'm the first young woman that has gone through the organization. We are 25 years old. When the organization started in '93, San Francisco's minimum wage was $4.25. I was getting paid $8.50 to actually go, learn, and do street outreach. So just to show you the comparison of how a lot of organizations work, they'll get the money from the department of children youth and families, wherever your city is at, and provide a very baseline. Because we're working with a high population, we need to be able to compete with whatever it is they go out there and they do to survive.
Another major component that I just want to talk about real quick and KI mentioned it before we move on to the organizing piece, is the social biographies. So who's ever heard of Paulo Freire? He's kind of like the grandfather of the center, I'll say that. Paulo Freire is the creator-
KI: He's my grandpa.
Crea: Right, he's my grandpa, too. Paulo Freire created a popular education model and a lot of people know him from his book, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed." The center actually builds our model off of this model.
We often talk, it's one of the first things the young women do when they come in is, very similarly to the way that we asked you about your ancestors, we know and we believe that, in order for you to move forward in your life, you have to know where you come from. It's a major piece of how we root ourselves in our work and remember why we're fighting, but it's also a major piece of that spiritual practice and that sisterhood that our ancestors often did similar circles, right, as Julia said. But also, in order for us to build strength, we have be able to connect to those higher powers that push us forward, especially cause we know that oftentimes, it just doesn't come over night, right? It's not like you get a job and then you're like, "oh, cool, I'm out the system." And so to be able to connect to that.
So one of the things we often talk about at the center is that you are an expert of your own experience. Which means, if you're an expert of your own experience, this also means that you are your own best advocate. You're your own best teacher and you know better than anybody what it is that you need for yourself to be able to get out of your situations.
We've noticed that young women will come in, they'll tell us about 70% of what's actually going on in their life, right, when the reality is that, the 30% that they don't talk about is actually what continuously keeps them in that circle, often trauma, right. Often decisions about survival that they have to make on a constant daily basis, right. So in order for us to be able to get them to move beyond their experience, they have to stop looking at us as experts and start to look at themselves as experts. So this is a major component of the programming.
Sister's Rising, as our leadership development and really the core of our organization, we started off as just Sister's Rising. So when the organization started, it was eight young women and it was just an employment program. It has grown out of necessity into an advocacy and organizing organization. And I'll talk a little bit about the history before we go on to where we're currently at.
In terms of getting to that place, Sister's Rising, as our leadership development component, every one in the organization has the opportunity to either move up in leadership outside of the organization, right. So moving on to another organization and using the skills that you learned at the center. Or to actually move up through the program. Sister's Rising alum and staff and interns, can you raise your hand? If you've been through the program. So I want you to see that these are women that actually went through Sister's Rising and now they are:
KI: I am a resource organizer.
Crea: What are you?
Lucero: Oh, I was part of the Young Mother's United. It's a program for teen moms who bring their kids as well as a paid program as well. And we're able to advocate for other teen moms.
Julia: I'm Young Mother's United, too.
Britney: I'm Young Mother's United, then the Sister's Rising.
Jessie: I'm Sister's Rising and I plan to move on up the ladder, so ...
KI: I'm from Sister's Circle, which is now AKA Freedom Circle.
Crea: So we didn't talk about the other components, but we do have Young Mother's United, again, out of necessity. We realized that a lot of the young women that were coming to the center were young mothers. And so we realized that, just like them, they were also, as mothers, having their kids involved in the system. We know that once you're criminalized, right, you're always criminalized, unfortunately. And so we created a component that actually taught women how to support them during their reunification process, if they were incarcerated, or be able to support them if they had CPS currently involved.
And so the Young Mother's United program is actually certified to do parenting groups that are certified with our local CPS programming in San Francisco. A process that our young women did on their own. They said, "if we're gonna do these classes, it needs to mean something."
And Freedom Circle, Sister's Circle, we have different levels at the center about how we engage young women. We know that street outreach is our first, right. We're trying to connect with them on this one-on-one basis, letting them know that we can relate to them, that there are opportunities out there. Oftentimes it takes a couple times before a young woman is actually like, "okay, you cool," right. But we do invite them into the doors and one of the ways that we do that is through our Freedom Circles.
Our Freedom Circles are really spaces for them to get to know the center, but to also start talking about the trauma that they're experiencing. And getting some of those baseline skills in order to be able to do that advocacy. We also- Yes.
Audience: The parenting classes, what kind of curriculum?
Crea: We actually developed our own. And so a lot of the things about the center is, we're talking about young women who don't have connections to many people like you unless they're coming to these conferences. And, at first, we didn't. And so the young women actually looked at other curriculums and kind of picked and choose what it was that they were like, "we can use this. This doesn't make too much sense." Or they thought about it and they were like, "actually, what we really need is we need something that talks about dual diagnosing," right? Or "we need something that talks about, what's reunification look like when you're incarcerated," right? Or how to make a plan for that. Or how do I start, what goes into a letter?
And so we actually have a curriculum called, "My Life Chose Me." And it's a curriculum that was created specifically for Young Mothers United. We're currently in the process of trying to get these curriculum certified so that we can actually provide them inside. "Lift Us Up Don't Knock Us Down," actually, we do in other detention centers. It's our other curriculum.
The curriculum is really founded, similarly, on the four main components of Sister's Rising. And then Sister's Rising has its own curriculum as well. So there's multiple curriculums but they all speak to the different programming that we do.
And so, yeah?
KI: Did you mention all the programs we have yet?
Crea: No, you wanna do that?
KI: Someone had a question over here.
Julia: Yeah, question?
Audience: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about your street outreach, the canvas of it. How often do you do it? What percentage of the time, where you go, that sort of thing.
Speaker 34: So, like, basically, when we do outreach, it's for events. Sorry, I'm gonna take off my hoodie. It's for, like, when we have events, when we have, basically doing outreach for, like we have [inaudible 00:52:50] Coalition where we have outreach. Like we just opened up a five keys charter school inside our job, so also girls, they come to the programs, they can also get their GED or high school diploma while they're working, too. We just outreach for just like all of our programs, events we have coming up. Stuff we want girls to be involved in. We always for a lot of stuff, and basically, oh well go ahead. You can-
KI: Are you sure? The hardcore part of outreach as well as street outreach versus outreach in the orgs, outreaching to probation or something, outreaching to government assistance offices. We go through a critical week of training and constantly it just becomes a practice. We do role plays. Something to where, like, we do it uncomfortable to get comfortable. So we actually enact folks that are, single moms, carrying their babies, and how do we get their attention. How do we spark that little spark. And not everyone we outreach to we're gonna see, right, that would maybe come. So we double it. Or is it three times? So say we wanna outreach to 100, we're gonna make it 300. Because it's better to have more.
And outreach is a huge key of our organization as well. It's not just a number thing. It's our purpose of why we need to reach out to our young women. And Lucie's actually the one that's gonna talk about the outreach.
Lucero: The outreach, for me when I outreach, is meeting them where they're at. Like, their home, in the neighborhood, in their school, in their jobs, in the streets, at GA, at the welfare, if they're trying to get a job, we're out there, outreach. Meeting them where they're at. Even if they're just kickin' it on the corner, how can we get them to come to these events and learn and for us to teach them and them teaching us as well. So it's just meeting them where they're at.
Audience: At what point, so you do all this outreach and you're engaging them and then, at some point they start coming into the program. So they sign up for the different, like Young Mothers United, and then, do they start getting paid when they participate in the group or like how does that work?
Speaker 34: So when they come, so we have, how many programs? We have Freedom Circle, which changed from Sister's Circle to Freedom Circle. We have Young Mothers United, those are paid stipends. So usually before it would be twice a week, it would be Tuesdays and Thursdays, they come in at 6 o'clock, or is it 5 and ends at 8, or it's like an hour and a half long. And the next time they come, like that Thursday, they would get a $50 check. So basically, it's like a stipend.
But then Sister's Rising, you get paid the whole $15 an hour, so it's like an actual job.
Crea: [inaudible 00:55:42] they get hired.
Speaker 34: Like me? Or like ...
Crea: Yeah, like how do women get hired?
Speaker 34: Oh ... should I say, like, my own personal ... all right, so I came there when I was 16 and I was pregnant. And I'm 18 now. I came there and I was through Young Mothers United, like I had no support, I just got out of a group home. I was in foster care for five years, I was getting bumped around all over the Bay Area. And finally got back with my dad and I was just like, I didn't know what the hell to do. My dad's like, "all this shit's happening to you" and he's like, "how the fuck do I-" excuse me, he's like, "how do I deal with you? Like, you're just like ..." And I'm like, "dad, like, you did this to me." But then that's not really, like, my dad's just like the system, you know what I mean? Just like all of the things I was going through.
And then so then I got pregnant and I'm just like, "I don't know what to do, like I have no money, my dad's not gonna help me. He can't even help himself." Then it's like, my case manager through my school, it was a pregnancy school, they told me about the center. And then I was like, "oh man, hell, I need some shoes for school." So I was like, they had this little paid stipend thing. I was like, "okay, so if I go for a week or two weeks, I'll have the $100, I can get my little boots, right." And I was like, "okay, I'm gonna go."
So I went there and I met other teen moms and I was like, "what? This is crazy." I was like, "I'm going through the same thing." I'm trying to get on MediCal, but I can't even get MediCal or get medical to cover myself because I'm not old enough and my dad can't do it because they say my dad makes too much money when my dad barely makes minimum wage. So it's like he can't even take care of himself.
I was in that program and I just started getting hella-engaged and I started talking about, I started learning about CPS prevention. I started learning how to advocate for myself so I felt like-
Julia: She was writing grants.
Speaker 34: Yeah.
Julia: She was writing grants, too.
Speaker 34: And so I started doing all this stuff, you know. And I'm like, I'm scared, you know, cause when I see CPS, I'm scared. I'm like, "you're trying to take my son, you're trying to do something." Cause, you know, it's just that form of fear that I'm so used to that when they're supposed to be there to help you. But then it's like learning that they're supposed to be there to help you and work for you. So I feel like that helped me a lot and I just stared getting hella-engaged and hella-inspired. Like, this is where I need to be, this is my purpose. And I felt like, if I didn't come there, I don't know where I would be right now. You know what I mean? I've met my sisters along the way and I love y'all so much. It feels like a family, like we built our own family.
And then so I started getting really engaged in that. And then I went to the Sisters Rising internship. So, I'm like, what, eight months pregnant. I'm working full-term, but I liked it, you know, and it was easy, like I could bring my son with me. Eventually I had my son. He eight months now and, like, I still bring him to the center. And he would come with me to work every day to the internship. And I just started learning about all this stuff. And I started doing public speaking. I started writing grants. I started getting hella-engaged and I feel like they seen something in me and was just like, "we want you to work here with the higher staff."
So I work with the higher staff now and I'm 18 now. And I feel like my leadership is still growing, but I feel like it also could be, like, go down to the next generation for the girl, but it's also self-determination, you know what I mean? Because we're here to help you, but you gotta want the help, you know. But yeah, that's my story.
Crea: I didn't know that's how you got to the center. So, KI, do you wanna talk about how young women get hired at Sister's Rising because I think that's the piece that folks wanna-
KI: So, Amica was the program coordinator but then passed it down to me and Shai. Shai's actually in another workshop, who is the program associate. And the hiring decision was based out on outreach. And mainly direct with how Lucero broke it down, exactly what we do. And even by district, like, who's gonna go to what district. We actually go and meet our people where they're at. So that's Tenderloin, Filmo, HP, Mission.
And how the hiring process worked is, we did it. Junior staff did it. So we made this decision on hiring, on how it would happen. Such as first interviews with two of junior staffs, and then there's a second interview, it's a panel interview, with one of the directors or sometimes maybe not. It was just mainly of junior staff. More minds matter so more opinions or comments on how we take the individual that apply for the job. And how we looked at it was, one of the things that I liked was, people's needs was what we looked at first. That's what matter first. It's not about who knows more and who we think that's a leader already or who may benefit the center more. We looked at folks at their barriers and what the needs needed to be met.
There is two moms that are a part of Sister Rising. And they are allowed to bring their babies to work. And, as initially, it's not put into the curriculum where, like, everybody watch the baby. Everyone does it naturally. And it's with care and it's with love. And even those who don't really talk out popped out. That kinda rhymed. Also, like, got out of their shell and now are like boomin' and movin', so we do have SR folks here. Jocelyn is also a Sister Rising intern right now. There's two more that are in the workshops.
But the hiring process was really, really crucial. We wanted to take everybody. And we know, and one thing I'm learning at the center, we cannot save everybody. But what we can do, is we can bring you back, sister. We can keep telling you like, "we hear, we hear. We hear." And also sparking something in them and sharing with them, there's other orgs in about Frisco, too, in the Bay Area. It's going, what I notice and what I'm observing is that, all the orgs are going to work together.
Cause, as I was growing up, it always was a case management thing. And what I learned at the center, we are more of a care management. We don't sit there and do, like, "so what are you feelin' like today," you know, all of that. We let you speak, we let you scream. Go to another room and scream real quick. Go downstairs and get some air, go smoke a cigarette or something. Come back. Go for a walk.
But for the Sister Rising hiring, to get back to that. It was really hard to vote on who we wanted.
Crea: What were some of the questions you guys ask in your interviews, cause I think those are really important to the process.
KI: Yeah, one of the first question was, you know, "tell us about yourself. Why do you want this position?" And the answers was simple. One young person was like, "I need some money. What you got." I looked up at her and I said, "okay, girl. You need some money. I feel that." You know, and I was just like, you know, I debrief and whoever that was with me, I'm like, "she need some money. Like, she real." You know?
And one of the questions was, "what are you passionate about?" One girl said, "life." I said, "you know what, you go ahead girl. That's what I'm talkin' bout!" And that's all she had and we took it. And we took it like that. And so we're just like, you know, they don't have to tell us a whole story about themselves. They was just like, "I'm gonna keep it 100 with you." And so that's why our senior staff, our bigger sisters, this is the levels of letting youth lead into young adults into growing to be big sisters and elders and so forth or wherever it is that we're gonna go on our path.
And one of the other questions was, we just do it, can I say scenarios? The second - so those were questions from the first interviews. And the second questions for the panels interviews, we did scenarios. Like, you being a community organizer. And being a community organizer, it's important to have the tools of an outreach worker as well. And one of the scenarios was, you're on outreach with three people and you have outreach from four to seven. And it sounds late to you guys, it's because those are the peak hours of when things are going down, folks are getting arrested, people are on the block sellin' dope.
Julia: Getting out of school.
KI: People are, you know, getting in trouble, getting caught. So the center hours, you have outreach from four to seven. One of the colleagues are like, "yo, let's hit the corner, let's go smoke some weed." What do you do?
They kept it real. Some people said, "Imma go smoke. And them Imma go back to work. And Imma clock out." And I said, "dang. All right, cool." And one of those girls is hired. And guess what, she's improving and she's boomin'. And we didn't judge her for what her answer was. And I love that about her. Cause she's still fightin' through it and she's gonna continue to fight.
And some people is like, "oh, I'm not gonna smoke. I'm not gonna smoke. I'm just gonna be like, 'you can't do that.'" You know, so-
Crea: They didn't get hired.
KI: It is what it is, but like, whoever got programmed, just know it's best to connect with the people, the young women and girls that, when you're doing a program or you're doing hiring. I just wanted to give you all a little bit about how we do our hiring process. So we don't judge people. So I'm gonna pass it to Julia.
Julia: Wanna add in one more thing. A lot of the work, like we said too, was doing the detention work. So inside a juvenile hall, inside the adult facilities, too. And one of the things that we did was actually give people the opportunity to apply within, on the inside, that would be possibly getting out within the timeframe of when the cohort would start. So there was actual interviews that happened on the inside, inside of the jails. So people writing to filling out applications, getting the resumes, and getting the-
Audience: What kind of work do you do with the young women inside the facilities?
Julia: So we do the "Lift Us Up, Don't Knock Us Down" curriculum. We do similar circles just like this. We throw it in a circle, we-
Lucero: We talk about stereotypes, we talk about oppression, we talk about what is power, what do you think what power is to you. The difference of power, like police, the people you hire, attorney, capitalism and all that. We talk about knowing your roots, knowing your rights. Definitely knowing your rights. What's your rights when you are in jail. What are the things that you need help in there and what do you need help in court. What do you need in court. Letters, advocacy, do you need us to be there to advocate for you and sit down with your attorney so you can understand more of what's going on.
Julia: Yeah. And we're paid to do 11-25, but we open it all the way up to 34. Because we're actually looking at that transitional age, young adult as well. But it could be any of those ages inside.
Audience: It's co-ed?
Julia: No, well it's transgender, non-conforming ...
Audience: How many young people are in the cohort, in the Sister Rising?
Crea: KI just stepped out. There's currently seven? So there's seven. So something really important about that is this week we only have three young women that came. That wasn't because anybody did anything wrong, it's literally because we take the most marginalized, right. We work really hard to talk to probation officers, to talk to drug court advocates. And unfortunately, we had a number of young women who could not come because of their status, their hater probation officers who wouldn't give them clearance to step out of county or out of state lines.
But this is one of the things that we have to face as an organization that's made a commitment to this population. So we have three young women here now, but the cohort can be anywhere between three to eight people. We have had as big as 12 and we do two cohorts a year. So we, right now we're in Sisters Rising, this will end in December and then, come January or February, we start Young Mothers United. And then we'll go back and in the spring, we'll have another group of Sisters Rising.
KI: Did we say the age?
Crea: Oh, no.
KI: Oh, the age is 16-25.
Julia: I thought it was 14.
Audience: How many women have you actually had come from being incarcerated [inaudible 01:08:32]?
Julia: It's 500.
Crea: I think almost everybody.
KI: [inaudible 01:08:38] the other systems that they're involved with, incarceration, prosecutors, or homeless, or, you know. They have all those additional areas.
Julia: And we've employed over 500 women. So with the 25 years of, I mean, yeah, the 25 cohorts of -
Crea: So I'm one of the first young women to ever go through the program.
Crea: Yeah. And women, we have women all over the world that have gone through Sisters Rising. We have lawyers, we have doctors, we have politicians. Lateefa Simon is currently serving as the BART board of directors in the Bay Area. She's also a region for our California State University system. We have doctors that are currently in Cuba right now. Reverend Barnes is trying to help folks, oh sorry, Puerto Rico, that are currently helping with the state of Puerto Rico. We have-
Crea: We have writers, we have Harvard graduates. We send girls to school. I actually was one of the lucky young women to receive a grant when I was at the center from the Ms Foundation to be able to go off to Fresno State. So the center really does provide, as KI said, opportunities. It's one of the things that I think makes our program so special.
Lucero: I'm a research organizer there and my colleagues, Liana, we got certified to be a research organizer. We got our RRBs to do interviews for women who's been impacted by any system, jail, prison, welfare, and we're doing a research project for five years within different five counties. And interviewing women that's been impacted, like, what's the common, what didn't work and what worked. How can we come up with these recommendations and go up to probation and say, "what you're givin' out is not working."
And we interviewed 200, 150 women, and they said this is what they need. And these are the common things that are not working and working. So how can we work together to help these women out and get them where they need to be. Instead of giving them something and you're not meeting their criteria. Half of the time, when I was on parole, they didn't meet my criteria. They kept telling me, "do this, do that." And then I gotta go back around do it another cycle and then going back in cause they're not meeting what I need. So it's like, how can we help these women out? How can we interview ourselves as a young person and get at them from the streets and get their stories?
Audience: [inaudible 01:11:04]
Crea: You cannot.
Audience: [inaudible 01:11:16] I'm really glad you mentioned that, because I was gonna ask about curriculum, because I think that there's so much knowledge in people with lived experience. But a lot of times, like when you were talking about putting together your own curriculum and kind of cherry picking from various things, a lot of times, those programs don't get funded because they aren't evidence-based because they don't do research. And so I was wondering how you were able to navigate some of that.
Julia: We are getting the evidence.
Audience: And how you put together where we, hopefully, in this room know that's where all the knowledge is, but that's not where people who are holding the purse strings like for grants and contracts and stuff. So how you navigated that.
Julia: There was a lot of advisors that went into the curriculum, per se, like lawyers and have looked over the curriculum, and it's actually in the process of being evidence-based. Because now, as Sarah, the gentrification has happened in San Francisco, we're actually studying the migrating patterns of young girls, how they're kind of moving throughout the regions. And so we are having to definitely spread throughout the regions and now we have to take the curriculums to other detention centers, group homes, any of those places. We need to duplicate it, replicating the Sisters Rising program. So that's our hopes to be able to take this on, even nationally, to be able to show this model in other places.
Because, as we move out of San Francisco, we're almost going 20 years back in time in how people serve young women and girls and gender non-conforming.
Audience: [inaudible 01:12:49]
Julia: So we are funded, one of our major ride or die funders is the Department of Children, Youth, and Family. We don't take really the grants that kind of restrict us in certain areas. But when people that have come on to fund us, is NOVO has come on to fund us. And Akonadi Foundation, we got a, you know we got a couple people that are placed throughout these foundations now that actually were Sisters Rising and part of the organizations now placed at different-
Crea: We only have a little bit of time and I actually want to get through Lucero. Before I introduce Lucero or have Lucero talk, I want to talk a little bit about us being an organizing organization, which is actually tied to our funding. So most programs like Sisters Rising and the Young Woman's Freedom Center and other parts of the country would actually get the majority of their funding from a probation department as part of their alternative to detention programing. The center intentionally does not get money from probation even though we've been asked a number of times if we want to apply for that funding. And that's a very strategic decision that we've made as a collective, because we actually organize against the system.
And so we do community organizing, we're currently kicking off, we just started a coalition. But organizing is a key component to the work we do because we know that, as much as we help young women and we help young women to be determined, there's this real big ugly monster called the system that's gonna continuously swallow our young women up. And so, it's two-prong, right. We are helping young women and we talk about it, like, this is the Frederick Douglas and this is the Harriet Tubman, right. The center is the Harriet Tubman. We are going, we are an underground railroad. We are getting young women out of the system. But we also have to be like Frederick Douglas and we've gotta tear down systems and we've gotta bump heads with them.
And so, in order for us to do that, we have to be community organizers and we have to challenge the system to get better and hold themselves accountable. So we recently had a convening called Sister Warriors. We just had an article in Teen Vogue drop yesterday about that convening where Lucero will talk about what happened at Sister Warriors.
Lucero: So we outreach and we got about 200, 300 women. And they came to the Young Women's Freedom Coalition and we talked about different systems, how you've been impacted and how can we help the women and come up with a bill of rights. How can we draft bills. What do they need when they're in there, anybody. So we got all these women from programs, from different states, from different cities, and we got together. We did peeling, we did massage, we did self-care, but we also spoke about what's needed. How can we come up with these bills and draft them and how can we change laws? Cause sometimes we go to Sacramento and we do legislation and we do, to the capital, and we see how they pass bills and how can we come up with our own to help the women out.
Crea: So, out of that convening, there was a lot of intentionality about how to get system-involved women there. Lucero, can you talk a little bit about the outreach process, where you guys outreached to, how young women came.
Lucero: We outreached all over San Francisco, we did some of Oakland. We did it in the jails, we did it in the juvenile hall. This was for women from any age, from there was a 12 year old in there to like 60-something years old
KI: She was leading a workshop. She was leading.
Lucero: She was leading a workshop, the 12 year old. So, what was the question?
Crea: So what were some of the methods that you used to organize the women?
Lucero: The methods was meeting them where they're at, going to neighborhoods, speaking to them, letting them know that we are formerly incarcerated ourselves. Like, we are a part of the system. And we wanna just get you together so we can come as sisters and come up with ideas and put all of our thoughts in there. And we are in schools, we went to Hilltop, it was a teen mom pregnancy school. We went to the GA office. We went to some jobs like career to help you get jobs. So pretty much-
KI: And we hit, can I add, just real quick? We also hit rehabilitation programs, such as FOTEP. Folks coming out of prison, we went straight there and just briefed them about what is out here for y'all and why is it important that you should be here.
Audience: So you went, you talked to the establishment, you went inside and you talked to, you weren't on the outside trying to get women coming in, right?
Crea: It was a little bit of both.
Julia: It was both, yeah.
Audience: [crosstalk 01:17:49] organizing, too.
Julia: Both, yeah.
Crea: Both, yeah. I think one of the major components is that we knew already, when we went to places like FOTEP, we kind of strategized around, what is gonna be the barrier, right. What are they gonna tell us that's gonna say, "no, we can't have these young women go." We knew transportation was gonna be an issue. "I'm sorry, we don't have a van. We can't bring seven women there." We knew that one of the barriers was gonna be childcare. We knew one of the barriers was just gonna be trauma. We provided a healing center at the Sisters Warriors, we provided transportation. I think we spent half a day going to all of the organizations, providing BART tickets and bus tokens. We organized Ubers to get young women all the way out from Hayward. We made sure that folks went in groups. If you had to meet at a BART station, to do that.
Julia: Public transportation. Public transportation is BART.
Crea: Oh yeah. BART transportation, I forgot, we're not in the Bay.
Julia: Yeah, we're not in the Bay.
Crea: Yeah, so we very strategical thought about some of those barriers and what it was gonna take in order to bring women to this space. And then we also did a lot of clearance, we knew if we were bringing in women from these reentry programs, that we were gonna have to clear it with the staff. So being able to make the connections with the staff. Some were friendly, some were not.
Julia: Some of them we came out of. So we were coming back and being like, "can we bring people out of those spaces?"
Crea: Or finding key people that were leaders in those organizations to be able to do the organizing for us and bring a group of young women. The other thing I think was really important is we also, Lucero did outreach to domestic violence organizations and shelters. And so we actually couldn't know the location of those places but coordinated with the administrators of that program to be able to get their young women there.
Even in our registry, confidentiality was a big thing. And so even as we registered amongst the organizations, we made sure not to put people's names if that was gonna- I mean, you don't know, it's the Trump era, right. You don't know who's looking at your stuff. So making sure that people signed up via program with their first name if they didn't wanna give other information was super important to us. Being able to make sure that we knew that some women were navigating really horrible situations, so just being able to get that private Lyft or other things to be able to get them there was-
Julia: Childcare was-
Crea: Yeah. And there was tons of food.
Lucero: We also outreached in conferences. We even had the young girls being part of commissions and reentry counsel and, I'm part of the reentry counsel and I sit with the DA, the attorney, the lieutenant, and other organizations that are part of different communities. And I bring stuff for them to pass it down to other young women, women who they come in contact with. So we also have young people being part of those tables with big people.
Julia: Yeah, I serve with a human rights commission.
Lucero: It's like being on probation and you get off and now you're at the table with them and trying to help out the community.
Julia: I got one more, too. And then also one thing that we even went to do is people that couldn't be in the conference, inside of the jails, the questions that we were gonna ask inside of the conference, we actually asked those inside the jails and lockdown facilities first, so those were actually the conversation starters on the inside. As we brought them to the conference.
Crea: So a couple of things came-
Julia: And I just wanna call attention to-
Crea: Oh, I'm sorry.
Julia: It's 11:53 and this group is supposed to end at 12 o'clock, so I just wanted to acknowledge that. Go ahead.
Audience: So I just have a quick question. So I know a lot of people came with organizations or stuff like that, but I came by myself. And what I found is, a lot of organizations I don't, I'm not speaking about you guys because I really like what you guys are doing, but how do you start something, like some of the other organizations, you know, [inaudible 01:21:47] or are in the town that I'm in, they're part of the system. They're part of the problem that we have and they're the ones that are labeling the girls and people like me.
Julia: Can I just, oh go ahead-
Crea: No, go ahead.
Julia: I just wanna say that, if you, I think I understood the question that how can you start something is, there's actually young women that have come through the organization that have started their own. And it just started off with their pitch, is their pitch of, and actually having other mentors connecting with other mentors, and they were able to start their own non-profits. I'm talking about, from day one, street outreach, coming to the organization, still living in the shelters or whatever. You know, I've stayed in shelters and everything myself, too. And it was, you know what I'm saying, and all of a sudden your idea is just manifesting into the universe and it's really coming true.
Hold on, there's probably a lot of people at the-
Emily: No, I just wanted to speak on that, too. So I don't know if you're in an area that doesn't have any non-profits like the Young Women's Freedom Center that would hire the formerly incarcerated or engage you that's not part of a system, but one of the things that I've seen other folks do coming out of jail or prison in their own communities when they didn't have organizations that were existing were starting what we call Freedom Circles. So reaching out to the other young women in your area that have gone through what you've gone through and just start posting it at a café-
Lucero: Yeah, I've done it at my house.
Emily: Yeah, so circle up, start coming together.
Lucero: Reach out to women in Chapas.
Emily: That's right, and just reaching out to each other, you can start to form your own base in your own community of people that are going through what you're going through. And then help develop something, because it is hard to try to do it all on your own, but ...
Crea: And quite honestly, I think organizations are overrated. We're an organization, but the reality of it is that we oftentimes have to check other organizations that work with us. And so I think it's really important, one, that, if you're an organization or you want to start an organization, right. And I hear you, like a lot of these programs out here aren't necessarily doing what they say they do. And I think one of the first things is calling a meeting of those organizations. And being able to say what is everybody doing at the table and how are we helping our young women. These are things that we have to constantly have these conversations around.
I think, two, is not taking probation money. If at any point, you believe that you're gonna have to bump up against the system, being very particular about where your funding comes from and the obligations to that money is super important. So being able to say and make it a commitment to that. Which means sometimes struggling or not having an organization for awhile, right, just being an entity, a group, is super important.
I think the other thing that's really important about starting a group is finding like-minded people. Like we often think that, just because we're in a small town or we're in a place where we haven't heard of a lot of organizations, that there's not some grandma or mom who's serving young people in their community and trying to make sure that they've got what they need. And I think linking up with them is super important.
On the flip side of that, you know, probation doesn't do their job oftentimes. Sorry. Well, Pima County is actually very particular, Pima County has actually done a lot of work but for programs or people that want to start programs, I think shifting that money from probation to community-based organizations, oftentimes that money is actually going for them to create another program that isn't necessarily based in community or based in the roots of community. And so if you want some of the alternative to detention money, you can apply for it. And being able to create the programming that your community needs is super important.
Last thing, just please go check out the Teen Vogue piece. It has our, we created a unifying bill of rights for incarcerated and formerly system involved women. That bill of rights actually is a synthesized bill of rights, 13 points, that came from all of the information that we got from women at Sister Warriors, that convening. And the convening the 207 women that they were that they were the Young Women's Freedom Coalition of California. So together, we are working together to do three things, very particularly.
One, position ourselves in the state of California as leaders. So being able to speak on behalf of ourselves and our needs. Two, is going after and creating legislation and countering legislation that either targets us or actually can support us. And we want to find out allies out there in California. The third is being able to organize or align ourselves with other organizations that are doing organizing work. Our sister organization, Courage, is here. We just are partnering with Courage. We are doing two bills, one on anti-discrimination for LGBTQ-IQ, gender non-conforming youth in California state facilities.
And a couple of years ago, we actually created the Incarcerated Young Mother's Bill of Rights. We're actually taking that on a state level. So we actually are demanding, in the state of California, no woman in any incarceration facility or detention center is shackled, that they receive extra food, extra recreation, that they get to see their kids if they have children. And that's not just for women, that's for everyone, but we always take the woman perspective.
So if you are in the state of California, please feel free to come up to one of us, give us your info, especially if you're down for system-involved women. We would love for you to join our coalition.
Julia: And can I just add on -
Audience: [inaudible 01:27:46]
Crea: We don't because the printer here was broke.
Julia: Okay, so if you go onto Young Woman's Freedom Center on Facebook, you can get connected to us through that way. Instagram is the @young_women_free -
Lucero: We need to take the-[crosstalk 01:28:06]
Julia: Yeah, we do, but you know when someone take our name. We gotta figure out our old password for the other one. But yeah, so ... what's that? [crosstalk 01:28:18] Oh, go to Young Woman's Freedom Center on Facebook. And then the Instagram is @young_women_free, or you could just go to the Facebook one and it'll give you the link to the Instagram.
Crea: And our website is youngwomenfree.org.