In creating A National Agenda for Black Girls, Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) partnered with seven non-profit organizations whose missions reflected our own: to tangibly improve the lives of Black girls in this country through substantive advocacy, policy and culture-shifting work. Youth participants from each of these organizations were then invited to join the NABG Youth Steering Committee. Now we want to take an opportunity to highlight these organizations with a series of interviews — read on to get to know Young Women’s Freedom Center (YWFC) better and learn how to support their work.
The Young Women’s Freedom Center interview is with Storm Green-Loe (pronouns she/her/hers) and Ifasina (Pronounced Ee-fa-shee-nuh) Clear (pronouns they/them/theirs). Storm is a Life Coach at the YWFC, working one-on-one with youth and setting goals, particularly in navigating systems, and is based out of Oakland. Ifasina is Deputy Director of YWFC’s state-wide initiative.
Young Women’s Freedom Center’s mission is to empower and inspire young women, girls and transgender and non-binary folks who have been involved with the juvenile justice system and/or the underground street economy to create positive change in their lives and communities.
NABG: Where are you all based?
Young Women’s Freedom Center is a statewide organization based in California. We’ve been in San Francisco for 26 years, but in the last 2–3 years have expanded and are now in Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles. We also have a coalition, Sister Warrior Freedom Coalition, which is also statewide and is the base-building arm of our work. This project reaches as far as Bakersfield up to the North Bay and has about 500 members.
NABG: How long have each of you been in this work?
Storm: I’ve been at Young Women’s Freedom Center for 2 years. I started as an admin, but was excited about the change being made in the community, and became increasingly involved.
Ifasina: I have been at the org 4 years. I have been in systems change/reform, decriminalization, and abolition for over 12 years. I started organizing and doing systems change work back in 2007 in Winston-Salem, NC.
NABG: How does the Young Women’s Freedom Center mission align with that of A National Agenda for Black Girls?
Ifasina: We see alignment with NABG’s focus on empowering those most impacted by systems of oppression and structural systems. Also, through the Education Justice policy priority the work of centering ending school pushout is very aligned with our work, because we focus mostly on leadership and advocacy and structural change at the intersection of gender.
Storm: We’re invested in structural change. NABG focuses on Black folks navigating and changing the systems that oppress them.
NABG: What NABG policy priorities do your Steering Committee members Terriana E. and Tenaya J. seem most engaged around?
Storm: I’d say they’re most interested in local voting access and getting folks to the polls (Expanding Democracy) and Education Justice.
Ifasina: Healing, Well-being and Reproductive Justice, Ending Gender-Based Violence — I know that sometimes the way we talk about gender-based violence and ending it is focused on interpersonal violence, but we also want to talk about state-sanctioned violence.
NABG: What other ways are Black girls and TGNC youth at the Young Women’s Freedom Center pursuing change?
Ifasina: We’re currently working on several policies* and have launched a 5-point 10 year plan called Freedom 2030. We launched this statewide campaign on March 9 with the goal of decriminalizing and decarcerating young women and girls and trans and nonbinary youth. We have five strategies for making this a possibility: impact litigation, building a base, having local initiatives and strategies that meet at the center of statewide work, policy-change work, and narrative shift. IN 2016, in collaboration with Sister Warriors, we created a 12 points Freedom Chartert, modeled after the South African Freedom Charter written in 1955 as a compass against racial apartheid.
*See end of interview for details
NABG: What are your hopes for the NABG project?
Storm: For myself and the youth, I want NABG and our work within the project to be able to shift the narratives being told about Black girls and to be able to bring ourselves to the table in our rawest, organic form.
Ifasina: My hope is that the voices of Black girls gain traction and that the ways that they are uniquely impacted by school pushout, sexual violence and inaccess to the democratic process are highlighted, resulting in real change across the country. The Young Women’s Freedom Center team in Oakland is trying to figure out how to get young folks voted into certain offices. They’re asking questions like “What commissions can young people sit on outside of youth advisory boards, which are important but also often function as an aside to the major work that is happening.” We’re prioritizing other offices and seats because we want young people at the table where major decisions are officially made. That’s my hope for the National Agenda as well, that young Black girls are able to shift how decisions are being made at a national level.
This is why we do narrative shift work — which is a lot of what NABG is — so that somebody who was pushed out of school or has experienced interpersonal violence is recognized as a leader and someone who brings something to the table. They should not be seen as someone who is moving with a deficit, but instead as someone who has unique and valuable knowledge. At Young Women’s Freedom Center, that is the leader we’re trying to coach and elevate.
Learn more about and support Young Women’s Freedom Center at https://www.youngwomenfree.org/.
Current Young Women’s Freedom Center Policy Work
YWFC is currently co-sponsoring the following bills in California:
1) SB555 — Reduce cost of phone calls and commissary
SB555 restricts the sheriff’s department from earning money off the backs of incarcerated peoples’ loved ones. This is an economic justice initiative that dispoporatiaintly affects Black women and girls as they are often the ones supporting incarcerated loved ones and the least supported when they are incarcerated themselves.
2) AB732 — Dignity for Pregnant Incarcerated Women
AB732 allows folks in both county jails and prisons to access the most basic natal care, prenatal care, doctors and nurses for services, as well as access to menstrual/hygiene products. It also restricts the shackling of pregnant people and solitary confinement for pregnant people.
3) SB315 — Dismissing backlogs of cases that have built up during COVID/pandemic
SB315 gives judges the option to dismiss mostly misdemeanor cases, which is particularly relevant to the work YWFC is doing locally in places like San Francisco and San Jose.
4) YWFC is active in a coalition to close the Department of Juvenile Justice in a way that does not cause further harm to youth that are juvenile justice-impacted.