I LOVE this project.
Through the multimedia arts, sexual health education, art therapy, and positive leadership development, Girl/Friends gives fifteen girls the unique opportunity to become social justice leaders in both their community and school.
While teenage girls are the most at-risk for sexual violence, they are less likely to press charges, seek medical treatment, or receive counseling than any other group. Girl/Friends is one response to this crisis, for we educate our students (30% of whom are sexual assault survivors) about their legal rights, while pairing them with mentors and working with local advocacy groups, like Planned Parenthood and Victims Rights Advocacy, to train them to become peer leaders and sexual health educators.
I first became familiar with Salamishah Tillet, co-founder of A Long Walk Home, the organization behind Girl/Friends, as a young organizer at NOW who was working to raise awareness about violence against women on college campuses. I was utilizing the film “No!: The Rape Documentary” as an educational tool. Salamishah’s moving, heart wrenching testimony is featured in a section of the film. Sal also spent a considerable amount of time co-writing the accompanying study guide to the film. This guide breaks down how violence in the African American community functions using the lens of intersectionality to deconstruct the film’s great work and provides a road map to having productive conversations about violence and to healing as a survivor.
Like Dororthy Roberts’ Killing the Black Body, her work in this project serves as a reference that I visit and revisit to deeper my understanding of how women of color are impacted by sexism and particularly violence. It’s clear to me that her Summer Institute is another extension of this work. In the spirit of not seeing those who have experienced violence as passive subjects, her project recognizes the agency of survivors and how the power of information about street harassment, rape kits and sexual assault laws can serve as a tool for survivors to resist against aggressors of violence. Finally, I just love how she incorporates artistic mediums such as dance, paintings and photography to give girls a place to channel the pain involved in growing up in a culture saturated with violence against women and girls.
They only have a little over 200 dollars left to raise until they meet their fundraising goal of 9,000 dollars. The money goes to providing girls a stipend while they attend the program. Support young feminists in the struggle against violence and check out the video of last year’s students here: