Image by Julio Salgado

The Feministing Five: Anayvette Martinez

Anayvette Martinez is one of the co-founders of the amazing organization, The Radical _____ (Formerly known as the Radical Brownies). I spoke to her this week about youth power and incredible local communities, and I wished that I could go back in time and join this organization myself!

The Radical ____'s recent hike Anayvette has over 15 years of experience working with nonprofits and youth. After feeling conflicted about her daughter’s desire to join the local Girl Scouts troop, Anayvette and her co-founder Marilyn Hollinquest created their own organization in Oakland that teaches young girls of color about social justice activism, from radical beauty to the environment and beyond.

The Radical _____ are currently electing their new name with leadership from their girls and the wider community. No matter what the name, we know that Anayvette and her troop are set to change the world.

Suzanna Bobadilla: Thank you so much for speaking with us today. Could you share the history behind the group formerly know as the Radical Brownies? 

Anayvette Martinez: This whole thing came about very organically. A year ago my daughter was in fourth grade and a bunch of her friends were joining the local girls troop. She really wanted to join, but I felt conflicted because she had been raised in a social-justice active household.

She has attended marches since before she could even walk. She was then at a very tender age of being ten, going to eleven. She’s grappling with her own identity within the context of her about to be going to middle school. I started envisioning what a girls’ troop would be like that still had traditional elements of sisterhood and community, but also a social justice framing that I felt was missing from traditional organizations. I was imagining an organization that was radical and that didn’t shy away from social justice and political issues. What would it look like to have an organization that centered around the experiences of young girls of color and not have it be an add-on.

I shared my vision with my daughter and she got really excited about earning badges around social justices issues or other causes that she felt passionate about. We started to dream it, but then I let it go for some weeks or months. She kept asking me, “Mommy, what about that idea that you had?” She kept asking her friends about it and kept bugging me about it, until I was like, “Okay, let’s really do this!”

This project is a labor of love and it’s oriented from our own experiences as women of color. For me, particularly because I’m a parent, this project is about parenting a young girl of color and seeing what her needs are. How do we give her the tools to navigate this world?

I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own, so I talked to one of my best friends Marilyn, pitched it to her, and she agreed!

SB: What have been some of your favorite activities that the troop has done so far? 

AM: They have actually only done one badge so far. The first unit was Black Lives Matter, which was an unscripted unit. We had originally developed a six month outline of topics, and Black Lives Matter was not initially part of it. We launched in December which was shortly after the Michael Brown and Eric Gardner incidents happened, and it was a very powerful moment of history where the world was responding to a system of injustice. We also felt very strongly in our own homes and community, and we decided that it was an important conversation to have with young girls. We wanted to create a space for them to talk about it, process it, learn, and ask questions about it. We wanted them to learn what they can do about it, and for us to see where the young girls of color voices are in this movement. That is the first badge that they have earned and received.

The second badge they have earned but haven’t yet gotten. Our badges are custom designed and are made by an LA artist, so they take a bit longer than normal. The second badge is called a Radical Beauty badge. It is all about what it means to be Radically Beautiful. What does beauty look like in the eyes of mainstream media and what does radical beauty looks like? It means to embrace ourselves and our skin and our body sizes and any disabilities we might have. There was also a sub-unit on Radical Love because it’s so important that we love ourselves before we love anyone else. We talked about consumerism and how people try to sell them things to be more beautiful, even though they are already perfect and beautiful. The girls created their own body scrub and lip balm which they loved doing. We had them watch a Beyoncé video and had them analyze it. For Radical Love, we had them analyze quotes from Maya Angelou, bell hooks, Audre Lorde and had a discussion about friendship.

Our third unit is about environmental justice — how do we take care of our Mother Earth? We are partnering a lot with local agencies so we did a hike last week with Outdoor Afro, and we’re going a community clean up week in East Oakland where we are going to talk about neighborhood responsibility. We are also going to be discussing environmental racism.

We are also going to have a Pride Unit where we will be discussing LGBTQ issues. Gender is always a part of our discussions, but we are going to have a deep dive about gender identity, gender expression, and trans issues. After that we will be discussing consent and the girls will learn some self-defense issues.

SB: It is always such a privilege to work with youth, especially at the cusp of middle school age. Can you share with us some things that you have learned from your troop?  

AY: They ask the most brilliant questions, and they say things all the time that are so smart. People frequently underestimate our troop, saying things like, “Well, aren’t these heavy topics that you are talking about with children?” No actually! Kids are a lot more aware than we ever give them credit for. As Marilyne and I both have extensive experiences working with youth, we know that children already are aware and directly impacted by these issues. Not talking to them about it doesn’t fix anything. It actually makes it worse.

SB: For other folks who are interested in a program like this in their communities, what would you advise? 

AY: We are so excited that this Radical troop has inspired others! It’s definitely needed and we know that this movement is bigger than us and our troop. We are only two people who currently work full-time jobs and this is our side job. I would encourage people who are inspired to form a similar group.

Marilyn and I are trying to be really intentional with this troop as we have worked in non-profits for 15 years. We have seen the pit falls of moving too fast and we think that what we have is really special and we want to nurture it. We don’t want to scale up immediately because we know that we are going to lose something along that way. We want to be intentional about our values that we are creating for the girls. For this year, we want to build a strong foundation and then hopefully scale up.

If folks are inspired to create their own group, go for it! All power to you! Just be intentional. This is not easy work and there is so much that can come from it. It’s hard because there is so much need and desire for us to start chapters everywhere and we want to build something really strong first.

Part of what makes this incubation so successful is because we have the passion and the experience in curriculum development and working with youth. We are highly engaged in our community and have tons of strong networks. As we are looking to scale up and branch out, we want to make sure that other folks who want to do this work have that background and those resources for them to be successful.

SB: Let’s say that you are stranded on a desert island. You get to take with you one food, one drink, and one feminist. What do you pick? 

AM: I’m half Salvadorian, so I’d bring Salvi food. Love my people’s food! One drink… Is this for an adult audience? In that case, it would be some kind of fruity cocktail! For feminist, I’d have to take more than one — I’m not a one person kind of gal. I’d take my daughter because she’s a little feminist. I would take one of my best friends who is a trans-Latina activist Isa Noyola. And I’d take Frida Kahlo!

San Francisco, CA

Suzanna Bobadilla is a writer, activist, and digital strategist. According to legend, she first publicly proclaimed that she was a feminist at the age of nine in her basketball teammate's mini-van. Things have obviously since escalated. After graduating from Harvard in 2013, she became a founding member of Know Your IX's ED ACT NOW. She is curious about the ways feminists continue to use technology to create social change and now lives in San Francisco. She believes that she has the sweetest gig around – asking bad-ass feminists thoughtful questions for the publication that has taught her so much. Her views, bad jokes and all, are her own. For those wondering, if she was stranded on a desert island and had to bring one food, one drink, and one feminist, she would bring chicken mole, a margarita, and her momma.

Suzanna Bobadilla is a writer, activist, and digital strategist.

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