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Radical Monarchs talk sisterhood, social justice

Oakland-based advocacy group aims to inspire young women, encourage participation in activism

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Updated October 11, 2018 at 2:00 a.m. with the above image.

Radical Monarchs co-founders Anayvette Martinez and Marilyn Hollinquest kicked off a revelatory and reflective evening Wednesday night by asking audience members to imagine themselves as eleven year olds again.

Martinez and Hollinquest co-founded Radical Monarchs, an Oakland-based young girls’ social justice group, to “create opportunities for young girls of color to form fierce sisterhood, celebrate their identities and contribute radically to their communities,” according to the organization’s website.

Radical Monarchs was launched in December, 2014 after Martinez’s daughter voiced a desire to join a conventional girl’s scouting troop. “I started to think about what it would look like to create a troop that really centered (my daughter) as a young girl of color, where she could be with other sisters of color and where they could earn badges through contributions to justice and social work.”

Martinez was also inspired to bring youth into social justice movements. “Movement work seems to be very adult-centric. Young people aren’t really given access to social justice and histories and her-stories until much later until, maybe high school if you’re lucky,” she said.

Radical Monarchs seek to teach young women to critique themes ranging from racial injustice and gender norms to beauty standards. For the unit on “Radical Love,” the team had “a grounding session” where they spoke about the importance of loving themselves and their bodies while also respecting their boundaries, Martinez said. The program aims to equip girls with techniques for conflict resolution to encourage them to form healthy relationships.

Girls are awarded badges such as the Black Lives Matter Badge and the Radical Pride Badge as they participate in the program.

Hollinquest emphasized the importance of experiential learning for the girls. The program has “activists come in and talk about the wins that they are having, whether it is policy change, community impact, action and marches,” she said. For the unit on “Radical Advocacy,” the girls visited the California Statehouse to learn how to organize effectively and how bills become laws. The girls also focused specifically on the issues of police brutality, deportation and affordable housing. “If you just march and you just lift up what’s wrong, that doesn’t create change. So it was really important for us that they get trained on this organizing cycle,” Hollinquest added.

Martinez and Hollinquest were very honest about the challenges they faced in their work. They struggled with imposter syndrome and financial constraints as they worked on Radical Monarchs without pay for three years while juggling full-time jobs. But recently, “we landed this amazing grant that helped us step away from our full-time jobs,” Martinez said, which allowed them to map their future vision for the organization.

“Our mission this year has been to fundraise and hire our first staff and quickly move to expand nationally. We will be launching four troops in the Bay Area this spring. The vision is definitely to be wherever we are needed and wanted,” she said.

Je-Shawna Wholley, assistant director of the LGBTQ Center, said Radical Monarchs’ work is critical “because it is about centering marginalized communities, it’s about empowering youth to feel engaged, to speak up for themselves.”

“I hope that (the audience) will walk away with the understanding that it’s possible to create the world that you want to see if you notice there are gaps, that’s literally what these two folks just did,” Wholley added.

The event was organized by the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender’s Womxn’s History Series, LGBTQ Center’s Legacy Series and co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, Brown Center for Students of Color’s Multiracial Heritage Series, Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and the Swearer Center for Public Service.