AskHer Series: Celebrating 25 Years of The Women’s Foundation

Since its inception, Washington Area Women’s Foundation has invested in and strengthened the capacity of local organizations to advance meaningful social, cultural, and economic change for women and girls of color throughout the Washington metropolitan region.

Now in our 25th year, we’re excited to bring together members of the past and present to help us reflect on our herstory and the essence that started this organization, the “why” behind the work we do, the progress we’ve made thus far, and to usher in 25 more years of grit, grace, and gratitude!

The webinar was moderated by Jacquelyn Lendsey, Interim President and CEO of The Women’s Foundation and featured, Marion Ballard (Founding Mother), Dr. Vivian Pinn (Founding Mother), Rachel Kronowitz (Former Board Chair), and Lynn McNair (Board Co-chair).

AskHer Series: The Power of Black Women Entrepreneurs

During this discussion, Elizabeth Gay (Founder of Ìpàdé) and Ramunda Young (Co-Founder of MahoganyBooks) discussed their journey as an entrepreneur, the opportunities they’re creating and the impact they’re making for women and girls of color, as well as explored ways we – as a community – can take a practical look at how we better champion and support current and aspiring Black women entrepreneurs to build a more equitable economy and society.

This discussion was moderated by Jacquelyn Lendsey, Interim President and CEO of Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

ASL interpretation was provided.

#AskHer Series: The Gift of Black Giving

DID YOU KNOW: Women and girls make up 51% of the world’s population, yet women’s and girls’ organizations receive less than 2% of all philanthropic giving? 

The statistics are even lower for funds supporting women and girls of color. Of the $67 billion of charitable donations made by foundations in a single year, less than 0.02 percent was specified as benefiting causes to support Black women and girls.

August marks Black Philanthropy Month – a global celebration to elevate African-descent giving and funding equity – and we are thrilled to have been able to hear from Chelsea Brown, Founder of The Black Mill and Kelly Darnell, Chief Operating Officer at The Bipartisan Policy Center to reflect on the generations of Black giving and discuss the importance of collectively taking action to help move the philanthropic sector forward.

This conversation was moderate by Temi Bennett, Director of Policy at if, A Foundation for Radical Possibility.

Watch the full recap of this conversation below!

ASL interpretation was provided.

#AskHer Series: Protect Black Women

The conversation helped raise the awareness about safety resources for women, ways to advocate for women and the ever-present need to protect Black women at all times.

The #AskHer conversation was moderated by Erika Totten, a leading practitioner in healing, liberation and community building for Black women. Guests included Grantee Partners Roberta Eaton, Interim Executive Director of DeafDAWN and Koube Ngaaje, President and CEO of DASH, and also included Millicent Shaw Phipps, Director Legal Programs, Ujima.

ASL Interpretation Provided

#AskHer Series: Caring for Nonprofit Leaders of Color

During this session, we explored the intersection of wellness and nonprofit leadership. We had a chat with C. Marie Taylor, President & Principal Consultant of Equity Through Action and Diana Ortiz, President & CEO of Doorways. The session helped create an open dialogue for nonprofit leaders of color, their staff, boards, and funders to prioritize leader wellness. Our special guests provided some actionable strategies that nonprofit leaders could take away to address staffing, burnout, fatigue and other challenges, particularly during the pandemic.

This timely chat was moderated by Washington Area Women’s Foundation Interim President and CEO, Jackie Lendsey and featured opening remarks from the Crimsonbridge Foundation President and CEO Danielle M. Reyes.

Sponsored by: LeaderBridge, an initiative of the Crimsonbridge Foundation

ASL Interpretation provided.

#AskHer Series: The State of Black Girls

Black Girls and Black femmes are the backbone of their communities, caregivers, decision-makers and give the most, yet often receive the least. In conversation with Monique W. Morris, Ed.D., President & CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color and Kristi Matthews-Jones, Director of the DC Girls’ Coalition, we discussed innovative ways our communities can uplift them, along with the work and scholarship around Black girlhood to create a deep understanding of intersectionality. This timely chat was moderated by Washington Area Women’s Foundation Program Officer Chika Onwuvuche.

Watch a recap of our conversation below:

#AskHer / #AskThem is an interview series featuring women and gender non-conforming leaders, and The Women’s Foundation’s partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. We curate in-depth conversations around complex issues affecting our constituents. Issues ranging from racism, racial justice, women, girls, intersectionality and more will be covered.

#AskHer Series: Early Care Education is a Justice Issue

This edition of our #AskHer webinar featured Dr. Lea J.E. Austin, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley and Nitza Seguí Albino, Vice Chair of the board of DC’s Multicultural Spanish Speaking Provider Association. Moderated by Vice President of Programs, Martine Sadarangani Gordon, the conversation focused on issues impacting the early care and education industry.

[Spanish to English transcription will be made available.]

#AskHer / #AskThem is an interview series featuring women and gender non-conforming leaders, and The Women’s Foundation’s partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. We curate in-depth conversations around complex issues affecting our constituents. Issues ranging from racism, racial justice, women, girls, intersectionality and more will be covered.

#AskHer Series: The Safety of Native American Women & Girls

This webinar featured Shannon O’Loughlin, Chief Executive & Attorney for the Association on American Indian Affairs. The Association on American Indian Affairs is the oldest non-profit serving Indian Country protecting sovereignty, preserving culture, educating youth and building capacity. Moderated by Interim President and CEO Jackie Lendsey, the conversation focused on issues impacting indigenous women.

Session sponsored by Bank of America

#AskHer / #AskThem is an interview series featuring women and gender non-conforming leaders, and The Women’s Foundation’s partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. We curate in-depth conversations around complex issues affecting our constituents. Issues ranging from racism, racial justice, women, girls, intersectionality and more will be covered.

#AskHer Series: Fresia Guzman, Director of Youth Opportunity Centers with Identity, Inc.

Our #AskHer series is an interview with our partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. This interview is with Fresia Guzman, Director of Youth Opportunity Centers with Identity, Inc.

Identity’s Mission – In pursuit of a just, equitable and inclusive society, Identity creates opportunities for Latino and other historically underserved youth to realize their highest potential and thrive. Identity works in Montgomery County, MD and has been a Stand Together Fund and Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative Grantee Partner.

The Women’s Foundation: In one sentence, tell us why you joined your organization?

Fresia Guzman: Many years ago in Bolivia, the country where I am from, I helped create a foundation of the first Ombudsman. Every time that I met with that team, I felt so passionate about the work they were doing – creating a more equal society in Bolivia. Those feelings inspired me then and continue to do so now. Fast forward to 2016, when I found out about Identity I felt the same way, and I was sure that it was the place where I wanted to work.

TWF: In one word, how would you describe your staff/team?

Fresia: Family.

TWF: What should people know about your organization that they may not otherwise read or hear about?

Fresia: That many of our staff were involved with Identity even before they started working with us. They were past participants of our programs, and they work with us now because they want to change lives the same way Identity changed theirs.

TWF: As we look forward from the pandemic, what hurdle is your organization facing to building back better?

Fresia: One of the biggest hurdles that we are trying to overcome is the education lost during the pandemic for our black and brown community. Now the gap is even larger than it was before. This will be a big priority for us moving forward.

TWF: What’s one of your organization’s accomplishments you would like us to know about?

Fresia: Our early child education (ECE) workforce program. It empowers young woman to obtain a certification from Montgomery College, work in a paid internship, and then find a job in a family daycare. When we first talk to beginners of this program, they often do not believe in themselves and in their potential. With the help of our team, they learn that they are not alone because we walk with them, creating opportunities and eliminating barriers. Now they inspire and share their own experiences to other young women.

TWF: What do your clients need the most right now?

Fresia: Affordable childcare. This is one of the biggest barriers for our clients in pursuing education, a career or being successful in a job.

TWF: With unlimited funds, what would you do with/for your organization or clients?

Fresia: With unlimited funds, I would launch more workforce programs like ECE for youth and for adults. Identity has a relationship with 5,000 thousand adult clients every year and many of them want a career, need a job, or need to obtain the qualifications to have a better job but need someone to help open doors to new opportunities. I would love to manage a job center that understands and tailors its programs to the necessities of the population that we serve.

TWF: Which of your own identities do you most value, personally and professionally?

Fresia: I always work to have an equilibrium between my role as mother, wife, and professional. There are times when I had to choose one over the other and it was not easy. But now, I’ve found the equilibrium. I love my job, in September I celebrated 27 years of marriage, and have three wonderful kids that are more adult than kids now.

TWF: Here’s a quick lightning round of questions:Do you prefer: DC-area Spring or DC-area Summer? Spring

TWF: Do you prefer: Monuments or Museums?

Fresia: Monuments

TWF: Favorite female or gender expansive icon?

Fresia: Janet Yellen, Christiane Amanpour, Malala Yousafzai

TWF: Favorite part of the Washington region?

Fresia: I love the national mall with all the museums nearby.

TWF: What’s one thing you can’t get enough of?

Fresia: Having dinner with friends or family.

TWF: What should we abolish forever? (Can be more than 1 answer)

Fresia: Bullying, discrimination.

TWF: Is there anything you want to be sure that we know that we haven’t already discussed?

Fresia: We need to continue promoting gender equality and empower our girls and women by preparing them for well-paying jobs, by supporting their confidence and emotional well-being and by making sure there is high-quality childcare available to them that is affordable.

Learn more about Identity, Inc. and their work on their website!

#AskHer Series: Alana Brown, Executive Director of The Safe Sisters Circle

Our #AskHer series is an interview with our partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. This interview is with Alana Brown, Executive Director of The Safe Sisters Circle. The interview was conducted by our Program Officer, Chika Onwuvuche

The Safe Sisters Circle is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides free culturally specific, holistic, and trauma-based services to Black women survivors of domestic violence and/or sexual assault primarily living in Washington, DC’s Wards 7 and 8.

Chika Onwuvuche: In one sentence, tell us why you founded your organization?

Alana Brown: I founded this organization because I wanted an organization that placed Black women’s needs first, centered the survivors’ needs and also provided them with practitioners and attorneys that they can relate to, such as having a staff of Black women attorneys.

Chika: What cause/issue does your organization tackle?

Alana: We look at domestic violence and sexual assault focusing on Black women and girls living in DC’s Wards 7 and 8.  Although, we rarely turn anyone away, our mission is to mainly focus on Black women survivors.

Chika: What should people know about your organization that they may not otherwise read or hear about?

Alana: I think people should know we take on other people who don’t fall into our categories. We also don’t have an income requirement. We have clients who fall into the low income category, but not poverty level income category, which are women who don’t make enough money for their own attorney, but don’t fall under the low income requirements that a lot of nonprofits have.

Chika: As we get back to building better, what hurdle is your organization facing moving forward?

Alana: I think the biggest hurdle is the idea that right now Black Lives Matter is very popular, and it’s very popular to center Black women. We have the R. Kelly case where Black women finally got justice after years of trying, after many activists did their part to bring that subject to the forefront. I don’t want people to forget that as we build back together. I want them to still be supportive of Black women as we move forward as an organization, as a country and as a society. We should still keep that focus on Black women survivors.

Chika: You brought up justice, can you explain to me your definition of justice?

Alana: My definition of justice is self-defined by the client and what they’re looking for. Despite my roots as a prosecutor, I’m actually more anti-carceral in my beliefs. We understand justice doesn’t always necessarily only mean putting someone in jail or getting a CPO (civil protection order) against someone. It might mean survivors getting custody of their children or putting them in a safer place. It might be getting survivors into housing programs. It might be referring them to the right mental health organization that we work with, as partners after getting them legal services. I think it depends on what people have defined for themselves as justice and we try to help them get to that. The idea of justice is getting people to thrive, not just survive.

Chika: What’s one of your organization’s accomplishments you would like us to know?

Alana: We started out with just one attorney, which is me. And then we grew to have two attorneys, now we have three attorneys and have expanded our capacity. We’ve been able to represent quite a few, 85 or 90 clients this past year, despite being so small. We provide brief legal advice, direct legal representation, limited representation in Civil Protection Order Hearings, family law cases such as custody and child support, and victim advocacy. Also, we are always sure to do a lot of referrals to additional services to make sure clients get a holistic experience. We’ve grown into an organization that has a good foundation of legal services and literally serves survivors directly in their community as our office is located in Anacostia in Ward 8.

Chika: What do your clients need the most right now?

Alana: Besides legal services, clients need mental health services. I think everyone is traumatized by COVID-19. Because our clients live in areas where there are high rates of COVID-19 and high rates of death particularly around caregivers for our custody cases. Our clients’ parents have passed away and it has traumatized them to a greater extent than I think their white counterparts. When you are already living in poverty, already living in a volatile situation with abusers, it makes everything that much more volatile. Both survivors and abusers need mental health services. Clients also need housing. The eviction moratorium is ending. People are really having trouble getting into new housing, especially when they need to move from an unsafe place to a safer place. There are not a lot of options right now.

Chika: With unlimited funds, what would you do with your organization?

Alana: When I started the organization, I wanted it to have more wraparound services. I wanted it to be holistic, which we are, culturally specific, which we do provide, but I also hoped to provide therapy sessions like crisis intervention. In the future, we want to provide support groups for Black women survivors and gender based violence, and if possible, short term emergency housing. So our next step in growing, is to start doing support groups and looking for funding for Black women gender based violence support groups, because our clients have directly asked us for this service and hopefully some Healing Circles and other facets of healing such as art therapy and trauma informed yoga and meditation. With unlimited money we would build up a healing justice aspect in our organization.

Chika: Here’s a quick lightning round of questions:

Chika: Do you prefer: DC-area Spring or DC-area Summer?

Alana: Spring. It’s too hot and muggy in the summer.

Chika: Do you prefer: Monuments or Museums?

Alana: I prefer museums. I’m a nerd so I love learning things about people and seeing arts. I love the National African American Museum of History and Culture.

Chika: Favorite female or gender expansive icon?

Alana: Can I just say my mother? *laughs* My mother is an icon in my family. She’s the matriarch and even though, she has sickle cell anemia, she was able to become a doctor and provide excellent parenthood to me and my twin sister. She worked in wards 7 and 8 herself and gave services back to those communities. Community service is very important to her, which I think is why it’s important to me.

Chika: Favorite part of the Washington region?

Alana: I’m from Ward 7 originally, but I grew up in Prince George’s County. I have a soft spot for Anacostia because it’s where our services are based out of and I have learned so much having worked out of this community. They have a lot of black owned businesses, and I work under the Anacostia Art Center, which is really nice.

Chika: What’s one thing you can’t get enough of?

Alana: Coffee – I like it iced with almond milk and Splenda.

Chika: What should we abolish forever? (Can be more than 1 answer)

Alana: It’s going to sound very anti-ethical to my history, but we should abolish the current criminal and civil legal system as it stands. It’s not survivor-friendly and even within the civil system, there’s a very real anti- Black bias. Those working within the court system need to be trained differently to deal with people from diverse backgrounds, especially focusing on race, ethnicity, gender, cultural, and social economic context of the community they are supposed to serve. We need to abolish the system and rebuild another one that works better not only for Black women survivors, but to help our society as a whole. 

Chika: Is there anything you want to be sure that we know that we haven’t already discussed?

Alana: We are very community oriented. We have a lot of partnerships with non-legal organizations in Ward 7 and 8 with different therapy, healing and housing organizations. When we say “healing justice” we don’t mean solely mean therapy support groups. We also believe in healing circles which speaks to ancestry work and to different types of non-traditional healing. We incorporate our roots of our African ancestors and of the Black community to ensure that our services are culturally specific and relevant. The services are catered to their needs and requests.