COMPTON — GirlSpace (sisterhood by design) made its debut Jan. 25 at the Douglas F. Dollarhide Community Center. More than 120 black and brown girls, ages 13-17 from surrounding schools, came together in the name of sisterhood.
Buses picked up the girls and chauffeured them to the interactive girls empowerment conference for the day. They attended three workshops focused on GirlSpace’s three pillars: unity, leadership and confidence.
“This is the first ever GirlSpace, here in Compton,” said GirlSpace’s Founder Jacqulyn Whang. “We got together with various women and asked what do our women need to see. We want our girls to reimagine who they could be in the future because our society hasn’t given them access to dream big.”
Compton’s Mayor Aja Brown, who is newly celebrating motherhood, spoke on the keynote panel alongside activist Doris Munoz, designer Melody Ehsani, and musician Quiñ. The hour-long panel was moderated by Compton native, JayBee Beasley.
Brown said, “Being a mayor is about being a servant. We all have a purpose. Use your gifts and talents to come together to affect change that only you can do. It’s a beautiful opportunity to serve. God will use our shortcomings and obstacles to propel us to make ourselves, family and community better.
Panel moderator Beasley said, “The Foot Locker will be opening soon in Compton and they’re here hiring for jobs. We have workshops with some of the [best] people in the city. It’s resources galore, all for our girls.”
Nike hosted a bra house, giving each girl a sports bra, water canister and tote bag for their 2020 fitness goals. Clothing form Compton’s tennis superstar Serena Williams’ clothing line ‘Serena’, and GirlSpace T-shirts also were provided.
Healthy lunches by Trap Kitchen’s Mani Blanco and Temu Asyr of Dedication Catering fed the girls.
Centennial High School Student Karina Gonzalez said, “My English teacher, Ms. Whang told me about this and I’m here to make friends in the community with other girls.
The second floor was converted into a Wellness Center by the Yetunde Price Resource Center. Licensed marriage and family therapist Kellee Kemp led art therapy and aroma therapy activities.
A MomSpace for daycare was provided by Veronica Clanton-Higgins of VCH Prosperity Consulting, Zoila Darton of Word.Agency and Shadeyiah Edwards.
Abigail Lopez-Byrd, co-founder of GirlSpace and founder of Color Compton said, “We’re developing quality programs that we wanted to see when we were young. Programs to really help the girls reimagine what they can become and really build on our three pillars of leadership, unity and confidence.”
DeNika Turner-Stephens, founder of Runway4Peace had the girls write down negative things people have said about them and then rip up the paper to destroy those beliefs.
“What other people say about you doesn’t define you,” she said.
She had the girls recite positive affirmations such as, “I am beautiful, I am confident, I love myself and I am worthy of great things.” The girls practiced posture and walking the catwalk for the confidence workshop.
Chrystani Heinrich, co-founder of GirlSpace and founder of Compton Girls Club said, “We’re bringing in artists, experiences, creatives and new careers. The girls deserve something special.”
A hip-hop performance by Jalatay Pleasant and music by DJ Huneycut kept everyone entertained. Art by Melissa Depaz decorated the walls.
“GirlSpace is about mentoring young girls and having a safe space for them to get to know each other and talk about girl things,” said volunteer Tracey Wright.
Sessions were conducted by Olympia Auset of SuprMarkt, Alyshia with poetry, Frankie with FightingFrankieBoxing, Celina Rodriguez of FM28, Mikayla Everett of Good Braids LA, Morenita Coranado of Lets.Give, Ashley Joi of Nike, Brittany Chavez of Shop Latinx, Evelyn Escobar of Hike Clerb hip-hop dance instructor Christina Alba and DeNika Turner-Stephens of Runway4Peace.
Sponsors included Innercity Child Development and Youth Foundation, City of Compton, Nike, Footlocker LA, The Garcia Companies and Vision For Compton.
Mariel Rowland an educator at The Getty Museum said, “I’m drawn to intentional space making and people who are gathering to create community amongst young people. This is a girl centered space focused on women of color experiences in L.A.”
GirlSpace’s mission is centered in the belief that learning to love yourself the way you are allows each individual to grow into who they are truly meant to be. It encourages girls to be the girl space for the girl next to you.
By Kristina Dixon