MAKING A DIFFERENCE
A first of its kind nonprofit, after-school program that is held once or twice a week, is preparing black and brown girls ages 14 and up to reach their full potential and thrive through a digitally enabled ecosystem designed to empower adolescent girls.
It’s called SheLectricity. It’s a digital platform that is a hub for girls of color to access content meant just for them.
The ecosystem network brings together technology, culture and community to create safe and nurturing online and in-person environments for girls to learn, grow, innovate and lead.
A celebration of girl artistry, leadership and connection, SheLectricty, which had its launch year in 2019 but will have a full program launching in 2020, is the brainchild of Anasa Troutman, the longtime manager and producer to Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter India.Arie. A cultural strategist, Troutman, who was named one of the 50 black women Founders to Watch by Essence magazine works to build and execute culture-based social impact strategies for artists, brands, and causes.
Nahid Ebrahimi, SheLectricity’s project director explained why the program focuses only on girls of color.
“It’s because of the condition of oppression that has built barriers through the years,” Ebrahimi said. “That’s why right now we are only open to girls of color. There is special stuff just for us because of the specific things that have happened to us in the past.
“We are currently in development to shift the language to include Asian and Middle Eastern girls. It’s important to say those names. The common language, though, is people of color.”
Through interactive online tools and in-person experiences, SheLectricity girls engage in creativity, personal development, STEAM-based learning, entrepreneurship and network building.
The online/offline service model combines the broad reach and youth orientation of a social media app with the intimacy and safety of adult-curated, place-based programs.
The program’s goal is for girls of color to work with each other and to create individually and/or together.
The curriculum for the program, which is a series of workshops with themes, is held through the school year and is set up for the participants to create their own content. Each individual girl is able to engage in her own personal self-development through both a tech side and a creative side.
Next year the content on the platform is expected to include a series of master classes conducted by experts in various professions like film producers or scientists.
Within SheLectricty, self-development programs are paired with real-life programs. The idea is that the platform acts as a resource for girls across the world to stay in contact with each other. There is a Youth Leadership Council (YLC) element within the program that includes workshops in technology, creativity and self-development.
Girls who are interested in being on the YLC are required to conduct outreach as well as content creation. They participate in team-building and access the tools needed to work most effectively as a team.
They also learn organizing skills to get out in the community, talk to others, and bring back feedback, as well as organize and conduct listening parties with other girls in their community. The girls are actually expected to create content and do outreach to their peers to get them onto the platform.
“Being a member of the leadership program is considered an elevated position that provides the girls with a monthly stipend of $150,” Ebrahimi said.
YLC members are experienced leaders, activists, organizers and/or volunteers in some kind of community service or social justice work. Preferably they live in or near Oakland, Los Angeles or Memphis where there are chapters, are familiar with the city, and have the ability to get around town with general ease.
On the website a SheLectricity girl is described as being confident, strong, kind, creative, courageous, innovative, a leader, and interested in the future.
She also believes herself to be an effective communicator. She has approximately 10 hours to dedicate to the project, has a working cell phone, access to a computer and is comfortable using technology such as social media apps and Google apps.
“The program is called SheLectricity because it is connected to how girls have an impact on the world as a whole, and also speaks to the ways in which technology can be impacted by girls of color,” Ebrahimi said. “At SheLectricity we believe creativity and self-development can be tools for being a positive change in the world.”
It turns out 2019 was a huge year for the company.
“It was bigger than we expected it to be regarding fundraising and excitement,” said Ebrahimi, 32, who describes herself as a black Persian.
Intrigued, Ebrahimi, who has been with the company for four months and whose career includes evaluating programs for young people of color, came on board because she wanted to use her perspective with program development and organizational development to help SheLectricty thrive.
“I wanted to organize SheLectricity as a whole,” said Ebrahimi, a native of Oakland who studied psychology and African studies at San Francisco State. “My job is to create systems and operational processes and to make sure the young women in the program feel supported.”
Through an open application process, SheLectricity works with various partners like the YWCA to identify girls for the program. In order to identify girls, the organization also hosts programs throughout the community.
On average, 10-15 girls are able to participate in the program at each school.
In September 2018, the NoVo Foundation awarded SheLectricity a three-year grant for $450,000 to “seed fund” the design, build and launch of its first three hub cities — Oakland, Los Angeles, and Memphis.
Over time, the organization is slated to expand the program by reaching girls nationwide who need safe and nurturing online and in-person experiences, relationships, and support in order to learn, grow, innovate, and lead.
“Making A Difference” is a weekly feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making A Difference” profile, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
By Darlene Donloe