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STSI Round Up: Week of Action & On These Grounds Film Screening

Sister to Sister International (STSI) founder Cheryl Brannan, declares that “STSI and community partners are on the MOVE empowering Black women and girls in Westchester County and beyond. We will stay-the-course to improve outcomes highlighted in our Still I Rise: Status of Black Women and Girls research report and we invite others to join us in advancing our Platform for Action.”

In April, STSI sponsored a Week of Action sharing progress on strategies related to the four pillars of their Still I Rise workgroups. In this regard, they hosted webinars during four consecutive evenings focused on: Health & Wellness & Black Maternal Health; Juvenile & Social Justice; STEM & STEAM and Health Careers; and Entrepreneurship, Pay Equity & Economic Prosperity; The culminating event was an in-person Day of Action that featured keynote speaker and Queen Nzinga Award recipient, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. Other national and countywide officials included Congressman Jamal Bowman and Senior Advisor to the US State Department, Aisha Castleberry Hernandez, along with Deputy County Executive, Ken Jenkins and Westchester County Youth Bureau, Executive Director Dr. DaMia Harris Madden.

The Day of Action was moderated by Special Guest Mistress of Ceremonies, News 12 Reporter Carol Wilkinson and featured a host of community partners including Angel Gray - Program & Policy Manager at Westchester Children’s Association, Minister & Consultant, Kim “KJ” Murray Cruse, Nicole Taylor UKG - Manager Belonging, Diversity & Equity, Bruce McIntyre, President savArose Foundation and featured dad in the Aftershock documentary, Joanne Dunn - Executive Director, Youth Shelter Program of Westchester, and Dr. Valerie Mason Cunningham, Pride Matters and STSI Consultant, moderated the panel.


Moving right along also in April, the STSI Juvenile and Social Justice workgroup in conjunction with new partners Represent Justice and Every Black Girl sponsored a “On These Grounds” film screening and panel event. As per the STSI Still I Rise research report, Black youth represent 14% of the Westchester County population, yet 64% of youth in detention. Nationally, Black girls are seven times likely to be suspended and four times likely to be arrested than white girls. This is not only a justice issue but it is an education, health, housing, wealth, mobility, and career issue. It is a quality of life issue.


The film is about a video that goes viral showing a white police officer in South Carolina eject a Black teenager from her desk in math class and throw her across the floor. It captures the work of one of our panelist, Vivian Anderson, to support and advocate for the girl, and work toward dismantling the system behind the assault, including facing the police officer, the perpetrator of the assault. This film is about how one incident catapults Black girls, with the support of organizers, in creating a more just and equitable future for themselves and our entire education system. The panelists included: Vivian Anderson (Healer-Activist & Founder & CEO of Every Black Girl); Aniyah Willis (Senior at North Rockland High School & Vice President & Treasurer of PULSE); Yindy Rodriguez (Youth mentor & Advocate for Bravehearts M.O.V.E. New York); Shannen Hogue (President & Co-founder of The Hogue Foundation & Community Affairs Detective Specialist, Yonkers Police Department); and Rashida Thigpen, Esq. (Senior Assistant County Attorney, Westchester County Attorney’s Office). A few pivotal film scenes were shown along with follow-up questions for the panelists by moderator, Darlene Russell. Panelist Vivian Anderson, who is featured in the film, highlighted the trauma experienced by Shakara and students like her who have been assaulted by police and the need for police to be completely removed from schools in order to interrupt racialized and gender-based violence. Pat White and Dr. Alexander Connally are STSI workgroup co-chairs along with Dr. Darlene Russell.

The passion for justice and unequivocal desire to protect the well-being and selfhood of Black female students were laced in all of the panelists’ responses. Several students representing various school districts in Westchester County were in attendance. The event concluded with discussion circles where students had the opportunity to share their experiences and thoughts about how they can use their voices for racial and social justice. This event added to the list of impactful work that the Juvenile Justice Work Group accomplished which includes conducted webinars related to trauma & equity, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and racism & resilience in the age of COVID, organized parent training sessions orbiting around equity and advocacy, facilitated roundtables on data gathering, and youth focus groups.

The film screening and panel event was about Black and Brown women and girls coming together in the spirit of justice and unity to augment our collective impact to interrupt the pejorative and unjust treatment of our girls manufactured by systemic racism and unconscious racial bias. One quote that fuels the work of the Juvenile Justice Committee is by Ida B. Wells: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” The chief goal is to continue to actionize this work by joining arms with community partners to amplify our voice and to educate, and, in the words of Frederick Douglas, “agitate, agitate, agitate” [systems of racial injustice and oppression].


For more information on STSI programs visit STSI’s website at https://s2si.org.

Photos by Joy Malone.



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