It's 2018. We should be doing better. Below are seven organizations you can support for International Women's Day that make an effort to serve women and femmes in ways that account for the varied intersections of oppression and privilege.
1. S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective. Organizing in both New York City and South Florida, the S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective supports leadership among girls and nonbinary youth of color. Ongoing work involves direct engagement with middle- and high-school-aged femmes in the foster care, juvenile, mental-health, and other systems to promote social entrepreneurship, social justice education, and healing. In South Florida, S.O.U.L. Sisters works directly with the Miami Black Girls Matter Coalition through a youth leaders board.
You can provide support for the S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective in several ways. On the planning committee for the BOOM: Assembly for Black Women and Girls, it's organizing fundraising through a CrowdRise page. Wakumi Douglas, cofounder and executive director at S.O.U.L. Sisters, explains the assembly is "focused on electoral politics and voting rights for black women and girls and building on black women and girls’ political platform approaching the 2018 elections."
S.O.U.L. Sisters is also always looking for volunteers, especially artists and professionals for project support and mentoring. Support for event, administrative, and operations work are also options for anyone interested in getting involved.
"Young people already have so much power," Douglas says. "I think empowerment puts a lot of power on the the adults. We don’t see our work that way. We ask them: 'What do you see in your community that you want to change? How do you want to do that? What do you need?' We really take our leadership from them."
To volunteer with the S.O.U.L. Sisters, contact Wakumi at [email protected]. Young women and gender-nonconforming youth interested in getting involved with the Miami Black Girls Matter Coalition can contact Angela at [email protected].
Moms Demand Action, Florida. Devastating gun violence recently hit home in South Florida, but Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has been working for five years to combat gun lobbies and advocate for gun safety laws. Though these origins and the most recent mobilizations have concentrated on school shootings, the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action has not shied away from the fact that black teens have been fighting gun violence for a long time or that gun violence carried out by police against black citizens are part of the problem. This doesn't even address the fact that 80 percent of people fatally shot by intimate partners are women, or that a woman is five times likelier to be killed in a domestic dispute if her partner owns a gun.
You can join Moms Demand Action at the #MarchForOurLives this March 24 by signing up via everytown.org. You can also join Moms Demand Action at its new member meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 10, at Coral Gables Congregational Church.
Lotus House Women's Shelter. Maybe you've heard about Drake's recent "God's Plan" charity jaunt through Miami, which included a $50,000 donation to Lotus House. The women's shelter had humble beginnings in a three-story walk-up apartment building in Overtown serving 34 guests. It has steadily expanded over 12 years and now provides 265 women and children with resources to find housing, build financial literacy, heal themselves holistically, and other benefits.
The organization announced Drake's donation would go toward the construction of the Lotus Village, a $28 million project that will double the shelter's capacity to 500 women and children. Because none of the funding for the project is coming from the state or federal government, Lotus House is still looking for financial support in completing the village. Its largest fundraiser to date will be the Village's Grand Opening Reception April 19.
Maria Carvalho, head of community outreach at Lotus House, notes that donations of diapers, clothing, shoes, and furniture are also always welcome. Whether they end up in the hands or homes of a guest or the Lotus House thrift store, donations always support the shelter's guests.
"Partnerships and collaboration [are] all that we are about," Carvalho stresses. Lotus House works directly with local organizations to find employment, subsidized housing, and affordable rent for guests and alumni. For those interested in getting involved, Carvalho says, "If they have a special interest, a special need, or they want to share their time, their treasure, you can contact any one of us."
Donations of materials can be dropped off at 2040 NW Seventh Ave., Miami, and inquiries about additional support can be sent to [email protected] and [email protected].
Aqua Foundation for Women. In terms of LGBTQ activism, the "G" component of that acronym can seem the most visible, especially in certain communities in South Florida. The Aqua Foundation seeks to provide support for the rest of the queer community, particularly in the areas of education and community awareness.
Aqua Foundation grants support local nonprofit organizations that serve the needs of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, particularly by way of community engagement and grassroots training. On a more individual basis, the organization provides scholarships and mentorships to LBTQ students striving for degrees in Florida. Along with being awarded cash, Aqua Scholars are matched with mentors that facilitate discussion and skill improvement in anticipation of an annual leadership conference.
Finally, the Aqua Foundation hosts TransCon, which just wrapped up last week. The event is a resource for trans and gender-nonconforming South Floridians to network and find trans-friendly job opportunities, although there are workshops geared toward trans folks and cisgender people who want to become more literate in transgender issues.
You can donate to the Aqua Foundation at aquafoundation.org.
Americans for Immigrant Justice's Lucha Program. Though immigration issues have been thrown into sharp focus recently, the victimization and exploitation of immigrants is not a recent development. Since 1997, Americans for Immigrant Justice has worked to support immigrant survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault through the Lucha Program. The vast majority of survivors are women and children with little knowledge of the complex laws and systems governing immigration in the United States. The Lucha Program's main objective is providing them with free and competent legal support.
South Florida, and Miami in particular, is a hub not only for recent U.S. immigrants but also for sex and human trafficking. The Lucha Program's client stories include slavery, rape, forced pregnancy, and intimidation, all of which exacerbate the already vulnerable status that prevents immigrants from coming forward to report crimes. Through a system of community partners and legal aid, the Lucha Program helps lift these women out of poverty and exploitation.
Donations to the Lucha Program can be made directly via this link or via mail to this address:
Americans for Immigrant Justice
Attn: Ariela Moscowitz
3000 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 400
Miami, FL 33137
Ladies Empowerment and Action Program (LEAP). Most of the support for prison advocacy goes to male inmates and prisons, mainly because men's incarceration outnumbers women's. According to Mahlia Lindquist, executive director of LEAP, this disparity not only limits support for female inmates but also neglects the specific struggles they endure.
"Over 90 percent of our women were victims of sexual violence as children," Lindquist explains, "which for most of them meant eventually self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. The vast majority of them — the statistic is over 70 percent — are victims of domestic violence."
LEAP helps these women heal various ways, including trauma-informed substance-abuse therapy, meditation, and journaling. The main objective of the LEAP program is to gather women within one year of their release and provide them with tools to build their résumés, interview for jobs, and start their own businesses in order to combat recidivism. LEAP houses a small group of graduates from its program, and they help to connect other graduates with landlords that will rent to former offenders.
Though LEAP receives support from the Women's Fund, its primary need is still financial. Its most recent project has been the opening of the Dragonfly Thrift Boutique, which employs graduates while raising funds for the program. The grand opening is this Thursday, but the store is accepting donations of goods and looking for volunteers. Of course, following LEAP on social media and sharing literature about female inmates is a more passive, but still essential, form of involvement.
"Until we change the hearts and minds of the community about supporting ex-offenders, we’re not doing our job," Lindquist says.
Donations to LEAP can be made at leapforladies.org. Inquiries into other means of support can be sent to [email protected]. The Dragonfly Thrift grand opening will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 8, at 3141 SW Eighth St., Miami.
Miami Workers Center's Femme Agenda. The Miami Workers Center covers a wide range of advocacy in South Florida for working-class, poor, and immigrant members of the community, but its Femme Agenda branch specializes in the feminization of racism and poverty. Its Femme Saturdays program takes an intersectional view of feminism and activism during educational meetings open to the community. The Miami Workers' Center has been integral in organizing key events such as the March for Black Women last September and the upcoming BOOM: Assembly for Black Women and Girls.
According to its Facebook page, the Miami Worker's Center will be hosting Reggae for the Revolution on International Women's Day. Its next Femme Saturdays meeting will focus on anti-blackness in Latinx communities. You can make direct donations via miamiworkerscenter.org.