Tim Lehnert is a writer and editor who lives in Cranston, Rhode Island. His articles and essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Providence Journal, Rhode Island Monthly, the Boston Herald, the Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere. He is the author of the book Rhode Island 101, and has published short fiction for kids and adults in a number of literary journals and magazines. He received an M.A. in Political Science from McGill University, and an M.A. in English from California State University, Northridge.
Sports 4 Life is a national initiative co-founded by the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) and espnW. It was established in 2014 and seeks to increase participation of girls of color in youth sports. It has so far impacted over 60,000 girls of color, and its recently released report shows gains in girls’ leadership, self-esteem, confidence and perseverance resulting from their participation in the program.
2020 has been defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for racial justice. Improving the physical and mental health—and leadership capacities—of girls of color is one way to help them navigate COVID and beyond. The WSF and espnW (“a voice for the woman who loves sports”), Sports 4 Life partnership is funding local sports programs, filling in the gaps to access and opportunity that often confront girls of color.
On September 15, the 57th anniversary of the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama church bombing that killed four Black girls, a group of prominent Black women launched the Black Girl Freedom Fund. The group’s open letter and social media campaign mark the beginning of a one-billion-dollar effort championing Black girls and their families.
The open letter from the Black Girl Freedom Fund notes that while Black Lives Matter attracts strong philanthropic support, “Black girls and young women still remain adultified, victimized by violence, and erased from the very same social justice movement for which they continue to risk their lives.”
The letter demands that Black girls receive the attention and support they deserve:
Alliance for Girls (AFG), a California-based network of girls-serving organizations, wants state and local leaders to pay more attention to the needs of girls—particularly Black girls and girls of color—in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To investigate this issue further, Alliance for Girls has launched “When Girls Thrive,” an initiative researching and advocating for an expanded understanding of how girls are being impacted by COVID. It includes an online survey, and addresses the lack of data on the needs and experiences of girls and gender-expansive youth up to 24 years of age. This group is particularly vulnerable during this time of increased health risks, extended isolation, and significant disruption and barriers to education and work. Such challenges are even more extreme for Black youth and youth of color.
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on a new nearly two million dollar grant whose goal is to “advance actionable, global research on women’s giving to inform and equip donors and nonprofits.”
The funding will fuel WPI’s ongoing research on domestic and global women’s giving, and empower organizations, donors and fundraisers to put these research insights into practice. Since 2015, WPI has conducted research on gender and philanthropy that helps inform the foundation’s Giving By All initiative, which is focused on growing giving and helping donors give more effectively and strategically.
For her new song “Rooted,” Grammy Award winner Ciara has partnered with the non-profit Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC), which will receive a portion of the song’s proceeds. “Rooted,” featuring and co-written by producer/songwriter Ester Dean, is a follow up to their 2019 Black female anthem “Melanin,” and celebrates Black Lives Matter, Black women, Black history and culture, and pregnancy.
“Rooted” was released by Ciara’s company Beauty Marks Entertainment, which is dedicated to creating business opportunities for women at the intersection of music, tech and philanthropy. The song’s video was filmed just before Ciara gave birth to her third child, Win Wilson, and prominently features Ciara’s pregnant body. It was directed by African American photographer/artist/filmmaker Annie Bercy.
A newly published Dance Data Project (DDP) “Season Overview” report indicates that men choreographed 72 percent of works produced by the United States’ top 50 ballet companies during the 2019-20 season. While the gender disparity is significant; the figure represents an improvement over 2018-19 when 81 percent of works were choreographed by men. Nevertheless, as the report indicates, ballet equity has a long way to go.
“The entire DDP team is inspired by the rising number of commissioned women’s works,” said Liza Yntema, DDP Founder and President. “Yet, inequity is still present in some of the most notable categories of performance. Works choreographed by men continue to overwhelmingly populate the main stage, while women’s works are often relegated to special programs and sandwiched into male-dominated mixed bills.” Yntema also worries that women’s gains will be lost if company directors perceive that hiring more men represents a “safe choice” in a turbulent economy. Such thinking will make it more difficult to attract the new audiences that are critical to ballet’s survival.
Sports 4 Life, a national initiative co-founded by the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) and espnW (“a voice for the woman who loves sports”), was established in 2014 to increase participation of girls of color in youth sports. Recently, Sports 4 Life announced their 2020 grants which will help African American and Latino girls overcome barriers to sports participation.
Twenty-five organizations based in 13 states and Washington, D.C. received the awards which totaled $175,000. The grants aim to augment and diversify sports opportunities for more than 7,700 middle and high school girls, and included funding for programs representing 23 different sports.
The impetus for Sports 4 Life is the recognition that the benefits of participation in sports—which include improved physical and mental health, as well as better grades and improved leadership skills—often disproportionately exclude African American and Latino girls. Historic racial injustices lie at the root of disparities in access to sports participation, and these gaps have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 is imperiling the safety and education of many Latin American and Caribbean girls, reports Plan International, an independent development and humanitarian organization advancing children’s rights and equality for girls. With the closure of schools, many girls have been trapped at home and subject to increasing gender-based violence. Moreover, for some, their education may be derailed permanently with lasting generational effects.
Ninety-five percent of girls have been out of school since mid-March, and this has made them highly vulnerable. Amalia Alarcón, Plan’s Regional Head of Gender Transforming and Influencing, explains how the pandemic has a clear gender component. “The control measures for the disease do not take into account the specific vulnerabilities of girls, adolescents and women as the risk of suffering gender-based violence at home, increases. According to Plan International, “There has been a significant rise in reports of physical, sexual and psychological abuse directed towards girls and adolescents, with many more cases likely going under the radar.”
Americans often think of high childbirth mortality rates as a problem plaguing low-income countries, but U.S. maternal mortality rates, particularly for African American and Native women, are high. Merck for Mothers’ “Safer Childbirth Cities” initiative is combating this trend, and its latest call for proposals is expanding its efforts beyond its initial ten-city cohort.
While the U.S. maternal mortality rate is substantially lower than most countries of the Global South, according to the World Health Organization, the U.S. maternal death rate of 19 deaths per 100,000 live births it is substantially higher than Canada (10 per 100,000), the United Kingdom (7), Japan (5), Spain (4) and Italy (2). Countries comparable to the U.S. include Russia (17), Turkey (17) and Romania (19). Moreover, the U.S. is the only high-income country with a rising level of maternal mortality.
One of Many, a short film about the 2017 Women’s March, and an official selection of the upcoming 2020 International New York Film Festival, is seeking digital distribution. As the Trump era lurches to a close, and new rounds of protests occupy the streets, One of Many documents the women’s marches that occurred nationwide three-and-a-half years ago in opposition to Trump, and more broadly, to sexism, patriarchy, and racism.
“The film captures the widespread, collective outrage that President Trump’s inauguration provoked while contextualizing it within historical human rights movements,” notes One of Many Executive Producer Jessica Good. The sixteen-minute documentary is directed by M.J. Bernier and debuted last fall at Atlanta’s Out on Film festival, one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ+ film festivals.