by Abaki Beck
Similar in structure to the Girl Scouts but paying homage to the Brown Berets and Black Panthers, the Radical Monarchs are a leadership development and empowerment group for young girls of color. Formerly called the Radical Brownies, the Radical Monarchs was founded by Anayvette Martinez and Marilyn Hollinquest, themselves educators and activists. The idea for the group came to fruition in 2014 when Martinez’s daughter Lupita had asked her mom about joining a Girl Scout troop - which traditionally lack a social justice lens that Martinez wanted for her daughter. Martinez began reflecting on the lack of empowering activities for young girls of color, recruited her friend Hollinquest, and this radical girl group was born.
The curriculum was co-designed by Martinez and Hollinquest, who met in a graduate school Ethnic Studies program, and is aimed at youth in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. The girls who participate earn badges in the same way Girl Scouts do (after completing specific activities, tasks, or events), but these patches and activities focus on radical feminism and empowering girls of color. For example, to earn the Radical Beauty patch, the girls created their own lip balm and discussed unrealistic beauty standards presented in Disney movies. To earn the Radical Pride patch, they marched and created signs for the San Francisco Trans March. For the Radical Love patch, the analyzed a Beyonce video, read quotes from Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Maya Angelou, and discussed friendship.
In an interview with Feministing, Martinez discussed the history of the group:
“I started envisioning what a girls’ troop would be like that still had traditional elements of sisterhood and community, but also a social justice framing that I felt was missing from traditional organizations. I was imagining an organization that was radical and that didn’t shy away from social justice and political issues. What would it look like to have an organization that centered around the experiences of young girls of color and not have it be an add-on.”
Currently based in Oakland, the Radical Monarchs are looking to expand to other cities and create other troops. However, based on their years of experience in working in the non-profit world, the co-founders have noted that they want to be intentional about not expanding too fast, to ensure that this troop is well nurtured. The founders recognize the vital importance of education focused on the experiences of people of color and social justice for young women of color’s identity development and self esteem. In an interview with Buzzfeed, Hollinquest noted that she didn’t many girls don’t have access to these sorts of resources until they’re in college. She said:
“For me, what’s so exciting is having a whole generation of girls who can skip that whole ‘I feel super horrible about my body and people only care about what I look like and I can’t reach that Elsa ideal’… Having that knowledge at 8, 9, 10, 11 and going into puberty with that? That’s just like, you are already some fierce women and I’m so excited to witness it and be a part of it.”
Now more than ever, these sorts of social justice, women of color feminist focused groups are crucial for youth. Too often, people assume that political issues are “too complex” for youth to discuss and analyze - despite the very real impacts they have on their everyday lives. We commend the Radical Monarchs - the founders and the brilliant youth themselves - in taking on this task. As Lupita, a troop member, reflected, “I think it’s also important to be a Radical Monarch because communities that need support from people that do marches and do stuff with social justice, we’re supposed to help them, and I really feel proud of that.” Thank you to the Radical Monarchs for educating (and becoming) the next generation of powerful change makers and community builders!