AF3IRM LA School of Youth Activism Participant Briana

School of Youth Activism Participant Future Shines Bright

Contact: Skylar Perez-Grogan
AF3IRM Los Angeles Youth Coordinator
[email protected]

AF3IRM Los Angeles is proud to announce School of Youth Activism (SOYA) 2018 participant Briana Morales was accepted to Georgetown University’s Class of 2023! Briana, a soon-to-be graduate of Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts’ class of 2019, wrote about her experiences participating in SOYA and speaking at AF3IRM LA’s 2018 International Women’s Day March as the subjects of her personal statement. We are incredibly proud of her and know her future shines bright.

AF3IRM LA developed SOYA LA to recognize the necessity of creating new practices of survival which address the needs of the women and youth of today. As our communities of color face deep subjugation, exploitation, and genocide, we know that we must hold and lift up our communities as we envision and fight for a truly liberated world. Briana’s accomplishments, academically and within her community, are a shining example of why including youth in our fight for true liberation is a necessity. We are proud to call Briana a graduate of AF3IRM LA’s School of Youth Activism and can’t wait to see what lies ahead of her!

Briana has allowed AF3IRM to publish her personal statement below.

Calladita te vez mas bonita,” my mother would say to subdue my opinions when speaking with adults, “you’re prettier when you’re quiet”. As a child I was taught women weren’t allowed to use their voices. A “good woman” was expected to be docile and quiet and my mother was a perfect example. Publicly, she was silent about her feelings and her childhood trauma, even though it tore her up inside. These repressed emotions led to countless problems with my father who was never communicative about his feelings, holding strong to his own machismo. Misogyny stretched beyond my family; it was ingrained in my culture and religion. Sundays were for church, where the women sat quietly to the right while the men held the microphone on the pulpit. I began to question why things were this way and how this reality could possibly coincide with becoming the strong protagonist I read about in books.

In high school, I explored the structures holding sexism tightly in place. I participated in AF3IRM Los Angeles’s School of Youth Activism, a women’s studies program led by a transnational feminist organization that had partnered with a boxing gym to provide self-defense training. Sundays were for boxing, where I drilled strings of punching combinations and was put in the ring to fight- but never before paying respects to my opponent. Beads of sweat rolling down my face and strands of hair flying in every direction was not the traditional image of beauty, but it was my own. Boxing created a confidence in me that I had never felt before. Every move and strike depended on me; in the ring, I controlled my circumstances.

After intense training, I’d sit on bright blue jiu jitsu mats with the other girls to engage in conversations on topics ranging from identifying a toxic relationship to the human trafficking industry. It was a place where I could dissect the very foundations of my world alongside women who were working to make change. This community is where I found a true sense of self, where I became everything I was not supposed to be: strong, confident, opinionated. I felt a switch turn inside of me, as if each jab chipped away at a barrier built over years of internalized misogyny. In a way, boxing became the physical embodiment of my activism- the more I did it, the more empowered I felt. I found myself able to honestly articulate my experiences and feelings, to learn from the stories of others, and to question and then reject things I was always expected to just accept.

With these newfound skills, I began to think about how to use this knowledge and confidence to inspire other women. I decided to make my voice heard at the International Women’s Day March. Weeks before the event, the program coordinator of the School of Youth Activism called me. She wanted a student speaker for the march who was brave, passionate, and articulate. “I immediately thought of you,” she said. I was ecstatic. Despite the overwhelming wave of nerves and a little voice telling me “calladita te vez mas bonita”, I accepted. This was an opportunity to speak out against the injustices that had plagued women in my culture for generations. This time, Sunday was for speaking out. As I stood in front of hundreds of people on the steps of City Hall to deliver my speech, I held the microphone. I saw my mother smiling in the crowd. I spoke for her and for the women that came before her who stood by idly, not daring to speak their truths for fear they would be seen as less than. I hope my mother saw just how beautiful an outspoken woman can be.