Radical Brownies For A More Radical World

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Just in time for the release of the Rosa Parks archives on what would have been the civil rights icon's 102nd birthday, meet the Radical Brownies, an Oakland-based group that seeks to empower young girls of color "as they step into their collective power, brilliance and leadership (to) make the world a more radical place." The group, founded by two women of color who've long worked with kids, aims to create "opportunities for young girls of color to form fierce sisterhood, celebrate their cultures and contribute radically to their communities," with activities ranging from earning custom-made, social-justice badges to taking part in Black Lives Matter marches. The kids' berets "pay homage to the spirits of the Brown Beret and Black Panther movements" that likewise made their home in Oakland.

Group leaders argue they are "giving (girls) the tools to process what’s happening around the world, because they are very much aware." They urge girls to define "radical" for themselves, and stress the organization is "not anti-anything" but "pro-empowerment (and) community involvement” at a time in girls' lives, and in our culture, when they need all the help they can get.

Still, the right-wing pushback has been fierce. In outraged comments on a PBS story, it ranges from mild if disingenuous objections to focusing on kids of color - "Aren’t all girls girls?" "White is a color" "More divisiveness!" - to paranoid rants about "future Marxist agitators" "inventing oppression" whose "sole intent is to create white boogiemen (to) affirm their perpetual self-disenfranchisement" to ugly filth: "Do they give out Guess My Babies (sic) Daddy badges?"

The Rosa Parks archives are said to reveal not just the genteel protester that became her persona, but the furious, militant agitator behind that image. By the time she refused to give up that seat on the bus, she writes, “I had been pushed around all my life and felt at this moment that I couldn’t take it any more...There is just so much hurt, disappointment and oppression one can take.” Radical Brownies, says one co-founder, wants to help girls before they get to that point: "They are not yet crushed by all the ills of the world, by all the 'isms' - racism, sexism... you can keep that internal flame going when you have programming like this."

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