We, the Young Scholars Program at the African American Policy Forum are a group of Black women developing research skills to advocate for Black women. For the past six weeks, we’ve learned so much about research while creating a bond grounded in our intersectional experiences. Since, we know each other best as Black women, having a space to foster that community is, honestly, pretty healing.
Even though we’re all miles away from each other, you’re not alone. We want you to feel community wherever you are. Think of SisterSoulGirl.com as your go-to space to de-stress and heal while you follow recipes, quarantine self-care tips and learn a new hobby all while listening to our fire playlist “Black Sis Bliss!”
Think of our own sisterhood through Zoom and witness how healing it was — even virtually. We wanted to create a space for other Black girls who just want to chill and feel that community and sisterhood.
We hope you enjoy it!
Mia Muoneke is a sophomore at Stanford University studying Symbolic Systems with a concentration in Neuroscience. Mia grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, graduating from Chadwick School in 2019. Her major is centered on the man-made systems of communicating and being and hopes to become a scientist in order to help people of color, specifically with mental health and mindfulness. In her free time, Mia enjoys spending time with her dog Zeus, her friends, and her family, as well as reading, travelling, and exploring nature. She is beyond grateful for her opportunity to participate in the Youth Scholars Program and get to know her peers, who have become like family to her.
The best type of knowledge is the knowledge gained by personal experience: a posteriori. Our lived experiences allow us to fill the gaps in our learned knowledge, giving the facts an aroma and character that it will be associated with forever. Research often strives to remove emotion, but emotions are the conduit to which we translate our world so it must be included to fully grasp others experiences, especially those of black women.
Ebony Morris is a rising sophomore at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) studying Visual Arts and Global Studies. Ebony is originally from Oakland, California and her academic and professional interests include the intersection between the arts and global studies, especially the influence of social justice on art and artistic expression. At UCLA, Ebony works as an active member of the Cultural Affairs Committee to help create spaces for artists of color to have a platform to create and exhibit their work. Ebony has worked as a freelance artist since 2016, and I am embarking on her 4th year of creating art for social justice oriented organizations. One of her primary achievements in relation to this production of art is the graphic novel she wrote and illustrated in partnership with National Crittenton, an organization that works primarily with marginalized young women and girls of color. The graphic novel she illustrated focused on afamed pediatrician, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who popularized the study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and now serves as California’s Attorney General. In 2018, she illustrated a logo for National Crittenton’s annual conference and convening, In Solidarity We Rise. Additionally, in 2017 she illustrated multiple vignettes for Dr. Monique W. Morris’ acclaimed book “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools,” served as visual aids for many of the stories depicted in said book. Now, she works with The People’s Conservatory, a grassroots organization that trains young artists to create art through an equitable lens through art, on the development of murals in Oakland. Ebony is very excited to continue this exploration of equity through an intersectional lens as a Young Scholar here at the African American Policy Forum.
Aniah Francis is a junior at the University of San Francisco studying Sociology with a concentration in Criminology, Law and Society. Her minors include African American Studies, Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Legal Studies. Aniah is a student mentor to incoming students of color and Sociology Ambassador at her university. Additionally, she is on the executive board for Sister Connection at her school which seeks to create a safe space for women of color. Aniah has worked with the grassroot organization San Francisco Rising on two campaigns “Schools and Communities First ” and “College for All” which aimed to redistribute wealth back into communities of color. Aniah has also worked with West Side Community Service: Black Infant Health program to document the experiences of Black women in the health care system through oral history. Lastly, Aniah spent the period of three months planning and launching her “Dear Black Girls with Love Campaign” which brought awareness to Black girls experiences within the school-to-prison-pipeline with an emphasis of love for Black girls. Aniah is originally from Trinidad and Tobago but moved to the United States with the hope of furthering her education. As a Young Scholar for the African American Policy Forum she hopes to develop a deeper understanding of policy work and the use of intersectional analysis as a framework. Outside of her work life aniah enjoys reading, traveling to new places and engaging with spiritual practices.
Kasayah Alexis (she/her) is a rising junior studying political science, sociology, and legal communications at Howard from Baltimore, MD. She fell in love with political/sociological related research after taking a course called Intro to Research in Political Science during the spring semester of her freshman year. This led her to a rabbit-hole-like journey of wanting to be a political scientist/researcher and figuring out what that means to her, allowing her to intern at nonprofits, a criminal defense law firm, her city councilman, and now as a Young Scholar for the African American Policy Forum. She wants to be a policy expert at a think tank but says specifically that she “wants the Black stuff,” focusing on race and public policy (especially on a state and local level with a special interest in gentrification). As a young Black woman in political science, she felt an obligation to dedicate her work to improving the lives of Black people. In her free time, however, Kasayah is a bookworm, a master Googler, and a major podcast enthusiast!
Research Positionality: It is crucial to acknowledge the negative impacts of one’s homebase (their neighborhood or homelife) on the mental wellness of Black girls. Although all families are affected by COVID-19, we notice that Black girls and women are impacted differently on both dramatic and acute levels. I suspect that younger Black women’s mental wellness declines from the lack of security and support.
Gabby Crooks (she/her/hers) is a rising sophomore at Stanford University, studying International Relations, double minoring in Human Rights and Spanish. She is from Germantown, MD and aspires to be a human rights attorney, specializing in immigration advocacy and development in the African and South American continents. Gabby hopes to center the Black experience in her legal profession, for both those she serves and those she will be serving with. At Stanford, Gabby is heavily involved in the pre-law and advocacy spaces, serving as the Community Development Chair for Stanford Womxn in Law (SWIL), is on the executive team of Black Pre-Law Society, and is a senator on the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Undergraduate Senate. Outside of school, Gabby enjoys reading, watching a number of shows at a time, and spending time outside. She is excited to be a Young Scholar here at the African American Policy Forum, strengthening her knowledge of intersectionality, and she can’t wait to apply it to all of her future endeavors.
Haley Taylor Schlitz
Haley Taylor Schlitz is a law student, author, public speaker and respected thought leader on the issues students of color face in navigating gifted and talented programs in our public schools.
Haley has spent the last few years of her life pursuing education excellence. In 2016, at the age of 13, Haley graduated high school and started her undergraduate education at Tarrant County Community College’s Northeast campus. After one year at TCC, Haley applied to and was accepted to over 15 undergraduate institutions as a transfer student. Her acceptances included Xavier University of Louisiana’s Pre-Med Program, Oklahoma State’s Honors college, Spelman College, University of Texas at Dallas, Texas Woman’s University and many others.
Haley chose to attend Texas Woman’s University because she embraced the university’s stated purpose to “Educate a woman, empower the world.” Haley’s concern about the lack of diversity in our nation’s gifted and talented programs, and her own experience of being denied multiple times to be tested for the program in our public schools, influenced her in selecting a major in Education Studies within TWU’s College of Professional Education. Haley graduated Magnum Cum Laude and was honored for her academic success by being selected as the student speaker during her graduation ceremony. Haley is the youngest graduate on record from Texas Woman’s University.
In 2019, Haley decided that a legal education would help her pursue her passion to make positive change in our world. Haley applied to and was accepted into nine law schools. After serious consideration of each school, Haley chose to attend SMU Dedman School of Law. Haley is now in her second year of law school at 17 years old.
Haley Taylor Schlitz is the proud daughter of William Schlitz and Dr. Myiesha Taylor. Haley has a brother, Ian, and sister Hana. Haley continues to enjoy playing the harp and piano. She is a sabre and epee fencer and performs original spoken words works at the DaVerse Lounge in Dallas, Texas. In her free time, she enjoys playing video games with her siblings, drawing, reading, and writing. Haley appreciates her family and loves any opportunity to spend time together.
Kayla Bobb is a sophomore at Wellesley College where she is a prospective Women’s and Gender Studies major and Art History minor. She is from Maplewood, NJ where she lives with her sister, Aliyah, mother, Shawn, and dog, Maxx. In her spare time, she enjoys doing yoga, skateboarding, reading, learning about the abolition movement, and hanging out in nature with friends. Her passion for social justice has led her to participate in and organize multiple protests and initiatives that aim to educate others. At school, she is on the executive board of Ethos (the Black Student Organization), the Sexual Health Educators (SHEs), and Pentimento, a new art magazine on campus. Career-wise, Kayla hopes to lead and/or establish a non-profit organization with the goal of uplifting the voices of Black youth and promoting access to tools of higher education. Her involvement in the Youth Scholars Program has further fueled her passion to continue the fight for Black girls around the world, and she is eternally grateful for this experience.
Kimberly McKoy is a rising sophomore at Georgia State University studying Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Law and Society. Growing up in Westchester, New York, she has always been interested in racial inequalities, and how her role as an African-American woman could be a catalyst for change. Kimberly found herself being that catalyst in her community when she created a research project on Implicit Racial Bias Affecting the Health Care System. Her research closely looked at the bias of doctors and how they were treating African American patients based on their race instead of their description of pain. Other than trying to lower the mortality rate, her project has aimed to help change the views of others in politics, healthcare, and in the everyday lives of American citizens. Meanwhile, getting exposure to research she has an interest in human rights and policies.. Being a part of the African American Policy and Forum has led her to be aligned with her future goals of becoming a lawyer. Kimberly is also a sketch artist who loves to do graphic design in her free time.
Eryn McCallum is a junior at Emerson College majoring in Journalism and double minoring in African American/Africana Studies and Political Communication. Eryn is from Chicago but has enjoyed the experience of living in a smaller city, Boston, during the school year. Her current passions include activism through educational reform and community service, holding leadership roles in organizations at her school revolving around the two. Eryn’s recent major influences have been the journalism programs she spent many high school years doing, reading books (especially memoirs) by Black women, and observing/participating in her generation’s many methods of social activism. After getting her degree at Emerson, she plans on continuing her education in law school. Eryn hopes to work nationally and internationally in ethnographic journalism, law, community-based research projects, and volunteer work. She is particularly interested in researching the abolition of policing and the prison-industrial complex in the U.S./reimagining the country without those aspects, along with working with Black women across the globe on various projects related to art, education, and/or business. In her free time now, however, Eryn enjoys reading, journaling, dancing, and cooking.
Janiya Starr Gibens
Janiya Starr Gibens is a junior at North Carolina State University, double-majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Law and Justice and Communication Media Studies. Starr has spent most of her life in Fort Washington, Maryland and has always been interested in social justice advocacy. Starr’s lived experiences have also shaped her passion for equal voting rights and criminal justice system reform. Starr is on the executive board of NC State’s NAACP, on the executive board of The Society of Afrikan American Culture, and has helped transform her school’s racial climate. Starr has also served as the creative producer for TRiO at NC State’s podcast, Beyond the Belltower. Moreover, Starr consistently works to prioritize the voices of underrepresented students in every space that she enters through authenticity and resilience. Starr has completed undergraduate research under The Black Families Project with Dr. Qiana Cryer-Coupet and even received an Outstanding Research Presentation award for her study of racial discrimination experiences with the criminal justice system and the sociopolitical development of Black youth. The African American Policy Forum’s Young Scholar Program is providing Starr with a space to further explore her identity as a Black woman and equipping her with the confidence necessary to become a civil rights and criminal defense attorney with her own non-profit organization.
Carly McIntosh is a rising junior at Harvard College from the suburbs of West Philadelphia. Carly is currently earning an honors degree in Social Studies: an interdisciplinary major in the social sciences. Through her major, Carly designed a focus field titled “Social and Political Responses to Crime.” Her focus is guided by her interest in questions like “what could alternatives to the current prison system look like?” and “how should we define justice?” Extracurricularly, she serves on the Executive Board of the Harvard Organization of Prison Education and Reform (HOPE) as the Director of Education. She also serves as a mentor and peer educator at several organizations including the Association of Black Harvard Women, the Harvard Education Portal, Sargent House (a transitional living facility for young men in Boston), the Nassau Street Jail, and Room 13 (a peer counseling organization for mental wellness). After college, Carly will pursue a law degree with intent to protect the rights of incarcerated people. In her free time, Carly enjoys practicing Hot Yoga, writing medicorce poetry in her notes app, and playing the album CTRL by SZA on repeat.
Junia Janvier is a Haitian-American sophomore studying Computer Science at Boston University. Junia’s interest in Computer Science derives from her passion for social justice, and finding ways to connect social justice to technology while addressing the disparities of Black women in tech. At Boston University, Junia is a proud member of the National Society of Black Engineers, where she is the programs chair, overseeing chapter events and initiatives. This coming year, Junia will be working as the Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator for BU Spark!, a Computing fellowship and organizational initiative on campus, where she will work with the computing department to diversify and implement best practices for students of color. Originally based in Providence, RI, her interests lie community organizing for women of color and advocacy. Back home, she was a member of SistaFire, a grassroots organization for women of color, where she focused on their campaign for improving Black maternal health in the state of Rhode Island. With her and her friends, she has started a program which provides advocacy and academic development for young women of color in middle school, set to launch in Spring 2021. In the future, after receiving her B.A. in Computer Science, Junia intends to pursue a degree in law. Junia is extremely excited to continue to explore intersectional and ethical research practices with a cohort of amazing Black Women through the Young Scholars Program at the African American Policy Forum. In her free time, you’ll find Junia writing poetry, reading, or hanging out with friends in the city and beyond.