Beyond Zero Tolerance

    Last Thursday, Girls Justice League tabled at the Beyond Zero Tolerance: A Community Symposium, presented by the School Discipline Advocacy Service at Temple University Beasley School of Law. Panelists and community organizations included Philadelphia Student Union, Galaei, and the ACLU of PA. It focused on a variety of experiences, but panelists specialized in areas such as disability law, legislative lobbying, academic writing, teaching in a Philadelphia Public Alternative School, and a Central High School student. They all added a range of comments and helpful insight about the state of zero tolerance policies in schools today. One thing that rarely made its way into the conversation was gender. One panelist spoke on the policing of femme bodies (particularly those of color) in school, but most of the panel spoke about more general numbers and highlighted racial disparities.

    Part of the problem is that few statistics are collected on gender and race, making it hard to assert hard evidence and facts about how it impacts girls, femmes, and gender nonconforming youth. According to National Women’s Law Center, “Black girls are six times more likely to be expelled than white girls.” This is a clear example of the relationship between race, gender, and education. However, it is often overlooked in issues such as school discipline because boys of color are perceived to be the most at risk, when really ignoring the reality femmes face only exacerbates the issue. Overall, the panel was an informative and thought provoking experience. In the future, GJL hopes to continue working to make education more equitable and accessible for girls and femmes by using the knowledge gained at this panel and carrying out gender-justice lens to implement solutions learned.


March for Our Lives Recap



Girls Justice League attended the March for Our Lives, a student led protest calling for stricter gun laws, on March 24, 2018. The protest was sparked after a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas, taking the lives of 17 people. The survivors of this horrendous act have gained nationwide media attention after calling for political action from elected officials. The issue of gun control has sparked a huge debate across multiple platforms. The face of movement, predominantly white upper-middle class students, has greatly influenced the media attention they have received. Communities of color, particularly African American and low-income neighborhoods, have been fighting for more intersectional, realistic, and comprehensive restrictions for decades. Gun violence facing communities of color has not gained nearly the same recognition as those of Parkland, Florida; this is not a color blind issue.

The members of Girls Justice League, who are predominantly African American women, did not feel as though the march was for them. They described it as “moment, not a movement.” In a city where Black folks make up more than 40% of the population, the audience of March 24th’s march was far from representative. While the student speakers consisted of a mixed audience, only a select few included the demands of not only white students, but black, brown, and latinx folks but even then, it wasn’t enough. As Jamila Mitchell, from Black Youth Project said, “If Black voices in a “movement” are auxiliary to everything, then it is not a “movement.”


What does GJL mean to our girls?

During our February 24th Saturday Institute, we asked the girls: "What does GJL mean to you?" Here are the responses!

  • Passion

  • Action

  • Makes me feel empowered

  • Sisterhood

  • Help other girls find and see their inner strength

  • Strength

  • Freedom

  • Love

  • Sisterhood

  • Safe Place

  • A voice

  • Knowledge

  • Creativity

  • Love

  • Good Vibes

  • Community outreach

What does intersectional justice mean  to you? Tell us in the comments!

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#Sayhername & the Fight for Intersectional Feminism Workshop


On Friday 23, 2018, the executive Director of Girls Justice League, Charlotte Jacobs, with the help of some of our members, facilitated a workshop called “#SayHerName & The Fight for Intersectional Feminism” at The Graduate School of Education, located on University of Pennsylvania’s campus. The purpose of this workshop was to stress the importance of inclusion of not only white women in the fight for equality, but women of color, disabled women, trans women, poor women, women of different religious backgrounds, and all women and femmes without regard to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and anything in between.

For the purpose of this workshop, feminism was defined as the political, economic, and social equity of the sexes. Intersectionality was defined as the layers of identity and their relationship to power. In the words of Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Why Intersectionality Can’t Wait” can be answered through this Bell Hooks quote;

“When black people are talked about, sexism militates against the acknowledgement of the interests of black women; when women are talked about racism militates against a recognition of black female interests. When black people are talked about the focus tends to be on black men; and when women are talked about the focus tends to be on white women.”

#Sayhername was broken down into 6 segments, first community agreements, next key terms related to intersectional feminism, followed by an introduction to the #sayhername movement, then a discussion on what different types of feminism has looked like throughout history, and finally it concluded with a discussion surrounding what people can do everyday as acts of resistance.

“I appreciate having a name to describe something I’ve felt my whole life.” Tinuke, Student at University of Pennsylvania

The girls elaborated that without intersectional feminism, people are forced to choose one aspect of their identity and prioritize that. This can lead to problematic movements that leave out underrepresented groups, such as the women’s suffrage movement of the early 1900’s, the feminist movement 1970’s, the #MeToo movement, and Barack Obama’s grant making initiative My Brother’s Keeper, which excluded girls, trans, and gender non conforming youth. All of these are NOT examples of intersectional feminism and further harm marginalized groups because their voices are silenced and their stories are erased.

As a reaction to the lack of awareness for the police brutality faced by black women and gender nonconforming folks,  Kimberlé Crenshaw created the #Sayhername movement. It’s designed to lift up the names of trans women of color. This is an example of an intersectional movement because it focused on both racial identity and gender and the ways in which those factors interact with each other.

“When we put forth the most marginalized people first, everyone benefits.” Nyazia, 18

    In 2018, Girls Justice League is hoping to continue to grow even more intersectional by becoming clearer in our mission, better supporting disabled and neurodivergent girls and femmes, and further develop organizational missions surrounding sexual orientation and non-femme gender identities. GJL looks forward to a year full of growth and action. We invite you to participate in our Saturday and Summer Institute’s. Information regarding the Summer Institute application process will be available soon.

“Everyday is a victory.” Indiah, 20


GJL attends Black History Collaborative Conference


Instead of attending the regular Saturday Institute on 2/10/18, Girls Justice League attended the Second Annual Philadelphia Black History Collaborative Conference at Kensington CAPA. This year’s theme was Youth Driven Solutions: Student Ownership of Education and Community Issues. The girls first attended a workshop entitled Student Activism: A Missing Link, facilitated by Sharif El-Mekki – principal at  Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus. He shared his experience on implementing a Social Justice class as a mandatory course for all 8th graders. It is designed to help students learn the history of student activism and prepare them to rise up as the next change makers of tomorrow.

In response to his lecture, we asked the girls for their first reactions.

“I think that my school should have a class like this because people of different races and ethnicities will get to learn more about the African American experience. However, it should be an elective so kids who are actually interested in these topics can learn more about it.  I like that the course is hands on.” Kierrah, 16

“Girls Justice League should do more workshops based on different social justice issues such as education and discuss ways in which we can help apply them to school classrooms. This will provide more knowledge to the students who are interested in education justice. The student will be involved in something they want to do” Sydney, 16

Overall, the conference was a success, giving the younger generation a platform to discuss modern activism, the power of education in our communities, and the preservation of African American history as seen through the eyes of Black Americans. We enjoyed our time and look forward to continuing to learn about the history of social justice movements throughout the world.

Attending a congressional briefing on Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Health

On October 30th, 2017, I was able to attend a congressional briefing on Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Health, which was held at the U.S Capitol Building's Visitor's Center in Washington, D.C. I was able to attend along with Erin Aja Grant, who is the Board Co-Chair of the Abortion Care Network. Being my first time in D.C, it was a memorable experience to listen to a panel of extraordinary women of color share research and testimonies on maternal mortality and reproductive health. I was very unaware of the maternal mortality rate in the United States. You would think that in a country as developed as ours, we wouldn’t have such problems. It is actually a lot safer to have children in Kenya and Bosnia then it actually is in the United States. Charles Johnson was a special guest on the panel, and told the story of his beautiful, vibrant, and exceptionally healthy wife who passed after she gave birth. She began hemorrhaging, and the hospital took way too long to attend to her, and she died an unjust death. There were many prolific speakers at the event, and one that particularly amazed me was Bethany Van Kampen, who is a Policy Analyst at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. What I enjoyed so much about their presentation was how they explained the long and complicated route it takes for someone to have an abortion. She spoke about the 17-year-old "Jane Doe", an undocumented immigrant who was trying to get an abortion in Texas, perhaps the most deadly state to have an abortion. When Jane sought out to have an abortion, she was held in federal custody. Although she had received an order that she was allowed to have an abortion, federal officials refused to allow the procedure to happen. Jane was successfully able to have her abortion in late October. This congressional briefing was an eye-opening experience, and it is nice and heartwarming to know that there are congresspeople such as Robin Kelly (IL-02) and caucuses such as the Congressional Black Caucus Health Brain Trust and organizations such as the Reproductive Justice Initiative that want to talk about this topic that is seldom talked about. Our future can only be successful if we better the lives of women. With how they are being treated now, with complete disregard, the future is dark. We need mothers to be able to come home with their children and to raise the next generation, but we also need to let women have autonomy over their own bodies and their life choices. As a GJL girl, I'm hoping we can have much more discussion about maternal mortality and reproductive rights, especially in regards to our reproductive health project. 
- Sarah, 18



The Girls Justice League attends the 2017 Pennsylvania Conference for Women!

Last week, a few of our girls attended the Young Women's Program that was a part of the 2017 Pennsylvania Conference for Women. As a part of the conference, the girls attended workshops focusing on finding your passion, and health & fitness. They also sampled treats, grabbed some swag at the Exhibit Hall, and talked with local business owners and activists. But hands down, the best part of the conference was getting to see their sheroes former-FLOTUS Michelle Obama and Producer/Screenwriter/Author Shonda Rhimes!

All smiles before the conference!

All smiles before the conference!

Former First Lady Michelle Obama & Shonda Rhimes provided advice, laughs, and truths that we will not soon forget!

Former First Lady Michelle Obama & Shonda Rhimes provided advice, laughs, and truths that we will not soon forget!

The GJL 2017 Summer Justice Institute Begins!

This summer we have 16 Summer Justice Fellows who have joined us for the Summer Justice Institute, whose theme follows up on our Turning Points conference, "Escaping the Systems: Fighting for the Rights, Justice and Liberation of Girls."  Led by an awesome leadership team of veteran GJL girls and community activists and organizers, the Justice Fellows will engage in an eight-day series of workshops, activities, and direct actions focusing on reproductive justice, the justice system, education justice, and food justice. Check out our page on Instagram (@girlsjusticeleague) to see more of what we've been up to this week!


The Girls Justice League Welcomes its First Executive Director!

* The original announcement was made on May 15, 2017

The Girls Justice League (GJL) is excited to announce that Dr. Charlotte Jacobs, who has been actively involved in the organization for the past 4 years, has been selected as GJL’s first Executive Director!  Charlotte will be leading the growth and development of Girls Justice League into its 5th year and beyond as it moves towards its goal of becoming a fully girl-run organization.

The Girls Justice League is a girls’ rights non-profit organization dedicated to taking action for social, educational, and economic justice for girls, young women, and all those who identify as female in Philadelphia.  

Charlotte has served in many critical roles in the organization from Co-Coordinator of the Saturday and Summer Institutes to most recently,  Chair of the Board of Directors.

Charlotte played a pivotal role working with the girls to launch GJL’s first Turning Points Conference, a feminist and social justice conference planned by girls for girls.  She also provided leadership to successfully launch Breaking the Silence Town Hall, a day-long event that brought together female identified young people, researchers, activists, policy makers to highlight gender-focused education and justice issues facing girls of color in Philadelphia. The event was organized in partnership with the African American Policy Forum, the Bread and Roses Community Fund, and several other local social justice-oriented organizations.

Charlotte recently earned her Ph.D. in education at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests focus on issues of identity development and gender in education concerning adolescent girls of color, teacher education and diversity, and youth participatory action research. While at Penn, Charlotte has worked as a research assistant for the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, and was the chair of the Penn Summit on Black Girls and Women in Education event in May 2015, which featured keynote speaker, scholar, and activist Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. Prior to graduate school, Charlotte was a 7th grade Humanities teacher in Chicago.

Charlotte’s passion for working with female identified young people and commitment to social justice issues will continue to support and drive forward GJL’s mission and vision of creating a space where girls come together to change the world.

GJL Girls Reflect on our 2nd Annual Turning Points Conference!

“About two weeks ago, Girls Justice League held our 2nd annual Turning Points. Three workshops were held talking about reproductive rights, the school to prison pipeline, and school policy. Although the turning points was small, it allowed for a more group discussion style for each workshop; no one felt talked at and experiences were heard. This Turning Points, we hope people left feeling more in control of themselves and knowing they can make an impact to changing issues that we discussed.”
- Christelle, 19

“This was my first Turning Points and my first time facilitating a workshop. I wanted to open up the space for the girls to talk about their experiences in school and how different school policy and administration’s attitudes towards girls of color affected their experiences at school. I loved being able to share with others and learn new things, and I think it was an informative time being able to identify injustices young girls face and how we can handle them.”
- Sarah, 17

“I enjoyed the discussion and new people that came. Loved that we created a space to have these open discussions and sensitive topic; it was well needed.”
- Afua, 16

“I felt like I learned a lot about how the juvenile system affects our youth. I didn’t fully realize how bad young girls were affected. I also enjoyed talking about injustices we faced in school - built a sense of community within the group.”
-Ruth, 15

GJL Leads Workshop at the Penn Summit on Black Girls & Women in Education

Desar'e and Melanie presented a workshop on "Good Girls and Bad Girls" at the Penn Summit on Black Girls and Women in Education on May 2, 2015. They asked the participants, who were mostly women, to stand up if the statement Desar'e and Melanie read applied to them such as "Stand up if your racial identity led people to doubt your ability". They learned that the problems that girls are facing now have been longstanding issues that generations of women have faced. The participants also had the opportunity to share their stories in a safe space of supportive girls and women. Many participants shared that this workshop was one of the rare experiences where they could share their story and truly be understood.

Also, check out an article in The Atlantic magazine ( where GJL member Melanie is quoted about her experiences in school!