Jamila Trimuel, the Founder of Ladies of Virtue (LOV) and 2019 Chicago Peace Fellow, speaks to the Goldin Institute about the recent funding that LOV received from the Girls Opportunity Alliance, a program of the Obama Foundation, for their Fannie’s Fight for Freedom Program. This innovative civic engagement program is awarded 50 thousand dollars to launch new LOV Clubs in the South Shore community and support their annual Black Girls Rest event at South Shore High School.

Trimuel elaborates on how this initiative supports girls in Chicago, acknowledging they are powerful change agents deserving of their own space in the community. She highlights how this program encourages girls to fight for what they are passionate about and encourages them to vote and be a part of democracy.

She also reflects on her participation in the Chicago Peace Fellows, emphasizing meaningful cooperation that originated from this experience as a symbol of how Goldin Institute connects activists and creates bridges between them.

Ladies of Virtue posing inside of a government building.

A Program Strengthening Girls’ Voices

There are three parts of Fannie’s Fight for Freedom Program: Workshop, Capitol Hill Day in Washington D.C., and creating awareness via social media. “In the workshop, our girls had the chance to watch a documentary about Fannie Lou Hamer, and they had the opportunity to speak to women who are fighting for issues in our community.” Jamila says.

The workshop was a well-crafted and thought-provoking event that significantly impacted the attendees. The icebreaker activity and documentary screening of Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977), an African American civil rights activist on which the program is based, were engaging and informative. “Fannie Lou Hamer was someone who fought for women’s rights, and we wanted our girls to be aware of their history and some of the struggles that black women had to go through to be where we are today.”

“We heard from many girls that this was their first time hearing of Fannie Lou Hamer and that they like hearing and learning more about black history and women’s rights activists. They also highlighted they are positively impacted by learning about the history of our leaders.”

-Jamila Trimuel

The second part of this program was traveling to Washington, D.C., where the participating girls met with elected officials and representatives from their states. Many of the girls had never been to D.C., and visiting historical landmarks and sitting in elected officials’ offices was a significant experience. The three meetings successfully introduced LOV as a leading Chicago-based mentoring organization for Black girls, allowing the youth the space to advocate for mentorship. “We were honored to be present and be a representative of all youth voices in Illinois.” Jamila says. The last component is the leadership projects, where 26 girls from Chicagoland, most from the South, will work on some issues they are passionate about.

Ladies of Virtue posing in front of the Supreme Court

How Ladies of Virtue is Addressing Women’s Challenges

For more than 12 years, an essential aspect of LOV’s work and activism has been empowering Black girls in some of Chicago’s most under-served communities. While talking about some of the most pressing issues and challenges faced by women in Chicago nowadays, Jamila also elaborates on what LOV is doing to address those issues.

“One of the issues that black girls face is high disciplinary and suspension rates in Chicagos’ schools. Further, among these challenges stand depression and social anxiety. We are combating these issues in various ways. One is by incorporating mental health workshops in every program we offer, free of charge. We also offer one-on-one as well as small-group therapies.”

-Jamila Trimuel

She further talks about how mentorship opportunities they offer, one-on-one and group mentoring, have proven to bring benefits. “We know mentoring encourages girls to go to school to become more successful. When they see women who look like them, they know that they too can achieve their goals.” Mentoring includes someone checking up on the girls and helping them navigate their career opportunities. “Mentoring is where the girls engage their mentors. They also have mentors outside the session. They can go to games and participate in activities outside our organization.”

Ladies of Virtue posing in front of Tammy Duckworth's office.

Chicago Peace Fellows – A Meaningful and Lasting Experience

When speaking about her experience as a Chicago Peace Fellow, she recalls a partnership that stemmed from her time as a Fellow. “One thing I enjoy even to this day is that we partner with the Imani Community Development Corporation for our LOV Day initiatives. This is an event where we provide self-care experiences for Black girls in the South Side of Chicago.” Jamila met Dawn Hodges, Executive Director of Imani Community Development Corporation, during their participation in the 2019 Chicago Peace Fellows program. “My time with Goldin Institute was very comprehensive. Goldin Institute does fantastic work with NGOs. During the Chicago Peace Fellowship, we had the chance to meet other non-profits funded by black and brown people who are actually in the ground making an impact.” She says this focus on grassroots leadership was something different from the other fellowships she was part of.

Ladies of Virtue inside a government building paying attention to a speaker or presentation outside of the frame.

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