There’s a new type of girl’s troop in Oakland, California. These girls aren’t selling cookies or learning to sew. Instead they’re learning about social justice.
Called the “Radical Brownies,” the group was co-founded about a month ago by Marilyn Hollinquest and Anayvette Martinez after Martinez’s daughter said she wanted to join a girl’s group. The troop is not affiliated with the Girl Scouts.
“How amazing would it be to have a girls’ troop that was really focused around social justice and where girls could even earn badges?” Martinez told KPIX-TV.
The group’s badges are custom made and reflect their social justice and culturally inclusive values. The badges include:
- Radical Beauty Badge
- Food Justice Badge
- Radical Self-Love
The group’s Facebook page states: “Radical Brownies empowers young girls of color to step into their collective power, brilliance and leadership to make the world a more radical place.”
Its “about” page states: “As queer women of color and avid trans allies we believe in creating trans and gender non-conforming inclusive spaces. We embrace the spectrum of gender diversity throughout our lessons and activities with group members. As co-founders we each have 15 years of youth development and programming backgrounds with LGBTQ and youth of color, and are implementing best practices in building a strong structure for our group.”
The group is for girls ages 8 to 11.
The children earned their first badge by marching in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. The badge has a fist emblazoned with the words “Black Lives Matter.”
“The girls felt really just like passionate about the topic and they loved being there,” Martinez told KPIX-TV.
The group isn’t afraid to tackle big social issues. KPIX-TV reported one of the girls saying, “White policeman are killing black young folks such as women, men and children,” one of the girls said. Another girl added: “Mike Brown. He was shot because he didn’t do nothing. Only the police officer shot him because of his skin color.”
Martinez explained: “They are big issues. But we also feel like these are conversations that they’re not too young to be having.”
Even their uniforms express a message. The girls wear a beret with “a Black Panther/Brown Beret twist,” as of the Radical Brownies described. Hollinquest said the uniform was “very appropriate.”
“A lot of the work the Black Panthers did was community oriented.”
Within a few weeks, the Radical Brownies’ Facebook page received 10,000 likes. There have been requests from as far away as France and Bermuda to start chapters there.
But the group has also triggered an avalanche of online criticism, with some accusing the group of brainwashing.
“We did strike a nerve. We definitely did strike a nerve,” Hollinquest told KPIX-TV.
She emphasized they are not telling the girls what to think.
“Kids already understand fairness and unfairness, so we take that understanding at an age-appropriate level,” she said.
The girls said they feel like they are a sisterhood.
“It’s really good for me because it brings out who I am,” one of the girls said.
Martinez said, “After this first year, we’re hoping to be able to support other chapters starting.”