“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!” -Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake, Sitting Bull
This past month has been as busy as it’s been rainy here at Empower Montana! Our favorite thing about spring is seeing all of our leaders in action! It’s also the time of year we get to empower new leaders through our advanced leadership training (see upcoming events for details!). We are looking forward to some summer fun and exciting projects. Here are some highlights from April!
This April we hosted our 8th annual Diversity Day celebration! This year consisted of a fantastic showcase of our young peoples leadership in Montana. The night started out with our EPIC middle school students premiering the video they made giving advice to surviving middle school. Our elementary school EPIC students performed a super sweet song they composed about preventing bullying. It was a great year for EPIC projects!
Throughout the evening we had the pleasure of hearing about the leadership work that our youth are heading in the community. Marita Growing Thunder, a senior at Polson High School delivered an impactful speech on her work to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women. As part of this project called Save Our Sisters, Marita has made a dress to wear every day to school, each in honor of a missing or murdered indigenous woman. Marita had just come from a week long march across the Flathead Reservation and spoke of the group’s encounters with racism along the way. Marita reminded us all of the importance of learning and remaining vigilant to the racism and violence perpetrated against indigenous women.
Also at the celebration, we had Sydnie Sinclair and Addie Smith showcase the projects they have been working on in their senior year of high school. Sydnie has been with us since she was in middle school and is now putting together a rodeo to raise awareness about suicide prevention. Addie combined her love for art and social justice by creating portraits of people to highlight and celebrate their diversity. We also got the chance to show the impactful video Jessica Beers made about her project of having peers and administrators go through two days of school in wheel chairs. We feel so lucky to be witness to all of this amazing work!
In addition to our speakers, we got down to a performance by Tahj Bo and were moved by the poetry and music of youth in the crowd. Diversity Day is always an exciting time for us and we loved carrying on the tradition this year! Thanks to all who made it possible!
In case you missed it Empower Montana 2017 Diversity Day is scheduled to air on MCAT Ch. 189: June 2 @ 5pm and June 3 @ 6pm
The program will also be available for viewing on MCAT’s Video on Demand at www.mcat.org, closer to the air date.
In a culmination of our Youth Empowerment Campaign, we paired with the Salvation Army and Holy Spirit Episcopal Church to put on a youth homelessness sleep out. A sleep out is when a group of people sleep outside to create a visual display of homelessness in order to raise awareness of the issue. Our sleep out was not meant to replicate the experience of young people facing homelessness, but to teach our community about the issue and raise donations for the Teen Drop In Center. The event included a youth led teach in, and a screening of “The Homestretch”, a documentary about youth homelessness in the United States. Along with youth, speakers from Pride Foundation, Missoula county public schools, and Salvation Army facilitated the community education component.
15 youth from both EmpowerMT and Holy Spirit Episcopal participated in sleeping out, creating a noticeable display, which caught the attention of community members passing by. All those involved expressed appreciation for this opportunity and cause. One of our leaders, Jared Burkhart said, “The sleep out really showed me the state some homeless people live in. I’m hopeful to help people in need in any way I can.” The event helped us reach our campaign goal of fundraising twelve thousand dollars so we can keep working to empower the youth of Montana, especially those who are struggling.
Business and Organizational Work
Over the span of about two months, EmpowerMT worked with the Department of Natural Resource Conservation to provide a five session training series on empowering women’s leadership in the workplace. The series was separated by gender for the first four sessions and culminated in both groups joining together to share highlights and set goals for moving forward on the issue. This series was such a special opportunity to delve deeper into the issues of sexism and women’s inequality in the workplace. What made it even cooler was working with the men of the DNRC to develop male allyship skills to better support the women.
Heidi and Claire had the pleasure of working with the women of the group. The group learned about the systemic patterns of sexism, reflected on personal experiences of sexism in and out of the workplace, considered the ways in which leadership qualities are gendered, and practiced sills to interrupt sexism in the workplace. Claire particularly enjoyed this chance to apply her Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies degree! Everyone looked forward to the Friday sessions and relationships grew stronger throughout the weeks.
Jamar and Jesse lead the men’s group which also proved to be a valuable experience for everyone involved. The sessions with the men centered on learning about impacts of sexism, male privilege, the harms of toxic masculinity, reflections on interactions with female coworkers, and skills to be allies to women and interrupt sexism in and out of the workplace.It truly felt like a honor to facilitate these discussions and important growth opportunities within the DNRC. While work towards women’s equality will never be done, this was a progressive and admirable step for the DNRC to take with us. We hope to work together more in the future to empower each other!
EmpowerMT’s High School Advanced Leadership Camp!Can you believe it’s time to start registering for camp?! We are so excited for our annual three day leadership camp for high school students and educators at Camp Paxson! The goals of this 3-day leadership camp is to prepare a cohort of students, staff, and community members to return to their communities to co-lead violence prevention and prejudice reduction workshops in K-12 schools across Montana throughout the year. It is our belief that every young person deserves a safe and welcoming learning environment. Learn more on our website!
Life Line Rodeo “Buck The Blues”
Our very own EmpowerMT Leader Sydnie Sinclair has been working hard to put on a rodeo for her senior project! Sydnie is throwing the rodeo to raise awareness for the growing suicide rates in Montana. ! It will be held Sunday May 28th in Drummond.
Hope to see you there to support this amazing example of youth leadership! For more details,check out the Facebook event! Indigenous Film Festival
Missoula Indian Urban Health Center is putting on a free three day film festival at the Missoula Children’s Theater! Each evening there will be short films and a feature film and will include panel discussions. Check out the poster for more info!
Screening of Awake, A Dream From Standing Rock
May 22nd at 7pm the Roxy Theater will be showing a highly anticipated film about the water protectors of Standing Rock. Here’s a description of the film: In 2016 Standing Rock, North Dakota became one of the most watched places on earth. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe captured world attention through their peaceful resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens the drinking water of 18 million people and Indigenous sovereignty. While many may know the details, AWAKE: A DREAM FROM STANDING ROCK captures the story of the Native-led defiance that forever changed how we fight for clean water, our environment and the future of our planet. (Check out the Facebook event here) Advanced Leadership Training
EmpowerMT will be rescheduling our Missoula Advanced Leadership training for the Fall of this year. We want to reach the most people as possible! The training will be held on September 8th and 9th. We will keep the community updated on the event in months to come.
News of Interest
New Resource from Communities Against Hate
The 1-844-9-NO-HATE (1-844-966-4283) hotline was launched by the Lawyers’ Committee to connect individuals and community organizations who are grappling with hate to legal resources, local service organizations, mental health services, and, in appropriate cases, access to counsel. Please promote the hotline in your community and on your web site and social media feeds.
Is the Term “People of Color” Acceptable in This Day and Age?One day a student approached me after class and asked, “What should I call students who are of Asian descent? Is it OK to just say Asian, or should I say what group they belong to?” He continued, “What if I make a mistake and call a Chinese student Japanese? I don’t want to appear racist.”
On the campus where I teach, as well as in community organizations that I belong to, people often approach me with such questions. (Continue reading here)
How 3 Iconic Women Faced Off Against Sexism in the Senate and Won
On Monday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee met to hear the former acting Attorney General’s testimony on potential Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. However, it quickly became clear that committee members were focusing on questioning her credibility more than that of former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Reminiscent of other high-profile hearings from recent memory—particularly those involving Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards — it wasn’t the men out to discredit Sally Yates, but her composure while in the hot-seat that resonated most of all. (Continue reading here)
Aging Voting Machines Pose Challenges for Disabled
HELENA — Elections clerks across Montana could find themselves increasingly challenged to serve voters with severe physical disabilities because of a dwindling supply of polling equipment designed especially for people who cannot use traditional voting machines. (Continue reading here)
These Profound Photos Masterfully Turn Racial Stereotypes On Their Head“Let’s Talk About Race” is a powerful photo essay published in the latest issue of O, The Oprah Magazine that challenges the ways we view race in a masterful way.
The magazine’s editor-in-chief Lucy Kaylin, who oversaw all production of the publication’s “Race Issue,” commissioned photographer Chris Buck to help bring Oprah’s vision for the feature to life. Each of the three photos in the essay shows women or girls of color in a role reversal from the ways in which they are stereotypically seen ― or not seen ― compared to white women or girls. (Check it out here)
EPIC stands for the group's values: Empowering People, Inspiring Change. EPIC is a youth leadership club offered after school for middle school-age youth. EPIC has been empowering young leaders in the Missoula community since 2003! The EPIC program seeks to break isolation and build allies across group lines, understand the causes of oppression, strengthen the connection to school through mentorships, and increase skills & confidence in diffusing conflict.
Youth Forward is a way for LGBTQ+, Two Spirit, & gender diverse youth to connect with peers, discuss issues relevant to their lives, explore identity, and learn more about the ever-expanding LGBTQ+, Two Spirit, & gender diverse community and how other identities intersect.
Be You Crew was formed after recognizing the need for a space where elementary and middle school-aged youth can explore gender identity and sexual orientation and develop allyship skills.
EmpowerMT recognizes that being a student of color in a predominantly white school is a very isolating experience and therefore wants to give BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) youth an opportunity to connect with each other. This group will center around giving students of color an opportunity to feel supported in their racial identity, learn a more racially diverse and inclusive history, and take action against mistreatment and discrimination.