The Homegirl Project interviewed Cheyenne Wyzzard-Jones, an activist who runs her own non-profit and the @WocSolidarity Instagram page, about the issues that surround her and other women of color.
interview by Simra Ahmed
SA: Can you tell me a little about yourself like your background, age, grade?
CW: My name is Cheyenne Wyzzard-Jones, I am a radical educator, organizer, friend, lover, healer, sister, and above all else being in this world. I am a Young Black Queer Femme Afro Caribbean, African American 24 year old person in this world. I am the Co-Founder of Women of Color in Solidarity with my amazing friend Florcy Romero and Founder of Resistance Education.
SA: What does it mean to run female empowerment instagram page @wocsolidarity?
CW: It is a place to create community, but community formations must also include in person dialogue in order for the liberation of Black and Brown people to truly come.
Activism can become a part of the non-profit complex that makes it individualistic instead of a collective movement. That scares me. However, I do think that we have seen the good in social media with BLM, Standing Rock, #MeToo, and its role as a platform to get information about other dope POCs around the world who are disrupting their country / community, especially Black and Brown Queer Femmes. Without social media, we would never know of the work they have been doing - until maybe they have died and 50 years later we hear of one radical woman who did something good for her community. And even that comes with so much sacrifice to get that one story out.
SA: Can you tell me about your nonprofit ?
CW: Women of Color in Solidarity is an organization that looks to create foundational change that addresses the systems that are not working, specifically for queer trans people of color throughout the world. We do this through storytelling, educational access, and connecting existing radical communities. We are an organization that does not believe in a single-issue problem model for social justice. We are a collective of radical educators, healers/brujas, mothers, hood femmes, organizers, and connectors who are dedicated to building various blueprints of community based liberation throughout the world. We go where we are invited to help build.
Resistance Education lives as an initiative and partnership a part of Women of Color in Solidarity. It was created as a collaborative education platform that centers LGBTQAI, Indigenous, Undocumented Educators of Color seeking to inform institutions, community leaders, educators, and youth, on how to pass down knowledge in responsible impactful ways. It is a space where academic theory and best practices are explained to and informed by Brown and Black communities.
SA: What was your motivation for starting your own nonprofit?
CW: Women of Color in Solidarity was founded in 2015 in Worcester, MA by Cheyenne Wyzzard-Jones and Florcy Romero during the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement, after the killing of Michael Brown. We realized that there was a difference in not only the energy but the engagement of women of color- mainly black women, and the white people at the protests. There was an overwhelming presence of white folks there [at the protests] for the wrong reasons and that’s when I [Cheyenne] got on the mic and demanded that all women of color link up to begin to organize amongst ourselves. This meet-up was backed by about 60 women of color- the youngest being 7 and the oldest being 80. All this to say, the systems are not working for us, especially for Queer Trans people of color. We can not wait for people to do the work for us, so we are doing it ourselves.
SA: What does it mean to be a young woman in business?
CW: Well I don’t come from a business background, so it becomes a trial and error routine. Constantly reflecting on what is working and what is not. I think because I am young, asking older people to support our work financially sometimes becomes hard because they treat you as a young person who may not be able to handle money. Or you find yourself constantly defending the importance of your work. However, I don’t want young people to feel like they can’t start their own business. I promise that community will support you if what you are creating comes from a loving place.
SA: How has your Instagram page and your nonprofit helped/influenced/impacted others?
CW: I think Women of Color in Solidarity in general is a place where people find community. Where people meet, connect, and collaborate. This is very important to me because not only are we then not feeling isolated in the work but we are building bigger and brighter ideas.
SA: Who are some of your role models?
CW: I grew up being a part of a generation of 5 on my mothers side. My mother and grandmothers are my everything. For me that has always played a huge role as to how I see the strength, love, and work of Black women. My role models are also my squad. The friends I have around me who inspire me everyday to continue the work. Recently, Audre Lorde has been coming back to me to influence me on how to move forward in my writing and reflections, so I will lift her up as well.
SA: What has inspired you to take action and leadership?
CW: I believe I have always been a leader, there was never a specific experience or action that pushed me. You look around and see that there is injustice - maybe as a Libra Sun, that's how I automatically see what's bothering me - and then my Aries Moon & Sag Rising is the fire that makes me want to do something about it.
SA: What do you believe are some of the biggest challenges that women/girls of color face today?
CW: This world is very anti-femme, especially femmes of color. I use femme because it is a term linked to queer identity. It is toxic, and we learn these traits of not caring for femmes from an early age. As an educator I think the biggest challenge is first getting people to unlearn this toxicity.
SA: How do you empower other girls?
CW: The word "empower" seems very white to me, to be honest. I think support and love makes more sense. I can’t empower anyone except myself but I can support people to reach their dreams and goals. I can support them, especially when they need help, by providing the resources they need to heal, thrive, and sustain a healthier life. Women of Color in Solidarity does that.
SA: What are some steps that you believe should be taken to ensure that Girls in your community, in the US, and around the world are empowered?
CW: I truly believe that liberation for Black and Brown people will come once we lift up the work, experiences, & voices of Queer Trans Black Indigenous Hood Femmes around the world. Support their work in the ways they are asking.
If you want to support us now, please donate to www.wocsolidarity.org/donate