Liberation Fund Prom Spotlights The Impact Of Incarceration On Girls And Gender-Expansive Youth

Working to end the incarceration of girls and gender-expansive youth in L.A.

Liberty Hill Foundation, in partnership with By Way of Us, hosted the Inaugural Liberation Fund Prom in Los Angeles. The event brought together community advocates, supporters, and grantee partners of the Liberation Fund, an initiative designed to end the incarceration of girls and gender expansive youth in L.A. County.

A Prom Like No Other

Dozens of young women and gender-expansive youth from across Los Angeles danced and celebrated at the LINE LA hotel at Liberty Hill’s Inaugural “Liberation Fund Prom.”

Unlike the hundreds of high school proms across Los Angeles this year, the young people celebrating at this event have had experience in LA County’s youth prison system—and were gathered to celebrate the work to end the incarceration of girls and gender-expansive youth.

“Girls and gender-expansive youth who come through the justice system often miss out on the key milestones that other teens might take for granted,” said Lisa Small, Senior Director of Youth Justice at Liberty Hill Foundation. “The Liberation Prom offered a chance to dance the night away like any other young person—but these youth are doing amazing work to change the system, and they’re going to end the incarceration of girls and gender-expansive youth in L.A. County.”

Liberty Hill created the Liberation Fund to ensure that no young woman or young person across the gender spectrum spends time in ineffective and abusive systems when they can be served better in the community. The grant program supports community-based organizations who are experts in youth development, legal advocacy, and organizing to prioritize the unique experiences of girls and GE youth, while simultaneously addressing the systemic failures and practices that harm them. Organizations that joined the Liberation Fund Prom include Young Women’s Freedom Center, Students Deserve, Beloved Community Housing, and Arts for Healing and Justice Network.

“The Liberation Fund Prom” featured a prom-themed dance party complete with all the trimmings. Youth leaders from several of the partner organizations got their hair and make-up prepped for their special night in a “glam suite” at the hotel, and every guest received a flower corsage. After speeches by supportive funders and politicians, the youth leaders were each honored in a “sash ceremony” to recognize their extraordinary work. Afterwards, attendees danced under tinsel-decorated lights.

“I didn’t get to attend my own prom, so it was emotional for me to get dressed up and shine,” said Ka’lee Matthews, a youth fellow with Young Women’s Freedom Center, who received a sash in the sash ceremony. “The work we’re doing, I’m doing it for my younger sister and for all the girls who are still in the system.”

In addition to providing youth who have been affected by the justice system with a night of celebration, joy, and advocacy, the event included dynamic speakers who addressed the goal of the Liberation Fund grantee partners— to create a collaborative blueprint that will pave the way for Los Angeles County to become the largest jurisdiction in the nation to end the incarceration of girls and gender expansive youth. Featured remarks were provided by Lateefah Simon, President of the Meadow Fund; Eunisses Hernandez, Los Angeles City Councilmember of District 1; and Nichol Whiteman, Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.

“The proportion of girls and gender-expansive young people in the youth justice system has increased over the last 20 years,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez. “The Liberation Fund is addressing the root causes of incarceration that are unique to this population. They are creating a Care First model that disrupts the school-to-prison pipeline and ends the incarceration of girls and gender-expansive youth in Los Angeles County.”

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