SOCIAL IMPACTS: The Innocence Initiative to Protect Black Girls
In celebration of our 20th anniversary year, Impact Austin is highlighting Community Partnerships. From 112 grants totaling $8.26 million to 91 local nonprofits, this is one of our stories.
In 2019 we awarded the first of two Social Innovation Grants to improve the quality of life and opportunities for women and/or girls of color in Central Texas. (Since 2021, the SIG has been renamed the Equity Grant but it keeps the same focus and intent.) Our 2019 grant of $110,000 funded a collaborative of five organizations led by MEASURE to launch the Innocence Initiative and disrupt the adultification of Black girls. “Black girls receive disproportionate rates of punitive treatment in the education and juvenile justice systems,” said Meme Styles, MEASURE Austin President and Founder, in 2019. “The Innocence Initiative will elevate the data, listen to the real-life stories of Black girls, and address disparities that perpetuate adultification through advocacy, training, and a public awareness campaign.” Also part of the Innocence Initiative collaborative were Girl Scouts of Central Texas, Hearts 2 Heal, Lone Star Justice Alliance, and Community Advocacy and Healing Project.
In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Innocence Initiative reached all six of the action items proposed in their grant application - and more. These included:
5 community-led training sessions that reached 535 parents, teachers, and advocates
A speaking event titled “Our Girls Need Us” at the Women’s March in January 2020
The production of “Hey Sis! Be You!” comic book focused on empowering black girls, distributed to 15,000 households
A 6-part educational video series on how to protect Black girls now
The establishment of a “Girl Squad” mentorship program
The virtual racial equity training event had 200 registered attorneys in attendance. As of September 5, 2020, more than 700 attorneys sought credit from the State Bar for attending.
The work helped inform Travis County’s decision to release as many incarcerated youths as possible during the COVID-19 crisis.
11-page policy document (Dec 2020) that presents 10 new policy recommendations to regional school districts, city councils, and state of Texas.
In 2021, Impact Austin commissioned a case study to highlight the stellar results produced by the collaborative and our grant. While we urge you to read the linked study, you can hear about some of the highlights in this 2021 video.
Their work hasn't ended, thanks to additional community funders and other support. The Travis County Girl Squad remains a program of MEASURE, empowering Black girls ages 13-17 with clinical partners and Black mentors to triumph against adversity. And new research builds upon that which created The Innocence Initiative in the first place. Follow
More than simple praise for our Community Partners with The Innocence Initiative, this blog article shares a new resource, a Black paper by MEASURE entitled, Disrupting the Jezebel Stereotype to Protect Black Girls (Jan 2023). Quoting from this report:
"MEASURE and Truckers Against Trafficking came together to build upon the work of The Innocence Initiative to use MEASURE's CARE Model to form a consortium of individuals with lived experiences related to the issue, so that they can discuss actionable ways to bring about meaningful change. This report aims to shed light on the issue of human trafficking by presenting data on the scope of human trafficking of Black girls and exploring the root causes of adultification and exploitation. It will also present important insights from the community into the solutions that have been identified to combat such crimes. In doing so, this report seeks to equip professionals and community members with the necessary understanding to work together in developing effective strategies for ending all forms of human trafficking and reducing its devastating impact on communities around the world."
We should note that MEASURE's work goes beyond the Innocence Initiative. A Community-Engaged Research Course was piloted in 2019 at Huston-Tillotson University and was to expand to Texas State University, per MEASURE's website. MEASURE also partners with select Black, Brown, and Indigenous-led organizations to provide anti-racist data and four types of data evaluation tools. Find details here. Their website gallery of data, advocacy, and reports. Read their story and meet their leadership here.
Learn more about our 2019 Community Partners in The Innocence Initiative
(Community Advocacy and Healing Project has no active website at this time.)