FFRF is delighted to announce, in association with the Women’s Leadership Project, the establishment of the Lorraine Hansberry Humanist Scholarship Awards.
FFRF has funded for the first time this year $1,000 scholarships for five recently graduated high school seniors from Los Angeles. The honorees were chosen by the Women’s Leadership Project, which, with Young Male Scholars, conducts school and community-based peer education programming, outreach and professional development, offering invaluable life and job training skills.
Students meet weekly with program coordinators and interns and are trained in sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention, LGBTQ+ youth leadership outreach and homeless education. Students elect their own group officers and assume responsibility for campus outreach and other communications, writing blogs, articles, poems and crafting video. They initiated two youth-facilitated forums on Black homeless women, anti-racism and mental health, as well as LGBTQ+ Youth of Color and mental health sexual harassment and campus climate.
Five young women with a humanist orientation have been chosen for the $1,000 awards. They are:
• Ashley Harris, a graduate of Drew Medical Magnet High School, will be attending El Camino College and plans to transfer to San Diego State, with a goal to study law. “My family is filled with either nurses or musicians and I wanted to be different, to create a change in the law system and free wrongly committed individuals,” she says.
• Raina Lee will be attending college this fall as a math major, also taking computer science courses, with a goal to “expose other young black girls to the world of coding and teach them the leadership skills Women’s Leadership Project has taught me,” including sharing the confidence to become their own boss.
• Brianna Parnell, who graduated from Gardena High School, is a first-generation student attending California State University pursuing a BFA in interior design/architecture. She aspires to attend Pratt Institute in New York for graduate studies and to be “an owner of multiple Black-owned businesses that will put wealth back into my community.”
• Zorrie Petrus graduated from Gardena High School, and is majoring in photography. “Photography is my passion and I am working toward making it my career in life. I don’t really see many photographers who look like me so one of my goals is to change that,” she remarks.
• Ashantee Polk was the Women’s Leadership Project president at King/Crew Magnet High School, and will attend Los Angeles City College planning a degree in psychology, hoping to transfer in three years to Cal-State Fullerton: “I want to continue to be the activist I am because we have a lot of work to do as a country and it starts with my generation and me. A big shoutout to WLP for making my senior year great even through the pandemic.”
The award memorializes Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright, who famously wrote in 1964: “Though it be a thrilling and marvelous thing to be merely young and gifted in such time, it is doubly so — doubly dynamic — to be young, gifted and Black.” Hansberry’s play, “A Raisin in the Sun” (1959), was the first drama by a Black woman produced on Broadway. Winner of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, it was loosely based on her own experiences when her parents bought a house in a white neighborhood and were greeted by a racist mob, sparking her parents’ civil rights case. The play’s heroine, Beneatha, notably, is a “self-avowed” atheist who gets slapped by her mother for admitting it. The title for the play came from a line in a poem by another freethinker, Langston Hughes.
“We express our appreciation for Sikivu Hutchinson, a founder of Black Skeptics Los Angeles, for her work with the Women’s Leadership Project and for making FFRF’s participation in this worthy cause possible,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. Hutchinson will be receiving FFRF’s Freethought Heroine Award at its annual convention in Boston in November 2021.