Today we’d like to introduce you to Chrystani Heinrich.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started Compton Girls Club as an after school program at Compton High School. I worked in the Library onsite and noticed that a shift in the way information is obtained was taken place. Children were not checking out books anymore but utilizing digital resources. So, that left the Library and me in essence very lonely. I was sitting at my desk pondering what my real passion is, and that has always been girls and women. I had to revamp the way I dished out knowledge. I started the club as a 6-week workshop to even see if something like this would be welcomed by the girls on campus. Topics included “Growing up as a girl in Compton and how that makes you feel”, to “What is appropriation”. It was very hands-on and involved crafts, writing and of course… Vision Boards. The girls loved it. They were shy of course but they loved learning new things. From the beginning, I was documenting everything I did on Social Media. Even if my posts were blurry quick images of the girls in the Library, people would like them and take notice. I reposted and shared other organizations and female artist and the following grew organically. I began learning some simple graphic design tricks and of course (I am the Canva queen) and gave the page a fresh look and take that young girls and millennials liked.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
You know… It has not been a smooth road. There are always moments when I’m like, what if I don’t have enough girls. What if I don’t plan the right activities. Sometimes one person shows up, sometimes 15. When I started at the school, I was not funded. So everything I did came out of my pocket. I didn’t mind though because it was worth it. But sometimes I just felt like I didn’t have support from the school that I was working at, or like they didn’t appreciate the club. Actually, this was my last school year at the school I was working at. I was forced into resigning. I honestly felt like the club was over because I didn’t have access to my students anymore, but I was offered space for a summer residency at Yetunde Price Resource Center in Compton, and I have been hosting here since. Personally, I have days when I feel like I am not doing anything right, the impostor syndrome kicks in and I want to just quit. But, I just look inward to what my ancestors have done and continue to do for me. This is the club my grandmothers, mother, and even myself could have benefited from as a teenager. Who am I to give up? This isn’t about me, it’s about the next generation.
Please tell us about Compton G.IRLs Club.
Compton g.IRLs (Girls in real life) Club is a girls empowerment group that learns new things from Women of Color within the community. Subjects include new skills, new careers, new hobbies. We meet once a week at Yetunde Price Resource Center and get introduced to something we don’t know about. We have held workshops about things you would expect from a girls’ empowerment group like resume writing, college readiness, and self-esteem. But we also learn about non-traditional things such as tea tasting and creation, taken field trips to various museums, how to perform a hair cleansing ceremony, fiber arts with Criselle. I go about each meeting with the thought of “What do I wish I had learned about as a teen?” The thing is we have women of varying ages that attend meetings now that we aren’t in the schools. You have a lot of women who say, I’m glad I learned about this, I was never introduced to things like this. Honestly, no lie, or corniness… I learn something from every single meeting that I host. As far as something I am most proud about. My last year’s graduating senior class members all graduated and had after grad plans. All of my seniors except for one went to college, and the one who didn’t had graduated with her CNA certification. The class president was accepted and currently attends Stanford University. I’m proud of the girls. For real…
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
All the women in my life. My mom, my best friend, the speakers that have agreed to speak to my girls. I swear I’ve been sitting on this idea for years. But my best friends would yell at me like, girl, quit complaining and doubting yourself. There is a need, go be about it and fulfill it. I sat at my mama’s table moping and wondering if I could ever do something like this. She would remind me that I was a Girl Scout and I have already one this. She’d sit and plan meetings with me when I couldn’t think of anything. I had a moment when I felt my ancestors say, go ahead and do this and we got you. I haven’t heard no yet. This is important work.
The girls, every time they show up and learn something new, or pick up on a hobby and stick with it, it encourages me to keep on going with the club. I don’t have to affect the whole room, but if I change one mind they might be the next one to start a girls club. And honestly, my best friends yelling at me is the support I need. They are all bossy powerful women and they give me the boost and help I need. Also, all of the volunteers that have reached out to me via social media about hosting workshops, talks and demos. Most of the time for free with no questions asked.
- Website: http://www.comptongirlsclub.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: compton.girls.club
- Facebook: @ComptonGirlsClub
Megan Renee (Self portrait with pink hat and white jumpsuit)