The NoVo Foundation recently committed a $450,000 grant to “transform girls’ lives at scale.” The project is called SheLectricity, a first-of-its kind, digitally enabled ecosystem to empower adolescent girls in the United States to thrive and reach their full potential as human beings and as engaged citizens. Designed with girls of color at its center, SheLectricity is intended to scale over time to reach all girls in this country who need safe and nurturing online and in-person experiences, relationships, and support in order to learn, grow, innovate, and lead.
SheLectricity is the brainchild of Anasa Troutman, a cultural strategist, producer, and entrepreneur based in Memphis, TN. Ms. Troutman is the Founder and CEO of Culture Shift Creative, a cultural strategy firm whose mission is to design and build cultural systems that repair our social fabric and foster a thriving, just, and inclusive society for everyone to enjoy. Best known for her work as strategic advisor and executive producer to independent artist India.Arie, Anasa provides strategic and creative support in many important cultural, political and social justice spaces; designs and facilitates national learning exchanges; trains non-profit leaders to integrate cultural strategy into their community organizing efforts; produces tours and festivals; and shepherds artists and creative thinkers through the process of manifesting their own creative visions.
“Working in the music industry, I saw firsthand how these ‘hits factories’ were all based on words and images that disrespected and disempowered black and brown women. And I see, everyday, how these words and images are affecting our girls,” says Ms. Troutman who was named one of the 50 Black Women Founders To Watch by Essence Magazine in 2017 and was was invited twice to the White House by the Obama administration to advise on cultural policy.
“I grew up in a family and community who taught me that I could do and be anything. My home and educational life was surrounded by the arts and culture. It made me who I am today. I knew if I could use technology to bring these same kinds of experiences to girls, we could help them take charge of their own stories and images and shift popular culture in the direction of greater equality, inclusiveness, and respect.” From this, SheLectricity was born.
SheLectricity’s key innovation lies in the integration of a digital social media platform with place-based programming designed specifically to meet the needs of adolescent girls. To shepard this integration, Ms. Troutman has engaged the expertise of Lynn Johnson, co-founder & CEO of Spotlight: Girls to oversee the project. Based in Oakland, CA, Spotlight: Girls is a certified B Corp with a mission to educate, inspire, and activate girls and women to take center stage. For the last decade, they have been producing high-quality programs for girls based in arts and media that have received both national and international acclaim.
Ms. Troutman says, “As soon as I met Lynn, I knew that she was the person to help me do this. Through our work, we both know that arts and media are the most effective ways to engage girls in learning self-confidence and self-respect. At the same time, we have both experienced personal and professional anger and grief at the lack of music and stories that actually see and lift up black and brown girls.”
The NoVo Foundation is based in New York, NY and is “dedicated to catalyzing a transformation in global society, moving from a culture of domination to one of equality and partnership.” Towards this mission, in 2017, Co-Presidents, Peter and Jennifer Buffett (son and daughter-in-law of billionaire Warren Buffett), made a commitment to invest $90 million over the course of 7 years in initiatives that support girls of color in the United States. According to their press release from that announcement, Mr. and Mrs. Buffett believe “that girls of color are experts in their own lives and wield immense power to transform their communities and the country. We are excited to partner directly with girls of color and their advocates so that they can live in safety and peace, dream and imagine all the possibilities of their futures, access all that’s necessary to live in dignity and fulfill their dreams, and feel celebrated and seen through love and connection.”
SheLectricity is a fiscally sponsored project of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville, an arts service nonprofit that leverages and unites the unique resources of the arts and business communities to create a thriving, sustainable creative culture. Fiscal sponsorship through the Arts & Business Council makes it possible for projects like SheLectricity to receive tax-deductible grants and donations for arts-related projects based in or producing work in Tennessee.
The 3-year grant will help SheLectricity build and test the digital app; design and launch the curriculum with initial partners in Memphis, Oakland, and Los Angeles; and package the program for replication in communities throughout the country.
For more information about how to be involved in SheLectricity, contact Project Director, Lynn Johnson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.