Honoring Black History Month by celebrating leaders making a difference
INTRODUCING COMPTON GIRLS CLUB
Q. Can you tell us a little bit more about you and how and why you started the Compton Girls Club?
I'm Chrystani Heinrich. I'm the founder and executive director of Compton Girls Club....We started at Compton high school as an after-school club and I found myself in a space where... Kids don't utilize libraries anymore like they used to. Everything's kind of digital and we kind of have like an old school library where it was huge books everywhere but nobody was using it. I had a lot of downtime and I was at a point where it was like, "I can be doing more. I need to be doing more."
And so I was like, "What has always been my passion?" And I had to look within myself and I know that I've always been a champion for women. I've always been the one who's standing up for a random woman on the bus stop or putting myself in harm's way for women, girls or non-binary folk. And I was like, "I'm going to just start an after school club." At first we had about 10 girls and they weren't quite sure and I wasn't quite sure what I was doing but I was like let me just do some easy activities with them like brown sugar scrubs. I can get a pound of brown sugar and some coconut oil and it was something new to them and I was using my hands and really making a... These girls are just like, "Oh! This is cool. I can give this to my mom." And they're getting a purpose. And like, "Oh! I can sell this." Or, "This is fun." It just felt good to be with other girls and just connect doing something.
Q. Did you find any challenges to getting this started, or did it flow because it was the right time and the right thing?
A combination. It was more kind of... Because I was doing this at a school which is like a public government entity and sorts of way there were certain things I couldn't do. I wanted to do a class on natural medicine and things you can find in the home at a school and they're like, "We can't really have you doing that with people's kids." Or, "We can't really have you teaching about periods and stuff." I was like, "Okay." I actually would have these yoga sessions on the lawn and we would be learning how to do herbs for cramps or setting intentions with oils and stuff. It was just kind of that little pushback but they never said anything to me because they knew what I was doing was something needed. And then ever since I've been on this path I've never gotten a "no." That's how I knew it was my mission because nothing was pushing me back. If I needed help the resources will fall into my lap. If I needed a speaker they would find me. I haven't had a no that that debilitated me yet in any no's or just personal no's at this point.
Q. Are there any stories of a time or experience with the girls that solidified that what you were doing was really needed?
...I didn't have one specific story...a little bit after we first started we were utilizing a community center and a lot of our audience were actually older women meaning women about 26 and up and they were just saying like, "I'm glad you're having this class I know it's for teenagers but I never had access to these lessons when I was young." And I just love that I get to meet other women and I get to learn about how to create a podcast or I get to learn about how to make a Hawaiian Lei. When would I learn that?
Q. What are the upcoming workshops that you're excited about right now?
Right now I'm actually working on a finance series for March because it's International Women's Month and I kind of want to do things that are typically for lack of a better word, more male dominated. I want to kind of touch on of course starting a bank account but what are taxes? How do you do them? How do you fill out your W-9 for your first job? When I had my W-9 I didn't know what it meant. I was just like one... I had no idea and I even want to touch on things like cryptocurrency because what is that? Sure Bitcoin is soaring but what does that mean right now? And imagine if you invest now and then 10 years later you can pay for college.
Q. Do you bring in outside speakers or are you learning the material yourself and then bringing it in?
In the beginning I was kind of Youtube-ing things and just like, "How do I do this?"And teaching it but a lot of our speakers come from Instagram. Everything I did from the beginning I will put on Instagram. If I ever need help I just kind of do a call out like, "Looking for people who may know finances to volunteer their time." And a lot of people are volunteering their time. They don't even want to get paid and it's just a blessing.
Q. Do you have any successful pieces of advice for carving out time for self care and then things that you like to do when you can find the time?
This is one of those things that's easy to tell someone else to take your own advice because I'm not ashamed to say I have a therapist and these are the things that I'm kind of working on now. Carving space out for myself. The things that I like to do is that I like to be in the sun. I like to lay in the grass. Those are all free things that you can do. Even if you live in an apartment you can go to a park for a minute and just calm down and just be quiet for a minute. Even if it's your shower time make it sacred. Use your favorite scents in the bath. Use your favorite towel or loofa. You have to steal moments especially if you have children because I am constantly in between zoom and work and I can't take a three day vacation because I'm a mom, but I still have to find those little moments and make them precious and be intentional with them.
Q. What is it that would help you the most or it's both beneficial for you in terms of helping you support Compton Girls Club?
Of course monetary donations are always helpful. That's how we pay for our classes. We aren't funded. We don't have a grant writer. Everything we do is through donations, but outside of that we are always looking for people to share their expertise in whatever it may be. And you may think all this is simple no one wants to learn this but with teenage minds everything is new. Everything is new. You might have made a vision board a billion times but a teenager has not made one yet. And if that's your expertise we're looking for any type of... If you're in the automotive industry, if you're in makeup...any topic we're always looking for speakers to help and teach.
MORE THAN A MOMENTSupporting the Black community takes more than just 28 days — it is an ongoing commitment that takes all of us. We would like to plant the seed of giving back during Black History Month and the rest of the year, so that this organization can continue the important work they are doing within their community. We urge you to continue to fight social injustices, commit to monthly donations, and listen to the experiences of the Black community.