As Black History Month comes to an end and Women’s History Month begins, we wanted to spotlight the work of one of our talented staff members.
Stephanie Jeffcoat is our All of Us or None-Southern California Organizer and team lead for our Advocacy Division. The Advocacy Division is dedicated to fighting for the rights of formerly and currently incarcerated people and families. The past few months have been eventful for Jeffcoat as she was a speaker at our November 2021, Peace and Justice Summit on Family Reunification and actively involved with the Sacramento Rally to reform Child Protective Services, which was held in January during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
KS: What is your main focus in your activism? What topics in particular do you feel strongly about?
SJ: My focus is to encourage and uplift other formerly incarcerated people who have, like me, experienced barriers to reentry. I am especially passionate about family reunification, voting rights, policies that relate to formerly or currently incarcerated individuals, homelessness, and families who have been involved with the Child Welfare system.
KS: Are there any people who have inspired you in your activist journey?
SJ: Without a doubt, Susan Burton. Ms. Burton has been instrumental in my growth as an activist. Ms. Burton took a chance on me and has been an invaluable mentor. I am always tracking her down, trying to pick her brain to get more information. Ms. Burton has taught me the things I need to know to be the advocate that I am today. I am forever grateful.
KS: What do you think sets ANWOL apart from other social movement organizations?
SJ: A New Way of Life’s wraparound services, such as housing, advocacy, and civic engagement sets them apart from other social movements. The one-on-one aspect of how we engage with our clients and communities is incredibly important. Being a part of a group of people who have been in similar situations is what drew me to ANWOL and what made me want to be an All of Us or None Organizer.
KS: What does Black History mean to you?
SJ: As a multi-racial African American, Black History is important for people like me as it helps us to be educated and learn about our roots. My experiences at ANWOL have encouraged me to dive deeper into learning about influential African Americans; many of whom, unfortunately, most people have never heard of and do not know about their work, efforts, and contributions to history.
America has a history of oppressing the Black community, as Blacks were brought as slaves to this country over 400 years ago. The country has continued to work to keep Black people silent or to keep us down. The country is afraid to let us have any real power.
This is why learning about our history and remembering it matters. This is why we recently celebrated the start of Black History Month at our last All of Us or None-Southern California meeting. We screened a short documentary viewing and discussion of the significance of the Selma to Montgomery marches for the Civil Rights Movement, along with a presentation on Black History Month. Watching this, it is important as our AOUON-SC participants noted, these events took place not too long ago. Many, myself included, were grateful to learn about individuals who have been omitted from history despite their significance.
One person I learned about during my research for the meeting was Jane Bolin. Bolin was the first Black woman to graduate from Yale Law School and the first Black woman to become a judge in the United States. It was amazing to learn about Judge Bolin as I myself am currently on a similar journey to become a lawyer.
This is the type of history that I want to pass on to my children. I have had to take it upon myself to teach my children these amazing African Americans, as I know they will not otherwise learn about them in the classroom. People such as Bolin, whom I already mentioned, and others, such as Madame C.J. Walker, the first Black woman millionaire in America who was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist.