The AMAAD Institute Celebrates Women's History Month
Happy Women’s History Month! 

Greetings AMAAD Family & Friends,

As a self-proclaimed feminist, I am asking myself if I have always stood for equal social, political, and economic opportunities for women? I am thinking about my life’s history and I pause to ponder the degree of my consciousness. While it is clear to me that even as a child I always inherently felt aligned with women’s liberation, but the more I think about it, I am realizing that I have never fully factored the degree to which there has been systematic oppression of women. It is occurring to me that my life started out with me able to take for granted the power of women, especially Black women. I’ve never gone a season in my life without knowing and feeling the impact “Black Girl Magic” as influenced by the multiple family matriarchs that made struggle an easy routine. 

This women’s history month, I make a pledge to be more conscious and thoughtful about the continual need to push for justice for all women. I commit to making sure that at AMAAD, we purposely position our efforts with feminist consciousness and that we especially celebrate and honor that power which many of us have inherently taken for granted.


Carl Highshaw, DSW-C, MSW
CEO and Founder
As data starts to shift toward reopening, how do you feel about in-person gatherings?
I'm open to small, socially responsible in-person gatherings.
I will attend outdoor-only events.
I plan to keep it virtual.
I prefer a mix between virtual and in-person.
I'm ready for events to be like they were pre-pandemic.

AMAAD's Leading Women
Nina Barkers
Evaluation & Program Coordinator
"I am a powerful Black trans womxn, who is living her life going through the motions of creating change.

What inspires me is that we as Black people will one day soon be free of all discrimination and hatred and live in love & light!

AMAAD is a great place that provides me security to pursue community change and equality. AMAAD is the example of what happens when we can “see each other” which helps me grow in my fullness.

What is needed to support Black women? We need more spaces of opportunity for Black women in leadership to show up. Create those spaces and give them full access to dive head first into something they have expertise in and watch what happens! It is also about respecting Black women, not just on paper, but also in person. Actions speak louder than words!

I always like to make sure each person knows their own power, privilege, and purpose. Understanding that can lead to revolutionary actions that can affect generations to come. Being “present” within yourself and knowing who you are is a powerful tool in your journey here on this earth."
Lanelle P. Laws, AMFT
Behavioral Health Therapist
"I am a new Los Angeles resident and mother of two. I have always wanted to make a difference and I felt that I would have more opportunity to do that in a place as diverse as Los Angeles!

My inspiration comes from within. I’ve overcome so many obstacles that I’ve had to build myself up. When I see others encounter the same adversities that I have, or when I see folks feel defeated and hear that they want to give up, that inspires and motivates me to go harder in this work. I feel like I could be the change and motivation they need. I’ve always heard to lead by example. I never did that before, but I now want to walk every day trying doing that!

AMAAD to me means putting a professional label on what I’ve been living and doing my entire life. As we grow up, especially someone from the African-American community, we see a lot of generational trauma. I never knew that there were words that could actually define and describe that trauma. AMAAD gives me the opportunity to teach individuals that look like me what it means to have a healthy life, not only professionally, but personally. The culture that AMAAD has grown has helped me elevate myself to another level. So to me AMAAD means growth. AMAAD means love. AMAAD means acceptance. AMAAD means change!

In order to support Black women, I think we need more of us! That is, more affirming and uplifting spaces that allow us to breathe life into our sisters and turn trauma into triumph! In order for others to support us, we need to believe in ourselves and love ourselves. But also, we need our communities to accept, understand, appreciate, and welcome us into ALL spaces.

Finally, I just want all women to know that you were great, no matter what we’re told. You’re more than enough!"

Sometimes you may feel tired,
And not want to go on.
Sometimes you’ll feel weighed down,
Like your worries are a ton.

Just keep your head up, Black girl,
Because your time is near.
A Black woman will blossom,
And bring the world to tears.
Crystal G. Bender, AMFT
Behavioral Health Therapist
"I grew up in Compton, Ca., where my awareness of the need for mental health was born. My mother worked in education, and my father in law enforcement, and I was always taught that I am the key-holder to my future -- no matter the obstacles I may face as a Black woman 'growing up in the 'hood.'
I am a family woman and an educator, but I'm also a survivor-- a survivor of stigma, stereotypes, hypocrisy, and racial injustices and disparities. If it had not been for my relationship with God, and the love and support of my family and friends, I would not be here today. 

My inspiration actually comes from growing up in Compton, experiencing firsthand the disheartening and discouraging needs and barriers of underserved and often overlooked communities. The lack of resources, support, and education is what activated my passion to work in within my own community.

To me, AMAAD means that there is hope. There are people who actually care for those who feel hopeless. AMAAD listens to those with no one to talk to. AMAAD provides support with such a high level of compassion that when people come in contact with AMAAD, they never leave. They become family! To me, AMAAD means love, the love that only a mother can provide, the love that shows, despite and in spite of it all, you can always come back. AMAAD is home.

I believe that we as Black women need time-- to finally take the time to connect, support, and love on each other. If Black women can truly come together with an open heart and open mind in all spheres, with all shades of melanin, on one accord, we would be even more dynamic! Black women possess something that no one else does. And that power is its strongest when we come together and support each other.

As Black women, we face so many challenges that we have to 'sweep under the rug'. That with being seen as 'Superwoman without the cape.' We must make time to take care of ourselves and do regular mental check-ins. A healthy mind is the foundation and gateway to a healthy body, a healthy heart, and ultimately a healthy soul.

Happy Women’s History Month!"
Gerald Garth Appointed to LA Commission on HIV
The AMAAD Institute congratulates and celebrates Gerald Garth, Director of Operations, on his recent appointment by the Board of Supervisors to the Los Angeles Commission on HIV.

In his role, Garth will serve on the Public Policy subcommittee and currently serves on the Black African American Communities (BAAC) Taskforce.
Reclaiming Innocence One Day at a Time!
By Tony Hawks, Housing Navigator

Shonta Montgomery

The Care Coordination team would like to highlight Reclaiming Innocence participant, Shonta Montgomery, for the month of March. Before coming to AMAAD Institute, Montgomery was homeless for four years after spending time in prison.

Shonta Montgomery

Montgomery’s goal was to get her son back and to find employment immediately after being released, but her plans did not go as expected. Many jobs denied her because of her background and finding stable housing was a huge challenge. Although Montgomery was homeless, she made it her priority to make sure her son stayed on the right track. Even while experiencing homelessness, she made sure he made it to school on time every day.

Montgomery met and spoke with other agencies and programs over the years with the hopes of finding a place to call home or a job she could commit to, but there was no progress. When Montgomery met Ted Booker (AMAAD Manager of Housing Services) and Pastor Curt D. Thomas of Momma's House for the first, she received love and support right away. Montgomery was placed in housing within a week after meeting with them. She began in temporary housing and later transitioned into permanent housing. Through support with AMAAD, Montgomery was able to reconnect with her son and she is more than grateful.

Montgomery is currently in the process of getting her GED. Her goal is to become a Peer Navigator for the youth in Los Angeles. The Employment Readiness Program at AMAAD has already started assisting her with this process. She wants to mentor young adults and encourage them to stay off of the streets. She wants to them to stay on the right path and make good decisions that will benefit them in the long run. Her main goal is to be the person for them that she needed when she was younger, because mentorship goes a long way. Montgomery will use her experiences to pay it forward.

Montgomery thanks the entire Reclaiming Innocence Team and Pastor Curt for everything. She stated that, “AMAAD turned nothing into something”. She informed the Reclaiming Innocence Team that she is in a much better place now that she is under the same roof as her son. Montgomery looks forward to finishing school and starting her career.
The Queen Bee
By Theodore "Ted" Booker, Manager of Housing Services

Contributions of the Phenomenal African American Woman

On the subject of African American History, the African American woman has been savior and sustainer of her race. If not for her sacrifice, as a people, Black Americans would not have survived slavery. Against all odds of slavery, racism, oppression, and repression, she has done whatever it takes to ensure the survival of her people. Because of her continued functional role, her behavior can be compared to role of the queen bee in the social structure of honeybees.

Role in African American Culture

Like the queen bee, the African American woman is the heart and soul of the colony. Honeybees are social insects that live together in large well-organized family groups. She is the reason for nearly everything the rest of the colony does. The queen bee is the only bee with which the rest of the colony cannot survive. A quality queen means a strong, productive hive. When I think about her qualities and role in society, I refer to her as queen mother, nurturer, burden barrier, protector, leader, organizer, resilient advocate, teacher, motivator, pioneer, doctor, lawyer, trendsetter, social reformer, politician, strategist and gatekeeper.

In the chronicles of history, she has been a major contributor to the progress of a people. Her innovative tactics of finding a way out of no way helped to free us in every form. Like the honeybee colony, she helped devise a complex system of effective communication. The queen bee produces pheromones that serves as a social “glue” unifying and helping to give individual identity to a bee colony.

From the perils of Willie Lynch, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement, she has been on a quest to restore a people to their rightful place. Her story of triumph and struggle will forever be recorded in the annals of history.

Role as Lover, Wife and Mother

As a lover and wife, the character of the African American Woman is one of supporter, confidant and partner. The physical appearance of her vivacious curves is unmatched and admired. Her allure captivates the attention of her prey. Only the distinguished and mature man understands how to appreciate the feminine wilds of her seductive ways as she cast her honey comb. 

As a mother, she helps mold and shape the personality and character of her offspring. She sets the tone and expectation for success. One of the first comments often heard from those rising to greatness is “I want to thank my mom for her dedication, drive and support”

Although the plight of African Americans is ongoing, duty once again has called her to the forefront of advocacy and grassroots organizing. Her legacy continues to produce contributing members of society such as vice presidents, presidents' wives, business owners, company executives, doctors, lawyers, and athletes to name a few. As the foundation of a culture, she will forever be remembered for her drive and tenacity.

Through it all, the African American woman has maintained a level of beauty, dignity and grace that surpasses all other women. She continues to be a trendsetter that is often imitated. Her strength and determination forges the path of greatness.

Christopher Webb- Communications Coordinator

Gerald Garth - Editor

Carl Highshaw - Publisher