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A message from the Board:

The proverb goes, "charity begins at home." I believe that, and I also believe that recognition and appreciation should also start at home. Therefore, it is apropos that I begin 2022's National Women's History Month by acknowledging Ms. Cynthia Ruffin's appointment as the interim Chief Programs Officer. Hired as AMAAD Institute's first cis woman in a senior leadership position, she makes history in our organization. We expect that Cynthia's diverse professional history will bring a fresh and innovative approach to reaching AMAAD's goals and objectives. So, Cynthia, I salute you.

National Women's History Month was established to recognize and commemorate women's contributions to our country. Often during this month, we hear of the contributions of women such as Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, Marsha P. Johnson, and Sojourner Truth. These women are revered for their fierce leadership, perseverance in civil rights, and breakthroughs in male-dominated industries. Women's contributions are as diverse and vast as we are as a community – i.e., mothers, educators, activists, visionaries, athletes, professionals, leaders.

However, the unsung heroes are often those women who raised, mentored, and corrected us. These women set examples of resiliency, determination, innovation, and leadership. Women have long taught us that there is no limit to what we can do. For instance, the sky is not the limit but only a benchmark for how far we can go. Our CEO/founder – Dr. Carl Highshaw, says his beloved late mother would "make do" regardless of the adversity, circumstance, or situation presented. Without purposely trying, she taught her son that his dreams were achievable if he persevered by turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones. She taught him to accept people for who they are and where they are. Indirectly, the AMAAD Institute has very much benefited from all her teachings. So, I would like to close by saluting Mrs. Catherine "Bay" Highshaw. Thank you, ma'am. 

Arletha Miller

AMAAD Board Officer

Monthly News & Updates

March | 2022

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AMAAD welcomes new CPO and Staff

Cynthia Ruffin


Chief Programs Officer


Cynthia Ruffin, MA, has been at the forefront of social justice for more than 25-years and is thrilled to be a part of the growing team at The AMAAD Institute. She has found the perfect blend of creativity with training in front-line counseling at Vanier College in Montreal (her hometown), theatre at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and Nonprofit Management at Antioch University in Los Angeles, activism, and professionalism. Her theatre activism began with her work serving LGBTQ+ youth who had been kicked out of their homes for being gay and had resorted to survival sex. She has gone on to work with survivors of domestic violence, ex-addicts, felons and ex-felons, and people struggling with homelessness. Cynthia has helped create youth programming, written full-length plays, and produced events and shows at the Social Circus Company Wise New Mexico and Fringe Benefits Theatre in Los Angeles. 

She recently served as the director of COLORS LGBTQ Youth Counseling Services. She grew the agency’s capacity doubling the number of clients served and the number of clinicians providing those services. 

Cynthia is the founder and director of the production company Revolutionary Angel Productions, a ground-breaking mission-based and value-driven production company investing in communities by producing socially relevant content for businesses, nonprofits, and educational institutions. She is published in the anthology Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry, and she continues to write, direct and perform. 

Robin Barkins


Community & Engagement Training Coordinator


Robin Barkins is a fearless and outspoken peer advocate. Native of New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2009 Ms. Barkins advocacy and education began while in custody at the Lynwood Women's Jail; she participated in the Center for Health Justice: Women Moving Ahead Program. Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law was trained in legal topics of Dependency, Family Probate Courts, Paternity, Child Support, Domestic Violence, Life Skills, and Health. After being released from custody, Ms. Barkins entered Prototypes Women's Center Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program. While receiving treatment at PWC, Ms. Barkins took courses on Grief and Loss, Spirituality and Recovery, Computer Vocational Training, Nurturing Families Affected by Substance Use, Mental Illness, and Trauma, and Share our Strength an Operation Frontline: Eating Right Program. Robin received other training with JWCH Health Alternatives to Reducing the Risk of HIV Infection Program.

Robin now serves as the Community Engagement and Training Coordinator for the Ending the HIV Epidemic. Robin uses her life experiences to empower, educate, and advocate for black women and girls who suffer from the diseases of trauma, addiction, HIV, and incarceration.

Juwan Bonner


Prevention Specialist


Juwan Bonner was born and raised in Compton, California, and has always had a passion for helping people in his community. He finds excellent strength in giving back to struggling communities in need of resources. For two years, Juwan volunteered as a California Justice Leader at AMAAD Institute, where he found himself coaching and navigating formally incarcerated individuals into resources and services. In his new capacity at The AMAAD Institute, Juwan will be helping to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS as a Prevention Specialist in Youth Health & Wellness Programs. Juwan plans to provide HIV prevention education, HIV testing resources, and essential support services to individuals at risk or in need of health and wellness options.

Lea Collins


Behavioral Health Counselor


Lea Collins was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Carson. She is one of AMAAD’s newest Behavioral Health Counselors. Lea especially desires to bring fresh information to her clients regarding the combination of mental health and nutrition. Lea’s passion is to incorporate nutrition into therapy to help her clients realize that what they put into their bodies has a direct impact on their mental health. “We can do the work to have a successful counseling outcome, but the recovery journey must include a holistic approach to repair and replenish the mind, body, and soul.”

History in the making.


The AMAAD Institute is excited that President Biden has nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Judge Jackson would not just be an incredible addition to the Supreme Court, but a historic one. Judge Jackson is one of the brightest legal minds in the country and has exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law. 

AMAAD believes that it is long overdue that a Black woman serve on the Supreme Court, and we are unequivocal in our support of Judge Jackson as an outstanding nominee for the Supreme Court. As a grassroots advocate organization, the AMAAD Institute’s position is that the U.S. Senate should move forward with a fair and timely confirmation and hearing.  

Q.U.E.E.N. on the Rise!

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"When I think of Women’s Wellness, I think of self-care and the importance of “Taking A Break”! Women, especially African American women, think we must be strong all of the time. We believe we have to carry our family’s baggage and our own. Well, I’m here to change your perspective on “Women’s Wellness” and support you while saying it’s okay to be a little selfish. 

I’m big on acronyms, so I’m going to teach you one today! QUEEN…which stands for Quality-Unwind-Embrace-Emerge-Nourish. When planning “Self-Care” events, make sure it’s a QUALITY activity, and you’re selective and have options. If you half-step with your care, you will receive half of the outcome. When you UNWIND, you should relax and let yourself go! If you cannot exhale and leave your concerns at the door. Those worries will continue to keep you wound up! The next thing you must do is EMBRACE tranquility and positive vibes. Sometimes we get stuck in a negative rut. There will be no room for negative vibes to thrive if you welcome the good. When you’re capable of these things, you will be able to EMERGE new. You should never start a self-care activity and come out the same. This means knowing your body and finding your inner peace. The point is shedding all of that unhealthy energy and replacing it with something new. Finally, you want to NOURISH your new practices. Any behavior you consistently do for 30 days will eventually become a habit. 

Congratulations! You now have the tools you need and are on the right track to healthy emotional well-being. Remember, if you’re not emotionally sound, you’re no help to anyone, not even yourself! 2022 is the year of the Woman. I hope you ALL are now confident enough to embrace your inner QUEEN!!"

Lanelle Laws


Psychotherapist License No. 127866 LMFT

Behavioral Health Therapist

Meet Me in the Ladies Room


"Contrary to the common old school saying that “behind every powerful man is a powerful woman,” I believe that powerful women choose where they will stand, and the spot they choose is rarely behind a man. Powerful people in the world of social justice stand shoulder to shoulder because we know that if we want to go fast, we should go alone. Still, if we want to go FAR, we’ll go together (African Proverb). This is long-haul work, and going far, is the point. When I came to AMAAD, I did so knowing that I would be in rooms with some powerful men, and at no time did it cross my mind that any of them would expect me to stand behind them. 

Now there’s a specific power that cis-women, trans and gender-nonconforming women, and women who are Black, in particular, are no strangers to the power of community. We come with a long history of gathering in inauspicious places like our kitchens, our beauty salons, and even the ladies’ room to light the fires and fan the flames that turn moments into movements that have the capacity to change the world. 

That is what we are doing at AMAAD, standing in solidarity with our siblings from across the gender spectrum to fight a good fight and right a wrong that, if not for us, would likely not get righted. Power elicits thoughts of potency, effectiveness, and strength which, when combined with the power of compassion, vulnerability, and expansiveness, grows exponentially. And I am here for that.

This Women’s History Month, I acknowledge and honor the tremendous contributions of the women who have inspired by saying their names and saying them out loud and proud. They are Nzinga, Harriet, Ida, Sojourner, Kamala, Nina, Ella, Angela, Angelica, Addiche, Assata, Ketanji, Bettye, Alice, Maya, Coretta, Janet, Toni, Octavia, Edwidge, Vanessa, Diana, Diahann, Marsha, Naomi, Gertrude, Missy, Michelle, Ma, Serena, Beyonce, Oprah, Viola, Patrisse, Janelle, Ruby, Erykah, Stacey, Ava, Amanda, Opal, Alicia, Laverne, Maxine, Whitney. Let me not forget Dezire, Lanelle, Nina, Tracie, Faith, Robin, and Lea. And lastly, I speak the names of my mother Jeanette; my grandmothers Lenore, Maude, and Ida Mae; my sisters Angel and Roena; my nieces Sharae, Becca, Michaela, and Aviana; and my great-nieces Bella and Danerys, each of whom have taught me the valuable lessons of vulnerability, compassion, and love.

Thank you to each and every one of you. Oh, and I’ll meet you in the ladies’ room."

#MeetingintheLadiesRoom #ShhMamaTalkin #SistasBeDoinIt #RevolutionaryAngelSpeaks

Cynthia Ruffin


Chief Programs Officer

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Christopher Webb

Media Coordinator

Darnell Green


Nina Barkers


Carl Highshaw


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