It’s not a man’s world

Five Sacramento women to watch in 2019

Ebony Harper says she was born an activist and uses her voice to stand up for marginalized communities of all backgrounds.

Ebony Harper says she was born an activist and uses her voice to stand up for marginalized communities of all backgrounds.

Photo by Devin Armstrong

After the year of women being elected in 2018, 2019 is the year they make an impact.

Certainly, we’re making gains, whether it’s taking direct action against sexual assault, (thanks in part to 2017’s viral #MeToo movement) or sweeping the 2018 midterm election with a record increase of 36 new female faces in Congress.

Yet, there’s still more work to be done. Recall the Republican-driven Affordable Care Act debacle in 2017, when President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence thought it was a great idea to bring together two dozen men to discuss whether the government should strip requirements for insurance companies to cover maternity leave, newborn and pregnancy care.

That’s right, zero XX chromosomes were invited to the table.

Now more progress must be made. For starters, with 2020 presidential election campaign announcements already starting, some media figures still question whether a woman can lead the country (we’re looking at you, Tucker Carlson).

If there’s one thing that leaves us hopeful, it’s that women are here: We’re in the House, we’re marching in the streets and, once again, we’re eyeing 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sacramento is also full of powerful, inspiring women. Here, SN&R highlights five in particular who are leaders, advocates and allies for the next generation of badasses—those who aim to burn binders and aren’t afraid to speak up.

Estella Sanchez founded Sol Collective 14 years ago, a hub dedicated to multicultural arts and activism.

Photo courtesy of Kenny Reprado

Estella Sanchez,community arts organizer

Sol Collective is a community-driven space dedicated to multicultural arts and activism. Located on 21st Street near Broadway in Sacramento, some nights it’s an all-ages music venue with an open-mic. On others, it’s a place where local healers teach about food as medicine and natural remedies. The building boasts a newly renovated classroom, where printmaking, silk-screening and painting are taught. It’s also a rotating art gallery featuring artwork by people of color that is used as a tool for education and liberation.

At its core, Sol Collective is a center for cultural representation, and Estella Sanchez is why it exists. Fourteen years ago, Sanchez, the collective’s founder and executive director, traveled on a cultural exchange tour through the Caribbean and was inspired to create something similar back home.

“We really needed a space that provided a landing spot, a location, a hub for multicultural arts and activism and the way that that intersected,” Sanchez said.

So in 2016, with help from community donations, the collective purchased its current building. Since then, its reach—and Sanchez’s impact—has been vast. During Hispanic Heritage Month last October, for example, the Sacramento Kings honored Sanchez at the Golden 1 Center for her community work.

Moving forward, she said she looks forward to accepting a community service award at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and curating an art exhibit at Art Basel in Miami, an international art fair that hosts more than 250 galleries.

Sanchez says she also plans to dedicate this year to growing her activism family and hopes to connect with other collectives across the country and globally as one working network.

“I think we’ve intentionally created a space for us by us.” Ω

Ebony Harper, community activist

While some women are born leaders, teachers or speakers, Ebony Harper says she was born an activist, someone with no qualms championing herself and others.

“I’ve always stood up against bullies. I’ve always stood for folks that didn’t have. I always stood against the police taking advantage of marginalized communities,” said Harper, whose day job is a program associate at the California Endowment.

“But, I wouldn’t have called myself an activist. My other argument is, trans people have no choice. We’re born into activism.”

Harper’s accomplishments include organizing the Unity Ball in April 2018 with more than 500 attendees that paid homage to LGBTQ elders in the community as well as local allies. She also co-organized the Black Women’s March the past two years. And she’s also worked to find a home for a mural dedicated to Chyna Gibson, a Sacramento transgender woman and dancer (who performed under the name Chyna Doll Dupree), who was murdered in New Orleans two years ago. The mural, which now permanently adorns the wall behind the Lavender Library on 21st Street, serves as an altar to Gibson’s life.

“The mural is a safe space. It’s a black mom affirming her black daughter and it says, ‘Protect our trans daughters,'” Harper said.

One goal Harper’s set for herself this year is to organize a “day of healing” for trans women of color, and to create more safe spaces for those who’ve experienced sexual trauma. Harper says she relates to the struggles many in the trans community experience on a daily basis and wants to help them heal.

“I’ve weathered many storms and fires and still came out and was able to articulate the needs for my community,” Harper said. “I go through a lot, but I’m proud of the work I’ve produced. And I’ve got much more to go, I’m still a young queen, honey.”

Elena Carrillo, 26, is the youngest president at the Lavender Library in it’s 20-year existence.

Photo by Devin Armstrong

Elena Carrillo,community space organizer

On a cold Friday afternoon, volunteers at the Lavender Library in Midtown opened its doors and within minutes welcomed five homeless men inside so they could warm up from the winter chill. One spoke about his day, another rested in an old armchair and a few others tried on long-sleeved shirts and bulky coats from the library’s winter closet.

As the youngest president in the Lavender Library’s 20-year existence, Elena Carrillo says it’s not only a learning center dedicated to the queer community, but a place for everyone.

“I have always seen libraries as community spaces,” she said. “I used to work in a very Latino-centered library for people who were undocumented or for parents who didn’t have computer literacy or technology. I see a lot of connections with libraries as social justice spaces and sanctuary spaces for people to seek refuge.”

Carrillo, 26, moved to Sacramento in 2014 and started searching for a safe space where she could meet others in the LGBTQ community. She found that place at the library, first as a frequent visitor and then as a volunteer. Besides her duties as the library’s president, Carrillo is also the co-founder and co-organizer of Sacramento’s Latinx LGBTQ group and a project manager at Sacramento Covered, a nonprofit that helps undocumented adults and other residents gain access to medical coverage.

Along with the library’s board members and volunteers, Carrillo organized programs such as clothing swaps, drag queen story time, career workshops and the Other Mic, a popular sober comedy event.

In 2019, she says she hopes more people will use the library to create groups for activism and community support.

“To me, it means community. I’ve been able to develop so many friendships,” Carrillo said. “I just see it as a respite, as a true space for anyone to access and to get connected to the larger queer community and the larger activist scene.”

Kimberly Church gathers community-driven donations to assist homeless youth with survival gear every Tusday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Sacramento.

Photo by Devin Armstrong

Kimberly Church,youth advocate

On Christmas Day, when a pregnant teen walked barefoot into St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Sacramento, Kimberly Church and her volunteers were ready.

Church, along with volunteers, hosts Sacramento Safe Space inside St. Paul’s as a part of E.N.G.A.G.E Inc., a volunteer grassroots, donation-funded organization that assists homeless youth with supplies needed for life on the streets. Together, they’ve raised thousands of tents, shoes, hygiene products and warm blankets.

“I think [what we do is] short-term. It’s immediate, emergency, humanitarian relief,” Church said. “They can sleep. They can eat. They can relax without fear of confiscation and arrest and harassment. They can have healthy conversations with people who genuinely care about their well-being, knowing full well that we’ve tried to contact all social service agencies in this town to coordinate navigation for them.”

Every Tuesday morning since 2015, Sac Safe Space welcomes about 25 homeless people ages 18 to 30 for a home-cooked breakfast and to pick up clothes and gear.

“We help people who’ve fallen through the cracks. We have people coming in regularly with no shoes on in the middle of winter,” Church said.

Five nonprofits have partnered with Safe Space: Harm Reduction Services, which helps with clean needle exchange and HIV testing; C.A.F.F.E, which feeds as many as 300 people every Sunday; Youth Rising Above, which provides marginalized youth with the tools to lead successful lives; For Our Friends, which helps the pets of homeless people; and Creation District, which brings music and art to homeless youth.

In the future, Church hopes volunteers will follow her lead and host their own Safe Space to help, even just a little, with today’s shelter crisis.

“I’m helping my community,” Church said."I’m showing people that something can be done.”

Kimberly Cargile not only advocates for medical cannabis patients’ rights, she also helps her colleagues open their dispensaries.

Photo by N&R staff

Kimberly Cargile,medical cannabis advocate

Kimberly Cargile is no stranger to advocating and lobbying for medical cannabis patients’ rights to safe access. She has been on the front lines of protests. She’s a regular consultant on cannabis regulation and legislation. She’s also one of few women with a chief executive title in the local dispensary industry.

Now she’s changing that. Last year, Cargile, executive director of A Therapeutic Alternative, launched a mentorship program and helped four colleagues open their own dispensaries. She’s particularly focused on helping women and gay men.

Cargile says she wants to see her friends who’ve worked through the ups and downs of the industry succeed. “It’s the most amazing feeling ever to know that your friends are coming up,” she said. “They’re rising up with you.”

In 2019, Cargile plans to continue to help others open their own dispensaries. She also aims to fund and get Khemia started, a business that will help small manufacturers transition into the regulated market.

A Therapeutic Alternative provides charitable donations each month to a long list of groups including Amnesty International, the ACLU and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition. Volunteers at the dispensary also clothe and feed the homeless, pick up trash at Cesar Chavez and McKinley parks and host government tours every week to show that dispensaries can be an integral part of any neighborhood.

With legislative changes during year one of recreational cannabis legalization, many dispensaries didn’t successfully make the transition due to the expensive compliance costs, in addition to the lengthy application process.

Cargile said she’s hopeful that 2019 will bring some much needed respite to the industry.

“Governments and advocacy groups are calling this the year of stabilization because in 2018 we had the regulations change so many times,” Cargile said. “We think the legislature amendments are going to calm down. I think everyone, including the government and regulatory bodies, are exhausted at this point and everybody just needs to settle down.”