Documentary: Radical Brownies
Berets, badges, Black Lives Matter and social justice: the youth group for activist girls of colour
The Radical Monarchs is an alternative to the Scout movement for girls of colour in Oakland, California. Its members earn badges not for sewing or selling cookies, but for completing challenges on social justice including Black Lives Matter, ‘radical beauty’, being ‘an LGBTQ ally’ and the environment.
Dressed in berets and uniforms, the Radical Monarchs show us the neighbourhood where the Black Panther movement was born and meet veterans of the struggle against racism. The group was started by parents concerned that their daughters were being denied access to a fuller understanding of the issues affecting mostly black and Latino communities. The group, open to girls aged between eight and 12, aims to provide the same fun as other girl groups, while also building their pride in being young girls of colour and teaching respect for everyone else.
The Monarchs' critics accuse them of brainwashing their children and unnecessarily segregating them. But their warm welcome in Oakland and the demand from across the US and around the world for similar groups suggests that they've tapped into something that's needed.
Linda Goldstein Knowlton is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, working in documentary and fiction, including producing Whale Rider and The Shipping News. Her documentaries include Somewhere Between and The World According to Sesame Street. A longer version of this documentary is currently in production.