Two years ago, GO Campaign was actively looking for our first partner in Los Angeles. On the recommendation of GO’s Co-founder, Jill Goldman, I reached out to Marianne Diaz at CleanSlate. After meeting her, I was excited about the possibility of GO supporting her work. Since then, I have had many opportunities to talk or meet with Marianne; each time, I am moved by her passion for her work and her humility. To me, she is the epitome of what it means to be a Local Hero.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Context: For LGBT youth in Watts, daily life is fraught with perils that no child should have to face. Most of these youth are forced to hide/deny their true identity. Severe harassment in school and rejection/shunning from family and friends has significantly harmed their health and well-being.
Background: GO’s Local Hero Marianne Diaz has been working with former gang members to help them process their emotions and learn positive ways to express themselves. During her work, she realized that the needs of the LGBT youth in Watts were not being met. In fact, the other service organizations in the area were afraid to provide support because of fear of the reaction of the community. These organizations needed someone to take the lead and prove that a program could be safely implemented before they were ready to pledge their support.
Current Status: In December 2015, GO Campaign approved a grant for $9,000 to CleanSlate to launch a youth empowerment pilot program for LGBTQI youth residing in the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts. Marianne worked with local residents and organizations to safely spread the word about the group which officially launched in February. They meet weekly for a three hour group therapy session. The majority of program participants are transgendered; they shared that the group is the first opportunity they have had to truly be themselves without fear of rejection. Seeing the power and importance of the program, the youth spread the word and recruited others to join; currently, there are 25 members of the group. These youth are trailblazers that are creating a safe and accepting place for LGBT youth to discuss their sexual orientation and gender identity.