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our herstory

GIRL Project's founder, Claudine Naganuma, was inspired to offer a free week-long dance and empowerment workshop for middle school aged girls living in the San Antonio District of Oakland after seeing this compelling mini documentary addressing child sex trafficking in Oakland CA. Claudine came up with this idea as a means to offer young girls access to a professional art experience that also provides opportunities for self exploration and empowerment. A driving goal of GIRL Project is to foster a safe and nurturing space that facilitates healthy relationships, self-worth, and healing through dance and artistic expression. The motivation and central theme of the program is the notion that freedom of movement is central to gender equity and a human right. It is through the embodiment of that freedom that agency is built.


Susanne Takehara and Stevie Sanchez of EastSide Arts Alliance were critical voices that helped shape the creation of this program. We strive to work with community partners and neighborhood businesses such as SOL Garden, Cycles of Change and The Bikery, East Bay Asian Youth Center, Roosevelt Middle School, La Esquelita, Mandela Groceries, Banteay Srei, amongst others. One of GIRL Project's priorities has always been providing free breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the girls. Addressing the reality that many GIRL Project attendees come from food insecure households where fresh options are limited, offering nutrient dense, locally sourced, delicious meals is one of the workshop's central goals. We deliberately select artists of colors who live in the neighborhood to provide long term mentorship, and we are proud that several of our GIRL Project participant alumnae are currently enrolled in college. Our intergenerational and multi-ethnic Circle of Sisterhood teaches us solidarity, expression, representation, compassion, kindness, and care for ourselves and each other.

Pulling from a method of love, GIRL Project exists in resistance to the variety of dangers that girls in Oakland face, including physical assault, kidnapping, gun violence, inequity, food deserts, and the mental health issues that can germinate due to these challenges. We resist through creating spaces to find connection and solidarity through Sisterhood.


Over the past 10 years, GIRL Project has been able to offer our programming at EastSide Cultural Center because of the generous support of the Pazala Foundation. Many thanks to our funders including the Akonadi Foundation, California Arts Council’s Local Impact program, Oakland Craft and Cultural Arts, the Kovac Family, and many individual donors. We could not have done this without our fiscal sponsor, Dancers’ Group, and our community partner, EastSide Arts Alliance.


GP Fam

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