Amanda R. Matos is a community organizer from the Bronx, New York and has dedicated her time and efforts toward racial and gender justice and reproductive freedom.
She is the Founder and Executive Director of The WomanHOOD Project (Helping Ourselves Overcome Discrimination), an innovative after school mentorship program for young women of color in the Bronx. WomanHOOD started as Amanda’s Young People For (YP4) Blueprint Project in 2011 and has expanded since then, leading her to being selected as one of five young leaders to receive the Peace First Prize in 2014. She credits YP4 with providing her with the tools to engage in meaningful anti-oppressive work. She now serves as a mentor and trainer to support the cultivation of young progressive leaders in the fellowship program. Amanda also works in the reproductive rights field fighting for legislation that protects people’s access to healthcare.
In May 2013, Amanda graduated from Columbia University, where she studied Ethnic Studies and Human Rights, focusing on the intersections between sexism and racism in the United States. Now Amanda serves as the Graduate Student Relations Chair on the board for the Latino Alumni Association of Columbia University and as a board member on the Fund for a Safer Columbia.
Location: New York City, NY, United States
- Issues Areas:
- Education Justice
- Racial Justice
Campus: Columbia University - New York, NY
Fellowship Class Year: 2011
YP4 Fellow Amanda Matos envisioned the Bronx as a community known for its empowered youth, who rightfully demand respect and acknowledgement of their dignity. Young Latina women will emerge as leaders of their community, poised for their future and ready to take on their roles as social and political activists and leaders. Young people in the Bronx are not given resources and opportunities to learn about theirs rights as citizens. People of color are marginalized and then internalize institutional racism and sexism. By creating the WomanHOOD Project to teach social and political activism to high school girls, she aspired for the community to achieve true representation not only in government, but also in education and the workforce.
Featured Fellow Spotlight
YP4: What do you stand for?
Amanda: Sustainable Justice and Equality.
YP4: How did you become involved with YP4?
Amanda: A past fellow e-mailed me about the fellowship right around the deadline last year, I read the entire website and knew this would be the perfect opportunity for me, and then I applied!
YP4: What is your Blueprint for Social Justice?
Amanda: I’m currently creating The WomanHOOD Project – Helping Ourselves Overcome Discrimination, a program that will teach social and political activism to high school girls in the Bronx. I find it important to simultaneously reclaim the hood and womanhood to promote racial justice and gender equality. Topics for the workshops will include Ethnic Studies, Feminism, Body Image, Leadership Development, and Progressivism. The program will pilot in September 2012. By the spring semester, students will begin to work on their own project for social change in their communities.
YP4: What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Amanda: This is a tough question, but I’d have to say my greatest achievement so far has been mobilizing my campus to support me in this endeavor. I also seek to bridge the gap between my campus in Manhattan and the outer boroughs, particularly the Bronx. I have a great team of classmates I’ve been working with to help my vision come to fruition and the support never ends!
YP4: What motivates and inspires you?
Amanda: What first comes to mind are my family and friends. My mom, especially, has motivated and empowered me to become a strong Latina leader. She’s taught me how to overcome adversity and how to always persevere. My friends show me that our generation is not “doomed,” but rather destined to create change through our unique experiences of the 21st century.
And ultimately, I’m inspired by young people. I aspire to create social change to lessen the burden of institutionalized vehicles of oppression so that there will be a generational shift closer toward justice for the young generations.
YP4: What is a main goal that you want to accomplish?
Amanda: I have a two-fold answer. I want The WomanHOOD Project to become a successful and sustainable non-profit organization that will span across the Bronx, reaching young women on a daily basis. And with that, my primary goal is for young women to emerge out of the program ready to take on the responsibility to be leaders of their community and increase the representation of women of color in government.
YP4: What is your vision for the world?
Amanda: I envision our world as a place where everyone’s dignity is upheld and people universally empower each other to promote justice.
YP4: How do you feel you fit in to the Progressive Movement?
Amanda: I recognize myself as a leader and follower of the Progressive Movement. My work mostly focuses on promoting racial justice and gender equality, and so I do my best to learn about other important issues from fellow leaders.
YP4: What is a struggle that you’ve faced or are facing in your work?
Amanda: As a woman of color, specifically a second generation Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx, it’s been challenging to overcome the same struggles I’m trying to help teenage girls combat through The WomanHOOD Project. I’ve faced both implicit and explicit forms of racism and sexism. Instead of letting those moments dishearten me, I make I remained empowered by my identity.
YP4: What advice do you have for others dealing with those struggles?
Amanda: Remember that knowledge is power, and so knowing that discrimination is rooted in ignorance is a helpful tool to overcome situations when your identity is being challenged.
YP4: How can other Fellows get involved or find more information about the work you’re doing?
Amanda: I will always be accepting new support staff for the planning committee, volunteers to teach workshops and mentor the participants, and donors to help fund the program costs.
If you’re interested in learning more, contact me at: email@example.com
And follow the program’s Tumblr page to track our progress for the September 2012 pilot at:
YP4: What advice would you give to the 2012-2013 incoming class of Fellows?
Amanda: Don’t stress about what your Blueprint Project will be! My passions were scattered when entering the fellowship, but slowly my interests began to narrow down after chatting with fellows and staff. You will learn the most from your peers and they will learn the most from you. Let your project ideas flow organically, and before you know it, you’ll have an amazing project to work on.
YP4: If every time you entered a room your theme song played, what would it be and why?
Amanda: I’m going to cheat the question and say that a remix of the Sailor Moon theme song, “Me Against the World” by Superchick, and “Defying Gravity” from Wicked would be my ultimate theme song. All three songs are part of different stages of my life – my childhood, teenage years, and the beginning of my 20s, respectively. They’re about believing and having faith in yourself and the world. Between you and me and everyone reading this, I usually wake up in the morning singing and dancing to one of these songs!
YP4: Is there anything else that you want to say?
• Empowerment comes from within!
• Some of the best people I’ve ever met are from YP4!
• I’m honored to be part of such an inspirational network of leaders!