Black History Month is both a time to celebrate and honor the accomplishments of Black Americans as well as reflect on the inequities and injustices plaguing our country. At Pivotal, we continue to be amazed and inspired by the Black leaders within our Pivotal family who use their voices to educate communities about the Black foster youth experience. Three incredible Black women we’re celebrating this month are Dr. Kizzy Lopez, Sadé A. Daniels, and Shalita O’Neale.

Kizzy has been a friend and partner of Pivotal for years. She is an assistant professor in Social Work at Fresno Pacific University and is a champion for educational equity for underserved students, particularly those who have experienced foster care or homelessness.

Kizzy also led the effort to create the Renaissance Scholars Program (RSP) at Fresno State, a campus-based program designed to increase college access and graduation rates for foster and homeless youth, and has represented the CSU system in advocating for statewide policy change. 

We’re continuously inspired not only by her courage to share her personal story about growing up in foster care, but also her desire to educate. As we learn in her TEDx Talk, nationally, Black children are 1.5x overrepresented in the child welfare system, and in California specifically, Black children are almost 4x overrepresented. 

Kizzy shares in her TEDx Talk,

"One of my favorite African proverbs says ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Each and every one of you are part of that village. Our action -- or inaction -- creates a society that all of our children live in. What will you do to improve our society? What will you do to dismantle racism?”

Sadé is a Pivotal alumna and Pivotal scholarship recipient who studied Social Work at Philander Smith College and earned a Master of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley. She describes herself as a “helper, writer, artist, activist, educator, advocate, scholar, dreamer, rhymer, and hoodlum.” 

Whether she’s giving commencement speeches, using her art to promote child welfare reform, or training the next leaders in child welfare activists at California Youth Connections, she never ceases to amaze us -- and likely everyone around her.

Sadé helped co-pilot an interactive workshop that explores the unique and complex experiences of black children in foster care and practices that promote their wellbeing, entitled “Black in Foster Care.” She has published articles about her personal racialized experience in the foster care system and also called out to fellow Black foster youth to validate that #AllBlackFosterYouthLivesMatter.

Sadé writes in her 2020 article in The Imprint,

"I hope black foster youth know how imperative our lives are to the world. That even though some of our experiences have been filled with pain and grief, we still come from an enduring people and are inherently great because of it....We matter. Our lives matter. Our justice matters. Our childhood and innocence matters. Our mental health matters. Our blackness matters.”

Shalita has spent her career advocating and building programming for young adults in and from foster care. Also known as the “The Nonprofitista,” she’s made it her mission to inspire small business owners, influencers, and entrepreneurs to have a nonprofit that will impact, engage, transform, and strengthen their communities.

"My personal story of aging out of the foster care system in Maryland led me to the path to creating and growing my first successful nonprofit when I was 25 years old and yet another in 2017 to inspire and guide young adults in and from foster care.” 

As a long-time Pivotal partner, we’re thrilled to be once again work with Shalita! In celebration of National Foster Care Month in May, we’re holding a virtual author event with Shalita as she launches her new book, “Choosing Peace: One Orphan’s Guide to Healing from Childhood Trauma.” 

Interested in learning more? Here’s a summary about the book: Shalita O'Neale embraces the little girl inside, Muffin, to help others navigate through their healing journey; regardless of the type of trauma suffered. Through childhood and early adulthood, Muffin endures abuse, false perceptions, losses, and more that stripped away the security of self-awareness. Through this story and guide, the reader will nestle up to Muffin and learn how to recover their pure selves, develop healthy coping mechanisms, spiritual awareness, and become a stronger individual.

Join us in May for this special virtual event!

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Kizzy, Sadé, Shalita -- Thank you for always educating, inspiring, and advocating for Black foster youth. We, Pivotal, are better because of you.