Forget Girl Scout cookies, these girls earn badges by learning about social justice and equality

Radical Monarchs was born during the social unrest of 2014, when people marched across the US for Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

ByJuan Carlos Guerrero KGO logo
Monday, February 20, 2023
Radical alternative to Girl Scouts focuses on social justice
Forget Girl Scout cookies. Radical Monarchs is an alternative scouting troop where girls earn badges for learning about social justice and equality.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It's Saturday morning and while other scouting troops are at shopping centers selling cookies, members of the Radical Monarchs are excited to start their field trip to the Black Panther Museum in West Oakland.

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Richmond Troop leader Arnita Dobbins talks to the girls before they begin.

"Ever since slavery, Black people have been fighting for liberation and freedom in this country," explained Dobbins.

From afar, the group looks like other scouting troops. The girls wear berets and vests with badges.

But Radical Monarchs are different. Each badge the girls earn is radical, like Radical Love or Radical Bodies.

"Radical love is just to love themselves. It's about self love and self care," explains Anayvette Martinez, who co-founded Radical Monarchs. "With Radical Bodies they learn about consent and body liberation."

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Radical Monarchs was born during the social unrest of 2014, when people demonstrated nationwide for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York. Both were killed by police officers.

"There's lots of uprisings and racial reckonings. And our young people are like, 'Okay, what's going on? What's happening?'" recalled Marilyn Hollinquest, a close friend of Anayvette Martinez

During that time, Martinez was living in Oakland and thinking of enrolling her daughter in a scouting troop.

"When I looked at the composition of that troop, she would have been one of two girls of color and I felt like that group wouldn't speak to her experience as a young girl of color," said Martinez.

She teamed up with Hollinquest and together they started Radical Monarchs.

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Their target were girls in the third to fifth grade.

The first badge the girls worked on was about Black Lives Matter and what was causing the social unrest at that time.

"A lot of people say, 'Oh, it's too much. It's too heavy,'" said Hollinquest. "But they are human beings who experience the world and they overhear what their parents and families are talking about and also experience the world."

The troop received national media attention but was soon attacked by Fox News host Sean Hannity and other conservative commentators who accused Martinez and Hollinquest of indoctrinating the girls with radical messages.

But Martinez sees the word radical in a different tone.

"We're socialized to just accept that things are the way they are. And I think that radicalizing means to investigate. It's to be like, 'No. Actually, things are set up this way. In a certain way, where some people have more advantages than others,'" she explains. "We're going to have conversations that maybe aren't normally had in homes or in classrooms or in the media. That's what it means to radicalize."

Since its founding in 2014, Radical Monarchs has grown nationwide. Besides Oakland, there are now groups in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, New York and other East Coast cities.

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"We live in a world that's really very challenging," said Arnita Dobbins, whose 9-year-old daughter is in the Richmond troop.

Dobbins is also a troop leader and leads the lessons on Black power. She points at the mural on the side of the museum that shows Black women as doctors and teachers.

"The murals on the side of the house helps place her in a world that she comes from, a legacy or part of a movement who have been fighting just for her freedom," said Dobbins.

More than 70 girls have finished the Radical Monarchs program. Many stay involved as mentors.

"It's just like really beautiful to instill those values and in our youth. It's only right that we shift the narrative," said Elizabeth Gonzalez, co-leader of the Richmond troop. "I wish I had a program like this growing up."

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