I didn’t realize that policy work and legislative advocacy for communities could bring about real change to so many. – Aria Sa’id, St. James Infirmary
The Women’s Foundation of California is proud to introduce you to the 2016–2017 class of Women’s Policy Institute–State (WPI) fellows. This visionary group of grassroots and community leaders is embarking on a year-long intensive training program that will enable them to effect change at the center of California’s policymaking: the Capitol in Sacramento.
Aria Sa’id is a member of the WPI’s criminal justice team, “Trans Liberation,” as well as programs director at St. James Infirmary. We asked Aria to share a bit about her story.
How did you come to be so committed to criminal justice and trans liberation work?
I think criminal justice work called me. I’ve long admired the organizing efforts of my colleagues, who also join the criminal justice team, and I think it just makes sense to work toward the eradication of criminalization of trans people.
What drew you to the WPI program? Why did you apply?
I learned of the WPI through my colleague and friend, who is also a member of the criminal justice team. Policy always sounded like a foreign word meaning “attorneys only” to me. I didn’t realize that policy work and legislative advocacy for communities could bring about real change to so many. I applied because I thought it was a necessary experience to inform more of my work at my day job and also transition aspects of my purpose to work toward higher impact change efforts.
If you could tell Governor Jerry Brown one thing about your issue area and the people most impacted by your work, what would it be?
I think if I had coffee with Governor Brown I’d have to chat more about transgender persons living in the state of California. I’d tell him that—even in a time when resources for trans people are growing—we still face a lot systemic barriers in the journey to the lighthouse on top of the hill. We face an amplified rate criminalization for being in poverty, homelessness, health disparities and lack of access to socioeconomic advancement opportunities. American dreams and California dreams abound amongst transgender people, yet transgender black and brown women are facing alarming roadblocks barring us from pursuing those dreams.