Al-Khadija Young Women's Empowerment Workshop Recap

The women's empowerment session featured a workshop on Brazilian dance as well as an exercise on Theater of the Oppressed, a system of games and techniques developed by Augusto Boal that aims to give those who face oppression a way to use theater as an instrument of concrete social transformation.

Lailaa Abdullah led the dance session, which also incorporated a lesson on geography and culture.

Jessica Viramontes followed her with a Theater of Oppressed workshop in which the participants got a chance to express their frustrations and concerns about the inner-city public and charter school system through performing skits.

The program ended with a lesson on dressing for success by Okera Banks, a prominent stylist in Los Angeles.

About the program founder, Raeesah Reese:

Originally, from Inglewood California, Raeesah Reese is a senior screenwriting major and theology minor from Loyola Marymount University. Her academic interests involve examining the impact of the formation of cultural myth, religious identity, and political and historical development on women’s social movement. Raeesah is deeply passionate about channeling her professional aspirations into further developing her work with young women of color in low-income neighborhoods of South Los Angeles. Through founding the Al-Khadija Women’s Empowerment Program, she has been able to create a space in which young women are able to explore storytelling and community arts in a way that allows them to engage their communities and develop skills as organizers. Invested in bridging struggles of women internationally, she currently is designing an educational trip to Northern India, that will allow LMU student participants to focus on the politics of food and faith in India with regard to the ecofeminism movement.

Presenter bios: 

Okera Banks

Okera Banks has established herself as one of the leading costume designers and celebrity stylists in the industry. Possessing a body of work that ranges from TV, film, music and sports to red carpet appearances and photo shoots,

Her current work is evidenced by her versatility and Avant-garde spirit with clients that include Garcelle Beauvais, Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx, Robin Givens, Niecy Nash, Bill Bellamy, Larenz Tate and Chris Tucker, to name a few. Banks has been recognized for her unique celebrity style intervention, making numerous entertainers picture-perfect for red carpet events, award shows, campaigns, and press and publicity appearances. Banks also joined ranks with fashion bible Cosmopolitan Magazine and Bioré skincare for the Bioré Style Swap, a roving event throughout the US that invites stylish women to become even more fashion forward. She is the Cosmo recommended stylist for Los Angeles, and has been interviewed by E! Online, CNN, The Style Network, and

Banks’ personal views regarding the fashion industry are simple: "For me, style is all about what makes you feel comfortable, confident and sexy; whether you're on the set or on the red carpet.” She also adds, “The key lies in building trust with your client so that you're creating a look and designing an image that enhances their overall persona." To compliment this philosophy Banks, has created Okera Banks LIGHT ESSENTIALS, her name sake clothing line geared towards women of all walks of life. Banks’ warm persona coupled with her business savvy and fashion expertise, is certain to solidify her as a leading industry standard and stylist fashion expert of choice for years to come!

Laila Abdullah

Laila Abdullah is a mother, dancer, teacher, and choreographer, with an extensive dance background. She is currently teaching Dance and Leadership at West Adams Preparatory High School, adjunct faculty member at Los Angeles Valley College, Santa Monica College and West Los Angeles College.

Her dance training includes: Dunham Technique, West African, Haitian, Afro-Brazilian, Hip-Hop, Tap and Ballet. Laila began dancing at the age five with the Katherine Dunham Youth Company under the direction of Ruby Streate and Theodore Jamison.

In 2003 she received her Bachelor Degree in Dance from Loyola Marymount University; and in December of 2009 she received her Master’s Degree in Education: Secondary Credential in Physical Education. She has studied and performed with Diane DeFranco-Browne; Rosangela Silvestre, Titus Fotso; Pan African Film Festival, Zani :Recording Artist, Kenny Hudson and World Beat: Disneyland and Los Angeles Zoo, Winifred R. Harris’ Between Lines Modern Company: Scholarship Program, Micaael MizeranyDance Co. and currently with Viver Brasil Dance Company.

In 2005, Laila was nominated for a Lester Horton Dance Award for Best Female Performance for Yabas /Queens.

In 2007, she traveled to Salvador, Bahia with Viver Brasil for intensive study of Afro-Brazilian dance and music and conducted a master class in the Dunham technique at the Escola de Dança/State of Bahia Cultural Foundation. She has been invited as a member of Viver Brazil to participate in dance residencies with Inner City Arts and has assisted artistic director Linda Yudin in collaborative efforts for the Skirball Teachers Professional Development Workshop in 2010. Laila has volunteered her time to teach at Kittsville Youth Foundation’s Dance & Cultural Arts Program for well over 9 years, and continues to donate her time to charitable events and programs throughout Los Angeles and Ventura County.