As the world gradually eradicates its barriers to gender equity, Taylor-Rae Collins-Headley (BA ’14), the executive board chair of the Thurman Perry Foundation (TPF), is creating the change she wants to see.
TPF examines incarceration as a generational issue, and looks to prioritize, dignify, and compensate the needs of women and girls impacted by incarceration, be it personal or secondhand. TPF specializes in providing resources to the daughters of incarcerated parents, unifying their strife to eliminate the dangers of cyclical survival behavior.
“They face lower graduation rates, lower college acceptance rates...that turns into a cycle when you have no way of improving your circumstances. Who’s going to step in and interrupt that cycle?” Collins-Headley asks.
Collins-Headley works at the foundation with its namesake and founder, Gabrielle Perry, MPH.
“There was always that giving back atmosphere there of you leave Howard, you make something of yourself and then you turn around and figure out how you can add to the institution,”
Perry dedicates the organization to her adoptive father, U.S. Army Master Sergeant Thurman Perry Jr., who believed in second chances for the formerly incarcerated. Perry found herself in a similar predicament when a Louisiana judge decided to drop 27 felony charges stemming from her desperately taking unauthorized money from a work-study job.
The grassroots organization has received national attention for its work, including the support of other popular service foundations such as PERIOD and In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. Just this past year, TPF was a finalist for the 2023 Classy Awards and designated a STAR Champion of Change for its Girl Code initiative. TPF and Perry have also been highlighted on “CBS Mornings with Gayle King.”
Perry has emphasized the importance of allowing incarcerated women to “menstruate with dignity” through the creation of Girl Code, a unique initiative that donates menstrual products to incarcerated women nationwide. The partnership co-signed Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY)’s Menstrual Equity for All Act, which aims to achieve menstrual equity through the provision of free feminine hygiene products in America.
1 in 49 American children have a parent in prison (2022 Prison Fellowship)
1.5 million children
“With a lot of menstrual equity organizations and legislature, there's always a bit of a blind spot as far as incarcerated women and what they go through with menstruating in prison,” Headley says.
TPF also provides the Perry ‘Second Chances’ Scholarship to formerly incarcerated women and the daughters of incarcerated parents, to relieve financial burden and uplift those working in equity spaces. One of 2023’s scholars is Neveah J. Foster, a second-year student from Alabama. Collins-Headley says Foster reached out because she started POUR, an organization at Howard to help underresourced students.
Foster was selected as the 2023 TC Headley Scholar, an award dedicated in honor of Collins-Headley’s late father Ricardo and reserved for a Howard scholar with what she calls “drive and passion to make a difference.”
Collins-Headley refers to her time on at the Mecca as hands-on experience on making TPF’s mission operational. “There was always that giving back atmosphere there of you leave Howard, you make something of yourself and then you turn around and figure out how you can add to the institution,” Headley says.
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Dr. Muhammad Experience’s “Love and Incarceration” course at the D.C. Department of Corrections.