Tani Ikeda: Sex-Ed Trendsetter

Utne Reader visionary


| November-December 2010


For many of us, sex education consisted of half-truths whispered in the school cafeteria or movies in health class that suggested abstinence and heterosexuality were our only options. In 2009 Tani Ikeda, a new graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) film program, posed the question What would happen if young women took sexual health education into their own hands? 

The answer was ImMEDIAte Justice, a summer program that Ikeda, along with cofounders Sylvia Raskin and Laney Rupp, created for young women in South Central and East Los Angeles that teaches media literacy and sexual health through filmmaking. Participants learn to write, direct, and film their own sex-ed videos with a “for youth by youth” philosophy.  

In 2010 the program focused on issues of sexual orientation and the LGBT community. In the 2009 film Mariposa, student filmmaker Espie Hernandez chronicles her experience as a lesbian Latina planning her quinceañera, a coming-of-age ceremony for 15-year-old girls. The poignant short, filled with the painful complexities of family and the honesty of youth, earned recognition at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York—a thrill for both the filmmaker and a proud Ikeda. 

Ikeda is no stranger to women-centered activism. In 2006 she cofounded the Women’s Creative Collective for Change at USC with Marissa Sellers. The feminist group’s weekly potluck dinners continue to provide a safe, inspired space where women can share ideas.  

ImMEDIAte Justice aims to provide teenagers with an equally comfortable space, where they can develop the ability to educate peers with powerful stories. The program has gained national attention, earning grants from DoSomething.org and the Pepsi Refresh Project. 

“Through ImMEDIAte Justice we’re reclaiming our bodies and our stories,” says Ikeda. “Now we’re the ones holding the cameras.” 






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