Vallejo shows ‘resilience’ at Empress – Times-Herald

Jameelah Hanif, founder of Watch Me Grow Inc. and longtime advocate for children’s families, urges Vallejo residents to show more empathy, compassion, solidarity and, above all, resilience. She helps bring the latter to the Empress Theater on Wednesday.

The theater will host a screening of the film “Resilience – the biology of stress and the science of hope”. The film will be followed by a discussion with panelists including moderators Hanif and Peggy Cohen-Thompson, as well as Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams, Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan, Vallejo City Council Member Pippin Dew, Solano County Probation’s Crystal Riley, Behavioral Specialist Dr. Zoee Bartholomew, Warden Ernani Santos and Community Leader Orlando Graham. Impact Vallejo Youth Council members Riley Grayden and Leilani Vallejos will also be panelists.

A high percentage of people around the world have had at least one ACE – Adverse Childhood Experience. According to the event’s webpage, the more experienced ACEs are, the greater the risk of negative health outcomes and engaging in risky behaviors, as well as feelings of tension and threat. The organization says most children in Vallejo have experienced a stack of ACEs every day.

“The main takeaway that I want people to have when they leave the is to learn more about the biology of stress, because we are all affected by it as a community,” Hanif said. “The main objective is to have an impact on young people, because they are our future. We want violence prevention and we want people to understand violence prevention strategies.

Hanif said she was inspired by the in-person event after watching a virtual event hosted by Hannigan and Wanda Williams.

“We talked a lot about trauma and how each person experienced it,” Hanif said. “I contacted Pippen Dew and said, ‘You know, we have to screen the film ‘Resilience’ and show it to the public.’ She said she had thought the exact same thing.

Hanif originally wanted to screen the film on a Friday, but settled for a Wednesday screening at the Empress. Doors open at 5 p.m., and Hanif is hoping for a good turnout.

“This panel is very diverse and coming together as a community for this is huge,” Hanif said. “We will have government officials, school officials and the young people themselves. The main objective is to offer young people what they want and need.

Hannigan, a part of many events surrounding the film, says the subject matter is very important.

“It’s an educational piece about the effects of ACEs,” Hannigan said. “What some doctors in San Diego found was that many people lost weight but gained it back immediately and often due to childhood trauma, which often led to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. There’s a 10-question test that basically asks, “What happened to you?” The questions will focus on whether or not you witnessed people around you who were drug addicts, victims of domestic violence or sexual assault or if you were constantly in the presence of incarcerated people.

“What this film teaches you is how to build resilience in the face of trauma,” Hannigan continued. “It always helps to have a trusted adult in your life – someone you can turn to and who has your best interests in mind.”

Hanif, who grew up in a recreation center in Oakland while attending school in Emeryville and Santa Rosa, said there are currently no quality after-school mentorship programs in Vallejo.

“The sports complex on the island of Mare no longer exists. The Boys & Girls Club of Vallejo no longer exists,” Hanif said. “We need to find a space so that we can have youth, mentoring programs for children where they can feel safe and develop life skills that will allow them to succeed as adults.”

Hanif said she was most looking forward to hearing from the youth council.

“It gives them a voice on a panel that involves a lot of important people,” Hanif said.

Free food will also be served at the event. For more information about the event, visit

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