In the days after teenager Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, people started talking about the militarization of police and officers’ harassment of young people of color. While conversations around law enforcement practices swing according to political orientation, one reality has stayed constant for black youth: fear. It doesn’t help that often citizens of color are often targeted, harassed or attacked with no provocation towards the police. “[It's] clear that we still live in a country that targets youth of color. All this only confirms my beliefs that as a young man of color I will always carry a bull’s-eye on my back.” Long Beach youth explain their fear of police, on VoiceWaves.
Twenty-five year-old De’Mario Lewis, raised in West Oakland, gets tired when he thinks about all of his problems. But he gets energized by joining a group of young activists of color to gather facts and travel to Sacramento to get a message across to legislators. By telling their stories to the state’s political leaders, they make the problems in their communities known to policymakers. “I’m thinking, ‘I paid my record restitution clearance, it’s done. I’m gonna get the job, off top. And it came back that my record was still up… It was hard for me to find employment, and I really wanted to give up. And the only reason I didn’t give up is because of my three year-old son.” Get his full story in a video by DetermiNation.
As part of their Rethink Your Drink initiative – a state-driven public health effort to educate residents about the risks of sugary beverages and choosing better drink options – the Regional Access Project Foundation served sugarless fruit-infused waters for Mecca residents at a movie event. Community members said they liked the taste of the infusions, and that they’d be open to making it at home. More in a video on Coachella Unincorporated.
Systems change is a buzzword in nonprofit and advocacy fields. Changing things on a systemic level – rather than just on an individual basis – is the end goal for these organizations. A two-day workshop aimed to help organization leaders network with one another and strategize about key problems. “What we’re hoping that they get out of the Systems Change Workshop is a better understanding of how systems change really works – alongside direct service – so that there is a connection between the two, and we can’t have one without the other.” A video profiling the event is on Access Sacramento.
As the sole representative of Kern County in the recent Boys and Men of Color mobilization to the State Capitol, Chris Romo was struck by the similarities in the experience of youth across California. “Knowing the historically high suspension rates and expulsion rates at Kern High School, I advocated that youth justice be one of the three topics we would present to our lawmakers.” He detailed the trip to Sacramento for South Kern Sol.
Students from five area schools got to jump into an intensive journalism program in Boyle Heights, diving into the key skills of writing and reporting, interviewing, and photography. “I learned a lot of things ranging from the key components of a story like the lead to the importance and impact of a ‘simple’ photograph. A story is not a story if it does not have an attention grabber.” Youth reporters shared anecdotes as they began their reporting experience, on Boyle Heights Beat.
Public Health Solutions is a training course that serves as an introduction to a career in public health by guiding the passions of teens towards the needs of the community. The program connects youth to internships in the local health care field, helping them find a place to practice what they love to do. “I always loved going to the doctor’s office. Even if I had to get a shot. I didn’t enjoy that part, but I loved going.” Read more on Richmond Pulse.
“Court school” is the term for the education of minors in the criminal justice system, but more often than not, it’s the last school that detained juveniles will attend. A key component in the dropout rate of kids leaving juvenile hall – an absence of coordination between the county’s education and juvenile probation departments – could be addressed in an assembly bill that would require schools to enroll the incarcerated youth in school upon their exit. Read more about the proposed law and the experiences of youth being schooled in the criminal justice system, on Voicewaves.
Often the children of parents who are absorbed in their substance abuse problems are quiet in the face of this trauma. Two young writers disclose how their fathers’ substance abuse traumatized them and broke up their families; one father was an absent drug addict, another was an abusive alcoholic. “Alcohol has plagued my life without me ever touching a drop.” This story is one of a series as youth in Del Norte identified the biggest problems in their communities, on Redwood Voice.