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Dismantling Pipelines to Prison: Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY) Reimagines Opportunity for Young People

“Some of the greatest success stories we’ve had is with youth who have been resistant to the process and wanting support,” said Trevor Arceneaux, Associate Director of FLY’s Alameda County operations. “FLY does a really great job at building authentic and trusting relationships with youth. Seeing the change and the walls being torn down and they’re able to engage with us in a different way and let us into their lives where we can understand and learn their needs. Then, we’re able to tap into their genius and get them to operate in the community with a different way.”

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In Alameda County FLY offers 4 core programs that provide pivotal services and education.
In Alameda County FLY offers 4 core programs that provide pivotal services and education.

Edward Henderson | Impact Alameda

The ACLU defines the school to prison pipeline as a “national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.”

Many of the children that fall into this pipeline have learning disabilities, are victims of neglect, abuse, and would benefit from additional services.

However, too many of them have also been subjected to systematic zero-tolerance policies that criminalize minor infractions and serve as catapults, feeding more children into the pipeline to prison.

Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY), is an Oakland-based organization dedicated to dismantling the school to prison pipeline by equipping youth with knowledge of the law and empowering youth with a community of supporters that amplify their voices.

FLY’s mission is poetic in the sense that the voices of youth who fell victim to the prison pipeline served as the foundation for the organization’s creation.

Back in 1995, Christa Gannon, FLY’s founder and Stanford University Law School graduate, would often converse with teens facing significant prison time about services that could steer other children away from incarceration.

In many of their responses, the children mentioned education of the law — to know the consequences of poor choices – as well as having role models and opportunities to be of service to their communities. Those ideas are the pillars that FLY was built on.

“Education is power,” said Trevor Arceneaux, Associate Director of FLY’s Alameda County operations. “There are a lot of opportunities to practice that power. It helps to develop a young person’s critical consciousness of the world and how they see it. A lot of times our young people are actively in this pipeline, and they can name it and see it. We can give them options on how to solve these real-world issues.”

In 2000, FLY transitioned to a non-profit, building on the concepts of law education and empowerment. Today, FLY is now one of the Bay Area’s most respected agencies working with youth who are currently or formerly involved in the juvenile justice system.

With 70 staff and more than 200 volunteers, FLY serves more than 2,000 youth throughout the Bay Area each year, ranging from ages 11 to 24.

“Some of the greatest success stories we’ve had is with youth who have been resistant to the process and wanting support,” said Arceneaux. “FLY does a really great job at building authentic and trusting relationships with youth. Seeing the change and the walls being torn down and they’re able to engage with us in a different way and let us into their lives where we can understand and learn their needs. Then, we’re able to tap into their genius and get them to operate in the community with a different way.”

These authentic connections are fostered in the many programs FLY offers to equip youth with the knowledge and confidence they need to navigate life and avoid pitfalls.

In Alameda County FLY offers 4 core programs that provide pivotal services and education.

The Court Appointed Friend and Advocate (CAFA) Mentor Program pairs youth with mentors to meet weekly and support them in developing new behaviors, ambitions and attitudes. Each mentor/mentee pairing has a FLY case manager for support who also attends monthly group activities organized by FLY. All mentors are also granted legal standing to act as advocates for their mentees in the courtroom and at schools.

The FLY Law Program is an interactive 8-to-12-week course covering topics such as police encounters, accomplice liability, three strikes, theft, vandalism, drugs, gangs, and police arrests. The curriculum also touches on critical life skills like anger management, problem solving, conflict resolution, and resisting negative peer pressure. Mid-way through the semester, youth take a field trip to a local university law school where they tour the campus and act out a mock trial in the moot courtroom.

The Leadership Training Program helps youth build the skills and attitudes they need to live a crime-free, self-sufficient life. The program traditionally kicks off with a three-day wilderness retreat that enables youth to break away from negative influences and stresses and begin bonding with FLY staff and peers, developing trust and teamwork skills. (Because of the pandemic, virtual or socially distanced activities have replaced the retreats.) Following the retreat, youth meet monthly to support each other in group settings and to design projects in which they advocate for positive change and give back to their communities. Each young person receives intensive coaching from a FLY case manager to identify and address their greatest barriers.

The STAY FLY Program is a reentry program that develops social emotional learning skills and knowledge of the law in youth ages 18-25. A three-tier system is implemented to support youth as they transition back into the community. Law-related education, pro-social events and civic engagement activities, along with case management and coaching are offered to participants.

“Youth really love being around FLY staff,” said Arceneaux. “That’s more important to me than anything. They are going to remember the connections they have. When I see youth cracking jokes or hitting up staff to tell them about an accomplishment, that lets me know we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re really pushing youth to use their voice. In the next three to five years, you’re going to hear about former or current FLY youth advocating or pushing for systematic change. Tapping into their sense of agency and impacting the entire world.”

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Activism

Juneteenth Father’s Day for the Formerly Incarcerated

The giveaway was a testament of the Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back to the community in the best way they could. Participants received an array of gifts including clothing, work pants, jeans, socks, toiletries and gift cards. The event gave them a place to identify with other men who have overcome many hardships and now live independently of the direct supervision of the criminal justice system.

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From left to right: Dora Parlor, Richard Johnson and Ayanna Weathers. Photo by Jonathan ‘fitness’ Jones.
From left to right: Dora Parlor, Richard Johnson and Ayanna Weathers. Photo by Jonathan ‘fitness’ Jones.

By Richard Johnson

The founders of The Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back organization sponsored a Father’s Day celebration event that highlighted a “just serve spirit” which recognized dads who want to “give and serve” their families and communities, that reached over 150 men in deep East Oakland. Fathers from all walks of life, languages and nationalities were in attendance.

The giveaway was a testament of the Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back to the community in the best way they could. Participants received an array of gifts including clothing, work pants, jeans, socks, toiletries and gift cards. The event gave them a place to identify with other men who have overcome many hardships and now live independently of the direct supervision of the criminal justice system.

The celebration was co-sponsored by several organizations, including the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, (AASEG) headed by Ray Bobbitt, B.O.S.S. Reentry program, and the Reentry, The Post News Group and Violence Prevention programs directed by John Jones III.

The participating fathers were offered counseling and services to cover back rent, rental deposit, utility bills, credit repair and much more.

As fate would have it, one of the Founders of Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back, Mr. Paul Redd, was called home by the Lord. His passing came on Father’s Day. We could never question God’s work when He calls His flock home. Paul will be greatly missed by many who loved, appreciated and respected him greatly. We, the Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back, gave back in our experience our profound condolences to the family. We will certainly continue the work that he helped to establish. Rest in Peace my brother.

To utilize the services of BOSS (Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency), please contact John Jones at 510-459-9014. For more information on this activity and future activities, please contact Richard Johnson at fatijohns28@gmail.com.

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Activism

Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties Partner to Create Cleaner Coast

California Coastal beaches and public parks are experiencing rises in visitation year over year as important outlets for mental and physical health. Over 10 million people annually visit the California coastline and adjacent communities across Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. Even more staggering, over 55,000 pounds of trash were picked up from the sensitive coastal environment across the three counties last year alone.

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“Leave No Trace is thrilled to be working with Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties,” said Dana Watts, executive director of Leave No Trace. “With such diverse natural and cultural resources, we look forward to addressing the key issues in the area. Consistent messaging is crucial because there is no differentiation from visitors on what county they are in when they visit the coastline.”
“Leave No Trace is thrilled to be working with Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties,” said Dana Watts, executive director of Leave No Trace. “With such diverse natural and cultural resources, we look forward to addressing the key issues in the area. Consistent messaging is crucial because there is no differentiation from visitors on what county they are in when they visit the coastline.”

The Goal: Teach leave no trace practices to growing number of coastal visitors

Courtesy of Marin County

Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties are launching a coordinated campaign to provide visitor education and outreach to reduce the amount of litter and waste in coastal regions and watersheds through a three-County memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the non-profit organization Leave No Trace. The ongoing partnership includes coordination with federal and state agencies, tribal partners, local jurisdictions and land managers, Sonoma County Tourism, and other community-based groups across all three counties.

Beginning later this month, the bilingual campaign will include a broad scope of messaging that will be used by all three counties to educate and influence visitors prior to and during the summer season. Agencies and organizations partnering with the campaign will be able to share the Leave No Trace-based messaging resources in English and Spanish and take advantage of a new stewardship education series, both of which specifically address visitation impact issues taking place along the California coastline.

California Coastal beaches and public parks are experiencing rises in visitation year over year as important outlets for mental and physical health. Over 10 million people annually visit the California coastline and adjacent communities across Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. Even more staggering, over 55,000 pounds of trash were picked up from the sensitive coastal environment across the three counties last year alone.

“COVID-19 pushed more residents outdoors and drew them to the coast as they looked for safe ways to recreate,” said Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, who initiated the three-County collaboration in 2020. “This stressed our limited visitor-serving infrastructure, creating an overflow of trash and waste like I have never seen before.”

Sonoma County Tourism, the county’s destination stewardship organization, was instrumental in bringing the Leave No Trace organization into the partnership conversation with the three counties. Sonoma County Tourism has worked with Leave No Trace since April 2021 on the Sonoma County Leave No Trace Initiative.

Through its Seven Principles, Leave No Trace provides a framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. New education messaging focusing on trash and litter in coastal watersheds is highly relevant due to a surge in visitation to all three counties’ coastlines and adjacent communities. The new education messaging serves to complement existing Leave No Trace and other trash reduction efforts promoted by state, county and local parks officials in all three counties, as well as the Sonoma County Leave No Trace Initiative.

“We had a bit of a head start with the successful launch of our Leave No Trace campaign last year, and we are happy to leverage and coordinate our efforts with our neighbors from the north and south,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. “Visitors don’t stop at county lines, nor does the flow of trash.”

Trash causes major impacts on our enjoyment of creeks, bays and the ocean, and creates significant impacts on aquatic life and habitat in those waters; trash eventually enters the global ocean ecosystem, where plastic persists in the environment for hundreds of years – if not forever.

“We don’t have the resources to launch this effort on our own,” Mendocino County Supervisor Ted Williams noted, “But with the support from our southern neighbors and non-profit partnerships with groups like MendoParks, we are excited to launch this campaign.” Fellow Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Gjerde added, “The key to moving this effort forward was the unanimous decision for all three counties to use a shared MOU and contract with Leave No Trace. We look forward to working together for years to come.”

“Leave No Trace is thrilled to be working with Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties,” said Dana Watts, executive director of Leave No Trace. “With such diverse natural and cultural resources, we look forward to addressing the key issues in the area. Consistent messaging is crucial because there is no differentiation from visitors on what county they are in when they visit the coastline.”

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Juneteenth ’22: California Legislature Recognizes Reparations Task Force

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

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While honored by the California Legislature, the California Task Force for Reparations members presented the 483-page, Interim Report to lawmakers of the California Legislature Black Caucus. Shown from left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
While honored by the California Legislature, the California Task Force for Reparations members presented the 483-page, Interim Report to lawmakers of the California Legislature Black Caucus. Shown from left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media

Several members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans received a standing ovation from constituents of the State Legislature last week for their work over the last 12 months.

During the opening of legislative sessions at the State Capitol in Sacramento on June 16, members of the Senate and Assembly participated in the gesture that coincided with the kickoff of the state’s official Juneteenth 2022 commemorations.

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

Bradford, who was appointed to the task force by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, made his remarks on the Senate floor after fellow task force panelist Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) delivered similar comments in the Assembly chambers.

Seven of the nine task force members and staff from the California Department of Justice (DOJ) were recognized at the event.

Task force members attending the ceremony were Chairperson Kamilah V. Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, reparations scholar and activist; Vice Chairman Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960s; Dr. Cheryl Grills, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Lisa Holder, a nationally recognized trial attorney.

Attorney Don Tamaki, Esq., an attorney best known for his role in the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States and the only non-Black member of the panel, was also in attendance.

Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon met briefly with the panel.

Task force members Monica Montgomery Steppe, a San Diego Councilmember and Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley, could not make the trip due to prior commitments.

Several members of the CLBC attended the function, which coincided with the passage of resolution in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday in the Assembly.

Assemblymembers Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Mia Bonta (D-Alameda), Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Akila Weber (D-La Mesa), Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and CLBC vice-chair Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) showed up to support the task force members’ efforts.

The Task Force first convened on June 1, 2021, to conduct an examination of the lasting consequences of discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants.

Under Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who is currently Secretary of State of California, the nine-member panel is charged with making recommendations for how the state can compensate Black Californians who are descendants of enslaved African Americans.

On June 1, the task force released its first interim report, a 483-page document compiled by the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section.

“The information in the interim report reveals uncovered facts about incidents that disproportionately and negatively affected Black Californians in California for 170-plus years and the country for the last 400 years,” Grills said.

“Until we have a reckoning with the truth, we cannot understand who we are as a nation. When we then begin to have that kind of reckoning, I think the specific manifestation of the harm will be easier to deal with and we will actually have an opportunity for transformative change,” Grills continued.

Over the next 12 months, Moore told California Black Media (CBM) that the task force will focus on bringing increased awareness for the interim report, community engagement, and formulating a framework of how California should compensate around 2 to 2.6 million Black Californians.

“It’s important that the California Legislature understand how important this effort is,” Moore told CBM. “This past year we’ve been working incredibly hard. The next (12 months) I categorized it as the development stage where the nine-member task force has substantive and intentional conversations about what reparations should look like.”

Video link of Sen. Steven Bradford and Dr. Cheryl Grills at the state capitol in Sacramento:  .California Task Force For Reparations at State Capitol 6.16.2022

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