A new feature of our 2019 Opportunity Summit included awarding two $1,000 mini-grants to recognize local organizations doing exceptional work preventing or reconnecting opportunity youth. These grants are for small community-based organizations and represent the importance of community mobilization focused on positive youth development. This year’s community mini-grants were awarded to the Young Brothers Book club led by Ronald Clark and Mid-City CAN’s youth advocacy teams.
The Young Brothers Book Club promotes literacy and provides mentorship to black and African males by engaging in literature from the African diaspora. In-depth conversations center around powerful book themes and create a community of raw, unadulterated examination of manhood, masculinity and education through the lens of young black men.
Mentorship is often a fundamental way of helping young adults stay connected and Ronald Clark has found an innovative approach to build mentorship, while also focusing on black male literacy.
The program was inspired by last year’s research, which showed that young African Americans in our region are almost twice as likely to be disconnected than any other ethnic or racial group.
The second community mini-grant went to Mid-City CAN in support of its youth leadership programs, particularly the Mid-City CAN youth council. The council meets every Friday to discuss current events, organizing, power structures and more. When they are not busy making their community the best it can be, youth travel to Sacramento for lobbying visits, to the Sierra Nevada’s for a week-long leadership retreat, and to local parks and beaches for summer field trips. The council is currently focused on juvenile justice reform and ending the school-to-prison pipeline—a major cause of youth disconnection.
The team’s mission is to ensure youth voices are front and center because they have insights into society’s most challenging dilemmas and they must be the ones who dream and build the future they deserve.
The Youth Council’s campaign centers on combating institutional policies designed to overly criminalize youth and amplify youth voices and engagement on policing matters. Youth input is crucial to having honest, long-lasting juvenile justice reform and ending the school-to-prison pipeline. The Mid-City CAN youth council is currently working to have youth seats on the Community Review and has been working hard on educating youth in their communities. They even hope to create a “#schoolsnotprisons” mural in our community by June.
While we often get caught up wondering what our large institutions and government can do to solve emerging issues, it’s important to recognize the amazing work being done by community organizations and those closest to the problems and solutions.